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July 01, 2006

Brainiac 5 would have to do chores! - or - the Feminist Mistake!

he.jpgSo I'm reading Legion of Super-Heroes, vol. 8. As a result, this post is going out to all the ladies - I mean lasses. But boys and kids of all ages will like it, too. I tell you the tale of ... issue #368, May 1968!

Legion comics suffer from a tendency toward the 3-panel disaster story. (A building is falling over. Oh no, Karate Kid's karate is not strong enough to catch a building. Mon-El catches the building.) So nothing seems out of place when the visiting ambassador's ship just blows up for no reason. What stuns our boys is the figure who emerges from the burning craft. Superboy: "*GASP* The ambassador ... a woman!" The ambassador is equally shocked. "You're in charge? A male?" "Of course." "You mean earth still has a primitive patriarchal society ... ruled by men?" Invisible Kid: "We have a patriarchal background - but we believe in equality of the sexes." (Chew on that.)

Later, back in Legion headquarters ... when the boys are away, talk turns to curtain rods. "What do you think of this color, Vi?" "File that pattern into the robo-sewing machine, Phantom Girl, while I get the curtain rods!"" "Aren't these color-changing chameleoid rugs just fab, Shadow Lass?"

Yet thoughts of the strange events of the morning obtrude into this idyll of domesticity. Nothing about the giant explosion, of course. Princess Projectra: "What did you think of that woman ambassador, Irma? She sounded as if she believed girls should dominate the universe." Saturn Girl: "That's pretty hard to imagine with guys like Superboy and Mon-El around." "Oh, I don't know! Supergirl's every bit as strong a they are!" Supergirl: "Not really! Though our strength has never been accurately measured, theoretically, Superboy is stronger than I, just as a normal boy is stronger than a normal girl!" I think the exclamation points really add excitement to the dialogue! And now we are seeing our theme! It would really be a problem if women were as strong as men!

The splash page already foretold as much. Shrinking Violet is chirping about how she is now the biggest legionnairre, blah blah blah and Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad and Superboy sing a mournful chorus: "And we boys are the saddest legionnaires ... since the girls' powers got beefed up .. and we became victims of 'The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!'" Anyway, it turns out the ambassador has a plan for a feminist revolution, and the key is giving the girls more power. She does this thing with some statues. Now the girls are powerful, they make the boys look like schmucks. Invisible Kid tries to order them all into quarantine on the theory that they must have some sort of space disease, but the girls bust out to save the guys, who have screwed up again in stopping a jail break. The boys claim to have had some brilliant plan for stopping the break ... and you girls get back to quarantine! Fight! Now the girls are mad! The boys are getting kicked. "We've decided you're too weak to be in the Legion, so we're taking over and you're out!"  "Why don't you guys form a Loser's Legion of your own? Ha, ha!" The poor boys. Supergirl is feeling vaguely sorry for them, but a twist of the ambassador's bracelet fixes that. "They'll think completely as I do! Then they'll turn earth into a matriarchy!" See under the fold for a few scans.

Legion1

The girls start discussing which boys they'd like to have as their servants and Shadow Lass says ... Brainiac 5! Supergirl later explains what happened then. "When Shadow Lass made me think about what would happen to Brainiac 5 in a feminist world, my mind revolted ... my super-will snapped your control!" (But she plays along just long enough to foil the dastardly plot.)

Legion2

I must confess I told Belle she had to read it. And she did. (As Zoƫ says: this is going to blow up your mind. And it did.) It isn't remarkable that the story is incredibly dumb, of course. That sort of thing happens. But I'm pretty impressed at how pitch perfect its tin ear is, Betty Friedan-wise. Doesn't miss a note. It even goes the extra mile of NOT having any hint of a lesbian subplot between the ambassador and Supergirl, which would be TOO obvious.

When things are this badly written - by Jim Shooter - what do you think is actually going on with the writer? Is he just sitting there weeping with laughter at what he has wrought? Belle suggests a story in which superheroines from the 30th century travel back in time to smack him around, making little girls read this stuff. What do the lady's think? Feministe? Bitch Ph.D.? (Or should I call you: Bitch Ph.D. Lass?)

 

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» That's what I was reading? from Pharyngula
I remember 1968, and I remember that I was into comic books at that age…but I sure don't remember that the patriarchy was this dominant, and clueless. Remember, kids, be nice to your girlfriends so that they'll squelch any uppity... [Read More]

Comments

Well, Jim Shooter was 16 or 17 years old when he wrote that story. How enlightened a seventeen-year-old were you back in 1968? Or, for that matter, how good a writer?

Hmmm, good point. I didn't realize he was so young at the time.

Pahahaha. That's gold.

Oh, well. At least they had the decency to hide their... ah, unique perspectives... behind popular superheroes, back then. ...pah.

Surely that should be Bitch Lass, PhD?

In Adventure Comics #319 (mid-1960s), when Saturn Girl is chosen by random chance to join a "suicide squad," Brainiac 5 objects to having her on the mission: "It's too dangerous for a girl. I must eliminate you, Saturn Girl."

Saturn Girl insists, and does indeed go on the mission -- because, after all, she was the leader of the Legion at the time! (In the end, the suicide mission is saved by none other than Night Girl of the Subs; One of the villains exclaims, "It's a girl, with mighty power!")

A couple issues later, Saturn Girl is deemed to be the cleverest Legionnaire, and thus re-elected as leader. So some mixed messages there.

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