Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes.
By Lillian S. Robinson. New York: Routledge, 2004. Pp. ix-148, preface, afterward, works cited, index.
In Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes, Lillian S. Robinson focuses on the development of female characters in comic books, a genre of literary text that has been slow to gain recognition as a medium of cultural expression and slower still to be examined through a critical lens (2). Adopting a feminist position, she argues that the stories of female superheroes in the genre "transgress [the] use of mythological sources, borrowing from various traditions and creating new ones in order to tell different stories about gender, stories that come closer to the universe of belief than do masculine (and masculinity) adventure comics" (6). The book sets the creation and evolution of various female superheroes against a background of other factors, varying from political to personal. However, Robinson orients the book's format around a discussion of specific eras in the development of the original female comic superhero: Wonder Woman. Utilizing a critical feminist perspective to interrogate the comic book genre allows the author to tease out the effects of social movements on the development of the comic heroine while simultaneously lending itself to appropriate interjections of the author's own experience as a lifelong reader of comic books. Chapter titles even "Chronicle" comic conventions. Combining these elements creates an illuminating analysis of the impact of female heroes on the genre.
Describing her lifelong love affair with comics, Robinson reveals that she began reading comics shortly after the introduction of the Wonder Woman character. Her combined personal and professional interest in comics lends itself to the use of a variety of sources in the construction of the book, ranging from Judith Butler to pop culture artifacts. Much of her evidence also comes directly from the comics themselves, giving readers a plethora of primary sources to add to the discussion. Accordingly, the book is presented in a format that makes it accessible to a variety of readerships: Robinson's critiques are sound and relevant, appealing to a scholarly audience; however, her easy writing style and anecdotal evidence make this book an enjoyable read for a non-scholarly audience as well.
Just as important as critical analysis and empirical evidence to Robinson's book, is the author's ability to situate herself as a...