Hal Pictures Green Lantern Butt's FOREVER!: Things could be worse

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Things could be worse

Looking at the state of modern comics, and the place of women therein, I am not particularly thrilled. On the other hand, I was browsing through some of my old (very old) books the other day, and believe me, things could be a heck of a lot worse. We could still be written by Stan Lee for example.

I like Stan Lee. I think that he revolutionized comics back in the day, and he seems like a charming and personable ambassador for comics to this day. But I really really dislike the way that he used to write women. Granted, this was back in the 60's and social mores were different...and yet...! I read Susan Storm, or Jean Grey, or Wanda for example, and don't know whether or not to laugh or cry.

A Stan Lee girl...they weren't Women yet...is a simpering, weeping, clinging mess. The Invisible Girl, spent most of her time wringing her hands and swooning. Wanda was a disaster, completely dominated by her obnoxious brother, she had a pretty cool power, but spent most of her time wringing her hands and swooning. Jean Grey was slightly more competent, but only marginally. None of them ever waded into the fight and actually got their hands dirty, they had mental powers, or at least less physical powers. Mostly, their contributions were to stand there and wave their hands at the bad guys. And get kidnapped. A lot.

What is even worse, is the behavior of the men. Reed Richards was apparently ALWAYS a dick, at least in the beginning. He's always yelling at Sue to stop being a "Female"! Johnny and Ben aren't a whole lot better. Over in Avengers, Pietro basically spends most of his time telling Wanda to shut up and stay out of the way. Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, isn't treated any better, she's an empty-headed socialite, either shopping, flirting or scheming of ways to get Hank Pym to marry her.

Over at DC, I think that things were actually a bit better. You had Lois Lane of course, who was also scheming to get Superman to marry her, but at least she DID things, she was a reporter and a lunatic, but by God, she had spunk. I liked Iris West, and Carol Ferris was a career woman, which was rather unnusual for the time. Of course they all got kidnapped and rescued a lot. At least they weren't getting raped...yet.

There was a particular Avengers story that has always driven me nuts. Actually I think this one may have been written by Roy Thomas instead of Stan, but it is still basically a Harlequin romance book in comic form. Arkon, the ruler of another planet kidnaps Wanda to Be His Bride. Of course, she feebly resists, and then swoons and starts to fall for him, when she's rescued by the rest of the Avengers. Hawkeye actually tells her, it's ok, she's just a Female! Not once does she lift a finger to defend herself, or even help the rest of the Avengers when they finally show up. She does cry a lot though.

So...things have improved over the years. Women are actually allowed to fight and throw a punch and rescue the heroes. Of course bad things are happening to them, and the level of bad seems to have escalated enormously. At first you just had Denny O'Neill, and his weird fixation with putting women in wheelchairs. I never could figure that little quirk out, but apparently during the time that he was writing Hard Travelling Heroes, he was going through a nasty divorce and drinking a lot. *Ahem*

Now we just have them getting raped and decapitated. I'm not sure that this is progress. At least Sue isn't swooning so much anymore.


At 2:47 PM, Blogger CalvinPitt said...

I wonder if that was the reasoning behind Stan coming up with She-Hulk. She's pretty much the opposite of everything you described, especially in her "Savage" beginnings.

At 6:52 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

Thank goodness for She-Hulk. At least she didn't faint all of the time.

I'm actually quite grateful that women in general are no longer being written as totally useless, in fact, Sue is probably the most powerful member of the FF, but sheesh!

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


You make an excellent point. While there is still much room for improvement both in the presentation of female and male characters, there has already been considerable advancement over the years. To act as if there hasn't been is in my opinion very narrow minded and short sighted.


(Where's the love? It's at Geek Love)

At 2:43 AM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

Excellent points :D

Things could be better, they also could be much worse :\ But this should give us hope that things will improve in the future as well! :D

I think the problem is that a lot of writers saw female empowerment to mean "women are fair game now", and therefore they can do all sorts of brutal stuff to female characters to elicit sympathy from the (what they're prolly presuming as) male readers and if ppl complained they'd say "you want to be treated equally right" which is actually not equal since men are also not raped or killed brutally in equal amounts >.>;;;

It often seems like we get all the bad stuff with being treated "equal" but none of the good stuff :(

We can get into fights, we just lose >.>;

But hey, at least we're allowed in them XD

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The funny part is that Marvel's Silver Age treatment of women was actually a step backwards.

Not only were the women in the Broome/Fox comics fairly self-assured for the time, but we also had Kirby's June Robbins in Challengers of the
Unknown who saved the heroes' hash as much as she was captured.

And, as I've been reading over Golden Age comics, I'm kinda shocked at the number of heroines who utterly kicked ass in a presumably more sexist era.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

That's true, and there are even some Silver Age women who aren't completely pathetic...but I've said it before and I'll say it again...there is nothing more annoying than an early Stan Lee girl.


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