Much like the 40s the 50s were filled with forgotten female heroes that the Lady Comic Book History podcast is determined to remember. As always check out the podcast to listen to the contents of this article.
We start with 1948s Sun Girl. The first iteration of Sun Girl was created by artist Ken Bald and a writer that remains identified. She made her first appearance in Sun Girl #1 of August of 1948 published by Timely Comics, she starred in a namesake 3-issue series cover dated August to December of 1948. The character also co-starred in stories of the original human torch in the Human Torch #32-35 in September of 1948 to March of 1949, Captain America Comics #69 in November of 1948, Sub-Mariner Comics #29 in November of 1948 and Marvel Mystery Comics #88-#91 in October of 1948 through April of 1949.
At the start our Sun Girl was Mary Mitchell, the personal secretary for Jim Hammond who was the original Human Torch. Mary falls in love with him and becomes his partner as well as his sidekick, hard pause, once again we have a working woman who falls in love with her boss and that's why she becomes a hero….seriously? Find a different storyline.
Sun Girl was revised and appeared in the Secret Wars storyline her new identity was Selah Burke she appears as one of the heroes temporarily possessed by the Carrion virus after she came in contact with William Allen. Sun Girl is then attacked by the Superior Spider-Man who then cures her of the virus. Selah next appeared in issue #1 of the 2014 New Warriors relaunch, where she helps save the Morlocks from the attacks by the Evolutionaries.
Sun Girl is an acrobat and is an expert in both Judo and Jiu Jitsu she also wields a sunbeam ray gun which produces a bright blast of light, Selah’s version of Sun Girl is a proficient engineer who creates a suit that grants her flight and the ability to project light blasts.
Next up we have Venus which was published as a romance comic book by Timely comics it ran for 19 issues from 1948 to 1952, it finished it's run as a science fiction/ horror anthology and venus became an early incarnation of Loki. By issue 17 Venus joined a team of women that had also been subjected to sexism as she was featured in what would be referred to as a bondage cover as she was depicted chained to a dungeon wall. She was then reduced as nothing more than a side character and was quickly forgotten about.
1949 brings us Gimmick Girl, born Merry Creamer; she was adopted by the Pembertons, the parents of the original star-spangled kid. She becomes the ultimate side character, appearing in Young Justice as a member of Old Justice, a laughable name for a team of former Golden Age sidekicks who feel modern teen heroes are risking themselves and others. Merry assists dozens of superheroes, most of whom had changed ages in battling Klarion and Witch Boy.
As always with the characters in DC there were alternate versions of Gimmick Girl, most notably Gimmix, who made her first appearance in the first issue of Seven Soldiers. Named Jacqueline Pemberton she is revealed to be Merry’s estranged daughter. These women didn’t have any superpowers but were outfitted with gadgets or “Gimmicks” that would aid them in fighting crime. Jacqueline becomes a part of a team of superheroes that is killed by the Sheeda, but in the first issue of Zatanna it's revealed that Jacqueline is still alive.
Now we start in on the 1950s where we have Squire, which was for everyone about to question me right now, originally a male character. However the first female squire was Beryl Hutchinson and though she did not take up the mantle until the tail end of the 90s, the character was created in the 50s, so this is where it stays. Beryl made her first appearance in JLA #26 in 1999 when she and Knight 2 joined the Ultramarine Corps of Superbia. Beryl’s iteration of Squire was naturally gifted in several forms of communication including; foreign languages, gestures, and reading information patterns by touch. Beryl is the first Squire to be raised outside of nobility, she bounced around to a lot of different schools which she credits her communication skills. She appears semi-often in Batman comics. I’ve mentioned before that female heroes are often bestowed mental abilities where as men are attributed physical ones, I think it's important to note that with the 2 male versions of Squire, the hero was granted magical armour crafted by Merlin and the only female Squire didn’t have this magic armour but she had exceptional….Communication skills. We’re going to talk about this from a few different angles, starting with the idealistic option that is most definitely not at all the accurate interpretation but let's give it a go anyway… This could point to the idea that women generally having superior communication skills is actually a strength in both relationships and society. The more realistic interpretation, especially taking into account the time and the fact that DCs editorial policy dictated in print that women were to be treated of secondary importance tells us that women and by extension the stock that we put into communication isn’t as useful or as wanted as the supernatural elements of being a hero. I also believe that it needs to be pointed out that the 2 male sidekicks were born noble, were well off and wealthy whereas the only female squire was poor and grew up on the streets. Beryl should be regarded as far more badass than her male predecessors but because of the lack of magic elements in her iteration of Squire she isn’t and is often forgotten and brushed to the side.
Next up we have 1951s Doll Girl, Martha Roberts was the scientific research assistant to Darrel Dane otherwise known as Doll Man. The character were apart of Timely’s lineup and as such were absorbed by DC and were re-launched in Justice League of America #107 in October of 1973. They were a part of the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X and were featured in their own 15 issue series from 1976-1978 where they temporarily leave Earth-X for Earth-1. The Earth-1 version of Martha was also a side character and guest starred in Teen Titans #47 as a reporter. Post Crisis her storylines were completely erased and her histories merged into one. Different versions of Doll Girl exist including in; Titans Secret Files #2, and Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #174. In Kingdom Come we see Doll Man and Doll Girls daughter, Living Doll who acts as a secretary for the Justice League….alright now that we have the history we have my commentary um this whole character, her existence, her daughters existence is sexist. Once again reflective of the time it was created we have women that start as employees, as assistants and become sidekicks. I think that have Doll as apart of their title aids in the sexist analysis as that is one of the most misogynistic ways to refer to a woman, yes there is also a Doll Man however in the original history he controlled her size transformation they didn’t have to work together to control it until later. Even though it was retconned he shouldn’t have any control, at all, whatsoever over her transformation and it wasn't until the 70s where she could control it herself. So this section of comic book history was a wave of side characters, there will soon be a push for women who get to come front and center but we have few dead years and few more years of sidekicks before that.