Monday, August 13, 2012
Stop looking at my boobs when I'm kicking yo butt
Comic book heroines have got it rough. I'll be the first to admit that. They work in a male dominated field. They've got over 75 years of sexist stereotyping to overcome. Lastly, they're written mostly by men. Still, they've come a long way since the only role model girls had was Lois Lane screaming for Superman to save her month after month.
Wonder Woman became one of the first strong powerful heroines unleashed on the comic world. Unfortunately, there's some back story and issues to go along with Princess Diana's early days. I'm not going into all that, because it has no bearing on this discourse. The important thing is that she is still going strong. DC Comics came out with a string of super heroines to compliment WW. Unfortunately, they were all knockoffs of established characters like Superman and Batman. So, we end up with Supergirl and Batgirl. Even though both were grown women, they got tagged 'girl' for their troubles. I'm not saying they didn't kick butt, because they did, just in a Fifties and Sixties type of way. It would take almost another twenty years before these great characters would evolve past the 'Girl' moniker and become truly strong women in their own right.
When Marvel broke onto the scene in the Sixties, they were no better. Sue Storm spent most of the decade calling on Reed and the rest of the FF to save her. The Avengers had the Wasp, who seemed more interested in shopping than actually fighting crime. Jean Grey from the X-Men appeared to be around for the guys to moon over. I could go on, but you get the point. The heroines were nothing more than window dressing to draw in female readership without much in the way of substance.
The Seventies changed that. Marvel amped up the X-Men with Giant Sized X-Men #1. Jean Grey slowly started her evolution into Phoenix. Storm became an aloof powerhouse. We also saw the birth of Spider-Woman who would later become quite important to the new millennium of the Marvel universe. The Eighties brought us The Savage She-Hulk. While both were Marvel attempts to protect copyrights, both characters showed that inner and outer strength could work in comics. Then Frank Miller introduced one of the most important female characters of all time, Elektra. A woman out for vengeance over the murder of her father, she proved the perfect embodiment of a powerful woman who didn't take crap and could stand on her own two feet without a man coming to the rescue. That Daredevil was hopelessly in love with her only heightened Miller's run with the character. He proved that you could have a romantic twist in comics without making the woman some damsel in distress.