Gender Magic

As I keep on saying, it is probably time for to stop denying the fact that I read Earth-2 every month despite not identifying it on my pull list (though I in fact will continue to deny it.) Earth-2 has gotten pretty far by its novel approach to the reimagining the DC Universe (isn't this what the new 52 was supposed to be about anyway?) So far it has reimagined among others Alan Scott as a homosexual man and Wonder Woman as a villain (albeit her daughter, Fury, is the one in the villain role, not Diana.) In the most recent Earth 2 (minor spoiler ahead) the Doctor Fate arch-enemy Wotan (Doctor Fate does not really have that many villains) is partially reimagined as a female character, or at least was a female at one point in the character's long life. While this is a fairly common thing to do, it is interesting how this has been portrayed especially in reference to Doctor Fate as a character.

In the 1980s and 1990s there also existed another magical gender change and that was with Doctor Fate himself (then herself.) I haven't really read too much of this (as it was before my time) but two separate women took over the role of Doctor Fate. Although this was an editorial decision to revitalize the character, there has always been some kind of underlying magic explained behind the change. This has generally boiled down to the yin and the yang concept - that magic has two halves each represented by gender, with the female and male each having their own versions while maintaining some link to the others. There are some very notable uses of gender in magic, such as the succubus and the incubus, but generally as they are portrayed in fiction, the distinction between genders is mostly meaningless, except notably in the Doctor Fate mythos.

I am not really sure why this is. Perhaps it is that the concept of gender change in fiction is not particularly compelling (though it has been featured as far back as in Ovid's Metamorpheses.) Or perhaps thanks to modern psychology and medicine, that it is possible for the first time in history to identify and help those people that feel lost in their born gender and therefore it is more acceptable as a literary device. As I see it though this had something more to do with sacrifice. Sacrifice is often given something of a magical (or religious) meaning and the sacrifice of one's gender identity can be the equivalent to the sacrifice of one's life. At that though I do find this to be a somewhat cheap gimmick. By making character female she is immediately more alluring and more pleasing to the eye, and the character's motivation is not as necessary to identify. So far in the new 52 there have been some other gender changes (though the only one I can think of at the moment is Mogo) but in that case the change is easier to understand as the characters are both secondary and as assigning gender to a planet is kind of arbitrary anyway. As for Wotan, it does add a layer of complexity to the character, though I wonder if it is a necessary one.

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