Strong Women in Comics (or Joss Whedon is my heeerro!)

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Post by chicory » Tue Jul 04, 2006 2:09 am

I was sooo impressed with Joss Whedon's Equality Now Speech. Seriously, it's worth watching. And usually I'm not that interested in DC characters (I probably won't go see Superman) - but now I want to see what he does with Wonder Woman.

Aside from the Kitty Pryde intro video (which was the first X-men thing I ever saw) - the animated series is something I remember from my childhood. I still remember Logan respecting Jean's decision to sacrifice her life to get the shuttle back to earth in one episode. That really made an impression on me. And then in one of the issues Wolverine explaining that no one has to go off and rescue Storm when she took some time away from the team - because she was an adult and could take care of herself.

There's lots of examples of that in comix - which isn't something people think of when they look (for example) at how the characters are drawn. But, I think the X-men writers in particular have done a very good job of presenting balanced team - and (disregarding the exceptions) they've created some really memorable female heroes.

So, I just wondered what other people thought about this. If anyone is willing to discuss...

Edited to make the link work

[Edited on 4/7/06 by chicory]
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Post by idsunki » Tue Jul 04, 2006 5:21 pm

If you haven't watched that video yet, do it now. I'll be back later to discuss strong females in comic books, because there is too much to discuss for me to get into it right now.

...but some of Neil Gaiman's characters come to mind...
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Post by Crawler » Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:56 pm

When I think of the words "strong female comic characters", the only X-Men characters that even vaguely come to mind are Kitty & Emma. Sure, Storm had a run of being a strong character back in the non-powered mohawk days and Jean was interesting once upon a time, but, in my opinion, most of the X-Females have suffered greatly since then as one-note eye candy.

And being a strong character has nothing to do with how powerful they are or how many times they are referred to/refer to themselves as a "Goddess."
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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Tue Jul 04, 2006 9:35 pm

That was a great speech...

Emma probably is one of the strongest female characters in Xbooks now. Shes plenty kick ass..

And I would say it is tough to find a writer who really does write strong female characters, but they are out there....BKV for example..
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Post by Nandireya » Sun Jul 09, 2006 4:29 am

Yes...and of course Storm can no longer be considered strong with her trailing along after Black Panther like some lovesick groupie...

Emma is a strong female character, I'll agree with that...but I still can't stand her.
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Post by Blue_Demon94 » Sun Jul 09, 2006 6:10 am

I think Storm is still one of the strongest women in comics.. sure she's getting married, but that doesn't mean she has to let her guard down and expect Black Panther to get to have all the fun. Storm is a strong leader by nature and I doubt that just because she's someone's wife, that she'd suddenly become a helpless little girl that needs a man around her 24/7
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Post by idsunki » Sun Jul 09, 2006 3:24 pm

I doubt the word 'obey' is going to be anywhere near those wedding vows.
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Post by Angelique » Sun Jul 09, 2006 7:41 pm

Well, of course. But then, "obey" hasn't been a part of the standard marriage vows for a long time even in the real world.

I would actually question Emma as a strong character. Storm earned her stripes, so to speak. But it can be said of Emma that she kind of slept her way to the top.
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Post by Confizzle » Sun Jul 09, 2006 7:48 pm

Nah Emma's been a good strong female character since she joined the X-Men way back in the 90's(and even before), it was only under Morrison's run that she began slepping with Cyke, which got the "Slept her way to the top" bit going there.....

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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:58 pm

There's something to be said about a woman who can use sex to her advantage..and knows it. Not to say this is Emma 100%, but sex is a powerful tool, and knowing how to use it can be a form of strength, absolutely. Many women are taken advantage of in these ways, but MANY others have chosen to use sex as a weapon and man...more power to them
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Post by Angelique » Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:07 am

I just think using sex as a weapon takes much less real leadership ability. And I especially wouldn't consider using sex for one's own advantage as a strength, particularly since it doesn't take any real brains, strength, talent, or any moral fiber to be able to do that. All that takes is a certain lack of inhibition.

The fact that Emma does actually have some intelligence and strength is overshadowed a bit by her wardrobe or relative lack thereof and her selfishness. I am glad to see how her potential as an interesting character has been explored under some writers, but I think she lacks a lot of what it takes to be a really strong woman.

Besides, the idea that women use sex to manipulate men is a holdover from the days when sex was really all a woman was allowed to use to wield any power. This is the 21st Century. We have too many other options now.

And I wasn't just thinking about Morrison's run. Emma was always using sex as a weapon in the Hellfire Club, too.

[Edited on 10/7/06 by Angelique]
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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:19 am

I think your generalizing. And it takes far less brains to stuff the strippers g-string with dollars than to know and use your god given attributes to your advantage. Woman will be objectified. Why not make em pay? ;)
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Post by idsunki » Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:36 am

I think that the only proof one needs of Emma's strength is in Astonishing X-Men #14. Sure, there are more powerful telepaths out there in terms of brute force, but Emma can be the most manipulative.

I don't think Emma's ever limited herself to just sex and sex appeal to get what she wants - she will use any weapon she can to fight her battles. A lot of men are just easier to beat using their 'passions' against them.

Spoiler re: Astonishing #14 - [spoiler]Can anyone argue that any other telepath could completely and utterly destroy Cyclops the way she did? Others have the power, sure, but Emma has a way of finding someone's weaknesses and exploiting them.[/spoiler]
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Post by Angelique » Mon Jul 10, 2006 1:24 am

But I also don't see being manipulative as a strength, but more as a compensation for weakness.

Also, I don't think any strong woman should settle for being objectified in order to get her way. There is more to be said for a woman who knows she can use sex to get her way, but refuses to do so. And I think a preoccupation with getting one's way is also a weakness. Finally, being and doing evil is a weakness, as well.

I think when people generally talk about strong women, they're not just talking about powers, but intelligence, and most importantly, integrity. And I think it's hard to dispute that Emma is lacking in that department.

[Edited on 10/7/06 by Angelique]
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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Mon Jul 10, 2006 1:35 am

I don't recall ever seeing Emma lacking in intelligence.

ANYWAY, we were talking in chat and came up with a tiny impromptu list of strong chicks from comics:

Snow White (Fables)
355 (Y The Last man)
Channon and Yelena (Transmetropolitan)
Tulip (Preacher)
Gert Yorkes (Runaways)

Absolutely putting in an honorable mention for Nocturne. She's had her weak moments, but she was strong as hell in Exiles. Like, damn, she was tortured!!

Also, Mystique, in her best times, has been strong as hell. She's seen alot of writers, but for the most part, she doesn't lose her strength.

There ARE more people, some on!
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Post by Angelique » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:23 am

I was talking about the integrity department. Adherence to the principles of Macchiavelli doesn't count.

I wouldn't say Mystique is the strongest character out there, but I suppose by virtue of the fact that she relies on more than just sex appeal to get things done, she's stronger than Emma.

Nocturne does have her weaknesses, but she tries to stay good through it all, and that makes her stronger all-around than Emma or Mystique.

[Edited on 10/7/06 by Angelique]
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Post by Confizzle » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:38 am

Integrity usually just gets in the way :smirk I thing that Emma and Mystique have to be stronger than lets say Shadowcat and maybe even Storm, but I don't think their "lack" of integrity holds them back, in other words Integrity is overrated :smirk

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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:44 am

Emma doesnt just use sex. She uses it, but it's not her only weapon/tool. Being a telepath, she uses that most of all, and she knows how to play an opponents weaknesses against them. It's not just sex.

And being good /= strength. It's not about virtue, and being a hero. You are confusing strength with heroics. A villian can be strong in the same ways a hero can, for the same reasons. It's not what side the person is on, it's how they work it.

Maybe this is from all my Gambit reading, but Belladonna is kinda kick ass too...when she's not all jilted exwife. Like, she's an assassin, but not just any assassin, she (basically) RUNS BOTH guilds. That's pretty hot shit right there..

[Edited on 10/7/06 by NachtcGleiskette]
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Post by Angelique » Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:22 pm

Sure being good is a strength, and a far greater one than just being kick-ass. Heroics both great and small are usually motivated in part by a sense of some purpose greater than just looking out for number one. A kickass person can kick down the door of a burning building and escape, maybe contributing to others' escapes, but not necessarily caring if anyone else gets out. Don't confuse hardness with strength. A good person would want to run back in to help a baby that's been trapped. And that's just an example, but basically, I think it takes greater strength and courage to do good.
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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:34 pm

I decided to delete that because I dont wanna have conversations that run in circles because people miss points and make stuff up.

So, lets discuss the strong women brought up in the thread. Any other ideas??

[Edited on 10/7/06 by NachtcGleiskette]
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Post by Angelique » Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:25 pm

Or we could bring up other ideas. Psylocke, anyone? Discuss.
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Post by The Drastic Spastic » Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:16 pm

I've never found Psylocke all that strong. Unless "fighting real good" counts. I'm more interested in seeing women with strong personalities. The reason we haven't seen women with strong personalities in the X-Books until relatively recently is, I'm sure of it, that the people writing the books have just not been all that good. (Hey, when did Emma get this rep for being strong? Oh right, when Morrison was writing her.) There's been a lot of crap going around for years about how "strong" Storm is, but it's all lip service.

To be fair, most of the men in comics haven't really been all that strong either. Unless being "heroic" is a strength. Which, kind of, but not completely. It's easy to write a hero. It's much harder to write an interesting hero. Look at Superman. He's the exemplar, but christ is he dull.
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Post by Crawler » Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:34 pm

Snow in Fables is most definitely a strong female lead. She has been through an incredible amount of bullshit and she always not only made it through, but also made it with a lot of dignity and class. Of course, that primness and refusal to use all the "weapons" at her disposal can also be her weakness.

Of course her sister, Rose Red, is likewise strong. We even got to see her discover that fact. And she is much more likely to use less dignified methods in order to reach her goals.

Emma IS strong. And she has been for at least the last few years. Using sex as a tool is NOT a weakness. That it works is a MALE weakness. But her biggest strength as of late is her letting herself be vulnerable a bit. She's figuring out who she really is under the facade that she's kept up for so long. And sometimes accepting a weakness is strength.


And TJ deserves more than an honorable mention. At least pre-616.
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Post by NachtcGleiskette » Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:15 pm

Originally posted by Crash Tofu
Snow in Fables is most definitely a strong female lead. She has been through an incredible amount of bullshit and she always not only made it through, but also made it with a lot of dignity and class. Of course, that primness and refusal to use all the "weapons" at her disposal can also be her weakness.

Of course her sister, Rose Red, is likewise strong. We even got to see her discover that fact. And she is much more likely to use less dignified methods in order to reach her goals.

Emma IS strong. And she has been for at least the last few years. Using sex as a tool is NOT a weakness. That it works is a MALE weakness. But her biggest strength as of late is her letting herself be vulnerable a bit. She's figuring out who she really is under the facade that she's kept up for so long. And sometimes accepting a weakness is strength.


And TJ deserves more than an honorable mention. At least pre-616.
I totally agree with the above, including the Rose Red. She really doesn't understand her strength and lives a bit in her siusters shadow out of jealousy until she takes on running the Farm, which she excels at. She's frikken great. Beauty sucks though, but it doesn't mean I don't love how dumb she is..

Cinderella is pretty strong too, in that story where she seduces Icabod for the safety of Fabletown. That was a favorite story of mine...

And TJ is VERY strong, I'll 100% agree, I just said honorable mention because I'm quite obviously biased :P. But she's been through QUITE alot of shit and pulled through incredibly well. And while she's exhibited times of weakness, it just adds to the realism behind her character. And her strength. She's not one of those "indominable(sp?) will" Claremont girls who's strength is little more than a bit of "kick ass" (coughpsylocke) or refering to themselves as a Goddess (coughstorm)
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Post by Angelique » Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:11 pm

Emma actually used sex, at first anyway, to get men to underestimate her. Didn't want the guys to think she was a threat. It takes about as much strength as putting away a lot of dignity, and perhaps, depending on the individual's personality, a lot of alcohol too. It does not require cultivating a brilliant mind, sparkling personality, or sterling character.

But I think the primary thing that's missing in this discussion is a consensus on what it means to be strong. I'm not confusing strength with heroics. The definition of strength I have always gone by includes virtues. And character flaws (such as selfishness, which Emma has displayed in spades) count as weaknesses. So someone who can use sex and telepathy to get what she wants, but only looks out for number one is, in some respect, weaker than someone who may not be as powerful (and may not have had as much plastic surgery), but who is focused on more than just her own interests.

Besides, a cardinal law of superhero cartoons, stories, and comic books is that the good guys always win sooner or later. They couldn't do that if the enemy had some strength they lacked and couldn't make up for with some other, greater strength.
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