Part One here.
Not far into my quest for superhero easy-readers with women, I looked at my burgeoning longlist and admited that I’d been lying to myself about my criteria. I didn’t want books where the women would be window-dressing while the guys went ahead with all the hero-ing. And I wanted superwomen who did actual stuff within an actual story, rather than standing around flexing their grrrrrrrrl power muscles. Aaaaand in the most randomly subjective consideration, I also didn’t want to completely hate the art.
There was also age-appropriateness to consider. On the one hand, some of the promising titles were for ages 8-12, which I know can be perfectly fine for a six-year-old, but I felt like that could be pushing it with a title I didn’t know and a kid I didn’t know much better. On the other hand, I gave some side-eye to stories that seemed too cutesy; age-appropriate is one thing, but I wanted something that would seem “real”and not babyish.
I finally almost made up my mind to buy a small stack of Wonder Woman books. While my experience with superheroes is not very broad, I’ve always rather liked her, and there seemed to be the most to choose from. But then I had a wibble about whether the six-year-old in question even liked DC heroes or whether maybe she was a hardcore Marvel fan. I managed to get a chance to ask what her favorite superhero was.
“Batgirl,” she replied without hestitation.
Batgirl. Right. Crap. OK, DC was on, but I wasn’t even sure if Batgirl and Batwoman were the same hero. Back to the internet. (At that point, I hadn’t even found much in the way of Batgirl books, though I found a couple more later and have added them to the longlist.)
For the record, my fellow folks who don’t know all that much about superheroes: turns out that Batgirl and Batwoman are not the same hero at all! And there was also a girl who filled in as Robin for a while! Sweet! Also, I had vaguely heard that Batgirl/Barbara Gordon had eventually been fridged. (Warning, link goes to TVTropes). I am so damn pleased to discover that she also turned into Oracle and did computer magic and hung out with her hacker buds and stuff. So, while I strongly suspect there are still problematic elements, much less thoroughly fridged than I had thought. You go, Batgirl! It appears my young relative has excellent taste.
I eventually wound up with something like this for a shortlist.
- Batman Classic: Batman vs. the Riddler by Donald Lemke (has Batgirl)
- Space Justice! Lego DC Comics Super Heroes by Trey King (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl have to rescue the guy heroes)
- Phantasm Strikes! (Batman Adventures) by Dan Slott, Terry Beatty, and Lee Loughridge (has Batgirl, but supposed to be ages 8-12, which seemed like it might be pushing it)
- Wonder Woman Classic: I Am Wonder Woman, by Erin K. Stein
- Batman Classic: Feline Felonies: With Wonder Woman by John Sazaklis (they’re up against Cheetah and Catwoman here, so may even pass the Bechdel test)
- Batman Classic: Winter Wasteland by Donald Lemke
- Batman Classic: Starro and Stripes Forever: With Superman and Wonder Woman, by Gina Vivinetto
- Superman Classic: Escape from the Phantom Zone, by John Sazaklis
- Superman Classic: The Incredible Shrinking Super Hero!: With Wonder Woman, by Zachary Rau
- Batman: Meet the Super Heroes, by Michael Teitelbaum
- DC Super Heroes Storybook Collection, treasury by various authors (Includes a bunch of the Batman and Superman stories on this list, including one I did buy. I’ve forgotten why I didn’t get this, actually, it seems like good value for money. Possibly it got buried and I forgot it existed? Or maybe I felt like the number of stories without women was out of proportion to the ones where Wonder Woman does show?)
I actually forget why I didn’t get several of these, they look like they fit my criteria better than what I actually got. Huh. Oh well. I was under a deadline to get something under a tree, so I must have finally grabbed some titles off the shortlist and called it good enough.
On to Part Three.