As I discussed in an earlier post, pre-Comics Code comic books are full of fascinating women superheroes who’ve been more or less forgotten in the decades since WWII. Born in the era of Rosie the Riveter, when there was a national campaign to get women into workplaces, these costumed heroines were brassy, hard-assed, snarky, and sometimes just plain weird. They displayed remarkable grit and independence, and were portrayed as better crime-fighters than the inept, sexist cops that got in their way.
Even removed from their intriguing, important place in sociocultural history, these stories are compelling bits of pure comics nerdery - eg, the fact that 1941’s Spider Queen was almost certainly the unacknowledged inspiration for Spider-Man. These characters deserve to be better known. Happily, the astonishing www.digitalcomicmuseum.org hosts full-issue scans of scores of public domain pre-Code comics. Which means you can read these comics right now, for free!
Here are a few of my favorite lost superheroines from the 1940s. Click on a character’s name to access an archive of their adventures!
FANTOMAH - Arguably the first woman superhero, and to this day one of the strangest. Fantomah is a near-omniscient (blonde) jungle spirit with incredible magical/psionic powers. She is always threatening her enemies with “a jungle death!” and she turns into a green skull with beautiful hair when she’s angry.
LADY SATAN - Sometime Nazi-killer, sometime occult detective, Lady Satan roams the land in her stylish automobile, using gun, garrote, and fire magic to take out Reich agents and child-snatching werewolves.
MOTHER HUBBARD - Looking like a cartoon witch, speaking only in rhyme, Mother Hubbard uses her bizarre occult powers to battle everything from fifth column saboteurs to Disney-esque dwarves that steal kids’ eyeballs.
THE WOMAN IN RED - A gun-toting jujitsu expert, the Woman in Red is a sort of costumed private detective. She’s the bane of both criminals (especially those who prey on women) and inept male cops. But to the women she saves she’s quite…tender.
THE SPIDER QUEEN - A chemistry lab assistant becomes a wise-cracking costumed herowho uses wrist-strapped web shooters to swing around the city and tie up bad guys. But this is 1941, and our hero is a woman.
THE VEILED AVENGER - Although she’s the frilliest-looking of 40s superheroines, the Veiled Avenger might be the hardest. She uses her crop to make criminals shoot each other…and themselves. And in her civilian life as a District Attorney’s secretary, she scolds dumb cops who endanger witnesses.
Sadly, these heroines all disappeared by the 1950s. As the national project of getting women out of the workplace took hold, bold self-sufficient superheroines became scarce on the ground. Despite some great work by amazing artists over the years, comics still doesn’t have enough of them.
[And now, a plug: I’m working on a longer piece on these heroines, and on some other stuff you might find interesting. You can learn more about all that here.]
Whoops! My hand slipped!
I really want to revive some of these characters now. They’re public domain, right?
that little thing yesterday with an (apparently) white trans woman saying that it is unnecessary and unreasonable to assert that ‘trans women are the most beautiful’ and that is harmful to assert that ‘trans women are more beautiful than cis women’ still has me somewhat irritated today.
no joke, i think my earliest experience with seeing a trans woman in the media is ace ventura. wherein he vomits and all sorts of other stuff after kissing this woman, who was played by a cis woman.
if you look at the picture, she isn’t an ugly woman. at all. not even with 90s hair.
but the thing is, is that i do understand that a lot of people (trans women included) don’t quite understand just why this absolute disgust that mainstream media (and actual human beings) continuously express towards the bodies of trans women is a significant problem.
the politics of desirability are convoluted and tough (and super fucking emoitional for a lot of people — and for good reason). we can look at something like the okcupid analysis of who gets responses… we can see that most undesirable (within this analysis) are Black women and Asian men.
Okay. This reality is also evident in popular media as well as the experiences of the individuals who belong to either category.
I know that some do talk about the undesirability of trans women… but i really think that this misses the mark. the problem isn’t that we are undiserable, but that we are disgusting (while, yes, also being hypersexualized). and, as with all things, this compounds when you start talking about twoc — particularly as applies to the intersection of Blackness and trans womanhood.
i don’t think i’ve seen many people explore this disgust and the moral/ethical/social implications of it.
These studies suggest that there is a tight relationship between our sense of moral purity and the emotion of disgust. Violations of our sense of moral purity lead us to feel the emotion of disgust. When we experience the emotion of disgust, we also change our judgments of the moral purity of others.
The disgust that a transmisogynist society imbues into the bodies of twoc is closely connected to why/how we experience so much violence. Why we are such targets of violent rhetoric and why 99% of the people who oppress us cannot be reasoned with.
Because you can’t reason with a feeling of disgust. Even if you manage to successfully address the moral judgements that result from this disgust, it is nearly impossible to actively (via words) change a person’s feeling of disgust they have for our bodies.
Like. Disgust is why so much about the oppression of twoc appears so extreme and amplified. Because this disgust literally causes negative opinions/thoughts/moral judgements to be compounded and more harsh than they might otherwise be.
And this is why combating this notion of the disgusting hideousness of twoc bodies is critical for improving our lives. no, it won’t (on its own) dismantle transmisogyny and free us from it. but it will — immediately and right away — have a massive positive impact on our overall safety and wellbeing.
Because maybe if we reduce/eliminate the disgust for our bodies, the next time someone discovers our ‘trap’ maybe it won’t result in a murderous rage. maybe if we get rid of disgust, we’ll finally be able to move beyond the fucking bathroom debate.1
the issue of trans women and beauty isn’t just about desirability (even though it def. factors). it is about this connection between disgust and moral judgement. it is about the connection between disgust and the violence twoc experience.
saying ‘trans women are the most beautiful’ is uncomfy for a lot of people because we are disgusting. it is like saying maggots are cute. like dog shit looks delicious.2
so. yeah. i’ll fucking defend the beauty of twoc for as long as i have breath in my lungs because it fucking matters. and, tbh, i don’t give a fuck what anyone has to say about ‘competition’ ‘reinforcing normative beauty standards’ or whatever the fuck. because those critiques miss the point by a kilometre.
because when we are talking about bodies so disgusting they make people puke, we aren’t talking about beauty. not talking about aesthetics. not talking about attraction. or desirability. not talking about sexualization (or desexualization).
we’re talking about disgust. and how this obliges cis ppl to do what they can to eliminate us so that they no longer have to be exposed to our disgusting, horrible bodies.
This. omg. especially this. why do you think the rhetoric around trans women in washrooms is so violent? it isn’t because most ppl want to protect cis women or even necessarily actually think that all trans women are predators, but their transmisogyny + disgust escalates their feelings omf discomfort into this hyperbolic worrying about this. it is the disgust that allows people to think that it is reasonable to assume that all trans women are predators. it is disgust that takes us from being just one more kind of woman to oppress into literally being fucking monsters.↩
i’m well aware of how awful these comparisons are. but that is, unfortunately, exactly my fucking point. and the fact that some ppl might think maggots are cute and dog shit delicious doesn’t mean anything. b/c like chasers, we’d consider a desire for dogshit and maggots to be devient and a sign of SOMETHING WRONG. ↩
A few years ago, I stopped in at the University of Pennsylvania bookstore, and was checking out this academic text on psychology of some sort or another, and I read about this study where they showed that people’s number one reaction to trans people was “disgust”.
watch this irish man get tragically crushed by adorable sneezing baby seals
DO NOT WORRY, HUMAN, WE WILL KEEP YOU WARM UNTIL YOUR PARENTS RETURN FOR YOU. I HAVE CALLED FOR HELP.
Baby squirrel fell out of a tree; was rescued
Did my first workout since my race 9 days ago. Haven’t been feeling very good lately. I ran an easy three miles which ended up being an average pace of 10:42 min/mile. I was trying to keep it in heart rate zone 1 or 2 but it didn’t go below 80% so had a high heart rate for the workout.
sister is a verb
im legit worried about future archaeologists finding my remains and gendering me as a dude. when i die i want my bones engraved with a bunch of trans stuff like baeddel and scritte and trans girl and stuff
partly why i want to be cremated and scattered into the wind
i wanna get picked clean by a bunch of birds then gold plated