Thursday, July 6, 2017

Great Superheroines of the Past

Image via Jason Ratliff
The other week I went to see the Wonder Woman. And boy-oh-boy, did I enjoy it! Growing up I mostly read the Batman family comics, Batgirl and Birds of Prey being my favorites, but Wonder Woman with her Greek mythology backstory (I admit to being a huge mythology nerd) and really fun powers (lasso of truth, anyone?) always had a special place in my heart.

And to see her for the very first time on the big screen was exciting. I'm not going to lie, I did bounce up and down in my seat when I saw the Amazons riding out on to the beach (that's as spoiler-y as this post is going to get, I swear). But it got me thinking, there are so many wonderful comic book superheroines of yesteryear that are all but forgotten. So I thought I'd put together a list of my favorite vintage ladies who kick butt. This is not a an exhaustive list by any means, but I thought I'd pick the ones I think would make for great movies or TV shows. And though not all of them have super powers, they are all pretty super.

Black Cat
Possibly my absolute favorite of the vintage comic book crime fighting gals. Black Cat aka Linda Turner is a stunt woman who becomes a Hollywood actress. But she is bored with the glamorous life of a starlet and when on a picture she encounters possible Nazi spies, she puts on a costume and uses her stunt woman training to bring evil doers to justice. With Old Hollywood setting and a lot of stunts, this would make for a great movie. 

Zaza the Mystic
Before there was the Mentalist, there was Zaza the Mystic. Zaza is a fortune teller and a psychic. Or is she? Her friend and admirer Lt. Bob Nelson cannot quite tell. Zaza seems to be able to predict the future and she uses this gift to help Bob solve crimes. Perhaps the source of this gift is just a keen eye and intuition, but maybe there's more to it. This would make a great TV show à la the Mentalist.

Girl Commandos
I'm cheating a bit here, because the Girl Commandos are not one  but five brave ladies. But no list of this kind can be complete without them. This title is unique even by today's standard because of its incredible diversity. The team consists of Pat Parker, the leader of the group, Ellen Billings, her second in command, Tanya, a photographer from the Soviet Union, Penny Kirk, an American radio reporter, and  Mei-Ling from China who joins the group to avenger her family who had been killed by the Japanese. Though there is some stereotyping in how the characters are portrayed,they are still shown with respect, their opinions are valued by other members of the group and there are no cruel jokes at their expense. I would love to see this group in a movie or a TV show, going behind enemy lines on daring rescue missions or foiling the plans of saboteurs.

Phantom Lady 
Sandra Knight, daughter of the Senator Henry Knight, is dissatisfied with a life of a socialite. And so she starts fighting crime as Phantom Lady using her martial arts skills and a blacklight ray that can blind her opponents or make her invisible. She must have had some other magic to go with the ray since even though she did not usually wear a mask no one seemed to recognize her. She also had some of the best named foes - Subway Slayer, anyone? I would love to see her in a TV show fight crime and corruption in Washington.     

Senorita Rio
She shares some similarities with the Black Cat: Rita Farrar is also a Hollywood star and a former stunt double. She is a spy and uses her acting abilities, fighting skills and extensive knowledge of languages to infiltrate enemy cells in Central and South America. I honestly do not know why there isn't a TV show about her. It would be perfect - glamour, action and adventures.  

There are more, so many more unstoppable heroines. If you want to learn about the super ladies of the pasts I can recommend Mike Madrid's Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics (if you want to find out about vintage female villainy, there's also Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics) or Hope Nicholson's The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History. Do you have a favorite vintage female heroine that you would want to see in a film or a TV show? Let me know.    

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