What is it?
An entertaining analysis of female heroes in comics, television and film from Wonder Woman on. In her introduction, author Jennifer K. Stuller states:
the lack of heroic female role models in popular culture can be distressing for a little girl, as well as a grown woman. We’re shown too many images of us as beauty queens, femme fatales, vixens, girlfriends, mothers and damsels in need of rescuing. We can be these things but we can also be more.
In this book she looks at a variety of kick ass female characters, including DC women, who fit two of the four criteria she sets for a superwoman:
The book’s three sections examine the evolution of female heroes, what impacted their development and some of the women responsible for their creation including actress Margot Kidder (far and away the best Lois Lane ever presented) and writers Trina Robbins and Gail Simone. Initiatives like GirlWonder.org and WiR are also examined.
What’s to like about it?
If you want to learn about female heroes in media and how they’ve evolved, this is the book for you. Everyone from Aeron Flux to Xena is touched upon here. The book isn’t as comic focused as Mike Madrid’s “The Supergirls” - its scope is much broader. But that’s part of the fun — it’s interesting to read about the commonality that Barbara Gordon and Sydney Bristow share.
Stuller’s research is thorough and while there is some familiar ground here such as the history of Wonder Woman’s creation, there is new perspective as well. She gave me a reason to do a fresh reading of Gail Simone’s “The Circle” laying out how Gail brought a uniquely female viewpoint to the creation of Diana.
She also brings up properties that I wasn’t familiar with such as the “The Claws of the Catwoman” put out by Marvel in the 1970s. Based on the reader and editor letters Stuller quotes here, the book provided some interesting discussion between Marvel and its readers regarding “women’s lib”.
Stuller is a strong writer who has real enthusiasm for her topic. While the book is clearly rooted in academic research she brings a breezy, personable tone to her subject that kept me engaged.
What’s not to like?
It would be useful to have some images to go along with the narrative. Stuller does have a web site though that has some graphics related to the book. The glossary of superwomen is short, but seemed to hit on most of the important players. And I have few small nits with her characterizations, but other than that not much.
So should I buy it?
If you want insight ino the history of female superheroes and how their creation and evolution has been shaped by current events, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is available at Amazon.