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I love the look and feel of vintage comic book illustration. As I’ve sorted through hundreds of comic books, the main thing I found, was a lack of females and diversity. All easy to explain when you look at the early writers of comics. However, regardless of who was writing and why, I found that I wanted to feature women in comics, by sketching, scanning, and re-imagining comic book cover imagery as a derivative, a new narrative.
In so doing I wanted to use the title “Girl Power” for this series for a couple of reasons. First, girl power is a slogan that encourages and celebrates women's empowerment, independence, confidence and strength. The slogan's invention is credited to the US punk band Bikini Kill, who published a zine called Girl Power in 1991. Second, zines and comics can have a sort of similar sensibility as a widely available, cheap publication. HOWEVER, I don’t want women and girls to feel this title is being flippant, happy-go-lucky, or in any way minimizing true female empowerment and feminism! This is merely a way to feature some of the less visible female figures in vintage comic books. Whether they are heroines or villains, they are still powerful, capable women.
A little more background/perspective: Prior to the Silver age of comics, comic books of all genres were available, including romance, adventure, crime, science fiction and many others. This began to change in the late 1950s and continued into the 80s, and as the superhero genre grew, others shrunk. This also began the marginalization of female voices in comics. The portrayals of female characters and superheroes' were targeted towards a predominantly male demographic, rather than towards female readers. After decades of self-perpetuating male creators did not focus on what women wanted to read about, and therefore didn't try very hard to include female stories. Although many female superheroes were created and featured in comics, very few starred in their own series or achieved stand-alone success outside straightforward erotic works.
The portrayal of women in American comic books has often been the subject of controversy since the medium's beginning. Critics have noted the roles of women as both supporting characters and lead characters are substantially more subjected to gender stereotypes, with femininity and or sexual characteristics having a larger presence in their overall character.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote: Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.
Most female heroines in comic books were merely supporting characters; for example, the Wasp and the Invisible Girl were both introduced as team characters, fighting alongside male superheroes, and Batgirl and Catwoman both debuted as supporting characters in the Batman comics. Wonder Woman is the only female heroine studied who earned her own comic book title. It has been debated whether the perceived lack of female readership was due to male writers being uncomfortable with writing about or for women, or whether the comic book industry is male dominated due to actual lack of women's interest in comics. All of that is finally changing with the rise in the amount of girls and women reading comics in the past few years and they have started to speak out against these male-centric designs. With more independent comics, female writers and illustrators, LGBTQ superheroes and women of color beginning to appear in comics, perhaps industry change is finally happening.
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