Kirby's Reviews > The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

The Supergirls by Mike Madrid
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's review
Jun 17, 2011

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Read from June 17 to 20, 2011

The material in the Supergirls is great: dozens of superheroines, broken down by decade, including spotlights on the evolutions of a few recognizable stars (like Wonder Woman, with her countless "makeovers") and also some of the characters with the most bizarre stories (in the 60s, Ms. Marvel gets raped by a demon, gives birth to his reincarnation, then chooses to willingly marry it down in the underworld of Limbo). It's a pretty straightforward pop culture history book that shows the author's encyclopedic knowledge of comic books and the most prominent trends in the industry, broken down by decade.

The most obvious complaint is that there are no pictures. In a book so heavily based on visuals, there is one lonely picture of an actual female superhero on the title page (even the woman on a cover is not an actual character). But I guess that's what you get when you release your book on a tiny indie press with only two other books on its roster.

Also, it's very clear that Mike Madrid is a super dedicated fan of comic books, but it's also clear that he's not really the best writer. He's certainly not bad-- it's just that a lot of the main analytical concepts are sort of hammered into you. (ie. In every decade, the female characters' costumes are extra sexy because the target audience are HETEROSEXUAL MALES. I GET IT.) Also, there were lots of grammatical errors, and I'm really snooty about that sort of thing, sorry.

But overall, the book is really fun and enjoyable to read, and you definitely see a lot of patterns in these supergirls' history, usually based on current social and cultural trends in the time period. In 2002, Power Girl tells novice heroines Stargirl and Hawkgirl:

"I've got a rep for being stubborn, headstrong and brash. I'm called a lot of things behind my back by other heroes. Main one rhymes with witch. And I'll be honest. It's not an act. Not completely. I do have confidence. I am smarter than a lot of the other costumed cops out there... and maybe I could learn a thing or two about mutual respect. But you have to understand something, girls. If I was Power-Man. If I was stubborn and headstrong and brash. If I didn't take to authority well. No one would think anything of it."

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