Women Outside of Refrigerators

Ashley Walton —  March 7, 2013 — 6 Comments

It bothers me when people say, “Where are the strong women in comics?” On the one hand, I get it. They’re referring to the long and torrid history of women in superhero comics, wherein dames have generally either played fatales, girlfriends, or women in refrigerators. The male heroes (is that redundant in this context?) come and go as they please—hell, they even die and come back from the dead—while the female heroes (yes, I decided I’m  against the word ‘heroine’) have a history of weaknesses and inane feminine fancy.

offensive wonderwoman comic

I’m sure we’ve all rolled our eyes at an old Wonder Woman comic until we thought our eyeballs would pop out of our heads–if this hasn’t happened to you, you need to practice your eye-rolling. I mean, how does Wonder Woman always end up tied to a chair or otherwise subjected to bondage in every story?

Yes, comic books don’t have the best track record when it comes to women, but when people complain about women in comics, they’re usually referring to superhero comics, which generally have messed up gender stereotypes for everyone to enjoy. Comic book pages may be slightly more offensive for women, but let’s be real: comics showcase rampant stereotypes and a flattening of characters all around, genders be damned.

superman

The women may not be fleshed out, but the men rarely are, either. Superhero comics usually focus on cosmic plots rather than character development, and there’s a place for that– some superhero fights are pretty fun and epic.

Even though some superhero comics have gotten better with character development, there’s a beautiful world outside of superhero comics that show all kinds of characters, both male and female, coping with various crises. And what do you know? There’s character development and fully functioning adults from both genders. Since I’m specifically focusing on dispelling the myth that comics don’t have any strong female characters, here are some of my favorite women in comics.

Alana in Saga.

alana

Saga has some of the best writing in comics, period. All the characters are interesting, fully developed, and downright likable. Alana is one of the few women that I’ve read in fiction—not just comics—who actually sounds like a real, living, breathing, thinking woman. She’s smart, strong, and snarky, and she’d do anything for her child or her husband, which doesn’t make her any less powerful. She’s a balanced, whole individual.

Carrie Stetko in Whiteout

carrie

Carrie Stetko is a capable U.S. Marshal living in Antarctica, solving murders in below freezing temperatures of death. No big deal. Carrie is someone doing their job who just happens to be a woman– she’s methodical and smart, with believable flaws and a solid voice. She’s even helped out by another smart and curious woman, Lily Sharpe– which makes two strong female main characters bundled up in bulky snow gear in a comic. What the what?!

Faith in Angel & Faith.

AngelAndFaith21Alt

It’s a well-known fact that I’m a Whedonverse dork, so it’s probably not surprising that one of his characters had to be on this list. For me, Faith is a much more interesting, relatable, and honest character than Buffy, and it’s fun to see her at the helm in Angel & Faith. Faith has a personality all her own– with a rough exterior, a gooey inside, and a wit that drives the dialogue of the comic. And talk about character development– Faith has grown and changed a lot over the course of her lifetime as a Whedon character. I also like that Angel and Faith don’t have any romantic chemistry– they’re just two people working together, one happens to be female and one male, but that doesn’t mean they fall in love.

Gwen in iZombie

gwen izombie

While Gwen does fall prey to some stereotypes of the smitten girl, she’s another bold woman who also seems like she’d be a blast to hang out with. She has a sense of humor– dresses up as Shaun (as in Shaun of the Dead) for Halloween, and she constantly references movies, comic books, and other pop culture treasures in a way that makes me feel like I could be her friend.

Michonne in The Walking Dead

michonne

Similar to her counterpart in the TV show, Michonne is a women of few words. She observes, thinks things through, and gets stuff done. In the comics, Michonne sees a lot more brutality and abuse than she does in the TV show, but I digress. This is a woman who mutilated two zombies (one of which is her former boyfriend), and keeps them in tow for protection. Also, did I mention she uses a freakin’ katana? It’s more practical and more badass than the guns everybody’s slinging.

In the interest of not making this list too long and impossible to read, I’ll stop here. But I’d love to hear some of your favorite female characters from comics. Tell me what I’m missing.

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Ashley Walton

Posts

Tarantino fanatic. Grammar snob. Tetris Master.

6 responses to Women Outside of Refrigerators

  1. 

    On the print side, Stumptown (by Greg Rucka) is great.

  2. 

    I do enjoy SFP. I’ll have to check out the others. Thanks for the suggestions, and for being a supporter of awesome comics! 🙂

  3. 

    Loved it. You may convince me to read Angel and Faith yet.

    I like Gwen and I was just thinking that even though she does sometimes have the “smitten female” thing going on, it actually makes her a more real character. We all reinforce some stereotype sometime, there are so many its just impossible! Trying to avoid any possible stereotype might end up making a character seem forced.

    • 

      Yes. That’s true. And I think most smart writers wrestle with the complications of reinforcing and prescribing stereotypes versus simply being descriptive and realistic.

  4. 

    If Millennium were a comic book series I would pick Lisbeth Salander. Reading book 2 now.

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