Cross posted on Starpulse.com
At the San Diego Comic Con I was speaking with Michael Jelenic, the writer of the recent animated movie “Wonder Woman,” and we were lamenting that the film did not do quite as well as everyone hoped. Even with the positive critical response and excellent promotion, it just didn’t get the high sell numbers fans were waiting for, although it did moderately well overall.
The reason I personally watched closely was because without proving that a female superhero can sell DVDs and toys, it is unlikely we’ll see very much more of it in the mass media. They mostly sold the movies Elektra and Catwoman through sex, and for years comic fans have been clamoring for a real life Wonder Woman film. Yet no one will put the money and time in if they don’t think it will sell, and how could it, compared to the raging popularity of Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman?
There was a popular comic book term coined years ago by a well-known female writer named Gail Simone called “Women in Refrigerators.” It became a pretty popular website for a time where writers would talk about the way women were treated in comic books, usually when they were killed, maimed or depowered. The exact scene she was referring to was in Green Lantern #54 when Kyle Rayner, the new Green Lantern, comes home to find his girlfriend stuffed in a refrigerator by his new villainous foe. Now the website is just an archive (www.unheardtaunts.com/wir), but it caused a stir in the comic book community as people started to discuss how women were treated in the comics. This sparked discussion and ideas that went beyond the original point, and it still is a tough question today.
The truth is that many of the major female superheroes today stem from a more popular male hero. Catwoman to Batman, Elektra to Daredevil, Black Widow to Iron Man, Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel, and the list goes on from there. Wonder Woman is one of the few characters that stemmed from her own mythology and power, and yet she’s never managed to cement a greater popularity base than that of her costars, Batman and Superman. Is it because less women read comics, or do women not read comics because they can’t find the right role models to connect to?
The only places where female characters really find the strength to grow is within team comics, such as the X-Men or The Avengers, but even then there have been several times when they were victimized. Jean Grey has been killed more times than we can count by now, Black Canary was tortured to upset her boyfriend Green Arrow, Batgirl was crippled by the Joker to anger her father, and Gwen Stacy was famously murdered in front of her boyfriend Spider-Man.
This isn’t to say that the comic writers are all doing it wrong and are sexist pigs. Angst sells, and women aren’t the only people who die in the comics. If the solo female comic books do not do well, they can’t help but cancel them and try to find a new home for their strong super heroines. Wonder Woman may never see the big screen while Superman gets three more sequels. So what can we female geeks really hope for as we skim through the comics just hoping for someone to dress up as for Halloween? Support! Try out the Wonder Woman comics, get the Birds of Prey graphic novels, and who knows, girls, maybe stop by the comic store and see if anything gets your interest.
We can’t change the past, but we could make our mark on the future, and maybe our daughters will have more heroines to look up to. And not just the ones with sparkly tiaras and sexy halter tops.