Thursday, July 9, 2015

Guest Post - If I Had a Buck... Sheroes

Mike S. (aka Martinex1) is back again today with another of his $1 Challenges. We've had some fun in the past with these (click that link you just passed to check out his other posts), and I'm sure we'll get some good conversation again today. Thanks, Mike!

Sheroes.   The Super Heroine $1 Shopping Spree.
Mike S.: Here we go again. We are taking a trip to the ever changing, ever evolving comic store with only loose change in our pocket. It is time for another round of “If I Had A Buck…” This time around, the spinner rack selection has only heroines, superwomen, and female champions from which to choose.

There has been much talk in the comic industry recently about the attempt to reach female readers and to embrace strong female protagonists. There are numerous titles on the stands today with women headliners and that is a good thing. The cinematic Marvel universe has yet to create an A list film for a heroine. Earlier endeavors in the cinema with Red Sonja, Elektra, Catwoman, and Supergirl starring were less than stellar. Recently some of the Marvel films have established strong women in team efforts with Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Gamora. And there is great anticipation around the Ms. Marvel solo film. Hopefully someday we will see the Wasp, Tigra, Valkyrie, Batwoman, Raven, Huntress, and others on the silver screen.

In comics, Wonder Woman was always the grandmother of all heroines. Her costume is iconic and she ranks as a great character in a pantheon alongside Batman and Superman. Her comic has endured in one form or another for many decades, she was the subject of a successful live action television show, and she will be reappearing on film soon (hopefully arriving in her invisible jet). Honestly, I never read much Wonder Woman until George Perez took over the creative control in the 1980s, but always recognized her stature particularly in the JLA.

The late 70s brought to Marvel Comic fans an array of female headliners that have definitely stood the test of time.  Many of these characters were initially derivatives of their male counterparts and were used to shore up marketing trademarks and licenses. But characters like Spider Woman, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel have evolved with distinct personalities, traits, and conflicts. There have been many compelling takes on these characters over the years.

Spider-Woman’s initial series ran for fifty issues, which is no small feat. She starred in a Saturday morning cartoon show as well.  The comic established Jessica Drew’s uniqueness (despite her derivative name) with her base of operations on the West Coast, with a bizarre cast of villains who had horror leanings, and a rather convoluted and evolving origin. Her series had her battle weirdos like the Brothers Grimm, Daddy Longlegs, and Gypsy Moth. She teamed regularly and also fought against the Werewolf By Night. In her introduction, she was evolved from a spider (though that origin quickly changed) and she emitted an odor or creepiness that turned people off. Today she is a consistent star in the Avengers titles and continues to grow in a new solo series.

She-Hulk likewise went through many iterations. She started off with a very lame origin of a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner; her initial series was fairly mundane. John Byrne advanced her character in his run on the Fantastic Four and in a new solo title in which the heroine regularly broke the fourth wall and had many humorous adventures and interludes. Her most recent solo title is critically acclaimed as it focuses on Jennifer’s legal expertise and relationships.

Throughout the last five decades Marvel advanced many diverse female characters in their team books and solo titles. In my opinion these characters were just as compelling as their male counterparts and often drove very interesting stories with complex characterizations and problems. The list includes but is not limited to:  The Cat, Moondragon, Mantis, Thundra, Firestar, Aleta, Nikki, Tigra, Snowbird, Aurora, Hellcat, Valkyrie, Darkstar, Sif, Medusa, Crystal, Nova, Jocasta, Sheena, Storm, Kitty Pride, Dazzler, Dagger, Rogue, Marionette, and Songbird. Some fared better than others over time. Marvel also established some memorable female villains in Black Cat, Deathbird, Typhoid Mary, Moonstone, Mystique, White Queen, Destiny, Morgan LeFay, Madame Masque, Nebula, and of course Dark Phoenix.  

Over at DC, we saw Fire, Ice, Dove, Power Girl, Huntress, Oracle, Black Canary, Supergirl, Catwoman, Hawkgirl, Jesse Quick, Batgirl, and many others.

 So today, in this discussion there are nine titles to choose from, with nine female leads (I cheated a little to get Thundra in play), and only $1.00 to spend. I am curious what you would buy if there were only female characters on the spinner rack.

But even more importantly, I am curious what you think about the many heroines. Who are your favorites? What stories are worth reading? Who has better offerings in this category, Marvel or DC? Who would you like to see more of and should have their own series? Who should lead a team? Who would you like to see get a solo movie? 

And as always, have fun! Here is the list:

The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #7; $0.60
Dazzler #8; $0.50
Huntress #8; $1.00 (Yeah, I know you would have to spend all of your money, but that is a cool Staton cover!)
Marvel Chillers featuring Tigra The Were-Woman #5; $0.25
Marvel Two-In-One #56 starring Thundra; $0.40 (That punch had to put it on the list!)
Ms. Marvel #21; $0.35
Savage She-Hulk #10; $0.50 (with a Michael Golden cover!)
Spider-Woman #32; $0.50
Wonder Woman #5; $0.75


Edo Bosnar said...

I'll spend my buck on that middle row, i.e. Marvel Chillers #5, Mavel 2-in-1 #54 and Ms. Marvel #21. Basically, it combines my general 'bang for buck' practice for your posts with some characters I generally like.
As I've mentioned in comments here numerous times before, I really like Greer Nelson (Cat/Tigra), mainly on the strength of those Tigra stories from the late '70s (and I always hated the later portrayals in Avengers and then West Coast Avengers). Thundra is an awesomely cool character; she's super-strong and tough, and I like that she's often depicted as sort of straddling the line between being a hero or a villain. And I've always liked Carol Danvers, whether as Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel (in fact, I think she should have become the new Captain once Mar-Vell died, but alas, she had already been depowered by that time).
As for the other heroines pictured, on the DC I like Wonder Woman (obviously) and the Huntress, but always preferred Powergirl over Supergirl.
On the Marvel side, She-Hulk and Spiderwoman are great characters. However, I didn't like the original She-Hulk series, and I only started to really like the character after she joined the Avengers and Roger Stern changed her personality a bit - when she accepted her powers and super-hero status and started to enjoy it (something Byrne then ran with for his more comedic take in the second series). As for Spiderwoman, by the time that issue you pictured came out, I'd stopped reading the series. Like you said, initially SW was very distinct from Spidey, and the series had a very somber, dark tone with elements of horror. I was a regular reader then, even though I was not at all a fan of Infantino's art. However, I started to lose interest once she became a private detective and more like a mainstream hero (even though the art - in my opinion - was better).
Dazzler I never liked: she was a character created to cash in on a fad (disco) that was already on it's way out, her powers were uninteresting, and really, so was her back-story. I recall getting the first five or so issues and then just asking myself why I was wasting my money. I think she was kept around just because Shooter, Claremont and a few others in Marvel editorial liked her.

Anonymous said...

I actually bought Dazzler #8 and She-Hulk #10 which were both 50 cents (the UK price was about 15 pence) so that makes up the dollar - gosh, that was easy. I dispute that the original She-Hulk series was "fairly mundane", I really liked it but due to stupid UK distribution I couldn't get #25, the final double-sized issue. I've always liked female heroes as much as the male ones - in British comics there was a rigid distinction between comics for girls and comics for boys but with Marvel there was no such distinction and I was just as comfortable reading Red Sonja or Ms. Marvel as Spidey or the Hulk.

Redartz said...

I must swallow the frustration and shoot the whole dollar on Huntress 8. Always have liked her, and I'd gladly pay a dollar just for that excellent cover.

That said, I'd go home with said frustration that I couldn't get She-Hulk. I read most of her original series, and never gave her much thought thereafter. At least, not until she joined the FF in Byrne's classic run and made her one of my favorite female characters. Her enthusiasm and sense of humor were a big draw. I remember at the time she first joined the FF thinking nobody could replace Ben Grimm. Yet Shulkie did just that, and well.

Speaking of FF members, Susan Storm Richards is another great character. Especially once she got past the frequent hostage/victim status and was shown really putting her power to use.

As for film: let's see Jennifer Walters on screen, and let Byrne do the screenplay...

William said...

Of these choices I'd go with Tigra, Marvel Two-In-One, and Ms. Marvel for the $1.00 exacto win.

This one was kind of easy. I'm not a misogynist, but I was never really into female superheroes all that much. When I was in middle school I loved the Wonder Woman TV show (for some strange reason… [cough] Lynda Carter [cough]) But I only bought a few issues of her comic. I also bought Spider-Woman and She-Hulk early on, but soon lost interest in those titles as well.

I have just never been a fan of the female derivative of male superheroes (Batgirl, Batwoman, Supergirl, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, etc., etc.) It's just all so unoriginal. I always felt if I wanted to follow the adventures of a Bat and/or Spider themed superhero, why wouldn't I just stick with the original, instead of a watered down copy? (But that was mostly just my kid brain thinking). Where female heros go, I guess that's why I always preferred characters like The Invisible Woman, Hellcat, Tigra, and Wonder Woman. They weren't based on an existing male counterpart. And I liked Ms. Marvel better when they gave her her own unique look and she no longer wore a sexy version of Captain Marvel's costume. (Even though I actually preferred the look of that costume to the all black one).

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one.
I might have come out of the closet as a Supergirl reader here a while back (but at least I'm not up for complete episodes of the Tomorrow People, HB:) and I may be the only one with a soft spot for Wonder Woman's white jumpsuit era, but neither of those characters were well served by the writing styles in vogue by the end of the 70s.

Marvel seemed to be better at super women in team books like X-Men or Defenders, but whenever I tried any of the solo titles like Spiderwoman, they were invariably terrible. Thundra was cool - you gotta love a woman who can kick around the Thing - but her back story was a bit dumb. I mean, that original Femizons story by Stan Lee and John Romita is surely a strong contender for worse Marvel story ever.

So, erm... looks like I'd have to spend the whole dollar at once (ouch!) and go with the Huntress. She was a bit of a mystery to me, but that's ok because I used to like anything from DC with that alternate earth stuff in it.
That's right, isn't it? The Huntress was from Earth 2... Batman's daughter?


Edo Bosnar said...

William, you're sort of right: the original Huntress was Helena Wayne, the daughter of Earth 2 Batman and Catwoman. However, the Huntress featured on that cover was the post-crisis version, who was, obviously, no longer Bruce Wayne's daughter.
There was a bunch of pre-Crisis Huntress stories done by Paul Levitz and Staton that appeared as back-ups in Wonder Woman.

ColinBray said...

I'm with Edo with the triple choice of Marvel Chillers #5; Marvel Two-In-One #54 and Ms Marvel #21. These choices not only round up to a lovely round dollar but to my mind they epitomise the Bronze Age best as a full suit.

Breaking it down a little, the Marvel Chillers straddles that sweet horror/superhero spot; the Marvel Two-In-One gives us Project Pegasus (of course) and the Spider-Woman has an unusual, intriguing cover that seems to sum up the slightly edgy, spooky vibe of her first series.

ColinBray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'd go with Tigra, Thundra and Ms.Marvel. While I'm a Marvel junkie, I do think that Wonder Woman will be a hot cinematic property for DC; if it's one thing DC has over merry Marvel is that DC has an iconic female character just waiting to be unleashed on moviegoers. Black Widow has been a success, but only as a team member so far. Can't wait to see how Marvel handles the Captain Marvel movie.

-Mike 'is it just me or does the Fox FF movie already look like a stinker?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

JJ said...

Oooo...I'll have to pick up that issue of Wonder Woman based on that Bolland cover alone. And the Marvel Two-In-One looks too cool to pass up. I seem to recall Project Pegasus being a pretty big arc for that series, plus I'm completely unfamiliar with Thundra, so that looks like a fresh read. -JJ

Anonymous said...

I'd go with Spider Woman (I always liked her, plus #32 is one of Mike Fleisher's issues and I generally like his writing); and MTIO (It's got Thundra in it...'nuff said!)

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

I'd choose Spider-Woman based on the cover- I love the Universal monsters- and Marvel 2-in-1 because the rest of the comics look kind of lame (except for Huntress, but I want more than one comic for my dollar).

Although my three favorite super-heroines are DC characters (Black Canary, Cassandra Cain, & Big Barda), I give Marvel the edge. If you only take the X-titles, you have a richer, more interesting group of characters than DC's entire line. I like Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Dani Moonstar, Wolfsbane, Magik, Jean Grey, Polaris, Rachel Summers, M, Husk, and Jubilee more than Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or Batgirl (although I've always liked Barbara Gordon as Oracle). DC has some decent tough women (especially Huntress, Vixen, & Hawkgirl) but not a lot of variety.

- Mike Loughlin

Rip Jagger said...

Like many I'm going for the three for one dollar.

MTIO is a dang great story and I really enjoy Thundra.

Ms.Marvel by Cockrum is a honey and I love the way he drew that costume. No one else ever quite got it right, and that's sadly true of many of his designs.

And finally Tigra comic hits my list because I like her but I was Red Wolf completist, as easy as that was to be.

Rip Off :)

Martinex1 said...

Thanks all for the lively discussion. I had a really hard time choosing my own "must reads" here. A lot of it came down to the covers and the art. Like others here, Dazzler as a character really mystified me; the concept seemed anachronistic even at the time it was released. But I do like that simple Bill Sienkiewicz cover, although not enough to buy it. I, even until this day, have never read a Supergirl comic, but I think that cover is very clever and it really draws me in. I've never been a DC guy, but I really like that action and perspective. As I already mentioned, I think the Huntress cover is also fantastic but I want at least two comics. And then, there are the Michael Golden She Hulk and the cool Spider Woman covers. (By the way Colin, I probably overstated my opinion on She Hulk; honestly I read it intermittently and just remember very little. The first few issues I thought were by the numbers, but I do remember some cool action and plot later in the series). And then we have Thundra who I think is just underrated; she is just tough.

I am going to play it a little loose (it is my store after all) and say I read Two In One off of the rack. So I am going to have to buy Supergirl and Tigra. That leaves me 15 cents for Hot Tamales.

I have to say in setting this up and thinking of as many female characters off of the top of my head, that Marvel really had an interesting list (and Mike L. and others expanded on that). There are a lot of good characters running around and with a good writer could probably have some great tales. This is just my feeling, but it seems Marvel's derivative characters escaped the shadow of their namesakes better than those at DC. William mentions the unoriginality of some of the DC characters and I agree. But I think it also somehow goes beyond their origins. I cannot think of Supergirl without thinking of Superman. And the same for Batgirl and Batman, etc. But Spider Woman? For some reason I just do not immediately reference Peter Parker in my mind. It may be that DC played up the "Family" books back in the day and those characters interacted a lot. Whereas Marvel let some of their derivative characters quickly develop their own supporting cast and cities and enemies. I don't know. It may also be the costumes. Spider Woman's costume never looked like Spider Man's costume (and that had to be tempting). She Hulk in her second series and in the team books discarded her torn rags. And Ms. Marvel as noted changed costume style entirely under Cockrum's pencil. The DC Cast always seems to wear variations of their male counterpart's togs.

Final comments and thoughts: Tigra is cool and deserved much better writing than was handed to her in Avengers. Project Pegasus is worth reading; the art throughout is top notch; I thought the final sections with Aquarian could have been improved upon, but the whole concept added a lot to the Marvel Universe. I like pre Crisis Huntress better and found much of Earth 2 enjoyably weird. Dazzler fought Dr. Doom and Galactus in her series... Wow! I wish they kept the minor plot point that Spider Woman had some aspect of a real spider in her and people instinctively felt a sense of uneasiness around her. Dave Cockrum really liked sashes. Back in the day, I was really glad to see Mystique lead a team that could battle the Avengers and the XMen. There weren't too many female villainous leaders out there and thought she was a great addition.

pfgavigan said...


I try very hard to understand why I find it even harder to take an interest in some of these characters. I often bought the books, but it might have been based on who was writing or drawing it or, sad enough, if I had a dollar in my pocket, a driving need to read something and there was nothing else available that week.

Maybe it was my conviction that the primary cause for these characters to exist was to prevent a rival comic book company creating one simply to tie up the name in potential litigation. For several of those there listed it was the case. And among those who produced said works there seemed to be a lack of excitement, enthusiasm or even interest in what they were creating.

Sad to say, that's my feelings towards a lot of books during the Bronze Age.

Man, I'm a real downer some days.

Yours keeping his dollar in his pocket


Dr. Oyola said...

I had that Ms. Marvel. The lizard people she fights in it show up later in ROM for one issue and then the last of their race dies off. Sad. :(

So, I would HAVE to get that one and the Spider-Woman - leaving me with 15 cents to spare which I will save and spend on the next "If I Had a Buck" post!

I am tempted by that cover on the Huntress issue - but I know next nothing about the character and DC was "lame" when I was a kid (just ask young me, he woulda told ya!). These days, however, I'd get that comic in a second!

Edo Bosnar said...

Interesting that so many of you guys like the Huntress cover. While I agree that it's a nicely designed image, it's my fourth favorite. If I were using my hypothetical buck to buy these comics based on covers alone, the choice would come down to She-Hulk (I think Michael Golden's covers were the best part of that series) and Marvel 2-in-1, with that outstanding cover by Byrne and Austin. I would then regret not having enough left over to get Spiderwoman (my third favorite cover).

Martinex1 said...

I didn't want to hijack today's topic but thought some of you may like the news that IDW is bringing back Micronauts and ROM Spaceknight in some fashion in 2016. It's not clear if they will reprint or develop new stories. Announced at Comic Con.

BK said...

Of the comics pictured here, the only two I actually read off-the-rack when they were new were the MTIO with Thundra (Project Pegasus!) and the She-Hulk with the Michael Golden cover. I suspect that neither hold up as immortal works of pop art but both have a strong nostalgic hold on me.

My original loves were the weird Marvel comics of the Bronze Age and two of my favourite characters from that period, mostly because of their Fantastic Four associations, were Thundra and Tigra. Several of my fave Kirby covers and Perez/Byrne adventures featured those two. They sum up so much of that decade for me. Between the two, we have many Bronze Age themes and tropes, including monsters, feminism, barbarians, and sci-fi.

The best bargain for a dollar is clearly the middle triptych of Tigra, Thiundra, and Ms Marvel. Having only read the Thundra, this also seems like it would fill in holes in my 70s knowledge.

I owe an allegiance to earlier Silver Age incarnations of Supergirl and Golden Age Wonder Woman. Their 70s and 80s incarnations don't compare. Huntress I could care less of, although like Martinex I liked Earth-2 stuff. She-Hulk is meh for me; pretty bankrupt as a concept and tainted by latter-day Byrne for me. (What was his fascination?)

I'd like to read the Spider-Woman if I found it for 50 cents somewhere.Dazzler is boring. But Dizzler by Amy Lockhart is great.

Anonymous said...

I actually HAD each and every one of these issues! (I like costumed heroines; what can I say?) They were each in interesting in her own way, and the Perez art on WW and MTIO might cause me to re-purchase just for the eye candy aspect! Gotta defend The Dazzler here, though! She was not derivative of any male character, nor reliant upon one to tell her what to do. (One of Marvel's boasts was that they had female characters who were not -Girl or -Woman, and therefore their heroines were superior, yet most could not function without getting instructions from a male, while DC's were actually quite independent.) Dazzler may have been conceived during the "disco" era, but she was pretty consistently portrayed as just a lead singer with a light show (that she surreptitiously provided via her powers)and didn't rely upon the genre at all. Since her light powers required a sound source to operate, Alison was as powerful as said source. which meant that she could go anywhere from heralding for Galactus to fighting a non-powered thug in a sound-proof booth. The Frank Springer art was competent, and reminiscent of Springer's romance comics days, which allowed for a recognizable cast from issue to issue. Heck, Alison would probably make a decent movie heroine, providing a different genre of film than those already presented by Marvel. I'd pay the ticket price.

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