Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trixie Belden: Tomboy Detective

Early in the '80s, I "discovered" Trixie Belden. I was never into Nancy Drew (whose first book was published in 1930), but I devoured the Trixie books.

The Trixie books first came out in 1948. The last book was published in 1986. Altogether, the series has 39 titles. I spent my allowance and birthday money on them, reading them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. When I was older, I sold them all in a garage sale... that was foolish of me. When my daughter was born, I started recollecting them, not with any particular urgency. I still don't have them all.

What I found so engaging about Trixie was her impishness, her tomboyishness, her utter lack of perfection -- things that made me not like Nancy. The stories are pretty timeless, too. When I was reading them as a kid, I had no sense that those first books were more than four decades old by the time I read them.

Even her little cameo there distinguishes her from Nancy. She's freckled and her hair's untidy.
Nancy is like Detective Barbie in that version on the right.
Trixie is so much more relatable.
I just finished a fantastic online class about gender in comic books. As classes like that tend to do, it has made me look critically at gender in other media, as well. It's made me think about comic books, and lack of female representation. It's made me think about who would make a good heroine and role model for girls. And this afternoon, it occurred to me that Trixie Belden and the Bob-whites would make an awesome comic book. (Assuming the illustrator could manage not to make her all sexy -- because that would be gross and wrong.) Unfortunately, it looks like Random House has the license for the books. They've reprinted the first 14, but none of the others since 2006, at least not that I can determine. So while it's a huge publishing house with lotsa lawyers, it's not been a successful purchase for them from Golden Books (or they would have reprinted the entire series), so maybe they'd be more willing to OK a comic book. *shrug*

Note to anyone out there who wants to take this on: I would totally buy a Trixie Belden comic book (so long as you didn't turn her into a sexpot).

When I was reading the series as a kid, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a detective, and I was more than a little in love with Jim. She was spunky and smart, fearless and impetuous... and likeable. She was real to me, relatable on a level that Nancy Drew never was. (I dislike Nancy for the same reasons I dislike Superman: that kind of goody-goody perfection is just annoying.) I think heroines like that are in pretty short supply. I know good heroines are scarce in comic books, and goodness knows there aren't many options for comic books aimed at young adult girls.

Now I know I'm likely in the minority here, I know that Nancy is a lot more popular as girl detectives go, but our girls need Trixie.

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