Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dorkette Book Club: The Supergirls

Another Dorkette Book Club is upon us. Usually the books that are addressed in this feature range from old Fear Street stories to anything by Christopher Pike. However, today we will be looking at a book that recently came out that I finished recently. Here's the thing about books and me. I love to read, but lately I have not had the time. For example, it took me a full year to finish Water For Elephants. I mean there were many reasons for that (i.e. it took me awhile to get into it) but I am also a very busy woman. I'm a gal on the go. Sometimes reading a good book goes by the wayside. With that said, when the book is really really good, I find time. The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines by Mike Madrid was a fantastic book that took me more like one week to finish.

Mike Madrid knows his comic history, or should I say Herstory. The amount of information in this book about female comic characters is amazing. He breaks the book down by decade, two chapters dedicated to each decade starting in the 1940's and he really weaves a story about how these women were created. He examines how culture and society changed throughout the decades and how female characters were either hindered or allowed to grow under those changes. This is a who's who of female super heroes.

I tend to think that I know my stuff on super heroines, but I found myself learning so much and really feeling lucky that I wasn't a reader back in the day. I mean when the Justice Society of America first came out in the early '40s, Wonder Woman was given the role of secretary. Huh? I was just so saddened to read that. I mean this is Wonder Woman. Let Superman be the secretary. As I have said, I am a Marvel kinda gal, but even Marvel had some interesting roles for female characters back then, and even recently too. All of which is chronicled in this amazing book.

There was so much to get out of this book but there were still some things that I would have liked to have read too. I would have loved to know Mike's thoughts on where he would like to see female characters go with comics in the future. It felt like there were some slight wishes and hopes about the future but I would have been in heaven reading an entire chapter dedicated to just talk on what would be great for the state of super heroines, both in comics and film. Let's be real, I am beyond ready for a good (super emphasis on good) lead super heroine film. I'm talking Wonder Woman. Let's also add Ms. Marvel (so that she could eventually arrive in a flashy Avengers sequel.) And while we are at it, I want a big splashy She-Ra movie. STAT.

Also, I would love, love, love a book on other forms of super heroines from cartoons and the like. In other words, I just want a nice big book to talk about She-Ra and what she had to give to the world of strong heroic folk.

Anyways, here is the front and back of the book!

I really enjoyed this book and if you have not read this yet, pick it up! It was just fantastic. If you have already read it, feel free to leave your thoughts about it! In the next edition of Dorkette Book Club, we check out a lovely little tome on a certain blue bomber's various enemies. It will be awesome! Until next time.


  1. I agree- Ms. Marvel needs a leading role in an Avengers sequel! And making &marketing a Wonder Woman movie that rocks SHOULD BE EASY

    1. Oh yes Super-Duper ToyBox. Ms. Marvel is long overdue for a movie or television show or something. More people need to know about her. And you would think making a really good WW movie would be easy, but I just can't for the life of me figure out why they haven't. (Though I have my theories.)

  2. I haven't read this book yet, mostly because I get scared whenever a word like"feminism" is put in the title of a book about comic books or movies or cartoons. One time I got a book called "Cult Sci-fi Films" and it was written from a perspective where every 1950's monster movie was condemned because they had the women in the kitchen making the coffee when the men were out there trying to kill the rubber suited monster. And I was just a kid and I was like" I don't CARE about the feminist ramifications of Robot Monster! it's called ROBOT MONSTER! I just wanna hear about the gorilla with the fish bowl on his head!" -and plus women in the 50's really DID make coffee while men did "manly" stuff, the movies didn't invent that! It wasn't like the guy who directed Robot Monster came up with that. He was trying to make a cheap exploitation flick! Anyway that book scarred me for life and I generally hate it when any escapist fiction is over-analyzed for it's political connotations. Takes the fun right out of it for me.
    As far as the Justice Society thing goes-well, it was the 40's. This was when most comics had yellow skinned buck toothed Japanese guys getting punched in the face on every issue and black guys with huge lips that said stuff like "massuh" so the Wonder Woman secretary thing might be one of the lesser comic atrocities of the era. But, art mirrors life, and back then that was life.

    I'm sure this book probably mentions that Wonder woman was invented by the guy who invented the lie detector and he was supposed to be some kind of a proto-feminist, but considering all that, I thought it was odd that there were so many girls getting tied up in old Wonder Woman stories. You would think with the lasso of truth and all it would have been mostly guys getting hogtied but there was a lot of Betty Page-esque cheesecake in those books!

    1. Well I wouldn't let the word feminism scare you from this book. That word is often treated dirty or scary by some, and I can understand why that is, but feminism isn't all that bad. And this book doesn't seek to bash what was done in the past. If anything it is chronicling what kinds of stories were presented about female characters. Yes it was a reflection of the times, a lot of women were getting jobs as secretaries because that was the kinds of jobs they were expected to get by society standards. (However there were also women looking for other kinds of jobs and other roles in life and they were getting shut out.) But the author's point is to say as roles change through the decades, so did the roles and readers of comic book super heroines.

      He absolutely details the origins of WW and how she was intended to draw in female readers, however more males ended up reading the series because there was a lot of bondage in the comic. I don't know if the writers intentionally were making it a bondage thing, or if it just came out that way, but yes, there was a heavy bondage aspect to the early days of WW. And the author questions a bit of how proto-feminist the creator really was. Although his legacy is WW. And the lie detector test.

      And he dedicates a large chapter to WW and how there has been a bit of a hit and miss throughout the decades of making her as big and popular as Superman or Batman. It was very interesting.

      And as for WW being a secretary, yes that may be a lesser atrocity of the era because there were highly rascist things that occurred in comic books during those early decades, but I think that it is all connected. For me feminism is about giving people options and making them limitless. There are no designated roles, anyone can have any role they want. If the woman wants to stay at home making coffee for her man, alright. If the woman wants to run out and kick ass and kill the monster, alright. But back then that was not always possible. The point is that these stories should be made, there are all kinds of comic readers out there and I think that in the current times there are a wide range of stories available for everyone's tastes.

      So I hope that explains this. I mean as a female reader I want to see multiple female perspectives in a comic book, and I feel like I mostly get that now. But I know it could always be better, and that doesn't mean that I look back on the past and want to bash men or anything. I am a feminist that firmly believes that women and men have far more in common than anything else and no one should be made to feel less than. So not all of us feminists are scary Vanessa Warfield types. (That was a very silly 80's joke.)

      I hope that all makes sense.

    2. I don't call myself a feminist. I love women, and I am very feminine, and very "liberal"-but I never call myself liberal either..even though I technically am one save for the fact that I LOVE to eat meat!:) Only because I hate how those words marginalize people. Yes, I think women should be able to vote, decide on reproductive issues and do everything men can do.Actually, I believe women probably are stronger than men, and I am willing to admit that women scare the crap out of me. Not because they want to "take over the world and enslave and/or kill all men" like some conservative loony would say, but because they DO rule my world. I've loved girls since I was 12 or so years old and one piece of negative energy from a girl I have a crush on can destroy me for a long time. I don't know if you guys really know how powerful you are. The funny thing is all these years everyone make the big noise about war and fighting in fiction and historical tomes-but a lot of that war and fighting that men do is because of love.Helen of Troy Cleopatra ...Adora.
      I agree with you that men and women should be equal -but at the end of the day I think women win because they have that piece of a man.That thing he can't control.
      Have you ever read the book or watched the movie "the Razors Edge"? -I feel like in that story and especially the Bill Murray version of the movie-the character comes to a realization that there really is more to life than love and girls-though he has to lose the love of his life to get there-still I have not yet been able to stop caring about what the girls I love think of me. I love them even if they don't love me back. I'd like to quote the best movie of any kind ever made now by saying : "No,it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast"
      and if you know what that line is from then u are awesome in my book.
      -and on a liter note-did you see Turtles this morning!? We must talk about it if you did!

    3. Well i do agree that labels can marginalize people, i am particularly lazy and like using a word as a shorthand to a certain set of thoughts. it does get complicated when a word has different meanings by different people.

      I do not believe I have seen the Razor's Edge. I will have to check it out. And I believe your quote is from King Kong. That is a very good movie and I need to actually get it on blu ray. Theyve had a special edition for awhile now. But I just never pick it up.

      I have not watched the new TMNT yet, but it is on my dvr!

    4. yes King Kong is the best. Always breaks my heart. The original of course, not the 70's version (though I love the Rick Baker ape suit) or the Peter Jackson version ( I love Jackson's other movies though-but come on! Jack Black as Carl Denham!!?)
      You are in for some crazyness with TMNT. I watched when it came on in the morning-still awake and drunk from Friday night partying mind you so I was pretty crazed watching it- it really mixes the different versions with the Utrom brain guys from thw comic book and the 2003 series being called KRANGS! crazy stuff. And April is twelve for some reason and it seems like Donitello has a thing for her and he's voiced by the guy that used to voice Raph which takes some getting used to.

    5. I do not think I have ever seen the 70s version of King kong. I've only really ever seen the old version. I saw the latest one with Jack Black. I didn't mind it, but nothing can ever beat the original.

      And wow on the new Turtles! I still havent watched it yet, but I will soon! I am looking forward to it, it sounds very interesting.

  3. Certainly very interesting book. It comes right in position #2 in my "to-read" list after "Marvel Chronicles".


    I have checked amazon, and the "Supergirls" book has 323 pages... I can only say: wow!

    1. I've heard Marvel Chronicles is good. I will have to check that out. And 323 pages sounds like a lot, but it could have been longer. lol But a lot of information i crammed into this book which is just really really good.

  4. Haven't read it, but great cover :)

  5. Wow that book looks pretty good! Wish i've had a chance to read it.
    Nice one Miss M! :)

    1. Oh Nastyroker, this book was just fantastic! I hope you can one day get the chance to read it.