comic book projecct

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    Meagan Vincent

    Feminist History Through Masked Eyes

    Cancelled. The remake of the classic and iconic Wonder Woman sitcom of the 1970's was

    officially cancelled by NBC, the very network that had commissioned the show, without even a pilot

    episode shown. The show seemed to be off to a rocky start as

    soon as it was announced to be in the works. A leaked script

    was immediately shopped around and was called 'bizarre' by

    many who read it. Fans created an uproar when they saw the

    new Wonder Woman's costumes as well. NBC tried to

    counter this by introducing the idea that Wonder Woman

    would wear three different costumes, but it wasnt enough to quell the fire and the show, after getting

    mixed reviews from the NBC execs who viewed the pilot, it was inevitably cancelled.

    Its a fact within television that unpopular shows and shows that wouldnt appeal to the public

    are normally and constantly cancelled. However, the cancellation of Wonder Womans show is a

    symbol of something far greater and far deeper. Superhero movies and television shows are in

    abundance. Smallville, a sitcom on the life of Clark Kent, or the superhero Superman, survived ten

    seasons before its last episode aired on May 13th, 2011. The Incredible Hulkmovie(2008)starring Liv

    Tyler and Eric Bana, made 55 million dollars in its opening weekend, and 134 million dollars in total.

    The Dark Knight(2008), a remake of the Batman movie from the 90's made over 158 million dollars its

    opening weekend, and even more astounding, it made over one billion dollars worldwide. In

    comparison the heroines faired much, much worse. Catwoman (2004) played by the Oscar winning

    actress Halle Berry, made only 16million dollars its opening weekend and made 40 million in total.

    Electra (2005), the heroine played by Jennifer Garner made 14 million dollars its opening weekend,

    and made only 24 million dollars in total. The glass ceiling doesnt only exist for the 'real women'

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    because it is evident that it exists for the ladies within the pages of the comic books as well. Women

    comic book heroes, from the very first heroine, Fantomah, tell the story of feminism and womens

    struggle from their very introduction.

    The years between the 1940's and the 1950's were tumultuous yet groundbreaking years for

    women. In 1941, the United States became involved in World War II. With the men involved in the war,

    the United States government launches a campaign to get women into the workplace. One of their most

    popular ads included 'Rosie the Riveter' who beckoned the women to

    be involved in the wartime efforts and even had her own song by the

    same name. Some 13 million women joined the workforce, eager to

    fill the holes in the workforce the men had left behind. The iconic

    Wonder Woman was born in December of 1941 and she perfectly

    epitomized the working class women of the United States. Wonder

    Woman was a major departure from her fellow heroine Fantomah, who had debuted only a handful of

    months before her. Fantomah was a mysterious, wild over sexualized girl from the jungle who had been

    carefully crafted to capitalize on the popular Tarzan of the Apes and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle comic

    books. Wonder Woman was created by the polyamorous William Moulton Marston who modeled the

    heroine after his lover. Wonder Woman was debuted fighting the Axis Powers and was the most famous

    female to defend American Democracy. While the real woman did their part to help in the war, by

    becoming the backbone of the country, the comic book ladies did their part as well. Many new heroines

    were introduced, including Liberty Belle, Pat Patriot, and the extremely sexualized post war heroine,

    Yankee Girl.

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    The 1950's brought change for women as the men came

    home from the war and resumed their lives in the home.

    Although 80 percent of women want to keep their jobs,

    most are eventually forced out by the men to return to

    their domestic lives. Americas new conservative attitudes

    and domestication of its women was mirrored in its comic

    books as well. The Comics Code Authority was made to

    clean up the industry. When strong women disappeared

    from the work force, strong women disappeared from

    comics as well, as artists

    would prefer to not show a

    female character rather

    than tone down her

    excessively large breasts

    or cover her midriff and

    butt. Many of the heroines created during the war disappeared from the newsstands. Even Wonder

    Woman was not impervious to the wave of conservative attitude sweeping the nation. The once busty

    Wonder Woman was now being drawn fully clothed more often and her costume not as scanty. Wonder

    Woman became a member of the Justice Society of America during the 1950's. Although she was

    stronger, faster, and much more agile than the men, Wonder woman joined the team as their secretary.

    As if this wasnt demeaning enough Wonder Woman is shown happily volunteering for the position, all

    the while lamenting about how she wish she could go with the boys on their adventures. Marston, the

    original creator of Wonder Woman died in 1947, leaving his creation to Artist Peter, who stripped

    Wonder Woman of her feminine wisdom and care for the welfare of the woman and focused Wonder

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    Womans comics on her love interest Steve. Many of the story lines were based on how Wonder

    Woman could keep her 'man', Steve, happy.

    The 1960's brought about brought on the improvement in womens sexual health. Leaps and

    bounds are made in birth control legislation, abortion laws, equal pay acts in put into place, and

    affirmative action becomes extended to women. Women were making a fuss about the inequalities they

    faced and the Media was definitely not standing behind them. While reports flew about

    bra burning feminists, the comic book industry decided to show very few women, if any

    at all. Marvel comics, one of the largest companies had no women headlining their

    own comic books. Instead Marvel chose to either show a woman as part of a group of

    men such as Sue Storm from The Fantastic Four. Or stereotype the women by

    showing them enjoying feminine past times such as shopping and going to tea. The

    company that owned Wonder Woman did the same thing, herding Wonder Woman into

    the updated version of the Justice Society, of which she had been the secretary. Wonder

    Woman became part of the Justice League, a group of new baby superheroes, even

    though she had been around for nearly 20 years. The women of the 1960s comics were

    written as generally satisfied with their lives. They were women who found

    fulfillment in their relationships, with little need for power or independence. The

    ladies, the Louis Lanes, were content being the ineffectual girlfriend and the person the male superhero

    must always save. The media was working hard to show the women of the country, where they

    supposedly belonged and the conservative idea leaked into the pages of the comics.

    The 1970's however brought about new heroines and new changes for women in the United

    States. In the 1970s, women convene consciousness-raising groups to educate about gender oppression,

    create community, and share common experiences. The first womens studies departments are

    developed at universities, and the United Nations designates the 1970s the Womens Decade.

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    Valkyrie, a new heroine is introduced and she has scathing words about men.

    Introduced in The Avengers in 1970 alongside 3 other women, Valkyrie, a

    scorned woman is on a quest to free her sisters from the invisible shackles

    that man had places on them. Valkyrie convinces her fellow heroines that

    theyve been subjugated by the male heroes in the group and sets out to battle

    them. Valkyrie is eventually exposed to be a villain but her message has been

    planted in the group. In the coming decade we would see many more heroines questioning their

    position in life. Vampirella was another feminist character in the 70's to debut. Dressed in tight black

    clothing, committing violent acts, and drinking blood, Vampirella was everything women in comic

    books were not allowed to be years previously. Gone were the mandates that controlled the production

    companies. While still adhering to the tight clothes and the revealing tops,

    Vampirella was actually sweet natured and virtuous. She battles demons and

    monsters instead of creating the havoc she looks designed to create. She

    constantly challenged the mainstreams idea of what it is to be intrinsically

    female. Most creators of the comic books did not believe that the new age

    of women would last however, and it showed in their stories. A great

    example would be Catwoman. In one comic Catwoman and her new group

    of ladies, the Feline Furies, have defeated Batman. Catwoman goes on a

    crime spree. Men! It was men who led us astray, men who put us behind

    bars like caged tigers. In the end however Catwoman forgets about her promise to emancipate her

    sisters and instead runs off with some jewels as if to say Catwomans choice in freeing her sisters is just

    as fleeting as the womens movement for equality.

    The 1980's brought a cold wind on the feminist front. Abortion and Abortion rights were

    denounced by republicans across the country and the Equal Rights Amendment is not ratified. Sexual

    health rights also took a beating as the Supreme Courts ruled that states can deny public funding for

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    abortion and abortion clinics. Women in comic books were to meet the cold wind head on. Batwoman,

    who loved and yearned for Batman was killed violently, as was Supergirl. Rape and violence became a

    recurring theme for the ladies, sometimes at the

    hands of their own husbands which are seen in the

    beating of, The Avengers Wasp, by her husband,

    Yellowjacket. Invisible Girl from the Fantastic

    Four also has a miscarriage from the very same

    radiation that gave her and her comrades her powers. It was almost scary to be a female in a comic

    book. The women because less exposed and more androgynous. The X-Men series featured women

    clad in all leather with punk attitudes. While the men were handsome, tall and free to be themselves,

    the women were made into safer characters. The women, who had spent the 1970s relishing their

    new found freedoms and powers, were taking a beating, both in reality and in the comic books.

    The 1990 and the 2000s brought on the year of the advertisements. Pop culture swept the

    nation. Boy Bands and supermodels such as Christie Brinkley filled the pages of

    magazines and assuredly carried over into the realm of comic books. The comic

    book ladies, who had survived the violence and

    disasters of previous years, now became

    supermodels. They werent good enough in their

    former glory. They needed a revamping, a

    makeover to make them look like the supermodels

    so prolific in mainstream media. The Invisible

    Woman, of the Fantastic Four, now a mother of two has her entire costume

    and body remade. Gone were the entire outfits she had made for herself

    and her comrades. Her costume was now made into a bathing suit style

    uniform and her muscles and lean legs drawn out of proportion. Wonder Woman, who had made her

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