Home' LOTL : November 2004 Contents JESSICA ALBA IN DARK ANGEL, AND AS INVISIBLE WOMAN
EVELYN HARTOGH EXAMINES A LITTLE
KNOWN COMIC BOOK SHERO.
Jessica Alba, star of James Cameron's futuristic action series
Dark Angel, will play Susan Storm in 2005's Fantastic Four
movie. Alba, newly blonde for the role, will be windy air
apparent to her Fantastic companions, modelled on the four
elements: the solid as rock The Thing (Michael Chiklis); the fiery
Human Torch (Chris Evans); and the stretchy Mr Fantastic (Iaon
Gruffudd), who will apparently flow like water.
Sue is one of the founding members of the Fantastic Four.
When Mar vel comics first launched the title in 1961 she was
named Invisible Girl, and didn't mature into an Invisible
Woman until the 1980s. While initially Sue's invisibility was
clearly a metaphor for her shyness, she eventually evolved into
the most powerful member of the team.
Fictional depictions of the consequences of invisibility have
abounded since the publication of H.G. Well's The Invisible
Man in 1897 and the release of James Whale's movie adaptation
in 1933. During the 20th century, numerous movies and books
have also depicted invisible women, sometimes as ghosts, but
more often invisible as the result of scientific experiments.
Invisible women tend to save innocent people and bring
criminals to justice. Such noble goals contrast with the men
who become quickly corrupted by the potential power of
invisibility. Women seem unperturbed by being unseen, perhaps
because in a patriarchal structure women's achievements are so
Women are routinely judged on their visual appearance, so
being invisible liberates them from scrutiny. Men, however, are
frustrated by invisibility, since they are used to being the centre
of attention in the public sphere. When these men experience
the anonymity of being invisible they disregard the law because
their crimes will have no witnesses. While there have been a few
modern television shows where invisible men are honest and
heroic, in general these are the exception which proves the rule.
There is a huge difference in the depiction of invisible men
and women; the men tend to go insane and use their power for
criminal purposes, while the women use their invisibility to help
people. Movies like 1940's The Invisible Woman show a smart
and resourceful woman thwarting gangsters and hoodlums.
Yet nowhere was the moral righteousness of invisible women
fleshed out and developed for over forty years than in the
character of Sue Storm. In her early incarnation as Invisible Girl,
she was pathologically shy, often captured and needing rescue,
and in many instances only used her powers when the boys
reminded her she had them!
Initially, her power of invisibility was so passive that, instead
of fan mail, the Invisible Girl got hate mail from readers who
believed that the Four would be better off without her.
Mar vel responded in 1963's Fantastic Four #11 where the
boys defend her contributions to the team. While her efforts in
battle are recounted, Sue's role as the nurturer was also
emphasised and The Thing comments, "If you readers wanna
see women fightin' all the time, then go see lady wrestlers!"
By the 1980s, when Sue finally became the Invisible
Woman, her powers increased and she was able to project
invisibility onto others and create impenetrable invisible shields.
Feminist critics responded positively once she became stronger
and briefly took over as leader of the team. However, Canadian
academic Lillian S. Robinson notes a general pattern in the
1970s and 80s, of female superheroes suddenly becoming the
equals of their male counterparts, and, with the exception of
Wonder Woman, no discussion is made about the shift in gender
roles and expectations.
Sue Storm's sudden transformation from timid transparent
girl to invincible invisible woman demonstrates the influence of
feminism on The Fantastic Four. Her evolution mirrors the
greater independence and status of women in western society
and could even be seen to metaphorically depict the many
unsung and unseen contributions of women.
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