Summer 2015 will mark the end of The Avengers as we know them when Marvel releases it’s Secret Wars series. At least as far as the comics are concerned, anyway. In it’s place, the A-Force, an Avengers of sorts with all women superheroes:
Pretty sweet, huh?
Time Magazine says:
The new comic will bring together female characters from across the Marvel universe, from Dazzler to Medusa to She-Hulk. G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, X-Men) and Marguerite Bennett (Angela: Asgard’s Assassin) will pen the series with drawings by Jorge Molina (X-Men). In the wake of the Secret Wars destruction, readers will find the female heroes in Arcadia, a feminist utopia of sorts. When the peaceful home comes under attack from a familiar threat, the women will form the A-Force.
This is huge; the comic book realm has routinely been a male-dominated world in terms of visual and hero representation, but that doesn’t mean that female readers and admirers don’t exist. Due to the patriarchal society in which we live, it’s been pre-determined that superheroes are for boys while princesses are designed distinctly for girls, and “we” — society at large, comic book manufacturers, Hollywood, our consumerist nation — just assumes that there’s little-to-no cross pollination. But there’s a huge need for women superheroes because women, particularly young women, need strong visual representations to inspire. If the success of YA series The Hunger Games and Divergent, both led by strong young women, both heroes in their own rights, and films like Maleficent and Lucy, both released in 2014, say anything, it’s that there are just as many, if not more untapped stories to tell with women at the forefront.
The comic book realm has come a long way since the creation of DC’s Wonder Woman, the first female superhero created during the Golden Age of Comics, which lasted from Superman’s creation in 1938 until early 1950s post-WWII America. Wonder Woman was created in an effort to widen readership of comic books, whose biggest readers were GIs on the front lines, as well as create a superhero that would sexually appeal to those soldiers. Max Gaines, the man responsible for the modern comic book format, consulted with psychology professor Dr. Charles Moulton Marston and created Suprema, whose name was later changed to Wonder Woman in 1940 to represent the ideal, liberated woman, who could nurture wounded soldiers (her secret identity, Diana Prince, was a nurse), but also take them out: an ideal that was empowering, which very much reflected the post-1920s amendment that allowed women to vote and the push to get women into the work force to support the economy during WWII while the men were off fighting, as well a character whose appearance was sexually enticing.
During World War II, widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. In 1942, artist Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to create posters to support the war, which gave birth to the “We Can Do It!” poster staring American icon “Rosie the Riveter.” Rosie the Riveter, along with Wonder Woman become propaganda to help get American women into the workforce.
Both women have been prominent iconography in the feminist movement, yet despite her power, Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society of America (the precursor to the Justice League) as a secretary, not an equal team member, in 1942.
Once the war was won and the men returned home, within two days after the GIs returned home from the war, 800,000 women lost their jobs, and in the late 1940s, early 1950s, there was a national campaign to get women back into the home: domestication led to the baby boom. Women’s rights and power waned greatly, and Wonder Woman, as one of only three comic book superheroes (Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman) whose title never went out of print, adapted to cultural norms.
In the 1960s, Wonder Woman surrendered her powers in order to remain in a “Man’s World.” She went by her secret identity Diana Prince and opened up a boutique, which greatly reflected America’s ideas of what a women should be in the 1960s. The feminist movement took place in the 1960s off the heels of the Civil Rights movement and kicked off in the 1970s, which was when Wonder Woman finally got her superhuman abilities back. Following the feminist movement of the 1970s, new female heroes debuted, including She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Woman, as well as many extremely powerful women in X-Men, like Storm.
Still, aside from hardcore comic book fans, women heroes didn’t gain mainstream acceptance, especially from Hollywood. Until recently. And the climate in Hollywood, and the push for gender equality, as well as LGBT rights gaining traction is allowing for women to finally shine and be seen as three-dimensional enough to actually kick ass (and most of the time come off as more nuanced, more rounded, and stronger than the “Men of Action Films Past.”
There’s definitely still opposition to kick-ass women, though, as evidenced by last year’s announcement that Thor’s mantle — and hammer, the mighty Mjolnir — would be be picked up by a woman. But Marvel is doing their best to make their comics and its subsequent heroes actually reflect what’s outside our bedroom windows: a world inhabited by many races, genders, and ideals. The mantle of Ms. Marvel is now occupied by a muslim teenager …
… and Captain Marvel is Carol Danvers, also a woman, one of the most powerful heroes in Marvel comics history.
She’s also getting her own film in 2018, the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be led entirely by a woman (though it can be argued that 2014’s critically acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier was very much co-headlined by Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.)
So, in short, the A-Force is a
good great thing. It could be exactly what the male-dominated superhero world needs: a good dose of reality and equality.