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Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics

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Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ruled the pages of comic books in the 1940s, but many other heroines of the WWII era have been forgotten. Through twenty-eight full reproductions of vintage Golden Age comics, Divas, Dames & Daredevils reintroduces their ingenious abilities to mete out justice to Nazis, aliens, and evildoers of all kinds. Each spine Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ruled the pages of comic books in the 1940s, but many other heroines of the WWII era have been forgotten. Through twenty-eight full reproductions of vintage Golden Age comics, Divas, Dames & Daredevils reintroduces their ingenious abilities to mete out justice to Nazis, aliens, and evildoers of all kinds. Each spine-tingling chapter opens with Mike Madrid’s insightful commentary about heroines at the dawn of the comic book industry and reveals a universe populated by extraordinary women—superheroes, reporters, galactic warriors, daring detectives, and ace fighter pilots—who protected America and the world with wit and guile. In these pages, fans will also meet heroines with striking similarities to more modern superheroes, including The Spider Queen, who deployed web shooters twenty years before Spider Man, and Marga the Panther Woman, whose feral instincts and sharp claws tore up the bad guys long before Wolverine. These women may have been overlooked in the annals of history, but their influence on popular culture, and the heroes we’re passionate about today, is unmistakable. Mike Madrid is the author of Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics and The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, an NPR “Best Book To Share With Your Friends” and American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project Notable Book. Madrid, a San Francisco native and lifelong fan of comic books and popular culture, also appears in the documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.


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Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ruled the pages of comic books in the 1940s, but many other heroines of the WWII era have been forgotten. Through twenty-eight full reproductions of vintage Golden Age comics, Divas, Dames & Daredevils reintroduces their ingenious abilities to mete out justice to Nazis, aliens, and evildoers of all kinds. Each spine Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ruled the pages of comic books in the 1940s, but many other heroines of the WWII era have been forgotten. Through twenty-eight full reproductions of vintage Golden Age comics, Divas, Dames & Daredevils reintroduces their ingenious abilities to mete out justice to Nazis, aliens, and evildoers of all kinds. Each spine-tingling chapter opens with Mike Madrid’s insightful commentary about heroines at the dawn of the comic book industry and reveals a universe populated by extraordinary women—superheroes, reporters, galactic warriors, daring detectives, and ace fighter pilots—who protected America and the world with wit and guile. In these pages, fans will also meet heroines with striking similarities to more modern superheroes, including The Spider Queen, who deployed web shooters twenty years before Spider Man, and Marga the Panther Woman, whose feral instincts and sharp claws tore up the bad guys long before Wolverine. These women may have been overlooked in the annals of history, but their influence on popular culture, and the heroes we’re passionate about today, is unmistakable. Mike Madrid is the author of Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics and The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, an NPR “Best Book To Share With Your Friends” and American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project Notable Book. Madrid, a San Francisco native and lifelong fan of comic books and popular culture, also appears in the documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.

30 review for Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Battistella

    In Divas, Dames, and Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, Mike Madrid picks up where he left off with The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, but in reverse chronological order. In The Supergirls he told the stories of Wonder Woman, Sheena, Batwoman, Elektra, Storm and the She-Hulk, among others. In Divas he has compiled and annotated the actual comics of the Golden Age (black and white in the print book and colorized in the e-book). Most of In Divas, Dames, and Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, Mike Madrid picks up where he left off with The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, but in reverse chronological order. In The Supergirls he told the stories of Wonder Woman, Sheena, Batwoman, Elektra, Storm and the She-Hulk, among others. In Divas he has compiled and annotated the actual comics of the Golden Age (black and white in the print book and colorized in the e-book). Most of the heroines will be new names to readers—they were to me—Madame Strange, a two-fisted reporter; Lady Satan, a woman who lost everything to the Nazis, Black Venus, an exotic dancer, and Mother Hubbard, a senior citizen. There’s also Betty Bates--Lady at Law, Maureen Marine, Marga the Panther Woman, Spider Queen and Spider Widow. These are Rosie the Riveter-type heroines who fly planes, punch out villains, and more, often while holding day jobs. And there’s Pussy Katnip, a real catwoman in world of anthropomorphized animals. The characters in Divas are a far cry from the 1960s-era comics when women stand-alone comics were Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane and Millie the Model, and the powers of ensemble heroines were things like invisibility. The comics in Divas are pre-Wertheim, pre-code so the stories are a bit grittier and the language reflects the sensibilities and stereotypes of the times. The comics of the 1940s are a source for all manner of interesting observations—on language, society, narrative and design, mythic origins, readership and women’s history. The art is rough but avoids the exaggerated proportions of later work. If I were a comic historian, this would be a treasure trove of research ideas.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gonzalo Oyanedel

    Un repaso general a olvidadas heroínas de las historietas con la intención de demostrar que en la llamada Golden Age eran mucho más que damas en peligro. Descripciones generales acompañadas de una selección con historietas que disfrutarán investigadores y mentes inquietas.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rosa

    The author includes information on the rise and fall of strong female characters within the framework of US history. The book divides up the female characters into different categories such as women at war consisting of WWII pilots, nurses, etc and goddesses women with incredible powers, etc. Each category gets a blurb explaining where they fell in the framework of the comics industry and then each character gets a blurb providing background for the comic that was included in the book. So many o The author includes information on the rise and fall of strong female characters within the framework of US history. The book divides up the female characters into different categories such as women at war consisting of WWII pilots, nurses, etc and goddesses women with incredible powers, etc. Each category gets a blurb explaining where they fell in the framework of the comics industry and then each character gets a blurb providing background for the comic that was included in the book. So many of the ladies in this are now public domain and they were just amazing characters that I wish could be revived or at least have more attention brought to them. I'm totally wondering if people would be into kickstarters for some of these b/c the characters are just amazing and kind of inspiring.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Stoy

    Here's the thing: I'm grateful this book exists. It's important that we catalog how women were represented in early comics and how the Comics Code and market forces post World War 2 gave us 20 years of retrograde trash in women's representation BUT... ...I can't be the only person who thinks a lot of these were...um, not very good? Jill Trent, Calamity Jane, and Amazona were my favorites and a lot of the rest were in this range between "what is this utter nonsense?" (Marga the Panther Woman) to f Here's the thing: I'm grateful this book exists. It's important that we catalog how women were represented in early comics and how the Comics Code and market forces post World War 2 gave us 20 years of retrograde trash in women's representation BUT... ...I can't be the only person who thinks a lot of these were...um, not very good? Jill Trent, Calamity Jane, and Amazona were my favorites and a lot of the rest were in this range between "what is this utter nonsense?" (Marga the Panther Woman) to forgettable (most of the patriotic WW2 Nazi-punching ladies). And even the ones I enjoyed would have things like endless violence against women and racism and just stuff that made me go, "in fact 90% of these can stay forgotten outside of historical importance and that's ok."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey John Frisone

    Highly recommended, this book shows that women have had to argue that they were fans of comic books as far back as the 1920s. The highlights a lot of forgotten super Heroines with a variety of backgrounds.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    I loved finding out more about some of my favorite characters and learning about characters I never knew existed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kat Champigny

    Big thanks to Mike Madrid for bringing these long forgotten heroines back into the limelight! I truly enjoyed this read: the majority of the book is reprinted comics from the WWII era, with a few pages of his analysis at the start of each chapter. The introduction had a thrilling, idealistic overview of what the book would convey: we are still embroiled in a centuries-old evolution of class, race, gender and sexuality, and this book would cover how far we've come and how far we've yet to go. In t Big thanks to Mike Madrid for bringing these long forgotten heroines back into the limelight! I truly enjoyed this read: the majority of the book is reprinted comics from the WWII era, with a few pages of his analysis at the start of each chapter. The introduction had a thrilling, idealistic overview of what the book would convey: we are still embroiled in a centuries-old evolution of class, race, gender and sexuality, and this book would cover how far we've come and how far we've yet to go. In the 40s, women in comic books were allowed to be fearless, bold, physical, and in charge, even if still scantily clad. Many of these characters are as old or even older than some of today's famous characters: Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was created in the same year as Superman (1938) and the Spider Queen comics were published long before Spiderman, yet their powers are remarkably similar. Many of the comics view women as a symbol of healing, peace, hearth and home (Jane Martin: "My job is to heal- not to destroy!") during an era of uncertainty and international conflict. Others place women in the role of avenger after the death of a male loved one. The majority of the vigilante comics show a female superhero stepping back and allowing male authorities to take all the credit without doing any of the work. But we must remember that we are looking at comics that are a product of their time, complete with racial slurs, misogyny and the propaganda of the WWII era, and many of these comics are very progressive for their time. My only disagreement with this book is Madrid's view on vigilante heroes. Madrid asserts that we have forgotten that comics emerged from a heightened sense of justice, a strong need for someone to take action in a world with too much politics and red tape. Comics do not only have roots in vigilantism; it is the core of our most loved superheroes. Beginning in the 60s and 70s, superheroes became increasingly fallible, a foil of inherent good and evil in all humanity. Origin stories are so popular now because even immortal, percent beings are subject to fate, choices, and have equal potential for good and evil. These modern origin stories are not "existential musings and introspection," they are heartfelt explorations of humanity; Madrid's analysis of comic vigilantism and modern comics felt condescending and inaccurate. I also felt he could have spent more time with analyzing religion within comics. The chapter on goddesses did include strong analysis of religious history, morality and philosophy, which is a pivotal point to examine in superhero/goddess comics. In most chapters, there was too much time spent describing characters' actions and not enough analysis behind the deeper meaning of their existence. All in all, I was very pleased with this book and am looking forward to reading more from Mike Madrid! I was very grateful to receive this book through Goodreads Giveaway and made a donation to the publisher through their current Indiegogo campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ext...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Donald Luther

    I wanted to read this book because I had previously read Mike Madrid's 'The Supergirls' and I was genuinely impressed by the quality of his work and the apparent intensity of his feelings about the subject. I have to say that this was a bit of a letdown, although it should be added that the scope of his subject here is significantly narrower than in the other book. Here, Madrid is examining a much shorter period of time; pretty much he's looking at the period around World War II (which, throughou I wanted to read this book because I had previously read Mike Madrid's 'The Supergirls' and I was genuinely impressed by the quality of his work and the apparent intensity of his feelings about the subject. I have to say that this was a bit of a letdown, although it should be added that the scope of his subject here is significantly narrower than in the other book. Here, Madrid is examining a much shorter period of time; pretty much he's looking at the period around World War II (which, throughout the book, he insists on referring to as 'WWII'). Further, he is examining only the heroines whose life embraced ONLY those years. There were dozens of heroines who were born in the tumult of the early comic book period and the invigorating of women's roles in America when war came. But most them ended their run by 1945. It is these that he is examining. Like the earlier book, this one attempts to approach the subject with an encyclopedist's eye. He first categorises the heroines ('Women at War,' 'Mystery Women,' 'Warriors & Queens,' etc.) and then within these groups he identifies the heroines who made an appearance in anthology comics during the war years. Some had long lives, some only a handful of appearances. Unlike the earlier work, this volume contains a full-length story as an example of the heroine. Whereas in 'The Supergirls', Madrid tied the developments and changes that took place in comics to changes taking place in the broader society, in this instance, he's stuck with hitting a single note: the removal of women from broader social roles and their return to housekeeping in the postwar environment. It might have been more interesting if he had examined the differences between these types of heroines, how these differences arose (were they aimed at different target audiences? did the authors have different appreciations of the roles of women? did the stories reflect different perceptions of the role of women in the war effort and in society?), and whether the impact of these stories in comic anthologies can be seen on those who read the stories (in a few instances he attempts to do this by citing letters printed in the comics which deal with readers' ideas about the characters and how they are presented--he should have done more of this).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Mansfield

    Copy provided by Exterminating Angels Press in exchange for fair review. Looking over the pages of Divas, Dames & Daredevils one can’t help but wonder: what the heck happened? How is it that some 70 years after comics introduced strong, yet still decidedly feminine characters that today most female characters are lucky to have outfits that resemble actual clothing and a brain, let alone a personality and lack of dependence on her male counter-parts. As Mike Madrid argues, women in comics is large Copy provided by Exterminating Angels Press in exchange for fair review. Looking over the pages of Divas, Dames & Daredevils one can’t help but wonder: what the heck happened? How is it that some 70 years after comics introduced strong, yet still decidedly feminine characters that today most female characters are lucky to have outfits that resemble actual clothing and a brain, let alone a personality and lack of dependence on her male counter-parts. As Mike Madrid argues, women in comics is largely a mirror for our own society. In the lead up to, and during World War II, women were needed for the war effort and so they got to be as heroic and patriotic as her male counterpart, not that all men (or women for that matter) approved of this. As the war won down the desire to put women back into their “place” took hold, and the advent of the Comic Code pretty much sealed the deal. Ever since then female characters have been trying to dig their way out of the “approved” boxes they’ve put in to varying degrees of success. But this book isn’t about their decline, it’s about celebrating the colorful and strong women of the Golden Age, most of the characters whom time has forgotten. Characters like Lady Satan, Pussy Katnip, (and get your mind out of the gutter, she is an anthropomorphized cat) Maureen Marine and The Sorceress of Zoom. Madrid presents them to us in their 40s glory, providing a full representative strip of each character, some two dozen plus characters in all. While the writing and the art may be rough by modern standards, one can’t help but feel some admiration for these ladies. You’re bound to find at least one or two that you’d like to see if you can find more of. While I personally would have loved a bit more history, this is anthology that knows what it wants to do (remind us how cool women were once allowed to be) and it does it splendidly. Comic lovers period should give this a look, it gave me that sense of joy that I had when I first discovered comics, and it should for you too.

  10. 4 out of 5

    SmartBitches

    Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books STOP THE PRESSES. RED ALERT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I have new Intel from the world of comic books, and this is it: In the 1940’s, there was a superheroine named, I shit you not, Pussy Katnip. The gloriously named Pussy Katnip is one of many heroines that Mike Madrid brings to our attention in his book. This book focuses on comics during the Golden Age of the 1940s. During this time, most comics were published as anthologies – so for very little money you go Full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books STOP THE PRESSES. RED ALERT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I have new Intel from the world of comic books, and this is it: In the 1940’s, there was a superheroine named, I shit you not, Pussy Katnip. The gloriously named Pussy Katnip is one of many heroines that Mike Madrid brings to our attention in his book. This book focuses on comics during the Golden Age of the 1940s. During this time, most comics were published as anthologies – so for very little money you got a spy story, a superhero story, a set of jokes – basically, a bunch of genres mixed together. There were dozens of publishers and the medium was so new that writers threw all kinds of stories out there just to see what would take off. Combined with the fact that during WWII women had expanded roles in the workplace and the fact that comics had not yet become segregated into “boy comics” (superheroes) and “girl comics” (romance), this created a perfect environment for some really incredible female heroines. Some lasted for several years, others for only a few issues, but they all kicked some serious ass. I gave Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers an A, but I’m giving this book an enthusiastic B+. The reason for the lower grade is that the Vixens book (which was written after Divas) has more detailed and thoughtful analysis than Divas. I still loved Divas, and I learned from it, but it didn’t address history, gender roles, or issues about race or sexuality in as much depth as the Vixens book did. In general, however, this book is a must for comic book fans and for people with an interest in how women are portrayed in the arts and in pop culture. It’s informative, it challenges assumptions, and, above all, it’s just so much fun. - Carrie S.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate K. F.

    Divas, Dames and Daredevils looks at the heroines of the comics in the 1930s and 1940s. The book is divided into various sections starting with the war heroines and ending with the more magic ones. The bulk of the book is beautiful reprints of the original comics. Overall I enjoyed reading this book but my main complaint was that I wanted more. I wished that there was greater detail into the backgrounds of the various heroines, who created them, how popular were they as well as about what change Divas, Dames and Daredevils looks at the heroines of the comics in the 1930s and 1940s. The book is divided into various sections starting with the war heroines and ending with the more magic ones. The bulk of the book is beautiful reprints of the original comics. Overall I enjoyed reading this book but my main complaint was that I wanted more. I wished that there was greater detail into the backgrounds of the various heroines, who created them, how popular were they as well as about what changed. There were points where the author would refer to great changes in the comic book world but not with complex explanations. I think part of the problem might have been my expectations when I picked up the book as I thought it would be more of a historical and anthropological book. Instead it turned out to be focused on reprinting the comics themselves with minimal but interesting discussion of them. I would recommend this book to anyone curious about the history of comics and a reminder of how the history of comics isn't a straight line. I picked up my ARC from the publisher's booth at ALA 2013.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Duncan

    Divas, Dames and Daredevils compiled by Mike Madrid is the thirty first book that I have received and read from Goodreads. Mike Madrid did a fantastic job of researching and compiling comics on the divas, dames, and Daredevils from the early 1930s to present. I found it to be very interesting the amount of female cosmic books and the way females were portrayed in the beginning prior to world war two and during the war. This was a time when women were modesty dressed and were housewives. I really Divas, Dames and Daredevils compiled by Mike Madrid is the thirty first book that I have received and read from Goodreads. Mike Madrid did a fantastic job of researching and compiling comics on the divas, dames, and Daredevils from the early 1930s to present. I found it to be very interesting the amount of female cosmic books and the way females were portrayed in the beginning prior to world war two and during the war. This was a time when women were modesty dressed and were housewives. I really enjoyed reading the comics and how they avenged and defeated the Nazis and Japanese becoming super heroes. I would really be interested in finding and reading the complete series during the war on these first Divas, Dames and Daredevils lost heroines of golden age comics. This was true enjoyment to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    I think one of the more unusual things that struck me about this book is that it wasn't written by Trina Robbins. In my experience, she's written so many books about women and comics that it's startling to find one that isn't. That said, Mike Madrid writes one heck of a book. He makes an impressive case for female heroes not being as uncommon as is commonly believed. Granted, these are obscure characters we're talking about. I had only heard one or two of them before, and, whiler I'm no scholar, I think one of the more unusual things that struck me about this book is that it wasn't written by Trina Robbins. In my experience, she's written so many books about women and comics that it's startling to find one that isn't. That said, Mike Madrid writes one heck of a book. He makes an impressive case for female heroes not being as uncommon as is commonly believed. Granted, these are obscure characters we're talking about. I had only heard one or two of them before, and, whiler I'm no scholar, I have learned a thing or two about Golden Age comics over the years. Though story and art are sometimes crude, these stories still pack a punch. Definitely worth checking out.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

    I received this book off of Goodreads First Reads. This book should definitely capture the attention of most comic-lovers out there. You can tell that a lot of hard-work and talent went into the fine details of this book, and I enjoyed it. Which says a lot coming from someone who, honestly, never really read a comic book let alone have much interest in them in the first place. It was entertaining and amusing, though. It caught my attention from afar.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    A series of interesting essays about female superhero comics in the 1930's-50's, broken up by 5-6 page long snippets of each character in action. Great for its glimpse into the history of dozens of long forgotten characters, I just wish the print quality was better on some of the older titles. Very fun to read, either way.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Mike Madrid provides a reading sensitive to women's representations in comics and adding social critique to the mix as well. A great example of how comics say more than some "serious" literature can. Further comments at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. Mike Madrid provides a reading sensitive to women's representations in comics and adding social critique to the mix as well. A great example of how comics say more than some "serious" literature can. Further comments at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tabby Shiflett

    Very interesting! The book includes a brief history of comics during the Golden Age as well as general info about the time period. The "lost" heroines are separated by types with an introductory section for each. Recommended for all comics fans. Great for new converts too! GoodReads FirstReads Giveaway

  18. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    If I was simply rating the stories themselves this would be a 3 star book at best, but I'm also rating just what this book is attempting. To give a little bit of lost history back to comic readers. That's pretty cool. Some of these concepts are begging for modern updates or movies/television made as period pieces. They'd be pretty awesome.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Waller

    This is a collection of stories from various 1940s comics. Some of the selections are genuine finds, others not so hot - while the intention was to introduce today's readers to lesser-known comics, they weren't always the most scintillating of tales, and it might have served equally well to highlight some slightly better-known heroines, like Sheena or Miss Fury.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Much as I love old romance comics, there is something lacking in them, and the stories Madrid has reprinted here, along with his essays about the different genres of comics heroines used to appear in, fill that gap. My favorites were the girl reporters, but all of the heroines presented in the book deserve to be brought back into the light, into print, and definitely to be reborn today.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I read a ton of comics sadly most of this book has a loyt of uninteresting heroines i did enjoy the spider queen and soecess of zoom tales very much the history is great and would have loved more depth some of the comics were hard to read likely due to age and the black and white maybe i would have liked the ebook more has anybody bought back the woman in red glad i read it

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony Parsons

    I grew up with comic books, bio-dad would not let me read them though, snuck around reading them...awesome set of comic books, I was not born then but there were some hotties back then 2, a must read for all comic book fans

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert Keck

    Who can resist this delightful collection of golden age female heroines? I knew I was sold for life when I discovered 'Lady Satan'. I was delighted with every page and every story. Thank you Mike Madrid for bringing these hidden gems to light.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    This was a nice survey of early, obscure female comic characters as well as a brief history of women in early comic books. Fun to read but I wish it had more depth.

  25. 5 out of 5

    The Miracle Man

    This book is second in the series of the female superheroines. I really enjoyed the first book and am looking forward to the third book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Easy read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    My review of this book will be in the winter issue of Bitch magazine! Get your copy here: http://bitchmagazine.org My review of this book will be in the winter issue of Bitch magazine! Get your copy here: http://bitchmagazine.org

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    I learned a lot and enjoyed the epic adventures of these badass women!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  30. 5 out of 5

    Reese Lightning

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