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The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

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A much-needed alternative history of American comic book superheroines—from Wonder Woman to Supergirl and beyond—where they fit in popular culture and why, and what these crime-fighting females say about the role of women in American society from their creation to now, and into the future. The Supergirls is an entertaining and informative look at these modern-day icons, ex A much-needed alternative history of American comic book superheroines—from Wonder Woman to Supergirl and beyond—where they fit in popular culture and why, and what these crime-fighting females say about the role of women in American society from their creation to now, and into the future. The Supergirls is an entertaining and informative look at these modern-day icons, exploring how superheroines fare in American comics, and what it means for the culture when they do everything the superhero does, but in thongs and high heels. Has Wonder Woman hit the comic book glass ceiling? Is that the one opposition that even her Amazonian strength can’t defeat? Mike Madrid, a San Francisco based refugee from the world of advertising, is a lifelong fan of comic books and popular culture. His goal is to inform and entertain readers with a new look at modern-day icons. He’s the creator of the online site heaven4heroes, where comic book fantasies come to life. The Supergirls is a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comics.”—STAN LEE


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A much-needed alternative history of American comic book superheroines—from Wonder Woman to Supergirl and beyond—where they fit in popular culture and why, and what these crime-fighting females say about the role of women in American society from their creation to now, and into the future. The Supergirls is an entertaining and informative look at these modern-day icons, ex A much-needed alternative history of American comic book superheroines—from Wonder Woman to Supergirl and beyond—where they fit in popular culture and why, and what these crime-fighting females say about the role of women in American society from their creation to now, and into the future. The Supergirls is an entertaining and informative look at these modern-day icons, exploring how superheroines fare in American comics, and what it means for the culture when they do everything the superhero does, but in thongs and high heels. Has Wonder Woman hit the comic book glass ceiling? Is that the one opposition that even her Amazonian strength can’t defeat? Mike Madrid, a San Francisco based refugee from the world of advertising, is a lifelong fan of comic books and popular culture. His goal is to inform and entertain readers with a new look at modern-day icons. He’s the creator of the online site heaven4heroes, where comic book fantasies come to life. The Supergirls is a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comics.”—STAN LEE

30 review for The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    I originally bought this book as a spontaneous purchase, borne of my interest and devotion to both feminism and comics. I also went into it with very low expectations, given that in comics fandom, men are usually entitled sexist jerks, and self-proscribed male feminists often aren't that feminist at all. After reading it, I have to admit that I wasn't entirely wrong to expect little from this book, and it left me with distinct feelings of frustration, anger, and exasperation. It was, overall, a I originally bought this book as a spontaneous purchase, borne of my interest and devotion to both feminism and comics. I also went into it with very low expectations, given that in comics fandom, men are usually entitled sexist jerks, and self-proscribed male feminists often aren't that feminist at all. After reading it, I have to admit that I wasn't entirely wrong to expect little from this book, and it left me with distinct feelings of frustration, anger, and exasperation. It was, overall, a disappointing read, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone; in fact, I've already discouraged a friend from reading it, knowing that it would affect them the same way that it affected me. Mike Madrid's book is a pretty okay history of comic book heroines from the conception of comic books as we know them in the 1930s and 40s, all the way through the early 2000s. I found at least that information well done, especially parts about the history of Wonder Woman or the other heroines that have somehow disappeared over the years. It was refreshing to learn about these strong women, their origins and their ultimate fates, as it is nearly impossible to read their comics today without paying exorbitant amounts of money for TPBs, if they even exist out there in the world thanks to the passage of time. The somewhat comprehensive history of these heroines is the only reason that I give Madrid's book two stars; otherwise, I would've given it one. Though the title of this book mentions feminism and before reading I had hoped for a feminist analysis of the past, present and future of comic book heroines, the feminist aspect of this book was far from even satisfactory, and analysis was completely lacking. While Madrid purports to admire and look up to these women, going so far in his introduction to say that he only read(s) books with women at the forefront, he spends an awful lot of time just discussing what these women are wearing for their costumes, what parts of their bodies are exposed, and their shortcomings. He also can't seem to prevent himself from making sexist or slut-shaming remarks, calling certain superheroines slutty, whores, bitches, or being dressed "like a stripper/whore." Madrid also takes low blow shots at celebrities like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, calling the latter "slatternly," and poking fun at Judy Garland's eating disorder. Something that I also found infuriating was insulting barbs peppered throughout the text aimed at feminists, most memorably in a passage about Power Girl that said that she came off as a bitch, as is often the case with strident feminists. Apparently the author also couldn't restrain himself from using derogatory slurs, such as when he called Wonder Woman a "threatening dyke." Despite his supposed love and admiration for these fine women, Mike Madrid spends most of the book tearing them down and minimizing their efforts and strengths by merely focusing on their fashion and bodies and sexist tropes that I see far too often in comic books now, than questioning the sexism and patriarchal beauty standards that even fictional women have to abide by. Nor does Madrid spend any time at all criticizing how the comic industry caters only to men, or the sexist/misogynistic attitudes that these comic fanboys (within industry and without) have not only toward superheroines but also women in general. Madrid doesn't question the sexism at all, and with all the sexist asides and descriptions in the book, Madrid makes it evident that far from being a woeful observer or activist for change in comics, he is instead part of the problem.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea 🏳️‍🌈

    ** Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ** 4 stars. Okay, so I'm not sure the proper term for this kind of book? It's more of a study of the history of representation of women in the comic book industry. And boy, oh boy, is it really kind of depressing. First of all, if I need to explain why women are still, TO THIS DAY, being poorly represented and characterized in comic book properties, you might want to check out now. I've encountered enough dudebros on Twitter who think ev ** Received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ** 4 stars. Okay, so I'm not sure the proper term for this kind of book? It's more of a study of the history of representation of women in the comic book industry. And boy, oh boy, is it really kind of depressing. First of all, if I need to explain why women are still, TO THIS DAY, being poorly represented and characterized in comic book properties, you might want to check out now. I've encountered enough dudebros on Twitter who think everything is just fine and we need to shut the hell up and just be grateful we have one or two women in the films. I'm not kidding, I had about ten or eleven harass me for saying women needed better representation. Moving on, Mike Madrid does a comprehensive study of the history of women in comics. And by comprehensive, I mean intensive. He went all the way back to pulp magazines and serials to start with the very first characters. Most which I had never heard of like Phantom Lady and Fantoma. One of the most interesting aspects of this study was that female characters actually had more freedom in the the earlier days. They had these personas to free themselves to be their true selves, which were heroes and sometimes assassins. Then men learned they could use these characters for wanking material and gradually turned them into sexpots with the riskiest art they could get away with. Over time, the Comics Code changed what characters were allowed to wear. Wonder Woman's female empowerment message was toned down so as not to make her look like a lesbian (I really wish I was making this up). Women covered up... only to be stripped down even more in the 80s. Some women, like Storm, were dressed in the grungy punk look with leather jackets and jeans. All new characters were dressed like porn stars in thongs and highwaisted bathing suits. The writing became dark and gritty and a bunch of new female characters were prostitutes and being treated like garbage in general. Have I mentioned how much Alan Moore hates women because he hates women. Miller's pretty much right alongside him in my list of writers I wish never touched female characters. As our culture became more saturated with sex "celebrities" like Pamela Anderson, men stopped trying to appeal to women completely. I can't imagine what it must have been like to watch Batman 89 or the old Superman films, enter a comic book store and the only women staring back at me looked like porn stars. I would have turned right around and left. After this, the comic book bubble burst and Marvel filed for bankruptcy. Comic sales hit a real low point and kind of stayed that way for a long time. Madrid doesn't quite go into a lot of detail about what revived it. Was it Blade? Daredevil? The Fantastic Four? I'm not really sure. Anyway, it ends on a high note with Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel as a series written by a woman with a sensible costume and real characterization. This book is a little dated because it talks about Wonder Woman being praised in Batman v. Superman but doesn't go into her solo film being announced. It was a good way to end a book that seriously bummed me out. I know I had dudebros tell me to my (virtual) face that they don't care if I feel good about representation in the comic book industry but it was another to hear about how this has been going on for such a long time. Major bummer. So, here are some things I learned: - Lois Lane was one of the first female characters to have a solo book named after her. It was called "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane". So, not super empowering but it was something. It had airs of "I Love Lucy" with Lois trying out different schemes to report news stories. - DC Comics' official editorial policy code "the inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance" - Makes sense considering the female counterparts of male heroes often get the gendered suffix "girl" instead of woman (Supergirl, Batgirl, Hawkgirl) and are often given powers less powerful than the men. - Batwoman was created to try to lessen some of the suspicion that Batman was gay and in love with Robin. No joke, essays were written out of concern that Batman would turn young readers gay and they were sincerely pressed about Robin's shorts and the fact that he stood with his legs apart. Because people legitimately were concerned about boys wearing shorts. Oy vey. - There was a story where Supergirl was in love with a horse. That actually happened. - There was a story where Supergirl was on red kryptonite and convinced that he was married to Clark. They lived for 3 days alone in a house convinced of that. I'm not saying there's the possibility that she slept with her cousin in comic canon but you're thinking it. We're all thinking it. - Carol Danvers deserves an apology from Marvel Comics. Seriously. She has the worst history I've heard about in a while. She was forcibly impregnated by a timetraveling alien. He had sex with her to create himself and then wiped her memory after the fact. After giving birth to this monstrosity, the writers thought they had one last piece of terrible writing for her and have her decide to marry the alien (he was an adult at this point) because she thought she loved him. This is the grossest story I've read in my life and I'm sorry but there was no way a woman would've written it. - Storm was one of the first women to have a moniker that wasn't gendered. She was a strong female character that didn't date one of her teammates and is considered the first black heroine. Rock on. - I loved that Madrid mentioned one of my biggest pet peeves: Women with incredible powers are portrayed as too unstable to handle them and ultimately need to be controlled - While his theory posits that they're often killed, I'm saying male characters often try to control them - Madrid's examples: Raven, Storm, Phoenix. I'd like to add Wanda Maximoff and River Tam from Firefly. These characters are all more powerful than several male characters but they're all viewed as emotionally unstable at their greatest, most powerful state so of course they need to be controlled or die. It's complete bullshit and I still can't think of an example where this wasn't the case. - Madrid talks about "Strike a pose" powers which are abilities female characters can look good while utilyzing. It's a concept I never even thought of but yes, there are some iconic posing going on with telepaths, witches, telekinetics, etc. Don't wanna mess up their hair, amiright? - Wonder Woman's entire messy history is laid out in this book. Everything from her morality and belief in uplifting women being brushed aside because the Comics Code thought that mentality was harmful to young girls. Her history has been fucked with, her personality removed and replaced with vapid versions. The way Madrid talks about Lynda Carter's show makes me wonder if he thought it did more harm than good. For such an iconic character, it's crazy to see how much her history was ruined over time. I would've given this 5 stars except: - timeline jumps around a little confusingly. It would start in one decade and then stay with one character and go over their history... only to jump right back into the decade. It was just a little difficult to follow. - used the g slur and transphobic terminology. - at times, I wasn't sure if Madrid was recounting the ways men thought of these characters or his own views when he was describing characters drawn "like hookers" and referred to Wondy as a "d*ke" - at times, the way certain things were phrased made it unclear if Madrid was speaking poorly of the addition of diverse characters. Anyway, it's worth noting that the Big 2 are still slowly adding more and more female titles. Unfortunately, several of them are still being written by men and few of them are starring women of color and wlw. That being said, here are some of the current solo titles: - America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez - Batwoman Vol.1 : The Many Arms of Death - Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF - Hawkeye: Kate Bishop, Vol. 1: Anchor Points - Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal Please support female led comics! Especially those written by women! This is a recommend if this type of study interests you! Au revoir!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Arie

    "Okay. I'll admit that this cover has nothing to do with the story this month... but I've got to do something to sell this book!" - She-Hulk, 1992 Honestly? The four stars are for the sheer overwhelming fun of this book. Fun sounds weird, right? After all, this is a book that deals with the grotesque sexism that has permeated the comic-book world - and especially the superhero world - since its inception. Fun surely shouldn't even factor in. But Mike Madrid's clear passion for the subject, his abi "Okay. I'll admit that this cover has nothing to do with the story this month... but I've got to do something to sell this book!" - She-Hulk, 1992 Honestly? The four stars are for the sheer overwhelming fun of this book. Fun sounds weird, right? After all, this is a book that deals with the grotesque sexism that has permeated the comic-book world - and especially the superhero world - since its inception. Fun surely shouldn't even factor in. But Mike Madrid's clear passion for the subject, his ability to conjure up the entire history of a character and then totally root for her through all the re-drawings, re-workings, story-changings that she has to endure - it's fantastic. This book celebrates the Supergirls for their very (defiant) existance, while at the same time critiquing a world in which they are very rarely allowed to grow into Superwomen. I do wish there had been a little more of the actual critiquing, and a little less repetition (in some ways this book works best as separate essays) but it's still a good read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    I had been looking for an intelligent survey of women characters in comic books, and this provided that in spades. A wonderful chronological history surveying how women have been portrayed through the last century, it provided me with a more nuanced point of view of how society's changes have been reflected in comics. A really enjoyable survey I would recommend to comic lovers! I had been looking for an intelligent survey of women characters in comic books, and this provided that in spades. A wonderful chronological history surveying how women have been portrayed through the last century, it provided me with a more nuanced point of view of how society's changes have been reflected in comics. A really enjoyable survey I would recommend to comic lovers!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This book sucks. While I realize that it would have been impossible to get all of them, the author should have attempted to get the rights to reproduce the likenesses of some of the characters he describes. I spent half the time reading the book googling the lesser known characters to see what they looked like. When a subject is based so heavily on image, not having them for comparison is really detrimental. I'd have forgiven this if the writing had been good, but it wasn't. It was barely tolera This book sucks. While I realize that it would have been impossible to get all of them, the author should have attempted to get the rights to reproduce the likenesses of some of the characters he describes. I spent half the time reading the book googling the lesser known characters to see what they looked like. When a subject is based so heavily on image, not having them for comparison is really detrimental. I'd have forgiven this if the writing had been good, but it wasn't. It was barely tolerable. It basically goes: "First there was so-and-so and she was dressed like this and did this. Then there was the other one who was dressed like this and did this. Now I'm going to throw in a few sentences to try to make it seem like I came up with some kind of theme for these comic book characters and fail miserably." It was written exactly like a really long and not terribly good freshman comp essay.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    After finding this video, I knew I needed to read this book. If you'd like to understand feminism through comics, this is the book for you. I only wish this book were written more recently so as to include the new Miss Marvel, Bat Girl and all of the other great changes. After finding this video, I knew I needed to read this book. If you'd like to understand feminism through comics, this is the book for you. I only wish this book were written more recently so as to include the new Miss Marvel, Bat Girl and all of the other great changes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Sandra Knight leads the idyllic debutante life as a Senator’s daughter. She spends her time going to parties and playing tennis with her fiancé, Don. Then one night in 1941 she stops an assassination attempt on her father, beating away the would-be assassins with rolled-up newspaper. The experience of danger and adventure excites Sandra, offering a break from her humdrum life as a socialite. She seeks the thrill of more crime-fighting action, so she creates a costume, borrows a black light ray Sandra Knight leads the idyllic debutante life as a Senator’s daughter. She spends her time going to parties and playing tennis with her fiancé, Don. Then one night in 1941 she stops an assassination attempt on her father, beating away the would-be assassins with rolled-up newspaper. The experience of danger and adventure excites Sandra, offering a break from her humdrum life as a socialite. She seeks the thrill of more crime-fighting action, so she creates a costume, borrows a black light ray from her father’s scientist friend, and calls herself Phantom Lady, “the mysterious woman of wonders,” one of comic’s first female superheroines. Sandra Knight by day and Phantom Lady by night, no one suspects Sandra’s secret identity as a superhero. Even her fiancé dismisses the idea thinking, “It couldn’t be…Sandra isn’t that clever.” Mike Madrid’s “The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines” offers a captivating look at female comic book superheroes through the decades. Madrid explores how real-life societal changes are reflected in the pages of comic books and how superheroines have transformed through the times. As history and gender roles evolved, so did the comic book superheroine. Madrid discusses how war time influenced the pinup-type heroine written for soldiers. In the 1950’s Supergirl was introduced as a wholesome role model for young girls. The rise of feminism in the 1970’s liberated the superheroine (and triggered a complete makeover of the character Wonder Woman, to which Madrid devotes an entire chapter). The 1990’s brought the “babe factor” to heroines who evolved into lethal bad girls. And most recently, female characters have reflected modern-day challenges such as juggling careers and families while still protecting the world from evil. Throughout the book, Madrid includes examples of the real world influencing comic books. One of the most interesting is the story of how Batwoman was first introduced in response to the Comic Code Authority, an organization created in 1954 to regulate subject matter in comic books and to protect young readers from “inappropriate” themes. At this time some questioned Batman’s sexuality. In response, writers introduced Batwoman as a love interest for the superhero. However, Batman sees Batwoman more as a pest than anything else, and she tries to prove she is worthy of Batman’s affections by battling evil – with her purse full of weapons disguised as cosmetics. The late 1990’s and 2000’s ushered in new female superheroes who are feminine, strong, independent, and also nurturing and maternal. In 1996, DC Comics introduced a novel idea of comic book characters- the female buddy crime fighting duo of Birds of Prey. Characters Oracle and Black Canary are superheroines who fight injustice while forging a strong female friendship. And the character Manhunter is Kate Spencer, prosecutor /mother in real life, was introduced in 2004 was one of the few superheroines who balances motherhood with crime fighting. Madrid briefly discusses the future of the female superhero at the end of his book. He explains that publishers look at the numbers when it comes to series, and even after 70 years, female superheroines don’t sell as well as their male counterparts. Despite the low profits, loyal fans are devoted to their superheroines because as Madrid explains, “These women present a different perspective in not only the battle of good and evil, but also the quest to make the world a better place.” Despite disbelievers, like Phantom Lady/Sandra Knight’s fiancé, comic book superheroines have proven they are clever enough and strong enough to fight evildoers- just as well as the male superheroes. And they’ll continue to fight for years to come. Mike Madrid mixes history, sociology, feminism, and a lesson in comics in this interesting, enjoyable read. Writing for both diehard fans and those who have never read a comic book, “Supergirls” is accessible to everyone and offers a rare glimpse into the history of the female superhero. Madrid’s book even gets a stamp of approval from legendary comic book creator Stan Lee who hails “Supergirls” as “a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comics.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Clarissa

    "Okay. I'll admit that this cover has nothing to do with the story this month... but I've got to do something to sell this book!" - She-Hulk, 1992 This quote sums up the frustration I felt reading about the lack of representation of woman in comics. Madrid does a decent job giving us a comprehensive history dating back to the 1940s. You know those femme fatale characters in pulp fiction novels and film noirs; well, they were in comics too. Unfortunately, even those that had their own titles, had "Okay. I'll admit that this cover has nothing to do with the story this month... but I've got to do something to sell this book!" - She-Hulk, 1992 This quote sums up the frustration I felt reading about the lack of representation of woman in comics. Madrid does a decent job giving us a comprehensive history dating back to the 1940s. You know those femme fatale characters in pulp fiction novels and film noirs; well, they were in comics too. Unfortunately, even those that had their own titles, had trouble gaining traction and enjoying the same celebrity status of their male counterparts. Honestly, this book was a little disheartening. It’s hard to read about the little representation women have had throughout and how poorly they (looking at you Carol Danvers) were treated. What Madrid does well is explain the effects of our media and society on the comic book heroines. I wish this book had been written more recently to show that women are slowly getting their own titles. Sadly, the majority are still written by men so, while we are progressing, it is not quick enough. I will fight any fanboy who tries to argue with me on this. This is a recommend for anyone interested in this subject.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    When I found out about The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid, I thought to myself, "Why didn't I write this book?" After reading it, I thought, "I could have written this book." But you know what? I didn't, and I think Mike Madrid for doing so. This is a remarkably comprehensive look at superheroines throughout history, and I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. Being a superhero comic reader for about 40 years now, I recently came t When I found out about The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid, I thought to myself, "Why didn't I write this book?" After reading it, I thought, "I could have written this book." But you know what? I didn't, and I think Mike Madrid for doing so. This is a remarkably comprehensive look at superheroines throughout history, and I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. Being a superhero comic reader for about 40 years now, I recently came to a realization. I don't like comic books and I don't like superheroes. I like to read about women with superpowers, and the only place you can really read about women with superpowers is comic books. For someone who is a fan of women with superpowers, comics haven't been very fertile ground. My favorite female characters with superpowers is The Invisible Woman, who Madrid spends a good amount of time on in his novel; most notably for her unique position as the first female of Marvel's silver age of comics, but at the same time for being portrayed as a silly girl more interested in keeping her scientist boyfriend Reed Richards' attention than fighting crime. While this was frustrating to read about as a child (I wanted her to be more assertive and powerful, and thrilled in the moments when she was) I also appreciate that women with superpowers might behave differently than men with superpowers. I was thrilled upon finishing the final pages of Madrid's book that he makes this very same assertion. If anyone wants to read a fascinating and thorough examination of the superheroine throughout comic book history, from the 30's to current day, I highly recommend Mike Madrid's The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

  10. 4 out of 5

    Troy

    First, whatI liked... I was okay with the history of characters I'd heard nothing or only a bit about. I appreciated that. In some cases, his conversational tone was very much appreciated and added to the narrative. But... ..what that voice was NOT was questioning. It wasn't critical of the sexism that pervaded these characters' origins, these superheroines that he wants us interested in. "So-and-So was just too independent for her times," he writes more than once, and leaves it there. In a world First, whatI liked... I was okay with the history of characters I'd heard nothing or only a bit about. I appreciated that. In some cases, his conversational tone was very much appreciated and added to the narrative. But... ..what that voice was NOT was questioning. It wasn't critical of the sexism that pervaded these characters' origins, these superheroines that he wants us interested in. "So-and-So was just too independent for her times," he writes more than once, and leaves it there. In a world where there are people who are arguing that the 40s and 50s were just peachy and "olde Americana", what is it about this time that makes these characters untenable then? And largely now? There is no framing around social mores, just a shrug and "yep, they didn't get their due. Oh, well. Now THIS OTHER CHARACTER..." and moves on with a ton of unanswered questions. With this, there's no need asking for much thought given to issues of race, as Storm and Psylocke, among others, get no more mention as just "kick-ass women", but I guess I expected more from a book that wants to draw attention to women heroines, but with some, I don't know, analysis into the times into which icons like Wonder Woman was born. After a while, this reads less of a labor of love by someone who loves superheroines and more like an apologist for keeping them marginalized and a niche, even in the face of a growing female readership and clamor for more diversity in comic books in general.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    This was more like a 3.5 for me!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stevi Costa

    I found myself wishing that this book was more academic, and handled it's treatments of fashion and feminism more adeptly--as the title lead me to believe they might be. But for what it was, it was a good history of 60 years of comic book women and the industry's constant mistreatment of female characters. Most intriguing to me was Madrid's comparison of Supergirl in the 1960s to pop star Lesley Gore. He's not a very good writer, though sometimes funny, but his ability to identify the cultural ico I found myself wishing that this book was more academic, and handled it's treatments of fashion and feminism more adeptly--as the title lead me to believe they might be. But for what it was, it was a good history of 60 years of comic book women and the industry's constant mistreatment of female characters. Most intriguing to me was Madrid's comparison of Supergirl in the 1960s to pop star Lesley Gore. He's not a very good writer, though sometimes funny, but his ability to identify the cultural icons from which writers and artists drew inspiration to invent and reinvent their heroines was adroit. More pictures would also be good to boost the fashion arguments, but the publisher is so new that we can't expect a superstyled rerelease anytime soon.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I cannot say enough about this book! I have been reading comics since the early 90's, and I am always up for an in-depth conversation about comic book characters/art/stories. This book was such a great read, and for a book hitting the feminism area with a male writer, he does it with style. Beginning with the first superheroines, Madrid structurally pairs each decade with the advancements made by various women and how often the problems affecting women in society were mirrored in comics by the me I cannot say enough about this book! I have been reading comics since the early 90's, and I am always up for an in-depth conversation about comic book characters/art/stories. This book was such a great read, and for a book hitting the feminism area with a male writer, he does it with style. Beginning with the first superheroines, Madrid structurally pairs each decade with the advancements made by various women and how often the problems affecting women in society were mirrored in comics by the men who wrote them. He provides evidence via costumes, plot lines, and some cringy dialogue to back up these issues. What I loved the most about this book was how he so carefully draws (no pun intended) a line between the superheroines being the way they are and how it's not their fault but that of the creators and artists of the time, whether men or women. He celebrates the advancements but often brings up new issues (again, no pun) that are NOT steps forward. Since I read this in 2020 and it was published over a decade ago, I also loved seeing that since this book was published, more advancements have been made. I wish he could update this book with a few more chapters, especially now that so many superheroines have hit the screen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie Perry

    Engaging and insightful, The Supergirls applies a women's studies, feminist, and queer theory lens to the history of costumed heroines. It's a definite must read for anyone with an interest in the relationship between comic books and depictions of women in pop culture. It will certainly impact my perspective of comic book heroines, and their evolution throughout the history of the genre, going forward. Engaging and insightful, The Supergirls applies a women's studies, feminist, and queer theory lens to the history of costumed heroines. It's a definite must read for anyone with an interest in the relationship between comic books and depictions of women in pop culture. It will certainly impact my perspective of comic book heroines, and their evolution throughout the history of the genre, going forward.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    This is really a 3.5/5, but I rounded up. And interesting chronicling of the ups and downs of women in comic books, but because it serves as an overview of the medium as a whole you never really get to dive deeper and connect with any of the superwomen he is describing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    This is a tale of unfolding public fantasy, showing the evolution of female heroes through the decades. The story ties in with developments in fashion, film, politics and music. In exploring comic books, Madrid touches off light-shows of memories and associations in a way that's fascinating and playful. This is a tale of unfolding public fantasy, showing the evolution of female heroes through the decades. The story ties in with developments in fashion, film, politics and music. In exploring comic books, Madrid touches off light-shows of memories and associations in a way that's fascinating and playful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Penelope

    I'm not quite done with this book yet but I feel like I have to write something about it lest everything dribbles out of my head before I'm able to get it down. The Supergirls is an interesting read. Madrid sometimes handles the "feminism" aspect of the book awkwardly, but generally I think this is an excellent feminist history of comic book super heroines. The book definitely suffers from a lack of illustrations, however. As someone who has basically never read a superhero comic in my life (desp I'm not quite done with this book yet but I feel like I have to write something about it lest everything dribbles out of my head before I'm able to get it down. The Supergirls is an interesting read. Madrid sometimes handles the "feminism" aspect of the book awkwardly, but generally I think this is an excellent feminist history of comic book super heroines. The book definitely suffers from a lack of illustrations, however. As someone who has basically never read a superhero comic in my life (despite being a comic nerd), I found myself hard-pressed to conjure up an image of most of these characters while reading, and had to hastily resort to google image searches to clarify what/who was being discussed. I imagine this book would make an awesome full color oversize book...but I guess that was beyond the means of this project (revised deluxe edition in the future...?) I've got about two chapters left to read, and one thing that has really struck me is that Madrid seems to brush aside issues of race in comics. He's mentioned it maybe two or three times--but only in passing while describing a character (for example, he mentions Storm's race but after the initial description of her back-story it is completely left out of all analyses of her character). The book essentially presents "white-washed" feminism at the core of its analysis, which I'm finding increasingly annoying as I continue reading (class is also generally ignored--"career women" seem to be the dominant archetype). Maybe Madrid felt that covering both race and gender in one book was just too much, but that clearly is a naive view of feminism and ignores a significant part of what feminism is. Although Madrid's analysis isn't without fault, some interesting trends emerge throughout the history traced in this book. One point that was particularly interesting to me is how the female body and fertility are more often than not cast as weaknesses. This isn't particularly surprising, but I didn't even realize how such "female problems" were woven into the superhero universe. Madrid discusses how superhero comics became infused with "real life" problems--interestingly, the women suffer from myriad issues directly linked to their sex (either biologically or socially), including rape, infertility, pregnancy, abuse, etc. I find it interesting that female superheroes are left to deal with issues of rape, infertility, and pregnancy, while their male counterparts seem to live in a world of perfect virility and healthy sex. The virgin/whore double standard is also brought up throughout the book, and it's interesting how female sexuality was (is?) always cast as evil (Catwoman), bestial (Sheena), or simply embarrassing or silly (She-Hulk). I know this book is more of a pop-culture thing and less of a critical analysis thing, but I would have appreciated some reference to specific feminist theory throughout the book. Also, Madrid mentions the elusive female comics-reader multiple times, but there aren't any statistics about how many female readers there were. To me, this would have been a really interesting piece of information in order to better understand the original audience of these comics. Anyway, I'm off to finish those last two chapters now. -------- Update after finishing the book: During the later chapters, race is mentioned a bit more, but still it's not given much attention. Although the book is mostly chronological, there are a few "themed" chapters, and I really think that race would have been a perfect topic for a chapter of its own. The last chapter was definitely the weakest of the entire book. It's poorly written and edited (like it was written in a hurry so the book could be sent to the publisher on time or something...really, it's pretty bad). Another thing that bugs me about the way this book is written is how the superheroes are almost always referred to as "real" people, as though they are living real lives, have real motivations, and face real problems. I noticed this throughout the book, but for some reason it became more apparent toward the end. To me, that way of writing about the characters minimizes the fact that they are fictional creations of artists, writers, and publishers. Obviously the fact that they are fabricated (and, therefore, that every part of them is quite deliberate) is important. Madrid does refer to artists and writers, but he just as often refers to characters as if they're independent beings with their own free-will. We all know they're not real, but I generally felt that the artifice of the whole enterprise was played down quite a bit. Anyway, I still thought this was a very interesting read. It made me want to pick up some superhero comics and maybe give them a try.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    An enjoyable, somewhat incomplete overview of the history of women superheroes. Perfect for someone wanting a well-written primer on the subject. I loved the essay on Supergirl and Leslie Gore, but wish Madrid had factored in another parallel. Yes, the book came out before Bombshells and the queer fan culture now surrounding the SG series, but with Gore and The Maid of Might, that queerness was always already there. The essay on the Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires was wonderful, and got me to re An enjoyable, somewhat incomplete overview of the history of women superheroes. Perfect for someone wanting a well-written primer on the subject. I loved the essay on Supergirl and Leslie Gore, but wish Madrid had factored in another parallel. Yes, the book came out before Bombshells and the queer fan culture now surrounding the SG series, but with Gore and The Maid of Might, that queerness was always already there. The essay on the Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires was wonderful, and got me to reflect on why I was so obsessed with that team as a kid. Also, with all the football hooliganism over the big two, it was nice to see someone gently poke holes in the “Marvel was always more progressive argument.” (Steve Carell voice) THANK YOU!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Viola

    Well, this was a mixed bag at best. I’m always here for feminist analysis of women in comics but not like this. Supergirls is certainly feminist in its premise and intention but fails in the execution. The good There are positives: the book provides a thorough overview of female superheroes over the years. Characters from DC and Marvel get the most attention, but other publishers come up as well. You can tell Madrid knows his stuff and includes a lot of useful information on the history of women Well, this was a mixed bag at best. I’m always here for feminist analysis of women in comics but not like this. Supergirls is certainly feminist in its premise and intention but fails in the execution. The good There are positives: the book provides a thorough overview of female superheroes over the years. Characters from DC and Marvel get the most attention, but other publishers come up as well. You can tell Madrid knows his stuff and includes a lot of useful information on the history of women heroes. Overall, he makes good points, many of his initial statements are accurate criticisms of the (mis)treatment of female characters in comics. I think the last two chapters are the best, they have insightful commentary and avoid the problems I had with how the author provides this commentary. The bad Get a cup of the drink of your choice, this will be long. Structure problems The book is made up of chapters, each focusing on a decade and its most prominent female heroes. They also have a theme, and group superheroines according to archetypes such as “the debutantes” “the partners” "the glamour girls” “the girlfriends” “the babes” and so on. This is a good idea, but Madrid relies on it too heavily. I assume the categorization is a critique on how women in comics had to fit into narrowly defined roles but it can become too reductive. At times, this is exactly what happens, and the discussed women are reduced the tropes he’s trying to criticize. Still, he gives counter examples and some analysis is better than others. The comparison between the sole female members of X-men (Jean Grey) and Doom Patrol (Rita Farr) was very good. The other main though-line is the comparison of superheroines with real-life female icons of the eras and to (pop) culture in general. Sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t. The parallels are often clunky and add unnecessarily long paragraphs about Madrid’s (mostly negative) views on celebrities of the decade in question. You are reading about a character, then suddenly it’s “by the way… Madonna/Britney/etc.” It breaks the flow of the analysis. Providing background information is important, but some restraint is needed. The Supergirl chapter is a good example: comparing different iterations of her with teen idols through the years is a super (pun intended) premise but there’s way too much pop music history. Also, the celebrities in question are talked about in a condescending way. But more on that later. How women are talked about Where is the line between criticizing female characters and hating on them? A question I kept asking myself while reading. The shortcomings of various female characters are described in detail. To an extent, this is necessary because many of the portrayals were sexist. It’s crucial to call this out, but at some point, it becomes too much. Hint: when about 80% of what is written about a female character is tearing her down, it is too much. The conclusions Madrid draws can be inconsistent, he spends pages with dragging female characters but then inserts a couple of sentences about how they were still somewhat empowering (see end of the Girlfriends chapter about Batwoman and Lois Lane). But then why can’t we hear more about the positive aspects? Sometimes he does the opposite, by commanding a character then undercutting it by negative comments. Carol Danvers (Ms Marvel, later Captain Marvel) is praised until it turns out the writers didn’t handle her well enough or take feminism seriously. It was the 70s so this is probably true but saying “she was written as a cold bitch” is not necessary. She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters is treated similarly, evaluation on how she was written goes back and forth between praise and negativity. There’s also this wonderful quote: “Where Jennifer Walters was levelheaded, her She-Hulk persona was in a perpetual state of PMS” This and “cold bitch” are not the only times Madrid steps in it by using unfortunate phrasing. Some examples: “Power Girl was a young, independent woman of her times who stood up for herself. As a result, her character often came off as a bitch, as was often the case with strident feminists.” What? I’ll assume in good faith he’s trying to say that feminists, confident and assertive women are often called bitches because of sexism but this is a terrible way of putting it. He also calls a character a “promiscuous bisexual” and uses slurs (view spoiler)[d*ke and an outdated word that was used for trans people and drag queens. It's unclear which he means but the sentence is about a male character being disgusted when She-Hulk kisses him as if he was kissed by a *insert word here* He's calling attention to the problematic way She-Hulk's gender nonconformity was shown as bad, but ends up with a sentence that reads as transphobic. (hide spoiler)] . The first edition was published in 2008, even then you don’t get a pass for not knowing better, but in the revised 2016 edition this is inexcusable. If you’re writing a feminist/progressive book maybe try to be actually feminist and progressive. Similarly, referring to women and their appearance as skimpy, trashy, calling sex workers hookers and consistently using supermodel as a synonym for stupid and superficial don’t do wonders for the feminist credibility of this book. Neither does the troubling view of female celebrities mentioned and constant slut shaming. Power Girl’s “D-cup breasts and revealing costume took some of the thunder out of her feminist manifesto.” Once Red Sonja starts looking “more like a stripper” she no longer has credibility as a good character. Yes, the Power Girl consume was ill-intentioned but being unable to look beyond it and dismissing PG because she has big boobs isn’t much better. (By the way, there’s good insight on her costume and the sexiness of female comic characters from Power Girl artist Amanda Conner in the Chicks Dig Comics essay collection). l too, hate women’s objectification in comics but I’m not going to slut shame female characters or demean women who are, Batman forbid, strippers. Sidenote: every single person who uses any variation of “like a stripper” in a negative way should be legally obligated to watch Hustlers. The worst offender is the chapter about the 90s. Here, Madrid extends his judgement to existing famous women. Instead of pointing a finger at institutions like the porn and the film industry, which are run by men, the problem is with Pamela Anderson looking “less real” and Demi Moore “proving how far up the ladder artifice could take a woman.” Apparently, if a woman has plastic surgery, she is fake and talentless. The responsibly is placed on women, not on the culture that expects them to be perfect and pushes impossible beauty standards on them. I know plastic surgery is debated within feminist circles but taking cheap shots at real life women is certainly not feminist. This disdain for sexy women becomes wonderfully ironic when juxtaposed with Madrid’s detailed and long-winded descriptions about the bodies of virtually every single female superhero who appears in the book. Basically, he ends up objectifying women while attempting to criticize the very thing. I’ll just insert this paragraph about Psylocke. “Psylocke’s sculpted body was wrapped in a skintight costume that showed off every curve and muscle. Her impossibly long legs were crisscrossed with straps that enhanced her muscular thighs. Psylocke’s back arched to present her impressive chest for all to admire. A revealing thong showcased her rock hard buttocks.” If this happened once or twice to show how women are sexualized, it would be okay, but almost all descriptions are like this. Ultimately, my main grievance is laying the blame on female characters for their subpar and sexist writing. The thing is, superheroines are fictional. They didn’t create themselves. The writers, editors, artists who did don’t get nearly as much page time as the endless tirades about how much female superheroes suck. Overall, this flaw defeats the purpose of the entire book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    An interesting book, although I did have a few problems with it. First, although it presented itself as being arranged chronologically the authors jumps around a bit within sections, and I think it would have been more effective to organize it by character, and take each character through her different portrayals. At some points I just felt like it was a bit all over the place. Second, I was troubled by the author's interpretations of many heroines powers. He places a lot of focus on the fact tha An interesting book, although I did have a few problems with it. First, although it presented itself as being arranged chronologically the authors jumps around a bit within sections, and I think it would have been more effective to organize it by character, and take each character through her different portrayals. At some points I just felt like it was a bit all over the place. Second, I was troubled by the author's interpretations of many heroines powers. He places a lot of focus on the fact that many female characters have less "physical powers" - their powers tend to be based on manipulation of humans and objects - illusions, telekinesis, invisibility, etc. While some of these powers may not have initially been used to their full potential, I think it's problematic to assert that they are "lesser" powers or that a lack of physical strength makes the women unequal to their male counterparts. TYPICALLY, women are less physically strong than men, with greater verbal skills. It's important for female superheroes to have powers that women can relate to - having some physically strong heroines is certainly necessary since some women will relate to that. But many, if not most, women relate more to heroines whose powers are more based on manipulation and creation. Suggesting that these powers are inherently "less than" Superman's strength or Wolverine's indestructibility is inaccurate - just because the early writers didn't take full advantage of these powers doesn't mean they aren't valuable. A lot of my favorite heroines were barely mentioned, if they were mentioned at all - I probably would have liked it a bit more if characters like Rogue and Black Widow had received more attention from the author. Overall, this was a pretty good read, but I think I would like to read a similar book written by a woman, as a woman would clearly be in a better position to understand the implications of these characters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This is a long and insightful read. The chapters on pre-code comics are the most valuable. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough paper to cover such a large subject to the depth really needed. Madrid's efforts are laudable and in very good faith, and yet, we're often left with summaries, synopses, and evidence that draws upon only a sliver of the available literature. It's necessary given the scale of the author's analysis but woefully inadequate given the intellectual synthesis we all know the This is a long and insightful read. The chapters on pre-code comics are the most valuable. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough paper to cover such a large subject to the depth really needed. Madrid's efforts are laudable and in very good faith, and yet, we're often left with summaries, synopses, and evidence that draws upon only a sliver of the available literature. It's necessary given the scale of the author's analysis but woefully inadequate given the intellectual synthesis we all know the material deserves. A prime example is the chapter on Supergirl. This is the only character Madrid spends an entire chapter on (22 pages) to the point of specific critical analysis (there's a chapter on Wonder Woman, obviously, but this is more a conflagration of what the character represents, through the decades, than what the character actually does on the page). The quality of the author's research, analysis, and interrogation of the literature (on Supergirl) is very good as a result. In fact, upon concluding this chapter you'll be left wondering why someone hasn't written an entire book on the character using Madrid's approach because it would definitely be worth the read. And yet, even so, twenty-two pages is all we get. The author has to move on. What the book does well: document the names and identities of characters present in pre-code comics that established what are now considered archetypes of the medium. What the book does poorly: sourcing; as in, providing specific issue numbers for variously cited events, and to a somewhat lesser extent, identifying key writers and artists. Also, the breadth of the book's subject -- loosely, women in superhero comics -- necessitates shortcuts, which is unfortunate. There are plenty of female superheroes outside of DC and MARVEL that are worth discussing, but many of them enter commentary on the sly or under the guise of being knock-offs.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    I'm a huge fan of comic books. I describe myself as a hero geek. But I don't just enjoy the stories of the heroes doing their good deeds, I also like studying the histories of the characters and the industry itself. So I've wanted to read this one for a while, and finally got to. This covers female comic characters, from the start of the industry (1938) to roughly 2007. Madrid does a great job of showing how trends in fashion and society shaped and reshaped the the female heroes. There's a lot of I'm a huge fan of comic books. I describe myself as a hero geek. But I don't just enjoy the stories of the heroes doing their good deeds, I also like studying the histories of the characters and the industry itself. So I've wanted to read this one for a while, and finally got to. This covers female comic characters, from the start of the industry (1938) to roughly 2007. Madrid does a great job of showing how trends in fashion and society shaped and reshaped the the female heroes. There's a lot of sexism, which should surprise no one, but there's a lot more, too. I also learned a few things I didn't know, and I consider myself a comics scholar (Mary Marvel and Supergirl were created by the same writer, for one). Wonder Woman gets a lot of coverage, as you'd expect, but so do a lot of other characters. I won't try to list them all here, but they include Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Lois Lane, Batwoman, Lady Death, Marvel Girl/Phoenix, Invisible Girl/Woman, Batgirl/Oracle, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Black Canary, and many more. I think my only complaints are that the author, while doing a decent job of rough chronological order, goes back and forth over certain events/times a little oddly and that one of my personal favorites is never even mentioned: Zatanna. Oh, and Elektra's signature weapons were SAIS, not daggers. Recommended for comic fans, people interested in the history of comics, and probably most who are interested in equal rights and/or feminism.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    A pretty decent about the evolution of super heroines as a trope and a schema. The main flaw was that it was at times overly repetitive-- it means each chapter can stand alone, but having a substantial section of one decade dedicated to Wonder Woman or Psylocke (one of my girlhood heroines with her purple hair and daggers) and then having another chapter devoted to the character herself is a bit of overkill. I also wish they'd delved a little more into "alternative" comics-- they mentioned the s A pretty decent about the evolution of super heroines as a trope and a schema. The main flaw was that it was at times overly repetitive-- it means each chapter can stand alone, but having a substantial section of one decade dedicated to Wonder Woman or Psylocke (one of my girlhood heroines with her purple hair and daggers) and then having another chapter devoted to the character herself is a bit of overkill. I also wish they'd delved a little more into "alternative" comics-- they mentioned the sexiness of Fairchild from Gen-13, but ignored the fact that she was smart, confident and the team leader-- and that there were two other women on her team, with distinct personalities. The foray into Husk of Gen-X was also nice, but man, bring up some freaking Monet/Penance/twins talk, mmkay? And the TOTAL ignoring of Jubilee was just odd- she's one of the most iconic super girls for modern folk, isn't she? It would also have been nice to have a little more of a look at women as leaders through Emma Frost and Domino. And folks, I'm saying this as someone who hasn't been up to date on comics in the past ten years (too expensive of a hobby BY FAR for this kiddo), so who knows whatever big dealy things were missed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Karalius

    So, this book... I had to say something about it. It bothered me a lot, mostly because of the Wonder Woman bashing, repetition of topics despite being organized by decades, and constant talk of what the superheroines were wearing. I felt like someone shoved me in a washer and left me trapped in a rinse cycle. And where was Hawkgirl? She's one of my favorite superheroines, especially when I watched her kick butt on the Justice League animated series(and unforgettably falling in love with the Gree So, this book... I had to say something about it. It bothered me a lot, mostly because of the Wonder Woman bashing, repetition of topics despite being organized by decades, and constant talk of what the superheroines were wearing. I felt like someone shoved me in a washer and left me trapped in a rinse cycle. And where was Hawkgirl? She's one of my favorite superheroines, especially when I watched her kick butt on the Justice League animated series(and unforgettably falling in love with the Green Lantern), yet her evolution was strangely brushed over. If you read this book and see just how many hundreds of superheroines Madrid covers, you'd be suprised too. What I liked about the book is getting to know not only superheroines I'd never heard of, but also how the comic book world was functioning each decade. However, the book was tough to get through on so many levels. And some parts left me either scratching my head or wanting to find a soapbox. It would have been nice to have seen pictures of these superheroines, since, as other reviewers have mentioned, it's difficult to keep them all straight - and it would have allowed Madrid a lot less opportunity for writing unnecessary description.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    Maybe 4.5/5.0 stars, for minor corrections needed. (His handling of the two Captain Marvels needed more detail). By no means is this book academic, so it's strange to see it get boo'd down for just that. I also saw some backlash about there being no pictures - I agree there, but I doubt Madrid had the resources to get all the licenses. (Exterminating Angel Press? Who??) For that, I think people might cool it and either use their imagination (Madrid is helpful with descripions) or turn to Google. Maybe 4.5/5.0 stars, for minor corrections needed. (His handling of the two Captain Marvels needed more detail). By no means is this book academic, so it's strange to see it get boo'd down for just that. I also saw some backlash about there being no pictures - I agree there, but I doubt Madrid had the resources to get all the licenses. (Exterminating Angel Press? Who??) For that, I think people might cool it and either use their imagination (Madrid is helpful with descripions) or turn to Google. Overall, I think the book is a wonderful addition. Madrid is totally on point regarding the problems with gender and comics and I genuiney enjoyed the history lesson. In this book, you get a lovely look in history that really highlights the good (and bad) of former superheroines. I had no idea how many good stories are there (and no idea how truly bad others were). I loved that he didn't focus too heavily on Wonder Woman, allowing the other ladies a chance. My one drawback is that I wished Madrid had given some sources - enough to know where something happened in an issue or whether he was paraphrasing or actually quoting. Alas, I will have to do some detective work. I look forward to reading his in-depth piece on superheroines in the Golden Age.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A good, hard look at female superheroes over the history of comics, I actually found this book uplifting. It's true that women have traditionally been presented as less powerful, less heroic, and more interested in romance than their male counterparts. However, as someone who goes to her LCS and feels guilty that only three of my ten favorite titles "star" women, it's nice to realize how much better the industry has to have gotten that I can like any of them. Zatanna Zatara may still wear fishne A good, hard look at female superheroes over the history of comics, I actually found this book uplifting. It's true that women have traditionally been presented as less powerful, less heroic, and more interested in romance than their male counterparts. However, as someone who goes to her LCS and feels guilty that only three of my ten favorite titles "star" women, it's nice to realize how much better the industry has to have gotten that I can like any of them. Zatanna Zatara may still wear fishnets when she fights crime, but her name is on the top of her book and she's one of the most powerful characters around. The Birds of Prey are all hard core enough that Batman has been working for Oracle in this latest arc, and I don't mean Dick Grayson. So it is nice to read a story like this, lean back, and say, "you've come a long way baby." Also, not for nothing, it helped me appreciate Wonder Woman enough that I might give her book another stab even though every time I try to read Wonder Woman I just feel frustrated and bored.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I had such high hopes for this, but it ended up being a giant miss for me. There was no real analysis and the history, such as it was, was pretty basic. I feel like I could have gotten at least this much info by just googling. Also, the author spent a lot of time describing outfits and breast size. I know comics are a visual medium, so how a character is drawn is important, but come on. Did you really need to use the words "nubile" and "sexy" that much? Not to mention "rock-hard buttocks," "tram I had such high hopes for this, but it ended up being a giant miss for me. There was no real analysis and the history, such as it was, was pretty basic. I feel like I could have gotten at least this much info by just googling. Also, the author spent a lot of time describing outfits and breast size. I know comics are a visual medium, so how a character is drawn is important, but come on. Did you really need to use the words "nubile" and "sexy" that much? Not to mention "rock-hard buttocks," "tramp," "trollop," "sex kitten," and a truckload of others. If these were supposed to be tongue in cheek, it was not apparent at all. Also, the main cultural references he uses for context are pop stars, supermodels, and actresses. He compared Birds of Prey, one of the first all-women super hero teams, to the cast of Sex and the City. Seriously??? This was essentially a book about how much skin certain characters have shown, how much sex they've had and with whom, and if they've ever been knocked up, told through the lens of 1 fanboy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Krisi Amey

    Man... I really, really wanted to like this book... The truth is, the author - who sometimes seems to be trying to toot his own feminist horn - let me down. His research was good (most of the time) and some of his commentary was entertaining. I wasn't super impressed with how he handled Barbara Gordon or Kate Kane, and I frankly think there were a few times he misrepresented them on purpose to prove a point. He went a lot into the love lives of other female characters, but chalked Kate's up to a Man... I really, really wanted to like this book... The truth is, the author - who sometimes seems to be trying to toot his own feminist horn - let me down. His research was good (most of the time) and some of his commentary was entertaining. I wasn't super impressed with how he handled Barbara Gordon or Kate Kane, and I frankly think there were a few times he misrepresented them on purpose to prove a point. He went a lot into the love lives of other female characters, but chalked Kate's up to a publicity stunt, and kind of completely ignored Barb's. While I'm not a huge fan of Starfire, he mentioned her all of once - and that is a disservice to the impact that character has had on DC. I also think the fact that he never touched on the vast animated world of either DC or Marvel was a huge missed opportunity. The book came out in 2009, and there has been a lot of new stuff to talk about with comics since then. Part of me would be interested in what he had to say - and part of me just doesn't want to know...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Did you know that Sheena, not Wonder Woman, was the first female superhero to have her own title - or that she actually predates Superman? That's just the first of many fascinating facts doled out by Mike Madrid as he takes readers on a decades-long tour of the phenomenon of the female superhero. Along the way he features many familiar names (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Storm), but many of his most intriguing tales are about characters none but the most ardent of comics fans will recognize. Funny, sm Did you know that Sheena, not Wonder Woman, was the first female superhero to have her own title - or that she actually predates Superman? That's just the first of many fascinating facts doled out by Mike Madrid as he takes readers on a decades-long tour of the phenomenon of the female superhero. Along the way he features many familiar names (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Storm), but many of his most intriguing tales are about characters none but the most ardent of comics fans will recognize. Funny, smart, and vastly entertaining, this is definitely the book you read if you want to out-trivia your Comic-Con-attending friends.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

    Boy did the ladies like Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, Storm, Catwoman, Elasti Girl, et al have trouble gaining the traction and celebrity enjoyed by their male counterparts in comic book land. I am completely amazed by how difficult it was/is to sell the idea of powerful superheroines without emasculating both male readers and male superheroes, as well as the critical role played by revealing costumes to overcome this challenge. Madrid's historical look back at comic book superheroines is surprising Boy did the ladies like Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, Storm, Catwoman, Elasti Girl, et al have trouble gaining the traction and celebrity enjoyed by their male counterparts in comic book land. I am completely amazed by how difficult it was/is to sell the idea of powerful superheroines without emasculating both male readers and male superheroes, as well as the critical role played by revealing costumes to overcome this challenge. Madrid's historical look back at comic book superheroines is surprisingly thoughtful and extremely funny. A great read, even if you are a comic book novice.

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