Tagged: Supergirl

Mindy Newell: Dear Supergirl…


Superman: C’mon, Kara…don’t give up. You’ll make it. Pl…please…please stay with us.

Supergirl: I can’t. B…But’s it’s okay…I knew what I was doing…I wanted…wanted you to be safe. You mean so much to me…so much to the world.

Superman: You succeeded in destroying the machines.

Supergirl: Thank heavens…the worlds…have a chance to live…y-you’re crying…please don’t,,,you taught me to be brave…and I was…I love you so much…for what you are…for…how good you are…

The Death of Supergirl, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 October 1985, Marv Wolfman and George Perez

Dear Supergirl,

I watched the teaser. And though I generally don’t watch them because of their usually really bad quality, the bootleg version of the pilot episode mysteriously showed up in my e-mail box the other day; by the time you read this I will not have been able to resist. You are my favorite super-heroine of all time.

How many times have I mentioned you, Maid of Might – one of your nicknames back in the day – on these pages in the last two – or is it three – years? The last time was just two week’s ago in Occam’s Razor.

I was heartbroken when Marv and George decided to end your life in Crisis. I mourned both for you and for the death of my childhood dream. And I mourned for the end of an era – of all the changes that Crisis wrought, this was the one that struck me at my core, this was the one that felt real, felt irreversible.

And I felt old.

And even though you came back, you didn’t come back the same. You were no longer your cousin’s secret weapon, you were no longer hiding in an orphanage as an ordinary Earth girl named Linda Lee. You didn’t have a Linda Lee robot to cover for you when you were off doing super-missions on your own or for your cousin, and you didn’t have a best friend in the orphanage named Lena Thorul, whom you didn’t know was actually the sister of Lex Luthor, your cousin’s arch-enemy.

You didn’t have a cat – the only thing I didn’t like about you, because I’m a dog person – and you didn’t have a super-horse named Comet – which was another reason I loved you, because I’m a horse person – for the “strange brand” marking his hide. You weren’t a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and you didn’t have three boyfriends: the 31st century green-skinned, brilliant Brainiac 5, the Atlantean fish-tailed mer-boy Jerro, and ordinary Earthling and fellow orphan Dick Wilson.

Fred and Edna Danvers didn’t adopt you, and you didn’t rescue them from certain death, blowing your secret identity, which of course your cousin agreed you absolutely had to do. And the people of Earth never celebrated and honored you when your cousin finally said that you were ready to graduate and step out on your own, so you never met the President and you were never honored at the United Nations.

Well, there is one good thing. You were never kidnapped by Lesla-Lar of the bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor and brainwashed into believing you were she, living her life as a respected scientist in a city in a bottle kept by your cousin in his Fortress of Solitude while she lived your life on Earth.

All that history, and more, wiped out of existence as if it never happened, never inspired the imagination of one little girl and, I bet, thousands, maybe millions, like her, who read comics and dreamed of things that never were but could be.

All that history to draw from, to borrow, to homage, to even reinterpret…all the things that could be….

…when you, Supergirl, make your first debut on network television this fall.

I don’t know whether to laugh and cheer…

…or to cry and mourn once again.


Marc Alan Fishman: Not So Super, Girl

As we are assuredly living in the golden age of superhero TV, it was a clean jab to the jaw to watch the trailer for the forthcoming CBS Supergirl show. In only six and one-half minutes, my optimism – once high and mighty – was sucker-punched and left waning in the gutter.

Flash and Arrow are running at a breakneck pace, unyielding in showcasing how comic book shows can be both inspiring and hopeful, as well as dark and gritty whilst still being network-appropriate. Gotham, while no means as good as its CW counterparts, had flashes of brilliance in between the scenery chewing and trope-filled set-pieces. Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter both delivered period-appropriate ass-kickery, and more than one jaw-dropping moment. And while I’m not much on the whole zombie thing, iZombie and Walking Dead have both popped up in my Facebook feed as being well-produced and good fun for the fans. While nary a single one of these shows appeared to be as brilliant as they actually turned out to be, there was always enough there to see the greatness to come.

In contrast, Supergirl not only showed me nothing to be excited about, it made me worry for what will make it to screen, come the fall.

After a decent setup on Krypton, we’re whisked away to Metropolis by way of Devil Wears Prada. The prototypical rom-com workplace is our setting du jour. Really? Cat Grant, once a dirt-digging reporter and gossip columnist is now a low-rent she-devil running her own tabloid. While I might dig the girl-power aspect of giving Grant the power of the rich and famous, her screen time is given only to insult her employees and undercut women by celebrating girls. And she also calls herself hot, which I think must be a given – as her face looks to be comprised mostly of space-age polymers. But I digress.

Our titular Kryptonian is shown as a dichotomously dipsy dolt one minute, and a boy-golly-gosh-gee-howdy hero the next. It’s Super then it’s it’s Syewpah. Kara’s rocket ride through the cosmos apparently crash landed her on the set of Leave It To Beaver, and frankly it’s a shame. In the wake of Arrow and Flash, we’ve seen how our silver age heroes can exist in the modern era without being overtly cheesy. As presented, our heroine only seems to act appropriately when there’s actual trouble afoot.

And what of that trouble? By the trailer’s end, we’re introduced to the super serious black guy who informs us that all sorts of bad guys are just pilfering and plundering all over the planet. Luckily, I guess, Kara is here now to fight one each week.

It’s not that I don’t understand and accept the procedural portions of our pulpy wares when translated to serialized television. It’s just that based on what it set to tease us for the coming season, we’ll be whisked away to a doppelgänger universe where morts-of-the-week will be presented for super-punching. Given how closely Arrow and Flash run their shows – with home bases chock full of wonderful technology, and happy-to-help friends with no personal lives – it’s hard to find excitement in another retread of the same ground. Even if it’s on another network. And even if our protagonist wears a skirt.

But let me clear: I still hold out hope for the better. The half a dozen episodes of Birds of Prey I once watched prove my mettle. In between the quirky-peppy-girl-next-doorness of Supergirl, there were hints of something better. While my eyes are already set to roll every time we get this close to seeing He Who Shall Not Get A Credit, I will celebrate the fact that this show shouldn’t need him if it can match wits with the scarlet speedster and liberal archery master. And while it would be too much to hope they would eventually share the same universe, no doubt those counting the ad buy-ins would sooner spin-off something else to create a multiverse of superhero television empires.

Ultimately, Supergirl must be far more than the sum of the parts put together for the up-fronts. When the fans clamor for heroines that need not always be saved by the boys, Kara may be only a tiara behind Wonder Woman in terms of being the most widely recognized lady of comics. With the world ablaze in Avengers fever, and TV viewers DVR’ing anything that even sounds vaguely metahuman, Supergirl has the potential to be that bridge-gap nay-sayers need to come join the rank-and-file of the nerdy.

But if instead of a leading lady who shows that heroism is gender neutral, we get a dork who only gets hot when she’s showing off some CGI super powers… I’ll gladly continue to hold my breath for Agent Carter‘s second season instead.


Martha Thomases: It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Girl!

My editor suggested, if I was having trouble coming up with ideas about what to write, that I note that the new CBS prime-time show, Supergirl, will air at eight o’clock Eastern time on Mondays when it starts this fall… up against Gotham on Fox.

The assumption, when he mentioned this to me last week, was that Supergirl would have trouble against the adventures of Bruce Wayne as a boy, since the Batman character has a known success across several media for more than fifty years. Kara Zor-El, on the other hand, starred in one lousy movie and guested on a season of Smallville.

And then, this happened. Pitch Perfect 2 beat Mad Max: Fury Road for highest grossing opening box office this weekend. By a lot.

“Well,” you say (you being my rhetorical projection), “that’s really irrelevant, because movies are different from television.” This is true.

“And anyway,” you continue, “women don’t like superheroes, so who will watch the show?”

You, my rhetorical projection, are wrong. Women watch the current crop of superhero shows in large numbers. They also watch shows in related genres, including fantasy (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, for example) and horror (like Supernatural and iZombie).

I’m really psyched because, as you know, I’m a long-time Supergirl fan. I have enjoyed almost every incarnation of the character, including the one who had a flying horse that would turn into a cute guy when the occasion required. This new television version seems to owe a bit too much to The Devil Wears Prada, at least in the trailer, but it is my hope that, as the writers get comfortable with the material they’ll find a more unique take on the characters. It’s what happened in other 0808-produced shows, including Arrow and The Flash.

They should also stop being self-conscious about the character being named “Supergirl.” Yes, it’s kind of anachronistic, so I guess they have to address it. However, the explanation in the trailer has Kara’s horrible boss explaining that “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl?’ I’m a girl and your boss and powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?’”

I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the black James (Jimmy) Olson how excellent it feels to be called a “boy?”

Let’s face it. “Supergirl” has the same number of syllables as “Superman.” It scans a little bit better. We’re used to it. There are other characters already named “Superwoman,” and they are not Kara Zor-El.

In any case, we’re finally getting a prime-time show dedicated to a female adventure hero. From the trailer, it doesn’t seem as if her love life is going to be her defining reason for being. I expect there will be romances (as there are on Flash, Arrow, Gotham and, let’s face it, every nighttime drama), but there will be existential crises, and action and explosions.

Hollywood has a real problem with diversity issues, especially as they relate to women (and especially especially women of color). There are non-feminist women who think this isn’t a problem, but I can only presume they have rich husbands or fathers, or they’re being paid by rich men to defend the status quo.

Two of the five Supergirl producers mentioned on IMDB.com for this series are women. Here’s hoping that’s a good sign.

Will Supergirl be able to hold its own in the ratings against Gotham? I have no idea. I’m never home on Mondays. i know which one I’ll watch on my DVR first.

Even if there is no flying horse.


Mindy Newell: Occam’s Razor

Yesterday – well, two days ago, since you’re reading this on Monday – I was listening to Ira Glass and “This American Life” on NPR. The subject? Superpowers.

Mr. Glass interviewed Chris Ware, cartoonist and author of the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, beginning with the start of Mr. Ware’s fascination with superpowers and his quest for obtaining them:

Chris Ware: I mean, unquestionably, I was by far the most loathed member of my class, I think, being a pasty, unathletic kid who was weird looking and probably seemed overly eager. And I had friends that would come over on the weekends to play. But then at school, they would ignore me and pretend like they didn’t know me.”

While it’s true that very few adults look back on their school years with love and affection – especially the high school years – I do think that most of us who were geeks before it was cool can entirely empathize with Mr. Ware and his escape into the world of wonder and four-colors. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, before this modern era of easily accessible fanfic on the web, many of us wrote stories that we didn’t show to anyone, hiding them under our beds or deep in the darkness of our desk drawers. Or, like Mr. Ware, spent hours drawing the superheroes and adventurers of science fiction and fantasy.

And didn’t we all dream of actually having ultra-human capabilities – of finding a hammer in a cave that transformed us into a Norse god of legend, of discovering that we were actually the last survivor of a long-gone planet in another star system so that we had abilities far beyond those of mortal men, of being the inheritor of a mutant gene that enabled us to read other people’s minds? Didn’t we think that if we jumped high enough and hard enough we would never come down?

Like us, Mr. Ware wondered if he could find a radioactive spider like the one that bit Peter Parker. Like us, Mr. Ware spent hours drawing superheroes. And then there was Mr. Ware’s experience in the shower:

There was one morning where I was standing under the shower. And of course when you get in, immediately, because you’re so cold, the water is extremely hot by contrast. So you have the cold water turned up. And as you stand in there, you get used to it. And you turn the cold water down.

And I was in there for a very long time. And I remember turning the cold, and it wouldn’t go any farther. And I thought, that’s weird. It must be stuck. And I turned it more. And it wouldn’t go any farther.

And I realized I was standing under completely hot water. But it felt fine to me. It actually felt warm, almost cool. And the longer I stood there, it felt cooler and cooler.

“And the only explanation I could come up with is that I had developed the ability to withstand extraordinary heat.

“Of course, we’d just run out of hot water. But at that time, I didn’t know that that happened. I thought hot water was an endless commodity.”

As a kid I used to believe that if I stared long enough at a wall I would “turn on” my secret X-ray vision; sometimes I would lay I on my back and stare up into the sky, trying with all my will to see beyond Earth’s atmosphere into outer space with my telescopic vision. And, as I talked about in a previous column, my favorite dream as a child was the one in which I went to my Aunt Ida’s toy store to pick out a costume for Halloween…and the Supergirl costume that I picked actually imbued me with the powers and abilities of my favorite Kryptonian.

But if the powers-that-be decided to grant you one super-power, and that super-power was either invisibility or flight, which would you choose?

This was the question that Mr. Glass’s colleague, John Hodgman, asked the man and woman “in the street.”

The answers were not in the least heroic:

Man: “If I could fly, the first thing I would do is fly into the bar. Check out what’s going on there. Fly back home. I would attach my baby to me and fly to a doctor’s appointment at 11:30. Fly right back. Then I think I would fly to Atlantic City.”

Woman: “[if I had the power to be invisible] I’d go into Barneys (a very chi-chi New York clothing store with prices so high you need flight just to read them). I’d pick out the cashmere sweaters that I like. I’d go into the dressing room. The woman says, how many items? I say five. I go into the dressing room. I put those five sweaters on.

“And I summon my powers of invisibility in the dressing room. I turn invisible. I walk out, leading her to wonder why there’s a tag hanging from the door that says five and no person inside.”

John Hodgman: “So you would become a thief pretty quickly.”

Immediately. Until I had all the sweaters that I wanted. And then I would have to think of other things to do.”

No one said that he or she would destroy the world’s nuclear arsenals, bring peace to the Middle East, or fight crime. Instead, they would use the power of flight to save on commuting costs, or use their invisibility to sneak into movies or airplanes.

It seems that the contract to obtain a superpower doesn’t include a morality clause. But before signing there is a lot of negotiation:

Man: “Now, when you’re flying, if you’re flying at 1,000 miles an hour at 100,000 feet, are you comfortable? Do you get very cold?

“[or] Let’s say I’m in this room, and I’m invisible. And I’m walking around this apartment, and I’m invisible. Do I have to be completely quiet, or you guys will like, hear my footsteps? Because that’s a pain in the ass.”

Yep, that’s the American way! Look for the loopholes!

It turns out that that in this – granted, very unscientific – survey there is gender bias to choosing, because, overall, men go for flight, women for invisibility. Is this a product of our society, in which men are taught to be bold and aggressive, and women encouraged to be not to make a scene? I don’t know. Neither Mr. Glass nor Mr. Hodgman specified the ages of the participants. My guess is that the older adults, raised in a more conservative (read: sexist) society, would follow the pattern, while the younger adults, raised in a more open culture in which they are “free to be you and me” (to quote Marlo Thomas), would be more difficult to assign an expected role.

I asked Alix and Jeff which they would choose.

Jeff: “Invisibility.”

Alix: “Invisibility.”

Well, both are way more practical than me; both immediately said that invisibility would be the more useful of the two – though Jeff added that he has a friend who would definitely choose flight.

Hodgman described what he calls “The Five Stages of Choosing Your Superpower.” The first is called the Gut Reaction:

Responder: “Initially, I would think perhaps invisibility.”

Stage II: Practical Consideration:

Because you have the ability to walk around work, perhaps. Show up at one point and perhaps go away for a little while and turn invisible. And then come back and listen to what they say about you. You have the power to spy on your exes. And that would all be enlightening and fun and, in fact, a little bit perverted.”

Stage III: Philosophical Reconsideration.

“That would – I believe it would immediately turn into a life of complete depression. You wouldn’t be able to really share with anyone. And I know there’d be some problems with, like, the perversion thing.”

Stage IV: Self-Recrimination:

Invisibility leads you– leads me, as an invisible person, down a dark path. Because you’re not going to want to miss out when you’re invisible. No matter how many times you’ve seen a woman naked in the shower, you’re going to want to see it again. Because there’s always a different woman. Right? And there’s, like, a lifetime of that. And that’s not acceptable behavior, no matter whether you’re invisible or not.”

Stage V: Acceptance.

Yeah, I’d have to go with flight.”

As Mr. Hodgman pointed out, and I agree with him, the choice indicates the dichotomy of our inner selves. We all want to be heroes, we all want to be gallant and overt and looked up to, we all want to fly. But down here on the ground, we are all secretly afraid and covert and selfish, we all want to those “bad” parts of us to be invisible.

As one respondent said:

Flying is for people who want to let it all hang out. Invisibility is for fearful, crouching masturbators.”

Hey, almost everybody masturbates.

But I want to fly, as well.

Up, up, and awaaaaaaay!


The Point Radio: Farewell To LOST GIRL

It’s the fifth and final season for the SyFy supernatural show, LOST GIRL. Series star Anna Silk talks about her favorite moments (and the things she grabbed from the set on the last day) plus BITTEN’s Laura Vandervoort talks more about her show’s new season and what it was like to be TV’s first Supergirl.

We are back in just a few days and so is the hit Game Show Network series, THE IDIOTEST. We take the test – here – no holds barred!   Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: BITTEN Adds Some Nasty Witches

SyFy’s BITTEN is back for a new season, taking a sharp turn deeper into the supernatural with the addition of a coven of witches to the storyline. Stars Greyson Holt and Laura Vandervoort talk about how this changes the show’s dynamic. Plus Amazon Prime expands their programming with their first live action children’s show. GORTIMER GIBBONS LIFE ON NORMAL STREET is under the watchful eye of Oscar winning director, Luke Matheny who talks about making a kids show for today’s market.

We are back in just a few days with more in our exclusive talk with Laura Vandervoort (did you remember she was TV’s first Supergirl?) plus a visit with the star of LOST GIRL as their final season begins.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Martha Thomases: Change

green-arrow-300x182-1036412The drugstore on my corner, Avignon Pharmacy, went out of business over the weekend. We should have known the writing was on the wall when the pharmacy was sold a couple of years ago and the store just sold skin-care, shampoo, bandages and stuff like that. Still, the place had been in business, serving the neighborhood, since 1837. They were the place that could get that hard-to-find lotion, or the medicine the insurance company didn’t know existed. I’m going to miss them.

Change is hard.

Change isn’t just hard for old people like me. It’s hard for all of us. As the link says:

“The problem is that change involves ‘letting go of what we know to be the current reality, and embracing new thought,’ said Jaynelle F. Stichler, professor emeritus at San Diego State University’s School of Nursing. ‘Even something as seemingly mundane as changing the brand of toilet paper can cause a reaction.’”

Superhero comic book fans can be especially traumatized by change. A lot of us (by which I mean, of course, me) fell in love with comics as children, and any change in continuity seems like an assault on our sense of reality. Which is kind of ridiculous, given that superhero comics have hardly anything to do with reality.

I’ve been reading superhero comics since at least 1958. The Silver Age heroes are my touchstones. I loved the original Supergirl because she tried so hard to be helpful and good, just as I did when I was seven and eight years old. I also like the sillier of the trick arrows in Green Arrow’s quiver.

This isn’t to say that I’m against all change. I immediately preferred Barbara Gordon as Batgirl over Betty Kane. I loved the vision of Batman created by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. I liked the Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans more than the original. The Vertigo Doom Patrol was, I thought, much better than the earlier versions.

Maybe because I’ve liked some changes, reboots and continuity lapses don’t upset me. If a story has a plot that moves and character development along with an engagement with thematic issues that appeal to me, I’ll like it. If I don’t like it, I’ll complain, probably, but I’ll also go look for something else to like. Maybe I’ll check back in a year or so to see if I like it again.

See, here’s the thing I learned when I worked in marketing at DC: every title is someone’s favorite. Books (and characters) I loathed were loved by others, and vice versa. Since I am, generally, in favor of more pleasure, I thought all kinds of people should have the books they wanted.

Giving everyone something different to read might be good for readers, but it doesn’t necessarily work for publishers. Traditionally, corporations make a lot more money from one title that sells 100,000 copies than they do from ten titles that each sell 10,000 copies, especially when these books are only on sale for a few weeks. However, the marketplace has changed enough now, with the growth of trade paperbacks and digital distribution, so that a title that starts slowly can build to sustain a committed and profitable fan base.

The advantage to these smaller audiences is that, taken together, they grow the size of the market so that everyone profits. And by growing the market incrementally, publishers can be much more experimental than they can with big blockbusters.

The movie business has shown us, recently, that putting all one’s creative eggs in the blockbuster basket can ultimately shrink the marketplace. For decades, Hollywood went after the young adult male market as if there was no one else on the planet who wanted to go to the movies. And that worked very well for a while.

Until it didn’t.

The top three grossing movies of the year so far have female leads. A movie aimed squarely at the over-50 market, trounced all the other movies that opened against it.

Blowing things up and super-powers are no longer enough to make a movie a hit. While I enjoy this kind of movie personally, I rejoice at more choices.

The conventional wisdom, that women won’t go to see action movies, especially if they feature female leads, has been convincingly proven wrong, as the conventional wisdom so often is. It turns out that girls and women enjoy watching a woman face a challenge, especially if it involves more than simply romance. It may take a few years to convince the men who run Hollywood, but I’m pretty sure they’ll come around.

Because if there is one thing that doesn’t change, it’s the media industry’s love of money.


Martha Thomases: It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s A TV Show!

SupergirlSupergirl is one of my favorite characters, so I was delighted to read that there is a Supergirl television show in development.

Supergirl is one of my favorite characters, so I was terrified to read that there is a Supergirl television show in development.

There are several reasons for my conflicted feelings. When I was a girl, Kara Zor-El was my ideal. Not only was she blonde and cute (two adjectives not customarily applied to me), but she had powers, she was unsure of herself, and she was always trying to prove herself, not only to her cousin Superman, but to prospective parents who shopped at her orphanage. I wanted to have a robot double in a tree. I wanted to have a flying horse and a super-powered cat. Sometimes I wanted different parents.

I don’t think there is anything innately “feminine” about wanting super-powers, robots or flying pets. I still want them (and ain’t I a woman?). The difference between the me who liked these things in the first place and the me who likes them now is that I’ve gone through puberty.

And feminism.

This isn’t going to be one of those stereotypical PC rants (which I’ve never actually read, but then, I don’t seek them out) about how women are misrepresented in comics. They are, but I’m not arguing that in terms of politics, but in terms of realistic character development.

In the case of Supergirl, too often, she is written and drawn by men who don’t know anything about what it feels like to be a young adult woman – either teenaged or in her early twenties, as she will be portrayed in the show. If they do any research at all, it reads as if the watched Clueless and Mean Girls and decided that was enough.

Too many Supergirl stories (and movies, like this one) have her worrying whether boys will like her because she’s so powerful, or what is she going to do with all her power, or how does she fit into a world she never made with all this power. It’s all about being a Female With Power, not about being Kara Zor-El… or, in my fond memories, Linda Lee Danvers.

Her origin story has varied over the years. I believe in the New 52, she used to be a baby-sitter to her cousin Kal (now Superman) but, when Krypton exploded, she was sent into space in suspended animation. She crashes into Earth, not knowing the language and suddenly having super powers.

And since then, mostly, she’s been smashing things. No one understands her and she’s angry about it. So angry that, for a while, she was a Red Lantern.

Isn’t she the least bit curious about Earth? And her cousin? Doesn’t she want to know why she ended up here? I mean, if the baby I used to care for suddenly turned up and he was at least ten years older than me, I would want to know what his life was like.

And wham, she has super powers! Kal-El grew into his, but Kara gets hers all at once. Is that confusing? Is it wonderful? Is it awkward? Is it all of these things and more?

If anything gives me any hope at all for the possible television show, it’s that Greg Berlanti, the producer, has an okay track record in the way he deals with female characters on his shows. I really enjoyed Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Burstyn in Political Animals and Emily Bett Rickards plays a well-rounded, believable Felicity Smoak on Arrow. I’m not sure his shows pass the Bechdel test, but I believe it’s possible that they could, that these female characters have conversations about their jobs and their hobbies and their voting patterns when they are off-camera.

It would be worth everyone’s time and effort to involve more fully realized women characters, not just to be Supergirl, but in general. And I mean this in the most crass, materialistic way. Buffy the Vampire Slayer made a lot of money with a lead character who didn’t worry about whether or not boys would like her. She didn’t fret that being powerful would turn them off. At most, she worried it would kill them.

And she’s not the only one.


Martha Thomases’ Girl Fight!

Last week, I vented my pique at Marvel’s tone-deaf marketing of the new Spider-Woman comic. Then, on Monday, my esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell, offered a different perspective. Who’s right? Normally, I would say I’m right because I’m the mommy. However, in this case, Mindy has also given birth, and even trumped my creds by being a grandmother. So I’m not playing that card. This also means I can’t just say “Because I said so.” Denied my two favorite debating tactics, I’m going to have to approach this from a different angle. Despite what one might think about feminism and other kinds of so-called “identity politics,” there isn’t a single governing board that determines what is “politically correct.” There are married feminists who take their husbands’ last name, stay home with the kids, and volunteer at the PTA. There are radical lesbian separatists who live in communes and never have to interact with men at all. There are feminists who wear make-up, dye their hair, use Botox and wear high heels. There even used to be Republican feminists. To be a feminist, you must support equal rights and opportunities for all, and respect the right of women to define themselves and their role in the world. See? You don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist. Being a feminist doesn’t mean one doesn’t enjoy sex. Not even heterosexual sex. It does mean one opposes coercion, rape, and the unwilling objectification of one’s partner or partners. It means one can imagine a woman being the subject, rather than the object, of desire. In other words, feminism is not the same as Puritanism. So, what does this have to do with comic books, I hear my editor thinking? Plenty. For one thing, it means that a comic book cover, like the variant for Spider-Woman #1, is not a feminist image. It is not intended to make women feel empowered, nor to show a woman being heroic. However, that doesn’t mean a feminist can’t like the cover. Manara is a famous artist with millions of fans. Liking the cover doesn’t make them “bad” feminists. As a feminist, I am in favor of pleasure and joy. I like a lot of media that isn’t specifically feminist. I like Power Girl, for crying out loud. I like those inane Silver Age stories where Superman has to “teach a lesson” to Lois Lane for having the nerve to try to do her job and find out his secret identity. And, as a feminist, I’d like to propose a new standard for graphic storytelling, similar to the Bechdel test, dubbed the Willis test by the Jezebel blog. They quote pioneering rock critic Ellen Willis, who wrote this: “A crude but often revealing method of assessing male bias in lyrics is to take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes. By this test, a diatribe like [the Rolling Stones’] “Under My Thumb” is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens’ gentle, sympathetic “Wild World”; Jagger’s fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” – but it’s hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he’s too innocent for the big bad world out there.” Would Supergirl try to teach Jimmy Olsen a lesson if he tried to find out her secret identity? Of course she would. Would Superman wear a costume that distracted his enemies by focusing their attention on his sexual organs? Of course he would not. Would Spider-Man stick his ass in the air submissively, as a way to demonstrate his web-sticking abilities? I don’t think so. Is this a comic book I would buy for a young girl? Probably not, unless she was taking a class in gender studies and had the vocabulary to talk about it. None of this will stop me from enjoying Power Girl stories (unless Scott Lobdell starts writing them and turns her into Starfire), as long as I still find them fun. Comic books and fun. Now that’s a marketing campaign I’d like to see.