Knowing me, you might expect me to have something to say about the Wonder Woman movie. It is my new favorite movie. Moving on to a very related topic, I’ve got another feminist superhero comic for you! The DC Comics Bombshells started as an art line by Ant Lucia, which became a DC statue line, and then eventually a comic series in 2015. I always liked the aesthetic, but kind of assumed the comic would be lackluster at best, exploitative at worst, being based on pinup figurines and all. I was totally wrong.
DC Comics Bombshells isn’t just art and posing. It’s an entire genderbent WWII-era DC universe. There’s a thin excuse that the men are all away fighting so the women take on jobs Rosie the Riveter-style, but here the women are doing the fighting too. So, even though Wonder Woman was World War I, if you liked the whole aesthetic and feminist badassery of the movie then this comic is for you.
I say “genderbent,” but that’s not entirely the right word either. It doesn’t swap the genders around, but rather takes all these amazing female heroes and builds a world where they’re the stars. The writer, Marguerite Bennett, purposefully designed them all to exist on their own. Women like Batwoman and Mera are heroines in their own right, not inspired by their “male versions” Batman and Aquaman, for instance. There is no Batman — Batwoman saves the Waynes from being murdered — and Aquaman doesn’t show up until later in the series.
This matters because it creates a whole world where women are valid and powerful, where they’re natural bearers of identities and stories. They’re all characters we know and love from other comics, but here we finally get whole stories about them from their own perspectives and interacting with each other. Other comics are “girl power” teams where women teaming up is treated like something shocking, or they’re stories about men where the writer found a woman or two to stick on the team. This is so much better, and so refreshing. Minor characters we hardly ever get to see finally get their time in the spotlight. Oh, and Batwoman is still with Maggie Sawyer, because this is an alternate history where lesbianism doesn’t seem to be a big deal at all… and still Jewish, which takes on a whole different significance given the WWII setting.
The story is great too. The first issues set up the main characters and the world, with clever changes like Batwoman being a baseball player who hits people with a baseball bat and Zatanna carrying Constantine around as a rabbit. By the end of the volume, all the characters and subplots they’ve introduced are starting to twine together as all the sides of the war start to collide.
As if all this wasn’t perfect enough, when the male characters are around they’re cool too. The first volume deals with Steve Trevor’s PTSD on a regular basis, and how it was seen as cowardice at the time. Lex Luthor is a charming and sinister figure, and I’ve already mentioned Constantine-the-rabbit. There are men here and their stories are important, they’re just not the main event.
The art is indeed absolutely beautiful, drawn by various artists along the way, but the book is awesome too. Highly recommended!!