Starfire: DC Is Finally Letting the Teen Titans Icon Grow Up
Devon Foster
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Teen Titans Academy and I Am Not Starfire, both available now from DC Comics.
The concept of aging in comics is a tricky business. Some of the most definitive moments for the world's most famous heroes occurs while they are still teenagers or somewhere in their 20's and 30's. But the march of time continues on and certain characters must follow suit or risk being left behind. A poignant example of this is DC's heroine, Starfire, the young alien warrior who became a formidable member of the Teen Titans.
Starfire has existed within the confines of the Teen Titans since her debut in 1980. The very name of the team that she is affiliated with denotes exactly how old she is: a teenager. Not that there's anything particularly wrong or off-putting with that, but as other characters from the Teen Titans have moved on to their own more mature adventures, with 1995's Nightwing by Denny O'Neil, Greg Land, and Mike Sellers being a notable example, it becomes a bit strange why Starfire has never ventured very far on her own.
There have been plenty of story arcs exploring who and what Starfire is as both a character and a person: alien, princess, sister, superhero, and lover. But one thing Starfire has never been until recently is a mother. While the character Nightstar does exist within the alternate DC universe presented in Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, Starfire has never had a daughter within Earth-1 continuity. For all of the years that she and Dick Grayson have been romantically involved she has always remained close to her original construct as a character.
In I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani Starfire has a teenage daughter of her own named Mandy. While Starfire is tall, radiant, and bursting with amazing super powers Mandy is the absolute antithesis of her mother. Mandy is short, unassuming, and lacks any kind of super power. A divide forms between Mandy and her superhero mother as the young girl struggles to find and understand her place in the world while living in the shadow of her mother's fame and powers. For Starfire, a person who has always been selfless and caring, there's a great amount of sadness and confusion on her part. She is not an absent mother, nor has she ever cast her daughter aside to fulfill her own wants and needs as a hero; rather, it's a combination of problems arising from Mandy's frustration with school, her future, her personal life, and all of the other problems that stem from her alien heritage.
Teen Titans Academy by Tim Sheridan, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Alejandro Sanchez brings Starfire into another classic role: that of a teacher. As a new group of young heroes joins the ranks of the Titans it falls on the shoulders of many of the original members to train and guide them to be superheroes. This is exactly the same dynamic Marvel's X-Men operate under: as team members gain experience and grow older they become teachers and mentors for the new team members that join up. Being one of the most powerful of the original Teen Titans, Starfire is one of the most capable members possible to train new members properly.
It's exciting and refreshing to finally see Starfire adopt the titles of both mother and teacher in the same year. Both titles share many similarities and are symbiotic in nature; mother's teach their children and many teachers become mother figures for their students. Starfire is absolutely qualified to be both a teacher and a mother, although as I Am Not Starfire demonstrates, having ample life experience doesn't always guarantee that things will be easy when it comes to parenting. But if there was ever a character best suited for the role of being both a mother and a teacher, it would be Starfire. Having lived through so much in her own life, Starfire has endless amounts of wisdom and love and knowledge to impart to both her daughter and her students. Being a teenager is tough, but having Starfire as a mother or teacher would definitely make life a little more bearable.