Monday, January 5, 2009

Poison Ivy : Origin Two

"Pamela Isley grew up in Seattle, the only child of well-to-do parents who pampered their daughter and indulged her every whim. A cute girl, Pamela was, sadly, emotionally unstable and entirely too critical of her appearance; consequently, she spent most of her adolescence alone and apart from other children. Deciding that if nobody was going to bring her roses she would just grow her own, Pamela became more and more interested in botany, finding solace in the plants and flowers that always listened to her and depended on her.

Pamela went to college and studied botany under Jason Woodrue, a brilliant scientist. (Years later, Woodrue would become the plant master known as Floronic Man, and even later, Floro of the New Guardians.) Woodrue performed his earliest experiments on Pamela, experiments that actually mutated her into not being quite human, one with an unnatural affinity for and power over plant life. Woodrue eventually left Seattle, but by that time, Pamela had found another love -- the Batman, whom she worshipped, idolized, and fantasized about. With her precarious emotional outlook, she became convinced that Batman, too, would fall instantly in love with her should the two of them ever meet face to face. So, using the plant mastery she had gained under Woodrue, and adopting the nom de guerre Poison Ivy, Pamela traveled to Gotham City and began a one-woman crime wave guaranteed to capture the Dark Knight's attention.

The Batman, who generally devotes himself to his war on crime rather than romantic pursuits, spurned Pamela's affections, and she was eventually imprisoned at Arkham Asylum for futher psychiatric evaluation. But the power she had tasted as Poison Ivy thrilled Pamela. For the first time in her life, she was able to control others with the power at her command, to manipulate men with her beauty and raw sexuality. Breaking out of Arkham, she decided to continue her criminal career and matched wits with Batman repeatedly, forever being put back behind bars and yet always able to coerce some young, virile guard into looking the other way, while she escaped once more.

As Poison Ivy, Pamela is, first and foremost, a manipulator. Her emotions are mercurial, and she is affectionate and trustworthy only to serve her own ends. Her only real vulnerability is her dependence on the power over men that she so loves to wield. She is as cold toward women as she is passionate about men." ~ DC Comics, Who's Who, Mark Waid

Neil Gaiman introduced this new provocative origin in "Secret Origins #36, Jan 89". The story is titled "Pavane", and is told from the perspectives of Pamela Isley (locked away in a Gotham City prison) and a curious Inspector Stuart. As the story unfolds, Pamela Isley begins to tell of her experience -- thus creating her new origin and at the same time doing away with the many inconsistencies of her documented past. One of the more memorable aspects of this piece is that we, as readers, are allowed a first glimpse into the mercurial nature of Pamela Isley. One moment she is sweet as a rose, and the next -- she is poison. Pavane ends with Inspector Stuart completing his diagnosis of Pamela Isley -- the words "Arkham Asylum" are scribbled across a note pad. The security monitor displays a horrified and screaming Pamela Isley reaching out towards the security camera begging for her freedom.

This recharacterization allowed Poison Ivy to move forward from her campy second string status. She was once considered a celebrity villain with a sincere yet laughable motivation. Ivy is now a one woman force of nature, filled with passion, power, and rage...and dare I say it -- a soul. I strongly urge all Poison Ivy fans to track down a copy of this comic book. The artwork is lacking in certain aspects (mainly from aged paper), but the story is a significant turning point in the life of the Pamela Isley we know today.

Although the two origins of Poison Ivy have their differences -- they also have some key similarities. Both origins remain true to the idea that the woman who became Poison Ivy was ultimately betrayed by a man. That betrayal significantly altered her biochemistry to the point of death. But, she did not suffer a mortal death -- what died is her ability to remain entirely human.


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