Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wonder Wednesday 04-21-10 The Women of Marvel

In Mobile, desperate for something to read, I stopped by a bookstore and picked up... no, not one of the fifty-seven billion books about college football, although I can see where you'd jump to that conclusion. No, instead I bought a magazine called The Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades. This is a bit ironic, since I have mentioned a few times how Marvel to this day, doesn't really have its own "Wonder Woman" and that the long-time heroines they do have have started out pretty weak and fragile... also, nearly all of them have gone insane at some point... Jean Grey destroyed an entire populated planet! And you thought you had bad periods. (Or that women you knew had bad periods, as the case may be.) Why is it in comics, people go completely insane... and then just get better? And it's usually just through their loved one imploring, "This isn't you! You can fight this! Where's the (insert name here) that I know and fell in love with?!" That argument wouldn't stop me from doing a shot, much less climb down from the Crazy Tree.
And while I dig this illustration by the legendary Alan Davis, you'd NEVER see Captain America thrusting his star-spangled ass at the "camera" the way Black Widow is above! I would also say that you'd never see a male character in as skimpy a costume as The She-Hulk's or Ms. Marvel's, but then there's Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner...
and Colossus...
...and there goes that argument.

Also, I realized, at least Marvel has tried creating female heroes. They just haven't managed to catch on with readers. As far back as the late 1940s, they launched a handful of books starring female heroes, such as The Blonde Phantom...
...fighting crime in an evening gown? Fancy!

Sun Girl, The Mysterious Beauty...
...the real mystery is what self respecting hero races to the rescue on The Subway?!

The Sub-Mariner's cousin, Namora, The Sea Beauty... Geez, Marvel, like blondes much? Or the word "Beauty?!"

Venus, the Goddess of Love and... you guessed it, Beauty! At least she isn't blonde. She's PLATINUM Blonde, thank you very much!

And then there's Miss America...
What a hag! Not only is she a grotesque brunette... she's wearing GLASSES! What kind of hero wears glasses in her super identity? Makeover time, girlfriend!Thaaaat's better! Still not loving that poofy blouse, but at least I can stand to look at her now without fear of gagging on my own tongue. Lovely that The Allies beat Hitler... and then turned right around and perpetuated his "ideal" standard of beauty at every turn.

Unfortunately, super hero comics in general were on their way out and these ladies vanished alongside their male counterparts. Marvel tried again in the early seventies, by launching a trio of titles starring female heroes, The Cat...
Night Nurse...
I know nothing about Night Nurse, but I can easily bet you my spleen that it's the most boring comic book ever... and I think there were even comics based on The Waltons.

The final star was Shanna, The She-Devil...Shanna, arguably was the most successful of the three and has continued to appear periodically, although I'm not sure what the appeal is.
Maybe it's that she lives in a jungle and fights dinosaurs. There's just something magical and timeless in the appeal of dinosaurs. I mean, just look at the Jurassic Park movies! I suppose the same is true of Shanna.WHA--?!?! WHA--?!?! A--!!! Y--!!! YOU CAN'T SHOW THAT IN A COMIC BOOK!!!
Well, there went my dinosaur theory.

Ahem, so these books didn't do that well either, not even Shanna's, because you weren't allowed to draw naked tittays in a comic book in the 70s. So the next time Marvel tried launching a trio of super heroines, they based them on existing male characters.

There was Ms. Marvel, the former lovah of Captain Marvel (a male Captain Marvel, not the black female I blogged about before... which would have been a lot sexier). But getting super powers from your boyfriend? So... basically her powers are like Space Herpes?
Then, there was the She-Hulk......who was The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner's cousin, who gained her powers... no not the same way as Ms. Marvel, they weren't from Arkansas! He had to give her a blood transfusion after mobsters shot her. (Hate when that happens!) Unlike The Hulk, She-Hulk could control her transformations and retained her intellect in monster form.

And then there was Spider-Woman...
...who had Jack Shit to do with flagship hero Spider-Man. Hell, she wasn't even an original idea! Filmation was going to create a Saturday morning cartoon called Spider-Woman, so to protect their "Spider Brand," Marvel shat this character out in a rush to secure the copyright. (More on this tomorrow!) In her first appearance, it was revealed that she was really an actual spider that a mad scientist morphed into a human! NO REALLY! In her second appearance, it was revealed that that was a fucking terrible origin story, so let's just forget all that nonsense. Instead, let's say she was always human, but when she was young, she'd been bitten by a spider, which was then morphed into a human... no, kidding... she was bitten by a spider and her father, a scientist, injected her with spider serum to save her, granting her super powers.She didn't even have the same powers as Spider-Man. Well, she could cling to walls, but she could also fly and shoot "Venom Blasts." She was actually a villain in her first several appearances, until she learned that she was being duped by Hydra, a terrorist army. She turned over a new leaf and became a super hero.

These last three have been the most enduring solo heroes in Marvel's roster. Others like Invisible Woman and the X-Women......have been written excellently in their careers, but they remain stars in a team setting, whereas, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and Spider-Woman are all long-running members of The Avengers and have also headlined their own titles in recent years. Sadly, Ms. Marvel's just got canceled. She-Hulk's has been canceled and relaunched. (She also plays a large role in The Hulk's book.) Spider-Woman's has just begun, so hopefully it'll last a while longer.
And while selling a book starring a female hero may be a challenge, we fans of the female heroes are slavishly devoted to them, whether they have their own titles or not. It may be the underdog factor, since I think nearly every female hero fits that description. I mean Iron Man 2 is opening soon and Marvel is in production on live action movies starring Thor, Captain America, possibly Ant Man and a new Spider-Man. But there isn't a chance in hell of there ever being a Ms. Marvel movie or Spider-Woman or She-Hulk for that matter. BUT, you'll find that the fans of these female characters are more steadfast and passionate about them than those of their male counterparts. I'd bet that if you examined the audience at a screening of IM2, you'd find at least one or two people there just because of Scarlett Johannson as The Black Widow and that their love for that character eclipses the casual interest of the rest of the audience for Iron Man himself. Just a theory.

So, like I said, true, Marvel doesn't have a real flagship heroine, but it isn't necessarily due to lack of trying, so I just thought I'd give credit for their attempts.

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