Those who keep up with comics know how sexist and downright regressive the industry can be. As a friend said long ago, “the writers draw girls they wish they could get.” I wish she were wrong, but that observation seems sadly accurate. Having the disparities pointed out to them, comic writers have taken a defensive pose, unwilling to be held accountable for their place in the marketing loop. DC Comics, the home of Batman, has especially come under fire for their flagrant sexism. In fact, they recently hired a noted homophobe to pen Superman’s latest volume.
So, where’s the “Girl Power” you ask? Well, within the last week both Marvel and DC have debuted new female superheroes. Not sidekicks. Not love interests to the actual main character. Bonafide, legitimate and full-fledged female superheroes. It is quite unfortunate that such an event is so rare as to elicit a triumphant cheer, but here we are. With no further pageantry, here are the wicked awesome new heroes soon to be gracing stores shelves:
Justice League Canada- DC writer Jeff Lemire is unveiling a yet to be named superhero based off of a real life teenager, deceased Cree activist Shannen Koostachin. She is famous within Canada for launching a campaign to the media and Parliament concerning the failing schools of her area. At 14 she became a national hero, nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Sadly, she was killed in a car crash at 16. Her story so impressed Mr. Lemire than he is visiting her hometown of Moose Factory to learn about the Cree First Nations people upon which her character will be based. Clearly, this is not just a win for Ms. Koostachin and gender parity, but for the Cree people and all of Canada’s First Nation groups. Despite being a rather progressive nation, Canada is notorious for the ill treatment of its First Nations peoples.
Ms. Marvel- The newest person to don the Ms. Marvel title, Kamala Khan is notable for many reasons. She is a Muslim-American from Pakistan which will make her Marvel’s first Muslim title character. Perhaps the best part is how the editors themselves noticed a dearth of female superheroes and thus wanted to change that. The character’s story is partially based on editor Sana Amanat’s experiences as growing up Muslim in the United States. Ms. Marvel will be portrayed as an ordinary teenager with relatable experiences, just adding superpowers. This is really doubly meaningful for girls, and especially girls of color, to be considered “normal” by any mainstream outlet. For the geeks among us, Ms. Marvel’s powers are many including the ability to change shape. She can make her fist many times normal size, presumably to punch sexism and all bigotries straight in the face.
So, there you have it. In a single week the world sees two new female superheroes of color. It’s disappointing so much prodding was needed, but some progress was finally made. If these books succeed, perhaps even more will follow. You can thank Marvel here and DC here to thank them for waking up to 21st century realities. Let them know, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere. The writing is on the wall; those who refuse to acknowledge it shall be called out and shamed. Here’s to Girl Power week!