Thursday, September 17, 2015


At least he has breeding.
She's not the Veronica Lake-lookalike who debuted as a backup in the pages of National Periodical's Boy Commandos way back in the dire days of World War II, but she sure seems to be angling for that retro vibe. Rather, she's a swinging Seventies' liberated career woman whose primary concern continues to be foreign threats to the this star-spangled nation.

Misandry is real.
Debuting in Charlton Comics' E-Man vol.1 No.5 (November 1974, "Liberty Belle in Freedom's Star"), Liberty Belle was the creation of the team of Joe Gill and Steve Ditko, although I'd bet cash money that the costume design has its origins in someone else's sketchbook. It's unusual enough that it's lacking the weird angles, asymmetry and off-the-cuff color scheme of most Ditko designs, but that it otherwise resembles a pretty generic patriotic superhero costume makes it absolutely unique in the catalog of Ditko designs.

In her cape and bandanna-style mask, Liberty Belle is America's top-ranking secret agent (that outfit's a little less-than-espionage ready, to my mind). Outside of the costume, she's glamorous, jet-setting Caroline Dean, a tough-as-nails businesswoman fronting her own fashion empire and taking no guff from male chauvinists of all stripes. In the first few pages of her sole adventure, Caroline wipes the floor with a macho mafiosa who's intent on moving in on her business, puts a two-star general on blast, beats the living tar out of a Soviet double-agent and then takes his place on the American space mission he'd otherwise infiltrated, against the wishes of the rest of the crew, and generally looks fabulous doing it.

As far as the readers are aware, Caroline possesses no super-powers or gimmicked weapons. She gets through her five page backup with copious backhands and boots to the face (and some help from the models in her employ, who might be karate experts or something). Not that she needs much more, as the last page of the story finds her floating about an American space station, preparing to knock the stuffing out of incoming space pirates.

It's about ethics is astronauting.
The very last caption of Liberty Belle's sole outing asks the readers to write in and let Charlton know if they ought to give Liberty Belle her own book. Having skipped ahead, I can tell you that only one published letter even mentioned Liberty Belle, mostly to complain about her costume and to effectively approve the idea of her own book with a noncommittal shrug. The E-Man crowd can be terse, I suppose.

In fact, it didn't much seem like Gill nor Ditko were particularly "feeling" Liberty Belle as a character, having thrown everything at her except much of a personality or character. A fashionista magnate libber judo expert secret agent with a girl-squad of sidekicks tackling the mafia, Russian spies and space pirates in the course of five pages doesn't really promise much more than "panels will be filled with things," and Charlton was home to many more characters in whom Ditko had clearly invested significantly more.

There might still be time to write in!

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