Women in Refrigerators Women in Refrigerators

Fan ROB HARRIS responds

A swell guy beyond measure, Rob is the former Legion of Super-Heroes message board moderator at Comic Book Resources. If that doesn't prove he's got a cool head under fire, nothing does. Of course, he's still a tool of the man. He also created perennial LSH hanger-on Nightwind as a wee lad. The character joined the LSH "off-camera," dying before Rob could ever see her in action. (BY)

The WiR list has generated a lot of disagreement over whether female characters are, in fact, treated worse than male characters, and maybe having a "list" of characters and what's been done to them has turned the focus inordinately to numbers and statistics. One of the main points, for me, is the inequity in the way male and female characters are treated under similar circumstances.

Yes, male characters die, as do female characters - but my classic example is Flash and Supergirl, two beloved characters who were both killed off in the Crisis. But Flash remained "in continuity," remembered and revered for his heroic sacrifice even as Wally West took on his mantle; Supergirl was forgotten, and within several months was wiped from continuity completely - no memorials, no flashbacks, no legacy. (Yet fan affection for the character was so great she had to be replaced with an outwardly near-identical duplicate.)

Batman was paralyzed and got better; Batgirl was paralyzed... and still is. Arguably, as Oracle, she's become a much BETTER character, and I happen to agree with that (and prefer her overwhelmingly to Batman). But I don't think Batgirl was crippled with any intention of ever bringing her back as a better character; I think the intent was to write her out of the Bat books as an outdated embarrassment (same as Batwoman), while adding shock value to a story. It was blind luck that John Ostrander and Kim Yale came along and "rehabilitated" Babs so brilliantly. (And even now, yet again... fan demand for a Batgirl, spurred by the animated series and that movie, has required that a new one be created. Why they couldn't have simply left Barbara in retirement until her time came again... but I suppose she was too old to be a BatGIRL in the enlightened twenty-first century!)

And yes, most male hero origins are fraught with tragedy - dead parents, dead planets, monstrous mutations, etc. But many female hero origins are equally so - Supergirl's parents were believed dead for many years; She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and the original Spider-Woman all had elements of trauma in their origins. More to the point, what kind of traumas occur AFTER the character is established, and to what extent does s/he recover?

I do think this is changing in recent years, particularly with the wave of old guard deaths in the DC Silver Age hero contingent - Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen recently tipped the scales there. Of course, Superman died and came BACK... but then so did Wonder Woman, so maybe equal treatment is finally a possibility!