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Women in Refrigerators: Girl Wonder

This week on Women in Refrigerators we get to talk about Stephanie Brown. Also known as Spoiler. And Batgirl. And Robin. So what is the controversy surrounding Stephanie? Well there are a couple of different things.

First, her death. So people die all the time in comics. So we’re not so much concerned with the fact that she died in the first place. We are, however, a little concerned that she was tortured to death with a power drill.

Stephanie isn’t the only one of Batman’s sidekicks to be tortured to death, but there is a noticeable difference in the way they were portrayed. Namely, Stephanie was portrayed in a much more sexual manner. Compare:

After his death, Jason Todd received a memorial in the Batcave. Stephanie never received this honor. In fact, after her death she seemed to more or less disappear completely. Why doesn’t she get a monument? Bruce even told her before she died that she really was Robin, the only girl to ever be Robin and not Batgirl. Later commentary by the writers suggested this was more of a ruse than anything, but she wore the cape and used the name.

Jason Todd’s memorial in the Batcave. The inscription reads “A Good Soldier”

Stephanie essentially became little more than a plot element, something to affect the lives of the male heroes in the Batman world. That seems to be a common problem for the women in comics. Remember Alex Dewitt, for whom the Women in Refrigerators campaign was named? She was a plot device. Lasting for only five issues, it’s clear she was created for the sole purpose of being killed off.

The good news? As with most comic book deaths, Stephanie was eventually brought back to life. That said, her whereabout are unknown as of the DC relaunch.From time to time publications came out depicting the Batcave with a tribute to Stephanie. You know, after the folks at Project Girl Wonder raised enough noise. Speaking of which, thank you to Project Girl Wonder for much of my information for this post. Here’s to you Girl Wonder.

Coming up next on Women in Refrigerators: Absolute Power.

I posted this and realized I hadn’t even put a picture of Stephanie alive and well. Oops. Here’s one:

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Fashion of the Superheroine

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WARNING: Pictures of Scantily Clad Women

I could pretty much use one word to describe most superheroine costumes. Ridiculous. So imagine you’re about to go fight some nasty bad guys and you need to put on a disguise. So what do you choose? How about a swimsuit. Like Wonder Woman and these other heroines:

Scarlet Witch (Marvel)

She-Hulk (Marvel)

Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

Black Canary (DC) And what better way to add to the swimsuit effect than fishnet tights? I can barely wear tights to church without ripping them. I can’t imagine trying to fight crime with them on.

And if I were doing heroic stunts, I’d probably aslo at least want to cover up my stomach. I don’t know. Just a thought.

Huntress (DC)

Hawkgirl (DC)

Emma Frost (Marvel) Sadly, this is one of her more modest outfits.

Hawkeye (Marvel)

Lets not forget about wearing skirts while fighting crime. Especially if you fly or grow to a giant size.

Elasti-Girl (DC)

Supergirl (DC)

Bat-Girl (DC)

Arrowette (DC) Bare stomach and skirt. Good idea.

Now to be fair there are some reasonable outfits out  there. Like these:

Shadowcat (Marvel)

Black Widow (Marvel)

Batgirl (DC)

Wasp (Marvel)

Stature (Marvel)

Invisible Woman (Marvel)

Phoenix (Marvel)

Bumble Bee (DC)

Huntress (DC.)

Rogue (Marvel)

Spiderwoman (Marvel)

So, it seems to me that Marvel has more reasonable costumes than DC. But to be fair, I tend to be a little biased toward Marvel in most things. Basically what I’m saying though is that a lot of the women out there fighting crime in comic books are horribly dressed for what they’re trying to do. Unlike most of their male counterparts, they’re not at all protected by their costumes. As you can tell I kind of prefer the jumpsuit look. It can be sexy while still being reasonable. Just my thoughts on it all.

And while we’re talking about fashion, let’s all take a moment to admire the original Batwoman’s purse, which contained all her beauty product themed crime fighting gadgets.

On the bright side, most of the heroines don’t wear capes. We know how Edna (Incredibles) feels about capes.

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

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.

Women in Refrigerators: The List

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Aero: depowered

Alex Dewitt: dead

Alysande Stuart: dead

Amber: depowered, dead

Angel (Angel Salvadore): depowered

Anima: dead, cut in half

Aquagirl (Tula): dead

Aranya: enslaved, temporarily depowered

Batgirl (Barbara Gordon): paralyzed from waist down, but restored use of her legs under the new 52

Batgirl/Robin (Stephanie Brown): tortured by Black Mask

Bekka: dead

Betty Banner: miscarriage, turned into Harpy

Big Barta: dead, revived but displaced to Earth 51

Black Canary: tortured, temporary infertility and loss of powers

Black Widow: brainwashed, impersonated

Bluebird: dead

Butterfly: trapped in an internment camp

Callisto: depowered

Candy Southern: dead

Celsius: dead

Coagula: dead

Copycat: dead

Courtney Ross: dead

Crimson Fox: both sisters dead

Danielle Moonstar: depowered

Darkstar: dead

Dawnstar: wings amputated

Dazzler: career crash, miscarriage

Deathcry: dead

Diamond Lil: dead

Dinah Soar: dead

Doctor Midnight (Beth Campbell): beheaded

Doll Girl: died of cancer because her powers prevented medical help

Dolphin: dead

Domino: tortured

Dorothy Spinner: mental breakdown, coma, life support pulled

Dryad: depowered, killed

Duela Dent: dead

Dusk: enslaved, missing

Echo: dead

Elasti-girl: only original member of Doom Patrol to stay dead until Infinite Crisis

Elektra: dead, but revived

Element Girl: dead

Feral: depowered, killed

Fever: dead

Flamebird: dead

Frenzy: abused, mind controlled

Gertrude Yorkes: dead

Gloss: dead

Gwen Stacy: dead

Harbinger: dead

Hawk (Holly Granger): dead

Hawkeye (Kate Bishop): sexually abused

Hawkwoman (Sharon Carter): dead

Huntress (Helena Wayne): dead, erased from memory

Huntress (Helena Bertinelli): sexually abused, dead *I will say I’m confused on the Huntress status in the New 52

Ice: dead, but later resurected

Icemaiden: retired due to severe injuries, flayed

Invisible Woman (Sue Richards): miscarriage of second child, mind possession

Jackpot (Alana Jobson): dead

Jarella: dead

Jean Loring: mental breakdown, dead

Jocasta: Married an evil robot in order to save the world, then was exiled to uninhabited planet with said evil robot.

Jewel/Jessica Jones: sexually abused

Jubilee: depowered on M-Day

Karen Page: addicted to heroin, becomes a porn star, contracts HIV, is killed by Bullseye (just like Elektra was)

Karma: raped, possessed, obese as a result of possession, leg amputated

Kinetix: dead, incinerated

Lady Dorma: dead

Lian: dead

Lilandra: dead

Lilith Clay: dead

Lionheart: killed, forced separation from children, brainwashed

Magik (Illyana Rasputin): captured by demons, aged, de-aged, and all sorts of other crazy mumbo jumbo. Also dead for awhile.

Madame Xanadu: blinded

Madelyne Pryor: uh, basically nothing good ever happens to her.

Magma: attempted crucifixion

Mantis: child taken from her

Maria Trovaya: dead

Marlo Chandler: Stabbed to death, revived, kidnapped, turned into Harpy

Marrina: insanity, dead, revived and used against her husband.

Marrow: depowered

Mary Marvel: turned evil, depowered

Maxima: dead

Mera: child murdered, insane for awhile

Mirage (DC): impregnated by rape

Mirage II (Marvel): dead

Miss America: died in childbirth

Misty Knight: mind controlled

Moira McTaggert: Dead

Ms. Marvel/ Warbird: abducted, mind controlled, impregnated by rape, powers and memories stolen, temporarily depowered

Ms. Marvel II: mutated into monstrous form, insane, turned on Fantastic Four

Namorita: died in an explosion

Mystek: dead

Naiad: depowered

Negative Woman: dead

Network: depowered, dead

Nightwind: depowered

Pantha: head punched off, dead

Phantom Lady (Dee Tyler): dead, body hung on Washington monument

Phoenix (Jean Grey): turned evil, dead… again

Pixie: has part of her soul stolen in Limbo

Petra: dead

Phantom Lady (Dee Tyler) impaled, body hung on Washington Monument.

Polaris: depowered multiple times, mind controlled, mental breakdown

Power Girl: magically impregnated

Preview: depowered

Psylocke: beaten, eyes gouged out, kidnapped, brainwashed

Raven: we never know if she’s evil or dead, but it’s usually one of the two

Revanche: dead

Rogue: another of those who never seem to have anything good happen to them.

Roulette (Jennifer Stavros): dead

Rubbermaid: depowered, dead

Sasha Bordeaux- turned into a cyborg

Scarlet Witch: loses children, insane, accidentally depowers many mutants including herself and attacks the Avengers

Secret: murdered, turned evil, depowered

Shadowcat: possessed by demon, sometimes losses control of ability

Shadow Lass: enslaved, mental break down but later recovers

Sharon Friedlander: dead

Shrinking Violet: abducted, lost a leg for awhile

Shvaughn Erin: actually a male, has effectively disappeared from comics

Siena Blaze: death at concentration camp

Silver Sorceress: dead

Snowbird: family murdered, insane, dead for awhile

Speedy (Mia Dearden) abused, forced into child prostitution, HIV positive, kidnapped

Spider Woman (Mattie Franklin): killed in a ritual

Stacy X: prostitute, depowered

Starfire: raped, enslaved, two forced marriages

Starlight: kidnapped and brainwashed

Starshine (Landra): dead

Stature: enslaved, dead

Stepford Cuckoos: two dead

Strange Visitor: dead

Storm: bouts of depowering, sometimes crazy

Sue Dibny: raped, dead (along with unborn child)

Sway: dead

Tana Moon: electrocuted, dead

Tarot: temporarily depowered, died and resurrected twice

Tattoo: dead

Terra: insanity, dead

Thornn: depowered

Tigra: difficulty controlling cat form, enslaved

Tomorrow Woman: destroyed but revived without powers

Vanessa Fisk: buried alive, mentally unstable, dead

Wallflower: dead

Wasp: abused by her husband, dead

Whip (Shelly Gaynor): dead

Wicked: depowered

Wildcat II: dead

Wind Dancer: depowered

Wolfsbane: needs therapy

X-23: cloned, raised in captivity, painful surgery to receive claws

Yelena Belova: believed dead, but currently seen in stasis