Women in Comic Books

Women, in all their characters, have been featured in comic books since the medium’s beginning. In fact, majority of comic readers were female in the 1940s. Around that era, however, women in comic books were not only sidekicks standing next to supreme male superheroes. Much more, they were primarily portrayed as career girls or roman-story heroines. The first known female superhero designed was an ancient Egyptian woman, Fletcher Hank’s Fantomah

Today, a larger scale of heroic women are known far beyond the comic industry, including TV shows, the film franchise and cartoons. Even so, this does not address how women are really portrayed in the real world. Despite such justice these characters bring, most figures are sadly drawn to cater to the now male-dominated audience. For a long period of time, women have been portrayed as the supporting characters in comic books, assisting the men with brawn who fight villains. Women have been put more as assistants doing the domestic work, rather than being the tough figures in a story. Moreover, they are objectified. They become the aim of the quest for the villain’s vanquishment, inserted only to heighten stakes.

Sexualisation of the female characters is also an issue yet to be dealt with. They are drawn to be wearing the scantiest clothing, covering very little and revealing too much. Women in comics are too often shaped to the stereotypical perfection, possessing large busts, thin waists and a slim figure. These features defy the laws of anatomy and gravity, even. Unsurprisingly, this happens to attract male readers, and therefore, alienates the female readers from the comic book audiences.

With the rise of the fight for gender equality growing, a new category of comic books are beginning to emerge. These cartoons display empowered women, unlike those of the old. It aims to break free of all these stereotypical comic book conventions by having a female protagonist. She is strong and not sexualised to the satisfaction of many men, being a realistic representation of an actual woman. The man behind this, Will Brooker, is one of the artists who seek to reduce aversion against women in the comic book industry. His inspiration came about when he was leading an induction session for PHD students, saying, “I looked around at the room full of young women – so smart, determined, keen and committed… Why do we never see women like this in comics – women who are normal, likeable and just really, really clever?”

I speak on behalf of all women when I say that the comic book industry needs a lot more people like Will Brooker. Women will not change and learn to accept the conventional standard of comic books; comics have to become readable for women, understanding the limits of the nature of a woman.

- Written by Elena May and Dashania Elvira.




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