The history of comics has centered almost exclusively on men. Comics historians largely describe the medium as one built by men telling tales about male protagonists, neglecting the many ways in which women fought for legitimacy on the page and in publishers’ studios. Despite this male-dominated focus, women played vital roles in the early history of comics. The story of how comic books were born and how they evolved changes dramatically when women like June Tarpé Mills and Lily Renée are placed at the center rather than at the margins of this history, and when characters such as the Black Cat, Patsy Walker, and Señorita Rio are analyzed.
Comic Book Women offers a feminist history of the golden age of comics, revising our understanding of how numerous genres emerged and upending narratives of how male auteurs built their careers. Considering issues of race, gender, and sexuality, the authors examine crime, horror, jungle, romance, science fiction, superhero, and Western comics to unpack the cultural and industrial consequences of how women were represented across a wide range of titles by publishers like DC, Timely, Fiction House, and others. This revisionist history reclaims the forgotten work done by women in the comics industry and reinserts female creators and characters into the canon of comics history.
This study of women in Golden Age comics is an absolute joy to read. Comic Book Women progresses smoothly from pioneering superhero stories to less well-known horror and science fiction titles, before shifting to the unexpected complexity behind teen and romance comics. As each chapter makes increasingly clear, evidence of the integral role that women played in the growth of the comics medium in the United States is overwhelming, as are the disturbing obstructions and predatory work environments that hindered their full public participation in the industry.
Comic Book Women is beautifully organized and exquisitely well researched. The authors’ method of framing various problems in terms of genre propels the volume into relevance for broader conversations regarding the intersection of gender studies and genre studies. The idea of a recuperation of the role of women in comics (both in the industry and as subjects) is long overdue, and this volume holds the possibility of re-envisioning comics history.
Peyton Brunet is a graduate of DePaul University’s communication and media master’s program.
Blair Davis is an associate professor of media and cinema studies at DePaul University. He is the author of Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page, Comic Book Movies, and The Battle for the Bs: 1950s Hollywood and the Rebirth of Low-Budget Cinema.
Chapter 1. Superhero Comics
Chapter 2. Jungle Comics
Chapter 3. Crime Comics
Chapter 4. Horror Comics
Chapter 5. Western Comics
Chapter 6. Title Characters
Chapter 7. Science Fiction Comics
Chapter 8. Romance Comics
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