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The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

National Public Radio “Best Book To Share With Your Friends”
American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project Notable Book

The Supergirls is a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comics.”—STAN LEE

“A thoughtful, comprehensive history of women in comics . . . The Supergirls gleefully celebrates the medium itself, in all its goofy, glorious excess.” —NPR “Best Book To Share With Your Friends” citation

“From the super heroines of today to ‘Goddesses of Tomorrow,’ Madrid questions the position of women in the world of superhero fantasy, showing the parallels between society’s expectations and the depiction of American women in comic fiction.” —American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project Notable Book citation

“Sharp and lively—and just obsessive enough about women who wear capes and boots to be cool but not creepy. [Madrid] clearly loves this stuff. And he's enough of a historian to be able to trace the ways in which the portrayal of sirens and supergirls has echoed society's ever-changing feelings about women and sex.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Weird and wonderful all the way through.” —Portland Mercury

“There comes a time in every comic book geek slash fashionista’s life when she must ask herself ‘What do costumes and couture have in common?’ The Supergirls sets out to answer that question. . . . A quick read that skims over the history of publishing powerhouses Marvel and DC, making it informative enough and providing sufficient cultural context for those who may have no prior comic book knowledge.” —WORN Fashion Journal (Canada)

“Any comics or graphic novel library needs The Supergirls. It provides a cultural history of comic book heroines and asks whether their fantasy world has any connection to our own, offering a fine survey of different super-women in comic history and crime fighting. Any long-time comic book reader will relish this blend of scene re-creation and social analysis.” —Midwest Book Review

“Mike Madrid’s fast-moving, encyclopedic, and often funny Supergirls shows the author’s lifelong affection for these heroines on every page. He has a great feel for the genre and its history, with evident sensitivity to issues of female power and powerlessness. The section on the She-Hulk is not to be missed!” —LARRY GONICK, author of Cartoon History of the Universe

“Entertaining and informative, Supergirls is a breezy and thoroughly accessible history of the comic book heroine. A great resource!” —MARC ANDREYKO, author of the DC Comics Manhunter series

From the Inside Flap

"Supergirls is a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comic."-Stan Lee

"The Supergirls...is sharp and lively- and just obsessive enough about women who wear capes and boots to be cool but not creepy. The guy clearly loves this stuff. A-" Entertainment Weekly
"as it delivers its clear-eyed critique of the way mainstream superhero comes alternately eroticized or deified female characters, The Supergirls gleefully celebrates the medium itself, in all its goofy, glorious excess."-NPR
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Exterminating Angel Press (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935259032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935259039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Travis on July 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
The thesis for "The Supergirls" is obvious; Mike Madrid explores the depiction of women in the superhero world, and as one might expect, he concludes that more often than not, they have been mistreated. The text is presented in a very accessible fashion that does not pre-suppose much familiarity with the characters and stories he cites throughout, though I do feel he should have done a clearer job explaining a few major industry-wide events. For the most part, the book is structures chronologically, beginning with the late 1930s/early 1940s, and concluding in the 21st Century. Wisely, though, Madrid has constructed each chapter around a theme specific to each era. This means that each chapter is, essentially, its own thesis essay within the frame of the overall book.

I do wish Madrid had been more specific in naming the creators and editors of the stories he referenced. Most citations simply lay the blame for mishandled characters at the feet of their publisher, but more often than not he doesn't even identify which publisher was responsible for a character's woes. Maybe it's just a by-product of earning my degree in history, but I felt this was relevant information that the reader shouldn't have to supplement on his or her own. After all, it was individual men and women who made the choices about the content of the issues that hit the stands; Madrid suggests by omission of their names that some faceless order simply decreed how things would go.

Also conspicuously absent are any insights from anyone within the industry. A spattering of quotes taken from previously published interviews appear, but it seems that either Madrid was uninterested in, or more likely unable to, interview anyone for the purpose of this book.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed Mike Madrid's overview of female superheroines, but i thought it really needed some illustrations to illuminate his points. I realise copyright would have been involved but It can't have been impossible. I just wanted pictures in my head of how the art styles, body types and especially the costumes had evolved over 60 years. All in all a great, quick read which makes me want to explore further...
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The author has done his homework and has a great feel for the comic books through the ages.

VERY disapointed to see no illustrations in the book. It's one thing to talk about Wonder Woman going from Bermuda Shorts to a thong. . . better to see it.

And would have been nice to see drawings of some of the more obscure characters in the book too to refresh my memory.

Highly recommended.
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An interesting book, although I did have a few problems with it.
First, although it presented itself as being arranged chronologically the authors jumps around a bit within sections, and I think it would have been more effective to organize it by character, and take each character through her different portrayals. At some points I just felt like it was a bit all over the place.
Second, I was troubled by the author's interpretations of many heroines powers. He places a lot of focus on the fact that many female characters have less "physical powers" - their powers tend to be based on manipulation of humans and objects - illusions, telekinesis, invisibility, etc. While some of these powers may not have initially been used to their full potential, I think it's problematic to assert that they are "lesser" powers or that a lack of physical strength makes the women unequal to their male counterparts. TYPICALLY, women are less physically strong than men, with greater verbal skills. It's important for female superheroes to have powers that women can relate to - having some physically strong heroines is certainly necessary since some women will relate to that. But many, if not most, women relate more to heroines whose powers are more based on manipulation and creation. Suggesting that these powers are inherently "less than" Superman's strength or Wolverine's indestructibility is inaccurate - just because the early writers didn't take full advantage of these powers doesn't mean they aren't valuable.

A lot of my favorite heroines were barely mentioned, if they were mentioned at all - I probably would have liked it a bit more if characters like Rogue and Black Widow had received more attention from the author.

Overall, this was a pretty good read, but I think I would like to read a similar book written by a woman, as a woman would clearly be in a better position to understand the implications of these characters.
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"The Supergirls is a long overdue tribute to the fabulous fighting females whose beauty and bravery brighten the pages of your favorite comics."--Stan Lee

Well said, Mr. Lee.

I'll keep this short. This book was awesome. It's a well researched (very well researched) look at the comic book heroines from Day 1 to present day and how they fit into popular culture. It goes through costume changes, ideal/moral changes, the sexual revolution, you name it.

Did you know Wonder Woman had a bondage period? That Invisible Woman had 2 miss-carriages that changed the way she saw herself as a superhero?

If you're a comic book fan you should read this book. It's a great exploration into the journey of the "Supergirls" we know today. If you aren't... read it anyway.
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