To put it honestly I was mad at Marvel for a long time. At the turn of the millennia they had some great books, I mean Whedon was writing some of the best X-Men stories ever, but for the most part I had just been subjected to a decade of opulence in the 90’s compounded by a decade of generally bad story telling in the 00’s. It was infuriating and made me want to scream every time I picked up a book, PARTICULARLY SPIDEY! Then suddenly, and rather recently, something changed and not just the advent of their movie franchises. Sure to say the reemergence of Marvel started on the big screen would be valid. Marvel has ridden back to relevance with Disney and a mine of movie gold. Again Whedon has taken the helm of the Marvel flagship, only this time it is on the big screen instead of in print. But I mention good ol’ Joss Whedon not because he makes great films, but rather because few know how to write a female character like he does. Now, in the wake of Disney taking over the helm, print fading away, and a host of other prescribed deaths to the company, Marvel is blossoming into the most lucrative time in its existence, and it is doing it with great female characters.
And it’s not just with pin-up like characters gracing the cover of their books, or half-cocked characters that do nothing more than act as plot points, I mean true and honest great female characters and creators. It started for me with the return of Captain Marvel and Carol Danvers at the mantle. Kelly Sue DeConnick took on the responsibilities of writing the book and, along with Dexter Soy’s art, I felt the character for the first time in a long time. Then came the female-centric X-Men title that focused not only on female characters, but characters I actually care about. Now, with Elektra being given another solo, while She-Hulk and Black Widow still enjoy the popularity of their initial entries into the Marvel NOW! Universe, it has become increasingly clear that Marvel has committed to this course of thought. The secret crown jewel of them all… Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson.
Kamala Khan is more than just a new superhero, she is the embodiment of everything that is right at Marvel. Oh sure, the second issue had a bit too much exposition, but that is to be expected when a teenage girl first assumes the identity of her favorite superhero. And sure, some of the explanation to her parents gets a little cliché, but it is the relationship with her parents that matters. Here is a girl as empowered as any teenage boy has ever been, and fighting not only her changing environment but decades of societal and social stigmas. She is interesting and genuine, and though her religion and family history may be different, she is instantly relatable. That matters… A LOT. For years, comic books have been the avenue to break down social stereotypes. It is what the X-Men have been preaching for decades, but it is only effective when the characters make us feel at home.
Kamala speaks to guys and girls, adults and kids, Christians and Muslims, and just about anybody that takes the time to read her story. The best part of all is that it is not a gimmick. As a reader I have never felt closer to the female characters of the Marvel U. Carol is like my secret best friend, and even Black Widow has become mildly interesting to me and that is saying something. Maybe the largest surprise of all is that I will probably pick up Elektra #1. Haden Blackman will be writing the book and his work on Batwoman, one of my favorite characters, along with J.H. Williams III at times was the best thing being written.
This highlights the key to this entire movement. I am not sure where Marvel is finding this talent (you know, the ones that are not running from DC) but they are putting together some great teams. It is not just the writing either, it is fantastic art, that makes you feel strength from characters even when they are fully dressed. It is great editors like Jeanine Schaefer that watch over and protect these characters. For the first time in a long time, I care about these characters, because for once I feel like the company cares about them. That makes it an honest experience and when they are not being raped and mutilated, female characters have fascinating stories to tell. Brandon Boyd of Incubus once said, “Female artists are the perfect example of a creator: They know how to make life and art with their bodies. Life comes from their bodies, so on a very basic level, they have more to write about.” I think this is true not only for the creators but the characters that speak to them as well.
I can’t help but feel that Disney has something to do with this. We can all joke and make memes about how Disney has taken over everything, and sure they have struggled with female characters before, but Disney knows what they are doing. Hell, each day Disney entertains my 2 year old with a female sheriff, a female doctor, and a host of empowered princesses before singing him to sleep on the soundtrack of Frozen. Maybe it is coincidence but I think our fears of Disney rubbing off on Marvel has been proven true, just in the best possible way. It is all good news for Marvel, I am buying more of their books than I have in almost a decade and I can honestly say I am happy to see that more than half are being headlined by at least one female character. Moreover, it makes me happy to know that I actually have characters and stories to give to my 8 year old daughter as she is entering my geeky world. So I would ask all of you, what are your thoughts? Are you enjoying the female renaissance at Marvel? And where do you think it will lead?