👀 It ain’t me, Babe
#35 | Tracing character arcs
Comic books are probably the first things that help us to dream. A fantasy world that shields us from the harsher realities of the world outside. Every generation discovers its superheroes anew – a fresh lease of life even as they go digital.
Character arcs of women superheroes have evolved for the better with more complex and flavoursome writing albeit with unrealistic body and beauty standards. We may have come a long way from the overt misogyny and hypersexuality of the early ’60s — when DC comics Supergirl wasn’t fighting crime but looking for a husband! And Batwoman wore a prim and proper skirt under the dramatic suit. Getting here wasn’t easy – artists and fans alike took matters into their own hands spearheading a movement for transformative change empathetic to a diverse audience.
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One of the first initiatives from the ’70s with Trina Robbins’s It Ain’t Me Babe Comix, the first-known comic produced entirely by women. The success of this issue led to an all-female project called Wimmen’s Comix Collective.
In 1999, Gail Simone launched Women in Refrigerators, a list of female comic book characters who are injured, killed, depowered, sexually abused or tormented as a plot device.
In 2011, Gingerhaze, aka ND Stevenson started the phenomenal The Hawkeye Initiative, replacing exaggerated and sexualised female characters with The Avengers’ Hawkeye and inviting fans everywhere to follow suit. The result, though funny, is a severe and sobering revelation of how inured we are to the hypersexualization of women’s bodies in comic books – probably why my reference list is a mile long, but that’s for another day.
“The greatest gift we can receive is to have the chance, just once in our lives, to make a difference.”