Thursday, May 31, 2007

Swimming Against The Manstream #1

Okay, I've reached a point where I just can't deal with the sexist bullshit that's been infesting the comics industry lately. The Nymphet thing was seriously the last straw. So this is how I'm coping: over the next few days I'll be posting my picks for the ten greatest female characters in mainstream comics.

1. Halo Jones ("The Ballad of Halo Jones", 2000AD): I think I'll let the master, Mr. Alan Moore, explain this one himself: "I didn't want to write about a pretty scatterbrain who fainted a lot and had trouble keeping her clothes on. I similarly had no inclination to unleash yet another Tough Bitch With A Disintegrator And An Extra Y Chromosome upon the world. What I wanted was simply an ordinary woman such as you might find standing in front of you while queuing for the check-out at Tesco's, but transposed to the sort of future environment that seemed a pre-requisite of what was, after all, a boy's science fiction comic." And that was exactly what we got: a normal teenage girl dissatisfied with her claustrophobic life and determined to go "Out" into the vastness of space. What I love most about Halo is her determination; it's really all she has, but it's enough to pull her through her darkest moments, take her across the universe and turn her into a legend.

2. Ororo Munroe/Storm ("X-Men", Marvel): My very first experience with comics was reading the Dark Phoenix Saga TPB when I was 14. It got me curious enough to follow the X-Men for a while, both in the current (at the time) Lobdell/Nicieza run (early '90s, so it wasn't quite boingy-boingy insane yet) and in back issues. And there was one character who caught my attention and wouldn't let go: Storm. What a heroine; not only did she lead one of the most diverse and interesting superhero teams in comics, she was incredibly powerful (and didn't hestitate to use that power), she took shit from nobody (even Wolverine follows her orders), and she was consistently depicted as being a better leader than golden boy Cyclops. She was independent, graceful, noble... a true role model. And that's setting aside what I, as a more mature and experienced reader, see in her today: a female heroine who dodged the usual cliches when she found her dark side, and got tougher rather than becoming an enormous slut; a female heroine whose sexuality was a primal aspect of her character rather than an act of pandering to deprived troglodytes; a woman who was both a firm leader and a surrogate mother to the younger girls at the Institute. A shame that she's been sacrificed on the altar of a Hollywood writer's lagging sales, but no matter how many retcons Quesada approves, the past is set in stone, and I will always remember Storm as the single best woman Marvel ever created.