Hal Pictures Green Lantern Butt's FOREVER!: Silver Age Support Groups

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Silver Age Support Groups

You can all thank Scipio over at the Absorbascon for this idea, he's been doing a hard-hitting restrospective on a whole slew of Silver Age Girlfriends, namely Sue Dibny, Carol Ferris, Jean Loring, Shayera and Iris West. We of course, know that they are the girl friends of Ralph Dibny, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, Carter Hall and Barry West.

Time has apparently mellowed a number of these young ladies. With the exception of Green Lantern, I really haven't read that much Silver Age DC, so I freely admit that my perception of the girls is colored mostly by Alex Ross, and recent and current portrayals. So I was startled to realize that there was a much harder edge to these blushing damsels.

But I can live with that. Because, it is my position, that being a Super Hero Girl Friend is a tough and thankless job. Sure, you get to be flown through Metropolis under a full moon, but there are all those kidnappings to have to deal with. A lot of the time, the poor women didn't even KNOW the true identity of their beloved, and couldn't understand, why he was always rushing off in the middle of dinner for some patently ridiculous reason. NOBODY forgets their wallet that many times!

There was always the problem of being the girl of a nice but nebbishy civilian, and then secretly mooning after the superhero, who oddly enough greatly physically resembled one's Man, yet was so unattainable. I can't help but think that eventually, most of the girls managed to figure it out. Again...NOBODY is that clueless. Well, maybe Lois. Or Vicki Vale.

Since all the guys hung out together, did the girls ever decide to form their own support group? I can see them all meeting at each other's houses for tea and cosmopolitans and chocolate, and dishing on the various foibles of their respective boyfriends. I'm even suspecting that there was a tacit agreement, to employ some passive/aggressive tactics to try and get the guys to wise up. Hal would be especially clueless in this regard, and I imagine that Barry was just too naive to pick up on the obvious signals that Iris was sending him.

I can't help but notice that a lot of the problems between the various couples seem to vanish once the Super Hero opens up and simply ADMITS that yes, he's really the Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Batman, Superman, etc. etc. All this time the poor women have been secretly thinking that they are unloveable, and THAT'S why their guys keep running out on them. Now, they know that it's not THEM, it's really the Super Villain's fault! Little things like that mean a lot of a girl. There is also the satisfaction of seeing their chosen mates running and flying around in impossibly hot costumes.

So, try and look at it from the Super Girl Friend's point of view, and you'll see why they were so cold, shrewish, ditzy and generally insane. Well, except for Jean Loring. She really WAS nuts, right from the beginning.


And don't forget that their boyfriends spent most of their time hanging out with Wonder Woman! That sort of things can make a girl feel insecure.


At 9:07 AM, Blogger Sea_of_Green said...

Sure, Lois Lane pretty much set the standard for all super-hero girlfriends to come, but I do think Carol Ferris was in a class by herself. I mean, first of all she was the BOSS at Ferris Aircraft -- a VERY unusual and powerful position for a woman during the Silver Age. PLUS, yes, she had a crush on handsome, swaggering Green Lantern, but she was also being pursued by a handsome, swaggering test pilot -- and Hal wasn't the ONLY test pilot who sought her attention during the Silver Age. Green Lantern's alter-ego -- Hal -- certainly wasn't a milquetoast. I guess Ms. Ferris was just more hard-to-get than most Silver Age females!

Then there were all the rest of Hal's girlfriends: Eve, Olivia, Iona, Dorine, Kari, Arisia, Cowgirl, etc., etc. Sure, Dorine had co-dependency issues, and Kari was just plain NUTS, but I think it's safe to say that there isn't a wimp in the bunch. Hal definitely isn't the type who likes simpering hothouse flowers (except maybe as one-night stands). And, for most of his girlfriends, knowing about Hal's other identity didn't really seem to affect the relationship much.

It was different with Barry and Iris, for example, whose relationship actually got BETTER when Iris figure out Barry's "other life" -- because Iris was never all that crazy about the Flash to begin with. For her, it was just a relief to FINALLY have a legitimate explanation as to why Barry had to LEAVE all the time.

With the possible exception of Dorine, Hal Jordan's girlfriends aren't the types of women who go around looking for a shoulder to cry on when the boyfriend does something stupid.

However, I CAN very easily picture all of them getting together for a few beers to compare notes and laugh at some of the stupider things Hal has done. ;-)

Personally, I think Steve Trevor had a rougher time than ANY of the super-hero GIRLfriends. Who the heck would he have to talk to if he DID need to talk to someone?

At 9:33 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

It would have been nice if the girls would let Steve Trevor join them. It might even be a relief to know that Diana had a main squeeze, because frankly I can see where she'd make the rest of them feel a bit insecure.

The DC girlfriends may have had some problems, but I still find them much more interesting than the typical Stan Lee girl over at Marvel. All Sue, Wanda and Jean ever did was stand around and wave their hands and faint. A LOT.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Duskdog said...

Interesting that the DC girlfriends are all civilians (well, almost all) while many of the Marvel girlfriends were superheroes (and I use that term loosely, as they did get kidnapped at least as often as any civilian girlfriend back then).

Yeah, looks like Hal likes tough ladies. Kari pretended to be a wimp when it suited her, but that was just her way of jerking him around.

As much as it amuses me that Kari chose Guy over Hal, it amuses me more than Iona chose Salaak rather than Hal in the end. Though I suppose it wasn't really a fair comparison since her mind had been mucked with and she thought she was with Pol Manning all along. I wonder if we'll ever see Salaak mention her again? He was married to her for like five years while he was in the future or something, so you'd think he'd occasionally get thoughtful about it... especially since Sinestro's first execution is what tore him away from her to begin with.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger SallyP said...

You know, Duskdog, that's a good point, and one that had escaped me completely. The DC heroes DID have civilian girlfriends, but the Marvel heroes, not so much. Really, the only one I can think of is Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy and later Mary Jane. Daredevil had that blonde secretary, but then he went and started mooning over the Black Widow. The X-Men only dated each other, and pretty much the same thing with the Avengers.

I do know that Iona was one seriously messed up young lady.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excerpt from Sidekicks, Spouses and Supporting Characters: A Superhero Tutorial:

"...Your spouse will, by definition, be the primary person in your life...thus, you must make sure that she is ready to accommodate the lifestyle of a superwife. Spouse could loosely be used to apply to a girlfriend or significant other, of course, but as a role model you are expected to not be sexually promiscuous. The only times this lifestyle is acceptable is if it's in your 'bad boy' past (Jack Knight, Wally West), you're not a respected superhero yet (Kyle Rayner), you're a known degenerate (Lobo, Blackhawk) or you're a raving 'just-thank-God-he's-not-in-a-commune' liberal (Green Arrow Oliver Queen).

"Your first question: do you tell her about your activities? In times past, when secret identities were treated with the seriousness of an exploding A-bomb, a hero could be married to his wife for years, lying about where he was running off to in the middle of dinner parties and no one would think it absurd. This may be because many wives didn't work, and superheroes feared that their wives would treat it as a 'topper' during an afternoon gossip session. They'd be doing the ironing at Trixie's house when a commercial would interrupt their Stories, so Rhonda would start yammering away about her fling with Milkman McGillicuddy and your wife would want to top it, so she'd let fly with, 'Well, my Norman has been having a little adventure of his own! It turns out he's Captain Milquetoast!'

"But hey, that was the 1950s for you. These are the late 90s and marriage is a union of equals. Including her in your secret life can bring new depth to your relationship and enhance your bond of trust. Plus, let's face it, she's bound to find out the first time Dr. Dillwad bursts through your walls firing his masterblaster.

"Yes, being the wife of a superhero brings certain perils, and the love of your life needs the calm head to meet these threats. Sue Dibny married a hero with a public identity and was kidnapped so often that she learned to take it in stride. Lois Lane had enough threats to her life as a crusading reporter that marrying Superman didn't seem too intimidating. Joan Garrick, Iris Allen and several other wives have also proven quite capable when it comes to facing their husbands' enemies.

"If you can't marry a brave, wily woman, then your only other hope is to marry a woman so lacking in intelligence that she won't spend a lot of time contemplating the danger she's in. But there are only so many Sapphire Staggs to go around.

"You may wonder why we don't include husbands. Well, the truth is that the only famous superheroine husband was Larry Lance. And, as his wife's partner, Starman, cuckolded him, it's an issue we'd just like to sweep under the rug..."

At 1:56 AM, Blogger Cove West said...

It's always struck me that, for all that we have this image of Peter Parker as this guy who couldn't get a date, we forget that the guy literally had women fighting over him back in the day (at least Ditko's). Betty Brant, Liz Allen, Anna Watson's mysterious niece, Gwen Stacy...seems like the only woman who met Peter/Spidey and DIDN'T want to go out with him was Janet van Dyne (and that was pseudo-biological, what with wasps and spiders being natural enemies) -- and we all know what happened to Janet. Let that be a lesson, world: Look out, here comes Spider-Man...FOR YOUR DAUGHTERS!

Where did all that matrimony and romantic bliss at DC go? You go from the Silver Agers who were all either married, millionaire playboys, or Hal, to the Modern Agers who are, as a whole, almost oblivious to the opposite sex. Other than Wally/Linda, Clark/Lois, and Ollie/Dinah (and don't bet the ranch on that one), where have all the stable relationships and frequent fliers gone? It's like pulling teeth just to get Guy and Tora to speak to one another, much less romance. Bruce Wayne can't date anyone who isn't secretly trying to kill him or secretly dying. Dick Grayson is suddenly Mr. Celibate. Another reason to lament the loss of BLUE BEETLE, 'cuz other than Jaime and Traci, there ain't a whole lotta love amongst the heroic youth (no, Wonder Girl's Super-necrophilia doesn't count). Geez, when Hank and Jan, Wanda and Vision, and Scott and Emma are comics's marquee couples, there's something wrong.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

It's true, Cove, we need MORE romance, not less. Besides, there's nothing like romance to generate a little angst, and good comics need good angst. In moderation at least.

Anonymous, I am not familiar with "Sidekicks, Spouses and Supporting characters: A Super Hero Tutorial" but I sure want to read more.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous TotalToyz said...

The DC heroes DID have civilian girlfriends, but the Marvel heroes, not so much.

Iron Man had quite a few of them: Pepper Potts, Janice Cord, Marianne Rodgers, Bethany Cabe, Mereith McCall, etc. Sure, Madame Masque was his Catwoman, but there were a lot of civilians in there.
There was also Captain America and Bernie Rosenthal, Thor and Jane Foster, Sub-Mariner and Betty Dean, and later Dorma (an Atleantean "civilian"), Silver Surfer and Shalla Bal, Hulk and Betty Ross, The Thing and Alicia Masters, Human Torch and Dorrie Evans, Beast and Vera whatsername, Angel and Candy Southern, etc.

At 5:28 AM, Anonymous TotalToyz said...

And I can't help but notice that, in the JLA panel you selected to illustrate this post....Hal is still admiring his own hands.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

Hal really can't help himself. This is a man who sneaks peeks at a mirror while he's fighting, after all. I suppose we're lucky that Snapper Carr isn'tthere admiring his hands as well.

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