Palate Cleanser: Divas, Dames & Daredevils – complied & annotated by Mike Madrid

17465578Thanks to Exterminating Angels Press for providing the book in exchange for fair review

Genre: Golden Age Comics


Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ruled the pages of comic books in the 1940s, but many other heroines of the WWII era have been forgotten. Through twenty-eight full reproductions of vintage Golden Age comics, Divas, Dames & Daredevils reintroduces their ingenious abilities to mete out justice to Nazis, aliens, and evildoers of all kinds.

Each spine-tingling chapter opens with Mike Madrid’s insightful commentary about heroines at the dawn of the comic book industry and reveals a universe populated by extraordinary women—superheroes, reporters, galactic warriors, daring detectives, and ace fighter pilots—who protected America and the world with wit and guile.

In these pages, fans will also meet heroines with striking similarities to more modern superheroes, including The Spider Queen, who deployed web shooters twenty years before Spider Man, and Marga the Panther Woman, whose feral instincts and sharp claws tore up the bad guys long before Wolverine. These women may have been overlooked in the annals of history, but their influence on popular culture, and the heroes we’re passionate about today, is unmistakable.


Looking over the pages of Divas, Dames & Daredevils one can’t help but wonder: what the heck happened? How is it that some 70 years after comics introduced strong, yet still decidedly feminine characters that today most female characters are lucky to have outfits that resemble actual clothing and a brain, let alone a personality and lack of dependence on her male counter-parts. As Mike Madrid argues, women in comics is largely a mirror for our own society. In the lead up to, and during World War II, women were needed for the war effort and so they got to be as heroic and patriotic as her male counterpart, not that all men (or women for that matter) approved of this. As the war won down the desire to put women back into their “place” took hold, and the advent of the Comic Code pretty much sealed the deal. Ever since then female characters have been trying to dig their way out of the “approved” boxes they’ve put in to varying degrees of success.

But this book isn’t about their decline, it’s about celebrating the colorful and strong women of the Golden Age, most of the characters whom time has forgotten. Characters like Lady Satan, Pussy Katnip, (and get your mind out of the gutter, she is an anthropomorphized cat) Maureen Marine and The Sorceress of Zoom. Madrid presents them to us in their 40s glory, providing a full representative strip of each character, some two dozen plus characters in all. While the writing and the art may be rough by modern standards, one can’t help but feel some admiration for these ladies. You’re bound to find at least one or two that you’d like to see if you can find more of.

While I personally would have loved a bit more history, this is anthology that knows what it wants to do (remind us how cool women were once allowed to be) and it does it splendidly. Comic lovers period should give this a look, it gave me that sense of joy that I had when I first discovered comics, and it should for you too.

Verdict: Buy it (note: I strongly suggest picking this up in paperback form over the electronic edition. It’s very picture heavy and it might not be the easiest read on smaller electronic devices)

Available: Now


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