Thursday, August 3, 2017


And you guys thought Wonder Woman was tough.

Gingham Fury boasts the hands-down best cowgirl name in fiction -- if not among cowpokes of all genders -- which is saying a lot considering the competition includes Jonah Hex, Phantom Rider, Quick Draw McGraw and, um, The Twinkie Kid. Maybe also the Frito Bandito, although it'll behoove me to keep the racism quotient on the low side so as to afford a sidebar a little later on about this story's villain.

A versatile type, she can beat 'em with a pistol ...
The Fury is, in fact, Birdie Phillips, which is another great name although the props for that one goes to her mom and pop and a book called "Weird Names For Your Western Baby" or something. For the most part, Gingham Fury is only a nickname, as she doesn't maintain much of a secret identity and is recognized on sight by crooks, largely for being real good at shooting people who annoy her.

In her sole appearance in Western Bandit Trails vol.1 No.3, Birdie defends her ranch -- the Double-B, at which she's gained a reputation among her cowhands as "the finest boss in the none!" -- from assorted rustlers and ne'er-do-wells, and also against gender stereotypes. Primarily she does this by shooting guns out of crooks' hands, pistol-whipping them savagely, riding her stallion "Nimrod" better than any man, and slugging dudes in the face with a rifle butt. She also does all of this in a gingham dress, for the most part (she briefly sports a figure-hugging movie-serial cowboy outfit), which is the western comic equivalent of "backwards and in heels." This is pretty par-for-the-course heroism from the creations of Matt Baker, whose most notable creation was the equally tough and uncompromising Phantom Lady. A team-up would have been sweet.

...And she can beat 'em with a rifle.
If there's one blatant flaw in the single story, it's Red Horse, the Native American henchman of rancher boss Augustine Chacon, who secretly works to swipe grazing land from hardworking independent ranchers while maintaining the illusion of helpful decency. Red Horse, for his part, is one of those "ugh" and "me wampum" types of stereotypes, and while that's revolting it's rewarding that so many villains in comics are racist capitalists who live and die by the optics of virtue signalling. There's a lesson for all of us there, although I'm pretty sure we've all silently agreed to never learn from it.

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