The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wen­zel

From the 1934 de­but of Sally the Sleuth to last month’s Gal Gadot­star­ring “Won­der Woman” movie, which has raked in nearly $350 mil­lion at the do­mes­tic box of­fice, fe­male comic­book char­ac­ters have come a long way in pop­u­lar cul­ture. »

From the 1934 de­but of Sally the Sleuth to last month’s Gal Gadot-star­ring “Won­der Woman” movie, which has raked in nearly $350 mil­lion at the do­mes­tic box of­fice, fe­male comic-book char­ac­ters have come a long way in pop­u­lar cul­ture.

So ex­actly how many have there been? And who else de­serves some of the love be­ing directed to­ward Diana Prince (Won­der Woman’s al­ter ego)?

Cana­dian comics scholar and Bed­side Press founder Hope Ni­chol­son knows. Her slick, gor­geously printed new book on Quirk, “The Spec­tac­u­lar Sis­ter­hood of Su­per­women,” was con­ve­niently pub­lished about a month be­fore DC’s big-bud­get “Won­der Woman” movie. As such, it de­serves ev­ery bit of an­cil­lary pub­lic­ity it may get from the “Won­der Woman” hype.

Start­ing with Cen­taur Comics’ Jane, The Ma­gi­cian of Mars, “Sis­ter­hood” dives into nine decades of fe­male comics char­ac­ters, with a help­ful decade-by-decade for­mat and chap­ter-end­ing “Icon of

the Decade” sum­mary (Won­der Woman, who was in­tro­duced in 1941, nat­u­rally rules the 1940s).

The point of the book, of course, is to look be­yond the most rec­og­niz­able fe­male su­per­heroes — Supergirl, Cat­woman, Bat­girl, Ms. Marvel and “Watch­men’s” Silk Spec­tre — to ap­pre­ci­ate the equally in­ven­tive but less iconic cre­ations that say as much about the era in which they were cre­ated as their cre­ators.

When times called for ro­man­tic he­roes or go-go girls, 1960s char­ac­ters such as Bar­barella or Bunny Ball de­liv­ered. When in­die comics be­gan to rise in the 1970s, sex­u­ally charged char­ac­ters like Su­per­bitch and Zelda the Witch ap­peared. A lot of it is overtly sex­ist and of­fen­sive; look­ing at it un­flinch­ingly is part of the fas­ci­na­tion.

I par­tic­u­larly en­joyed the 1980s chap­ters and on, given the ex­plo­sion of what are com­monly re­ferred to as al­ter­na­tive comics (i.e. ones not based solely on su­per­hero, sci-fi or fan­tasy themes). Even as the in­dus­try grows in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal, and comics-cul­ture be­comes pop­u­lar cul­ture, there's still a lot of great, hand-drawn art and writ­ing be­ing over­looked in the comics world.

In other words: If you like comics or graphic nov­els and don’t al­ready know who Ra­mona Flow­ers, the new Ms. Marvel (Ka­mala Khan), Blaze or Beth Ross are, you’ve got some catching up to do.

This is a handy, im­age-driven guide — not an aca­demic trea­tise or cat­a­log — so the snappy writ­ing, help­ful “fur­ther read­ing” rec­om­men­da­tions and plenty of col­or­ful pan­els main­tain an ad­mirable mo­men­tum over nearly 250 pages jam­packed with in­for­ma­tion.

It’s en­cour­ag­ing to see this long-ig­nored topic get such a pro­fes­sional yet ap­proach­able treat­ment. It’s even bet­ter for this busy comics fan to re­al­ize he learned a few things while be­ing en­ter­tained by this book.

Un­der­cover Girl was Starr Flagg, a fe­male Amer­i­can se­cret agent who first ap­peared in “Manhunt #1 (1947). From “The Spec­tac­u­lar Sis­ter­hood of Su­per­women” by Hope Ni­chol­son (Quirk Books, May 2017)

Images pro­vided by Quirk Books, The Den­ver Post

Throw­ing punches with one of the many heroic women fea­tured in “The Spec­tac­u­lar Sis­ter­hood of Su­per­women” by Hope Ni­chol­son.

After Mau­reen’s death by drown­ing, Fa­ther Nep­tune re­vived her and gave her the abil­ity to breathe un­der­wa­ter. She first ap­peared in Blue Cir­cle Comics #1 (1944).

Starlight was a war­rior maiden of the Huron peo­ple and first ap­peared in In­di­ans #2 (1950).

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