DC Comics is no stranger to controversy. Fans frequently voiced their disapproval of new characters introduced or more socially progressive stories, such as that of Jon Kent. One of the most prominent examples recently is Mandy Anders, the alternate universe daughter of Kori Anders of the Teen Titans, aka Starfire.
Mandy Anders is an overweight teenage girl with skin issues who goes through a goth phase, totally opposing her mother on her own account. In one of the first pages of her introductory comic, she says she can be defined as the polar opposite of her bikini-clad, super tall, sex symbol mother. For fans who grew up with Starfire’s body constantly on display as the object of Dick Grayson’s affection, Mandy’s physical characteristics were unsatisfying to say the least. However, as Mandy’s first comic nears its one-year anniversary, it’s worth taking a look at the aspects of Mandy that sparked controversy, as well as the comic’s focus.
Mandy was introduced in I am not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani. The comic is a brilliant and beautiful exploration of two main things. First, in the spirit of Encanto and turn red, I am not Starfire A lot of it is about generational trauma and the difficulties of navigating exactly what it means to escape the expectations of progenitors in favor of independent living. Second, the book gives a realistic depiction of what it’s like to be a teenage girl in high school who is awkward, antagonistic, and gay.
This second point seemed to be the main area of difficulty for many fans, who fondly remembered the alternate reality daughter Starfire and Nightwing had before, Mar’i Grayson. However, these two characters were created for very different purposes. Mandy was meant to be a realistic depiction of clumsy teenage girls, while Mar’i was created as super-powered eye candy, much like Starfire herself.
Several memes began to surface around the comics, comparing Mandy to her alternate universe and the other daughters of DC Universe villains and heroes. Many tweets and memes have been made to devalue Mandy based on her physical appearance alone.
The intent of these was to say that Starfire’s daughter is grossly unattractive, stocky, and clumsy, the problem being that that was the whole point of her character in the book. Contrary to what has been observed mainly in Teen Titans comedians, teenage girls aren’t usually perfect beauties. In reality, insecurities abound and they often struggle to feel helpless.
Mandy Anders’ character is controversial for all the wrong reasons. Because she was created to imitate a real human, she became the subject of scorn and derision. Still, Mandy’s target audience, teenage girls, can hopefully take away some measure of self-actualization because I am not Starfire reaches its first birthday.