I've been super-busy for several weeks, first finishing off a major paper, then going on a cruise, then prepping for and presenting at a conference, and finally sorting through my comics, which mostly have to be sold before we move in August. As I arrange the comics in lots for sale, I can't help reminiscing over some of them, and of course lamenting that we have to part. On Monday I was stopped in my tracks by an old favorite, Detective Comics 371, with this fabulous Batgirl cover:
The story presents an interesting take on the emerging Feminist Movement, one I might suggest was fairly typical of DC and Marvel's male-dominated creative teams of the time. To begin with Batgirl's feminine traits are shown as disadvantageous to her ability to compete with men. In the end, those same characteristics are switched around and considered a strength. To an early-70s Second Wave Feminist this would most likely have been interpreted as male chauvinism, and an attempt on the part of the DC staff to support a system based on differences of the sexes. Ironically, the story is more in tune with more modern difference feminism, exploitation of the sexist attitudes of the male crooks aside, which sees strength in traditional feminine attributes.
The story also reminds me of how things have changed in comic books. This one can be read on a couple of levels. It's fun (I remember guffawing over and over at the cover and the panel where the crooks get distracted when I was around 13) but there's also some social issues being dealt with. And that's why, despite having admiration for his artistic finesse, I was really disappointed by Frank Miller and what he did to Batman and Daredevil, two of my fun faves of the 60s. Who needs all that darkness when there's enough of it in real life!? Comics were my escape from the harsh realities of the inner city! This particular book (Detective 371) also has work by a mixture of some of my all-time favorite artists - Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson (cover), Gardner Fox (writer), and Gil Kane and Sid Greene (artist and inker). These guys are some of the greatest of the greats in comic book history, to whom Miller, significant as his work has been, pales in comparison, in my opinion anyway.