Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"I May Be A Girl, But I Can Still Kick Your Ass"

One thing I really like about the DC Universe is how many women can throw a damn punch.

That probably sounds weird, but I can explain. See I grew up on Sword and Sorcery fantasy. Which can be fun of course, but one thing that always tended to bother me was that if a man and a woman were teamed in those stories, the woman was always the damn magic user.

On cartoon shows, the woman was almost never the fighter. She was the damn token psychic (Cheetara from Thundercats, I'm looking at you, and your damn run really fast just to faint, and your stupid spin around and be psychic thing...it's not like Cheetahs are any more damn psychic than any other cat. Egads, Nara from Exo-Squard...and they never bothered to explain THAT one...). If one character was a magic user, it was 99% of the time the damn woman (curse you Pirates of Dark Water), if the whole group was, the woman always had less aggressive powers like healing or wind/water.

When I started comics, I was more of a Marvel fan. Things were a little better, most of the women kicked ass, power-wise at least. But they still tended to be more mental/magic-like in nature. Storm controls weather like a sorceress in a fantasy novel, Jean's a telekinetic, Sue's forcefields...they get the fun to improvise with, multiple use powers, but not particularly physical ones. And the She-Hulks and Rogues (with Ms. Marvel's power at least) are few and far between.

Anime/manga's a bit better about that. There are at least female characters that are good at fighting, martially inclined, and that sort. Of course, the fact that they still somehow manage to be stick thin, big breasted 16 year old girls tends to be annoying in and of itself.

But DC, I like DC. DC has women that are strong, that look strong (even if that can vary based on the artist.) DC has a Wonder Woman who usually looks like she could throw a damn punch, and isn't some tiny, delicate little girl. She's no magic user, no psychic...she hits things and they go down. Her mother had a sword that could split atoms. And both of her subordinate heroes are physical fighters as well.

DC has a Power Girl who is a physical powerhouse bigger than some of the men on her team. Hell, the JSA's primary physical fighters are Wildcat, Hawkgirl, Hawkman and Power Girl...and that's a dead even ratio.

Lady Shiva is the deadliest assassin, Cassandra Cain is the top martial artist, Selina Kyle is a cat-burgler/vigilante who can keep up with Batman.

In the Birds of Prey, you have an ex-Blackhawk, Gotham's deadliest vigilante, a woman who trained with Shiva and made a damn good showing against Deathstroke, and a wheelchair-using mastermind who is still more than capable of whacking you with a stick if you misbehave.

The little girl who'd spend hours hunting through bookstores to find stories that went against type: female warriors, male mages who weren't ancient Merlin/Gandalf ripoffs (or rarest upon rare, a teamup between a young male mage and a female warrior) would have loved these comics. I just wish it hadn't taken so long to get into them.

24 Comments:

  • At March 01, 2006 10:18 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I'll agree that DC definitely has more superstrong, buttkicking ladies though I think it's pretty even with Marvel when you get into the martial arts realm, which could even include Storm, who has won a knife fight, and kept pace with the rest of the X-Men, when she had no powers.

    I guess being of a different gender, it never really bothered me much that the women weren't punchers, as long as they were "cool" (there's that word again). Like the Inivisible Woman, who I know is the strongest member of that team.

    I did however, like Psylocke a lot more after she came back as an Asian women with awesome martial arts skills. Less telepathy, more "Hi-Yah!"

     
  • At March 01, 2006 10:37 AM, Blogger Ken S. said…

    Your post makes me think of Monster Girl from Invincible. She can certainly throw a punch. She's also fairly interesting as a bad-girl type who's aging backwards, and looks like a little girl when she isn't hulked-up.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 11:26 AM, Anonymous green means wheelpower said…

    Guy in wheelchair shows up in full martial arts uniform

    Kal,great post I agree w/ every thing EXCEPT Babs. She is a wheelchair USER, has never been bound toit and does not use it 24/7/365. In fact shes been shown out of it when working out on bars and making love to Dick and probably Ted to give examples.

    Wheelchair bound is a in accurate and to put it mildly un PC term for everyone

    Next time I see you I'll show you what can be done out of the chair( got$10 once for doing a45 second hand stand.;-) Does a super sagan power-up to put Goku to shame and vanishes :-P

     
  • At March 01, 2006 11:34 AM, Blogger Rich said…

    "Like the Inivisible Woman, who I know is the strongest member of that team."

    How exactly did she become the strongest member of the FF? Forget that panty-waist Ben Grimm ...

     
  • At March 01, 2006 12:04 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    calvin: Marvel's gotten better I think, but I also think that the emphasis is still on the magical/psychic stuff in general. Just my perspective though.

    Ken: Sounds interesting! I'll check it out.

    Green: You're right of course. It was a poor word choice. :-) Babs is physically as strong as anyone else and definitely has a life outside the chair. :-)

    And I wouldn't take that bet because I'm quite certain you could beat me in a fight, chair or no chair. :-)

    But since you're right, of course, I'll fix my word choice. :-)

    rich: Not to speak for Calvin, but I think he means "strongest" in terms of versatility and power, not in physical strength. And really that depends on how one writes her.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 12:47 PM, Blogger Charles W. said…

    This is interesting, because I hadn't thought about it in these terms, but I had wondered about the way Wonder Woman was portrayed on Superfriends back in the day . . . instead of throwing punches, she was usually controlling her lasso with her mind most of the time; it seems that they were trying to place Diana in that telekinetic/psychic role. Well, they didn't go that route on JLU, so I guess it's better now . . .

     
  • At March 01, 2006 12:52 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    You know, aside from Saturn Girl, I can't think of a single female DC telepath.

    And their prominent magicians are men (at least half-way), none of whom conform to the Gandalf stereotype.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    Oh, lord, Exo-Squad. Haven't thought of that one since, like, middle school. I liked that all the Neosapiens (Jesus, you cannot imagine my surprise that I just remembered not only the name of the species, but the various and sundry insulting terms used by humans in reference to them) had Roman names. And also that people wore robot bodysuits. That always helps.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 1:54 PM, Blogger Scarlett Drake said…

    "Like the Inivisible Woman, who I know is the strongest member of that team."

    Long ago Sue beat the Hulk by cutting off his air. The rest of the Four exhaust themselves fighting the Hulk and Sue beats him in one move.

    For years it was brought up from time to time in FF, but lately I have seen it spill out into other comics as a joke. I think it was in Exiles that someone said, Man, if I have to hear how Sue beat the Hulk one more time . . .

    Word verification fun- icakafrg is the sound the Hulk makes when choking on a force bubble.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 1:58 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    charles: It's improved quite a lot. I like creative uses of the lasso as much as anyone, but Batman was hitting far more people than Wonder Woman...and that's just not right.

    JLU though was really good I thought.

    ragnell: Off the top of my head, neither can I. And Saturn Girl ended up better handled than some, I thought.

    Merlin kinda conforms to the Merlin/Gandalf stereotype I think. :-P But he's also an utter bastard, so it works. When both Etrigan AND Jason hate you, that's saying something.

    jon: I watched religiously as a kid. Loved it. And when the blond guy (my favorite as I recall) ended up killed and resurrected as the big headed smart kind that just cosmetically looked human with his memories...that was pretty cool.

    Still don't get where the sudden green glow telekinesis came from though. *mutters*

    Scarlet: *nod* Though it probably says something that the incident is so often referenced, as opposed to other similar takedowns...

    I guess, I think, it shouldn't be as remarkable that she took down the Hulk if she were properly taking down pretty much anyone that way. :-) Which she could and should be doing.

     
  • At March 01, 2006 2:06 PM, Anonymous green means wheelpower said…

    Much appreciated seriously, but who said I wanted to beat you up, constant verbal comic analisise is much more fun(especial when certain people we knowsit back & roll eys:) and I can think of much better thing to do with you than fight;-)

     
  • At March 01, 2006 2:08 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: They're the ones missing out anyway. ;-)

     
  • At March 01, 2006 4:24 PM, Anonymous green means wheelpower said…

    And now for my real contribution: Zatana the one DCU mage which appears to conform to the usual mold. However her saving grace is that her intro for me was the Batman animated series on fox in which she is smart sassy sexy and best of all it's her NOT batman who decks the villan and pulls a vanish on bats. God I love that episode:)

     
  • At March 01, 2006 5:49 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    "Long ago Sue beat the Hulk by cutting off his air. The rest of the Four exhaust themselves fighting the Hulk and Sue beats him in one move."

    Perhaps you're right ... but something tells me that Sue should be considered the FF's MVP ... not necessarily the strongest.

    She's used her force field to smother The Torch's flame, a good short term solution. But the Hulk's lungs are pretty powerful ...

    If she can render Hulk unconscious, by cutting off his air supply, why do the FF fight ANYONE?

    Villain: Prepare to die!
    Reed Richards: (arms crossed, finger snap) Sue.
    Sue: On it.
    Villain: Gasp! choke!

    So, most FF adventures should be exactly one page, right?

     
  • At March 01, 2006 6:41 PM, Anonymous catrina said…

    I didn't really read comics when I was a little girl, but Final Fantasy IV was the first video game I ever played and the exact same thing was everywhere there--if the girl wasn't the resident magic user (Rosa, Rydia, Porom, Terra, Celes, Aeris, Rinoa, Garnet, Eiko, Yuna, Lulu) she was the token teenager/spunky young person, usually a thief (Relm, Yuffie, Rikku, Selphie), and thieves spent a lot of time falling over dead because they couldn't wear heavy armor. I got to start dreading when a girl ended up in my party, because I was awful with mages (you can do 12 damage, you have the least health of everyone, you're stuck in robes, and I have to beggar myself buying ethers to keep you useful?!), never used Steal (I highly doubt the Behemoth is carrying anything that I want more than his imminent death!), and being as the lead female was always the love interest (with the exception of FF6, which was the only one with a female lead. I don't count X-2, because I find Yuna's asscheeks surprisingly uncompelling), they tended to get kidnapped, meaning it was time for another fun jaunt to the villain's Evil Lair of Things Twenty Levels Above You. *rambles*

     
  • At March 01, 2006 6:48 PM, Anonymous green means wheelpower said…

    rich; so THAT'S why Sue is so often kidnaped/turned evil/knocked out blah blah blah:-)

     
  • At March 02, 2006 2:05 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: Zatanna's no doubt cool, but she is a mage and a woman, thus exempt from this essay. :-)

    rich: In that case I wish they hadn't made her do it at all, because now in battle if Reed, Johnny or Ben gets hurt, I'm all "Come ON, take the guy down!"

    It makes her seem wishy-washy.

    Catrina: Aww, X-2 actually had quite a few saving graces for all the showy costumes. Yuna spends most of the story finding ways to become assertive and take control of her own destiny, while a lot of the minor/overlooked FFX characters had the chance to shine. Paine is awesome...Rikku's still annoying as hell, but the other two make up for it. :-)

    But yeah, in general, the Japanese-source video games with the girl as primary magic user/healer gets old fast.

     
  • At March 02, 2006 2:14 AM, Blogger plok said…

    I see this as a failure of vision, this "most powerful member" thing that's always being brought up for Sue. Is it really necessary to constantly apologize for the perceived indirect "passivity" (of course read: "femininity") of her power? Even if in the Sixties that's what it signified, surely since the Eighties we've seen enough Hulk-stopping ass-kickery on Sue's part for the message that she's a full contributor to be received by now?

    Reminds me of this commercial I'm seeing on TV all the time at the moment: a man and a woman in an office, and the man saying "so what are you going to do about the Peterson file?" and the woman says "Nothing, I think you're good enough to handle it on your own," which is of course supposed to be a reversal of the traditional roles...except the twist falls quite hilariously flat, because (if you've seen this thing), you kind of assume the woman is the man's boss anyway.

    I'm not saying "Mission Accomplished" or anything. I'm just saying that commercial seeks to trade on tensions that have actually dissipated quite a lot by now compared to, say, twenty years ago...and that maybe it's time (in this one lousy superhero comic example, at least!) to take a woman's value as read...in other words, Sue as the "most powerful member" of the FF is falling flat for me as a twist, too...

    And that's what inevitably leads into that whole problem of unconscious/evil/out of town, etc., because her power continues to be apologetically emphasized in a kind of "if I were her, I'd just split Thor's head like a melon" way by writers who seem to think no one's ever thought of how effective she could be before...hey, her brother can get as hot as the Sun, her husband whips up dimensional portals at the drop of a hat, her old buddy can punch out a mountain, it seems kind of silly to debate who's more powerful in that group, when I can't even make proper change at the grocery store half the time...what's the point? I think I can figure out that Sue is cool by myself, thanks...

    Sorry, I started ranting, there. Blame the beer. But in 2006, I don't think anyone should feel a need to explain the kickassery of comic-book heroines, if nothing else! Having said which, you're right of course, Kalinara: when necessary, the DC heroines do tend to deliver the good old-fashioned punch in the jaw more often than the Marvel ones, and you've gotta like that! Except, you know, in ASBAR #3. How I wish the real Black Canary would show up, and throw that other one into jail...!

     
  • At March 02, 2006 2:19 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    plok: Honestly, you said it better than I ever could! Very nicely put! That's always been my problem with female characters that everyone immediately trumpets as the best EVER at their jobs/smartest/most powerful whatnot. If they are...well, it shouldn't need to be said! :-)

    Wonder Woman doesn't need to be compared to Superman to hit someone when they need hitting. :-)

     
  • At March 02, 2006 3:54 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    So Sue beat the Hulk on her own? What's the big deal? She single-handedly defeated Doctor Doom in his first appearance way back in FF #5.

    Don't comics writers read previous issues of the comics they are writing at all?

     
  • At March 02, 2006 7:01 AM, Blogger plok said…

    Marionette, dammit: yeah! If you weren't convinced that Sue is cool in FF #11, you'll never be convinced!

     
  • At March 02, 2006 7:15 AM, Blogger plok said…

    I mean FF #5!

    Or #11!

    Christ!

     
  • At June 28, 2006 6:34 AM, Blogger J.R.D.S. said…

    This reminds me of Acid Reflux… Shame that isn't anywhere online now. As a child I would always idolise female psychic-types like Storm and Princess Zelda and some of the the Sailor Senshi, but as I'm a boy that contributed to a long and uncomfortable state of gender confusion, so in retrospect this was a bad thing for me as-well. I have only just got over it now that I've started reading manga (and also Tales of the Otori) and discovered that male characters can be beautiful and elegant and that intelligence is not something that can be measured one dimensionally - it's a vector, rather than a linear quantity. It's not that I could ever be as beautiful as them, but the knowledge that they existed, even if they were only fictional, gave me a new-found faith in my own gender - I no longer feel that simply by being male, I was destined for a life of dirt and mindless violence. Well, that and the realisation that I would hate to have breasts. I have to have anything that sticks out in front of me and gets between me and other people, and you're stuck having one or the other of them.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 6:55 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Well there are a few pluses to them. :-P

     

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