Review: The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen

The Review:

Hope Nicholson’s primer into the history of female characters in comics is excellent. Need more information than that? I’m more than happy to provide.

Starting in the 1930s and progressing to today, Nicholson selects a few characters to focus on at each point in time.  Nicholson highlights better known heroines, like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, but she acknoledges the breadth of information already available about such superheroes. Instead, the stretngh of this collection is that Nicholson brings out lesser examples like Maureen Marine, a human girl selected to live with mermaids (from the 1940s section) and Dazzler, a Disco superhero (the 1970s, obviously). In this latter example, Nicholson ties in personal memories of perusing the comic books. In each segment, Nicholson uses humor, outside sources, and a clear summation of the comic to help readers decide what they might want to find for themselves. She even gives recommendations on how to get a hold of each of the comics listed in the book.

One thing I especially appreciate is Nicholson’s frankness. She calls things problematic when she sees them, including on issues of sexism, exploitation, and racism. One such moment, where Nicholson describes the representation of a Huron woman in the comic Starlight goes as follows:

“When the art features wigwams in a Huron village, instead of longhouses, and totem poles on the wrong side of the continent, what else can do you except purse your lips and shrug? (And maybe vow to foster an environment in which indigenous cultures are portrayed and written by indigenous creators).” (Nicholson 68)

Nicholson’s day-job is as a comics archivist at Bedside Press, and her writing about comics and fandom has appeared widely. It’s no surprise that she these bonafides mean that this collection of historical characters have breadth and range. Trust me, the entire focus isn’t on superheroes, if that’s not your interest.  If you’re someone who has an interest in comics, but your experience lies more feminism or cultural history– this is the book for you. Likewise, if you’re someone with a broad experience in comics but want to see how they fit into the wider cultural history, this collection is also excellent. Most of the choices in this book were completely unknown to me (and I’d say I have a nice balance in comics vs. cultural history).

Highly recommended.

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The Details:

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson

Release Date: May 2, 2017 from Quirk Books

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore

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