L-r: Nightveil, Tara, unidentified large reptile, Ms. Victory, She-Cat. Artists: Mark Heike and Bill Black.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: AC Comics
First Appeared: 1984
Creators: Bill Black (writer/editor) and Mark Heike (artist)
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Superheroes have been the dominant genre in American comic books for two or three generations now, but styles in them come and go. During the 1980s, Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen led the way to a darker, "grim'n'gritty" style of superhero. But there seems to have still been a market for the older style, because that was also the decade when AC Comics, where the superheroes are bright in both coloring and outlook, became a successful publisher. AC's Femforce, for example, has been published …

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… continuously from the mid-1980s until well into the 21st century, a remarkable achievement for an American comic book published by neither Marvel nor DC.

Like other AC comics, the Femforce Special (written by AC editor/publisher Bill Black,drawn by artist Mark Heike, and published with a Fall, 1984 cover date) made use of long-defunct comic book characters from long-defunct publishers. It took place during World War II, and involved Miss Victory (originally from Holyoke, publisher of Catman and Captain Aero — she later updated her name to Ms. Victory), The Blue Bulleteer (formerly Phantom Lady, renamed following the threat of legal action — she was later re-renamed Nightveil), Rio Rita (originally, under the name Señorita Rio, published by Fiction House, whose Fantomah may have been the first female superhero), and several others of the period.

The following year, the Femforce series (set in the present day, using standard comic book means to bring in the old characters without aging them) began regular publication. Characters used in it at one time or another include Tara (who could have been a renamed version of any number of Sheena-inspired white jungle goddesses), Miss Masque (from Standard/Nedor publications, which also did The Black Terror and Supermouse), Buckaroo Betty (time-displaced daughter of The Haunted Horseman, AC's version of Magazine Enterprises' Ghost Rider), and quite a few others — a few of which were actually new characters.

Aside from a nostalgic look at old-time heroes, the most noticeable element of Femforce is what some older comic book fans call "good girl art". The rest of the world knows it as cheesecake — attractive women, posed to look pretty. Eye candy for boys. AC Comics has never descended to outright lewdness, but its female characters tend to be easy to look at, and that undoubtedly contributes to the company's success. It's no coincidence Femforce is its most popular title.

In other ways, the ladies of Femforce are treated with a reasonable level of respect — unlike their colleagues at the larger superhero publishers, which are notorious for humiliating their superhero women (e.g., Sun Girl). Femforce members tend to be brave, smart, capable, and everything else a proper hero should be. There are even female fans of the series, who look past the sexy exteriors and see worthy role models underneath.

For decades now, Femforce has been proving it has a winning formula — old-fashioned superhero action, combined with old-fashioned characters to draw in nostalgia-seeking superhero fans, and old-fashioned cheesecake to keep them happy.


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Text ©2005-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © AC Comics.