The recent boom in film and television adaptations of comic books, especially those with female superheroes, makes DC Comics Covergirls a timely release. With text by comic writer Louise Simonson and a foreword by comic book artist Adam Hughes, this is a beautifully produced, fascinating look at how some of pop culture’s most iconic and powerful female figures have developed over the decades.

Wonder Woman, Lois Lane and Supergirl have the largest presence in the book, with other sections devoted to “Gotham Girls,” showcasing characters from the Batman universe, “Vertigo & Beyond,” with characters from the DC imprint focused on more adult content and “New Generation,” which covers more recent DC characters.

The art is of course the book’s strength, and its pages feature a wide variety of comic book art printed in colorful full-page spreads. It’s a pleasure just to flip through the book and take in the different styles that DC’s covergirls have been drawn in over the years. This variety can even be seen in the popular characters that make up the bulk of the book. It’s striking to see how many ways DC artists have visualized these powerful women over the years

The book’s accompanying text is well-written if perhaps lacking in-depth analysis, not far removed from curatorial text provided for exhibits in a museum that cover basic history and facts. This is fine, given the strength of the art and the dynamic velocity of Simonson’s prose, but it’s too bad the author didn’t take the opportunity to more fully address feminist themes and the sexual nature of these formidable characters.

While the feminist elements and cultural impact of these characters are left on the backburner, Simonson does emphasize the power that these characters have and how that power is represented in the artwork, which is a helpful counterpoint to images that depict strong women in skimpy outfits. An exploration of the role of feminism in geek culture would have been particularly useful, but this history of one comic book house’s female characters provides an instructive look at the evolution in popular representation of power and femininity

Finally, the focus on the popular triumvirate of Wonder Woman, Lois Lane and Supergirl raises the unaddressed question of race in comic books. It’s striking to see how white the faces of DC’s covergirls have been and continue to be.

Though its textual analysis may fall short, the presentation of this historic and entertaining artwork makes the DC Comics Covergirls a welcome coffee table book for any fan of comic art. As powerful women stake more of a claim in today’s pop culture environment, this book uses comic book heroines to show us how far women have come, and how far they still have to go.

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