The Women of DC – Kids Edition

In reading comic blogs and talking to other comic book readers I find that the way female characters are portrayed is a big and somewhat thorny topic. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that I’m not very fond of how most women are objectified in comic books. For the most part I find that when I go to the comic shop I’m staring at endless pin-up fantasy girls who I have serious trouble believing are superheroines because of the total lack of musculature and impractical footwear for roof-jumping, just to name a few of their problems.

But all of those comics are aimed at adults. When I decided to check out the current comics aimed at kids, I found some very different versions of some of the most iconic superheroines ever created than the ones you see just a few feet away on the adult shelves.

A typical little girl in our culture is most likely to have heard of Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman. Sadly, Marvel has no female characters nearly this iconic, especially for little girls. So those were the characters I payed most attention to. Johnny DC is the DC Comics imprint has aimed at kids right now. Looking through their current titles I managed to easily find Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl along with all the Teen Titan and Legion girls and a number of villainous women as well.

Supergirl just finished up her very own mini series called Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade and it was wonderful. It was well written and funny. Supergirl actually felt like a kid lost and trying to figure things out. She looked good and even though she messed up a lot (as first time heroes tend to do), she felt heroic. I could easily believe that she was a hero, if for no other reason than she tried really hard even when things got tough. Nothing about her was objectified, she was portrayed (visually) as a regular girl, as was every other girl in her series.

Batgirl appears in The Batman Strikes. Her costume is totally redesigned (purple, like the 1960s TV show, but with a skirt over the bodysuit and other stylistic changes) and she’s younger than we’ve ever seen her. Despite being so much younger, she’s still on her own and able to hold her own. She’s compitent, clever and strong. The story I read had her fighting with and against Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy and it never felt like she was not in control or outnumbered at all. This is a great portrayal of a smart young heroine with no powers and no real mentor (Batman mentors Robin, not her) who totally kicks butt.

Wonder Woman appears in DC Super Friends, which is sort of the newest kid-friendly incarnation of the Justice League. It’s the adventures of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman. Notice that Wonder Woman is the only woman here? The art style is sort of a blocky, squashed toy-like style (obviously designed to look like the toy line). This actually really works for Wonder Woman. Rather than being wasp-waisted and super lean, she actually looks as strong and powerful as the men around her. The artists on this comic vary and some make her less muscular and more hourglass-shaped than others, but it’s never as bad as she’s usually drawn. She’s still smaller than the men are, but I have absolutely no problem believing this woman is a warrior just from looking at her. The stories are cute and all about teamwork and cooperation and things like that, but the idea of being a superhero is very much there.

I can definitely imagine a little girl aspiring to be like any one of these heroines from reading these comics, and the letters at the back attest to that happening. Capes aren’t just for boys and Johnny DC has definitely given girls some great superheroines to pretend to be as they wear their capes! I would absolutely recommend any of these titles to kids of either gender. Thank you DC for giving kids some great images of female heroes! I’d like to see the female characters take less of a backseat and have more staring roles, like the Supergirl mini-series, but at least this is a good start.

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