My post Men are From Marvel and Women Are From DC, generated some interesting comments and fun discussion, imagine that. I came to one big conclusion about the femaleness of DC and the Maleness of Marvel… it all goes back to Wonder Women… …Duh. Think about it. Having a major female superhero thrive in and more importantly, survive the golden age of comics speaks volumes. Marvel/Timely, in truth, never had interesting women characters to begin with but the break between their 1940s supers and the 1960s Marvel Age cements my point.
The fact that Wonder Woman had her own successful title for decades gives the DC universe a possible womanish vibe even if her stories didn’t always depict females in the best light. The Amazon is a headliner. This fact combined with numerous other characters like Catwoman, Power Girl, Super-Girl, and Black Canary make a for a solid foundation that echoes down the years through the DC Universe. It seems obvious when you think about it but then I’m a man bred on Marvel Comics… 80’s Marvel Comics.
D0nnaT0ry had a good point in that a person’s universe of choice comes down to their gateway comic. The appeal of Wonder Woman and other DC heroines is obvious, so this must be the reason why girls have flocked to DC Comics. They have the female supers, so they have the female readers. Now this makes sense and could end the gender question right there but… the gateway comic doesn’t ring true for me personally as a man. If it did, I’d have been a DC Comics fan for most of my life. The first comic book I ever read was an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, bought by my sister no less, and while I generally liked the characters it didn’t really fire my imagination. I also read some Justice League of America too and again it didn’t do much for me and these were male character dominated titles. Consequently, I didn’t really read comics extensively until years later. One day, out of boredom, I convinced my mother to buy me three, bagged together; marvel comics… and my addiction began. I’ve often wondered what would’ve happened if I had encountered an issue of Amazing Spiderman or The Avengers instead of Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Justice League. So I tend to think there is something a little more feminine to the DC Universe…
Now a thought experiment to test if DC is more female-like than Marvel would be to pick a masculine heavy genre that women generally don’t enjoy, like War Comics. If you do a little compare and contrast, I believe women would come down on the side of Sgt Rock rather than Nick Fury. I’m not discounting the fact that Rock was better written and drawn than Fury, which would make it more appealing to most folks including me, it's just that I have a feeling that women would be better entertained by DC's WWII comic over Marvel's version. Besides, which title had Mademoiselle Marie?
Wonder Woman gets to the heart of the matter to me. Having her front and center made DC unconsciously more diffused with a female ethos. But, and here is where we get to the Feminine Mystique aspect, DC super-heroines are saddled with pre-women’s lib baggage. Wonder Woman and friends were still struggling against the sexist themes of the golden age long after the successes of the sexual revolution at least that’s how I perceive it. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t attracted to DC Comics as much. Not because their comics were more feminine but because they were more 1950s feminine. Case in point, She-Hulk. I’ve always liked Shulkie and as I’ve said before, she’s a modern woman. I like female superheroes a lot, I think I just prefer ‘em post second-wave feminism. This is not say that Marvel was doing a great job with their female characters, far from it as the Wasp’s annoying prattle in the 1960s Avengers attests, but rather that Marvel simply had a more male centered universe even though, paradoxically, it was a more modern universe.
By the 1990s a lot of the gender issues I’m proposing about DC and Marvel had changed. Through retcons, modern storytelling, and the X-men Splitting into a plethora of titles with strong female characterizations the view has been blurred. Many younger readers have more choice to jump back and forth between the big 2 without much regard to gender or gender legacy. In other words, they’ve grown up with comics that are less defined by such issues. Again, I’m not necessarily saying the big 2 are doing a good job, I’m just saying they seem to have more freedom when it comes to expressing a masculine or a progressive feminine ethos rather than sticking to what was par for the course in the past. Whether they use this freedom, responsibly or creatively is a different issue.
What are your thoughts?
I ended the “Men are From Marvel” post with a Hillary and Obama political cartoon. So with that in mind I’ll end this post with them. Maybe the struggle in the Democratic Party is a fight between the Wonder Woman Generation (Hillary) and the She-Hulk Generation (Obama). It’s looking more and more like the She-Hulk generation is gonna win.