Friday, November 19, 2010


I could have made any post #50, since none of them are rated in ascending or descending order. But I may as well choose as my #50 another #50.

BATGIRL #50, by Dylan Horrocks and Rick Leonardi, happily qualifies by both my selection-terms: it's both a fight of good duration and one with symbolic resonance for the central character and the "Batman Family" of which she's a member.

The basic setup: Cassandra Cain is raised by her natural father David Cain to become a supreme assassin. As the issue's opening pages clarify, Cain did so with training-methods that most would call child abuse, but as a result Cassandra became a martial artist, superior in some respects even to Batman. Batman (for whom David Cain was formerly a martial-arts mentor for a time) rescues Cassandra and through an involved set of circumstances, Cassandra became the new Batgirl. As a child of martial (rather than marital) abuse, Batgirl becomes the poster child for the slogan: "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger." Nevertheless, tensions do develop between Batgirl and her "new father" Batman, some of which have roots in Cassandra's ambivalent relationship to her real father.

BATGIRL #50 brings out those tensions by exposing both heroes to "Soul," a drug designed to cause victims to lose control of their inhibitions, eventuating in a long and grueling Bat-fight that only ends when Batgirl works through her "issues" and her better self surfaces. The final page makes it unclear as to whether Batman was fully exposed to the drug as was Batgirl: when he implies that he may have prolonged the fight to help Cassandra work things out, Barbara Gordon asks him if the whole fight was some sort of "screwed up therapy session." Clearly, it is to Batman, and probably to the authors as well.

Next week I'll address the greater subject of "superhero trauma" in a concluding post to top off this series (and maybe the blog as well), because said trauma, and the concept of stylized violence in art generally, bear closely upon my reasons for doing the blog at all.


Supergirl has now undergone three major iterations. The newest one, debuting in the mid-2000s, may not be the best, but the newest heroine does have certain transgressive elements the other two could not have pulled off, as SUPERGIRL #15 demonstrates.

Without going in to the backstory of the heroine, suffice to say that this story builds on some of the familial traumas that inform Supergirl's origins. The story itself concludes an arc in which Supergirl, having dated a superhero named Power Boy long enough to become more than a little attached, suddenly finds that he's as loony as the proverbial bedbug-- if the bedbug were born on Apokolips, as PB was.

Joe Kelly and Ian Churchill are essentially writing a story of spousal abuse through the medium of superhero characters. As such they prolong the heroine's abuse a bit to keep up the comparison with real-life situations, before they permit Supergirl to fight back. The fight-scenes aren't that long but the moment when the aggrieved heroine drops a house on Power Boy's head is a show-stopper.

I'm of the impression that later on Power Boy cleaned up his psycho act somewhat and reconciled with Supergirl. But to say the least, they don't go back to being boyfriend and girlfriend.


Though I only read 1990s titles from Image Comics as occasional quarter-books, I'd find it interesting to see someone attempt a sociological study of "The Image of Women in Nineties Image Books." For better or worse (and most fans would say the latter), Image promulgated more titles starring female characters in that decade than any comics-company since Fiction House.

Of course, Nineties Image built its success with heroines through a "Victoria's Secret" approach to the female of the species, an approach not that different than what one found in the old Fiction House titles. I don't fault Image for having used sex to sell books, only for using sex to sell dull books.

However, one three-issue series proved an exception to the posture-and-moan aesthetic of many Image titles. This was VELOCITY, a three-issue series spinning off the adventures of a super-fast heroine from the super-team "Cyberforce," written by Kurt Busiek and pencilled by Anthony Chun.

The story arc describes a simple "rite of passage" for the young and rather timid superheroine Velocity. She's relentlesly pursued by a shapechanging villain named Charnel, who's aware that she's afraid of him and decides to prolong her agonies by hunting her before he kills her. By issue #3 Velocity must finally "woman up" to overcome her fears and find a means to stop the near-invulnerable Charnel. This may not be the only time an Image character actually *thinks* in order to counter an opponent, but it's the only time *I've* seen it.

As a side-note, Charnel in his "normal" form is depicted as a huge, steroidal brute-- in other words, he looks like most of the Image heroes. In contrast Velocity is not like the more frequent "Victoria's Secret" Image heroine: she has character and brains-- which makes her closer in spirit to a Silver Age superhero, like Velocity's ancestor "The Flash." Did the authors, intentionally or otherwise, structure a faceoff in which "Silver Age," represented by rational thought and planning, overcomes the brute force of "the Iron Age?" A tempting thought, if not one I'd argue all that vehemently.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


GHOST, a flawed but inventive 1990s series from Dark Horse Comics, featured a heroine with the perfect power for a woman who hates men's baser natures. Ghost could become a phantom no physical body could touch, and yet, because in early adventures she had no memory of her life before becoming a "ghost," she had to carry on interacting with the "real world" in order to find out how she became that way.

During her investigations she butted heads with a black-clad vigilante known only as "X," perhaps best described as Batman on a really bad day. Whether for reasons relating to sublimated sexuality or to simple dislike of a rival alpha-type, Ghost and X experienced true hate on sight.

GHOST #21 (Luke/Reis) has the two heroes overwhelmed by a mutual enemy and stuck together in a confining room, where they will either kill each other or come to terms. The two end up doing both, and it's a good fight, in which Ghost compensates for X's greater strength by turning phantom when he tries to hit her-- though any attempt she makes to hit him exposes her to danger.

By story's end the heroes make common cause and team up to defeat the villain, but still don't like each other. Just like they were married.


Yes, Wonder Woman alone gets two posts. Why? If you have to ask the question, you won't understand the answer.

My main reason for including JUSTICE LEAGUE #143, written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Dick Dillin, is for its "clash of icons" resonance. The battle itself is just two pages, and comes about because Wonder Woman has been made the pawn of a villain. She and Superman trade blows briefly until the Amazon Princess trumps the Man of Steel by subduing him with her magic lasso. This therefore is a somewhat ambivalent victory, not least because the Amazon's not fighting of her own will. Still, though DC has never stated outright that Wonder Woman is equal in power to Superman-- and has strongly suggested the opposite in the character's own feature-- I approve of Englehart treating the two heroes as equals in power during the duration of the fight. It's the "old school" in me, no doubt.

Ironically, though I like Englehart's treatment of the heroine's powers, I don't like his treatment of her character. This Wonder Woman is needlessly abrasive and arrogant, both apparently in compensation for a crisis in the character's self-confidence. Perhaps this attitude could have been justified within the sphere of the Amazon's own series, but here in JUSTICE LEAGUE, it just seems like typical Marvelesque "hero with a problem" schtick. Perhaps an intemperate Wonder Woman would've been an improvement over the more typical "plaster saint" conception, but again, the world will never know.


In the space of one blogpost, can anyone do justice to the complicated cosmos of CEREBUS and/or philosophical outlook of its author Dave Sim?

Clearly not, so I won't try. I will say that the question of whether any girls, "super" or not, should be "on top" *is* a philosophical point that does get addressed in the CEREBUS world.

However, if one does know that world fairly well, as I think that I do, it is interesting to see Sim's character Cerebus-- a tough, sword-skilled aardvark in a sword-and-sorcerous setting-- encounter a female able to match him in battle-skill, even if he gets out of the encounter through comic means.

Prior to the introduction of "Geet-a" in 1980, CEREBUS had taken a couple of friendly-satirical pot-shots at the then-current success of Marvel's RED SONJA feature, then executed by old comics-pro Frank Thorne. Sim's satire of Sonja was "Red Sophia," who was fairly adept with a blade (she trashes a barful of rowdies when they "besmirch" her honor) but whom Cerebus could defeat without half trying.

Later, in issue #19, Cerebus encounters a near-lookalike for Sophia, who can only utter her name ("Geet-a") and who very nearly kills the aardvark with her sword-skills. Cerebus makes a timely escape. While hiding from Geet-a, Cerebus comes across Henrot (father of Sophia and anagram of "Thorne"), who explains that he created Geet-a magically as a substitute for his absent daughter. Cerebus manages to get out of the situation not by facing Geet-a's skill again but by turning loose a bunch of goofy magic creatures called "Gerbies" that enfold Geet-a and suck away all her negative energies-- and whether she lives or dies, that's the last one sees of Geet-a in the CEREBUS cosmos.

The name "Geet-a" was a pun on "Ghita," a character Thorne was doing for Warren's 1984 magazine, one best described as a racier version of Red Sonja.


Sticking with the theme of comic farce for a little longer, I re-visit Japan, specifically Hinata House, the dwelling-place of the LOVE HINA series.

LOVE HINA is basically a "harem comedy" in which a blundering college-age guy, Keitaro, finds himself in charge of a women's dormitory apartment. Naturally, at first none of the women initially want him there, but soon they're all more or less in love with him. That's how harem comedies always work. But creator Ken Akamatsu does put a fair amount of thought into crafting the harem, and of those, one of the best is Motoko Aoyama, the character seen threatening Keitaro with her sword in an anime clip.

Not to go into huge detail, but Motoko, despite being able split rocks with her blade, is deathly afraid of turtles. It's possible that Akamatsu was making a Freudian play here: he has Motoko flee her family for the dormitory because Motoko has a "primal scene" experience where she witnesses her sister Tsuruko making out with her husband. (Tsuruko says it was just "kissing," but...) On top of that, one or two stories imply that "turtle" is a code-word for "penis."

So when events transpire (in TPB #8) that force the beleaguered Motoko to employ her kendo skills against a gigantic (presumably male) turtle-- can she do it, to save her friends from death?

What do you think?

And she does get more friendly with Keitaro after she conquers this primal fear of, uh, turtles. Very interesting...


Speaking of alpha-females...

I'd like to have represented more stuff from comic strips than MODESTY BLAISE, but as I said before, comic strips have some problems with space limitations that inhibit the cultivation of long fights. Of course my other criterion for "best" on this blog (as noted in Post #2) is that a fight is also worth listing if it has some symbolic significance, but I haven't found a lot of those in comic strips either.

(Side-note: MODESTY BLAISE also ends up being my only representative of Eurocomics. Is that because I don't know enough about Eurocomics? Or is it because Europeans aren't as good as the Japanese and the Americans at crafting good f/m fights?)

(Side-note II: let's see if that gets me some nasty letters...)

Anyway, the illo of Lucy outboxing brother Linus is not the fight I'm listing: like a scan I put in the MODESTY writeup, it's just a visual lagniappe. The real fight is the great Schulz Sunday-strip in which Snoopy dons a boxing glove (on his nose) and challenges Lucy to a match. The two opponents quickly demonstrate that they are the Hulk and Thor of the Charles Schulz cosmos, for the chaotic bout ends with Snoopy wearing two gloves on his paws while Lucy sports the one glove on her nose. If this "supergirl" isn't exactly "on top" by the time the fight's over, at least she's no worse off than her opponent.

The feature film SNOOPY COME HOME more or less faithfully adapted the story, and the excerpt SNOOPY VS. LUCY is still available on YOUTUBE, here.


One of the 1960s FANTASTIC FOUR stories dealt with Reed Richards meeting a challenge to his role as the group's leader. Each of the other three members thought he (or she) could do a better job than Reed. The story soon demonstrates that the three of them really don't have the stuff of leaders. But at least the Invisible Girl wasn't seen as being any *more* foolish than the Thing or the Torch for having aspiring to leadership.

Fast-forward roughly thirty years. Now we have two alpha-type characters vying for the leadership of another super-group, the X-Men, but writer Chris Claremont and artist Rick Leonardi have Storm and Cyclops settle the matter of leadership by fighting it out with one another. And as it happens, it's the female character who's at the disadvantage-- not a common situation in Claremont stories-- because Storm has lost her super-powers and can only battle Cyclops with basic fighting-skills. However, whatever Claremont's precise reasons for having the Storm character go powerless, in this particular story her victory, at least in the eyes of her fans, may be sweeter for the ordeal. (Or at least that's how I think Claremont would phrase the matter.)

I've heard some fans claim that Claremont didn't really like being saddled with the Cyclops character and that he took every opportunity to downgrade him. He preferred the newer characters of the X-MEN group, since most of them had barely been written by another scripter before Claremont took them over.

That may or may not be why a depowered Storm gets to kick the ass of Cyclops. But still, it's a good fight, and a pretty good story in the X-MEN canon.


The tough, confident woman daring to take on Doctor Doom single-handed is, as the heroine's dotted outline should suggest, the Invisible Girl-- or at least, the first version of the Invisible Girl. By the mid-1960s this version would go unseen in a different manner, as her creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby chose to emphasize her disaffection from the superhero life. This in turn caused many fans to dismiss the Invisible Girl (later Woman) as a wimp. But clearly the early version is not.

Now, in the early years of the FANTASTIC FOUR feature, Doctor Doom wasn't quite the powerhouse that he'd become later; no one suggested that his armor gave him super-strength or contained a near-infinite number of weapons, though it did contain a few. (Indeed, Doom ends his fight with the heroine by drawing an "ultra-heat gun" from somewhere or other). But in FANTASTIC FOUR #17 Sue Storm has no power beyond turning invisible, aside from knowing a little judo, but alone she seeks single combat with Doctor Doom in order to prove that she's got what it takes to be a superhero. Their battle only lasts a little over a page, but it does demonstrate, for any fans who had doubted, that the Invisible Girl was in those days more than just a helpless damsel-- that she was, in truth, a visible presence.


As I've mentioned in early posts Marvel tended to be somewhat weaker than DC than crafting villainesses. Thus, while at DC FLASH was one of the few long-running superheroes to have no villainesses in his sixties' rogues' gallery, SPIDER-MAN was pretty much typical for both his time and his publisher. In the span of that decade Spidey had just one feminine enemy, and she's simply the one female in a group of guys: Princess Python of the Circus of Crime.

The issues #194-195 of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, written by Marv Wolfman and pencilled by Keith Pollard, corrected that deficit in 1979. Wolfman commented in interviews that he had actually conceived the Black Cat as a foe for another Marvel series from which he'd just departed, SPIDER-WOMAN. Following the character's design by Dave Cockrum, the Cat debuted in the SPIDER-MAN title. Over the intervening years the character became a major figure in the SPIDER-MAN mythology.

To be sure, though the cover of #194 shows her pouncing on the hero, at that time she's not in his league in terms of power. Throughout the two-part story she usually fights a little (jumping so as to land on his head or somesuch) and then runs away. At the end of #194 the Cat seems to have her namesake's ability to induce bad luck in those who cross her path, for the issue ends with a wall collapsing on Spidey. Later, the "bad luck" vibe that is only implicit in Wolfman's scripts is given a literal spin by other raconteurs.

Over the long haul the Cat probably causes the hero more problems from her getting *into* his head rather than from jumping *on* his head. But that's another story.


From the 60s to the 70s--

FLASH #257 (written by Cary Bates and drawn by industry stalwart Irv Novick) features the second appearance of the hero's first significant female villain, the Golden Glider. Though the Flash-feature has been deservedly lauded for its Silver Age rogues' gallery, it was an all-guy gallery. GREEN LANTERN at least had one femme fatale, the long-standing Star Sapphire, and even HAWKMAN had a couple of evil alien queens rattling around. But the Glider is the Flash's first super-villainess, albeit one with roots in the old rogues' gallery, in that she was the sister of Captain Cold. She was also the bereaved lover of the Top, who perished while trying to kill the Flash. Naturally this made the Glider, a champion ice-skater, whip up some super-techno devices by which she could "skate" through the air and plague the Flash. As seen on the cover, by #257 she'd decided that her criminal-motif would be gimmicked-up gemstones: those are giant bouncing pearls that she's dropping on the hero's noggin.

Despite her sharing the juvenile gimmicks affected by the rest of the FLASH-rogues, the Glider was more bloodthirsty than the Silver Age had allowed. In this story the villain purposes to seek vengeance by destroying both the hero's wife and his parents in a death-trap. She comes very close to succeeding, and the Flash even threatens to kill her to make the Glider free his loved ones. Naturally, Flash doesn't kill the villainess but does save his family. Still, this tale shows that, two years before the events of the "death of Iris" storytline, the pristine silver glimmer of THE FLASH was already becoming darker.


The Nostalgia Train now takes me from the 40's to the '60s for one last look at the Silver Age, albeit at a character better known from prose and TV than from her few comics-appearances.

Perhaps appropriately for a one-season wonder, the TV show HONEY WEST-- which featured Anne Francis as a private detective who used karate to chop her way out of tight spots-- spawned but one issue from Gold Key Comics. Of course, Gold Key tended to bring out a lot of single-issue comic books, whether they were original concepts (like JET DREAM and TIGER GIRL from posts 8 and 9) or other TV-adaptations. Gold Key also brought out one single issue of THE AVENGERS, which not only ran longer than HONEY WEST but also had considerably more impact on American culture, thanks to the wittiness of the show's scripts and the charms of Diana Rigg. Speaking as a fan of the then-current show, Gold Key's AVENGERS was a witless, charmless disappointment.

Gold Key's HONEY WEST comes off considerably better, thanks to the art of Jack Sparling (also seen in TIGER GIRL). All the stories have the lady dick doing her karate thing, but the best one is probably the lead tale, titled, "All the Tough Guys Fall for Honey." This a joke, because, see, the action takes place aboard a ship, and when Honey shimmies up a mast, and the crooks go after her, she chops them and they "fall for her." Yuk, yuk-- but at least the art's nice.


In contrast to Post #36, no one could imagine Will Eisner's Spirit-- a brawny he-man spawned by the Really Old School of 1930s pulp magazines and crime films-- being beaten in a one-on-one fight by even the toughest women in his mythology (probably his long-running adversary Silk Satin). And yet, as seen in the illustration, the Spirit does often find himself helpless in the hands of merciless-seeming females, whether they've sapped him from behind, drugged him, or shot him. Perhaps this trope expressed something in Will Eisner's personal psyche; perhaps it signified nothing to him but a device to titillate audiences. The world will never know.

Lorelei Rox does defeat the Spirit without sapping him from behind, though not thanks to any fighting-skills. No background is given for Lorelei; she's first seen as the leader of a gang that waylays trucks and robs them with a rather original modus operandi. Lorelei, who seems to be an archaic siren in modern-day dress, sings enchanting songs that lure the truck-drivers to crash on her symbolic "rox." As an added touch of strangeness, Lorelei never speaks in the story.

Short though the fight is, Lorelei does overcome the Spirit in a one-on-one dust-up, though only because she does have her "super power" with which she can stun him-- all of which leads to the rather sacrificial-looking scene. Naturally, the hero escapes and breaks up the gang, though the ending replies that Lorelei gets away to sing another day-- though this remains her only appearance in an Eisner SPIRIT tale. A character in Frank Miller's SPIRIT film uses the same name but doesn't recapitulate any aspect of the original except the mythic image of Woman as the Image of Death.


I call the character in the illo "that Stanton girl" because she's not so much a particular character as just one iteration of the dominatrix-archetype that artist Eric Stanton used throughout his career as a fetish-comics artist. On top of that, though she's called "Juanita" in the story proper, the title of the tale is "Anita's Fight."

Like most fetish-stories this one's pretty simple. Juanita gets mad at a neighborhood man who won't clean up after his dog. Words are exchanged. He slaps her around. Juanita, after looking suitably helpless for a page or so, suddenly becomes a boxing-champ and beats holy hell out of the schmuck. The story concludes as Juanita shows the guy an unpleasant new way to clean up dogpoop.

Though Eric Stanton never delved into mainstream comics, in the early 1960s he and SPIDER-MAN artist Steve Ditko shared expenses on an artists' studio. A few quotes from Stanton about his presence during the conception of Spider-Man appeared in Greg Theakston's PURE IMAGES #1. Stanton didn't claim any creative input into the character but attested that he and Ditko occasionally worked on each other's art in minor ways. Some fans have asserted that there are more than minor Ditkoesque touches in some Stanton art, though "Anita's Fight" is not one of these.

From what biographical material I've seen, Stanton himself did seem to nurture a mixed-wrestling fetish, though one acquaintance claimed that the majority of his fetish-comics (probably dominated by spanking-fantasies) were made to order for his customers. "Anita's Fight" may therefore be more in line with the creator's own preferences, though we'll never be sure as he passed away in 1999.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Another underappreciated indie comedy-comic (on hiatus as I write this) was Richard Moore's BONEYARD, which chronicled the slapsticky adventures of well-meaning naif Michael Paris after he inherits a parcel of land known as "the Boneyard." The catch of Paris' inheritance is that the land is occupied by a group of friendly (if frequently obnoxious) monsters, such as a vampire, a werewolf, a witch, etc. The fact that the vampire is a sexy brunette babe (seen on the cover of issue #7 clad in boxing gear) does offer Paris some compensations.

Issue #7 focuses on the monsters' efforts to pay their taxes (since even monsters have to pay property taxes) by holding an exhibition bout. This eventuates in the tiny sexy vamp Abbey taking on colossal werewolf Ralph. And just as vampires generally dominate werewolves in cinema (though usually not with boxing-gloves), vamp Abbey creams were-Ralph. The bout is a popular success though the old "gotta-pay-the-rent" plotline isn't resolved right away.

The character of Abbey Abrahms (presumably named for Bram Stoker) continues to be the female lead for the remainder of BONEYARD's run. In addition, given her perternatural strength and near-invulnerability, she's pretty much the go-to gal whenever there's a zombie that needs its brains mushed.


Jumping from DC to Fantagraphics-- now there's continuity for you.

AMAZONS is Fantagraphics' 1990 collection of a story by underground cartoonist Frank Stack, concerning a decidely un-Homeric tale of the Trojan War. In it a bunch of Greek foot-soldiers, led by Achilles himself, have a contretemps with mounted Amazon warriors who are fighting on Troy's side.

In visual terms Stack depicts the archaic Greek world with a loose yet dynamic line designed to emulate ancient Greek painting. In terms of dialogue, however, everyone on both sides of the conflict talks like modern underground-comics characters, which means lots of profanity. Even the Amazons, though a little more restrained, have lines like, "It's that big macho faggot Achilles!"

Though the male Greek soldiers are largely depicted as assholes who complain about everything (pretty much like "grunts" across the ages), Stack doesn't purely play the entire tale for comedy. The whole book could be judged a "fight" in that a standoff develops between the Greeks on foot and the mounted women, and Stack gives admirable attention to the military tactics adopted by both sides. As icing on the cake, the Amazon leader Hippolyta has a one-on-one battle with Achilles that's pretty realistic in terms of how much punishment she takes. That said, Stack comes up with a means for the more sympathetic Amazon to come out on top, which is better than the classical figure of the Amazon queen fared in archaic stories.

Even apart from its place in a "best fights" category, Stack's AMAZONS deserves to be better-known by comics-fans of all stripes.


Every comics-reader should read the short-lived DC Comics series HAYWIRE for one reason and one reason alone.

After doing so, he will realize what a good comics-writer Frank Miller is.


Conceptually HAYWIRE feels like it derives from Japan's 1985 manga series BIO-BOOSTER GUYVER, in that the hero is an ordinary schmuck transformed into a heroic entity by some weird armor. But in terms of style HAYWIRE is clearly derived from the example of Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, which hit shops about two years earlier. Neither writer Michael Fleischer nor artist Vince Giarrano is up to the challenge of being a tenth as entertaining or as psychologically *b*g***k* as Frank Miller. Credit where due: as one can see from the cover, the cast does include a woman in a B&D costume. Back in 1988 Miller hadn't used B&D costumes nearly to the extent that he has these days, so I'd give Fleischer and Giarrano a little credit for the prescience of their imitation.

The astute reader will notice that the cover depicts a catfight between the aforementioned B&D woman (name of Nightlash), and another costumed woman; the latter goes by the cognomen White Lotus. The two women do have a prime-quality battle within the pages of HAYWIRE #8, but that's not why this comic is on my list. It's here for a separate three-page sequence where the adventurous Nightlash ventures into a dive and picks a fight with all the male boozehounds therein. After the boozers reveal themselves as rapists ("The mask is the only thing I'm gonna leave on 'er!"), Nightlash counterattacks. The scene ends on a long-shot from outside the bar as the reader "hears" the sounds of bloody carnage within and the voice of Nightlash:

"God-- I just love men!"

Now there, and there alone, does HAYWIRE even come close to being in the same ballpark as Frank Miller.


Sticking with a DC Comics theme now:

The cover of DETECTIVE COMICS #384 has nothing to do with the story inside, which launches the first section of a two-part tale. Like many DC covers of the period, it's meant to get a browser to say something like "What the hell?" and thus be provoked to buy the comic. Here the implicit statement would read something like, "What the hell could've caused a bunch of men to run from a mere woman?" As it happened, by the time of issue #384 DC Comics actually had a pretty fair roster of formidable heroines, but that continuity-factor was certainly of less consequence than trying to get the casual readers to fork over those nickels and pennies.

Though Batgirl never rose beyond backup status in her pre-Oracle continuity, the first two adventures are boosted by the presence of Gil Kane art as he entered his most Kirby-like phase. The storyline of #384-385 only puts Batgirl up against a bunch of hoods masquerading as superhero lookalikes, but this just gives Kane-- never a big fan of super-powered heroes-- the chance to have a mere woman beat the crap out of "Superman" and "the Flash"-- not to mention a thuggish version of "Batman."


Looking at the Black Canary of the Golden Age-- the scrappy but lightweight Kanigher/Infantino heroine-- she doesn't seem to have much in common with the current version, endowed with a *gravitas* unimagineable to the earlier bolero-jacketed brawler. Various rearrangements of the DC Universe, particularly relating to the continuity of Wonder Woman, propelled Black Canary back to become "the woman member" of the JSA once WW's history was rebooted, but that alone doesn't explain her taking on greater significance.

The early 70s GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW title by O'Neil and Adams made the character a bit more soulful next to her gimmicky Silver Age incarnation, but she didn't acquire a firm identity, and in JUSTICE LEAGUE was usually just another villain-clobberer. Even getting her own short-lived comic book didn't seem to improve her.

It does seem like BIRDS OF PREY, first written by Chuck Dixon and most outstandingly by Gail Simone, made the big difference. Dixon made her the main buttkicker working under the wide-ranging authority of Oracle, but Simone stressed the mental side of her martial-arts skills. In the scene above, the Canary prepares for a grueling sparring-match with a masterful Asian opponent known as "Rabbit." (The character somehow resists the temptation to dress up like a man-sized rabbit, unlike the lapine opponent referenced in Post 19.) The match marks one of Black Canary's best one-on-one encounters with an opponent of similar skills, but the battle is even more remarkable in that Simone's writing imparts an impressive spiritual side to the heroine's art of buttkicking.


Continuing the 70s theme, I went from jungle girls to kung-fu mamas, and now, on to barbarian babe Red Sonja.

This tale is part of a greater Roy Thomas "epic" that begins and continues on into the CONAN THE BARBARIAN magazine. Neither the greater story nor its artistic execution by the increasingly desultory John Buscema are worth remembering. However, that tale did give "friendly enemies" Sonja and Conan to finally test their mettles against one another in a battle of blades.

Though Thomas is credited as writer, artist Frank Thorne surely went his own way as far as choreographing the combat. Conan, "the guest hero," is a bull in a china shop; Sonja, Thorne's "re-creation," is elusive and graceful. As with many Marvel heroes, it was expected that their fight should basically end up a draw. Thorne meets this expectation with the following strategies: (1) Sonja wins the first bout by dumping oil on the floor so that Conan loses his footing, allowing her to claim victory, though she refuses to impale him, (2) Conan renews the battle anyway, outfights Sonja by main strength, and then withdraws so as to cancel out her earlier charity to him, and (3) then they fight for a few more panels before some third character interrupts them, thus leaving the ultimate outcome in doubt for fans of both characters.

Even though Sonja isn't precisely a "supergirl on top" throughout the whole battle, that's mitigated by Thorne's fine linework and by what may be the best female-vs. male swordfights in the history of comics.


Having finished off the jungle girls, the black-and-white venue from which my last post hailed puts me in mind of this two-part adventure of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, aka "The Daughters of the Dragon," from issues #32-33 of the DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU magazine. In this story the two ladies basically do an ENTER THE DRAGON riff as they invade the island-fortress of evil drug-kingpin Emil Vachon and start kicking butt.

The writer of this two-parter was Chris Claremont. Though he didn't create either member of this salt-and-pepper (hmm-- curry & pepper?) duo, Claremont improved the characterizations of the two females while they served as support-cast in the Claremont/Byrne IRON FIST feature, and so it's fitting that he presides over their first solo flight in their own feature.

Claremont is so often vilified in the fan community for the soap operatics of his X-MEN writing that many fans forget that (a) it was impossible not to write soap-operatically at Marvel when Claremont broke in in the 1970s, and that even Frank Miller did so before forging a different methodology, and (b) Claremont, unlike contemporaries like Gerry Conway and Len Wein, could write pure, balls-to-the-wall action/suspense with a skilled hand. This adventure is one of the best examples of that Claremont-talent.

Though late artist Marshall Rogers wasn't MOST known for his skill at drawing sexy fighting women, he adapts his design-oriented style to the chopsocky subject matter with no small elan. His Colleen is perhaps a trifle baby-faced, but still looks dynamic slicing a man in half with her sword, and his Misty projects a sturdy Foxy Brown toughness.


Speaking of erotic jungle girls, get Shanna's dialogue as she wrestles with her pet python. This second modern-jungle-girl adventure, which appeared as a backup strip in issue 9 of the black-and-white magazine THE RAMPAGING HULK, was written by the fan-favorite Steve Gerber. Said dialogue goes:

"Yes-- yes! *Gasp* Make me struggle-- to be *Gasp* free!"

This issue's cover date is June 1978, so this dialogue, which sounds like something William Marston's WONDER WOMAN might say during a bondage-session, appears seven years before Gerber pitched a reboot of WONDER WOMAN to DC in response to DC Comics' CRISIS restructuring. At the very least one assumes Gerber was attempting to appeal to an older readership that might be reading the non-Code HULK magazine, for throughout the adventure Shanna, Marvel's roadshow version of the classic SHEENA, is much more violent and aggressive than the mild character Gerber worked on when she debuted in the early 1970s.

The main thrust of the story is not Shanna's odd relationship with her pet snake, but her opposition to a cult of murderous Kali-worshippers. Artist Tony deZuniga rises to the non-Code occasion by depicting loads of bloody mayhem as Shanna pretty much wipes out the whole cult. She ends by feeding the cult's leader to the python. This is probably the most noteworthy tale in the history of this minor character, and a fitting salute to the pulpy thrills of jungle comics.


Ha, you thought no more jungle girls? But I said Post #25 was my last look at the subgenre from the Golden Age. This comics, KYRA #1 (first of six issues from "Elsewhere Publishing"), came out in the mid-1980s. And whereas MEDIA STARR (post #21) was at best a "moderate curiosity," the KYRA series is at least a pleasant one.

As creator/writer/artist Robin Ator relates in the first issue, he modeled his jungle-heroine upon a Golden Age character named KAGEENA, a non-mainstream fetish-comic about a muscular jungle girl, executed by erotic artist Gene Bilbrew. Ator's muscle-babe may also take some inspiration from the bodybuilding craze of the late 1970s that gave us PUMPING IRON and Ah-nold, since Ator doesn't explore muscle-culture in an overtly erotic light. However, I seem to remember that #1 features a scene in which Kyra kills a male opponent by swinging down on him via jungle-vine and squeezing his head with her thighs. Let's see Tarzan try that! (On second thought, let's not.)

As anyone can tell from the cover-shot Ator's draftmanship was, unlike his character's musculature, something less than well-honed. Nevertheless, all six issues of the KYRA series have what a lot of forgotten 80s titles lack: loads of energy, most of which manifests in heady fight-scenes. If I could find a tenth of that energy in current comics, with their Alex Ross retreads, I might be buying more current comics.


And now, just for a last look at the Golden Age's jungle-girl subgenre, this time I'll link to the story itself, which can be read in its entirety on this scanblog, THE COMIC BOOK CATACOMBS.

I've complained elsewhere that a lot of Golden Age stories feature short combat-scenes because the stories are often more concerned with solving some jejune puzzle or sitcom-style problem. Those stories aren't without their charms but on occasion it's good to just see a hero face overpowering odds for the length of the story, sans any extraneous problem. This Cave Girl tale by Gardner Fox and Bob Powell (from THUN'DA #5, 1953) is one such tale, in which the titular heroine (and boy is she "titular" ha ha) faces off against three hunters with diverse weapons-skills.

Cave Girl as realized by Fox and Powell comes off as one of the meaner-tempered jungle girls of the Golden Age, and to AC Comics' credit, they continued some of this edginess as well.


Having just done an entry for modern-day jungle girls, here's one of the few exceptions to the "short fights" rule of the Golden Age.

Nyoka originated not from comic books but from a 1941 film serial entitled JUNGLE GIRL. (The serial listed Edgar Rice Burroughs as a derivation because he'd published a story with the same title, but the Burroughs story had no real relationship to the serial concept.) Fawcett Comics licensed Nyoka after the character had enjoyed a rare second serial appearance. Nyoka went on to appear in comics till the close of the Golden Age. She even rated a negative comment from Doctor Wertham in SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Fawcett Comics, unlike their competitor Fiction House (home of SHEENA), didn't make Nyoka a super-glamorous jungle beauty, but usually depicted her as she is on the cover of NYOKA #70, clad in sensible jungle garb. But at times Fawcett made up for the deficit by upping the violence capacity-- in effect, treating Nyoka the same as any of their male heroes, who were also known for being pretty knockabout. In NYOKA #70, Nyoka meets three male conspirators masquerading as "jungle ghosts" for some damn reason. She tackles all three at once, nearly whipping them with nothing but fisticuffs (no evidence of judo or similar skills here). She gets knocked out from behind, but later recovers, ambushes the threesome again and again brings pain by the truckloads until the Jungle Patrol arrives to save the malcontents for prison.

Admittedly, not every NYOKA comic is this violent, and many of her adventures are much more sedate than those of Sheena and the rest. GCD credits this particular issue to writer Rod Reed and artist Bert Whitman.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The subgenre of the "jungle girl adventure" would seem to be one of the most promising in Golden Age comics, but on balance most of the jungle-genre comics of the 40s and 50s aren't any better than most hero-comics in terms of presenting longish fights. Characters run around, villains knock heroes over the head, heroes wake up in death-traps-- all very actionful, but the combat-scenes are usually pretty short.

I'm not aware of the current publishing status of AC COMICS, as I don't read market updates these days. The company's first publications hearken back to 1970, though most comics-fans know AC from the color line that commenced in 1982, eventuating in the flagship title FEMFORCE. This title was devoted to light-hearted, cheesecake-flavored adventures of an all-superheroine team. To date no superheroine team has been published for as many years as FEMFORCE. It's a solid title with an enjoyable Golden Age vibe, but just as with the Golden Age stories FF emulates, many of the fight-scenes are short ones.

AC Comics also revived the "jungle girl" subgenre, both with respect to new stories and Golden Age reprints. The above cover for JUNGLE GIRLS 16 (written and drawn by one Nick Northey) is the last of a three-issue arc teaming up four Golden Age jungle-girls-- Nyoka, Tygra, Princess Pantha, and Cave Girl-- and pitting them against assorted denizens of a mysterious desert, including oversized sand crabs and a race of mole-men types. It's good, lively (however stupid) fun.


Mera, sidekick/wife to title character Aquaman, had been battling at his side for about six years before this scene in AQUAMAN #46 (1969), written by Steve Skeates, drawn by Jim Aparo, and edited with an aim toward "realistic adventure" by Dick Giordano (who also spearheaded similar orientations in WONDER WOMAN and the SUPERMAN books).

However, for most of her history, Mera's method of combat was entirely confined to whipping up various weapons of "hard water," conjured from whatever ordinary water happened to be about. This rather Green Lantern-ish talent wasn't without its charms, but it did seem to drop Mera into the category of "defenseless damsel" whenever there was no water around.

Thanks to the Giordano editorship, Mera was able to upgrade to basic asskicking status, and from then on, whenever the subject of her fighting-skills came up, she was shown as being a better than average scrapper. Thus the above sequence, which would be an unremarkable fight-scene for Batgirl, has some historical importance for the DC character. Add to that formidability DC's later decision to assert that all Atlanteans had something like super-strength due to swimming around all the time, and Mera pretty much left her early Silver-Age conception eating dust-- or water, as the case might be.


The jazzy, long-haired redhead in the sleek leather suit-- particularly when rendered by Gene Colan-- is the best LOOKING Black Widow from Marvel Comics. But the character's best f/m fights appear after Frank Miller re-designed her with shorter hair and a more businesslike version of her leotard. And DAREDEVIL #201, scripted by Denny O'Neil and pencilled by William Johnston, is one of the best of these.

This is one of those "guest hero subs for the injured star" tales, so the title character barely appears while his onetime lover Black Widow takes over for him in dusting off the local gangsters. Johnston's art is just serviceable but gets the nod here because most of the issue is devoted to fight-scenes. As a minor plus writer O'Neil actually puts phrases in BW's mouth that sound like they could have come from an Eastern European character for whom English was a second language.

FTR the best action-rendition of the classic long-haired Natasha stems from the pen of George Perez. However, his multi-part BW saga in MARVEL PRESENTS is largely focused upon female-female combat, so it gets no respect here.


The cover shows a woman apparently tearing at her hair in approved Joan Crawford style, but if you look closely at the illos near the bottom, you may be able to see the character in a karate-gi doing *katas.* But if you can't, no great loss.

This is the first of a three-issue series that debuted in 1989 from Innovation Comics, a company that blossomed with the boom of the 1980s direct market and went bust about four years later, despite (according to Wikipedia) having garnered an impressive market share thanks to the company's many comics-adaptations of established franchises. MEDIA STARR, essayed (it says here) by "Dennis Duarte, Allen Curtis, John R. Statema, & Tom Vincent," was not such a franchise. However, since it was all about the adventures of an actress who did her own fighting-stunts and also got into real-life battles (think Harvey Comics' BLACK CAT with no costumed ID), the vague Hollywood-ish vibe might've helped this mediocrity get published.

MEDIA STARR isn't worth ragging on for being a comics-turd. It's just dull, like most of the Innovation books I've read (always, I should say, culled from quarter-boxes when I had nothing new on hand to read). HOWEVER, though the art in MS #1 is absolutely average, the issue does feature two boxing matches-- one where the titular "Starr" defeats a female opponent, and one where she defeats a male in an extensive four-page bout. I'm not sure why an actress would be doing so much exhibition boxing but FWIW, this longish battle does move MEDIA STARR up from the level of "forgettable junk" to "moderate curiosity."


What? I haven't put WONDER WOMAN on the list yet? Well, here she is, though the cover of WW #169 does show her getting the worst of it. However, one may rationalize that not only does she beat the villain, she beats him so badly that even Grant Morrison won't dare bring him back.

I wish that my first (if not only) representative WW post could hail from the classic Marston-Peter run. Trouble is, like many superhero comics of the Golden Age, many of the battles therein were short-rounders. I haven't yet read all the Golden Age WONDER WOMAN stories, but of the substantial number I have read, none of them seem all that noteworthy, with the possible exception of a two-page struggle in which WW sword-fights the Greek hero Achilles. But that would be a measure of last resort.

As silly as the Silver Age WONDER WOMAN stories are (with or without villains named the Crimson Centipede), writer Robert Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito did deliver in the big-ass battle department, particularly in the latter half of the sixties, just before WW's transformation into an Emma Peel/Modesty Blaise clone. One interesting touch in WW #169 is that although the heroine initially finds it tough to duke it out with a many-armed opponent, those difficulties fall away when the criminal Centipede makes the mistake of swiping WW's "bracelets of restraint." In less than a dozen panels she swats that bug and then almost goes for Steve Trevor as well, except that the resourceful soldier-boy manages to slip the heroine's bracelets back on.

The battle with this villain may not be the absolute best of the Kanigher-Andru period, but the absurdity of the villain goes a long way toward making it a personal favorite.


Here's another one where my only illustration is the cover of the TPB in which the battle of choice appears: TPB #24 of Hiro Mashima's shonen series RAVE MASTER.

RAVE MASTER's basic concept is that of a ragtag band of misfits banded together to thwart various forms of universe-annihilating evil, and so forth. The female lead in RM is, like the female lead in early issues of DRAGONBALL, a character competent to defend herself to some extent, but not someone to whom the fans looked for lots of skull-busting action. Instead, just as DRAGONBALL's most outstanding fighting-femme was an ancillary character adopted into the serial's "family"-- that is, "Android Eighteen," featured in Post #12-- RAVE MASTER followed the same essential pattern. However, Mashima first introduced a new male fighter to the series-- one "Let," who was an anthropomorphic dragon who knew martial arts (!)-- and then followed that up by incorporating Let's girlfriend "Julia," for whom I can't find a decent picture on the web.

Prior to TPB 24 Julia's toughness is alluded to but not shown. Following the serial's tendency to let each team-member shine by giving him or her solo-combat scenes with enemies, Julia goes up against "Reevil," a warrior who, with typical Japanese-manga insouciance, just happens to dress up like a giant bunny rabbit. (And sixties BATMAN fans thought they had it bad with a villain like "Mister Polka-Dot!")

Reevil is, however, a formidable opponent, and gives Julia a good long tussle. True, many feminists would not be overly pleased by the way Julia wins. When her clothing gets mangled in the fight and Reevil ogles her like your basic perv, Julia simply rips off her top, gives him a good luck and kicks his ass (perhaps implying that this is what should happen to the perv-readers being regaled by the manga's fanservice). But at least Julia follows a tradition in good standing, since nearly forty years previous the inimitable Modesty Blaise also essayed a stunt called "the Nailer," in which she would walk half-naked into a room of thugs and kill them all while they were busy appreciating her "fanservice." The more things change...


Though earlier superwomen like Valkyrie and Thundra never got a starring series out of Marvel, Carol Danvers must have got in good with the boss-- somehow! She seems to be the first hyperpowered Marvel heroine to garner a solo series, with MS. MARVEL #1 launching in 1977. Prior to that, those Marvel heroines who gained their own features were either pure athletic types (Shanna the She-Devil) or had minor mechanically-enhanced powers (the Cat).

Early issues include scripting by Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont and art by Jim Mooney and John Buscema, all of which led to serviceable if formulaic adventures, albeit with a lot of hard-hitting action. However, in issue #20, Claremont teamed up with X-MEN alumnus Dave Cockrum and produced a two-part adventure in which the heroine (a) got a flashy new skintight costume that's remained in vogue ever since, and (b) got to pretty much stomp a civilization of mutant lizards that came out of nowhere. Not many fans liked the mutant lizards, but I'd have to say that, given their impressive hardbody designs by Cockrum, they made better punching-bags for the refurbished Ms. Marvel than any number of standard Marvel malcontents. The original series only lasted another two issues anyway, but one could say that it went out on a comparative "up" note.


There's nothing much to add to this choice: JSA ANNUAL #1 (2000), by scripter Geoff Johns and artist "Buzz." It's just a good basic superhero actioner that, unlike the majority of superhero stories out today, doesn't spend a lot of time on soap-operatic indulgences. In it the main story-focus is on newbie heroine Nemesis, who gets some extended battle-scenes in order to sell her to DC readers. Apparently she did not impress those readers since a few years later another story has her killed off by supervillain Eclipso. The story in the Annual is a little different in that Nemesis ends up enlisting the help of only the female members of the JSA, but this plot-point didn't seem to serve any particular thematic purpose.


There's just one English-language translation of the adventures of crazed bounty huntress Emi Rashomon, though Wikipedia lists the manga series as "ongoing" in a couple of Japanese magazines. I've the impression that this Makoto Niwano series was not a great success in Japan, but at any rate it didn't hit big on American shores.

To be sure, other *shonen* that were just as sleazy and ultraviolent HAVE been successful in the States, so BOMBER GIRL'S apparent failure says nothing about the refinements of American taste.

I've never agreed with the pop-psych notion that tough heroines were just "men in drag," a typical superficial Freudianism. But I *almost* might think it of Emi Rashomon, since she shows little evidence of even the most marginal femininity as she gleefully slaughters every criminal who crosses her path (not to mention a few innocents as well). Her weapons of choice are a pair of tonfa which also have guns built into them, though she fights just as well in hand-to-hand encounters. Her specialty in her one volume of translated adventures seems to be "the Rashomon back-breaker," a wrestling-move in which she snaps the spines of those she slams onto her shoulders. Of all the diverse battles she has in that volume, that one, however improbable for a woman not built like a female Hercules, would be the topper.


Isn't that just like a woman?

She provokes you, the superhero, into a pitched battle. And when you respond with a simple rap in the mouth to teach her her place, she unleashes her toothed vagina and nearly snaps your leg off. And then she dumps on you-- (almost) literally-- by dropping a huge mass of rocks on your head.

Of course, being a superhero, you're not going to show any sign of your injuries by the next chapter of the story. But it's the principle of the thing.

I wonder if certain newsblogs would notice this blog more if I perpetually wrote in the persona of a faux-sexist. Probably so. Oh well.


Though I started this list with no particular reason to hurry, I'm now thinking I'll try to finish it by the end of the year, and maybe after that cap off the blog with a final post saying something like HEIDI MCDONALD WAS WRONG (see initial posts for explanation).

For Post #14 I'm going to fudge my standards a little once more in that the next selection stems not from comic books but from comic strips-- where one rarely sees long, drawn-out battles, given the comic strip's demands in terms of sheer space and narrative syncopation. But I can't allow the superior work of MODESTY BLAISE-- created/written by Peter O'Donnell and illustrated by Jim Holdaway and others-- not to appear on a blog of this nature.

Ironically, Modesty's battles with male or female opponents come across better on those occasions when O'Donnell translated one of her comic-strip adventures into prose. There, O'Donnell was free to choreograph any given battle with as much detail as he pleased. In the strip, his artists were under greater restrictions.

The best Modesty-vs.-males fight I've seen appears in the storyline THE BLACK PEARL, wherein Modesty has to outfight three bulky Tibetan guys to prove her ability to lead a rebel group. As I'm still scannerless, I've no scenes from it. In compensation here's the cover to the adventure and a scene from a different adventure in which Modesty demonstrates a brand new method of foot massage. One would think Quentin Tarantino would've enjoyed it, at least.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


One question that's occured to me as I've continued to plug away at this series: does the supergirl have to win every battle in order to come out on top?

Take Rumiko Takahashi's breakout manga series URUSEI YATSURA. The story opens with teenaged goofus Ataru being drafted to fight the representative of an alien race. If he loses, Earth gets invaded; if he wins, the aliens make peace with Earth. His opponent happens to be a sexy flying bikini-babe named Lum.

The manga and its anime adaptation approach their conflict-- a game of "tag" in which Ataru must seek to grab Lum's horns, as shown below-- somewhat differently. In the anime, it's all slapstick scenes in which Ataru keeps trying to grab the flying femme and constantly falls on his face. In the original manga, Lum and Ataru go at it with a bit more violence, with Lum kicking Ataru in the face and so on. The panel below shows a little more up-close-and-personal action than one sees in the animation.

So Lum loses that battle.

But later, Lum gets her way, because she believes (or says she believes) that Ataru has proposed marriage to her, which leads to endless comic conflicts in which Ataru tries to live the life of an average Japanese high-schooler with an unwanted alien "wife" hanging around. Moreover, Lum belatedly demonstrates (as of her second appearance in the manga) that she can enforce her demands for monogamy by subjecting Ataru to horrendous electrical shocks. What this says about normative Japanese male-female relations can be safely left to the imagination.

Over time, naturally, the boy with the troublesome girl reciprocates her feeling, after a fashion: if there was no possibility of actual romance, UY would've been a dull series indeed. But this would certainly be a case where the woman lost the contest but essentially won the war of the sexes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Before this list is done I do expect to give ample representation to the world of manga, which in the past 40 years *may* have eclipsed American comics in terms of the "supergirls on top" theme I've been examining here. (The U.S. comics-scene is still far ahead of Eurocomics, though.) While early representation of female heroes in American comics may be have been in part a marketing ploy, the rise of heroines was not incongruent with the meritocratic aspects of American culture.

In contrast, there would seem to be no meritocratic currents in Japanese culture, and so the explosion of pop-cultural heroines from the 70s (Cutey Honey) through the present seems less a part of traditional Japanese culture and may be more of an adaptation to the commercial world of the 20th century.

In any case, the illustration here-- actually from the anime series for DRAGONBALL rather than the originating 1980s manga-- depicts a scene from a whamma-slamma battle between male character Vegeta (established as one of the serial's resident badasses since DRAGONBALL entered its "adult phase") and "Eighteen," a female android who outdoes Vegeta in the super-kung-fu department and kicks his ass to holy hell. On the whole, DRAGONBALL never utilized super-females nearly as much as super-males, but of the few female contenders, Android Eighteen is possibly the most formidable.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Though Miss Victory debuted in CAPTAIN FEARLESS #1 (1941), her best fight may well have been in issue #2, from which the accompanying image comes. It's only a five-page story, but Miss Victory-- a tough-babe hero with no superpowers-- swiftly finds the location of a Nazi spy ring and beats all the spies to a pulp. That's pretty much the whole story, but with lively art from Charles Quinlan, who could ask for anything more?

The story is relatively easy to find in its reprint form, in AC Comics' MISS VICTORY GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL.

In this and other adventures Miss Victory was wont to say things like "Women inferior, eh?" as she smacked a Nazi on the jaw. Since at least one of the scripters was female, one Alberta Tews, this may've been a small shot at the ruling patriarchy of the time.

Monday, October 11, 2010


From a tiger I proceed down the evolutionary scale to Felis Domesticus, and the inevitable (but quite undomesticated) Catwoman.

Though invented in 1940 Catwoman was not often seen doing anything more than a little roughhousing until the late 1960s, so her re-invention as a martial kickboxing pussycat has only endured for roughly the past forty years. The first 1990s CATWOMAN series, all or most of which sported the art of Jim Balent, isn't as critically accalimed as certain later manifestations, but to be sure Balent always delivered the goods in the action department.

The cover of CATWOMAN #53 is rather low-key considering that the interior deals with the Princess of Pussy finding out that the fellow on the cover is actually the serial killer known as the Headhunter. This revelation leads to an epic battle of about six ass-kickin' pages, spoiled only by an ending in which the nutty serial killer offs himself. Possibly either the editorial or creative team didn't wish Catwoman to spoil her record of keeping her hands clean of the charge of murder. Too bad, the Headhunter would have been a nice first kill for the Queen of Cats.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Since my last post happened to feature Dell's one and only issue of JET DREAM, I may as well make it a duo by now featuring Dell's one and only issue of TIGER GIRL.

Though this 1968 production by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Jack Sparling never had so much as an unlicensed revival, TIGER GIRL does seem to be the first NEW costumed heroine during the decade of the 1960s to get her own solo-feature title. All the others pretty much had to join teams like the Avengers or appear in back-up features (Charlton's NIGHTSHADE).

The plot of TIGER GIRL #1 is pretty much your basic three-act setup: the heroine, having aroused the ire of the crime world by her derring-do, is set upon by a hired assassin, "Wolf Hound," making this a true cat-and-dog fight. I give this a place on my "top" list less mostly because it is, like the JET DREAM issue, a whole comic devoted to the heroine's combat with the villain. Tiger Girl's powers are rather vague, but she seems to possess some degree of super-strength by the way she slams male villains around, sans the usual reference to martial arts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Though all the physical combat-scenes in JET DREAM AND HER STUNT-GIRL COUNTERSPIES #1 are fairly short, I choose to interpret this one-and-only issue of the comic book as being one issue-long battle of the intrepid female counterspies and an all-male organization of bad spies called CIPHER.

Roughly the same time this single issue came out from Gold Key Comics, a JET DREAM backup strip began running in THE MAN FROM UNCLE comic. All of these strips featuring the counterspies were just four pages long, usually beginning *in media res* with some pulpy action threatening the girls, followed by a quick what-led-up-to-this, and then a hard-hitting wrapup. Try that, decompression scripters! Jet Dream (sounds like "jetstream? or maybe "wet dream?) and her multinational Blackhawk ripoffs were a rare return to the Golden Age style of fast action and minimal plot, and were among the few heroines to headline their own comic book during the Silver Age (1955-1970 by my lights, BTW).

Friday, September 17, 2010


FF #81 takes the step that the FANTASTIC FOUR feature had been building toward for some time: the near-total marginalization of team-member Sue "Invisible Girl" Richards and her replacement by the Human Torch's girlfriend, Crystal of the Inhumans. Arguably Sue had become more problematic for Lee and Kirby once she was a married woman, and even more so once she became pregnant. Sue had given birth several months previous to FF #81, and there had been no talk of a replacement. When Crystal volunteers to take Sue's place, Mister Fantastic does agree that Sue can't possibly continue as a team-member, though he's not so sure that Crystal's up to the job.

Marvel heroines of the 1960s get a lot of bad raps, some deserved, some not. Trina Robbins railed against the impotence of heroines who could only "pose and point," a la the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch (though SW was far from being a weakling, even in her early appearances). But to my recollection Robbins said nothing about Crystal, who, even before joining the FF, showed unprecedented levels of power for a Marvel heroine: summoning up whirlwinds, earthquake-shocks and other elemental phenomena. She was Storm back when Storm wasn't even a gleam in her creator's eye.

The story is simple: oldtimey villain the Wizard attacks the FF, and though the three seasoned heroes hold their own, Lee and Kirby bend over backwards to give Crystal the glory of knocking the jizz outta the Wiz. He does escape, but he serves his purpose in that Mr. Fantastic apologizes for having doubted Crystal's heroic potential, and signs her up.

Admittedly, Crystal doesn't remain a team-member all that long, being slowly phased out in fewer than 20 issues in favor of Sue's return, though she does return for a few tales, like the action-packed FF #100, where the fantastic five fight countless dopplegangers of their old enemies.

Still, though Crystal was never quite as front-and-center a character after this, and though a lot of female comics-fans forget her, she may have delivered the first really memorable female/male asskicking for the publisher known as Marvel Comics.

Friday, September 10, 2010


As one might suppose, these gentlemen, regulars of the Oni-published comic BLUE MONDAY, are about to be severly trounced by a female team made up of two girls, one of whom is fairly ordinary while the other is this girl:

Clover Connelly is the Irish representative in a teen-sex comic which purports to take place in SoCal though everyone in the main cast sounds as British as hell. Clover is not only a tough girl; she apparently goes into berseker-states of fury in which she speaks Gaelic while beating the shit out of mere boys.

The deadly soccer game appears in Part 2 of the collected serial BLUE MONDAY: ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS.