Women in Comics: Hop on the bandwagon, before it’s full.
Before I begin, let me just be say that I have been a geek since before being a geek was cool. For me, it was never a fashion statement or a rally cry; it was just how I was. I was gaming, read comic books, and being awkward around girls way before Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Wolowitz were doing it every week on your TV.
When I was kid, I used to be into the mythology, more than the actual arcs and story lines themselves. I could tell you origin stories and history but I never had the capability to start buying and keeping the comics that I liked. So, I was pumped when one of my best friends sent me a batch of new comics that she thought that I should read and enjoy. In addition to this, I’m no longer a broke kid. I’m a broke adult, which means I have the money (although not much) to buy comics that I enjoy and keep them. The last couple of months have kind of rekindled my love for stories and characters that I haven’t paid attention to in some time.
Growing up, I did not see a lot of “me” on television and in print and the one’s I did, I clung to very hard. This is why I am well aware of the disparity of women and minorities when it comes to most forms of media, but in particular popular comics. This brings me to what I wanted to comment on today;
This is a great time to be a fan of female featured comics.
Now, the “Big 2” comic companies (DC and Marvel, respectively) have always had, let’s say, a tumultuous relationship with their female casts of characters. Although most have been positive or lasting in the genre, they have been mostly riddled with heavy handed attempts to have them fit the “ideal” of their perceived customers (read: middle class white guys writing female stories, for middle class white guys).
Ok, I take it back. With the exception of a select few, women in comics have had it ROUGH.
For decades, almost every featured female characters has always fallen into the same tired tropes. I’m talking about hyper-sexualized female characters/heroes, women who are only as compelling as their male counterparts, female characters getting kidnapped, killed, or raped to advance the story of the male leads (Look up “Women in a Refrigerator”), etc. Taking your girlfriend to the local comic bookstore is usually an exercise in cringe worthy awkwardness, as they try to hold in the disdain for covers on titles like Power Girl, while you are searching back issues of Wolverine.
It’s kind of like having that one asshole friend from college that you know is “a bit much to deal with”, but has a heart of gold. A real douchey heart of gold. Even though it is prevalent, I have noticed over the last couple years of comic runs that there has been more “justice” (That’s a pun there) being done for these company’s casts of female characters
Lately, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing in new customers and their licenses being used by companies like Sony and Lego, there apparently has been a need to reboot and start new #1 issues for their core titles. With the obvious attempts to draw in new fans, there has been a steady influx of women driven titles that aren’t trash or peddling the same stories through a male gaze. DC did this back in 2011 with their “New 52″ initiative but I haven’t noticed distinct change in outgoing material (It might have something to do with their female staff dropping from 12% to 1%, but that’s none of my business). Titles like Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Black Widow are leading the charge and garnering heaps of acclaim from fans and critics of the genre. They all feature strong female leads (with great female writers, designers, and artists) that are more worried about protecting people, finding their calling, or kicking ass than how to keep “the morale up for the men”.
Captain Marvel has Carol Danvers, off world, fighting political strife in a different galaxy; Ms. Marvel depicts the Marvel Comic’s first ever Muslim-American superhero, a 16 year old girl from Jersey City; while Black Widow is in an espionage caper as she tries to atone for mistakes in her past.
We even have the 4th Volume of the X-Men being completely X-Women led. It centers on the team when it is comprised of female X-people, and being led by long time member, Storm. Storm is also finally getting her own solo title, even after all of these years as a major character in canon. The news registered high in my “It’s About Damn Time” index, right between pizza with cheese in the crust and when Chik-fil-a will eventually decide to be open on Sunday (a guy can dream).
The Marvel branded movies have been doing an good job with presenting their female characters in more than “WOOO! GIRL POWER! GIRLS CAN DO STUFF TOO!”-type of roles. Black Widow has been cracking skulls through 3 movies (Iron Man 2, Avengers, and Captain America: Winter Soldier), while still being a mysterious secret agent with a shady past and indecipherable motives. In a couple of weeks we will get to see “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which features Gamora, a green assassin who is widely consider the most dangerous women in the galaxy. Is she in the movie for sex appeal? Yep, I can’t deny that, but we will see if they take this great opportunity to show a character that has her own independent motives and isn’t there to be solely eye candy or “one of the guys”. She is on a mission to kill people who have wronged her, which easily makes for a compelling story (Come on, I know some who are reading this also watch “Revenge” on ABC). DC has already started working on a Wonder Women film, and I still hope that casual fans can be introduced to Captain Marvel on the big screen sometime soon. With care they can be great franchises, and without, they can be Elektra, which I still think should have been titled “Um..I mean…Oh, God, WHY?!?!?!”.
Understand, I am not writing this to defend my love of an often low-brow medium. I am just saying, that I don’t think there has been a better time to be a women comic reader. There is material out there, actual mainstream material, that I wouldn’t mind giving to my daughters, if I had daughters. Matter of fact, I’ll likely be stopping by the comic book shop in Union Station, as I post this online. I plan on picking up the new Ms. Marvel before the super fanboys take all the copies, and I have to go searching all over town for a one. I’ve had to do this at least 3 times in the last 4 months, as her issues have had to be reprinted multiple times.
There is still a very long chasm that must be spanned before there is even fair representation but important things are happening and people are backing it up with their checkbooks, including me.
Originally published at hypeothesisblog.wordpress.com on July 16, 2014.