Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Marvel Girlfriends

This is not the first time I have remarked on this, but when you look at the Silver Age DC they were miles ahead of Marvel in terms of their treatment of women.

Look at the Silver Age DC girlfriends/love interests and their occupations:

Flash: Iris West, newspaper reporter
Green Lantern: Carol Ferris, aircraft plant executive
The Atom: Jean Loring, defense attorney
Hawkman: Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol), policewoman

Now let's try the comparison with Marvel:

Hulk: Betty Ross, daughter of a general
Spiderman: Betty Brant, secretary
Thor: Jane Foster, nurse
Iron Man: Pepper Potts, secretary
Daredevil: Karen Page, secretary

Are we seeing a trend here? I don't even know if Betty Ross had a job in the old Hulk stories; wasn't she more or less a housekeeper for her father? I left Aquaman out of the mix because for some odd reason his Silver Age adventures did not start with a romantic interest; it was not until Aquaman #11 that Mera appeared on the scene. And you can make a case for talking about Sue Storm being a scientist, although it might help if Stan and Jack had shown her mixing up some chemicals in her spare time instead of trying on new clothes and hairstyles.

All the Marvel heroines performed one valuable function; they made excellent hostages. Let's consider Jane Foster, for example:

Now it is not entirely fair to criticize this as sexist; it's also provides strong motivation for the hero. Hostages help balance out the power differences between superheroes and the (often non-super) villains. And it's not as if only women were used in this way; Jimmy Olsen and Robin often found themselves kidnapped as well.

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