NANCY COLLINS responds
Nancy is probably best known to comics fans for her run on "Swamp Thing," during which she created the character Lady Jane. Other comics work includes "Jason vs. Leatherface" (way better than you think), "Dhampire," and "Predator: Hell Came A Walking." A Bram Stoker Award winner, she is most visible to the non-comics buying public as the creator of Sonja Blue in the much-acclaimed vampire series that began with "Sunglasses After Dark." Nancy's well-informed on a huge variety of subjects, and downright scholarly in her knowledge on comics. (GS)
Although Sonja Blue is raped and is transformed by it into a vampire, her rape isn't a way of receiving her "power" from a male force, but an attempt to mirror the Maimed Hero. In many fables and legends the hero is given a defect/maiming necessary to surmount to come the hero (Oedipus, the Celtic guy with the silver hand I'm blanking on, King Arthur, Osiris). In some cases, the maiming is a sacrifice for knowledge (Odin), the badge of a warrior (the Amazons) or a means of disguising immense "inner" strength and ability (Papa Legba, Hepahestus, The Fisher King). However, you might notice few females in that list, except for the Amazons, who sacrificed a breast in order to be better archers. (Having caught a tit in a bow string, I can see why.) For women, a not-very-subtle symbolic form of maiming (i.e. loss of the self) is the rape. The rape is usually also symbolic in rendering the women sterile and therefore, placing her outside the "natural" reproductive role of womanhood, enables her to pursue the more masculine role of avenging warrior. Many of the Greek and Roman goddesses of vengeance (Nemesis, Ate, the Furies) were represented as either virgins or hags -- women who have yet to become part of the "bleeding sisterhood" or have passed beyond their fertile, nurturing years.
Somewhat similar is the hero/heroine whose immeadiate family (be it parents or spouse and children) are slain and they carry on as an avenger.
You should add Lady Jane (deep-fried to a crackly crunch) and Red Sonja (who was raped as a girl and then miraclously gained woman-warrior powers). Crazy Jane doesn't exist anymore, either. Rachel van Helsing in "Tomb of Dracula" had her face clawed up by vampire bats and basically went wimpy on us after that. The mermaid Lorelei in "Superman" was retconned out of existance, too. Don't foget Daredevil's old girlfriend who became a junkie whore judas. Aunt May is dead (finally).
The thing is, I can't really think of many male characters who have had this level of crap happen to them. I recently did a compare-contrast between the amount of skin shown by male and female superheroes. There are more half-naked (or offensively/impossibly dressed) female characters to male by nearly 5-to-1. And having a bare-chested superhero is certainly not the same as a bare-chested superheroine, or She-Hulk would have been dressed identical to her cousin from the start (not to mention Hawkgirl).