As I discussed in an earlier post, pre-Comics Code comic books are full of fascinating women superheroes who’ve been more or less forgotten in the decades since WWII. Born in the era of Rosie the Riveter, when there was a national campaign to get women into workplaces, these costumed heroines were brassy, hard-assed, snarky, and sometimes just plain weird. They displayed remarkable grit and independence, and were portrayed as better crime-fighters than the inept, sexist cops that got in their way.
Even removed from their intriguing, important place in sociocultural history, these stories are compelling bits of pure comics nerdery - eg, the fact that 1941’s Spider Queen was almost certainly the unacknowledged inspiration for Spider-Man. These characters deserve to be better known. Happily, the astonishing www.digitalcomicmuseum.org hosts full-issue scans of scores of public domain pre-Code comics. Which means you can read these comics right now, for free!
Here are a few of my favorite lost superheroines from the 1940s. Click on a character’s name to access an archive of their adventures!
FANTOMAH - Arguably the first woman superhero, and to this day one of the strangest. Fantomah is a near-omniscient (blonde) jungle spirit with incredible magical/psionic powers. She is always threatening her enemies with “a jungle death!” and she turns into a green skull with beautiful hair when she’s angry.
LADY SATAN - Sometime Nazi-killer, sometime occult detective, Lady Satan roams the land in her stylish automobile, using gun, garrote, and fire magic to take out Reich agents and child-snatching werewolves.
MOTHER HUBBARD - Looking like a cartoon witch, speaking only in rhyme, Mother Hubbard uses her bizarre occult powers to battle everything from fifth column saboteurs to Disney-esque dwarves that steal kids’ eyeballs.
THE WOMAN IN RED - A gun-toting jujitsu expert, the Woman in Red is a sort of costumed private detective. She’s the bane of both criminals (especially those who prey on women) and inept male cops. But to the women she saves she’s quite…tender.
THE SPIDER QUEEN - A chemistry lab assistant becomes a wise-cracking costumed herowho uses wrist-strapped web shooters to swing around the city and tie up bad guys. But this is 1941, and our hero is a woman.
THE VEILED AVENGER - Although she’s the frilliest-looking of 40s superheroines, the Veiled Avenger might be the hardest. She uses her crop to make criminals shoot each other…and themselves. And in her civilian life as a District Attorney’s secretary, she scolds dumb cops who endanger witnesses.
Sadly, these heroines all disappeared by the 1950s. As the national project of getting women out of the workplace took hold, bold self-sufficient superheroines became scarce on the ground. Despite some great work by amazing artists over the years, comics still doesn’t have enough of them.
[And now, a plug: I’m working on a longer piece on these heroines, and on some other stuff you might find interesting. You can learn more about all that here.]
Michelle Rodriguez wants you to read LAZARUS.
(Well, actually, I think she wants to play Forever, but, you know, the one could lead to the other…).
Mostly, I’m blogging this because it’s MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ and she likes our book! And that’s reason enough. So there.
Rebecca Dart’s roughs from her Una the Blade story. It’s about how a teenage Una first ran away from home to see the world.
A barbarian single-mother battles for her life and the lives of her children in the twilight of a dying Earth. Ravaged by forbidden sorcery and forgotten science, it is a world of crumbling empires and post human monsters. A world of merciless warlords and evil gods. Surviving by her ruthlessness and cunning, she will live or die by the blade.
I put up an Una the Blade Pinterest page where I can post art from myself and contributors as well as image inspiration.
There’s also a Facebook page, if you didn’t know.
Hey everyone! So it is two weeks past launch day for Misfits of Avalon! You should go check it out at http://www.sorcery101.net/misfits-of-avalon/moa1-cover/
A group of delinquent girls are given magic rings from Avalon in order to fight King Arthur in modern times. It’s a magical girl story that is a mix of King Arthur lore and a tiny bit of Celtic myth.
Check it out and spread the word! Pages go up every week day! Reminders/rss feed autoposts links to the newest pages on my tumblr.
HEY FOLKS LOOK WHAT MY PAL KEL IS DOING
READ IT, OKAY
As often as I can, I will try to bring you short interviews with people who are creating comics and doing everything they can to show their work to the world.
Today I spoke with Leia Weathington about her book Bold Riley: Unspun, currently funding on Kickstarter.
My friend and sometime collaborator Leia Weathington did an interview with The Two Page Spread. She has some smart things to say.
Brian Hurrt’s bookplate for the second Queen & Country novel, Private Wars.
WINDBLADE #1 Preview
Yay, more female transformers! And such a gorgeous looking design, even if the Bioware-esque obvious breasts are a bit pointless (TF:Prime did a much more appeciatively subtler job with Arcee, I think)
silly silly little comic
Ladies, gentlemen, and other gentlepeople: my girlfriend’s ‘silly little comic’
Oh my fucking gods this is perfect
INTERVIEW: Kurtis Wiebe Talks ‘Rat Queens’ And Why Adventurers Are The Worst
By Chris Sims
Over the past five issues Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch’s Rat Queens has quickly become one of my favorite comics on the stands. The story of four Dungeons & Dragons-style adventurers who claim to protect the town while actually being the biggest possible threat to the peace is hilarious, brutal and action-packed, and more often than not, it’s all three at the same time.
The first story arc, Sass & Sorcery, wrapped up in the fifth issue last week, so to look back on one of the best debuts of the past year, I spoke to Wiebe about the influence of gaming on his storytelling, the character he relates to, and the almost unprintable original title.