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I just read Daughters of the Dragon, simply out of curiosity about one of the only female crime fighting duo’s (in comic books or any other entertainment medium.) While I’m a bit of an old Iron Fist fan, and I do enjoy reading comics about female superheroes, and Misty and Colleen are a creation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne (who did some very weird but very good things with strong, sexy women in other books, including the marvelous Dark Phoenix Saga) Daughters of the Dragon was the only female crime-fighting duo book I could find. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m hoping that perhaps some of you reading this can help me, but they were one of the only crime-fighting, female duos that I could think of in any entertainment medium, outside of that old ’80’s tv series; Cagney and Lacey.
Last week, after my friend Stephanie and I stumbled out of the movie Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, I joked that I could probably be Watson to her Holmes. Since Stephanie is a woman who takes her superhero-self seriously (she does kung-fu and Japanese drumming, as well as working out all the time and doing regular yoga – it is all very intimidating, or inspiring, I’m not sure which) she asked me if there were actually any female versions of Holmes and Watson in comic books, movies or literature. Steph’s criteria were specific, these female duos had to be crime fighting, (i.e. not simply the female buddy film Thelma and Louise, since that’s all focused firmly on dealing with their relationships with men.) I asked a lot of people and this is the list I got:
1. Cagney and Lacey – sort of a weirdly Starsky and Hutch thing, I never dug this, but my growing up, my feminist girlfriends like it.
2. Daughters of the Dragon - so after an evening of research, I turned up the 2006, 6-issue collected trade, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Khari Evans.
That’s the bloody entire list, two things! Do you have any more? I’d really LOVE to hear more suggestions from you, anything with a Batman and Robin feel would work too, they don’t have to be peers in the way that Holmes and Watson are. I think that a duo create so much more space for character development and camaraderie, I like the sort of back-and-forth dialogue that the intimacy of a same-sex duo engenders. It would be so sad if there aren’t more of these women working together. Hard-bitten loners are fine, it seems like a lot of the crime-fighting females work alone, but then there isn’t as much space for human warmth and interaction as there is with a partner.
Lucky for me I found a second hand copy of Daughters of the Dragon and it was pretty good. I can see why I didn’t pick it up when it came out and I do remember seeing it on the shelves and rejecting it. The reasons are two-fold. First, the covers had the usual, Catwoman-style up-the-arse type of action shots of women with nice tits and no bras which made me think “This is a book aimed at young boys looking for wank material.” Not that this is always a turn-off for me, but there is more to the book than the artwork. Now usually, I’m the first person to look for the same artist on the cover as there in for the interior. However, in this instance, the covers didn’t quite communicate the tongue-in-cheek tone of the writing. The whole mood of the book was so wild and funny, it was more like a sort of female, modern take on something like the Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I would love to have seen that reflected in the covers.
I did a quick bit of research and found some great examples of what I’m talking about (above right and left.) These book covers and posters from Goldfinger and Live and Let Die would make a terrific leaping off point, with all of the style and verve of that era. An example of the perfect modern take on this genre, with bags of humor, sass and sex-appeal is this painting Bill Sienkiewicz did of the Venture Brothers in action (below right.) These are all of the elements that are so dominant in Daughters of the Dragon too, and I think that Evan’s could have had a go at creating something a little more stylized in the covers, to reflect the interior’s snappy dialogue and outrageous scenarios, as well as the action-packed art.
Once inside I was very happy to have stumbled on this. The book was filled with plenty of humor, marvelous incongruous literary references, distinct voices for different characters, and a lot of really disastrous villains. Personally, I could maybe have done with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing wearing bras sometimes, but what the hell, it is a comic books and at least they had very different bodies from each other. Unlike some artists, Evans and Palmiotti did such a good job of creating two completely different women that it would have been easy to tell them apart, even if the book had been in black and white. As it was the colors were pretty sumptuous, adding atmosphere and never detracting from the action (always tricky.)
I could read a lot more books like this, it’s a shame I missed it when it came out in 2006, but then again it isn’t as if comic books are famed for their massively aggressive advertising campaigns. In future I’ll be keeping an eye out for more like this. Daughters of Dragon was much more fun than I expected. The fact is, unlike loners, Misty and Colleen are a team and teams by their nature can have more fun than hard-bitten loners, which is another good reason to make more female crime-fighting duos! We like fun too.
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