From She-Hulk to Ms Marvel to the female Thor, a new generation of hero is revolutionising comic books. And while some of the ‘fan boys’ are grumbling, this is a battle they just won’t win. Harriet Grantham comments on Dorian Lynskey’s article in The Guardian about the rise of female superheroes. (The Guardian: G2 (UK) 26/03/15)
“If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft. They have to be protagonists, not devices.”
Previously, your average leading lady in action-filled comics, books and films was an aesthetically impossible specimen with a penchant for danger and an aptitude for fainting. She was, if nothing else, a catalyst to action for the hero who would inevitably save the day- and her- and the whole experience would climax in a romantic embrace of some sort.
Nowadays, however, the action genre has turned on its head to recognise comic heroines in their own right, such as Carol Danvers, the former Ms Marvel, whose devoted fan-base are now known as the Carol Corps, and a refreshed portrayal of such old heroines as Batwoman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman and She-Hulk. The comic book world has felt the demand for iconic heroines increase as a diversified fan-base continues to grow.
In January of this year it was found that ’48.13% of the 32 million self-identified comic fans on Facebook’ are women. Furthermore, attendance of comic conventions is also aligning with this increased gender parity. The obvious response from comic writers to the growing interest of women is to cater to their audience’s interests in their output. DC co-publisher Jim Lee recognised that his audience were ‘looking for a lot more flavours and diversity in our line than we’re currently doing.’
The industry welcomed with open arms such innovative female protagonists as Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American, who’s ‘journey is relatable to anyone who’s ever been a teenager’, and the updated image of She-Hulk, who previously ‘had spent decades looking like a fitness model’, but has more recently been portrayed as ‘an extremely competent attorney and superhero who just so happened to be a beautiful, 7ft-tall green woman.’
The “Big Two” comic powerhouses, DC and Marvel, are embracing the changes even in the face of small-scale opposition, as quite frankly their investment in women is paying, both financially, and in cultural progression.
The reinvention of Thor as a woman was met with some controversy initially, but eventually with great success. In issue five of her debut series, Thor meets antagonist Absorbing Man, who does not welcome the change: “Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor?” roars Absorbing Man. “Damn feminists are ruining everything.” Joke’s on him, though, as female Thor is outselling her predecessor by nearly a third.