Miss Fury was first printed months before Wonder Woman in 1941, two years after Batman and three years after Superman. She was the first female crimefighter keeping humankind safe, created, and drawn by a woman cartoonist.
Miss Fury was the first heroine to be drawn and written by a woman named June “Tarpé” Mills, which is one of many reasons why she is so inspirational many decades later even though she and her creator have been criminally ignored. Mills created the stories of the original “Cat Woman” for a full decade in newspaper strips, with the character also licensed at the time for a Marvel comic book.
Mills (1918-1988) dropped her first name when signing the strip to disguise her gender. Miss Fury was so popular she was painted on World War II planes. In 1947, when Marla was depicted wearing a bikini in a strip, 37 papers dropped the feature in protest.
I had no idea Miss Fury existed. I asked family and friends and they had no idea who she was which is very strange considering how popular she was back then. Some thought she was a copy of cat woman when it’s the other way around. In the graphic novel “Miss Fury: Joy Division” Billy Tucci tells the story which picks up from the original golden age continuity with the original characters, so I should know the basics about Miss Fury before reading the book. Right? So here we go…
A TIMELESS HEROINE
It is quite astonishing to see in recent years how female stories are presented. It’s either a gender swap or the denigration of the male lead to elevating the woman’s role in the story. It gives you the impression that there is no inspiration to create new female characters or to even search for old characters that have never been adopted into the mainstream like Miss Fury.
In my initial search for more pulp heroes, I came across this character and I was lucky to find the campaign. Imagine my surprise learning that she was the first superheroine created after Batman and Superman. Describing Miss Fury in these times would be like telling the story of the original cat woman. An image that has been taken over by DC. Maybe that is why she has been kept hidden?
Her creator, JuneTarpé Mills, was a pioneer herself, being almost certainly the first woman to work on a superhero strip and certainly the first to create one. She broke the gender barrier by creating Miss Fury in the world of comics.
She was involved in some of the very earliest comic book series in the late 1930s such as the Ivy Menace, Drama of Hollywood, and The Purple Zombie for titles such as Centaur’s Amazing Mystery Funnies and StarComics. I would imagine her to be the perfect candidate to adopt her work into the mainstream as it complies with almost all checkmarks of the mainstream narrative except for a few things.
Mills proved that a woman could write and draw a comic strip with a female lead that is feminine, is into fashion and embraces motherhood, and still be awesome at kicking ass. Sadly, femininity and motherhood are not admirable traits for a female lead to have these days in films, video games, or other media.
THE ORIGINS OF MISS FURY
Miss Fury’s first newspaper appearance was in April 1941, and she is considered the first major costumed superheroine in comics history, beating the likes of Wonder Woman, the Black Cat, and many others into print. Years later she became the inspiration for Marvel’s Hellcat.
Miss Fury was a skilled athlete, acrobat, climber, and fighter. The character’s real identity is wealthy socialite Marla Drake who was a smart amateur detective and very wealthy. She has no direct superpowers but gains increased strength and speed when she puts on a special masked skintight catsuit when fighting crime. She sometimes used the spiked heels on her costume as weapons in addition to using a whip. But how did she obtain the suit?
Marla discovered that another girl was wearing the same outfit to a party. Her housemaid, Francine, suggested that to prevent embarrassment, Marla could wear an African panther skin with claws that her uncle had willed to her. Her friend, Albino Jo, advised against wearing the voodoo (black magic) ceremonial outfit, meant to be worn only by a witch doctor. She doesn’t listen and puts it on anyways. However, Marla never made it to the party. On the way, she instead ends up helping to recapture Killer Dawson, an escaped murderer.
Marla learns that the skin-tight ceremonial suit has strange powers which enabled its wearer to accomplish whatever mission he or she set out upon”. Suddenly, she is outsmarting and outfighting tough guys in suits and trilbies, and her crime-busting exploits are hitting the gossip columns. The press calls her “Black Fury” though she later corrected them that she should be called “Miss Fury.”
Having enjoyed her first case, Marla continued as a costumed crime-fighter fighting enemies such as General Bruno Beitz, Baroness Erica von Kampf, Miguel Rico, Dr. Diman Saraf, and Whiffy.
Miss Fury’s vigilantism soon got the attention of Detective Carey who sought to find her true identity and if her alliances were with or against the law and later fell in love with Marla.
One ongoing plotline was Marla’s adoption of Darron, the abandoned son of Erica Von Kampf and Gary Hale (Marla’s former fiancé). Marla was unaware of the toddler’s parentage but, she rescued him in Brazil from the brutal guardianship of Diman Saraf, who planned to use him in a deadly experiment. She was initially denied custody of the boy because she was a single woman, who broke her heart but, her courage and heroism in the rescue eventually won over the authorities.
Marla was then, for the duration of the series, an unmarried woman with a child: a rather progressive scenario for a 1940s adventure strip, and because she had a job with a clothing designer, she enlisted the help of her friend Francine, who offered to be Darron’s governess after losing her job in a war plant because of returning servicemen, a significant issue facing working women after the war.
Apparently, there are also stories about her operating as a criminal, stealing whatever valuables she found interesting. There is also the discussion on whether she is a superheroine or not. She doesn’t have superpowers but gets them from her costume. If Batman and IronMan, who also get their enhanced abilities in battle from their costumes and gadgets, are recognized as superheroes I don’t see it can’t be applied to Miss Fury as well.
Overall, Marla was a proudly fearless modern, proto-feminist heroine. She had various handsome suitors who pined for her rather than the other way around; she had a job in fashion design; and she even adopted her arch-enemies toddler and became a single, unmarried mother, a status that was unheard of in comics at the time. According to one of the creators, Marla stood for all the women of that period who had a role in the reconstruction of their country while the men were at war.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
It is pure luck that I came across this crowdfunding campaign. The creative team has a passion for WW2 action and a love of the importance of this character and her creator which is inspirational. An incredible group of creators helps to bring this groundbreaking icon back to comics in an amazing 100-page original graphic novel.
The book was written by WW2 historian and multiple Eisner nominated Billy Tucci (SHI & Sgt Rock). The book is beautifully illustrated featuring the stunning artwork of artist Maria Laura Sanapo (Red Sonja & Vampirella Meet Betty & Veronica), Edu Menna, Leandro Oliveira, and Gardenio Lima. Ceci de la Cruz, Sigmund Torre, and Takako Sono were the colorists on the team. Mindy Lopkin worked on the lettering and Asha Kishna was a guest cover artist. The book was published by Dynamite, an established and well-known comic book publisher.
Not being much into the American comic book world I didn’t know anyone from the team, but I am glad to have discovered that there are great stories out there about women created by such talented artists that pay respect to the original creator.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Miss Fury: Joy Division” is a 136-page graphic novel for mature audiences. It takes place during World War II and brings up the cruel reality of war. At times it is difficult to process, especially when you think about the recent wars that have taken place, the atrocities that happened, and the unaccountability of the perpetrators.
I chose the hard-cover version, and it is amazing! The quality is outstanding. From all the books I received so far, it is in competition with Charlie’s London on the quality front and the attention to detail. Like Charlie’s London, this book is numbered! It is the second graphic novel that I received with page numbers. It may seem like a trivial thing, but I insist that it does help to have page numbers when you’re reading.
The book has on the cover a black, white, and red illustration by Billy Tucci. The spine of the book is beautifully printed. On the back, there is a quote from Billy Tucci and brief summary of the book with the silhouette of Miss Fury.
THE STORIES OF MISS FURY
The book tells the main story “Miss Fury: Joy Division” and a short story about “The Black Furies: Nâqam.”
The “Miss Fury: Joy Division” delves into the eponymous deep dark secret of the Nazi regime during the summer of 1944. Though the 1940s, several Nazi concentration camps featured brothels wherein Jewish females (young teens and adults) were forced to work as prostitutes for soldiers.
The story starts on the 4th of July, after an incident in the city, Marla is chosen as an undercover agent for a mission to apprehend one of the dangerous Nazis in charge of the Joy division: Oberfuhrer Wolfram Prussia. She is partnered with Baroness Erica von Kampf, who she is not a fan of. Apparently, they have a past of being enemies. The baroness is the madam in charge of the Joy Division. On the ground, she meets the imprisoned women and gets inspired by their stories to finish the mission. They join forces to take down Oberfuhrer and get into costume for it. The baroness outfit is a leopard print, and all the other women get the black costume. They get ready for action. As things get heated during their battle the Baroness is tempted to take justice into her own hands. Will Marla be able to stop her?
The short story “The Black Furies: Nâqam,” is a tale about the established team of Back Furies with the baroness in charge going around Europe killing Nazis in a mission of merciless revenge.
On a curious note, everyone Marla talks to in New York seems to know who she is. I got the impression that she is more like Tony Stark being comfortable with some people knowing her secret identity, unlike Bruce Wayne who prefers secrecy.
During the narration of the stories, there are several references made to the strips, and translations were provided were required. I found this to be extremely helpful which I appreciated very much.
By the end of the book, we will find additional art with the Miss Fury Paper Dolls section and a gallery with all the covers of the campaign.
EXPERIENCE WITH THE CROWDFUNDING PROJECT
When I finally decided to back this project last year, I was only able to back one of the simple tiers. I chose the book tier with hardcover variant even though I liked the main Tucci cover and the Krishna cover. In addition to the book, I also got some additional rewards known as stretch goals which include one beautiful, limited edition art print, a nose art trading card, and the limited-edition Maria Sanapo trading card. And there is also a signed book card by Billy Tucci.
The tracking number for the package was timely provided through the feature on Indiegogo and the package arrived with no issues. The packaging itself was well done. When I finally got it, everything was still in perfect condition.
THOUGHTS ON WAR
For me, this book was a difficult read because of its theme. The consequences of any war are heartbreaking, and it is even more heartbreaking seeing the evil from WW2 slowly but steadily gaining power again. These times when a potential world war is on the rise both sides (Ukraine and Russia) have bad actors with the will and ability to cause destruction. Both sides can sensor, control media, and create propaganda and one side already put this into practice. People are easily manipulated into believing anything when this happens.
Empowering a group of radicals since the nineties with weapons and knowledge resulted in 9/11. One would think people would learn from past mistakes, but it is not the case it seems. It does not help when the term Nazi has been thrown around so much it lost its meaning. The potential significant rise of the Nazi ideology seems to be inevitable with people in positions of power in the West cheering them on and willing to assist them to become more powerful and do the work they do not want to do.
If it was a fictional story the Black Furies would be going after those that oppressed and killed the minorities in their own country after a protest movement that turned into a massacre that lead to a coup that toppled down a democratically chosen government. The installed interim government then proceeded to jail the opposition, persecution of its followers, and banning of opposite views. Them being Nazis which the furies despise would be an incentive for them to complete their mission. The threat of war is not fictional and should be taken very seriously. I’m hoping common sense prevails on both sides despite all the propaganda. War is not the answer because everybody will lose in the end.
As the reader, you can see and feel the dedication and love for this project with the attention to detail on the captivating art and the engaging stories. As of date, the crowdfunding campaign is still in demand, so you still have a chance to get a copy of “Miss Fury: Joy Division.”
Marla is an interesting complex character. Being as wealthy as she is, she cares enough for others and takes on such a daunting task of being a vigilante on her shoulders. The adoption storyline got my attention and illustrated what kind of woman she is to take on the responsibility of being a single mother, something that was not well-seen at the time. However many women became single mothers after the war.
There are more stories about Miss Fury which I’ll be on the lookout for as I’m curious to learn more in detail what the references meant in this book mainly “The Miss Fury Sensational Sundays Archive Collections”.
Miss Fury deserves the attention and I hope to see more of her soon. Let’s keep #FURYSTRONG.
Up next my eyes will be on “TheVeilWalker #1”