Female Friendships: Image Not Found?

I like to read comics about girl friendships. I’ll admit that as a blanket statement that sounds both absurd and really broad, but it’s the truth. I like to see my favourite female characters, hanging out, being friends or colleagues and pretty much having a good time. I was reading the first issue of Captain America and the Secret Avengers, which featured Natalia Romanova and Sharon Carter being their fabulous selves. There was banter and saving the day and getting dressed up and having just a normal (or as normal as it could be) friendship.

And you know what? I loved it.

I almost didn’t want to finish it because I didn’t know when there might be another chance. It seems like the women in comics (as well as in a lot of other media) are put there for romantic relationships first, everything else second. Female friendships seem to suffer when put next to a romantic relationship (regardless of what sort of romantic pairing it is).

Before I get too deep into this, I suppose that I should state for the record that I am mostly talking about Marvel. My knowledge of DC is largely limited in its scope and so I don’t know enough about it to really say anything other than from my perspective is that it doesn’t seem to be as lacking over there as it is in Marvel. However I am more than willing to be proven wrong which is why I want to state that I view this post as a start of a discussion.

I wonder, am I alone in my wanting for this? I can’t be the only one who gets excited over the prospect of an all-girl team that proves that they are as bad-ass (if not more so) than the boys? I can name a few books that feature such set ups in DC, but when I go to look for something in Marvel I tend to come up wanting. Of course there was Marvel Divas which seemed like an attempt to have Female Heroes (or Antiheroes) join together and bond, but it got sappy and ridiculous in a hurry. It was struck me as less about their friendship and more about their broken love lives with a side of girl bonding. There was the short run of Women of Marvel, which I enjoyed greatly but even that had less to do with friendship and more to do with women doing their own thing. I loved it because I got to see some of my favourite ladies in action, but didn’t really feature that witty-banter-while-we-save-the-day sort of thing that I also love.

Is it too much to ask for? Am I looking in all the wrong places or missing something obvious? I hope I am, but after finishing Captain America and the Secret Avengers #1 all I wanted to do was hunt down Sharon and Natalia hanging out, being fabulous and not worrying what their boyfriends might be up to. I want a title that has Sharon, Natalia and Bobbie Morse hanging out, being the spies and using their sarcasm as weapons.

But I am just one woman, so what do the rest of you think? Is there some insane gap in my knowledge (likely yes there is). What do you all say?


About Lina

Single mum who was a precocious child and is now reaping what she sowed in the form of a precocious toddler. Shouter from rooftops, keeper of the poor decisions of others, who has a day job that has nothing to do with her passions. Bounces back and forth between Chicago and Washington, D.C. all while being very confused about the cultural expectations due to the heavy handed Western European infusion in her formative years. Rambles about: history, books, comics, film, and music. It is safe to say that she's not caught up on the latest bingeworthy show yet. Hopefully soon.
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26 Responses to Female Friendships: Image Not Found?

  1. Ryan M. says:

    I like your point. Karen & Terra’s friendship was a big part of what made “Power Girl” stand out on the comic rack. We need more PG & Terra/Booster & Ted dynamics in comics in general. How unrealistic that most superheroes (especially in superhero teams) claim to be friends but don’t really come off that way in any real sense other than the camaraderie of the teamwork they organize to fight crime and bad stuff. Which isn’t saying much about a relationship with the characters when written that way. Not asking for “buddy cop” stories, just buddies being buddies inbetween the everyday of being super, you know.

    Oh, and Gotham City Sirens & Birds of Prey have some good moments. You probably don’t need those recommended to you though. Sadly, I can’t think of any others. Not just talking lady-centric books either. :/

  2. I was actually just talking about this with my boyfriend. By and large he reads Marvel, while I prefer DC. And the major thing is that I love reading about women teaming up, and while DC doesn’t have that in spades, it does have it reasonably often and consistently. The only Marvel titles comparable to Birds of Prey and Gotham City Sirens and other DC lady teams that I could come up with were Marvel Divas and Heralds (which I think was a miniseries?).

    Woman friendships are awesome, particularly since the most popular meme about them in general culture is that only “frenemies” exist–that women backbite other women, etc. Seeing really good female friendships and team-ups is far too rare in comics. Half the time in any given issue you don’t even have two women TALKING to each other.

    • Lina says:

      Exactly! Like they’re supposed to have these off-screen relationships, but I can think of only a handful of incidences in the 90s when Jean and Rogue talked and hung around and they were meant to be fairly close. Both Divas and Heralds were miniseries, but it seems like such a hit-or-miss thing where DC seems to put forth a bit more effort in having their female characters as more than “frenemies”. It’s such a shame.

  3. Michael C. says:

    I am so with you on this one. I made a discovery a few years back after having read comics for nearly 40 years, I suddenly realized that I don’t really like superheroes; I like reading about women with superpowers. Nothing thrills me more than seeing women interact as friends, and you’re right, Marvel is not very good at this. I will toss out a few examples that spring to mind; unfortunately none of them are current.

    Misty Knight and Colleen Wing — especially as written by Chris Claremont in the early Iron Fist stories. Not surprisingly, Chris Claremont really did a great job writing women as friends in the 80s. While they didn’t get much screen time, Misty and Jean Grey were roommates and good friends. Jean and Storm were known to be close friends. Then Storm and Kitty got very close. He also had Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers become good friends when Spider-Woman saved Carol’s life after having her powers stolen by Rogue.

    Periodically in the Avengers, the Wasp, aka Janet Van Dyne, would invite her girlfriends over, including Susan Richards, the Invisible Woman, with whom she had been shown to have a friendly relationship with. Janet also grew to have a strong friendship with Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk during Jen’s time as an Avenger.

    Then in the late 70s, early 80s the Defenders featured a really nice friendship between Brunnhilde the Valkyrie and Patsy Walker’s Hellcat. They were very close friends and helped each other through a lot.

    But honestly, in the last ten years? Can’t think of much. Would love to see more such friendships developed and shown on panel.

    Oh wait! I just thought of one… but this may have been in the 90s, I can’t remember. Diamondback was good friends with The Asp and Black Mamba from the Serpent Society. I think they even formed their own vigilante team called Bad Girls, Inc. or something. While they started off as villains, they would actually stick by each other, very unlike the snakes they were named after. That would be a fun comic series, don’t you think?

    Michael C.

    • Colleen and Misty! The Daughters of the Dragon definitely kick ass. Their related titles are some of the few Marvel books I read.

    • Lina says:

      Yes! I remember Colleen and Misty! That was one that totally slipped my mind in this. A lot of the really fun stuff seems to have happened in the 70s and 80s, which is such a shame because there’s a new audience that could definitely do with a dose of female friendships.

      And yes, that would be Bad Girls, Inc, but it would be a fantastically fun series. I know that I would read it.

  4. Dee says:

    Birds of Prey is amazing for female friendships,and it’s one of the reasons I love the book so much.

    But that? That’s totally an exception to the rule.

    Jimmy, Justin and Amanda’s Terra and then Power Girl run explored the same with Terra and PG. Loved it.

    • Lina says:

      I always get REALLY excited when I see female friendships. Because I have friends! Some of whom are female! And these awesome ladies deserve the same.

  5. Stephanie King says:

    I tend to read DC for that very reason. I think DC has stronger female writers and thus stronger female books. That being said; X-Men First class has done a lot around Marvel Girl being the only girl on the group and how she needs other girls. They did a bunch of issues with MG and S. Witch hanging out being girls. It was so much fun to read.

    • Lina says:

      Oh yes! That’s another thing I loved about that run. Marvel Girl and Scarlet Witch having adventures was definitely fun and fabulous. Because it is important to remember that they’re both teenaged girls (at the time at least) who need other girls to be friends.

  6. Niala says:

    You bring up a very good point. I think classic Marvel has done a fairly good job with the staple characters. I always knew that Ororo, Jean and Rogue, for example, were friends, but you are right about not always seeing that in a really obvious and consistent way. I would like to suggest Marvel’s Runaways to you as good example of a Marvel title with a) female characters who aren’t token and b) who are actually friends. They are also teens and I think that may have a lot to do with showing them as teammates *and* friends. Not to mention they are all orphans, so there’s the self-made family element too.

    • Lina says:

      I have read and enjoyed Runaways greatly, though I found that later on it definitely started to become more about how say Nico hooked up with the boys than the sort of friend that she was with Molly or Karolina. There’s a different dynamic that evolved which lost some of the friendship that they had earlier. Some of that makes sense given what happened in the group, but it is a shame to blame death of a teammate on that sort of thing.

  7. Duckie says:

    Don’t know if japanese Manga would count as a comic… but if it does… then I would highly recommend reading “Nana” it is ALL about female friendship, and it speaks to all sorts of girls and women… Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down! D:

  8. Pingback: Geeky Links 5/27 | NerdFamily Blog

  9. TDF Pamela says:

    I always liked the 90s X-Men comics that featured Jean and Storm as buddies. That team gets split up so often, though, that it’s tough to maintain even an underlying current of the women being friends.

    I’ve been thinking about the lack of female friendship stories in pop culture in general lately. You don’t see it much on TV, nor in movies (though from what I’m hearing, Bridesmaids does a great job at being about women and their relationships with each other), and now that I’m thinking about it, most of the books I’ve been reading lately haven’t had much in the way of female friendships. And that’s despite the fact that nearly all of those books are written by women and feature female protagonists. Is this an urban fantasy thing, where the lone wolf female protagonist pretty much only has male friends?

    • Lina says:

      I can’t help but wonder if it is? Like the lone female protagonist can have possibly one female friend who is also her rival and that’s about it. It doesn’t make sense to me because SO MUCH of pop culture is built around male friendships. And I loved Bridesmaids for not deciding that the one friend had to sabotage the other or something else that would be ridiculous and catty.

      I loved how in the 90s you definitely knew that Jean and Storm were friends, but you’re right, everything gets shuffled around too often to keep up that thread.

  10. That is a super-peachy-keen post. Thanks for really blathering on like that! Seriously, I don’t think I could have spent more effort wishing for something heavy to fall on me to erase that nonsense from my mind!

  11. Kris says:

    If you liked Sharon and Natalia together, you might want to take a peep at this month’s Captain America (#617), where they go undercover to investigate the charges against Bucky/Captain America (he’s in a Russian gulag right now). The fact that Natalia is dating Bucky doesn’t come up at all.

  12. ant says:

    I always love the friendships in the cartoon series such as Juctice League and Batman the animated series. For both male and female, it felt like the characters actually meaningfull friendship with each other beyond their crime fighting. So why can’t this be done in the comics? It’s not like the series haven’t made a nice old template to work from…
    Maybe that’s just the animator in me talking.

  13. John Derrick says:

    Just found this great post, and I’d like to add in a few recs.

    Heralds, by Kathryn Immonen: wacky all-female supergroup forms through an amusingly semi-random circumstance, then lots of world saving and banter. Hellcat pwns all.

    Her-oes, by Grace Randolph: terrible title, GREAT all-ages story. The writer said she wanted to do something with the vibe of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” only with several of Marvel’s best female characters, and it totally works. I wish they’d do a follow-up.

    She-Hulk, by Peter David: I actually love the Dan Slott run that preceded this even more, but Peter David’s run included a pretty great friendship between She-Hulk and a Skrull partner-in-bounty hunting, Jazinda, as well as a couple of awesome “Lady Liberator” issues.

    • Lina says:

      I loved Heralds. There are so many great recs going on in this post, I am thinking about maybe doing a follow up so that people can find them all in one place. It does take a bit of detective work, but there is some real gold out there.

  14. Suzanna says:

    It is a bit disturbing the general lack of healthy, normal relationships in comics. Even romantically speaking, they generally all end in horror and heartbreak while being chock full of drama along the way.

    It does say something that the only real friendships between girls I can think of are both in the DC universe and are of course Black Canary and Oracle, and Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. I think it would be nice if both Marvel and DC would show at least some banter between the girls in the books without taking it up to the level of Marvel Divas, which I deemed more drama/chick flick series than I did superhero. I just wish we could have a mix of both.

    My favorite stand alone X-men comic is the 1996 annual, because it depicts everyone as just having fun and being normal friends (with superpowers) at a barbecue at the Xavier Institute. Which in the main series pretty well never happens. Even then, the main discussions in the comic are male/female ones. The Exiles series was also a good example of good overall friendships between the characters so Marvel does have some good ones if you think hard enough. Still, that’s by Chris Claremont and considering he created some of my favorite characters, I tend to be bias in thinking that he hung the moon.

    But yes, in general, superheros, no matter how wonderful their personality, are very rarely written as getting along as good friends for long periods of time.

  15. I certainly feel the same way. I was recently reading Fable by Vertigo, and I was really into it, I think mostly because the comic put so much emphasis on Snow White and her relationship with her sister Rose Red. I’d like to see more comic books emphasizing the girls who support a super woman!

  16. kurumais says:

    marvel has rikki barnes and anya corazon bucky/nomad and spider girl respectively and dc had stephanie brown and cassandra cain, basically cassandra’s only friendship, steph was also friends with supergirl and squire because who wouldn’t want to be friends with steph? plus young justice by peter david had pretty strong friendships between wonder girl, arrowette, and secret. even after arrowette quit the super hero life .

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