In my ongoing attempt in this column to determine why more women don't read comics, I began a survey of Marvel's original female super heroes (discussing Invisible Girl/Woman, the Wasp, and Marvel Girl) in order to assess their female reader-indentification quotients. (I figured if a reader doesn't identify with the character on some level, s/he won't go out of the way to read about him/her.) Let's continue this investigation.
The other three major super-powered females who debuted in the 1960's premiered as villains and later straightened out (not exactly suspicious debuts, huh?) The Scarlet Witch was first seen as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She had a quirky unpredictable power, and allowed herself to be dominated by her overprotective brother, Quicksilver, and father-figure, (later father) Magneto. I doubt many female readers wanted to identify with her.
The Black Widow began as a Russian spy and nemesis of Iron Man. She had no powers and no real costume at first. On the other hand, she had a great deal of autonomy out in the field, so she at least appeared to be in control and in command. She wasn't very flashy, though. Like the Wasp, she had that (icky) insect motif. I doubt that many young American girls related to an older Russian woman.
Finally, there was Medusa, who began as a member of the Frightful Four, before being revealed as an Inhuman. As a group member in both cases, she was subordinate to other males. But she did have a nifty visual power, one that has some feminine appeal (to judge by the female hair products section of my local drug store). On the other hand, like the Widow and the Witch, there was a sense of the foreign about her (she was Inhuman not human, after all), and that I think limited her appeal as a role model-fantasy figure.
So, you add these three to last month's roster, and Marvel Girl comes off as the best all-around female super hero of Marvel's heyday, and even she had a few drawbacks, not the least of which was that she wasn't exactly a headlinger in X-MEN, the book in which she appeared. So maybe that's one more reason why girls don't read super hero comics. There weren't enough characters for them to identify with. But that was the sixties. Has the Marvel Universe improved since? I think so. At present, no female hero boasts her own title ('though the She-Hulk returns in her own mag in early '89), but there are quite a few strong female characters floating about (particularly in X-MEN). I'd gladly go down the list of "new" female heroes and give my assessments of their merits, if anyone wants. In the meantime, let me know who you think the best female role model characters are in the Marvel Universe, and why.
My all-mail Mark's Remarks column in SOLO #11 about the Comics Code, standards of good taste, and self-regulation provoked two more interesting diametrically opposing responses. Here they are:
I just had to respond to the letter from Rick Jones that appeared in issue #11. It's about time somebody realized that profanity and nudity don't improve a story. I like to stick to Code comics, but even they sometimes contain offensive language. I thought comic books were one of the few places I could go to escape that kind of thing. However, in all fairness, I must say that there are still several Marvel comics I really enjoy, including this one, that put out good stories that don't embarrass me.
If I understand you correctly, you are saying that you believe Marvel comics are primarily for kids, and if adults want to read them, then these are wholesome stories for the entire family. GAG ME! Comparing your Code-approved stories with the non-approved is like comparing a THUNDERCATS cartoon with HEAVY METAL (the movie). They're light years apart. A small amount of vulgarity, properly used, does enhance a story's believability. Because, let's face it, the world is pretty vulgar. I have no problem with comics incorporating a few object lessons into their stories (don't kill, don't do drugs, etc.) but don't beat us over the head with your high morals, Mr. Falwel, uh, Gruenwald. Oh, and while I'm at it, you only print comics in good taste? These are comics, man, not WAR AND PEACE. None of them are really in good taste. Also, who decides what is good? You? I didn't realize you had achieved deity status.
I guess the bottom line is if you want to publish kiddy comics, that's swell, I'll even buy some now and then. But keep your mouth off the other book. Because hopefully they are the future of comics.
--Dennis C. Balch
Can't please everybody, huh?