By RazzaTazz 35 Comments
I have looked at many different aspects of fashion in my blogs and many different aspects of the presentation of women in comics, but one thing which bears some mention is that women in comics are often under represented in terms of what would be more accurately called girls. A quick look for characters named girl versus those named woman, is almost staggering. Of major characters named Woman is both major comic book companies there is Wonder Woman, Invisible Woman, Catwoman, Spider Woman and Batwoman. It is not a fair comparison perhaps because of the Legions of Super Heroes, but the term girl shows up much more often. In fact not even counting the Legion, there is a corresponding girl to each of the women mentioned, though Catgirl was not a very famous character (Sue Storm used to be called Invisible Girl). Is there actually something of a bias against grown women?
This goes back to the original readership of comics, how it was mostly aimed at a young male audience. Most of the characters were either archetypes of the hero genre, or they were sidekicks. It was rare for a sidekick to be female (in fact none were until Supergirl) but even as female characters become more popular it was rare to see one ever grow out of this title (which Power Girl, a fully grown adult has never done.) The girl aspect of most of these female characters was highlighted as well as things like bearing midriff or wearing skirts became commonplace in their depiction. So the early readers could probably associate more with a character that was young, flirty and maybe a bit sassy than they could with a strong woman role. Even the major female characters were rarely portrayed as something which represented what adult women might behave like (Wonder Woman and Invisible Woman being the exceptions.)
As comics evolved so did the readers and subjects and characters changed to meet the new demand. With this though some things were considered sacrosanct though, such as a shoddy scientific basis for stories (though this has increasingly gone away) or the pinup nature of certain characters from this early era (Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Power Girl). This second aspect has never really gone away, as any Emma Frost fan can tell you. The depiction of girls though has remained. It is still rare to see an elder female character which younger male characters look up to, but a young female character looking up to a male character is kind common. So, for instance, while they dropped the girl part of the name, many young X-Men female characters looked up to the older ones (for instance Wolverine with his connection to Rogue, Psylocke or X-23.)
In terms of its use though, I am not sure if this is something which the creators do purposefully, but rather something which is done “just because it always has been done that way.” One of the Superboys grew into the villainous Superman Prince, Robin grew into Nightwing and then Batman, Aqualad grew into the Tempest, Wally West went from Kid Flash to perhaps the most popular Flash ever (to be fair Donna Troy was also for a very short time Wonder Woman). Is it time that Power Girl be allowed to grow into Power Woman? I would say yes, just because its something which has never been done doesn’t mean its something that can never be done. It is also the responsibility of the writers to sometimes break the patterns of the past and set the tone for the future. To do so makes comics more relevant to all and also more entertaining to all.