Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Other Heroes: A Portrayal of Women in Comics - Part 4

Editor’s note: This series of blog posts was adapted from a paper written by Erminia “Minnie” Saucedo. Minnie’s series on this topic will enlighten you on the portrayal of women in comics. We’re excited that she’s shared this with us. Enjoy this enlightening series.

By Erminia Saucedo

Girls’ Comics
Comics have always been seen as an entertainment set specifically for boys, even from the creation of
the comic industry in 1938, however a small revolution of comic genres came about four years after the first golden year to change this thought. Although super hero comics were and still are a majority of the comic industry when it started, with each title proudly boasting a male hero, “Girl’s comics” came into existence and were geared towards the female audience. While hero creators attempted to draw women into series and even created a few new female heroes, they were nothing more than over glamorized women that were meant to attract men and, to a lesser extent, please women. Women, very obviously, were not interested in comics of that nature and shunned the industry for the most part until the tides turned in the year 1941. Comic creators had finally found the key ingredient for a “girl’s comic”: a wholesome self image and realistically relatable characters. In December of 1941 the Archie series was released from MJL Publications and was the first comic ever to be geared specifically for women as it featured romance and comedy at the heart of its stories. It flew from the stands quickly as girls between the ages of six and thirteen found female characters they could finally relate to in Betty and Veronica, two girls who were both rivals and friends vying for the heart of Archie’s title character Archie.

Years passed, and female fans of Archie’s Girls: Betty and Veronica, a spin off comic made to feature the pair and their romantic antics specifically, was joined by many, many different titles that found and used the key of the wholesome self image and relatable characters. Some of those titles were Patsy Walker, Taffy, My Girl Pearl and Candy, among a seemingly limitless list of others. Each more or less
about a girl who was in high school and being the typical American teen, shyly fawning over the hunky star quarterback, hanging out with friends and being the spunky good daughter. However there were a few titles like Sunny that completely missed the key ingredient mark and centered on a girl who flunked classes, flirted often and wore spiked heels and low cut, cleavage flashing tops to school. Trina Robbins, author of From Girls to Grrlz, points out, “Unlike many of the other curvy comic book teen queens, Taffy and her toothy friend Putty were…skinny thirteen year olds. The girls were no glamourpusses, but they were adorable…Like many of the other teen titles [another name for “girl’s comics”], Taffy included some stories about real movie stars, pop singers and other teen faves…On the other hand, Sunny, published that same year by Fox Comics and subtitled “America’s Sweetheart”, was the school tramp.” Robbins parallels the series of Taffy and Sunny in order to get a point across; it was and is all about image. Readers could relate a lot more to Taffy than they could Sunny.  Taffy was a normal ditzy girl who dressed just like the everyday girls of the forties while Sunny dressed like the loose floozy everyone talked about behind the gymnasium, which determined which series had the bigger fan base and it was easily Taffy. Sunny lasted only a year due to her poor image where as Taffy lasted for a long while. The creators of Taffy made sure to pay attention to who the modern teenage girls were, what they were interested in and found that not every girl was the same, each was special, giving them the upper hand to create stories that portrayed women and girls in the closest form compared to the real thing. While many of these “Girl’s comics” ended their runs long, long ago, they paved the way for  market to create romance, comedy and high school comics; all of which to this day have steady female consumer bases. Compared to the gritty hero side of the comic world that in a lot of ways does wrong to the female character, “Girl’s comics” have the foul-proof recipe for the realistic woman: Relation, Attention, Detail and Specialty. With this in hand, the comic world will always have a section ruled by the fairer sex for once. (From Girls to Grrlz)

The next, and last, post in this series wraps up our Super Heroines discussion.

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