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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


For the Los Angeles Review of Books, one Evie Nagy wrote:

...contrary to common belief, Wonder Woman was not the first female superhero. She was preceded by more than half a year by Miss Fury, who starred in her own Sunday comic strip for 10 years beginning in April 1941. Miss Fury was created, written, and drawn by a woman, June TarpĂ© Mills, who published under the more sexually ambiguous TarpĂ© Mills. Had Miss Fury entered an enduring canon like DC’s, it’s possible that the template for female superheroes, as well as for superhero comic readership, would have depended more on the influence and perspective of actual women.

I deem this pie-in-the-sky reasoning. I see no way in which "actual women" would ever have influenced the development of superheroes, because the gender differences-- whether originating in biological forces, social conditioning, or a combination thereof-- preclude a lot of women being particularly interested in the action-oriented scenarios that are emblematic of the genre.

If you venture that it's possible that by some hard-to-imagine set of circumstances someone would have come up with a "kinder, gentler" genre of superheroes than the male-oriented breed we know-- sure, it's POSSIBLE. But the set of circumstances would have to be much more involved than Nagy's scenario of seeing female superheroes influenced by Miss Fury rather than Wonder Woman.

I also disagree with these statements:

...in Miss Fury, Marla’s primary “superpower” is human resourcefulness, aligning her less with Wonder Woman than with the nonpowered but formidable heroes of DC’s Bat-family and Marvel heroes such as Hawkeye, Nick Fury (no relation), and Misty Knight. It’s an approach that, even in often totally unrealistic comic book scenarios, tends to produce role models rather than marvels.

The strongest superheroes, male or female, are those whose confidence, abilities, and sex appeal reveal themselves not through artificial projections of fantasy but through ideals that inspire creators, and therefore readers, to be better people.
It's certainly Ms. Nagy's prerogative to LIKE less fantastic types of heroes.  Nothing wrong with stating one's particular tastes.  But the idea that the more "marvelous" heroes are somehow "artificial," rather than being natural conceptions of the human ability to fantasize, is nonsense.  Both the "marvelous" and "uncanny" types of heroes are primarily oriented toward thematic escapism. Both do project some moral values, values that are vital to their narratives, but those values can only be understood within a framework that emphasizes their joint escapist nature.  Having read quite a few Golden Age Superman stories, I'd say that the marvelous powers does not in any way preclude "ideals" that may inspire both creators and readers.
In conclusion, the only thing I like about Ms. Nagy's argument is that she appreciates the work of Tarpe Mills.  

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