Prior to the new name atop this blog, its name was AMAZONS ASCENDANT. The purpose of that blog was relatively limited. For years I’d been hearing various fans carp about the supposed marginalization of female heroes in comic books specifically and popular fiction generally. Supposedly this lack signified the bias of male chauvinism, though to my mind real male chauvinism would not allow for any female heroes whatsoever. A remark by Heidi McDonald moved me to devise this blog in order to demonstrate the significant prevalence of an amazon-like archetype throughout the medium of comic books. I finally decided that the best demonstration of this prevalence was a list of 50 noteworthy female vs. male battles in the comics medium, most of which conclude with either the female’s victory or a respectable draw (see this post). After that, I let the blog lie fallow.
I’ve been interested in the “amazon archetype” for some time. In the last month I finally got around to writing some essays on THE ARCHETYPAL ARCHIVE, which interpreted the archetype theoretically, as a symbol of the Schopenhaurean/Nietzschean will. But years ago I contemplated writing a history of the archetype as it appeared not just in comic books, but in all popular media. To that end I made my own year-by-year list of the most notable occurrences of the archetype.
I’ve seen a few related lists on Wikipedia, and years ago there was a website that tried to provide mini-histories for all the major characters, mostly in comic books and animated cartoons. Like a lot of sites, it eventually disappeared, probably due to the expense of the enterprise.
Blogs, at present, cost nothing but time, and have the advantage that they’re more open-ended in structure. Thus I’ve decided to parse out my old list in the form of a few entries every week (frequency to be determined as I go). At that rate it’ll take some time to build up a respectable number of posts, but I feel sure that I can depend upon the blogosphere to ignore this enterprise until it gets built up somewhat (and maybe even afterward!)
Now, as to the name of the blog…
I didn’t want to use the term “amazon,” whose connotations are too narrow. The well-known term “femme fatale” strikes a little closer to the mark, but in common use it suggests mainly female characters that exist to lure the hero, Delilah-like, with their “fatale” attraction. I’m not interested in the temptress-archetype except where it shades into the archetype of the concept of the female as a possessor of power. Thus my adaptation of a common enough French phrase, “femme formidable,” for an archetype of culture. As far as I can tell from a basic Google search, no one else has so employed the term in this specialized sense.
Patently this category can include many villains as well as heroines. In addition to omitting the manipulative temptresses, whose specialty is persuasion rather than force, it also omits many heroines whose influence is more sentimental or intellectual (Dorothy Gale, Nancy Drew) than physical. The category will also include pop-fiction incarnations of mythic or legendary figures as well as fictionalized versions of real people. Aside from the next essay—which covers the earliest pop-fiction occurrences of the archetype—each post will chart each figure’s first appearance in a given medium with a short interpretation of her symbolic importance. I’m not going to get into encyclopedic histories of any characters: that’s more Wikipedia’s line.