Monday, May 29, 2017

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen - Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History

I have always, always, ALWAYS been a huge fan and follower of female superhero characters in the comics.  From Wonder Woman to Supergirl to Batgirl to the original Ms. Marvel to Squirrel Girl to Patsy Walker, Hellcat to Ms. Tree to Whisper to Miss Fury.  For whatever reason, I enjoy reading the adventures and sagas of these strong, liberated, independent, intelligent women who have made their mark in comic book history.  And now, author Hope Nicholson, has written a book that compiles some of these characters that have made their mark in history!

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen is a truly fantastic look at not only how women have been portrayed throughout comic history (from the 1930s to the present day), but also looks at some of the female creators who have managed to make their way into what was once a totally male-dominated industry.  Now, I will admit, most times when I buy any kind of a reference book (like those DK books that give us an encyclopedia of Marvel or DC, or the various Who's Who titles that the different comic companies have done throughout the years), I just sort of flip through them and them put them up on a shelf (or in a comic box, whichever is more appropriate).  With this book, however, I actually felt compelled to sit down and read it and learn more about some of these comics, characters, and creators, many of which I had never heard of before!

Nicholson starts her study of these superwomen with the 1930s, and she opens each decade with a two-page history lesson about the particular decade and what it meant for comics, for superwomen, and for female creators in the industry.  From the birth of an industry, through the golden age, the comics code crackdown, the rise of underground comix, the black-and-white boom, and the age of web and digital comics, Nicholson covers more than 80 years of comic book history; but, with only 231 pages within which to put forth this wondrous world of women, it is, sadly, limited.  With each character and book covered, Nicholson provides not only first appearances, where you can find them now, and information about the character, but also gives readers insight into how the comic impacted the comics of its time, how its creators were influenced, and whether the comic/character has had any ongoing influence on comics through the years.  She gives some very insightful and poignant opinions on each of the subjects as well.

Nicholson manages to cover most of the "big-name" characters that pretty much anyone would recognize: Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl.  She also hits on characters that pretty much any comic book fan these days would know: the current Captain Marvel, the current Ms. Marvel, Witchblade, Squirrel Girl, Dazzler, Amanda Waller, Vampirella, and Miss Fury.  In addition, she includes lesser-known characters that probably only around 25% of comic fans would know, such as Ms. Tree, Fashion in Action, Dakota North, Martha Washington, Silk Spectre, DC's original Starfire, and Vanity. Then, there are characters and comics that probably very few are truly aware of: the Magician from Mars, Maureen Marine, Man-Huntin' Minnie of Delta Pu, Pudge - Girl Blimp, Bitchy Bitch (and Bitchy Butch), just to name a few.

Overall, the book opened my eyes to just how much diversity there is out there, and for just how long women have been struggling to make their mark in the comic industry (both on the page and behind the pages).  I actually found several books and characters that I intend to hunt down and add to my comic collection (such as Sally the Sleuth from Spicy Detective Stories, as well as Gail Porter, Girl Photographer from Blue Circle Comics, Gail Ford, Girl Friday from Super Detective magazine, along with some others).  Some obscure characters I already have the pleasure of owning, such as Starr Flagg, Undercover Girl, Gold Key's comic The Close Shaves of Pauline Peril, and Harvey Comics' Black Cat series.

What I will say surprised and somewhat disappointed me is the fact that several female characters who did make a pretty strong mark in the comic world were not covered, nor even mentioned.  The first one that comes to mind is Whisper, a ninja-style character first published by Capital Comics, then later picked up by First Comics for an impressive independent run of more than 30 issues of her own ongoing series.  And what about Huntress and Power-Girl from DC Comics, both of whom have been around since the '70s, and both of whom have had various mini-series, ongoing series, and appearances in a number of comics over the years?  Was it because they were alternate versions of the already covered Batgirl and Supergirl?  Then there's Evangeline, who went from Comico to First Comics.  And what about Somerset Holmes from Eclipse?  Or Ninja from Eternity Comics?  Or Media Starr from Innovation Comics?  Or Kelly Green, by Stan Drake and Leonard Starr?  Obviously, with the limited space, I realize not every single female character and comic could be covered - but I do wonder what Nicholson's criteria was for determining which characters and books would make the cut, and which ones would simply have to be left unmentioned...

Despite some of my favorite characters not making the cut, I did thoroughly enjoy and appreciate this book.  It offers a lot of great information about women in comics, is a great resource for a lot of lesser-known and possibly even unheard of characters and comics, and brings some attention and notice to a lot of creators who deserve some recognition for the work they have done and the impact they have made for women in the comics industry.  A must have for any fan of females in comics!

RATING:  8 determined, no-nonsense female superstars out of 10 for providing great reference material for those of us who love women in comics!

No comments:

Post a Comment