Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks takes a look at the characters Disney could mine from the Marvel pantheon for TV and movies:
Last week, most of the pundits agreed one of the biggest positives Disney got from their merger with Marvel is their content will help them to create the kind of programming that will hopefully appeal to the boys they want to attract to their Disney XD brand. But Marvel also provides them with a line of strong female characters with reliably wholesome images and I don't mean Millie, Chili or Patsy Walker (though it probably won't hurt their feelings upon discovering they now own characters that can compete with Barbie and Archie).
I mean Marvel's mostly forgotten Golden Age heroines Miss America, Blonde Phantom, Sun Girl and Golden Girl. Why not Storm or any of the other mainstream Marvel super-heroines? While Disney can always do kid-friendly versions of those characters, I intentionally used the phrase 'reliably wholesome', because by using those Golden Age characters Disney need never worry that some writer will start heaping humiliation upon them--go ask Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk.
For those unfamiliar with them, here's a brief history lesson. Even before WWII ended, interest in superheroes had begun to wane, and, like a lot of publishers Marvel (back when it was Timely) began to diversify its line with teen comedies, funny animals, girl comics (we toss around the term 'girl comics' all the time but they actually published a comic called Girl Comics) and superhero comics for girls. Miss America had her own long-running magazine and as well as having their own titles Sun Girl and Namora* (along with Golden Girl) served as fill-in sidekicks to The Human Torch, Namor and Captain America.
In the comics Toro and Bucky were sent off-panel on one pretext or another, with the idea presumably being that these female versions of the main characters would gives the heroes failing titles some much needed sex appeal. A move that certainly smacked of desperation but, seriously, if you were a male hero and absolutely had to have a sidekick, would you rather it be a adrenaline-addicted teenager, a doughy middle-aged man or a pretty girl?
Plus it didn't work: the Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner comics only lasted a few more issues after the change. And the girls didn't fare any better, although, given the market conditions of the times, I don't know if you could blame that on the characters. But these characters did have something interesting in common: (a) they were intended for a female audience and (b) they were fully-clothed.
I'm not suggesting superhero comics for girls is all about making sure their outfits adhere to Sharia Law, but having them dress appropriately wouldn't be a bad place to start.
So what you have with these characters is a whole line of shovel ready girl heroes who don't have to be covered up or dumbed down. You could even add Leopard Girl (from Marvel's Jungle Action comic), that rarest of things, a fully-dressed jungle girl. And even Marvel's perennially underappreciated Spider-Girl could join them. Underappreciated... and over-dressed? Could a lack of obvious sex appeal be part of the reason why the character has never had mainstream success?
But getting back to that content for DisneyY XD, I'm curious to which Marvel character will be tapped to get an animated series. With Green Lantern about to get the big screen treatment (we'll see), if I were Disney I'd be putting Nova the Human Rocket into production, though of course they'll have to hit the reset button and make him into a neophyte teen hero again.
And finally, on a unrelated note, I see that Blaze the Wonder Collie got an entry in the recent Marvel Pets Handbook: I'm impressed that Marvel would spend so much time and talent on a project with the smallest possible demographic: me.
* I didn't lump Namora in with the other because the distaff version of a character Middle-America never heard of would be a hard sell to Disney (though it would give them an action/ adventure version of The Little Mermaid). Namor was lucky: he got the lady sidekick upgrade without first being stuck with a mini Sub-Mariner. Although, ever so briefly, Timely did have a junior version of him running around called Subby: he just didn't hang out with Namor or The Young Allies like you'd expect. Does anyone out there know why?
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on September 9, 2009 @ 10:00 pm CT
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