Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

A Question About Female Characters


“Totally off-topic, I’ve been reading some old Daredevil tales from the 1960s/70s and was surprised at the “limp” way the female characters were presented. Both Karen Page (in particular) and the Black Widow are from the “Oh, Matt…” school. Any thoughts? (or kick me into the place where I SHOULD have posted this) – MmM “


RE: the portrayal of female characters in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Those were less enlightened times. And not all the creators at that time were up to date even with the current state of enlightenment.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. That was a remarkable time in which a sweeping revolution began that has changed the world, at least the western world, tremendously. It didn’t happen suddenly, all at once, but starting then and continuing now a revolution in the human condition occurred. I was just old enough to retain an awareness of the before and comprehend the transition into the after, up to the present. Therefore, I am able to conceive of and believe in progress beyond the still-sorry state of things.

The world of my early childhood was to a great degree, like the world of my parents’ early lives, the 30’s and 40’s. The world of my teens and thereafter is the new world that developed in fits and starts, lurching and meandering toward where we are now.

As the situation in real life evolved, so too did the presentation of female characters in fiction. But there was a lag time. Older creators especially seemed to be slow to embrace enlightenment. To some extent, I give those who grew up entirely on the other side of the watershed a “senior citizen discount.” Taught throughout early life various prejudices, or, more accurately false “truths,” it was harder on them to open their eyes. I don’t give them a pass, but I’m more patient with them.

Some creators responded to the comic book business’s slowness to change by emphasizing female characters. Chris Claremont, for instance, routinely made airline pilots female. I asked Chris to throw in a male pilot once just to show that it could happen. : ) P.S. During the early 1980’s, according to an article in an in-flight magazine I read on a British Airways flight, in the entire world, there was only one female pilot flying a regular route for major airline: a London/Africa route, as I recall, for B. A.

Some creators similarly intent on featuring female characters in what would have been considered male roles earlier frequently introduced female police chiefs, doctors and CEOs — though, too many times, they just couldn’t stop themselves from dressing said women in high-slit skirts and fishnets. 

My own approach is to try to present reality reasonably recognizably but allow no prejudices to cripple me with regard to the human beings — and androids, gods, mutants, aliens, etc.  : ) — who populate my stories. Also, not to present ciphers — even the toughest person can have a moment of weakness or despair. Even a “limp” person can rise up and show inner strength. I look at the people around me, I look at myself and I try to express the human condition as well as I can. Because often I am writing about heroic characters, and people facing extraordinary challenges, I am often privileged to write about the best parts of the human spirit. And the worst, by the way.

Karen Page, created in the early ’60’s, started out as a beautiful, smart young woman, but as you say, an “Oh, Matt….” type. That persisted for quite a while, maybe until Frank Miller came along, and whatever you may think of how he handled the character, she certainly was no longer the 2-D cipher she had been. 
The Black Widow started out as a super-spy, and aside from a rare weak moment —  see above — and shouldn’t have been “limp” even back in ancient days.


Marvel’s 25th Anniversary in Variety


Science Fiction vs. Science Fantasy


  1. Anonymous

    As the OP on this Q&A, may I thank you all for taking so seriously what was initially a throwaway remark: interesting points. I agree with Jim about growing up in the 50s and the hangover of parental modes and mores (men in Britain still wore Hepworths suits, ties, trilby hats and trenchcoat macs). I read those 60s/70s DDs at the time, and found the "Oh, Matt" stuff less noticeable than this time, perhaps because I was too involved in appreciating Colan's art – Thanks again – MmM

  2. KintounKal


    I've had the same observation. I have a feeling Joe Quesada is against the idea of Karen coming back since he pencilled her death in Daredevil Volume 2 #5 ("Guardian Devil Part 5: Devil's Despair"). Brian Michael Bendis writing What If…Karen Page Had Lived? back in 2004 is another factor that might have convinced subsequent writers like Ed Brubaker and Andy Diggle not to try anything similar.

    It's interesting to note that Frank Miller wrote and pencilled What If #35 (labelled "What If Elektra Had Lived?" on the cover but titled "What If Bullseye Had Not Killed Elektra?" inside) less 80 days before he wrote and pencilled her official return in Daredevil #190 ("Resurrection"). I'm not suggesting it was redundant in that case but it's almost unprecedented for What If scenarios to occur that quickly in the mainstream Marvel Universe.

  3. Having Karen Page mentioned here led me to look up the character. I started reading Daredevil shortly before the fall of Kingpin so it was after the turns of her life but before she died. It surprised me that her journey was untouched with all the retcons the mark comics of the new millennium.

  4. KintounKal

    Dear Jim Shooter,

    Thank you for the insightful response. Stephen R. Bissette wrote this 'Cursed Earth & Uneasy Riders' article in March 2010 so it's disappointing to hear it's less than truthful.

    The Saga of The Swamp Thing first dropped the Comics Code Authority when issue #29 ("Love and Death") was published on July 19th, 1984. It was temporarily back for the next issue and then never returned again.

    Starting with issue #31 ("The Brimstone Ballet"), DC tweaked the title. "The Saga of The" disappeared and that space was replaced with "Sophisticated Suspense". So "The Curse" was never approved by Len Darvin which makes Mr. Bissette's accusation more misleading.

  5. KintounKal

    Roger Stern answered some Avengers questions on the Marvel Masterworks Message Board Forum back in March. At one point, a fan asked "Was Pam Grier the basis for Monica Rambeau?"

    He replied "I don't think I specified any actress in particular … just that Monica be in her mid-20s and attractive. I did hear somewhere that J.R. had based her on Pam Grier, but I don't know how true that is."

    According to Wikipedia, John Romita Jr. is quoted in Modern Masters Volume 18 as saying "I just took some reference on Pam Grier, because I always loved her, and at the last moment somebody said that, "well, we need to use this woman, here," because they thought maybe Pam Grier wasn't as good-looking as the model they found. It was fine, because by the time she got done by other artists, it ended up looking like the generic black character, anyway."

    Did Jim make the recommendation above or was it perhaps Tom DeFalco who was the editor for The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 ("Who's That Lady?")? Do you happen to recall who the model was?

    Of course, I'm not 100% convinced that attractiveness was the primary reason for the change. It would be risky for Marvel comics to share their name with a character who looks exactly like an influential blaxploitation film archetype.

  6. Dear dpd,

    I don't know Don Markstein personally, but I have visited his Toonpedia site many times. I wish him well.

  7. Dear cease ill,

    I was in on the discussions about the new Captain Marvel, but I don't think I contributed anything but encouragement. It was all Rog, as far as I know, though Gruenwald may have made contributions. Ask Rog.

  8. Dear KintounKal,

    I never wrote a letter of comment to Swamp Thing or any other comic book while EIC at Marvel. I never condemned anything as "an offense to the industry." I may have been amazed that the story passed the Code. I may have been annoyed that it passed the Code, but only because it didn't seem fair that the Code (in the person of Administrator Len Darvin) would hassle Marvel with nit-picky objections from time to time and let that pass. I never expressed any such feelings in a public forum.

    I personally believe that nothing you can put between the covers of a comic book can warp the mind of a reader, but I respect the judgment of parents who believe otherwise, and while at Marvel I respected the agreement made long before my time to observe (sometimes idiotic) standards.

    If Darvin found that issue of Swamp Thing appropriate, I have a problem with Darvin and the inconsistency of his judgment, not with DC or the content of the issue in question.

  9. Hmm… maybe Defiant is on to something. I am quite spirited. Maybe I'm just self-possessed. 😉

  10. Roger Stern's Avengers deserve meritorious mention for forward-thinking, yet rounded, depictions. His Wasp picked very nicely from yours. Too bad he didn't get to stick with Monica Rambeau after such a great arc. [Now there was a favorite science v. fantasy scenario; did you work with Roj and Gru on defining the 80's Captain Marvel? For fun, I'm writing generally about his sixty-issue run next month.]

  11. @ Piperson: I think that Kitty Pride was essentially a John Byrne creation, (just like Nightcrawler was Cockrum's). Not that it changes your argument, just trying to give credit where it's due.

    JayJay, I feel you there. Growing up in the company of a lot of girls for various reasons (sister, female cousins, daughters of my father's colleagues etc.) I learnt to think of them as kids near my age I could play with (thank God some of them were tomboys) rather than girls with cooties. Growing up in the 80s and early 90s things were better than in your times as a kid I guess.

    Though I can't claim that most of my best friends are female, in one of my first jobs, the person I was hanging out the most with was a young woman because she was close to my age and we had more things to talk about anyway. (Even porn, in a jocular manner! But never sports, she didn't know much about them.)

    So I never thought of women as weaker and inferior, or wiser and superior either. So no, I don't think you're delusional for thinking that way. Maybe you're delusional for other things though, I can't be sure, hah!

  12. Jim,

    Don't rule out the possibility that JayJay may be possessed. It's getting close to Halloween, so all kinds of repressed spirits may be trying to get their own message out.

  13. JayJay gets along with me. Now, that’s goin' some.

  14. KintounKal

    Incidentally, I was reading Stephen R. Bissette's lengthy introduction to Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Three and I was wondering if Jim might want to comment on an accusation he made.

    On page 3, Mr. Bissette says "Incredible as it seems today, "The Curse" kicked up a little storm of controversy. In that pre-Vertigo era, many observers (including Marvel's then-editor-in-chief) blasted the issue as an offense to the industry. Code or no Code, menstruation was still a major taboo. From another quarter came the even more flabbergasting claim that "The Curse" was dated because there was no more domestic abuse in our enlightened times. Debate over the issue heated up the title's letter column."

    It then includes an asterix which adds "The letters, and Alan's reply, were published in Swamp Thing #46. Also, see pgs. 36-37 of Martin Cannon's Critics' Choice Files Magazine Spotlight: Swamp Thing: Green Mansion (1987, Psi Fi Movie Press, Inc.) for a strong opinion on "The Curse" that reflects some of the industry views on the issue at the time."

    This DC comic hit the stands on June 20th, 1985 so Stephen was definitely referring to Jim. Does anyone here own this magazine? Does it really contain critical remarks from Jim dealing with Swamp Thing #40?

  15. Jim,

    I realize that you have made the extra effort to incorporate real science into your stories. From my point of view it has not gone unnoticed. Unfortunately, that is not the norm.

  16. KintounKal

    While we're on the subject of Daredevil: Born Again, Marvel Premiere Classic Volume 19 reprints this storyline with a lot of bonus content. One page states "Daredevil #232, page 6 was art-corrected in the original comic to soften Karen Page's features at the request of then-Editor in Chief Jim Shooter and also was placed incorrectly so that the artwork did not run full bleed. The page as it originally ran is presented here for the sake of completeness."

    The page mentioned above features Karen sweating and biting Matt's shoulder as he comforts her saying "I've lost nothing." It's fun to compare the differences. Not only is David Mazzucchelli's art colored differently, Christie Scheele also adjusted the "God and Country" title as well. It went from pink and red to blue.

  17. It has occurred to me before that my perceptions are odd, but on some level I don't really distinguish between men and women. I didn't want to BE a boy as a kid, exactly, but I didn't ever feel a deep difference with males. I've never really felt a deep difference with any other humans, in fact. I always see more similarities than differences and I take people as they come with reckless disregard as to gender, gender preference or even cultural differences. Not that I get along with everyone, but I get along with people who are like me down deep, no matter what else is on the surface.

    I was lucky to be raised during a time when an atmosphere of hope permeated society and people began to believe anything was possible. I competed with men in my career but I never felt it was on their terms, it was always on mine. I did what I did as well as I could and, yes, at times I got jobs because I was better than the male applicants because if all things were equal a man would have been preferred. But that's the landscape of reality. I just navigate the terrain I'm given and do my best my own way.

    Sure, I admit that I might be idealistic or worse, delusional, but somehow I never felt the "femaleness" that so many women seem to feel. When I was very young I can remember wanting to be just like Paladin on Have Gun Will Travel and not really seeing anything funny about that. I was able to see Richard Boone as a role model. I don't know why. Maybe because my best friends have been guys for most of my life (starting in kindergarten), I just don't see males as all that different than me. Heck, I never learned to do makeup, hair or wear fashionable clothes until my gay guy friends taught me. My mom, god bless her, and step mom were no help in that regard. Though my mom did send me to modeling school as a tween which I hated at the time but have been very grateful for in later years (poise is a valuable asset). I grew up seeing guys as equals and admiring courageous men as well as the amazing women I saw. I felt I could be like any of them. Yep, probably delusional. lol.

  18. Piperson, thank you! I am working on things as we speak.

    J.J.J., You were fortunate. In a way, I was too…The women in my family were not so much careerists as they were strong-willed. And to make that even more interesting, very short. I was the first tall woman in my family, about a foot taller than any woman in my family, and the small women in my family were intense people, going back generations. Big men were afraid of these women. I never underestimated the power of people shorter than myself after experiencing the power of women under five feet tall, who could make men tremble just with their voices.

    The trouble is, I never saw any women like them when I cracked a book or watched a TV show or a movie. Just dopey or girly women. It was like living in a private alien colony on the planet. I had to go back to Irish legends to find women like the ones I knew. And I had to create a self out of nothing, practically, to have a sense of strength as a woman. Being tall, people found a tall woman threatening, so I couldn't use the same strength tactics that the tiny powerful women in my family used. It would freak people out. So I had to be much, much calmer…mellower if I wanted to get things done, and then bring on the intense when it was really needed. I had to invent an entirely new thing, in a new feminist era. I was tomboyish and I had to invent everything, it seemed, including finding clothes to fit me. Women weren't supposed to be five foot ten and wear size 11 shoes. So I wore men's cowboy boots and learned to like padded shoulders in my jackets, because women's stuff didn't come in my size. (It does nowadays, thank goodness, but I still like men's overcoats.)

    Popular culture was no help at all, in creating such a person. I had to figure it out step by step. That's fine; I muddled through. I like who I am; I just wish there were more acknowledgment of the existence of weirdos like me. I guess we're meant to be writers.

    But to get back to comics, comics were one of the few things that made sense to me as a kid…that and books. Without the world of the imagination, nothing would have been possible. I just don't think I'd be here.

    So I'm really, really grateful for comics and comics creators and great story tellers. Immensely so. I just keep wanting them to get better and better, and tell the stories I have to hear…not just the same old silly crap. Or at least do the same old silly crap with more feeling and some understanding of the ENTIRE audience that is out there.

    The pros are doing an OK job, but I wish more really excellent writers wrote comics. Male or female. I don't care, as long as they get the job done, and aren't lazy with their audience.

  19. Eklectic1, I count myself as incredibly fortunate to have grown up with female heroes to look up to in my family. My cousin, Enid Collins, built a successful business on her considerable talent and intelligence in the 60's and sold it at just the right time for a clever profit. My aunt, Melba Jackson, was a teacher and a talented writer and poet who nurtured and encouraged my own talent. I might not have had the courage to overcome family and public pressure without the example they set for me. Of course they accomplished so much and still raised families, but I was able to make the choice for myself and I felt it was ok in large part because of them.

  20. Eklectic1, I want to read the comics YOU write!!!

  21. Anonymous

    The 1970s was the most enlightened (and permissive) decade up to that point in history … in some ways we've gone backwards since then, but that's a whole other issue.

    What I never understood is how Marvel and DC, in the enlightened '70s, could have African American characters with unbelievably racist names like Black Goliath and Black Lightning. What the heck was up with that? Even at the time, it was blatantly appalling.

    -Pete Marco

  22. Dear Defiant1,

    RE: Science fiction vs. science fantasy: Some of us are still trying to go the science fiction route. An executive from Intel whose title is "Futurist" was sufficiently impressed by the research and real science underlying the stories my recent Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom and Magnus Robot Fighter comics that he based a lecture he gave at the University of Washington on my stories. He also invited me to appear with him and Craig Engler, senior executive of the SyFy Channel on a panel this Sunday at the NYCC: "Screen Future: Gaming, Comics and TV Around the World and Five Years From Now."

  23. J.J.J., as a tomboy kid, I found there were many small outrages to a girl's dignity. I was so infuriated at movies and TV shows where women were never allowed to be dominant, where they always had to give in to some guy, because if they didn't, the guy wouldn't like them anymore. I remember watching the movie "Annie Oakley" and being aghast that—was she played by Doris Day? Annie let the guy win the shooting contest. I mean, here's a woman with a gun, and she's a great shot, and then—! I was only about eight, but I was livid. My mother had to explain to me why "Annie" (Doris) had to let Wild Bill Hickok win. 'Cause it was romance. I hated "romance" with a passion from that day…I still haven't recovered from that one. (I still hate romances. I like guys, but romantic stories just leave me cold.)

    I later read Annie Oakley's biography, and found out that she NEVER let anybody win. She was truly amazing. I really needed to read that. Why the hell couldn't Hollywood tell THAT story? Well, back then they couldn't. Couldn't sell it to the public, because…the overriding cultural message back then was, men's egos were so fragile, they couldn't take the competition, so women always had to seem "vulnerable" for men to feel really male. Being too good at what you did made a woman unmarriageable, unappealing. This setup made me so angry during my teen years, I couldn't even stand to date. I didn't want guys thinking I was just waiting for them to show up…it took years to get over my general annoyance at the way things worked.

    I got through it, but I can still find the anger if I try. I'm so glad girls have so many more empowerment examples now…there were so few of them evident back in the 1960s. The best they could do back then was to say "Jackie Kennedy", as if being a wealthy clotheshorse was at all empowering. Girls need strong examples of self-mastery just as much as boys ever did. We need those legendary lives to reach for, and see ourselves in.

    Back then, comic books helped some. Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, helped some back then. (Lois Lane and her idiotic girly tribulations to be avoided at all costs.)

    One of the most annoying things that ever happened in comic books was when Wonder Woman lost her powers (circa 1969) and became a kind of Marlo Thomas career girl with a karate chop. I stopped reading comics for a few years when that happened, I was so ticked. As my mother's boyfriend used to say, DC "could screw up a wet dream!"

    I didn't start reading comics again until 1974, when I discovered Howard Chaykin's "Iron Wolf" in Weird Worlds.

  24. I think it's funny seeing Matt Murdock say "It was nice of Foggy to get me this push button tape recorder". That would have been a big deal to a kid back then. My dad let me play with one he owned in the 70's and I know I played with it for hours upon hours. The one pictured above looks like it's about 3 times as big as the one I used.

    One thing that bothers me about modern comics is that in many cases they are still using repulsor rays and outdated or misinterpreted science from 50 years ago. When Stan Lee wrote about transistors in 1961, they had only been invented 2 years earlier. Stan didn't understand that transistors don't actually power anything, because they were just a switch…. What's important to me is that he made an attempt to keep the science and technology relevant. I don't see any interest by most writers to do that in modern comics. We have scientists on the verge of creating black holes in Europe. We've got robots that climb walls using nothing but surface tension. We have scientists out in Arizona melting diamonds and creating heat 60 times hotter than the sun. I liked comics for the imagination and possibilities they introduced. Definitely not just social possibilities they showed us. There was more to it than "Hey, I'm bigger than you… I'll stick my chest out while I'm hitting you into the next state."

    People are working on Iron Man armors. People are working on suits you can wear to climb walls like Spider-Man. Scientists are working on Invisibility cloaks that can hide objects or entire events. Scientists have made a material 10 times harder than diamonds. Is it any wonder kids have no interest in science related occupations anymore. Mainstream modern literature escapes more into pure science-fantasy than it does science-fiction.

    Apologies for derailing the topic, but those images mean more to me than just examples of female stereotypes in the 60's and 70's.

  25. You know who I can't stand reading? The Wasp of the 1960s. a superheroine, sure, but just as needy (with snark!) as any female in the early Marvel Universe. The other women were supporting characters, and thus more tolerable.

  26. I recently watched the first episodes of Pan Am and that got me motivated to watch Mad Men, which I had been meaning to do for some time. Over the past 2 weeks I've watched all four seasons of that and it has made me remember what it was like back then. It's really about another world. I'm about the age of Dan Draper's kids so I remember some of it, but from a child's POV.

    I remember not being able to wear pants to school, as Eklectic1 mentioned. I was a tomboy and it was one of the major outrages of my early life. I used to hope for very cold days so I could wear pants under my dress, but those were few in San Antonio, Texas. lol.

    So much of what happens on Mad Men parallels a lot of what happened to my parents. They had the "perfect" life but were unhappy. My dad cheated and they divorced. My mother took me and my little sister to a psychiatrist, it was what one did back then, I guess. So weird to think about it, now.

    I was such an unusual kid, I don't think my parents were ever comfortable with it. They were so traditional. My father never stopped asking me when I was going to get married. I had a successful career doing what I have wanted to do since I was a child and even bought my mother a house, but I think he was worried that I might be a failure because I couldn't "catch a husband." Watching Mad Men has made me very reminiscent, and not in a good way. "The good old days. They were rotten!" At least I didn't live in my grandmother's time.

  27. Dear Brian,

    Coming soon.

  28. I was born in 1969 and didn't realize until recently that I was born in one of the most amazing times in American history. The Feminist movement and racial equality movements were in full swing. For me it was normal to see blacks, whites and Latins intermingle on Sesame Streets so I had know idea that this was new and revolutionary until recently looking over the comics of the time.
    I've been looking at the heroines of the 60's and 70's and it's remarkable how few female heroes there really were, never mind 'good' female heroes. I think DC was quicker to the punch than Marvel with their 'liberating' Wonder Woman in the early 70's but Marvel 'liberated' their women, more frequently and more consistently so that by the early 80's they were way ahead of the game.
    Many of Marvel's early attempts at heroines failed like Roy Thomas'es Valkyrie (come on, she never achieved the empowered female status of WW. She was just another mixed up girl with a split personality and a man pursuing her) , Thundra, never really established themselves in any significant way in the Marvel U. Black Widow only lasted a handful of issues in her solo co-feature of Amazing Adventures. Even the 3 female titles that were introduced in 1972, The Cat, Night Nurse, and Shanna, only lasted 4 issues each.
    I think it was Chris Claremont who made the most significant and lasting achievements toward creating empowered female heroines. Not only did he popularize Storm (a black female no less), and Phoenix, but he also create Kitty Pride and Rogue. He also wrote the Daughters of the Dragon, Misty Knight (another empowered black female) and Coleen Wing over in the pages of Iron Fist.
    Anyway, it's a fascinating subject worth discussing.
    As EiC of Marvel in the late 70's, you must have some interesting things to say about heroines of the time, after all Dazzeler, Spider Woman and the She-Hulk were 3 early empowered female heroes that came out during your watch.
    Thanks Jim!

  29. Brian C. Saunders

    Sir, do you have plans to recount the details of Avengers #200, and the follow-up in Avengers Annual 10? I know you have a co-plot credit for 200, so your knowledge might reflect more detail than has yet come to light. It seems, if nothing else, someone's reach exceeded their grasp with the Ms. Marvel pregnancy plotline.

    Brian C. Saunders

  30. dpd

    As much as I enjoy this blog, I think it interrupts the flow when something is posted unrelated to the topic at hand, but so far I don't see where else to post general questions, announcements, or vague personal opinions –

    So as to the topic I have two comments, one being that before Chris Claremont et al came along and helped even the playing field a bit, the strong female characters which come to my mind are Sharon Carter (or Agent 13), Gwen and MJ, and the slow development of Sue Storm/Richards (of course, once JB took over she became the most powerful member of the FF). The second is that I always get the feeling that Matt tended to want to be with someone who depended on him, like Heather Glenn and even Milla to some extent, and perhaps that's why the females in his comic never had very strong personalities – of course, that could also be from writers who felt Matt's character was uninteresting enough that he would be overshadowed by a more independent companion –

    Okay, now I have two comments, one glad but one sad –
    The glad comment is that I have finally (!) managed to read almost everything posted here, so now when I ask stupid questions it can't be blamed on my not having read something already posted –

    The sad comment is that I used to enjoy reading Don Markstein's Toonopedia site, and I noticed a while back he had stopped adding new files. He always had trouble with his web service providers so I thought this was more of the same. Yesterday (after finishing reading through Jim's blog and saying, whew, now what) I remembered the site and called it up, but it is no longer there. All that is left is the logo of the company who, I believe, owns the site's domain name. I checked Wikipedia (yeah, Jim, I know) which states Don Markstein suffered a stroke in February 2011. Presumably he is still in recovery, and I'm sure all of our best wishes go out to him.

  31. rob

    The worst for me are the super overly feminist comics of the 70s. So heavy handed and nauseating to read today.

    As for highway driving, I wish someone would tell my wife the world has changed. She refuses to drive on highways, with me or without me. ugh.

  32. It's so refreshing to see some of that art above compared to art today. I really like the panel with Matt behind Karen and the panel with Black Widow swinging. I like the art, inking, coloring, and panel flow so much better. In the panel with Matt saying "Quitting", your eyes doesn't have to travel very far at all to figure out the whole panel. The words needed explain the panel flow right along with the sequence you need to understand the panel. It's clear that Matt is upset and that Karen is emotionally distraught. Give me a comic from that era any day of the week over something published today.

  33. Actually, Ralf, in that particular sequence, Matt is being rather caring. Natasha is down in the dumps. He uses something only he can use in his position as her boyfriend – a reminder that she is desirable – in an attempt to distract her and lift her spirits. Out of context, sure, it seems like he's being rude and treating her as nothing more than eye-candy to drape across his arm. But in the greater scope of his relationship with Natasha, he's reminding her that there's more to life than just their costume heroics. Believe it or not, in the setting of a monogamous committed relationship, some women like a pat on the butt from their beau. Just like a man likes to hear the woman in his life tell him how strong and sexy she finds him. When done right, it's called "foreplay."

  34. The women's rights issue was huge in the 70's. Helen Ready's song "I am Woman" pushed aside Paul Anka's "Havin' My Baby". The divorce of Sonny & Cher's on national TV forced people to socially accept the idea of divorce whereas before it was highly frowned upon. Women had to fight for respect and they've earned it.

    I don't think comics were truly out of line with the way things were. Things have simply changed.

    Despite the changes, women have added the role of CEO on top of the role of mother, homemaker, and faithful wife. There are quite a few science article over the past few years claiming that women's health has been suffering as a result of the cultural revolution.

    I think most educated men agree women are competent to do any task a man does. Society has had different ways of balancing those roles over the years.

    Even within the past years I've chuckled to myself whenever I see wives and girlfriends driving with the male sitting shotgun. There were countless jokes about the ineptitude of "Women Drivers" when I was younger. Those jokes have pretty much disappeared because they never were appropriate. I'm overjoyed every second that I don't have to drive. More power to women. I'll sit back, relax, and watch. I'm not ashamed to admit that I like looking at women.

    What happened to the future filled with Amazonian women that dominate men? I'm kinda disappointed that women aren't walking around half dressed ruling the world.

  35. Thanks for that. I too inhabited a transitional time, and see big differences in how women are perceived as a very generationally coded thing.

    There are so many little things I grew up with in the early sixties that girls (and boys) would find extraordinary today…a very simple example: girls couldn't wear pants in school even on the coldest winter days (you had to wear ski pants under your skirt or dress, and then take them off in the coat room, and re-don them when you left at the end of the day). Pants were unseemly, vulgar, unfeminine. Men didn't like to see women in them, so even little girls didn't get to wear them except for play after school. Thems was the rules.

    Another commonplace: it was routine for many grown women never to have learned how to drive and if they did, not to ever feel confident enough to drive on major highways. Men were expected to handle those things…women were assumed to become very emotionally disorganized if they had to drive in heavy traffic or in very busy conditions.

    Another: you were supposed to consult your husband on all higher financial matters (we need a new washing machine, I have to have a new heavy coat this winter), but he wasn't required to consult you…even on cars or washing machines! I remember how my factory-worker grandfather used to go out and buy a new car every two or three years, standard 60s working-class male stuff, and never even include my grandmother in the choice of which car. It wasn't rudeness; it was cultural gender code. He simply brought it home one day without warning, said "here it is," and that was normal for them, and for many other factory-worker couples they knew. Washing machines and TVs were handled the same way. They simply arrived one day, without notice…usually not a model my grandmother would have chosen. (If she was lucky, she got to pick out her own sewing machine…but I'm not sure that she did. That, too, may simply have "arrived".)

    Once you're past 50, you live on a cultural planet no longer of your own making. The "rules of living" are being rewritten every day. Women wouldn't even recognize the way their own grandmothers lived; men wouldn't believe the compulsory suit-wearing, automatic male fealty to the government, the severe prohibitions against cursing in public (if a man used vulgar language or come-ons to a woman on the street, he could be arrested for it), and routine obeisance to the police.

    The men (and a very few women) who wrote the old comic books lived in that old world, where women were supposed to be protected and feminine, and men did all the other stuff. I can't blame the older comics creators for depicting what they grew up with, what they lived in.

    But then one day we all woke up living somewhere else…and thank God for that.

    I was just so damned glad when they stopped showing that old I-Love-Lucy world. I suffered through it and it made me feel crazy. I just wasn't like those women. My mother wasn't one of those women. Even my tiny grandmother wasn't conventionally feminine, even with all the other stuff around her. (She accepted the thing about the car, washing machine, etc., but wasn't happy about it.) I saw the old cultural depictions as a lie: what kind of women acted helpless and ditzy all the time? No one in my family.

    Even if things are wayyyyy too out there now, and my mind can't follow…at least women in comics are basically assumed to be people who can really kick your ass, and are allowed to enjoy it. And I dig that, even if I really wish they wore more clothes. (I'm old-fashioned enough to enjoy modesty…)

  36. Anonymous

    As much as I love Stan Lee’s stories, truth is at the beginning most of his female characters were stereotypes of the housewife. Sue storm was always pictured shopping or at the hairdresser and she was kept in the damsel in distress role for many years. Betty Ross was weak and used to cry for everything. Pepper Potts was lame.

    I haven’t read Daredevil early stories, but I read Daredevil Yellow and I didn’t like it, one of the reasons, how was Karen was characterized. Of course that Miller treating each female character as a prostitute is no better, neither Byrne telling the “evil possession” of every single woman he wrote (that usually had the effect in the character sudden urge to strip and wear chains and spikes).

    I feel that Claremont’s women were the best portrayal of the female characters, at least in the 80’s.


  37. Dear Jim,

    I grew up in the 70's and 80's with Chris Claremont's comics, so I took the revolution you describe for granted. Storm as leader of the X-Men? Unimaginable in the 60s, but I didn't blink.

    Daredevil is one of the 60s Marvel series I haven't yet read in its entirety, and as much as I look forward to seeing Gene Colan's art, the depiction of Karen Page makes me cringe.

    A local Hawaii paper featured Lennie Sorenson, a female major airline pilot on its front page as late as the mid-90s. I didn't understand what the big deal was at the time, but your reference to "only one female pilot flying a regular route for a major airline" gave me the context I was missing. I Googled Sorenson and discovered she was Continental Airlines' first female pilot in 1977.

    I don't watch TV, but it seems that viewers are interested in the prerevolutionary period these days: e.g., in Mad Men and most recently Pan Am. I wonder what this interest signifies.

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