I will admit that I was sceptical about DC Women of Action.
I made an assumption it would be one of those comic art books you see sometimes – nice to look at but not a lot of substance. I thought it even more when it occurred to me that the Birds of Prey movie is coming out relatively soon. But I’m glad to say that I am wrong on both counts. It is lovely to look at, but it’s also got some serious history in here, things I didn’t know, presented in easy to read formats that make it seem less like a reference work and more like reading some blog posts by a very knowledgeable author. The sole reference to the movie is on Harley Quinn’s pages, but as other big screen adaptations have been discussed, it doesn’t seem at all out of place.
Author Shea Fontana seriously knows her business; as well as being a screenwriter, she has also written a lot of graphic novels and contributed to all kinds of DC comics, from Wonder Woman to Batman: Overdrive. She’s gathered interviews from all kinds of influential DC women, from other writers of comics to authors of books around the subject. This is a book populated by women who know what they are talking about, and they do it with such enthusiasm, talking about everything from how the DC characters influenced them growing up, to creating their own characters when their time came.
Despite great efforts lately to change it, female characters are still in a minority in the DC Universe, where they make up less than 30% of the character roster list. With that in mind, I did wonder if this book’s sunny outlook on the women of DC would grate a little bit knowing that there is so much to be done to make sure women and other minorities get the representation they deserve. But because this book was created by women, for women (at least in part), they seem to have negotiated that hurdle pretty well.
At no point does Fontana deny female characters have had it rough. She has no qualms in telling us about the grim post war years when even the great Wonder Woman was reduced to someone sitting around waiting for Steve Trevor to turn up again. Those bad times existed, she acknowledges, but things are improving and there is work still to be done. These interviewees, who are talking about the influences that the characters had on them are going to the ones influencing the next generation of creatives.
She shall go forth to fight for liberty and freedom and all womankind!
This quote comes at the start of DC Women of Action, words said by Hippolayta (Wonder Woman’s mother) way back in 1941, in issue #8 of All Star Comics. It’s about Diana, obviously, going out into the world and being a hero, and I think it is a lovely way to start a book that is unapologetically feminine. From the colour scheme to the choice of only female and non-binary artists as contributors- shout out to them, by the way! – this is a book that knows what it is about – and that is, as Hippolayta says, fighting for all womankind.
Review copy provided.
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A book that is not afraid to critique DC as much as it celebrates it. Excellent writing and beautiful art elevate it even higher.
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