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.