One of the coolest things about DC Comics is women. A few years ago, I bought a poster featuring some of DC's flagship heroines. The poster, drawn and coloured by Adam Hughes, united Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Supergirl, Hawkwoman and Catwoman. I remember thinking how cool it would be if DC Comics actually took it's female characters seriously.
They did tried. Since the Crisis, DC has constantly renewed interests in Wonder Woman. It regularly assigns superior artists and writers such as Phil Jeminez and George Perez to the series.
When I bought the poster, the Batman movies reignited interest in Catwoman. DC Comics devoted several mini-series and one shots to the character. Soon, a monthly series followed.
One version of Hawkwoman graced the pages of the Hawkworld. Another had been an important player in the first Justice Society series. DC reintroduced Supergirl to its continuity. Finally, Black Canary was branching out of Green Arrow into her mini-series and regular series.
The problem with the state of DC's flagship women was the lack of focus. They did not sustain the efforts. New creators kept revitalizing Wonder Woman every year or so. Catwoman became another bat book. They did not try to attract non bat folk readers. All Hawkwomen's personae were confused along that of the various Hawkmen. Supergirl was a pale shadow of the Pre-Crisis character. Black Canary's series ended unglamourously with a destruction of her home, and the infamous "butch" look.
All of this happened when I quit comics. Last year, buoyed by some comic book fans at work, I gave comics another try. What did I find? I found a Wonder Woman series that was attracting more readers than usual. I even found a controversy about the Golden Age Wonder Woman and her daughter. "Wow," I told myself "two Wonder Women and the Golden Age history salvaged. That's so cool."
Catwoman's series was in the midst of a twisted storyline that had me wonder if she had a split personality. The series' about to get cancelled but with promises for a better future.
There's a new Hawkgirl in the JSA and she rocks. The first thing that attracted me to this character was the absence of Hawkman! Traditionally, the character was the side kick of the main guy. In Hawkworld, the situation changed but then DC renamed the series Hawkman. Everything stopped making sense. Now that Hawkman's back, I feel more confident reading about the new Hawkgirl. She's grown so much as a character that I'm not afraid of seeing her share the spotlight with her Hawkman.
I hear that Supergirl's series is doing well. I haven't had the chance to check it out yet but the rumour is that Peter David's has made her a remarkable character.
Black Canary is back in another series. This time, she shares the spotlight with a DC character that Adam Hughes overlooked in his first poster. Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl also known as Oracle graces the pages of Birds of Prey every month. The series is a strange mix but one of the most original portrayal of female comic book heroines. What I like about this series is that the characters have much more history and past challenges to overcome than newer heroines du jour such as Witchblade.
There was some controversy with the series first writer, Chuck Dixon's handling of Black Canary. Fans complained that she was dumb. Although I agree that Black Canary acts somewhat out of characters these days, he's the man who re-energized the character after she became a butch.
The two female leads in this series have developed a genuine relationship that we rarely see in comics. The fact that Dixon has succeeded in establishing a series with two powerless women is commendable.
Comic book creators should explore Dixon's Birds of Prey and other DC series such as the recently departed Star-Spangled Kid. It would help them understand how to write female characters, even dumb blondes.