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I have to respectfully disagree. As a long-time female superhero comics reader, the more masculine qualities of the female leads are what always appealed to me. I grew up very tomboyish and assertive, and gradually became and more and more bored with books, movies, and tv shows (and a few comics) that were geared towards "typical" women. I had always assumed that this was generally why all female mainstream comics readers were attracted to the genre. There are plenty of other mediums (and plenty of genres of comics besides mainstream superhero stuff; manga comes to mind immediately) that contain female leads who emphasize traditional femininity. Personally, I hope that superhero writers continue to create strong, aggressive, heroines who solve problems with their fists rather than their hearts; there are plenty of women like me who love it just as much as the guys!

*On the subject of boobage, there's a reason guys (and plenty of girls, too) like looking at boobs... they're aesthetically pleasing. Yes, they're sexualized in Western culture, and comics is no exception. But they're hot! And is there really anything wrong with being hot AND kicking ass? Not that being hot necessitates having double-Ds!

Is this Nina's first exposure to the concept of boob-socks? Ah, to be so innocent! That is a pretty ridiculous costume though. Even latex would be less revealing; it's got to be body paint. Why else would the belly button show through?

This is a very interesting discussion though, both of the way femininity is depicted (or, more often, ignored) in superhero comics, and also in the rest of the world. Of course, I think you answered your own question: it's by boys, for boys, so it only traffics in emotions that boys understand. Anger and revenge all the way, baby. That's probably why the women are always going to be minimalized in superhero comics, since they're all about physical conflict. Maybe some women writers have tried to mess with the formula a bit; I know Gail Simone is pretty well respected. She's written both Wonder Woman and Birds of Prey, giving her a chance to write a variety of women superheroes. I dunno, maybe they're not that good though; I haven't read them.

Actually, you know what might be the best superheroine comic I've read? The last two volumes of Love and Rockets. Jaime Hernandez did a story about a bunch of super-chicks, and he really seemed to grasp that difference between the way men and women approach things. It's really good stuff. Yeah, there's a Virgin Read request: the Jaime stories from L&R. Don't worry if they seem complicated; it's all new, even for long-time readers, and the history and everything gets explained near the end, if you really care. But the best part of it is seeing fully-realized characters interact realistically, even while they're fighting robots and flying in space and shit. It's awesome.

YES to Matt's request for the Jaimie stories from Love & Rockets!!! Jamie is one of the incredibly few male writers to write women as women. It's wonderful to read his work!

As for this quote, "But maybe she has the power of healing and of so much nurturing that that in her presence, villains weep and confess or just want to be near her rather than fight her." I have another idea. How about she nags so much the villain just gives up a life of crime so they'll never have to hear her nag again? ^_^

(Yes, that joke is horribly sexist, but I couldn't resist!)

I recently read Love and Rockets New Stories 1 and 2 and couldn't agree more that the Jaime Hernandez story that runs through both volumes sound exactly like the feminine super heroics you hanker for.
As a bonus you also get the mind warping genius of Gilbert Hernandez.
These volumes were my first exposure to Love And Rockets and I just loved them to pieces.
I honestly think you would too.

Have you seen Noah Berlatsky's long-running series on Wonder Woman over at the Hooded Utilitarian?


It's pretty well-written and it goes after exactly this question, of how to write a super-hero from a legitimately feminine perspective. The focus is the Golden Age Wonder Woman stories, which were batshit crazy and really weird, but in their weirdness also highlighted a number of reasons why the tights genre doesn't translate so easily across metaphorical gender barriers. Interesting if you've got a few minutes.

Put me down for a VR request to read that recent Xaime L&R story as well.

I find it funny that an actual woman has said that she doesn't give a shit that Spider-Woman isn't breastfeeding babies or pressing flowers (Of course I would say that! That's what a nerd thinks women do!) and you all seem to ignore it.

I would very much like to see the unique feminine voices of Women of Action preserved, but... they're action heroes. They're still going to be "badass".

Incidentally, while I dig Love and Rockets, my wife seems to hate the series. I don't know why, but she calls it "Chubby Chaser Comics". Feel free to call her a bad person, whatever.

Also, on the subject of things I have opinions about, I find it interesting that Stone celebrates Yom Kippur. I mean, I fucking ate food yesterday. Do I get partial credit because those hot dogs were Hebrew National?

If you're looking for femme super-hero stories, you're probably going to want to try manga. Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, etc. are frilly, girly super-heroes in a way that very few female super-heroes are. The early Wonder Woman stories are maybe an exception, but most American female super-heroes work the butch thing. (There's always Marvel Divas, I guess, which is in the female soap-opera genre; it's not very good, but it is femme.)


Bendis is really in love with writing 'fucked up' women. He's one of those people who (mistakenly) believe that neurotic characters are inherently interesting.

I wasn't ignoring Rebekah Isaacs' comments - she seems happy with the comics she reads; so that's good. But there are plenty of comics like those. Nina Stone, however, appeared to be wondering about the existence of alternative approaches to the subject of super-heroines. Also I just want to recommend the holy heck out of Love And Rockets and maybe jumped the gun a bit.
Oh yeah, Promethea is a good and atypical approach to the feminine in comics.

rebekah isaacs draws superhero comics for marvel too, so it's not like she's completely objective on the subject

but this column doesn't make a lot of sense anyway so who cares

I was just talking with my buddy last night about Los Bros Hernandez and how he thought they get no love. My point was what's there to say? Everyone agrees they're the best, so what else can we talk about? Unlike Alan Moore, they don't say controversial stuff in interviews, they just work a lot.

Haha, well, if we're gonna get technical about it, I'm actually with DC at the moment, but yes, your point is valid, K. :-) What I'm trying to say here is that the idea of a singular "feminine voice" is inherently sexist, though I'm positive Nina doesn't actually believe that all women think/feel/value the same thing. But it's tough to shake that knee-jerk prejudice, even for (maybe even especially for) women! I'm guilty of it myself quite a lot. We need to focus on ways to make the genre more accessible for anyone with good taste. Otherwise we're only reinforcing our own narrow gender roles.

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