Friday, 19 May 2017


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

There's certainly a lot going on in this cover, but note how
ineffectual (as usual) MARVEL GIRL is, merely levitating in the
background.  She's about as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.  JACK
KIRBY often had difficulty portraying female characters as anything
other than glamorous-but-helpless adornment on the covers he did,
but JEAN GREY's power (telekenesis) doesn't really lend itself to
dramatic visual interpretation.  (The FF's SUE STORM didn't
fare much better, alas, but then again, I suppose invisibility
is another difficult one to do anything with.)

At least the gals were there to make the tea and sandwiches,
and wash and iron the costumes after the guys had done all the
heavy-lifting in the fighting department, so their presence wasn't
entirely redundant.  And it's always nice to have a pretty face
around, isn't it?  (That should p*ss off the feminists.)


(Incidentally, I first saw this cover on FANTASTIC #18 in
1967.  The back cover was a Power-House Pin-Up of TONY
STARK's secretary PEPPER POTTS, and I can remember
buying the comic as though it were only yesterday.  Sigh!)


TC said...

In the Silver Age, Marvel heroines were usually just there for eye candy, or as token female relief. Sue Storm, Marvel Girl, the Wasp, and Scarlet Witch seemed more like helpless damsels than helpful teammates. They would often lose power, or faint from the strain of using power, during a fight. Or they would get kidnapped or taken hostage, and have to be rescued.

The supporting female characters (Betty Brant, Karen Page, Pepper Potts, Jane Foster) were always some man's assistant. Not that there is anything wrong with being a nurse or secretary, but those were traditional jobs for women back then, so Marvel was not exactly pushing the envelope.

DC was a little more forward-thinking. Wonder Woman and Supergirl had their own solo series, and were usually treated as equal partners in teams (the Justice League and the Legion of Super Heroes).

Even the secondary characters (the heroes' girlfriends) were often portrayed as competent adults who could do their jobs well. Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Vicki Vale, and Iris West were journalists. Carol Ferris was CEO of an aircraft company, and Jean Loring was a practicing attorney.

Oddly, when it came to female characters, quaint old DC was ahead of the curve, and the House of Ideas was behind.

Kid said...

I think there's some truth to what you say, TC, but really only on a superficial level as far as DC's female characters were concerned. Supergirl was often portrayed as a typical love-struck female, ruled by her emotions more than her intellect. And Lois Lane is surely the archetypal 'damsel in distress', constantly needing Superman to rescue her before she can 'phone in her story. In fact, a lot of the time she only scoops Clark because he allows her to. DC had female characters on covers, holding handkerchiefs up to streaming eyes, and lamenting the fact that they couldn't win the affections of some guy or other. That didn't happen on Marvel covers, with the possible exception of Millie the Model-type mags. But I see what you're saying and appreciate you saying it.

Paul McScotty Muir said...

Both good points well put - I would say that Archie comics (Betty and Veronica) deserved a bit of credit in this field as the had Archie chasing the girls and the girls being successful at school etc. Are women in today's comics portrayed any better, maybe more self reliant and powerful but they can look like more like "sex objects" from some of the covers I see.

Kid said...

That's true, PM, but from a woman's point of view, wouldn't the perfectly built men in comics be regarded as sex objects too? (To the women who actually read superhero comics that is.)

B Smith said...

"Marvel heroines were usually just there for eye candy, or as token female relief."

Not so! They were there for the heroes to agonise over, to silently worship from afar, but fearful of ever revealing how they really felt or who they really were. Without them, why, most of the time there just wouldn't be a story!

The thing that really strikes me about that cover is the inking. On the main figures, it's fairly chunky, heavyhanded sort of rendering one would expect of Roussos or Stone....yet that mechanical gizmo that Professor X is sitting on is quite cleanly and precisely inked; it's almost as if it was someone else inking it entirely.

Kid said...

True, BS, but I think TC was talking specifically about COVERS from the readers' point of view. As for this cover - it looks like Chic Stone to me, who used thicker lines to make the figures stand out, and thinner ones on backgrounds so that they wouldn't detract from figures in the foreground, and to give the art a sense of depth.

Paul McScotty Muir said...

That's a double standard that always annoyed me Kid - yeah women are portrayed in an unrealistic fashion in comics but your right so are the men were not all 6 foot tall, with chiselled jaws and a six pact (I'm only 5 ft 9 the rest is true of course).

Kid said...

Undoubtedly true, PM. Why, it goes without saying that we're both pinnacles of physical perfection. I am, of course, 6ft 5, perfectly proportioned, and jaw-droppingly handsome. My psychiatrist agrees with me - at least 'til I'm sedated and have my long-sleeved pyjamas on.

John Pitt said...

Funny you should post this particular issue, Prof. X!....

Kid said...

Except I'm not in a wheelchair and still have a full head of hair. (Or am I just a fool with a head of hair? I can never remember.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...