For a comicbook-orientated book, Shea Fontana’s book ‘Women Of Action’ is not only about DC Comics’ female characters but also on women who have drawn or written about them. There’s nary a mention of the fact that most of them were created originally by men. However, the changes in sexual persuasion of some of them could be put down to these ladies in an effort to reflect modern times. There is also a full range of ethics from some villainous to anti-hero and, obviously, outright heroines with several jumping across all of these categories.
The book is divided into four sections. ‘Themyscira’ deals with Wonder Woman and her associated characters: Hippolyta, Etta Candy, Wonder Girl, the Cheetah and Circe. ‘Metropolis’ with Supergirl, Power Girl, Lois Lane, Silver Banshee and Killer Frost. Lana Lang doesn’t get a mention. ‘Gotham City’ with Batgirl, Oracle, Black Canary, Lady Blackhawk, Hawkgirl, Huntress (the Helena Bertinelli version), Thunder & Lightning, Batwoman, Renee Montoya, Katana, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Carrie Kelly and The Women Of The League Of Shadows. The fourth, ‘Beyond’, with Amanda Waller, Big Barda, Bumblebee, Granny Goodness, Jessica Cruz, Mera, Raven, the Shazam Family (Mary and Darla), Starfire, Stargirl, Vixen and ending on Marguerite Bennett And The Bombshells.
Page count varies for all and some get more than one picture from the fourteen artists involved. A major criticism here is that although you can search through their bios as to who did what pages, there are no credits with the actual pages themselves. The art varies from the detailed, my favourites being Catwoman and Power Girl, to the more basic and more juvenile large eyed illustrations. I suppose it depends on what kind of art you like but every style is covered.
When it comes to the details about the characters, then I’m drawing on what I also know to see if it tallies. I never regarded Supergirl as Superman’s side-kick. There’s enough adventures (sic) in ‘Adventure Comics’ showing the Maid Of Steel not needing any help from her cousin. Equally, there is no mention of her Linda Danvers guise wearing a brown wig. I’m less sure about Kryptonian heat vision as being ‘laser eyes’ although the mechanism has always been a grey area.
The description of Killer Frost’s power as absorbing heat and projecting cold isn’t quite thermodynamics. If she’s drawing in heat than all that is left is cold anyway.
The Hawkgirl entry describes Thangarians as being a ‘hawk-like race of aliens’ when it’s really their police and military forces who use the motif head mask and wings. I would correct a detail about the Marvel Family, it isn’t just Mary Batson and Darla Dudley who retain their young age when they transform, but also Freddy Freeman and Eugene Choi as well.
Obviously, there are constraints to page count with a book of this sort and I did have a ponder on who they left out. There’s barely a mention of the Legion Of Super-Heroes which, as far as I can recall, has never been written or illustrated by a woman. The likes of Star Sapphire, Rita Farr aka Elasti-Girl from the original Doom Patrol, Katma Tui and Arisia Rrab from the Green Lantern Corps also appear to be missing.
The common denominator when I came to the end section listing and giving biographies of women who worked at DC Comics quickly explains that as they weren’t involved. Speaking of which, although the lady artists draw vignettes of themselves, I wish photos of the female production/writing staff had been given. Although many of them are much older now, like Ramona Fradon in her 90s, it would also acknowledge age has no acknowledgement to talent.
Don’t treat this book as restricted to a female audience, there’s plenty in here for everyone and it’ll certainly test your knowledge on any omissions. Objectively, I do have to wonder why there aren’t more significant female characters but books of this nature will also inspire more to be created.
(pub: Chronicle Books. 159 page illustrated medium hardback. Price: £21.99 (UK), $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4521-7394-8)
check out website: www.chronicles.com