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Committed: Crime Fighting Female Duos – Daughters of the Dragon

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.

29 Comments

Dirty Pair are the first duo that springs to my mind.

The early Birds of Prey stories, both the single issues, limited series and regular series, were straightforward crime/spy stories with a superhero twist. It starred two great, interesting characters mixed in with Bond-style (implied) sex and violence.

TNT has Rizzoli and Isles. It’s not very good, but it’s about as good as Cagney and Lacey, if I recall the very few episodes of that show I saw back in the day. Chick cop, chick medical examiner, crimes. Done!

Early Birds of Prey
The new Worlds’ Finest team (Huntress and Power Girl)
Xena and Gabrielle
Batwoman and Bat-Girl
The new Batwoman and Flamebird
Power Girl and Terra form the last series
Zatanna and Misty from Seven Soldiers
Hawk and Dove (briefly)
Buffy and Faith

Important omission of the word “female” in the first sentence there.

let’s not forget ELECTRO-WOMAN and DYNA GIRL

Also, the TV female duos of Snoops and The Huntress.

2nd Electra Woman & Dyna-Girl!

Daughters of the Dragon was a fun series. Or it would be if I weren’t so bothered by how out of character the two were. They were _nothing_ like that back in the 1970s. They took themselves quite seriously indeed.

To this day I feel that the creators were recycling a “Body Doubles” proposal that DC must have rejected.

No one mentioned Power Girl and Huntress?

Xena and Gabrielle is a big one, but there’s also the old Lynda Carter/Loni Anderson TV show Partners in Crime.

Also, I just want to say that I really, really love Daughters of the Dragon and the follow-up Heroes for Hire. Prolly no coincidence that PG & Terra was by the same writers.

“Daughters of the Dragon was a fun series. Or it would be if I weren’t so bothered by how out of character the two were. They were _nothing_ like that back in the 1970s.”

How dare their characters shift over the course of three decades! Completely unacceptable.

Another example (albeit not a great one) is Catseye and Dare from Amalgam Comics’ “Assassins”. They’re pure 90s T&A, but a female crimefighting duo, nonetheless.

Oh, and Spider-Girl and Scarlet Spider (Felicity Hardy) worked together for a while, I think.

In-story, they shifted what, some five years? Not enough time for such a complete u-turn of their attitudes.

Baker Street. A punk take on Sherlock Holmes from the late 80s, by Guy Davis and Gary Reed. Had a female punk named Sharon Ford in the Holmes role and an American exchange student, Susan Prendergast, for a Watson. Two stories, ten issues, both traded at one point.

Copy Cat. Mid-90s movie with Sigourney Weaver as a psychologist and Holly Hunter as a detective tracking down a serial killer.

Warren Ellis, GLOBAL FREQUENCY (Miranda Zero & Aleph)
Brian Michael Bendis, TAKIO (Taki & Olivia)

Oracle and the Stephanie Brown Batgirl are another recent example. I mean, a recent canceled example, but still. I think it’s close enough to count. I always thought the Batgirl title was meant to apply to both women, making them title characters.

What about the Gilmore Girls. They fought crime, right?

I love Daughters of the Dragon. I agree with you about the art, though. It was kind of embarrassing. Overall the series is pretty fun.

@SF: I was totally going to mention Baker Street–good series, worth hunting down.

I thought J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl was absolutely good for this kind of story. It was essentially a feminized Austin Powers, but it had, like Sonia mentioned, the right amount of human warmth and camraderie for an (almost) all-female team.

The Nomad and Arana back up stories in Ed Brubaker’s “Captain America” from a year or two ago is another example of a female duo.

Oh, and do Buffy and Willow count?

I never got to see Daughters Of The Dragon. It came out either right before or during the time I started buying comics again, and I never heard of it until after it was gone. I haven’t ever come across it in the back issues since then. I did get the first issue of Heroes For Hire, and I liked the character stuff, but I didn’t like the basic premise of them working for Stark to hunt down fugitive heroes.

I’m having trouble thinking of any female crime-fighting duos. I’m certain I read something of the sort in a couple of children’s books when I was a kid, but nothing I clearly remember.

Does anyone know of any Japanese series of that type? It sounds like something they would do there.

A Japanese series would be as Algeria mentioned up top, the Dirty Pair.

Also, from the Stratemeyer perspective, the Dana Girls (aka, the Hardy Boys, but girls).

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency springs to mind. It’s a series of novels (later adapted into a BBC/HBO TV series) about Botswana’s first female private investigator and her equally-female assistant. Pretty good books, if you don’t mind black people.

I don’t suppose Women’s Murder Club meets the criteria? That’s technically about four women, but combined they still only do the work of one, maybe two male detectives, so I think it should count.

daniel the demon cleaner

January 19, 2012 at 12:55 am

Gunsmith Cats
I’m not really a manga/anime guy, but I’m sure there is a crapload of that sort of stuff in Japan.

Also, Feds, a comedy starring Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross, and it’s brilliant. Brilliant, I say.

Would it be tacky to mention my own webcomic, Lady Spectra & Sparky? :D
http://www.webcomicsnation.com/jkcarrier/ladyspectra/series.php

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