Monday, January 11, 2010


If at all possible, view the following picture w/o paying attention to the cover copy from ACTION COMICS #346.

If one does not read the explanatory dialogue, the picture looks for all the world like Superman being decked by his female cousin Supergirl. To the knowledgeable fan who knows that both characters are gifted with super-powers, it's at least plausible for Superman to be stunned by a punch from his cousin, even though Superman looks like he might weigh in at twice whatever Supergirl might weigh.

However, if one knew nothing about the mythology of either character, and saw only a very muscular man being knocked silly by a slip of a girl, such a reader might have to suppose he was looking at a nonsense-scene, in which the normal rules of weight and mass simply didn't apply.

What's interesting is that while the above scenario does take place within the realm of super-powered beings, where it's entirely probable for a super-powered woman to fell a mere mortal man with a single blow, this sort of scenario is hardly confined to stories with super-powered beings in comics.

For instance, here's an example without super-powered types:

In BATGIRL #50, the then-current Batgirl-- who, once again, looks like she might weigh in at half what her opponent Batman does-- has a long and grueling battle with her bat-mentor in which the two seem evenly matched, though at the conclusion there's some suggestion that Batman may have manipulated the fight to some extent.

Granted, Batman and his non-powered allies don't live in "the real world," but they are meant to reflect the real world far more than those stories featuring super-powered beings.

And in terms of verisimilitude, BATGIRL #50 puts aside the question of what would really happen if a man and woman of roughly equal skills, but with such very disparate weights, fought one another.

Now, I'm not objecting to BATGIRL #50 or any similar story putting aside verisimilitude for the sake of a fantasy. I think that the fantasy works on its own terms in many if not all cases, and that BATMAN #50 is one where the suspension of disbelief is justified for the dramatic effect.

But when comic books are rife with examples of this type of female empowerment-- in which a spindly supermodel-type can beat down a big strong man with a single punch-- I'm dumbfounded that any fan, male or female, can complain about the lack of females having "agency," as I've quoted HER MAJESTY saying in earlier posts.

"What do women want," indeed?

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