Women have been portrayed in comic books since the medium's beginning, with their portrayals often the subject of controversy. Sociologists with an interest in gender roles and stereotyping have outlined the role of women as both supporting characters and as potential leaders struggling to be accepted as equals. Another point of study has been the depiction of women in comics, in which, as in other forms of popular culture, body types are unrealistically portrayed.

Golden Age of comic books: Edit

There was a time when more girls read comics than boys. One of the first books geared to these readers was Archie Comics, starring a group of all-American teens—Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, and Veronica Lodge—who had debuted in Pep Comics #22.

During the 1930s-1940s period that fans and historians call the Golden Age of comic books, a time during which the medium evolved from comic strips, women who were not superheroes were primarily portrayed three ways: as career girls, romance-story heroines, or perky teenagers.

Costumed crimefightersEdit

Like Batman, the Phantom and other non-superpowered heroes, female costumed crimefighters were among the first comic characters.

The Woman in Red, was brought forward in Standard Comics' Thrilling Comics #2 (March 1940), and was a police officer with a dual identity. Lady Luck, appeared in the Sunday-newspaper comic-book insert The Spirit Section on June 2, 1940. The tough-fighting Miss Fury, appeared in the eponymous comic strip by female cartoonist Tarpé Mills on April 6, 1941, and the equally formidable Phantom Lady appeared in Quality Comics Police Comics #1 (Aug. 1941). Harvey Comics had the motorcycle-riding Black Cat, that appeared in Pocket Comics #1 (also Aug. 1941).

"Most of (Fiction House's) pulp-style action stories either starred or featured strong, beautiful, competent heroines. They were war nurses, aviatrixes, girl detectives, counterspies, and animal skin-clad jungle queens, and they were in command. Guns blazing, daggers unsheathed, sword in hand, they leaped across the pages, ready to take on any villain. And they did not need rescuing."
— As Trina Robbins, in The Great Women Superheroes (Kitchen Sink Press, 1996, ISBN 0-87816-481-2), wrote.

One publisher exemplified was, Fiction House: Who featured several progressive heroines such as the jungle queen Sheena.

Wonder WomanEdit

Wonder comic

Wonder Woman

The first widely recognizable female superhero is Wonder Woman, from All-American Publications, one of three companies that would merge to form DC Comics.

In the early 1940s the DC line was dominated by superpowered male characters such as the Green Lantern, Batman, and its flagship character, Superman. According to the Fall 2001 issue of the Boston University alumni magazine, it was Marstons wife Elizabeth's idea to create a female superhero

the Boston University alumni magazine: William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. "Fine," said Elizabeth. "But make her a woman."

Marston introduced the idea to Max Gaines, cofounder (along with Jack Liebowitz) of All-American Publications. Given the go-ahead, Marston developed Wonder Woman with Elizabeth (whom Marston believed to be a model of that era's unconventional, liberated woman). In creating Wonder Woman, Marston was also inspired by Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polygamous/polyamorous relationship. Marston's pseudonym, Charles Moulton, combined his own and Gaines' middle names.

Modern Age of Comic Books: Edit

Bad Girl TrendEdit

The trend towards sexually suggestive characters was also felt at Marvel Comics. In the early 1990s, characters such as the Invisible Woman (from Fantastic Four # 375) and the Scarlet Witch (from Scarlet Witch #1) started wearing revealing outfits. The cover of The Sensational She-Hulk #40 featured a claim that She-Hulk would be jump roping naked in the issue (but, of course, this was just a joke). It is worth noting that the first truly sexually suggestive character in the Marvel Comics mythos appeared in the Bronze Age of Comic Books in the form of the White Queen, Emma Frost.

The Magdalena

Revealing outfit on teenaged/mid-aged girl/woman

The White Queen appeared in the X-Men during the Dark Phoenix saga and her lingerie-like outfits and dominant personality became her trademarks, which she carried on even as a superhero and member of the X-Men.

Evolving themesEdit

In the 21st Century, the roles of many women have changed. Roles and choices such as single parenting, same-sex relationships, and positions of power in the workplace have come to define many women in modern society. These roles have found their way into the comic books of the 21st Century as well. Lesbian relationships were initially featured in underground and in alternative titles, such as Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte, before entering the mainstream with Image Comics' Gen¹³ and Marvel Comics' Exiles #34 (Nov. 2003).

See also: Edit