Superheroines and the Epic Journey

Mythic Themes in Comics, Film and Television


In stock

About the Book

The heroine’s journey echoes throughout ancient legend. Each young woman combats her dark side and emerges stronger. This quest is also a staple of American comic books. Wonder Woman with semi-divine powers gives us a new female-centered creation story. Batgirl, Batwoman and Black Widow discover their enemy is the dark mother or shadow twin, with the savagery they’ve rejected in themselves. Supergirl similarly struggles but keeps harmony with her sister.
From Jessica Jones and Catwoman to the new superwomen of cutting-edge webcomics, each heroine must go into the dark, to become not a warrior but a savior. Women like Captain Marvel and Storm sacrifice all to join the ranks of superheroes, while their feminine powers and dazzling costumes reflect the most ancient tales.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Valerie Estelle Frankel teaches English at Mission College and San Jose City College. The author of 90 popular culture books and more than 100 stories and essays, she lives in Sunnyvale, California.

Bibliographic Details

Valerie Estelle Frankel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 296
Bibliographic Info: glossary, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6878-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2801-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces by Trina Robbins 1

Introduction: Considering Superheroes and Heroines 3

Chapter 1—Growing Up

Hero Birth: Wonder Woman (DC Comics, 1941) 11

Ordinary World: After the Golden Age (Novel, 2011) 16

Adolescence: Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics, 2014) 19

Call to Rescue: Go Girl! (Dark Horse Comics, 2002) 25

Refusal of the Call: ­X-Men (Film, 2000) 30

Making the Choice: Runaways (Marvel Comics, 2003–2008) 33

Chapter 2—Superhero Tools

Superpowers: Wild Cards (Book Series, 1987–) 38

Talisman: Witchblade (TV, 2001–2002) 46

Self-Naming: Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics, 1977–2012) 53

Secret Identity: Supergirl (DC Comics, 1959) 60

Costume: Miss Fury (Timely Comics, 1941) 65

Shadow Side: Savage ­She-Hulk (Marvel Comics, 1980) 73

Chapter 3—Family Foils

Grandmother-Mentor: Miss Harkness (Marvel Comics, 1970–1989) 79

Evil Mentor: Birds of Prey (DC Comics, 2004–2011) 84

Brutal Patriarchy: ­Spider-Woman (Marvel Comics, 1977) 89

Leaving the Father: Aurora West (First Second Comics, 2014–2015) 96

Finding the Mother: Batgirl (DC Comics, 2005–2006) 101

Killer Mother: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (TV, 2013–2015) 106

Sister Teamwork: Supergirl (TV, 2015) 114

Evil Twin: Black Widow (Marvel Comics, 1999–2002) 119

Chapter 4—Male Influences

Friendship: White Tiger (Marvel Comics, 2007) 124

Animus Growth: ­Spider-Gwen (Marvel Comics, 2014) 128

The Good Boy: Dark Angel (TV, 2000–2002) 131

Shapeshifter Romance: Batman Returns (Film, 1992) 136

Bluebeard: Scarlet Witch (Marvel Comics, 1994) 144

Government Persecution: Echo (Abstract Studios Comics, 2011) 150

Shrinking Down: ­She-Hulk (Marvel Comics, 2005) 154

Take Back the Night: Priya’s Shakti (Web Comic, 2014) 159

Chapter 5—Descent to the Self

Entering the Otherworld: Daredevil/Echo (Marvel Comics, 2004) 164

Into the Desert: Vixen (DC Comics, 2011) 168

Hearing the Inner Voices: Power Girl (DC Comics, 2009–2010) 175

Casting Off Illusions: Donna Troy (DC Comics, 2005) 178

Healing: Jessica Jones (TV, 2015) 182

Empathy: Batwoman (DC Comics, 2013–2014) 190

Chapter 6—Facing the Shadow

Descent into Death: Pretty Deadly (Image Comics, 2013–2014) 195

Dying to Save the World: Kitty Pryde (Marvel Comics, 2004–2008) 199

Shadow Transformation: Dark Phoenix (Marvel Comics, 1975) 202

Embracing the Self: Wonder Woman (DC Comics, 2011) 207

Return to Life: Danger Girl (IDW Comics, 2014) 213

Finishing the Battle: “Call Her Savage” (Short Story, 2010) 217

Finding Balance: Supergirl (DC Comics, 1996) 221

Chapter 7—Motherhood and Enlightenment

Becoming Supermom: Invisible Woman (Marvel Comics, 1968–1973) 225

Evil Child: Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics, 1980–1981) 232

Losing the Child: Scarlet Witch (Marvel Comics, 1986–2012) 236

Death Crone: Claire Voyant (Timely Comics, 1940–1942) 240

Mistress of Dark and Light: Storm and Illyana (Marvel Comics, 1983–1984) 244

Apotheosis: Promethea (America’s Best Comics, 2001–2005) 249

Guiding the Next Generation: Birds of Prey (TV, 2002–2003) 255

Conclusion 262

Glossary 265

Works Cited 268

Index 283

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “A wealth of information about a variety of super-heroines and their comic book stories”—SFCrowsnest
  • “Frankel discusses the journey of the superheroine in contemporary comics, movies, and television”—ProtoView
  • “Frankel uses myth the way it was meant to be used, to help people understand how their lives fit into a larger world. She offers great depth of analysis in understanding how the mythic characters of comics utilize the standard mythic tropes. This is a must-have.”—Matthew Wilhelm Kapell, Exploring the Next Frontier: Vietnam, NASA, Star Trek and Utopia in 1960s and 1970s American Myth and History.