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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fantastically Feminine: Cassie Lang

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Since I’m in the middle of my Women in Refrigerators posts, I think this weeks Fantastically Feminine Friday should feature the heroine who inspired me to kick it off. Ok, so Cassie isn’t the only heroine who inspired me to take on this somewhat massive project. But she did give it the kick it needed.

Basically, I live at Barnes and Noble and happened to be perusing some comic books. There was an anthology of Marvel’s The Children’s Crusade that I started flipping through. And it made me sad because Cassie, my favorite of the Young Avengers dies at the end after battling Doctor Doom. And then I started thinking how a lot of characters, especially women, that I like end up dead.

In fact, thus far in the Fantastically Feminine Feature, I have more or less avoided talking about characters who are set to make future appearances because I am cursed and they probably will die. But since Cassie is already dead, what’s the worst that could happen?

See. Dead. Noble sacrifice and all, but she’s still dead.

My favorite thing about Cassie is that she’s an idealist. She’s optimistic. She’s self sacrificing. And she’s strong. Her biggest ream is to follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a superhero.

Her ultimate sacrifice was in order to save her dad. She knew that bringing him back from the dead would have serious repercussions. And she did it anyway. And now she’s dead. Which makes me sad mostly in the sense that now we won’t see any more of her. Well, they may bring her back. Comic book death and all. But she is a pretty minor character.

So here is my tribute to Stature, a.k.a Cassie Lang.

And there she is fighting a Super Skrull

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A History of Women in Comics

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Superheroes haven’t always dominated comics like they do today. The comic book format was introduced in 1933, but it wasn’t until 1937 when Superman debuted and started the superhero craze. Many of following heroes of the early 1940’s were wealthy and renowned. This held true for the early super heroines like Phantom Lady, who were often rich socialites who donned the super heroine identity in order to cut loose a bit.

Sandra Knight as Phantom Lady in 1947

Once the groundwork was laid for the super-heroine community, a number of super girlfriends popped up. Several male heroes had shared their secret identities with their sweethearts (who often fell into damsel in distress roles). When Hawkman needs help on a mission he creates a female version of his own costume and his girlfriend Shiera joins him as his sidekick. She takes a bullet on her first mission. More super girlfriends were to follow, each was a watered down, female version of their male counterpart. Flame and Flamgirl. Bulletman and Bulletgirl. Rocketman and Rocketgirl. Doll Man and Doll Girl. Am I noticing a pattern here?

Post World War II saw a decline in the popularity of superhero comics. Many of the heroes popular during the war were based on the war itself. Heroes like Spy Smasher who had worked diligently to fight the Nazis now found themselves without a mission. Many of these heroes and heroines faded into obscurity as other genres took over the comic book industry. Women in superhero comics mainly were used for their sex appeal.

Black Canary: one of the post WWII beauty queens to hit comic stands.

That is until Fredric Wortham wrote his Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. The book condemned comics as wholly inappropriate devices that corrupted the minds of the youth who read them. The result was the Comics Code Authority which mandated, among other things, that women not be drawn disproportionately and that they cover. Anything overtly sexual was removed. Since many of the women in superhero comics at that point had little going for them besides their sexuality, leading ladies like Phantom Lady and Sheena met their downfall and faded from the pages of comics.

The women who remained in comics were primarily the love interests of male superheroes like Batwoman and Bat-Girl for Batman and Robin. Or Lois Lane and her L.L. initialed rivals for Superman. These ladies fawned after their heroes who often kept them more or less at arm’s length. And they also had a knack for becoming damsels in distress.

Characters like Bat-Girl and Batwoman were introduced to dodge allegations of homosexuality between Batman and Robin.

Superhero comics finally began to gain back some ground in the late 1950’s. Heroes who had been buried at the end of the Golden Age of comics (the post WWII slump) were revamped and reintroduced. As the 1960’s began a lot of new faces began appearing in comics, especially as Marvel comics was really breaking into the top ranks of the industry. This was the era of the super teams. And each team had a token female member. Wonder Woman for the Justice League. Elasti-Girl for Doom Patrol. Invisible Girl for the Fantastic Four. Marvel Girl for the X-Men. And Wasp for the Avengers. With the exception of Elasti-Girl, these token females kept largely to more feminine tasks and even in action were portrayed as the weakest members of their teams.

An early Fantastic Four adventure. Note Invisible Girl is captured and in distress while her male comrades confidently assure her they are powerful enough to save her.

In 1966 Batgirl (not to be confused with the more ridiculous Bat-Girl) was added to the then popular Batman television show. She was later adapted to comics. Unlike most other women in comics, she wasn’t there to be a romantic interest of any male hero. She’s not even his sidekick and she doesn’t need his permission. Other heroines like Supergirl were also beginning to come into their own.

Barbra Gordon as Batgirl

The 1970’s saw more women and more powerful women. Some of the rising stars included Black Widow, Black Canary, Storm, Valkyrie, Scarlet Witch, and Ms. Marvel. The Comics Code Authority had begun to lose power and comics were becoming darker. That meant more sexualization and more skimpy outfits.

Comics continued to become darker in the 1980’s. Ms. Marvel was impregnated by rape. Wasp found herself the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband. Even youthful, innocent Kitty Pryde was nearly forced into a marriage with the ugly, sewer dwelling Caliban.

Batgirl is crippled by the Joker 1988

Elektra being impaled by a grinning Bullseye 1982

Hank Pym gives his wife Jan (Wasp) a black eye 1981

The trend of sexualization continued into the 1990’s. Smaller costumes. And bigger breasts. It got beyond ridiculous. As in body proportions that would make a Barbie look normal. And costumes that left nothing to the imagination.

Even Invisible Woman gets an edgier look for the 90’s.

And since then? I’m not sure we have enough hindsight to say yet. I think that women are still searching for their place in the world of superheroes. It’s still a man’s world. But I think the future shows a lot of promise for women in comics.

Gail Simone’s creation Birds of Prey unites an all female cast of some of DC’s toughest heroines.

Coming up on Women in Refrigerators: Fashion of the Superheroine. Catch up on Women in Refrigerators and learn more about superheroines here.

Much of this information is derived from Mike Madrid’s book The Supergirls. It’s a fabulous read and goes much more in depth than I possibly could. And as always thanks to Wikipedia for a lot of my information.

Women in Refrigerators Introduction

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This post is going to need about a bajillion disclaimers. I’ve included them at the bottom.

Women in Refrigerators is a website created in 1999 featuring a list of women in comics who have been maimed, killed, or de-powered. I stumbled across this list one day and have been thinking about it lately. Today I’ve decided to begin working on my own list, on account of the fact that the old one is outdated.

So why Women in Refrigerators? What kind of name is that? Well it’s a reference to a Green Lantern comic. Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern) had been dating a young lady named Alex DeWitt for a few episodes when he comes home to find that she has been murdered and stuffed in his refrigerator by a super villain.

So there’s your introduction to Women in Refrigerators. It’s a big topic, and at this point I’m still deciding how in depth I want to go. I do know it’s going to be a little mini-series on the blog for awhile, because it is too big for one post. If I’m smart enough, I’ll figure out how to give it it’s own little subcategory on my home page. I make no promises though.

Here is the list.

***Disclaimer: I have no intention of claiming that this list is in anyway endorsed by the original creators. It’s of my own making 100%. I do not claim that I’m any sort of expert on the matter. I don’t follow comic books all that closely (despite my fascination with superheroes) and therefore will probably receive a lot of my information from Wikipedia. I’m especially confused by the New 52 which has changed a lot of the stories dramatically.

To Steal a Deceased Canine

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This is a story I herd from my aunt about her friend. Or maybe a friend of a friend. Basically what I’m trying to say is that the story here may or may nor be true.

So this lady was living alone in an apartment in New York. A friend who was concerned for her safety (since she was living alone) decided to give her a big guard dog. All was well until one day when the dog died. Not sure what to do, the owner called animal control who informed her that if she brought the dog in, they would take care of it. So she set off on the subway. So as not to seem like that total creep carrying the dog corpse on the subway, she first put the dog into a duffle bag.

As she was getting on to the subway, a man came and helped her get her large duffle bag onto the subway. He asked what was in it, and not wanting to tell him the truth, she instead said that it was full of school supplies. He seemed nice, and they talked for the duration of her ride. When he got off, though, he ended up stealing the bag which he thought was full of school supplies.

Wouldn’t you want to be a fly on the wall when he opened that bag?

Fantastically Feminine: Marianne Daventry

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Is it Friday again already? Well I don’t have a lot of time today, but this is another shout out for an excellent book. Today’s subject is Marianne Daventry, the lead character in debut author Julianne Donaldson’s Edenbrooke. The story is that of a Jane Austen style romance. Now, I’m typically not one for romance novels. But this one was so superbly written. And the characters, including Marianne, were so well done.

Marianne struggles with trying to live up to her twin sister and with her complete inability to recognize that a totally attractive guy is way into her. Still, there’s something about her. It’s something that I can’t quite place that just makes her an adorable character. You’ll just have to read to find out. And major props to Jullianne Donaldson. Confession: I’m totally jealous of how well she managed to write that book. It’s just beautiful. Don’t believe me? Check out the Goodreads review.

Fantastically Feminine: Kayley

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This week we turn our focus to the world of animation. In fact, when I did the Disney Princess post, one of my friends requested that I do a post about other animated women like Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. Hint: She’s coming up one of these weeks. Today, however, we’re going to talk about Kayley from Quest for Camelot.

Kayley longs to follow in the footsteps of her father and serve Camelot as a knight of the round table. When Ruber attacks her family, she dares to run away and try to track down the sword Excaliber. She’s brave and feisty. She’s willing to learn from her mistakes.

Ultimately, it’s her clever idea to have Ruber thrust the sword back into the stone that saves Camelot. And who doesn’t love a girl who uses her brain when she’s outmatched in strength?

She also befriends a blind hermit named Garrett (Cary Elwes). She sees the warrior in him, even though others have cast him off. Together they become an unlikely team and fulfill their dreams of being knighted. Also, this movie has great music. A must watch.