In 1989, Dwayne McDuffie, along with Robin Chaplik and June Brigman, wrote She-Hulk Ceremony, a two-part mini-series about the Sensational She-Hulk and her ex-boyfriend Wyatt Wingfoot. Stan Drake does the art.
In this story, She-Hulk decides she wants a baby with Wyatt, gets a mysterious mystical basket, and travels to visit Wyatt’s family to announce their engagement. But finds out that it’s much, much more.
Always tired of not knowing what the hell a Skrull is or why anyone cares if Hulk had a son? Marvel has taken a little initiative to attract new readers with their Marvel Your Universe, which goes over the course of events that have been happening since technically the mid-80s though more since 2005.
You can either pick up a free copy at your local comic store or you can download it for free.
This post is inspired by a comment over on Whedonesque about what one is to do without Joss writing Astonishing X-Men. Without Joss there to write strong women. This post assumes that AXM is the only mainstreet comic that the poster has read (i.e. the Firefly and Buffy/Angel comics don’t count). I will also decline to comment on Joss and strong women. Instead, I give you – Strong Women of Comics I Like:
Anyone who’s known me longer than five seconds probably knows about my love of She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters is the Hulk’s cousin and received superpowers when she was shot and got a blood transfusion from him. It saved her life, but made her transform into “some kind of She-Hulk.”
She-Hulk maintains her human sensibilities when she’s in hulk form and prefers to be big and green instead of tiny Jennifer. She’s had her own titles, but has also been a member of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. She is often relayed upon for both her superpowers and her mind.
When the Earth is attacked by Scorpio and the U.N. gives its power to the Avengers, She-Hulk not only fights, but she also is the one who reads the U.N. carters to help the crashing world economies. In more current history, she’s was a top lawyer in a superhuman law firm and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and now a bounty hunter.
I suggest reading Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, starting with She-Hulk Volume 1: Single Green Female.
Jessica Jones is a newer Marvel character created by Brian Micheal Bendis in 2002 and was inserted into the Avengers’ history. When you meet her, she runs a private detective agency and has a variety of personal problems include a temper, poor interpersonal skills, bad relationships, and problem with drinking. Her first outing in her own series Alias gives the reader the mystery of why Jessica is no longer a superhero and doesn’t want to be one.
Jessica gained her superpowers — flying, super strength, and resistance to damage — through a tragic car crash with her family’s sedan and a truck carrying nuclear waste. However, she is often reluctant to use them.
Her more recent storylines include her relationship/eventual marriage to superhero Luke Cage, their baby, and how she (kind of) joins the Avengers and mentors the Young Avengers. One of my favorite scenes is where a pregnant Jessica beats up on the Green Goblin in a way that makes even Spider-Man acknowledge that she’s tough as nails.
I suggest starting off with Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias, which is her origin story(s) and first appearances.
Snow White is a character in Bill Willingham’s Fables, a comic set in modern-day NYC with “fables” living in hiding in the middle of the city. Snow White is introduced as the Deputy Major of Fabletown and clearly the one who’s really in charge of the city’s operations. She’s the only one not afraid of Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf who’s the town’s sheriff, and she always thinks on her feet despite the antics of her sister, Rose Red; an impending war with evil Fables; and when her ex-husband Prince Charming decides to come back into town and run for Mayor.
Snow White’s story is interwoven into this cast in the on-going comic. And while there are certainly other strong women — Frau Totenkinder, Cinderella, Rose Red, the Snow Queen, etc. — Snow White remains my personal favorite. She even gets her own narrative in the flashback book of Fable’s tales 1001 Nights of Snowfall.
I’d suggest starting at the beginning of the Fables‘ series with Legends in Exile.
Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man is about Yorrick and his male monkey, the only survivors of whatever killed all the male mammals on the planet, and their quest to find Yorrick’s girlfriend Beth and figure out what the hell actually happened. Vaughan populates the book with a wonderful cast of female characters including Agent 355, the tough American spy who protect Yorrick, Dr. Allison Mann, a genetics doctor who clones herself, and Yorrick’s sister and mother, the latter is a U.S. senator and then president when all the men die off. Additionally, all the women in this story are given agency and come from various backgrounds, ethnically and politically. Vaughan truly makes this story a global story. Plus, Pia Guerra’s art is incredible throughout this book.
I’d suggest starting with Unmanned, the first volume in this recently ended series.
Rene first appeared on the animated Batman TV show and was so popular that she was put in Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central. She’s a hard-lined, but at her core, good detective on the Gotham Police Force with ties to the community through her family and the Hispanic community. In Half a Life, she takes center stage with her collaboration and then stalking problem with Two-Face. She’s outed as lesbian in one the best coming out stories I’ve ever read. (And that says a lot considering I’m a bisexual English major who took many “diversity” literature courses.)
Rucka took Montoya even further than her police roots by putting her in the post-Crisis epic 52, which was where I first encountered her outside cartoons. Montoya is one of the characters in the story to have an amazingly done transformation with the publicity bonus of her ex-girlfriend, Kate Kane, aka the new Batwoman. Post-52, Montoya’s story continues in Crime Bible and then Final Crisis: Revelations.
I’d suggest starting with the first hardcover Gotham Central #01: In the Line of Duty, which includes the “Half a Life” story.
Barbara Gordon starts off her crime-fighting career as Batgirl, fighting alongside Batman, Robin, and a host of other DC superheros as part of the Bat-family. She is, of course, the daughter of Jim Gordon, Gotham’s Police Commissioner. Besides, being kick ass, Barbara is also super smart and a whiz with computers. She is shown to be perhaps the only person who can outspy Batman, the world’s greatest detective.
In Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), Barbara is shot by the Joker and paralyzed from the waist down. Now, the normal person would hang up the cape and become head of her own internet start-up company, but not Barbara. No, she uses her computer genius to fight crime under the name Oracle and assembles her own, all-female team, Birds of Prey.
Birds of Prey contains many awesome strong women over the years, including Black Canary, Huntress, the new Batgirl, Spoiler, Lady Shiva, and more. Black Canary and Barbara’s friendships is perhaps one of the best portrayals female-friendships ever.
Ms. Marvel should be the Wonder Woman of Marvel-verse. However, she’s not. She should also be Captain Marvel, like she was in House of M, but she’s not. If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry, you’ll eventually understand what I mean. Because Ms. Marvel is just that awesome.
Carol starts her life as a Air Force officer working with the then Captain Marvel, who was actually a Kree (a type of alien) undercover. She becomes super-powered when hit by a Kree “Psyche-Magnitron” device and has super strength, speed, stamina, and durability; can absorb energy; and can fly. She goes through many trials and tribulations including being the mind-controlled slave and mystical womb of a guy trying to reincarnated himself, having her powers sucked out by Rogue, and being kidnapped and experimented on by the Brood (another alien species).
Ms. Marvel is a survivor and she never looses her military officer determination. She bounces back and becomes a New Avenger, after the original Avengers are destroyed. Currently, post-Civil War, Tony Stark (Iron Man) has made her the head of the Mighty Avengers. She also has a solo series, which is about her getting her life in order after seeing an alternative version of herself as Captain Marvel, the greatest and most revered superhero in that world.
You can read about the start of her self-improvement in Reed’s Ms. Marvel.
Wonder Woman is the most famous female superhero around. Linda Carter’s portrayal of her in the ’70s TV show cemented her fame and everyone knowing her name. Created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman has survived when other lesser heroes have faded in time. She’s an Amazon princess warrior. She’s good, courageous, diplomatic, and has a great body. Who doesn’t want to be her?
Overall, Wonder Woman is a class act and you’d be hard-pressed to find another character with such dignity who can still kick ass. Heck, even Mr. Goodie Superman dates and marries her (when Lois Lane isn’t available, of course).
Wonder Woman has gone through many writers over the years, but if you’d like to catch up on current Wonder Woman happenings, check out Gail Simone’s run of Wonder Woman (Vol 3 starting at issue #14) or pick up the first tpb Wonder Woman: The Circle. I also hold a special love for Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Hiketeia
Gert, Nico, Molly, Karolina and the rest of the Runaways
Runaways is a great title to start with for someone who hasn’t read a lot of comics, considering that it’s basically a self-contained story. (There are crossovers here and there, but the writers do a good job at explaining just who those people are.) The basic premise is that a group of kids spy on their parents and find out their parents are actually super villains plotting the destruction of the world. And they runaway…
Gert with her glasses and cynicism is a daughter of time travelers who owns the coolest pet ever, Old Lace, a Deinonychus (similar to a Velociraptor). Nico is a loyal witch who has her heart played with more than once. Molly, the youngest of them at the beginning, is a mutant with budding powers. Karolina is a free-spirit alien and a self-described “freak” of the group, even before she knew she was an alien. And that’s just a few of the female characters.
I’d suggest starting with Vaughan’s Runaways Vol 1 to journey with this newer group from their origins and into the present.
Wordle, just for fun.
Dear Gwyneth Paltrow,
I know I should never read USA Weekly, especially after the whole “Vinnie” thing. (Vincent Lecavalier is hockey player from Quebec; I doubt he goes by Vinnie.) But someone linked an interview of you, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Liv Tyler about your roles as heroines in superhero movies, “Girls want to have fun, too.”
I would just like to correct you that women do in fact enjoy comics. In fact, we’re rather a growing audience. I know what you were told by the boys, but there are some really amazing women in comics, both with super powers and without.
Which, by the way, Pepper Potts is one of them. And out of the three of you, your role as Pepper was the most kick ass. Pepper actually helps destroy the bad guy, instead of getting captured by him, unlike Tony Stark. (Okay, I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk, but I’ll still bet my pennies on Pepper.) And I wouldn’t doubt the power of a well-tailored suit to make you attractive on screen.
Perhaps you’d enjoy reading a more positive take on Pepper than your own.
Woman who reads comics and enjoys superhero movies
Prozacpark made a post about Superheroines, Women, Marvel Movies, and that Avengers movie and how superheroine movies are few…in fact, zero. She also talks about how a She-Hulk movie would be totally awesome.
And I can’t help but agree.
What will Marvel be making instead of a She-Hulk movie?
2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men Origins: Magneto
2010 – Iron Man 2 and Thor
2011 – Spider-Man 4, The First Avenger: Captain America, The Avengers
2012 – Ant-Man
Okay, we’ll assume that X-Men movies will have some super women in them, but they’re definitely focusing on Wolverine and Magneto.
What’s the line-up Jon Feavreau told USA Today they wanted to go with for The Avengers movie?
“The ones Marvel is talking about now are Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man and Iron Man. I would love to see that.”
Okay, those are all the first Avengers, except the Wasp. You know the only woman on the team. At least, we’ll have Samuel L. Jackson to have a minority interacting with the team as head of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I’d love a She-Hulk movie. I’d love a Ms. Marvel movie. I’d love to see the Wasp on the Avengers team like she’s supposed to be. It would be a great way to introduce the non-comic audience to a least one female Marvel superhero.
Seriously, they’re making a Thor movie? How bad is that going to be, especially if they make him talk like they do in the comics?
I’d much rather have an original She-Hulk movie where they cameo the Hulk and show him in all the previews too.
But at the very least, give the Wasp her due and put her in the Avengers movie.
At Emerald City ComicCon a month ago, one of the most thoughtful questions asked was by a woman at the DC Nation Panel who wanted to know what comics she could start reading without having to know the background of every single character, team, and storyline since the 1940s. Dan DiDio did a pretty horrible job at answering it, especially considering how he is Mr. Slick, basically muttering Wonder Woman and deflecting the question to Gail Simone. (You know, the only woman on the panel…)
I think this is an important question for comics. This is an important question for the creative team and the marketing team. They market the hell out of crossover and big “events” like Infinite Crisis and Civil War, but they are only marketing to the established audience. Yes, they need to take care of their current readership, but they also need to invest in new readers. Comic readerships isn’t strong and any slight up is because there are, frankly, just more people in this world. New readers aren’t going to pick up these crossovers.
So what do new readers need to know about comics in order to break into the giant, loaming history of the big two, DC and Marvel. To jump in without reading an entire backlog.
Start at #1
Sure, some title like Uncanny X-Men are almost to #500, but there are new titles starting all the time and many of them are not involved in the big crossover events. Yes, they might feature B-level characters and they might be by new writers; but those writers might be better than you think. So pick up #1 and thumb through it. See if it catches your eye. That’s how I started reading Bendis’ New Avengers and BKV’s run on Mystique. Sometimes, they run a long time and other times they die off quickly. You take a chance, and you can always stop reading if it doesn’t work out.
Canon counts, but then it doesn’t. Big events come and they go. Characters always have major things in their lives that remain constant and major traits that stick with them. For instance, Batman will always see his parents murdered and Iron Man will always be an asshole playboy and an alcoholic. However, creative directions will change depending on who’s writing and who’s editing. Sometimes they change out of pet-peeves, such as how Slott hated that She-Hulk slept with Juggernaut so he made an alternative universe She-Hulk do it instead. And sometimes they change canon because it was sexist/racist/homophobic like how Lux Luthor tried to defeat Superman with pink Kryptonite which turned Superman gay. Don’t take canon too seriously.
Ask someone you know who reads comics or ask your local comic book shopkeeper
Comic book fan always want to talk about comics. Trust me, I was in Hot Topic a few weeks ago with a co-worker, looking at a jacket with Alex Ross’ new Captain America design, and had a major history of Captain America geek out. A good friend will recommend comics you’ll be interested in based on the things s/he knows you like. You can also scan comic boards appropriate to your interests and gather recommendations there. (I’ve spent plenty of time on the Girl-Wonder boards.) In addition, take a trip to the local comic store and ask the storekeeper. If the store’s any good, you’ll be able to find a book based on what you’re interested in. With the storekeeper, you’re going to have to be direct such as character-driven plots with 2 or more women with lots of kick ass action. (My recommendation’s Birds of Prey.)
There’s always Wikipedia
There’s always going to be a character or team you don’t know and thankfully there’s Wikipedia. Besides editing it at the command of Stephen Colbert, comic articles often get updated weekly after the Wednesday new comic drop. I love comics, but I’ll be the first to admit that I spent time time on Wikipedia because I have no clue who Bouncing Boy is and some guy at Comic Con asked about 5 questions about him.
What suggestions do you have? What do you tell new comic readers besides handing out your recommendations?
This weekend, I read Moore’s The Watchmen, and I imagine I might have a few posts on it. I find myself saying a few posts, considering the effect the comic had on the genre and on turning comics into something besides ‘those funny books.’ In addition, to being on all those ‘must reads’ and ‘bests of all time’ lists.
I say it because I’m not quite that enamoured with The Watchmen and think that parts of the text are very problematic. My thoughts need to come forth because when I go hand back the book to my friend Steve, he’s going to demand to know my thoughts and, while he’ll never accept my arguments, they at least need to be sound in my head.
A lot of essays and arguments against some of the more common criticism of The Watchmen is rooted in contextualization or what would happen if I could magically transport myself back to 1986-87 and read it there. (Or perhaps my mother decided to read it to a 3-year-old me instead of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…. Oh, think of my dystopian nightmares.)
I’m perfectly alright looking at context. I think it fits nicely in the millennial and Cold War panics of the final years of the Regan administration. It goes great with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and my Dead Kennedy CDs. I’m certainly not going to fault Moore that Cold War’s over and we have a new terrorist-based panic.
All that said, if this is supposed to be “the greatest comic ever” or even in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I’m not sure The Watchmen would make it in. Not because it’s not a good read or fitting for its time, but because I’m not sure if it has the staying power to be the ONLY comic someone ever reads and the ONLY one to make these lists.
If we’re going to go for a Moore comic, I think V for Vendetta is a better comic, with longer staying power, and a stronger narrative/story,
(I do wonder if Persepolis won’t be added as a second comic, given the buzz and the film. (I have not read the text myself, so I can not make a good judgment call on this.))
Contextualization doesn’t save Moore from my wondering if The Watchmen will always be considered classic. If it’s enough of a universal story that readers will enjoy 100+ years from now.
You know, if a giant monster doesn’t eat us all first.
(Which wouldn’t you guess that The Watchmen as universal is what my next post might be about. Unless I write about Midnighter, because I think I love him.)
To my surprise, the local comic book store was open today: Echo #3, Mighty Avengers #14, Huntress: Year One #1, Fantastic Four #554, The Last Defenders #3.