Beauology 101: I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar… And Write It Correctly

"Beau Smith & His Strong Female Friend, Wynonna Earp"

“Beau Smith & His Strong Female Friend, Wynonna Earp”

by Beau Smith

Comic books have been around for more than 75 years, in that time we’ve seen women characters go from girlfriends, mothers, and the ever popular damsel-in-distress to super powered heroines dressed like Las Vegas strippers…AND girlfriends, mothers and the ever popular damsel-in-distress. After nearly seven decades, the comic book business is still run mostly by men, written and drawn mostly by men, and still read…mostly by men.

Yes, there are more female readers now than there have ever been, but still not enough to equal the domination of males in and around comic books. Personally, and with regrets, I don’t think that’s going to change much in the next 75 years. I think that for a few reasons. One, I think comic books will always be seen as a “man thing” much like being a mechanic, hunting, fishing, and bottling up your emotions like it was a fine wine. Two, publishers need to stop stereotyping female creators to only books that feature females as well as having men just write “tough guy” books. Variety is the spice of life, it’s time to change the ingredients.

"Wonder Woman & Lois Lane, Comparing Super Notes."

“Wonder Woman & Lois Lane, Comparing Super Notes.”

Let’s look at two iconic mainstream female characters in comics, Wonder Woman and Lois Lane. Both first appeared in the late 1930s in the published comic book world and are still with us in 2014. How much have they really changed?

Wonder Woman is still an Amazon princess, single and fighting crime, well, at least what calls itself crime. That part hasn’t changed. Her costume has changed and been refitted more than a few times, but when the majority of folks think of her, they still see the red, white, and blue stars and spangles. The sales of her book are nowhere near what they have been for the last six decades of her published life. She doesn’t have a movie or TV deal, and still hasn’t found a writer to truly define her character to match the iconic look. She is all chassis and no engine. So in my opinion, she has regressed as the years have gone by when you would think the character would move forward with better results. You can argue that she has, but sales don’t lie; she hasn’t. No one has yet to give Wonder Woman a personality that they can hang their head band on.

"When Lois Says "No", She Means NO!" Art by Eduardo Barreto

“When Lois Says “No”, She Means NO!” Art by Eduardo Barreto

Then there’s Lois Lane. She’s still a journalist… kinda. She been single, she’s been married to Superman, she’s been not married to Superman, she’s kissed Batman, she’s… awww, you get the picture. She’s had her moments, but they’ve been few and far between. Early on, Lois was one of the few damsels-in-distress who fought back, even Lex Luthor always thought twice before he decided to kidnap her. Even with Superman standing by, Lois has always, potentially, been the smartest person in the room, but this has never been used or shown enough. Like Wonder Woman, in my opinion, the character of Lois Lane has regressed. DC Comics has hit on her personality a few times and grabbed the brass ring, only to lose it over and over with their buttered up fingers.

"Power Girl-The Lady Digs Comics."

“Power Girl-The Lady Digs Comics.”

There are a lot of fictional female characters out there in the mainstream Marvel and DC Universes, but if you break down their dialog and actions, you’ll see they are still spouting male superhero words, just in a shapelier form. As a writer, you have to be able to not only give a female superhero equal powers and abilities, you also have to speak, think, and act like a real woman does. Superheroes are not unisex; one size does not fit all. Men and women are different for a reason and that’s what makes them interesting. The closest we’ve read where the creative team gets it right have been with Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner on Power Girl. The same for Dan Slott on She-Hulk and lets not forget Terry Moore on Rachel Rising and even my old friends , Gail Simone, Brian Michael Bendis and Chuck Dixon have stood high on the ladder raising the writing paint brush to a new level.

"Hannah Dundee Of Xenozoic Tales By Mark Schultz"

“Hannah Dundee Of Xenozoic Tales By Mark Schultz”

Mark Schultz of Xenozoic Tales fame made the comic book industry stand up and listen in the 1980s when he created the character Hannah Dundee in Xenozoic Tales. Hannah is a strong, well thought out character, that spoke and acted like a really strong, confident woman. Let’s face facts, men and women ARE different, and it’s a good thing they are. It’s what makes us all interesting when we get together.

Hannah Dundee is a compelling character. It’s not that hard for a writer to do if they RESPECT, LISTEN, and OBSERVE. I hate to say it, but even some of the female writers in comics don’t “get it” because they’ve been brainwashed to put female characters in the mold that has been the standard for so many wasted years. Everyone seems to want to make it harder than it really is. Driving with your eyes closed is much harder than leaving them open.

"She-Hulk: Smart and Strong."

“She-Hulk: Smart and Strong.”

The plus side of how women have changed is the fact there are more female character in comics now. They now have a better chance to have their own titles. That’s a big step forward. Still, not as many as there should be, but then again, the industry is a male dominated business and that’s just the way it is, like it or not.

I like women in comics, reading comics, buying comics, and making comics. I want to see more growth in all those areas. To do that, I want to see fictional in comics become more factual with the way they are written.

That’s not asking too much; it’s demanding equal ground.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch


We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!

  1. Steven Says:

    Yes, yes, and yes! Well said, from Arisia, Lady Blackhawk, to Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and Wynonna Earp you definitely know how to write strong, intelligent, compelling women. Great blog!

  2. Beau Smith Says:

    Thank you, Steven. Much appreciated and double thanks for bringing up some pretty fun characters. Glad to have you back me.


  3. Sheza J Says:

    The problem isn’t quite as simple as the ‘old guys in comics are sexist’ crowd lets on. I want to scream every time I hear these gals that think they’re so feminist bitching about Catwoman’s shape or flexibility, but having NO PROBLEM with Miller’s hooker origin and everything since that makes her street trash whether they mention prostitution or not.

    I want to scream when they post pictures of Damian Wayne, a character that was CREATED to say f**k you to Catwoman fans, who are mostly female, as part of a campaign to drive them from the fandom.

    I want to scream every time they tweet their hopes for a Wonder Woman movie without considering what the likes of David Goyer and Zack Snyder would to do to her?

    I want to scream when they mindlessly parrot Paul Dini’s accusations about network programming without stopping to consider that he is following the age-old practice of accusing others of his own worst crimes. One glance at his stint as Batman editor and his work on Arkham City and recent videos make it clear to ANYONE with eyes that he is an admiral in DC’s war on women.

    Unless and until these women learn to distinguish friend from foe, their gullibility is more disgusting to me than the malice of the Kevin Smith fan club.