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Representation of female war-time bravery in Australia’s Wanda the War Girl

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This article analyses from a gendered perspective aspects of form and cultural record relating to Wanda the War Girl (1943–1951), by artist Kath O’Brien – a Second World War strip for the (Sydney) Sunday Telegraph that was said to have been more popular with both adults and children than Superman. This was one of the first local comics to reflect a female point of view, combined with some vernacular characteristics, and the series is significant historically because the Second World War was also the first occasion on which Australian servicewomen existed. The welldressed adventuress and spy exemplified a new attitude towards women. Although she was a sexually provocative pin-up, Wanda the War Girl presented a form of female representation necessitated by the Second World War, which differed from earlier styles. The female character was powerful and productive: her bravery and attraction derived from her presence in male spheres. It is argued that by providing an interesting mosaic of 1940s attitudes, creator O’Brien’s support for the war effort has become a valid cultural record of the period.
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Keywords: Australia; Wanda the War Girl; comics; cultural record; gender; representation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Lincoln University

Publication date: 2011-09-08

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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