Why You Need to Know the Name Tanya Spears

Why You Need to Know the Name Tanya Spears

Tanya Spears is a 17-year old scientist with super speed, strength, and flight who is joining up with the Teen Titans in the sixth issue. There’s a new Power Girl in DC!

Now, we all know that die-hard comic boys hate when characteristics of their favorite characters change, especially race or costume. Or at least there’s always uproar when a woman gets a little more clothing or a white character is played by another race. But when it’s the other way around, it’s ignored or swept under the rug. For example, many comic book fans critiqued the casting choice of the black actor Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch in the newest Fantastic Four movie.

In general, sexism and racism have intersected for a long time in comics. The first three big-name lady superheroes were the “Amazonian” Wonder Women: Sheena of the “Zambouli tribe,” and Fantomah, whose catchphrase was “Mystery Woman of the Jungle.”  All three were white but somehow transplanted onto the African continent, and all possessed a brutal strength, a characteristic in line with Americans’ fascination and romanticism of tribal life.

Even though women make up 47% of comic readers, they are told their opinions aren’t important enough to change how sexist female characters are depicted. Women have been bringing up the issues with the original Power Girl’s costume for a while and have even depicted what a man in her outfit would look like. However, DC Comics has actually listened this time.

How’d they get around the usual crazy complaints? The alternate universes that DC has introduced into their comics have given the writers a loophole! Blonde, white Power Girl must return to her original universe after an explosion at Starr Industries, where she was working with Tanya. In her absence, she’s left her abilities and her money to Tanya. The explosion that sent the previous Power Girl back to her world also killed Tanya’s mother; this spurs Tanya to use her powers to protect anyone from losing someone important to them and fight villains.

Here’s why this new super girl is super important: She’s a young black girl who, at 17, is already a postdoc fellow at MIT. She’s got super strength (take that, boys), and she’s wearing pants (DC has a history of thinking that their girls can fight in skirts). She’s also gotten to ditch the “boob window” of the previous comic, which is so much more suitable for a crime-fighting lady.

Three cheers for diverse representation! Let’s hope DC can keep this up.

Cover image courtesy of Vixen Varsity.