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  1. #1
    Mighty Member tbaron's Avatar
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    Default Female heroes in comics...

    So I have a question. When did female heroes in comics go from the goofy sidekicks that only needed to be rescued all the time to real heroes? I know that Invisible Girl was an important part of The Fantastic Four. I am reading old Tales to Astonish with Giantman and The Wasp. She seems very flightly always talking about shopping and her hair. A far cry from The Wasp I read in West Coast Avengers.

    So when where female heroes taken seriously?
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    People didn't take Wonder Woman seriously??? Lots of female heroes were battling the Axis during WWII, charging into combat and rescuing GIs.

  3. #3
    Extraordinary Member Kirby101's Avatar
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    Around 1939-1940
    There came a time when the Old Gods died! The Brave died with the Cunning! The Noble perished locked in battle with unleashed Evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!

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    Mighty Member tbaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seismic-2 View Post
    People didn't take Wonder Woman seriously??? Lots of female heroes were battling the Axis during WWII, charging into combat and rescuing GIs.
    I dont know how seriously the writers took Wonder Woman. When she joined the JSA wasnt she just their secretary or something? I remember hearing that in a comic book documentary. I could be wrong and if I am sorry.
    Favorite teams. Avengers, Fantastic Four, West Coast Avengers, Justice Society of America, Legion of Superheroes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tbaron View Post
    I dont know how seriously the writers took Wonder Woman. When she joined the JSA wasnt she just their secretary or something? I remember hearing that in a comic book documentary. I could be wrong and if I am sorry.
    That's not entirely wrong, but shortly after they made her a full member. Female heroes during the golden age were actually quite common. They took a hit after the war, but most superheroes did. Literally the only ones that stayed popular were Supes, Bats, and WW.

    The issue you mention in the original post was really a silver age Marvel problem. And it's not hard to find a bit of casual chauvanism in those comics especially when it came to the Wasp and Sue ( Jean Grey and Wanda may have come off a little better in comparison ). But around 1970 or so I think Stan and the other editors saw that it'd be in their own best interests to have more female characters that were slightly more proactive. That's when they revamped the Black Widow, came up with the Cat, Shanna, etc. Now, those titles might not have immediately successful, but it help move things forward.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Wonder Woman's main titles were Sensation Comics and her own Wonder Woman, not All-Star Comics with the JSA. I think the reason she ended up as secretary there had to do with an intersection of sexism (on the hand of the All-Star Comics writers) and policy decision from the publisher (JSA was for superheroes without their own titles—Wonder Woman joined the JSA as a full member between her debut as a character and her getting her own title).

    There was a nice topic here earlier about Golden Age superheroes outside of DC and Marvel. My impression is also that a character like Black Canary was treated seriously from the start.

    Culture doesn't progress linearly. It spirals and interconnects in weird ways.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

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    Incredible Member TriggerWarning's Avatar
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    I'd say around the time Chris Claremont started writing comics. He wrote his X-women characters, initially Jean Grey and Storm, as fully realized characters who weren't just arm dressing for men. Then he wrote the Ms Marvel solo series where she was actually a full fledged superhero where again she wasn't some male heroes sidekick. Until Marvel raped her in Avengers #198-200, she was probably the best example of a fully realized female superhero.

  8. #8
    Boisterously Confused
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    Quote Originally Posted by ed2962 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by tbaron View Post
    I dont know how seriously the writers took Wonder Woman. When she joined the JSA wasnt she just their secretary or something? I remember hearing that in a comic book documentary. I could be wrong and if I am sorry.
    That's not entirely wrong, but shortly after they made her a full member. Female heroes during the golden age were actually quite common. They took a hit after the war, but most superheroes did. Literally the only ones that stayed popular were Supes, Bats, and WW.

    The issue you mention in the original post was really a silver age Marvel problem. And it's not hard to find a bit of casual chauvanism in those comics especially when it came to the Wasp and Sue ( Jean Grey and Wanda may have come off a little better in comparison ). But around 1970 or so I think Stan and the other editors saw that it'd be in their own best interests to have more female characters that were slightly more proactive. That's when they revamped the Black Widow, came up with the Cat, Shanna, etc. Now, those titles might not have immediately successful, but it help move things forward.
    Quote Originally Posted by TriggerWarning View Post
    I'd say around the time Chris Claremont started writing comics. He wrote his X-women characters, initially Jean Grey and Storm, as fully realized characters who weren't just arm dressing for men. Then he wrote the Ms Marvel solo series where she was actually a full fledged superhero where again she wasn't some male heroes sidekick. Until Marvel raped her in Avengers #198-200, she was probably the best example of a fully realized female superhero.
    It seems like women in all walks of life took a hit after WWII, and the Comics Code Authority doubled down on it as part of the industry's effort to keep Wertham's and Kefauver's fans from their throats. ed2962 probably has a point about Silver Age Marvel being worse about it the rollback of the progress women enjoyed from the 1920s-mid-1940s, although there were some pretty cringe-worthy Supergirl stories in the Silver Age. I also agree with TriggerWarning that Claremont's writing really accelerated the depiction of fully realized, heroic women, but I'd say a trend had already been underway at Marvel before Claremont began his rise.

    Kirby's Lady Sif was a badass from her introduction until later writers set her to hand-wringing, and while prone to swooning at Cap, Kirby's Sharon Carter was also a hardboiled, no-nonsense character who put her duty before her boyfriend. Prior to co-headlining Daredevil's book, Black Widow was given an edgy urban espionage makeover that was no joke.

    In spite of some of the Supergirl stories, I often look to both Hawkgirl (golden age) and Hawkgirl/woman (silver-bronze age) as the exemplar of how super-heroines other than Wonder Woman were treated at DC. Yes, she was not the star, but from the beginning she was generally treated as a competent associate, and not as the hero's hostage-of-the-month, nor as his less-informed exposition-target. This was particularly true of the second Hawkgirl, who was pretty consistently presented as a fully equal partner of Hawkman (give or take some gender role assumptions of the time). If characters like Batgirl, and Mera didn't get the same level of respect as Hawkgirl vs. their male counterparts, they were at least not usually treated as incompetents.

  9. #9
    Mighty Member Electricmastro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbaron View Post
    So I have a question. When did female heroes in comics go from the goofy sidekicks that only needed to be rescued all the time to real heroes? I know that Invisible Girl was an important part of The Fantastic Four. I am reading old Tales to Astonish with Giantman and The Wasp. She seems very flightly always talking about shopping and her hair. A far cry from The Wasp I read in West Coast Avengers.

    So when where female heroes taken seriously?
    After researching, I had found that female heroes during the late 30s and 40s were less goofy than some people might think, and I admit while there was at least a little bit of goofiness (though really I think this could have applied to heroes in a general sense), they could still very much qualify as "real heroes" and not just sidekicks.

    In any case, of the female comic heroes of the 1939-1941 era in particular, there's:



    From left to right, top to bottom:

    Crimson Rider, Magician from Mars, Alice of the Winged People, Black Widow (Timely Comics), Fantomah, Headless Horseman

    Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Lady Luck, Mighty Woman, Miss X, Red Tornado, Woman in Red

    Black Cat, Black Widow (Holyoke Publishing), Blue Lady, Bulletgirl, Flame Girl, Hawkgirl, Kitten, Lady Fairplay, Lady Satan (Harry 'A' Chesler)

    Madame Strange, Margo the Magician, Miss America (Quality Comics), Miss Fury, Miss Victory, Mother Hubbard, Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Owl Girl, Pat Patriot

    Phantom Lady, Ranger Girl, Rocketgirl, Silver Scorpion, Spider Queen, Super Ann, USA the Spirit of Old Glory, Wildfire, Wonder Woman
    Last edited by Electricmastro; 11-01-2019 at 12:17 PM.

  10. #10
    Surfing With The Alien Spike-X's Avatar
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    Rita Farr was a badass from the get-go in Doom Patrol.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Electricmastro View Post
    After researching, I had found that female heroes during the late 30s and 40s were less goofy than some people might think, and I admit while there was at least a little bit of goofiness (though really I think this could have applied to heroes in a general sense), they could still very much qualify as "real heroes" and not just sidekicks.

    In any case, of the female comic heroes of the 1939-1941 era in particular, there's:



    From left to right, top to bottom:

    Crimson Rider, Magician from Mars, Alice of the Winged People, Black Widow (Timely Comics), Fantomah, Headless Horseman

    Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Lady Luck, Mighty Woman, Miss X, Red Tornado, Woman in Red

    Black Cat, Black Widow (Holyoke Publishing), Blue Lady, Bulletgirl, Flame Girl, Hawkgirl, Kitten, Lady Fairplay, Lady Satan (Harry 'A' Chesler)

    Madame Strange, Margo the Magician, Miss America (Quality Comics), Miss Fury, Miss Victory, Mother Hubbard, Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Owl Girl, Pat Patriot

    Phantom Lady, Ranger Girl, Rocketgirl, Silver Scorpion, Spider Queen, Super Ann, USA the Spirit of Old Glory, Wildfire, Wonder Woman
    And visually, at least, ahead of the curve even today.

    While not a hero, per se, one of the things that sold me on my fav (Catwoman) was the way she was depicted way back in Batman #1. While part of that was down to the aesthetic of the era, Hughes and Balent runs, for example, feel regressive in comparison. And then there's the fact Selina was saying things to Batman they wouldn't dare print today.

    I genuinely feel Golden Age comics have a lot of lessons we could do with relearning. For me, the bigger question would be when did we start on goofy again and how can we go back? The 90's and early naughties in particular were cringe!
    Last edited by Frances; 11-03-2019 at 01:19 AM.

  12. #12
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Maybe time to point to this article by Saladin Ahmed again: How Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics

    Note that I doubt the CCA is the only culprit here. There was a puritanical and misogynistic drive all over the US culture and politics that started after the Second World War. But the CCA made that tendency more extreme and last longer in comics than it otherwise would by letting it take institutional form.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  13. #13
    Mighty Member Electricmastro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Maybe time to point to this article by Saladin Ahmed again: How Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics

    Note that I doubt the CCA is the only culprit here. There was a puritanical and misogynistic drive all over the US culture and politics that started after the Second World War. But the CCA made that tendency more extreme and last longer in comics than it otherwise would by letting it take institutional form.
    While I do think the CCA played a role in “neutering” the personalities of superheroes, as I recall female superheroes such as Wonder Woman in particular being in a less “edginess” and more “passiveness” compared to her Golden Age days, not helped by misogynistic-driven leaders in power at the time, I still do think some of its rules should be of particular note, such as: http://cbldf.org/the-comics-code-of-1954/

    “Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.”

    “Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.”

    “Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.”
    Last edited by Electricmastro; 11-03-2019 at 01:43 PM.

  14. #14
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    Part of the change in women's roles in the comic books was just a reflection of the changes of women's roles in society, as the country moved from the WWII economy to the 1950s economy. In WWII women had to be producers, since so many men left their jobs behind and joined the armed forces. Women were filling "Rosie the Riveter" jobs, working in factories to build the hardware necessary to fight the war, and they were moving into business and retail, taking over empty positions vacated by men. In this economy where women were out there "getting it done" to keep America going, women in comic books were shown as active and aggressive, and they filled positions of responsibility. When the troops were demobilized after the war and the man came back to their old jobs, it was necessary for women's roles in the economy to shift from producers to consumers. Keeping the economy going in the post-war era, instead of sliding back into the pre-war Depression, meant that people had to want to buy things. Society depended on the soldiers-turned-civilians to get married, start families, and buy all the things necessary to buy, furnish, and maintain a home and to raise children. Women thus shifted to a more nearly passive role of becoming homemakers, driving the consumer marketplace by shopping for the goods that were now being produced by the men (both in factories and in offices). Comics reflected that change by showing women as being largely interested in getting married and in going on big purchasing expeditions to department stores and supermarkets. The heroes who were "getting it done" in comics were now mostly men, with the women were often cast more nearly in a support role.

  15. #15
    Mighty Member Electricmastro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Wonder Woman's main titles were Sensation Comics and her own Wonder Woman, not All-Star Comics with the JSA. I think the reason she ended up as secretary there had to do with an intersection of sexism (on the hand of the All-Star Comics writers) and policy decision from the publisher (JSA was for superheroes without their own titles—Wonder Woman joined the JSA as a full member between her debut as a character and her getting her own title).

    There was a nice topic here earlier about Golden Age superheroes outside of DC and Marvel. My impression is also that a character like Black Canary was treated seriously from the start.

    Culture doesn't progress linearly. It spirals and interconnects in weird ways.
    Quote Originally Posted by seismic-2 View Post
    Part of the change in women's roles in the comic books was just a reflection of the changes of women's roles in society, as the country moved from the WWII economy to the 1950s economy. In WWII women had to be producers, since so many men left their jobs behind and joined the armed forces. Women were filling "Rosie the Riveter" jobs, working in factories to build the hardware necessary to fight the war, and they were moving into business and retail, taking over empty positions vacated by men. In this economy where women were out there "getting it done" to keep America going, women in comic books were shown as active and aggressive, and they filled positions of responsibility. When the troops were demobilized after the war and the man came back to their old jobs, it was necessary for women's roles in the economy to shift from producers to consumers. Keeping the economy going in the post-war era, instead of sliding back into the pre-war Depression, meant that people had to want to buy things. Society depended on the soldiers-turned-civilians to get married, start families, and buy all the things necessary to buy, furnish, and maintain a home and to raise children. Women thus shifted to a more nearly passive role of becoming homemakers, driving the consumer marketplace by shopping for the goods that were now being produced by the men (both in factories and in offices). Comics reflected that change by showing women as being largely interested in getting married and in going on big purchasing expeditions to department stores and supermarkets. The heroes who were "getting it done" in comics were now mostly men, with the women were often cast more nearly in a support role.
    Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that World War II was pretty much a wake-up call that basically led societies questioning their own “values”, like kjn was getting at, and I think it was this aftermath that helped fuel the civil rights movements in 1950s and 1960s, not just women serving in more active, respected roles after the 1948 Women’s Act, but also addressing the problems black people were going through after the US Army was desegregated in 1948 as well.
    Last edited by Electricmastro; 11-10-2019 at 12:12 PM.

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