DC: Women of Action
Modern-day coffee table books like DC: Women of Action, in addition to being fun reads on their own, pleasantly remind me of how much things have improved over the past few years.
When I started this gig, a book full of pretty pictures celebrating the female superheroes of DC Comics would have been drawn by men and full of anatomically impossible come-hither poses and smutty innuendo. Now, it’s written by a woman, Shea Fontana, who has also written Batman and Wonder Woman comics and made major contributions to the DC Super Hero Girls franchise. The promotion makes a point of mentioning that the images are by “female and non-binary artists”. AND remembering that real-life creators are more important than the characters, at the end in a “Behind the Scenes” section, profiles are included of key DC women, from Dorothy Woolfolk to Jenette Kahn, Ramona Fradon to Karen Berger. That means this is the kind of book I can recommend to any reader.
With one caveat. Unfortunately, support of the contributors only goes so far. The art pieces are not credited when they appear throughout the book — to see who drew which pinup, the reader has to check page numbers (not even character names) listed by the names in the “About the Artists” section at the end of the book. That’s a major flaw in an otherwise great publication.
The character profiles are divided by location (franchise), beginning with Themyscira. That means the book starts, as it should, with Wonder Woman, and her friends, relatives, and villains (Cheetah and Circe). Metropolis — Supergirl, Power Girl, Lois Lane, Silver Banshee, Killer Frost — is next, followed by Gotham City — Batgirl, Oracle, Black Canary, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Hawkgirl, and others. There is an emphasis on characters casual readers will know. I suspect, for example, Thunder and Lightning are included because they’re part of the Black Lightning TV show.
Other female heroes are included in a final section labeled “Beyond”. They include Amanda Waller, Bumblebee, Mera, Starfire, Stargirl, and one of my new favorites, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. I was pleased to be reminded of the Bombshells, as well.
Fontana does a good job acknowledging different character versions and historical changes without getting bogged down in continuity. She explains in this interview how she prepared to write the book, why she was selected, and her history with the characters. (I love that she came to them from cartoons and TV shows, as that’s so familiar to many, and it’s a valid path.) The character profiles include quotes from other women who’ve worked on the characters, about their inspiration and how they were introduced to them.
Overall, this is a wonderful overview of the women of the DC universe and an excellent starting point for anyone interested in such a major part of comics.