Wonder Women and Bad Girls

Superheroine and Supervillainess Archetypes in Popular Media


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About the Book

Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Shuri, and Black Widow. These four characters portray very different versions of women: the superheroine, the abuse victim, the fourth wave princess, and the spy, respectively. In this in-depth analysis of female characters in superhero media, the author begins by identifying ten eras of superhero media defined by the way they portray women. Following this, the various archetypes of superheroines are classified into four categories: boundary crossers, good girls, outcasts, and those that reclaim power. From Golden Age comics through today’s hottest films, heroines have been surprisingly assertive, diverse, and remarkable in this celebration of all the archetypes.

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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)
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8409-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4163-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction   1

The Classic Super Eras

Pinup Girl: Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Fiction House, 1937–1954) 5

Fifties Ladies: Batman’s Women (DC Comics, 1954–1964) 11

Silver Age Wimps: The Wasp (Marvel Comics, 1963–1970) 16

Superheroines Onscreen: Wonder Woman (TV, 1975–1979) 22

Antiheroine: Elektra (Marvel Comics, 1981–1994) 24

Bronze Age Fridging: The Killing Joke (DC Comics, 1988) 27

Bad Girl Comics: Fatale (Broadway Comics, 1995) 33

Girl Power: Powerpuff Girls (TV, 1998–2005) 38

Atoner: Cassandra Cain (DC Comics, 2001) 44

Cinematic Superheroines: Captain Marvel (Film, 2019) 47

Crossing Boundaries

Supermoms: Steven Universe (TV, 2013–2019) 54

Multifaceted Warrior Woman: Thor (Marvel Comics, 2014–2015) 61

Golden Age Fighters: Girl Commandos (Harvey Comics, 1942–1943) 66

Apocalyptic Heroine: Martha Washington (Dark Horse, 1994–1997) 71

Angry Feminist: Misty Knight (Marvel Comics, 1975) 77

Bad Girl Team: Danger Girl (Wildstorm, 1997–2001) 81

Seductress: Veda the Cobra Woman (Quality Comics, 1942) 84

Shapechanger: Mystique (Marvel Comics, 2004–2005) 87

Transgender Fluidity: Doom Patrol (DC Comics, 1993–1994) 93

Good Girls

Fourth Wave Princess: Shuri (Film, 2018) 101

Altruist: Wonder Woman (DC Comics, 1941) 106

Spunky Kids: Kitty Pryde (Marvel Comics, 1980–1985) 109

First Adventure: Batgirl Day One (DC Comics, 1993) 114

Responsible Sister: Karma (Marvel Comics, 1980–2013) 117

Paragon: Supergirl (TV, 2015– ) 120

Mystic: Zero Girl (Homage Comics, 2001) 126

Fish Out of Water: Starfire (DC Comics, 2015) 131

Sidekicks: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (TV, 1976) 133


Spy: Black Widow (Marvel Comics, 1965–1967) 142

Evil Mom: Talia al Ghul (Film, 2016) 145

Abuse Victim: Harley Quinn (DC Comics, 1992) 148

The Dark Lord’s Daughter: Nightshade (DC Comics, 1988) 153

Rootless: America Chavez (Marvel Comics, 2017) 156

The Other: Janissary (DC Comics, 1997) 159

The Monster: ­She-Hulk (Marvel Comics, 2003) 165

Cyborg: ­X-23 (Marvel Comics, 2006–2011) 169

Possessed Heroine: Katana (DC Comics, 2007) 175

Reclaiming Power

Community Activist: Citlali (Newspaper, 2002–2005) 179

Nature Incarnate: Poison Ivy (Film, 1997) 184

Mentor: Jessica Jones (Marvel Comics, 2005) 188

Antileader: Suicide Squad (DC Comics, 1987–1990) 191

Goddess and Ruler: Storm (Marvel Comics, 1975–2009) 194

Supervillainess: Texa (Zip Comics, 1940) 199

Dragon Lady: Madame Butterfly (Quality Comics, 1948) 203

Witch Queen: Seven Soldiers of Victory (DC Comics, 2006–2007) 207

Mighty Crone: Spider Widow (Quality Comics, 1942) 211

Conclusion   216

Primary Sources Cited   219

Secondary Sources Cited  225

Index   231