Both Chantaal and I realised we’d never finish the 30 days of memes going around. Instead we decided to put up a series of posts in which we both talk about some of our favourite things in the comic world. Now, the general idea is that C sticks to Marvel and I stick to DC, but as usual we’re both going to break some rules. The first topic? Superheroines in honour of the title of the blog. Cause if girls read comics, then talking about girls in comics seemed appropriate.
The ComicVine article on Huntress starts with a statment that makes me smile:
Helena Bertinelli was once a violent vigilante destroying those that killed her family. After the events of No Mans Land Helena was taken under Batmans wing and with guidance now works with Oracle on the Birds of Prey.
Well, that’s one way to sum her up, sure. A few basic facts that get across the general gist of who she is. Yet – like many summaries – it says absolutely nothing about her character or her attitude. It doesn’t address the reasons why she’s at the top of my list.
Helena, like many others, has a tragic backstory that drives her. Her family killed in front of her at a very young age, she grew up with family in Sicily. Of course, she returned to Gotham as a young woman to exact revenge on the people who murdered her family. Gotham is home to Batman and the Bat-gang, who at times can be a sanctimonious bunch of gits especially when it comes to their Thou Shalt Not Kill rule and when Helena (aka Huntress) started taking out Mafiosos, she was pissing on Batman’s turf. You know what? She didn’t care, at least not at first.
It wasn’t that Huntress was killing or hurting the wrong people. She was taking down dangerous men, and doing it well. But she was a vigilante, working outside of the rules. She was an outsider looking in. In some ways – even after she toned down and reined in her more violent tendencies – she never fit in. She’s always been on the edge, and always had issues with authority. In and out of the Justice League, the Birds of Prey, and even the good graces of the Bat himself, Helena never stopped being on the outside, at least some of the time.
Things did change over time. She found her place with the Birds. She made connections with Dinah and Babs (Black Canary and Oracle) as well as Dick Grayson and Renee Montoya. She’s loyal to those women now in ways that amaze me. But she’s always been quicker to cross the line than the others, something that still comes up to this day.
For a woman who’s main desire was to be a school teacher? Her alter ego can seem severe or over the top. I don’t think it is. I think Helena owns who she is in a way many female Superheroes are rarely given the chance to. I can’t wait to continue to see her shine.
Suggested Reading: Huntress Year One, any Birds of Prey by Gail Simone
Oh look, I’m breaking the rules already. Jane is definitely not a DC character, instead a creation of Joe Queseda and Jimmy Palmiotti from their days at Event Comics. She’s hopped around a few labels so I’m going to use that as an excuse.
I was in my second year of University when Painkiller Jane came out. I remember it because I was frustrated with the comics I was reading at the time. There was a lot of X-Men in my diet, and they’d gotten over the top and a bit bizarre at times. I was suffering from a serious case of ‘too much superhero’. There was a single girl who worked at the Guelph comics and games store, and she pretty much forced me to read the first two issues. I’m so glad that she did – even if it managed to start to spark my belief that Palmiotti is one of the most talented people in comics (something he’s done little to change over the years). It also changed my comic reading patterns entirely, steering me away from my label-based reading and introducing me to whole new realms of smaller labels and independent titles. So for that alone, Jane has to be on this list.
Let’s see what ComicVine says again, shall we?
Jane Vasko’s face was scarred in an accident which ironically endowed her with healing powers. She became the gun-toting sociopath vigilante named ‘Painkiller Jane.’
They really do manage to take the most basic points about someone and somehow not actually portray anything about what they’re like. Of course, I can’t criticize, I’m not sure I could sum her up in a few sentences either.
Jane had been a Cop at the time of her injury, working undercover. She likely should have died, but didn’t, and when she was revived she was inexplicably virtually indestructable. Of course, having healing powers doesn’t mean it’s always easy, does it? This time it comes with a pretty severe cost – she still hurts as much as anyone would if they were shot, had fallen off a building, burned in a chemical explosion – you name it. Hence the moniker.
Jane breaks all sorts of rules and screws up on her road to vigilanteism. She manages to do things the cops can’t or won’t, and whilst she makes a few messes, she manages to get out of them. Often it’s with help that she’s not gracious about taking, but with Jane it’s not surprising. She’s not your typical hero in any way, and she’s again filling a role that was usually reserved for male characters. The kick ass vigilante going after the bad guys with the wry sense of humour.
Maybe I have a type? If so, Jane is a lot of the reason I do. I’ve picked up most of her books and trades over the years and the only thing bad I can say about them is that I wish there were more.
Suggested Reading: Essential Painkiller Jane for the original miniseries, and Painkiller Jane vol 1&2 for the Dynamite re-launch
There are times I cannot believe I just figured out who Powergirl was about two years ago. How on earth did I miss such a cool, strong, independent character? Then I read some of the pre- Geoff Johns books and I understood.
Oh, ComicVine. I love you, and yet these descriptions amuse me so:
Power Girl is a member of the Justice Society of America and one of the few survivors of the Crisis of Infinite Earths. She is actually Kara Zor-L, the Super Girl from Earth-Two.
Kara has had a complicated and convoluted background. It’s full of alternate timelines, alternate versions, retcons and changes. She’s a character that a lot of people just didn’t know what to do with. There are a lot of team books she’s in where she’s just the angry one, or the punchy one, or the one with the boob window. And it took Geoff Johns and Amanda Conner to make me give her a chance, and Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner of make me love her.
To be honest, I came upon her accidentally. I picked up the Terra miniseries with no real clue who Powergirl was. What I encountered there intrigued me and made me go hunting for more. The first few things I read then made me want to run screaming for the hills, until I found the Geoff Johns issues. Then things started to make sense. The story was fun and interesting, and dealt with her crazily divergent history well. Conner’s art was perfect for the tone of it, and I found myself quite engaged by the end of it. Of course, when Palmiotti/Gray/Conner became the creative team on Powergirl I was ecstatic.
Again, Peeg has had a hard time on teams and fitting in with the larger group. She’s strong, able and used to being able to punch her way out of most situations. But she doesn’t have friends, more teammates, and there are times that punching her way out of things just isn’t an option. Seeing her become friends with Terra, seeing her out of her depth and dealing with it, and seeing her with her cat Stinky? All made me love Powergirl as a character and not just a pair of fists and a great rack (This is me, that is an option).
Suggested Reading: Powergirl issues 1-12, Terra, Powergirl paperback for the Geoff Johns story and some crazy ass Peeg background
Do you have any idea how hard it is to pick just three? As it is, there’s a short list of honourable mentions:
Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde – My first love in comics
Oracle/Barbara Gordon – the once Batgirl and now linchpin of the Birds of Prey
Lady Blackhawk/Zinda – A world war II pilot stuck in the modern world. Sassy, funny, and great with guns. A woman I would go drinking with any day, and love to have at my back.