By Zach Oat
Superhero comics are often seen as the purest form of escapism. In them, men can fly and fight and do heroic things and meet girls and have a secret identity—you know, all the stuff men secretly want to do. Women…not so much. In fact, outside of comic books specifically written for women, female characters in superhero books have a pretty tough time of it. And by “tough time,” I mean horrible, horrible things happen to them—so much so that the term "Women in Refrigerators" has been coined to describe the phenomenon (Curious why? Wait until you get to #2). Granted, in most comics violence is the norm and people get hurt, but these aren’t just superheroine fights gone bad—these are ten of the most egregious examples of female characters (many of them not super at all) being hunted down and violated, especially by the men writing them. (Note: If it's not a superhero book, it's not in here. Otherwise most of this list would be all R. Crumb and Sin City comics.)
10. Gwen Stacy (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Possibly the most famous death in comics, Gwen Stacy was dropped off of the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin, and when Spidey tried to save her, her neck snapped, killing her. It gave Peter Parker a much-needed new supply of angst, which he carried around with him for a while, at least until he hooked up with swinging go-go dancer red-head Mary Jane. On a side note, MJ was the one dropped off the bridge in the movie, and of course, Spidey saved her. Then, in Spider-Man 3, they dropped Gwen Stacy off a building, and Spidey saved her, too! Either they've learned the error of their woman-hating ways, or everybody's neck gets snapped in Spider-Man 4.
9. Linda Park (The Flash)
Flash baddie Professor Zoom may have had a silly name, but there's nothing silly about plain old Zoom, the villain's successor. Originally a partially paralyzed criminal profiler, superfast psychopath Zoom wants the Flash to be a better hero by understanding tragedy, so he decides to inject some tragedy into the Flash's life, specifically by killing the hero's wife, Linda Park. While his attempt failed, his battle with the Flash created a sonic boom, injuring Linda and aborting the twin fetuses in her uterus. Granted, the Flash later reversed that damage during another fight with Zoom by traveling back in time, and Linda ultimately gave birth to her children, who became superheroes themselves, but that's just marketing. The phrase to focus on here is "sonic boom abortion."
8. Psylocke/Betsy Braddock (Captain Britain Monthly)
Although she’s best known as the purple-haired X-Man Psylocke (okay, not that well-known—it’s not like she was in the movies or anything), before she joined the team she was a supporting character in Captain Britain. As the sister of Brian Braddock, she was next in line to replace him when he took a leave of absence from the role of Defender of England…unfortunately, that put her in the past of a gentleman named Slaymaster, who, despite his completely nonthreatening name, took it upon himself to gouge Betsy’s eyes out. She later got robot eyes from another dimension and her brother crushed Slaymaster’s head with a rock, but y’know, that doesn’t make it okay.
7. Black Cat (Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do)
The Black Cat could be called many things. Ripoff of DC's Catwoman? Uh, yeah, she's an acrobatic, cat-themed cat burglar. Spider-Man love interest? Sure, she's a shameless flirt, although she prefers it when he wears the costume. Victim of Kevin Smith's misguided sense of storytelling? You betcha. Smith earned accolades for his darker take on Daredevil (see below), and followed it up with a mini-series on the white-haired Cat, deciding that she needed something in her life that would explain her kinda weird behavior. So after having a drug dealer dope her with heroin and try to rape her, he reveals that she's already been raped once, in college. Was Smith trying to enlighten the public about how common rape is in this country? Sure. Was it a bold move for Marvel to make one of their main characters a rape victim? Absolutely. Does it suck to be Black Cat now? Uh-huh.
6. Debbie Harris (The Savage Dragon)
When Dragon met Debbie, she was a troubled young woman living with her mother in an apartment down the hall. One night, her mom locked her out to punish her, so Dragon invited Debbie to stay at his place, and they hooked up, despite Debbie seeming naive and kind of child-like and Dragon being a green guy with a fin on his head. The next morning, she went to answer a knock at Dragon’s door and was immediately shot point-blank in the head. The shooter was her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Dimple; Debbie’s mother had told him where Debbie was. Dragon became depressed after this, and did not get a new girlfriend for several issues. Debbie later came back as a zombie.