Last month I posed the question why don't more women and girls read super hero comics. I mentioned the theory that perhaps the power fantasies that most if not all super heroes embody don't appeal as much to women for some reason-- maybe because of women's biological differences, cultural upbringing, or maybe because the female super heroes we have just don't do justice to women's specific power fantasies. I want to proceed with this last premise and do some quick anylyses on Marvel's original female super heroes (I find "heroine" a sexist word if anyone wonders why I avoid it).

Marvel's premiere female super hero is Sue Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman (formerly Girl). Her power originally was simply becoming invisible, a neat enough power (I can think of plenty of times it would have come in handy) but you must admit a very passive, defensive one compared to her teammates' powers in the FANTASTIC FOUR. In FF #22 she developed her invisible force field projecting abilities, a real nifty offensive power equal to the other guys', though she never used it aggresively until recent times. Sue was an archetypal sister, girlfriend, and (by FF #44) wife figure. She was not as much a leading lady sort of character as a supporting player. I can't imagine a lot of young girls identifying with the Invisible Woman, and wanting to grow up to be the token female of a male team, and the most colorless member (pun realized) at that.

Who else do we have? Why, the winsome Wasp. She became Ant-Man's (later Giant-Man's) sidekick with his eleventh appearance, and had powers derived from his though no less powerful for it. In fact, her wasp-sting was a more offensive power than anything her boyfriend used. Still, a character conceived of as a sidekick has a rough time being seen as a heavy-hitter in his/her own right, and the Wasp's original air-headed heiress-flirt personality probably didn't do that much to win her female fans who wanted to be her. Besides, how many girls are interested in insects, and would fancy themselves with insect powers? (From my childhood experience, not nearly as many girls liked bugs as boys.)

Then there's Marvel Girl, one of the orginal X-Men. Her powers of telepathy and telekinesis, though not as visual as the guys' powers, were easily on a par with theirs as far as effectiveness. She was generally played as an equal member of the team and not resigned to girlfriend or sidekick role. I'd say that she was one of the best role models of the early Marvel female characters, even if she has a very generic, non-descriptive name.

More on women heroes next time!

--Mark Gruenwald

A short one this time. Someone at the Chicago Comics Convention I recently attended suggested I put my two cents' worth in about the "Marvel Zombie Controversy" that's raging in MARVEL AGE, among other places. As I understand it, a Marvel Zombie is a comics fan who buys only and all Marvel Comics, regardless of whether s/he likes them all or not. (Did I get that right, self-proclaimed Marvel Zombie Number One, Jim Salicrup?)

Here's what I think on the subject. Anyone and everyone is entitled to spend his/her hard-earned money on whatever s/he pleases-- this is America, where freedom of choice even extends to entertainment, after all. So if someone is a Marvel completist, that's his/her right. Furthermore, derogatory nicknames for persons having singular preferences are uncool (I assume "zombie" is being used derogatorily here) and simply show the user's bigotry.

On the other hand, people who buy ONLY Marvel Comics (no names please) are missing out on other excellent work being done in the medium. And those who buy ALL Marvel Comics, ones s/he likes as well as ones s/he doesn't, isn't doing his/her part in helping us determine which comics are good and which need improvement. If you don't like a comic, the only way to let us know is to NOT BUY IT. Please reread that last sentence for emphasis. If you buy something and keep on buying it, we can only assume you like it. Please don't mislead us like that. You're not doing either you or us any favors.

But what about you completists who don't want annoying gaps in your collections? Assuming you have access to a comic book store, wait until a comic is off sale and in the back issue to buy it. That way it won't be counted as part of a book's current sales, but as part of the store's general back issue inventory sales. It really will make a difference in our accouting of a book's popularity, and thus you will be helping us determine which books you like and want to see more of.

Well, that's it for this time. I've got to go and pick up some back issues I missed.

--Mark Gruenwald


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