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hamlet

Feminist Superhero Books

Posted on 2006.08.17 at 12:49
Tags: , ,
Just finished Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes by Lillian s. Robinson. It's a little book, and it's pretty good in some areas, not so good in others. There's a good history of the early days of Wonder Woman and of crazy guy William Moulton Marston (his nom de plume was Charles Moulton)'s intentions towards the character and the comic. Unfortunately, after the 'Forties the story fragments, as Robinson brings in Mary Marvel, Supergirl, Black Cat, Invisible Girl/Invisible Woman, She-Hulk, and a quick tour of female Avengers characters the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, Firestar, Warbird and Captain Marvel (er, I don't read Avengers comics, but I thought Captain Marvel was a guy?), with quick nods to Elektra and the Xena comic books, and one fabulously off-base statement about Promethea, who she apparently believes is a man in a woman's body (maybe she's only read the Bill parts?).

Like I said, it's a little book, so there's not much depth with any of those, except for the aforementioned Wonder Woman, and a pretty large section about She-Hulk. It seems pretty clear that, although she writes that she used to read comic books as a young girl, Robinson hasn't really read any since, except for those she picked up to use as research materials for this book. She's also really lame when talking about comic book readers: "they - especially the male majority - have played fast-paced multilevel video games and may have some experience with hypertext, as well. Offscreen, they may also have been involved in - even become addicted to - role-playing fantasy games like "Dungeons & Dragons"" This from a book published in 2004? The fuck?

She does, however, make a pretty good point about the comic book universes of DC and Marvel seeming to have gone from a pre-feminist world to a post-feminist world without ever actually getting involved with feminism in any meaningful way. A good example of this is her discussion of Warbird's claim that the Avengers removed her from active duty because of sexism, when the real cause is obviously her alcoholism and repeated failures during missions. The sexism claim is patently false and easily dismissed; so where are the cases where sexism is the real cause? There aren't any, and there aren't likely to be any.

Now, I don't read a lot of superhero comics, and I don't exactly trust Robinson's take, but it seems to me that it could easily be the case, especially if I extrapolate from my readings/viewings in other parts of geek culture, where it's frequently assumed that women are already equal members of society (woohoo! the wage gap is up to 81%!).

Of course, what I really wanted to read and didn't get was a discussion of how women read comics and why. That would be a frickin' awesome book.


Comments:


Jason
jadasc at 2006-08-17 17:02 (UTC) (Link)
I don't read Avengers comics, but I thought Captain Marvel was a guy?

The name gets passed around a lot, since Marvel Comics has a financial investment in keeping it from reverting wholly to DC with their Captain Marvel (aka Shazam). The one they're referencing is Monica Rambeau, who's gone by Photon in the past decade or so.
alistairenix
alistairenix at 2006-08-17 17:41 (UTC) (Link)

It's worthless geek trivia time!

^^^
|||
What they said.

The name "Captain Marvel" has been around for years and used in both DC and Marvel's comics to denote completely different characters.

DC's Captain aka Shazam was purchased from Fawcette Publications in the 70s after a long legal battle over similarities to Superman. He is, in essence a red and yellow duplicate with a different back-story than everyone's favorite Kryptonian. His first appearance in print was 2 years after Superman and DC entered litigation to get his series stopped in the 40s. By the 50s, DC got a financial settlement and the series was canned. In '72, DC decided to revive the Captain and added him to their roster.

The Captain specifically mentioned in that book was, as previously pointed out, a reference to one of Marvel's two Captain Marvel characters. The name was done away with, I believe, after DC went after them for the use of the name "Captain Marvel," which is why she is now called Photon.

Thus ends today Comic Geek trivia moment!

God, I'm such a geek.
Jeremiah Genest
jeregenest at 2006-08-17 18:01 (UTC) (Link)

Re: It's worthless geek trivia time!

Marvel still owns rights to Captain Marvel. They just bestowed it to a different character. Marvel in Marvel continuity is a legacy character.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Marvel_%28Marvel_Comics%29
alistairenix
alistairenix at 2006-08-17 18:11 (UTC) (Link)

Re: It's worthless geek trivia time!

Thanks. Was not aware that the character was still around.
melissagay
melissagay at 2006-08-17 18:34 (UTC) (Link)
How disappointing! Too bad the author was uniquely unqualified to write this book.

I love Warren Ellis's take on Captain Marvel/Photon in NEXTWAVE. :)
Robots Prepare To Torch Gene Autry
robotnik at 2006-08-17 23:34 (UTC) (Link)
"They - especially the male majority - have played fast-paced multilevel video games and may have some experience with hypertext, as well. Offscreen, they may also have been involved in - even become addicted to - role-playing fantasy games like "Dungeons & Dragons""

That is a great sentence. Kids these days, with their hyper text and their tiny bikes!

Of course, what I really wanted to read and didn't get was a discussion of how women read comics and why. That would be a frickin' awesome book.

There's only one solution: you'll have to write it!

In the meantime, have you seen this: http://www.girl-wonder.org/ ? Or were you the person that originally told me about it?
peaseblossom
peaseblossom at 2006-08-18 12:06 (UTC) (Link)
There's only one solution: you'll have to write it!

Sadly, I don't have much more experience than the above author with superhero comics. I could write about why chicks dig Sandman, but that seems redundant somehow.

In the meantime, have you seen this: http://www.girl-wonder.org/? Or were you the person that originally told me about it?

Well, I don't think I mentioned it in my journal, but I did del.icio.us it, which is kind of like telling you, if you accept random lists of links as a substitute for actual communication.
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