Female superheroines were made to counter the long standing domination of strong male leads in comics. These women were strong females for girls to look up to and realize that their gender does not inhibit them from making a profound impact on the world in the same way that society perceived men to make an impact in—through power and strength. Although these super heroines ultimately meant to empower women, there are scenes where they are not only beaten in a battle, but their defeat even seems to reflect images of male gender domination.
Wonder Woman is probably one of the most popular and respected superheroines of all time. She is portrayed as a strong female character capable of cooperation with her fellow superheroes and destruction of her enemies. Embedded between many heroic battle scenes, one panel in Ex-Patriate really stuck out to me as particularly disturbing. Although Green Lanterns are good, in this scene, The Green Lantern loses sight of this mentality and takes out his aggression on Wonder Woman, someone who should be his comrade. Initially, she fights him, but when she offers him her hand as a truce, he declines it, becoming more violent to her. As his anger and violence increase, she acts in a quite submissive manner, not retaliating at all until The Green Lantern stops on his own accord.
Wonder Woman lets him take his frustration out on her in the form of physical aggression. Although she has the power to fight back, Wonder Woman takes the abuse from him. To me, it seems abuse is an appropriate term because it is no longer a fight once Wonder Woman ceases all retaliation. Many may argue that this is because she simply does not want to fight him—she feels that she should not fight back in order to prove to the Green Lantern that they are on the same side. By withdrawing her own violence, she is proving that she is strong enough to not fight against someone who is good, even if it means she should suffer physical harm herself.
The art that portrays this submission though has undertones that reflect domestic violence. She stands sulking submissively as the Green Lantern, dominating her small frame in stature, swings his fist into the air yelling “FALL!” The next panel shows splatters of her blood. Her battered and bloody face is an unsettling image, with her expression telling of physical pain, but unparalleled emotional strength. In the next panel she extends her hand, offering a truce to Green Lantern again. Watching Wonder Woman be beat mercilessly and seeing her bloody face stirs feelings of sympathy in readers, with the reason for this perhaps being that she is a woman. It makes me wonder if the situation would ever be reversed, with Wonder Woman beating on a submissive man. Somehow, it seems that gender stereotypes prevailed even in a comic meant to empower women by showing a woman’s stereotypical compassion to cause her to fall victim to a beating.