Jun. 8th, 2013

talvin: (Default)
Tangential to other discussions, I am watching the larger conversation about how women are treated in comic books. Now, I grew up reading comic books: my collection numbered in the thousands, and the ones that I still have in storage are in the hundreds.

So, I decided to apply Daddy's Lens of Assessment: Out of this list of superheroines, which ones would I be comfortable showing to my daughter as a "good example" of a woman with super-powers? (Lumping Mockingbird, Batgirl, Black Widow, and other non-powered "superheroines" in there as well. There are male analogues to each.)

First, I eliminated anybody who is, due to her gender, relegated to sidekick or diminutive copy status. Batgirl, Supergirl, Arrowette, etc. All fail to make the cut.

Then, I eliminated anybody whose costume is over-the-top sexualized. Applied to an extreme, this could end it right here. I found a murky middle ground, but Wonder Woman does not make the cut, and a host of others likewise. Power Girl was never even in the running.

I would eliminate any adult who gets a moniker of "[Noun or Adjective] Girl", but they seem to have been dealt with in the first two rounds. Telling, very telling. I would allow teenagers with that name, as "- Boy" is applied to teenage male superheroes, and it is not unreasonable in that context. I would also allow variants such as "- Lad" and "- Lass" within the same context--but not applied to anybody past their teen years.

OK, we've eliminated a LOT of them. Most, in fact. Now I return to my first criterion, and expand it a bit. Those who are not worthy of their own title, who can exist only as part of a team, do not make the cut. I am saddened by this, as it cuts out Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde, who was one of my favorite characters. She has always been popular enough to warrant top billing status with numerous matchups in various mini-series, and she is, I am glad to see, part of the new all-female X-Men. She has always been a smart, tough, attractive, butt-kicking Geek...but I have to be honest with myself and say that she is marginal by my criteria. She has never gone solo, while some of her teammates (and therefore theoretical equals) have. Some other issues along the way. Some blatant fan-service. So, no.

What's left? Slim pickings, slim indeed. None of them have a current solo comic in production. Captain Marvel had one, but I haven't heard anything about her in a while, and despite having led the Avengers, she isn't even mentioned in the context of the movies. Dazzler, possibly, but again: she's in the past.

Vindicator/Guardian, arguably. Yes, her husband had the suit first, but after he died, I do feel she did better with it: she's a copy, but not a diminutive copy. She is also the only power-suited heroine I can find anywhere, and I am honest enough to admit that I am making excuses for that reason: I want at least one gadgeteer in a suit! And did she ever go solo? I would have to look it up. OK, I really want to put Spitfire and the Troubleshooters in this category, and properly it belongs there: but it only lasted 13 issues, and they rebooted the basic concept twice in that run. As an example of a woman in a power-suit, it's downright depressing. (Great start! Then they decided it wasn't sexy enough.)

So, what comic book women would I feel comfortable setting in front of my daughter? Argh.

I think she might enjoy my old Power Pack comics (Yes. I collected Power Pack. And I still have them. Do you have a problem with that?!), and I should dig them out for her soon. I see no reason why, once she is able to follow the storylines, she should not read my Albedo collection: Erma Felna, EDF is a good example for girls, and she was my introduction to, and set my standards for, Furry comics. But she's not a superhero/ine: she's a Naval Officer caught up in some ugly politics and conspiracies, just trying to do her best.

So, in conclusion, I must regretfully admit that the complaints about female superheroes in comics are so close to entirely correct that the exceptions only prove the rule.

I don't think "reimagining" old superheroines is going to work. We need some fresh blood and fresh ideas.

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