CCI: Comic Character Investigation #331 mai 2013
[ENGLISH] This month: The Woman In Red. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
The Woman In Red
She requires a special introduction. Considered by some to be the world’s (well, the comic world’s anyway) very first superheroine she first splashed her colorful form in Thrilling Comics #2 published by Nedor Comics in 1940. Like many other heroes, you can find her under the Standard Better Nedor Comics heading all of who are in the public domain. Arguments have been made for anyone using the name being okay but the stories belong to anyone and they can be cool, most especially our sultry scarlet secret agent of the 1940’s.
A definitive creation of the Golden Age, she came forth from the mind and pen of Richard E. Hughes and the will and pencils of George Mandel (thank you, gentlemen). An homage to be sure is the acclimating of the character by stellar scribe Alan Moore to his pantheon at America’s Best Comics in our Modern Age.
The Woman in red’s secret identity is Peggy Allen and as we often find in earlier comics and its heroines she is acquainted with police enforcement, this time directly as a policewoman herself. This proves uneventful and unfulfilling to our would-be heroin who develops her crimson style by donning a red hood, long red coat and of course the requisite mask of many early female hero characters (sans Wonder Woman and Black Canary etc.).
Like the far-better-known Aquaman, The Woman in red never received a cover appearance in the Golden Age. But she was a regular in Thrilling Comics through issue #46. That’s quite a run of appearances for any character.
In her rejuvenation by Alan Moore, she becomes a completely different character except for the name. She is utilized in the fantastic Tom Strong series as a member of a superhero team called SMASH who were awakened 30 years after being in suspended animation after a Moon attack on our planet. Moore gave her this new affiliation and also changed her history to fill it out by having her find a ruby crystal which enables her to fly and fire energy blasts. Eventually being around this object turns her skin red making her title quite literal. This was Moore’s interpretation and utilization and he built what he could from raw materials. Yet it is the raw materials which are more exciting and intense.
At first glance it seems less than wondrous, a policewoman who wants to do more but The Woman in Red is more. She is called that but being red is not her identity. It’s her way of recreating herself into something that is intensely directed at criminals. She is not hiding in a dark alley. She is bold and obvious and is going to kick ass and she does it too. What Tom Strong found so many years later was a shade of that red, but the original never went to sleep. She did not rest. And it is not accidental that she made her stand through every year of the second World War. Even while Superman and Captain America were poster boys for the war effort, Peggy Allen in her form-fitting style was fighting the good fight too in her own way.
It is too bad that she never graced a cover in her original incarnation as what she was born to be, a superheroine born in wartime fighting for the ideas of that time. Fans today would appreciate a cover girl like that, punching out a bad guy or showing her in poster action, in all her red-garbed glory. The Woman in Red not have had any powers beyond her police skills and her will, but that would have been something to see. Sometimes though a character might burn too bright for us to look at them directly. Fortunately, we can sneak a peek at the inside of those Thrilling Comics issues and there, maybe, just maybe, our eyes can handle her glow.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.