11/21/10

Comic Books #22: Supergirl Part I


What's so special about m'lady Kara Zor-El? Well, she's the ultimate comic book hero/heroine for a retro guy like me interested in cultural history.  Supergirl is a perfect reflection of the shifting attitudes of the times. Archie comics are great lenses into the past in terms of fashion and pop culture, but ultimately they are just too whitebread to give a realistic picture of the times beyond a sixth grade level.  To read Supergirl comics is to watch a stereotypical 60s female more concerned with her wardrobe than fighting crime, turn into a total all out badass.

Let's look at a few examples of pre-badass Supergirl...

"Just like a lady" Supergirl spent a lot of time in the sixties worrying about her clothes....

Before you go following that lead, better take your new dress!
Those bullets are sure raising hell with my new uniform!

Supergirl was like a normal teenager in that she always had a hang up for some guy.  Hey, if it was okay for Superman to be hard up for Lois, it was okay for Supergirl.... but then, sometimes it was a bit much....

What about ME? I'm better than the others!
Why, Gary? WHY?!?
Naturally, the writers were attempting to gather the female market with romantic themes.  After all, there were plenty of comics that'd been successful with the young girls' demographic - those True Romance comic books were very popular, as were the Lois Lane comics.  The problem was, Supergirl is a superheroine.

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King says that the most bigotted depiction of women he'd ever seen was in Alien.  Like Supergirl, Ripley is the heroine of the story and does some major ass kicking in the film.... but it's all cancelled out (in King's opinion) when Ripley compromises everything by going back after the little pussycat.  King says that's something a male hero would never have done.

The other side of the argument is "why is the male hero the gold standard to begin with?"  In other words, is it really necessary for Supergirl to compromise her femininity to become a true hero?  Something to think about.... we could learn a lot by looking at Supergirl.  More posts to come.

3 comments:

  1. "why is the male hero the gold standard to begin with?" In other words, is it really necessary for Supergirl to compromise her femininity to become a true hero?
    - My thoughts exactly. The answer is: of course she can be heroic and remain femenine.

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  2. I used to buy exclusively DC comics in the mid-60's. I can remember that I bought a lot of comic books but at some point I decided to toss them all except for a few of my very favorite. One I kept was a Supergirl which my memory says was her 'outing' so to speak, to the world. I'll have to go and dig that out.

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  3. "why is the male hero the gold standard to begin with?" In other words, is it really necessary for Supergirl to compromise her femininity to become a true hero?"
    This question reminds me of a Superman story where Mxyzptlk turns everyone in superman's life to their gender counterparts. Superman believes he's in a parallel universe because he witness his female counterpart which is just as masculine as him. She's pretty much Superman with breasts and long hair, same bulging muscles, same chin.

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