Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Heroines of Comic Books and Literature: Portrayals in Popular Culture

Academic journal article Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)

Heroines of Comic Books and Literature: Portrayals in Popular Culture

Article excerpt

Heroines of Comic Books and Literature: Portrayals in Popular Culture Maja Bajac-Carter, Norma Jones, and Bob Batchelor, Editors. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

The past few years have been particularly ripe with movie releases inspired by characters from popular literature and comic books. Young adult titles such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent continue to increase in production and consequently introduce new female heroines to the realm of popular culture. Recent blockbuster releases, spearheaded by comic book heavyweights Marvel and DC, provoked a resurgence in popularity for superheroes. Box office numbers and profit reports show no signs of the popularity of these genres waning, directing unprecedented influence toward current and future consumers. The release of Heroines of Comic Books and Literature, therefore, could not have been timelier.

Heroines of Comic Books and Literature is especially relevant to comic book fans. Parallel to their rising popularity in mainstream culture is the increase of commentary on the portrayals, and lack thereof, of comic book females on many online fan spaces and feminist popular culture-driven blogs, such as the polarizing and occasionally problematic website, Jezebel. This book can function as a response to these open online discussions, which range from cheerful fandom-centric acknowledgments to provocative, sometimes poorly researched accusations. More than one-half of this book is dedicated to scrutinizing the portrayal of a variety female superheroes including, but limited to, Janissary, Batgirl, Storm, and, of course, Wonder Woman. It does so with great responsibility and care, thorough analysis, and critical insight. Common themes such as motherhood, masculinity, and otherness are drawn upon to illuminate if gender and sexuality are, in fact, barriers to "ideal" superheroism. Costumes and the body, too, are recurring discussions that are particularly relevant to the mixed reactions surrounding recent female superhero aesthetics and characterizations. The well-organized thought processes throughout should prove to be refreshing to the comic book fan, even though it reveals some uneasy, though necessary truths, of these heroine portrayals.

While the writing on that medium feels instantly contemporary, Heroines of Comic Books and Literature notably does not confine itself to comic books. It is further enriched by other literary case studies. It begins with Sandra J. Lindow's overview of "heroine journeys" in literature. Later, Adina Schneeweis inspects the dominant characterizations of Victor Hugo's Esmeralda through a broad range of popular culture interpretations. …

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