Review of Subtraction, By Johnathan

Not the mathematical activity (although all math that I can do in my head is automatically JOHN APPROVED) but the editorial activity. Confused? You should be, because I'm not making any sense. Read on, and (hopefully) be enlightened!

A while back (say, January, 1964) The Legion of Superheroes had gotten big enough that somebody felt the need to give people a scorecard and so produced "The Origin and Powers of the Legion of Superheroes" and stuck it into Adventure Comics No. 316. Now, I would love to Take each of the little images in this thing and deconstruct them in a humourous manner, but my fellow Haligonian and nerdboy Ben has done that job first (and so well!) over at Good Book Readin'.

Instead (Curse you, Ben!), I'll present you with an interesting bit of editorial decision-making, as well as my theories on how it came about.

Okay, first let's look at the original "Powers and Origins" page 1:

And now here's the same page from Adventure Comics No. 365, republished (and recoloured) after the Legion had been growing for a few years and people had begun to get confused again:

This second printing featured all kinds of new Legionnaires like Karate Kid and Ferro Lad, but what really stood out for me was the little change that was made to page 1. See, things had changed a bit since No. 316 Triplicate Girl -

- seen here surprising some suitor who obviously had no idea who he was asking out - got into a bit of a scrape with a murderous, box-shaped Computo and ended up one-third dead. So now:

Duo Damsel! Duo Damsel, who had the amazing power to... be two people! I know that it's a better superpower than I'll ever have, but if she hadn't been the very first person to join the Legion after it'd been founded she wouldn't have stood a chance.

My theory about why Duo Damsel's picture is the same as Triplicate Girl's: Though it could've been deliberate on the part of the DC editorial staff, part of an attempt to show how losing a whole third of her being wasn't affecting her sunny outlook on life and tendency to pull the same joke on all of her dates (or maybe just on guys who suffer from short-term memory loss, if that's the same nebbish), I'm betting that nobody noticed that they had one purple-suited Carggite too many and sent the 1960s intern-equivalent scrambling to daub carcinogenic correction fluid onto one of them. Or someone just did a really half-assed job.

Either way, the whole business is


Review of Comic Book Weirdness Toward Women, By Johnathan

As some of you might have heard, the traditional comic book is not the most enlightened place when it comes to the 50% plus of our species that has breasts... but not the ones that have man-breasts - those are dudes. Female superheros are thin on the ground, they have lousy costumes, they get murdered and raped and so on and so on (see Living Between Wednesdays for some excellent writing on the subject as it applies to today's comics, by an actual girl who reads comics and is funny). Me, I'm still stuck in the past, so you get to hear about how women got the short end of the stick in the comics of the Sixties and Seventies.

There's a lot to cover here, so let's break it down:

1. Female Characters' Costumes.

Heading into the Seventies, the costumes that the ladies of the comics world were wearing got pretty ridiculous (the guys also had stupid outfits, but that's a tale for another time). A good example comes to us from the Legion of Superheroes, as is so often the case. Let's look at Saturn Girl, who was a tough customer from the get-go, a founding member of the Legion, two times Legion leader and had a decent costume:

As I said: nice. Kind of like the Canadian flag, if Canada was in outer space. Which I assume is the case, a thousand years hence. And look at her unmask that fraudulent Legion applicant! Smart as a whip, I tells ya.

Then, all of a sudden, this happens:

Eep and jeepers. She's got no nose, she's wearing a bathing suit and posing like a porn star. It happened to basically every female member of the Legion (except Phantom Girl - she just got some bellbottoms, bless her). Look, here's Night Girl before:

She's seven feet tall and kicks ass. Even though her powers only work in the darkness she was pretty consistently awesome. After:

Pointlessly skimpy costume, loss of distinctive hair, considerably shorter, etc. The story that this is taken from mostly consists of her getting beaten up by the bad guys over and over until her boyfriend comes to bail her out. Blarg.

2. Career Heroines Not Wanted

This is possibly the worst bit of cheering-up that I've ever seen. "Don't worry your pretty little head. You've lost your duplicate self and you no longer have super powers, but now you can be a devoted wife! Awesome, right?" Getting married was always the cue for super-heroines to retire, though this specific case might have just been a way for the writers to get Duo Damsel out of the way so they could relax and stop trying to find ways to make her power seem useful.

3. This One Panel, Like, Creeps Me Out.

This one's not really a trend, but here seems as good a place as any to bring it up. The panel is from a story where Colossal Boy is dealing with his feelings for Shrinking Violet, who he can't woo because she's in love with Duplicate Boy, who could totally kick his ass. Colossal Boy's doing okay with the urge-controlling, too - right up until this panel, where he gets incredibly creepy. She's your "flower girl", huh? I'm guessing that she put in a request not to be sent on any more missions with him for a while pretty soon after this little uncomfortable moment. Additional creepy element: this is during the period where Colossal Boy's costume didn't really include pants.

4. General Background Misogyny.

Here are a few of my favourite bits of casual contempt:

Mordru kicked Mon-el and Superboy all to hell for a couple of issues, while these three tricked him with about five minutes work. That's not ironic, Mon-el. That's you being a fucking idiot.

I just like this one because Superboy thinks that someone having an ape-man as a counterpart in an alternate reality is *way* more likely than them being a woman.

Female androids are also pretty unlikely. Also: can you really not hit a lady, Superboy, or are you just copping a feel?

Last up, here's Timber Wolf acting like a tool. His teammate just crashed her spaceship and he takes the opportunity to make a joke about women drivers. Ass.

Unsurprisingly, this is all NOT APPROVED. However, there is one upside to all of this: every once in a while it gets turned around. Every time the girls get a leg up the guys are just totally emasculated. Look:

They're very sad, poor things. They've been outclassed by the ladies and have to pout and it's hilarious and