Jul. 7, 2006

Female Comic Book Superheroes

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

FRIDAY, 7 JULY, 2006
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Poem: "Female Comic Book Superheroes" by Jeannine Hall Gailey from Becoming the Villainess. © Steel Toe Books. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Female Comic Book Superheroes

are always fighting evil in a thong,
pulsing techno soundtrack in the background
as their tiny ankles thwack

against the bulk of male thugs,
They have names like Buffy, Elektra, or Storm
but excel in code decryption, Egyptology, and pyrotechnics.

They pout when tortured, but always escape just in time,
still impeccable in lip gloss and pointy-toed boots,
to rescue male partners, love interests, or fathers.

Impossible chests burst out of tight leather jackets,
from which they extract the hidden scroll, antidote, or dagger,
tousled hair covering one eye.

They return to their day jobs as forensic pathologists,
wearing their hair up and donning dainty glasses.
Of all the goddesses, these pneumatic heroines most

resemble Artemis, with her miniskirts and crossbow,
or Freya, with her giant gray cats.
Each has seen this apocalypse before.

See her perfect three-point landing on top of that chariot,
riding the silver moon into the horizon,
city crumbling around her heels.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, born in Kaliste, Bohemia (1860).

It's the birthday of painter Marc Chagall, born in a small town in the Russian Empire that is now part of Belarus (1887), to a family of devout Russian Jews. He said: "When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art."

It's the birthday of poet Margaret Walker, (books by this author) born in Birmingham, Alabama (1915). She grew up in the South during a time of extreme racial segregation. Walker took refuge in her father's huge library of classic literature, reading poets like Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. She went to Northwestern University, and when she graduated in 1935, she found a job as a junior writer for the Works Progress Administration.

In 1942, Walker published her first collection of poems, For My People. The book sold unusually well for a first collection, and Walker became the first black woman to win the Yale Younger Poets Series Award. The book stayed in print for more than thirty years, and it became an inspiration for activists in the Civil Rights movement during the '50s and '60s.

In 1965, Walker published her best-known work, the novel Jubilee. It's a long novel about life in the American South from before the Civil War to the days of Reconstruction. The main character is a black woman who is the daughter of a slave and a white plantation owner in Georgia. The novel became a best-seller.

It's the birthday of the popular historian and biographer David McCullough, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1933). He started out as a reporter for Sports Illustrated magazine, but he took a job at the United States Information Agency writing for a magazine aimed at Arab readers. One of his first articles was about the Battle of Gettysburg. He'd never been much interested in history, but he found that he loved digging into old documents, and learning just how lively the past could be.

His first two books, The Jonestown Flood (1968) and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (1972), were moderately successful. But his big commercial break through when he decided to write a biography about Harry Truman.

He spent ten years working on the book, and he tried to completely enter Truman's world. He began to acquire Truman's habits, taking a brisk walk every morning, just as Truman did. He spent months in Truman's hometown: Independence, Missouri. For one of the most important turning points of Truman's life, he retraced Truman's steps through the capitol the night Franklin Roosevelt died and Truman was summoned to the White House to be told that he was now president.

The result was his book Truman (1992), one of the best-selling biographies ever published at the time. It spent forty-three weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and sold more than a million copies. Both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton read it while they were running for president that year, and they both claimed Truman was their presidential idol.

McCullough went on to surpass the sales of Truman with his book John Adams, which came out in 2001 and sold two million copies.

David McCullough said, "History is about life. It's awful when the life is squeezed out of it and there's no flavor left, no uncertainties, no horsing around. It always disturbed me how many biographers never gave their subjects a chance to eat. You can tell a lot about people by how they eat, what they eat, and what kind of table manners they have."

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