I don’t read a great number of comics anymore, but most of the ones I do read happen to feature women. My favorite right now by far, though, is Batwoman. So I thought she’d be a good place to start for the reader-suggested topic of Fierce Fictional Females.
First, the comic itself is awesome in the way it illustrates the story of Batwoman/Kate Kane and the people in her normal and superhero lives. I enjoy different ways of storytelling, and while comics and graphic novels are a pretty accepted form of storytelling by now, Batwoman still manages to bring interesting visuals that aid the story instead of being a distraction.
But that is nothing compared to the character of Batwoman/Kate Kane. She’s well-rounded and multifaceted. Her back story is complex, but her present story is even more complicated. She’s trying to use her sense of justice for the good of others, but she makes mistakes, sometimes ones that put other people in serious danger. After training at West Point she was ejected under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—because she chose to be honest even when she was given the opportunity to lie about her sexual orientation. As Batwoman she can be reckless at times, but she’s fearless and committed. She wants her independence as a superhero in a city that is in some ways run by Batman, and she has no problem saying no to him. As Kate Kane, she is trying to navigate having a romantic relationship with a Gotham detective and alternates between reconciling and fighting with her father, who helped her become Batwoman in the first place. Yet she never feels like two different people the way Bruce Wayne and Batman do. It’s easy to see Kate under the mask, and it’s clear Batwoman is a part of Kate.
One of the things I like best about the way Kate is written is that she is certainly not just a female version of Batman. I don’t know all the minutiae of the Batman canon, but I know enough; I was a fan of the Batfamily long before Kate hit the scene. Just as people who know even a little bit can tell the difference between Dick Grayson’s Batman and Bruce Wayne’s, so it’s clear that Kate is not meant to be a female Bruce or Dick. She’s her own person and superhero with her own flaws and strengths.
Now, I admit that on the surface it seems like I chose an obvious female character to start with. Of course she’s fierce! She’s kicking butt all over Gotham; she’s partnering up with Wonder Woman; she’s defying Batman! It’s true that she’s fierce in the classic sense, but I didn’t choose her because it was easy or convenient. It’s her flaws that make her fierce, the fact that she holds grudges in her personal life and sometimes makes terrible decisions. She pushes away people who try to get close to her, tries to do things on her own that one person, even a superhero, just can’t handle. She is not perfect by a long shot, and that’s a big part of why I love her.
Many writers, men and women alike, make the mistake of trying to create a ‘strong female character’ by focusing entirely on sexuality (either embracing or eschewing it) or entirely on literal, physical strength. The characters will defy what are generally considered stereotypical feminine traits and thus end up being written almost as stereotypical men (except sometimes they cry! Because emotions!). If it happened less often it would almost be funny.
Of course real women are rarely all or nothing in this way, and I think Kate Kane is a great example of the happy medium, the place where most women fall. A solid center with soft edges, or vice versa, depending on the situation. Strong physically, yes, but with limits, and strong emotionally, also within reason. She can be ruthless and brutal, almost detached, when dealing with both her family and her villains, yet at times her emotions cloud her judgement both inside and outside the Batwoman costume; Kate Kane is so human it’s hard to believe she isn’t a real person.
So for these reasons and many more, Batwoman/Kate Kane was the perfect woman to launch the Fierce Fictional Females category. I highly recommend the comics; I think almost everyone can find something to enjoy in her story. Maybe it will just be the art. Maybe it will only be the detective story. Or maybe you’ll see a little bit of yourself in Kate Kane.
Who are some of your favorite Fierce Fictional Females?