Marvel Comics has been around a long time. Although Marvel has generally been fairly progressive over the years, it has still been prone to write certain types of characters in ways that haven’t aged well. One of the areas where Marvel could improve is in the writing of its female characters.
The early years of comics featured sexist, restrictive portrayals of women that were common to American culture at the time. A bit later, women in comics were often treated as sexual objects, saving the world in ridiculously impractical but revealing outfits. The situation has improved over time, especially with the addition of more female creators on the Marvel staff, but many female characters are still waiting for a fair go.
10/10 Madelyne Pryor Was Literally Made To Love Cyclops
Madelyne Pryor is a tragic figure in X-Men comics. She is a clone of Jean Grey, created by Mister Sinister, and she seems to have picked up his infatuation with the Summers family. Rather than allow her to find her own path, writers have kept her obsessed with Scott Summers (or sometimes his family) for her entire existence.
In addition to Madelyne’s unhealthy infatuation with the Summers men that seems to completely define her personality, her creators have often put her in ridiculously revealing costumes that barely constitute lingerie. Hopefully the writers of her most recent appearance in Marvel Comics will be kinder to the character.
9/10 Asbestos Lady Was Engulfed By The Human Torch
Asbestos Lady is the epitome of lazy writing. This one-dimensional villain appeared in comics in the 1940s with a grudge against the Human Torch. Her persona was designed as a foil to the Human Torch’s powers, and didn’t even bother with a creative name.
While having a female villain, let alone one with her own gang might have been progressive in a way for the 1940s, nothing else about her was. Her entire existence revolved around the male hero she was fighting, from her name and identity to her motivations for the crimes she committed. She died of cancer, presumably from her asbestos suit, so her entire life had no purpose but to further the Human Torch’s story.
8/10 Black Cat Relied Too Heavily On Seduction
Felicia Hardy, aka the Black Cat, is a beautiful woman. Sadly, however, for most of her history, this is the primary trait that writers and artists seem to focus on. That and her obsessive love for Spider-Man, which tends to be her main motivation for doing things.
Black Cat is always depicted in a skin tight catsuit, which over the years got more and more revealing. She is traditionally placed in overly sexualized poses that don’t make sense in context. Writers seem incapable of giving her a plot that doesn’t involve trying to seduce a male hero. Felicia has the potential to be a great character, and hopefully modern writers will treat her better.
7/10 Black Widow Was The Girl On The Team
Black Widow is the epitome of a character created for the male gaze. Her appearance in both comics and the MCU is highly sexualized (a fact that was lampooned by the more practically-dressed Yelena Belova in the Black Widow movie). She has often served as the token female on the hero team as well.
Marvel writers designed the Black Widow character to be centered around her sexuality. They made her primary tactic seduction, and dressed her first in fishnet tights and later in skin-tight catsuits. She even originally came to the US and joined the Avengers because of her love for Hawkeye. Her portrayal is at least growing more well-rounded over time.
6/10 Mary Jane Should Be More Than Motivation For Spider-Man
Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man’s long-time girlfriend, sometimes wife (currently ex), is a fan favorite character. Writers have not always been kind to her though. For example, before her wedding to Peter, she kept fantasizing about another man named Bruce.
The most common criticism of MJ though, is how often she is used to create character motivation for Spidey, instead of pursuing her own desires and development. This issue with Mary Jane seems to be improving in recent years, but is an unfortunate recurring trope in comics focused on male superheroes.
5/10 Scarlet Witch Is Written To Be A Hysterical Woman
Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch, has had a lot of tough times, both in the MCU and in comics. She is one of the most powerful Mutants in the world, with the ability to literally shape reality according to her desires. Yet despite this awesome power, she almost never gets to be happy.
Over the years, Wanda has often been relegated to the role of “hysterical woman,” sometimes using her powers in profoundly devastating ways simply because she was upset about something in her own life. She also serves as a deus ex machina often, due to the scale of her power, allowing lazy writers to solve problems by waving the all-powerful sorceress at them.
4/10 Patsy Walker Was A Shallow Impression Of A Teenager
These days, in the Marvel Comics universe, Patsy Walker is an accomplished, well-rounded woman, who kicks butt both as costumed hero Hellcat and in her personal life, though she does tend to get relegated to a sidekick role. This was not always the case. Patsy was introduced to Comics readers in the early 1960s in a teen romance series aimed at girls.
The plot of one comic from the old Patsy Walker series shows Patsy super excited about getting a new fur coat–apparently this was the sort of thing that Marvel’s writers thought was on teenage girls’ minds at the time. Patsy deserved better, and luckily, she’s been moving in the right direction.
3/10 Ruby Thursday Doesn’t Make Any Sense
Thursday Rubenstein, who goes by the villain name Ruby Thursday, is a very strange character. She was introduced in the mid-1970s as a woman with an idealized body, wearing a very revealing costume, but a smooth red sphere instead of a head. She joined the villain group the Headmen as their first female member.
Ruby Thursday is actually a very strong villain, able to take out entire hero teams on her own. The writing of the character, however, is terrible. It’s not completely clear why she looks the way she does. She’s apparently obsessed with putting her colleague’s head on other heroes’ bodies. She keeps getting caught, but then she’s suddenly at large again. Nothing about her makes sense.
2/10 Emma Frost Deserves More Credit And Fabric
Emma Frost is an incredibly powerful and accomplished woman. She is one of the strongest telepaths on the planet, a successful, wealthy businesswoman, White Queen of the Hellfire Club, and a member of the ruling council of Krakoa. Yet for much of her time in X-Men comics, she has been treated by writers as either a sexual object or a tool to further the lives of the men around her.
Emma Frost’s costumes are notorious for being revealing and sometimes physics-defying. She’s rarely shown without a lot of skin on display. Until recently, her role has largely been defined by the men she dated, most notably Cyclops, whose relationship with Emma rarely seemed entirely healthy. In the Krakoa age, at last, Emma seems to be taking back control.
1/10 The Invisible Woman Can Take Care Of Herself
Sue Storm, or the Invisible Woman from The Fantastic Four, was a groundbreaking character for her time. She received superpowers along with the rest of her companions, and her powers are arguably among the strongest on the team. Her early writers rarely treated her that way though. Sue was often relegated to the role of peacemaker, providing the emotional strength to keep the team together.
While the writers were underutilizing Sue’s powers, they were also treating her poorly in her long-term relationship with Reed Richards. Despite Reed’s periodic speeches about how important his family is to him, he has consistently ignored Sue in favor of his work since the start of their series. Regardless, she sticks by her husband, even passing up a chance to become Namor’s queen of Atlantis.
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