Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers cover

As a followup to last year’s Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, Mike Madrid now has a companion volume out. Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics focuses on some of the bad girls and evil women published from 1940-1950.

Below you’ll find an image of the 22 villains featured in the book. Each gets a short text profile and a reprinted story (in black and white, which is an unfortunate limitation of the book; I can only imagine how vivid some of this energetic art was in color). They’re grouped into four sections, each with an introduction by Madrid.

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers cover

  • Vicious Viragos — the masterminds and murderers
  • Beauties & Beasts — women motivated by their beauty or alternately, their scars
  • A Rainbow of Evil — the Dragon Ladies and jungle queens, the only way women of color could have prominent roles in early comics
  • Crime Queens — reprints from Crimes by Women, a series dedicated to the supposed true stories of female criminals

There’s a good amount of “wow, how crazy was that?!” reaction to some of these characters, such as the Nazi Amazon Fraulein Halunke; the half-man, half-woman He-She (who fights the teenaged Crimebuster and his monkey Squeeks); the Two-Face-like, half-scarred, former model Nadya Burnett; the pirate queen Skull Lady; and the snake-like Indian Veda and her poison lipstick.

Most interesting to me was Madrid’s opening essay, where he makes the case that only by being evil could female characters demonstrate freedom and self-identity. While the heroines often had to operate under secret identities to camouflage their activities, by becoming villains, women could be their full self and aim for power and control, even if that meant killing people.

(The publisher provided an advance review copy.)

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