Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks

By Hervé St-Louis
May 30, 2007 - 09:04


Girls Who Bite Back is an anthology on super heroines from comic books, television and video games that are not afraid to circumvent traditional women’s roles and become strong role characters. The book is a combination of essays, commentary in the form of comic strips, artwork and fictional essays, bordering fan fiction.

A study of popular culture, this book is not a hard read although it borders on scholarly levels frequently. The writing is clear and arguments easy to understand and not buried in academia. It seems to me that the editor, Pohl-Weary, did a good job of making this book lively and readable. This is a book about action women. The last thing it should be is boring!

Tackling a familiar territory present in Action Chicks, such as how strong female characters can shake off the authority of patriarchal rule, chapters in this book also dare to look at the fringes of women’s studies. There are whole chapters dedicated to women of colours and issues they might go through in comparison with white middle class gals. The book doesn’t go deep in that direction. Don’t expect a full treatise on the post colonial symbolism of the X-men’s Storm.

Another interesting topic that is looked at is older action women. Here, Queen Hyppolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother, who was an action heroine herself, is given a decent exploration. It is interesting that the book ties the constant pressure on older women to look younger with the eternal beauty of Queen Hyppolyta.

Another interesting overview is that of crippled heroine, Oracle from the Birds of Prey. This is where books like Girls Who Bite Back and Action Chicks can confuse readers by mixing elements from both comic book lore who often inspire revisionist renditions of comic book themes. The Oracle in the study is both the comic books and the one from the Birds Of Prey television series.

The history that is drawn about her is from both sources. Perhaps it only proves that comic books are not so relegated from mass culture and that what occurs in them is as important as what happens in other media. However, the book leads readers in that direction involuntarily.

What I like the most about this book is that it is edited by a comic book geek who has all the classical university training and insight required of academia, while having a passion for Alias and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It’s refreshing, although, as Action Chicks, the cover leaves much to be desired.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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