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Between the Panels: Girls Just Wanna Kick Butt
By Lance Victor Eaton (October 2006)

Oddly NormalFor every Wonder Woman, there seem to be ten to fifteen male icons in the world of comic books. But though misogyny has always been a phantom in the comics realm, it seems that the trends are changing. With female readership increasing dramatically since the rise of manga in the United States, publishers are providing a wider range of female leads. Marvel and DC Comics have increased their numbers of female titled series as well as female roles in team series. In a similar vein, smaller publishers (some of which have been doing this for a while) are providing more interesting and entertaining stories that market well to both sexes.

It is hard enough being half-human and half-witch, but having parents who named her Oddly Normal sends her life on a collision course with heckling, antagonism, and a hefty dose of alienation. After another unbearable day, young Oddly comes home to parents wishing her a happy birthday in that special way parents have of annoying their adolescent children. Oddly can't stand it any longer and utters the words, 'I wish you would both just disappear.' What happens next is to be expected when you are part witch. Her parents vanish and little orphan Oddly must find refuge with her grandmother who resides in Fignation, the world of magic and wonder. With the exception of a change of residence, her life does not alter too much. She's still an outcast in her new magic school. She does make some friends but she also finds the piercing eyes of Mr. Gooseberry rather unsettling.

Though Otis Frampton's Oddly Normal Volume 1 resembles elements of Harry Potter, Oddly maintains its own level of quirkiness. Also, its cast, albeit including cliché characters (like youthful versions of Frankenstein and Igor) still provides colorful and humorous sidetracks. While consistent, the art is not impressive. The most intriguing artistic aspect is the use of tints throughout certain panels to indicate mood and story direction. Acknowledgments, a brief history of the series, and a small gallery are appended at the back of the book.

Emily EdisonEmily Edison Volume 1 works on similar levels as Oddly Normal. Emily is the daughter of scientific genius John Edison and of Lucilliana Quilarane, royalty in another dimension. Emily integrates into her surroundings better than Oddly. She is a student with friends, but when she's not in class, she fights as a superheroine to save the world - usually from the crazy plans of her grandfather. Grandpa Vigo's solution to seeing more of his beloved granddaughter is to destroy Earth, leaving Emily with no choice but to live with her maternal family. Vigo is persistent and willing to go to great lengths to bring his granddaughter back.

Here, positive females dominate the graphic novel and women for the most part make up the heroines while the villain (Vigo) is male. A serious deconstruction of the series would certainly yield threads of misogyny, but for the most part, David Hopkins and Brock Rizy do a good job in presenting positive and enthusiastic images of women. Again, the art is not particularly impressive. It's expressive and iconic with hints of a manga influence, but most important, it works well with the plot to tell a good story.

Reena, on the other hand, yields much more complexity than Oddly or Emily. In The Lexian Chronicles: Full Circle Volume 1, the intelligent and skillful Rena lives with her father as part of the Phoenix Tribe in a world dominated by patriarchal tribes. But the truces that have maintained peace are beginning to crumble and the Leopards are quickly dominating lesser tribes. Reena becomes a pawn of politics when her father unwillingly agrees to have her marry the son of the Leopard tribe chief. Reena is determined to defeat the Leopards, and secure her own safety and that of her tribe.

Lexian ChroniclesA darker tale than the other two and based in a more fantastical world, The Lexian Chronicles also deal with more challenging topics. This makes sense since it's targeted at an older age group. The art stands out more as well. Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz use a variety of panels, position, and full page panels to emphasize the action and emotion in this story. Their point of view positioning often creates drastic contrasts that establish character perspectives. They also include an art gallery with some fantastic sketches and pin-ups.

Slowly and steadily, a wider range of heroines continues to grow. Though these examples are by no means perfect, they are indicative of a trend towards broader authentic female representation within comic books. Given that these are all ongoing series, they certainly have the opportunity to up the standard.
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