Tuesday, December 07, 2010

You're a Mean One, Iris West

Oh, I know I've made my point about Iris West. In fact, I was at a party last weekend, and a guy I didn't even know was a reader of my blog recited for me the exactly characterization of each of the Silver Age Girlfriends, quoting from memory from my post on the subject. It made me proud of my role in perpetuating negative stereotypes of characters whose past behaviors DC has been trying to whitewash in recent years; you're welcome, ladies!
But some points bear repeating (as the apparent memorability of that post has proven). And the point that Iris West is meaner than most DC supervillains is one of them.

And what better way to make this point memorable than by setting it to song, as we did, say, with the Central City Song? I know it's bit early for a Christmas song, but I want you to have time to teach this to children before the holiday season begins..

Open this karaoke link in another window and sing along, won't you?

You're a mean one, Iris West;
you really are a shrew

You're as cuddly as the Axis,

you're as welcome as the flu.

Iris We-est! You're a bad banana under Flash's boot heel.

You're a monster, Iris West;

your heart's an empty hole.

Your brain is full of caffeine,

you have coffee in your soul.

Iris We-est! I wouldn't touch you with a stolen character from Jack Cole.

You're a vile one, Iris West.

You have daggers in your eyes.

You have all the tender sweetness of Gorilla Grodd in disguise.

Iris We-est! Give the choice between the two of you, I'd take...

Gorilla Grodd in disguise!

You're a plot-bore, Iris West.

You're the queen of awful plots.

Your timeline's a McGuffin tied in Silver Age-y knots.

During this time, the couple discovered that Iris was born in the 30th Century (c 2945 AD), and had been sent back to the present shortly before "Earth-East" attacked "Earth-West," when Central City was a self-contained city. After years as a prominent presence in the Flash's life and Central City, she was killed by Professor Zoom during a costume party. Zoom vibrates his hand into her head, solidifying it just enough to kill her.[2][3] Enraged by his wife's death, Barry, as the Flash, killed Zoom by breaking his neck.

Iris did not stay dead for long. As Iris's biological parents, the Russells (with the help of a future Flash, John Fox), sent the then-infant Iris to the past, where she was adopted by Ira West, her "death" caused a paradox that was resolved after the Russells placed her consciousness into a new body. Barry was reunited with Iris in her time,[4] and were able to spend a month together. However, the couple knew if Barry returned to the past, he would die in the catalytic Crisis on Infinite Earths.[5] During their time together, they conceived the Tornado Twins, Don and Dawn. Don married the descendant of Professor Zoom, Meloni Thawne, hoping to end the feud between the two families. They had a son, Bart, whose powers manifested at an early age and caused him to age at an accelerated rate. Don and Dawn died saving 30th Century Earth from an invasion by the Dominators. Iris took Bart to the past to enlist the aid of her nephew (by then, Wally had taken the mantle of the Flash) in saving her grandson. After Bart's accelerated aging slowed down, he went by the name of Impulse. Not much is known about her after that, but Iris volunteered to take care of the Weather Wizard's orphaned son. Wally West later named his daughter Iris in honor of his aunt.

Iris We-est! You're a multiverse time-travel old-school sandwich

with gender-bent sauce!

You irritate me, Iris West.

With your henpecked super-spouse.

You're a red-haired vicious fishwife who treats Barry like a louse.

Iris We-est! Your role is an appalling parody overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of sexist imaginings, with your hair in

tangled up knots.

You're a foul one, Iris West.
You're a torrid, horrid, skunk.

You're heart is made of solid rock,
your role is full of bunk.

Iris We-est! The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote:





Imitorar said...

In fairness to Iris West, it should be noted that most of those moments showcasing how mean she was (and context wouldn't even justify it in most of those cases) are from the early Silver Age, when her hair was still in an updo. After she started wearing her hair Jackie Kennedy style in issue 144, she became MUCH nicer. (And I'm not sure what the connection is. But that seems to be the line of demarcation.) At least for the rest of the Silver Age. Then in the middle of the Bronze Age she got mean again. And then she died. But for about 8 years or so, she was actually okay, on the whole.

Also, where did that last picture come from? I remember seeing the rest of them, but I can't place that last one with the ray gun. That looks like an... interesting issue.

Diamondrock said...

I believe that final issue is from Bart Allen's short-lived Fastest Man Alive series. Though I could be wrong...

Regardless, I got a great laugh out of this post. It never ceases to amaze me the efforts that some modern writers will go through to make us forget that old characters were a certain way long ago...

At least Hal Jordan is still mostly portrayed as being an idiot.

Aaron Poehler said...

"red-haired"? Looks brown to me.

Scipio said...

It varies. It has been stated in text that Iris colors her hair.

Besides... "red-haired" is funny and "brown-haired" is not.

tad said...

All those retcons and they couldn't come up with a single one where Barry could be married to someone else? Mean bastard editors.

SallyP said...

It's not really her fault. You see, in the very first scan, that she has villainess cheekbones. AND she's wearing a choker. How can you fight against something like that?

Gene Phillips said...

I'll bet by now your scanner hates Iris too. But she's a demanding and complicated woman.

Your Obedient Serpent said...


Conservation of Surnames: If two people in a comic book setting share a surname, they must be related, no more distantly than first cousins.

The Arkham Hypothesis: Gotham City is smack in the middle of Lovecraft's New England. Arkham Asylum really is in the Gotham suburb of Arkham.


Iris and Wally West are therefore close relatives of Herbert West.

Imitorar said...

I've been thinking about Iris' characterization in light of this post, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm glad DC's decided to write the mean Iris under the table. Because while the meanness worked for the early Silver Age, it wasn't very true to the character.

I think that when DC decided to create a new Flash, they based him off Superman, because Superman was the only superhero still selling well (and one of only three superheroes still being published). Barry Allen was basically Clark Kent as a normal man instead of an alien and a forensic scientist instead of a reporter. He's got the same motivation and characterization (nice but nebby guy who wants to help out of the goodness of his heart) and the same gimmick (a wimpy loser in his secret identity, a popular hero when wearing a mask. And to complete the Superman character-type, add a reporter girlfriend who thinks the secret identity is a wimp and should be more like the hero she prefers, never knowing that they are one and the same (Lois wasn't Clark's girlfriend in the Golden or Silver Age, but that's because they would already interact due to being co-workers. Without the romantic connection, there'd be no reason for a forensic scientist to spend time with a reporter).

And it worked, and the new Flash became popular, and the Silver Age was born, and the rest is history. But over time (particularly after the marriage) Iris Allen developed her own character and personality and role in the stories, and "demanding, shrewish girlfriend" no longer fit who the character had become over the course of the Silver and Bronze Ages. Given the bulk of Iris Allen's history (even Pre-Crisis) her early appearances really WOULD be out of character. Because while even in the Bronze Age she was occasionally critical of Barry, or short-tempered with his lateness, she was on the whole a loving and supportive wife, and not at all a shrew. Her occasional flares of anger were a very natural part of marriage, and didn't seem at all symptomatic of a meanness in the character.

Which is why I'm glad that mean-Iris is pretty much out of continuity now, between The Life Story of the Flash and Flash: Rebirth. Personally, I think the best portrayal of Barry Allen's tenure as the Flash is Life Story, because Waid captured the essence of the characters and what made them work, but he tweaked things that needed tweaking (Iris's reaction to Barry's revelation that he was the Flash comes to mind, not to mention her contextualizing his actions after her seeming death), including Iris and Barry's relationship while they were still dating. It was a portrayal that I think was much more in tune with who the characters had become 35 years later, and I'm glad that DC has chosen to take that as canon and let mean Iris West fade into obscurity, except when Scipio decides to burst the bubbles of fans who think the DCU started in the '90s and dredges her back up.

TotalToyz said...

Geez, don't hold back, Scipio. How do you really feel about Iris?