Thursday, September 07, 2006

John Byrne - Sexist?

I don't know myself but this blog seems to think so.

"Between his debut in comic books in the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, there were quite a few books he wrote where sexism had a presence, even if you couldn’t always see it. To enjoy any of his works can often require big doses of salt. Here is my own list of discriminatory acts Byrne included in his own writing resume in years past"

I have trouble with this because one of my all-time favorite women in comic books was a creation of John Byrne's. This was Heather Hudson of Alpha Flight. Over the course of John Byrne's run she went from secretary and housewife (of Canada's Guardian) to leading a nation's superhero team despite not having any powers herself. She was smart, wore glasses, had a funny nose and a sensible looking ponytail. AND would fearlessly tell off Wolverine when he needed to be told off.

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After Byrne left she eventually slipped into her dead husband's super powered suit and became 'Vindicator' (yes, a stupid name if I ever heard one) and later Guardian. Later artists changed her from a distinctive looking woman to another curvy redhead with seductive, flowing tresses. Her husband eventually came back and she gave up her colours (the red and white of the Canadian flag) so he could have them back. Which killed me. She'd worn the suit and led the team for longer than him and yet years later she takes off her nations flag and steps aside. She then has a baby and gets killed (a Marvel death so hopefully temporary) along with her whole team in a repugnantly throwaway manner by Brian Michael Bendis (If we ever meet Mr. Bendis, you and I will have words) in New Avengers.

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But the Heather Hudson I adored is Byrne's Heather. Despite having the dubious qualifications of being a housewife and secretary she took leadership of a group of superheroes simply on the strength of her character and belief in herself. She was the normal person who walked with gods (sometimes literally) and led them. And her team admired her for it.

We all have prejudices and stereotypes that come out in our life and work. I don't think John Byrne is any exception. But on this issue, sexism, I think the contribution of Heather Hudson to comic book literature outweighs the crimes listed in The Comic Book Discrimination Dossiers blog.

Heather at her best...Alpha Flight #1-#30 (John Byrne), X-Men and Alpha Flight; The Gift (Chris Claremont & Art Adams)


At 5:19 PM, Blogger Metro said...

Just strolling by on the info superhighway. Alpha Flight was always under-appreciated. And what the later writers and artists did to it was a sin.

Didn't they eventually magically disband the AF team and send them all to the places they sprang from?

Heather Hudson was probably the last near-real-looking superheroine. Since then they all seem like hyper-inflated prick-teases.

Nice to read you.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Dawn said...

I'm not sure of the specifics of of what happened to all the characters. Some of those later issues were so goddawful I couldn't read them.

Tahnks for the comment!

At 7:10 AM, Blogger Ralph Dibny said...

Wasn't that Bendis who killed them all in New Avengers?

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Dawn said...

Oh shoot. You know, I KNEW that too but had Mark Millar on the brain for some reason. I managed to get the New Avengers writer correct in my first post. Thank you, thank you. I will correct that now.


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