Now that everyone’s forgotten I solicited this list of the Top Five Saddest Attempts at Feminism in Comic Books, here’s the first of the three user generated entries I’ll be using this week.
ZZZ’s List (That’s how they signed it, I swear):
Case for: Starting out as The Cat, then becoming Tigra, then an Avenger, then a founding member of the West Coast Avengers then getting her powers increased, Greer Nelson has gotten progressively more powerful and prominent in the Marvel universe as her career progressed. Her multiple recent appearances in the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Initiative, Ms. Marvel, and Avengers: House of M show that even when she’s not active on a team, writers just love using her.
“You go girl” moment: She recently had her own miniseries in which she realized she’d been living her life in her dead husband’s shadow and “became her own person,” finding new meaning in life as a member of the NYPD.
Case against: Her new meaning in life was promptly forgotten the next time she appeared in a book she wasn’t the star of. Writers do love using her, “using” being the operative word. Her skimpy costume and exotic (if you want to be cynical, fetishistic) look make her the all-ages comic equivalent of a random flash of exposed breasts in a B-movie. Almost all of her recent appearances have involved something bad happening to her (died in House of M, beaten down to send a message in New Avengers, mind controlled as an implied sex slave in Ms. Marvel). Seemingly the only superheroine who can be portrayed as “slutty” without anyone complaining. Recently started sleeping with Henry Pym (Marvel’s poster boy for bad decisions), only to have it later revealed to be a Skrull impersonating Henry Pym … only to have it later revealed to be a FEMALE Skrull impersonating Henry Pym (not that there’s anything wrong with that – if you don’t count the fact that Greer didn’t know she was sleeping with a woman!) … only to have it later revealed to be a SUCCESSION of Skrulls impersonating Henry Pym.
Case for: She overcame having a supervillian father to become a superhero with nothing but her own willpower and initiative. Her pregnancy subplot seemed intended to show her determination in dealing with “real life” problems.
“You go girl” moment: She became the first in-continuity female Robin.
Case against: After an undistinguished career as Robin, died in record time. Her tenure is remembered primarily because she was allowed to die simply to prove a point to Batman and she was never given a memorial in the Batcave. Her pregnancy subplot largely made her seen as the superheroine who “got herself knocked up.” Even after she returned from the grave, most writers at DC think of her simply as “Robin’s girlfriend.”
Case for: Leader of the X-Men and the Morlocks. Continued to not only remain active but actually lead the X-Men after losing her powers. Arguably the second most prominent female superhero, after appearing in three successful movies. Worshipped as a goddess. Queen of Wakanda.
“You go girl” moment: Two: When she and Cyclops became sick of being co-leaders, she defeated Scott in single combat WITHOUT her powers (while he used his) to claim leadership. Earlier, she claimed leadership of the Morlocks by defeating Callisto in single combat – also without using her powers even though Callisto used hers – even though Callisto’s power is being able to fight really well, WHILE SICK.
Case against: Complete failure as leader of the Morlocks. Treated as superfluous in the first two X-Men movies, her expanded role in the third was largely perceived as the result of Halle Berry’s demand for more screen time and contributing to the low quality of the movie. Her “goddess” phase is always portrayed as her flying around topless, usually with a “noble savage” tone completely inconsistent with her childhood as a thief in Cairo (almost as if random elements were added to her background whenever writers felt like it). Went from being one of the most prominent characters in the X-Men line to a supporting case member in Black Panther. Her marriage to the Black Panther is generally perceived as a cynical attempt to prove Marvel has prominent black characters; the in-comic explanation is almost as cynical – T’Challa is told he needs a wife, and takes a tour of the black superheroines of the Marvel Universe before remembering that he met Ororo at one point in the hazy past (almost as if random elements were added to her background whenever writers felt like it) and probably loves her.
2. Wonder Woman
Case for: Inarguably the single most prominent female superhero. Part of DC’s “Trinity.” A princess, warrior, ambassador and leader. Often considered the best warrior in the Justice League, while still maintaining a reputation as a pacifist.
“You go girl” moment: It’s hard to pick a specific moment in her extremely long career, but since DC keeps rebooting the character, I’ll stick to recent events – while controversial, her killing of Maxwell Lord showed her doing something decisive and world-changing that no male hero was willing or able to do.
Case against: Created as a bondage fantasy character. Often accused of being included in the “Trinity” simply as a token female. Loses her powers if her wrists are bound by a man. Despite her fame, most people couldn’t actually tell you what her powers are; the average non-comic book-reader is genuinely surprised to find out she can fly, while the old Superfriends show often made it seem like she didn’t have any powers whatsoever aside from her magic lasso. Frankly, considered the best warrior in the JLA mostly because writes can’t think of anything else to make her stand out, while maintaining her reputation as a pacifist more through narrative exposition than her actions.
1. The Scarlet Witch
Case for: Went from being a second-string villain to one of the first non-founding members (and only the second female member) of the Avengers. One of – if not in fact THE – most powerful individuals in the Marvel Universe, with both innate mutant powers and learned magical powers sufficient to literally rewrite reality itself. One of the only (and probably the first, at least in the “Big Two” companies) prominent heroines married to a hero but never portrayed as more of her husband’s sidekick than an equal partner. Is constantly given “empowering” and/or “woman friendly” character traits: having kids by sheer force of will even though her husband was an android, embracing new age philosophies, rediscovering her Gypsy heritage, getting on with her love life after her marriage ended (in contradiction to the usual practice for ex-spouses of heroes: dropping off the face of the earth).
“You go girl” moment: Virtually every one of the plotlines in Bendis’s famed Avengers run either revolved around or was resolved by Wanda Maximoff (go back and re-read them if you don’t believe it).
Case against: Single-handedly destroyed her team and her race. Vague, ill-defined powers make her more of a deus ex machina than a proper character. Wildly mentally unstable and easily manipulated. Has arguably done far more harm than good during her career. Her marriage to the Vision ended, apparently, because she just sort of decided she wasn’t married anymore, after which Wonder Man began literally popping out of nowhere to rescue and/or sleep with her. The only thing she’s done since her (most recent) total mental breakdown is sleep with Hawkeye after failing to recognize him.
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