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TitleExamining the Representation and Empowerment of Women in DC and Marvel Comics
TagsDc Comics Star Wars Comics Batman Comics Captain America Comics Avenger Comics Marvel Comics Adult Comics Marvel
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                            East Tennessee State University
Digital Commons @ East Tennessee State University
	12-2017
With Great Power: Examining the Representation and Empowerment of Women in DC and Marvel Comics
	Kylee Kilbourne
		Recommended Citation
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East Tennessee State University
Digital Commons @ East Tennessee State University

Undergraduate Honors Theses Student Works

12-2017

With Great Power: Examining the Representation
and Empowerment of Women in DC and Marvel
Comics
Kylee Kilbourne

Follow this and additional works at: https://dc.etsu.edu/honors

Part of the American Popular Culture Commons, Children's and Young Adult Literature
Commons, and the Women's Studies Commons

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1







WITH GREAT POWER:

EXAMINING THE REPRESENTATION AND EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

IN DC AND MARVEL COMICS

by

Kylee Kilbourne

East Tennessee State University



December 2017



An Undergraduate Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

For the Midway Honors Scholars Program

Department of Literature and Language

College of Arts and Sciences

____________________________
Dr. Phyllis Thompson, Advisor




____________________________
Dr. Katherine Weiss, Reader




____________________________
Dr. Michael Cody, Reader

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CHAPTER 3

ORIGINS OF A CRIME QUEEN



Throughout history and literature, women have been demonized and criminalized under

the patriarchy. During the Salem witch trials, women on the fringes of society were accused of

witchcraft and hanged. I The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is shamed for her

monstrous desires for independence and decides to commit suicide to find her freedom. Even in

traditional fairy tales, women are transformed into evil stepmothers and pitted against their

stepdaughters for the affection of men. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar write in their essay,

patriarchy: women almost inevitably turn against women because the voice of the looking glass

sets th Gubar 293). In popular media,

They are bad girls who work alone, clawing and stealing their way to the top. They are often

pitted against each other especially for the affections of men, as shown in Batman Rebirth issue

35 where Catwoman and Talia al Ghul fight each other for Batman. But with the introduction of

female villains changed.

In 1992, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created a walk-on character named Harley Quinn for

their highly successful show, Batman: The Animated Series. Harley Quinn first appeared in the

supervillain s dimwitted sidekick. It was later revealed in

Mad Love that Harley had been a psychiatrist Dr. Harleen

Frances Quinzel, M.D. at Arkham Asylum who fell madly in love with her patient, the Joker,

and helped him escape on several occasions. After the Joker is returned to Arkham beaten and

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bruised from a battle with Batman, Harleen quits her job as a psychiatrist to start her life of crime

as Harley Quinn. Figure 5 shows Harley Quinn during Mad Love, donning her new jester suit to

impress the Joker. This panel marks the beginning of her life as the crime queen Harley Quinn.



Figure 5: Harley Quinn’s appears in her new jester suit from The Batman Adventures: Mad Love

(Dini 34).

At the end of Mad Love, Harley is back at Arkham – this time as a patient herself – and

the Joker is assumed dead by the media. Batman: Harley Quinn was published in 1999 and is a

variation of the Mad Love story – Harleen is locked away in Arkham Asylum due to her

dangerous fascination with the Joker. But after an earthquake demolishes Arkham, Harleen

escapes to join the Joker as the red and black jester Harley Quinn.

Though Harley was purposefully written as a victim of domestic abuse, there are some

redeeming qualities in her early publications that show a character willing and trying to break

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41



WORKS CITED



Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library, 2008.

- Harley Quinn vol 2. DC
Comics, 2016.

Wizard: The Comics Magazine, Jan. 2004, pp. 56 68.

CBR.com, Comic
Book Resources, 15 Feb. 2007, www.cbr.com/a-perhaps-unnecessary-guide-to-oracles-

formative-years/.

DeConnick, Kelly S. Captain Marvel, vol 7, 17. Marvel Comics, 2013.

Dini, Paul. Batman: Harley Quinn. DC Comics, 1999.

Dini, Paul. The Batman Adventures: Mad Love. DC Comics, 1994.

Batman: The Animated Series, season 2, episode 28, Warner
Brothers, 18 Jan. 1993.

Gilbert, Sandra M, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven and London, Yale
University Press, 1979.

The Classic
Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar, Norton, 1999, pp. 291 297.

Glass, Adam. Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth. DC Comics, 2012.

- Including Nationality And Ethnicity At The Big

Bleeding Cool, 28 Sept. 2016,
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and-ethnicity-at-the-big-two/.

Inness, Sher Action Chicks:
New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 1 17.

Kesel, Karl. Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes. DC Comics, 2007.

ider- Edge of Spider-Verse, vol. 1, 2. Marvel Comics, 2014.

Lee, Stan. The Amazing Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys. Marvel Comics, 2012.

Liu, Sam, director. Batman: The Killing Joke. Warner Bros. Animation, 2016.

Loeb, Jeph. Spider-Man: Blue. Marvel Comics, 2008.

Madrid, Mike. The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book
Heroines. Exterminating Angel Press, 2009.

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The American Scholar, vol.
13, no. 1, 1943, pp. 35 44., www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/41204638?ref=no-x-

route:0a3c3df4811d70699dfd5a31ff9e1d86.

Green Lantern, vol. 3, 54. DC Comics, 1994.

Miller, Frank. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics, 1996.

Moore, Alan. Batman: The Killing Joke. DC Comics, 2008.

Suicide Squad, vol. 1, 49. DC Comics, 1991.

Newsarama,
9 June 2011, www.newsarama.com/7777-gail-jill-and-babs-a-conversation-about-batgirl-

oracle.html.

Newsarama, 6
June 2011, www.newsarama.com/7749-op-ed-oracle-is-stronger-than-batgirl-will-ever-

be.html.

ndship in and Heroism in Xena and Buffy Action Chicks: New
Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture, edited by Sherrie A. Inness, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2006, pp. 231 255.

Sawyer, Elliott A. "Postfeminism in Female Team Superhero Comic Books." J. Willard Marriott
Library. The University of Utah, Aug. 2014.
http://content.lib.utah.edu/utils/getfile/collection/etd3/id/3150/filename/3145.pdf.

Simone, Gail. Women in Refrigerators, Mar. 1999, lby3.com/wir/.

Stuller, Jennifer K. Ink-stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern
Mythology. London: I.B. Tauris, 2010. Print.

- Back Issue!, Oct.
2010, pp. 19 22.

-

Gwen ComicsAlliance, 27 Oct. 2014, comicsalliance.com/jason-latour-robbi-rodriguez-
rico-renzi-on-spider-gwen-interview/.

Wilson, G. Willow. Ms. Marvel: No Normal. Marvel Comics. 2015.

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