[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Exterminating Angel Press
Formats: Paperback
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble[/alert]

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics is an interesting look at villainesses that have long since vanished from comics and graphic novels. With names as outlandish as their heroic counterparts, the villainesses in these pages use their beauty, wits, and sheer determination to see their heists and evil machinations come to light. From seeking world domination through death and mayhem, or just seizing control of the world’s makeup supply, these villainesses come from every walk of life and seek just one thing – to end up on top.

Author Mike Madrid has broken up the villainesses in this book into four groups: Vicious Viragos, Beauties & Beasts, A Rainbow of Evil, and Crime Queens. The start of each section includes a short essay discussing comic tropes and trends of the time, even pointing out the sexist, misogynistic, and racist themes often prevalent in these early comics. However, Mike Madrid does a wonderful job of putting these issues in context by emphasizing how world and cultural events of the time held such sway over the type of comics created.

“Villains commit sins and perform forbidden acts. Watching them gives us a vicarious thrill, and when they are inevitably punished, we are reassured that society will always thwart the evildoers in our midst. Villains show us the road that we should not take: the consequences of unbridled desires.”

Each section in the book also includes a single story for each character taken from the original comics where these villainesses were portrayed, as well as a brief introduction to the villainess in question. This allows readers to not just read about these characters in a scholarly sense, but to enjoy reading the comic so they can see for themselves. Despite the age of the comics, and the sometimes poor quality of the original printing, the comics included in the book are all legible and engaging, although often far too short.

While some of the included villainesses were only considered evil for their race or upbringing, there are plenty of murderers, thieves, and seductresses within these pages. Vixens, Vamps & Vipers is a short study of Golden Age villainesses, and does a wonderful job of presenting the material. This is a great book for comic book fans, or anyone genuinely interested in learning more about the history of the medium.

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