ARE THERE ENOUGH STRONG FEMALE ROLE MODELS FOR YOUNG GIRLS IN THE MARVEL U?

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“Daddy, I want a girl comic.”

That’s a loaded request from my seven (almost eight) year-old daughter.  I don’t remember exactly how we started reading comics together.  Somewhere back along the line, I want to say she was six, she’d noticed either my comics or some Marvel Universe figures, and was curious why Daddy had picture books and toys. (Because Daddy’s a nerd, baby girl.) After mulling it over, I realized that my favorites, the X-Men, were consistently half women. Women who made tough decisions and stood by them. Women who didn’t give up when the poop got knee deep or higher. Women who didn’t sleep their way to the top (We haven’t covered Emma Frost yet with Grace.) Once she came home talking about how she’d watched The Bachelor at Mommy’s house, my decision was made. Sliding into a hot tub with three other girls to get attention from a man wasn’t going to be entertainment for my daughter. I’d give the X-Men a go.

So. Nerd parents out there. My first bit of advice is this: Don’t start the Dark Phoenix Saga with a six-year-old at bedtime. It won’t go well. Martyrdom is a topic best discussed with a youngster while the sun’s up.

Fortunately, there’s a ton of female solo X-series that aren’t too risqué and don’t involve killing their title characters once a decade. (Upon seeing All New X-Men, I was interrogated as to why they brought back Jean again again.) Rogue and Storm quickly became favorites. Here are two strong women who kick butt and don’t ride a man’s coattails. Bonus, Rogue never makes out with anybody. Like, ever. We had to skip a page or two when a teen Storm first “gave” herself to a teen Black Panther. Eventually we got around to Avengers Vs X-Men, because everybody’s in it. Grace understood the Phoenix concept, and it was pretty clean overall. She took Professor X’s death really well: “It’s Marvel, daddy.  He’ll be back.”

Once Marvel NOW kicked off, Grace was pleased to see that there were five books with female leads. In Fearless Defenders, Grace found her absolute current favorite hero and storyline. This girl loves the Valkyrie. Valkyrie kicks butt, doesn’t show too much skin, and makes the tough calls to take charge of a situation. Plus she’ll chop monsters in half.

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 I’m not going to write about gender-identification or female-role-brainwashing-through-product-marketing or any of that. Smarter people than me have done so. What I am concerned about is that 12 months into Marvel NOW, two female lead books have been axed. Red She Hulk bit the dust first, and this past week, Sif’s Journey Into Mystery ended. Grace has Fearless Defenders, Captain Marvel, and Wood’s X-Men left. It’s odd how she’ll acknowledge that other teams have female members, but won’t really get into them. She likes her women heroes strong and in the forefront, not on the side filling a quota or showing booty or cleavage. And these books are dying off. I’d like to politely ask you to grab Captain Marvel’s Infinity tie in issues, if that’s the least I can get you to do, I’d appreciate it. Let’s get Defenders and Cap above 20K a month here, folks.

If you haven’t given Fearless Defenders a shot, I strongly encourage you to do so.  It’s not nearly on the same level as Thor God of Thunder vs Gorr the God Butcher, but it’s a very fun read, and one of the better titles in the Marvel NOW event kickoff. I’d rather have my daughter see Valkyrie face down three mountain trolls by herself than giggle about who got to have “snuggle time” in the bar with the eligible stockbroker. Seriously, think that one over for a second. I take raising my daughter very seriously. That’s why I’m very thankful she is cheering as Rogue takes down a Sentinel or when Hope stands up to Cable. She’s getting the idea that women matter, that women can be strong and heroic, too. I will have to wait a couple years for a few key story arcs, but I have no qualms about my daughter reading this stuff with me if she wants to.

We also started Harry Potter last week. I’ve got a good feeling that she and Hermoine are going to get along just fine.

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About Author

Dana Gustafson

Dana Gustafson loves his wife and children, who tolerate him during moments leading up to writing articles like these. He has an unhealthy infatuation, despite proper medication, with horror movies, Marvel comics, and Westerns. He wishes you well.

  • Kaal Singh

    You hit the nail on the head! I’ve been writing similar articles on my blog. Your daughter may like anime such as Guardian of the Spirit, it has a strong female lead that shows no skin.