Action Girl #7 © & ™ 1996 Sarah Dyer. COVER ART BY SARAH DYER.
Erica Smith is a student at Hayley High, located in a small town on the West Coast, some time in the near future. A bit bored and frustrated with the usual issues surrounding adolescence and trying to make her way in life, Smith discovers the costume and personal effects of a forgotten crime-fighting female aviator of the 1940s, Action Girl. Inspired by the Amelia Earhart–like story of Action Girl’s life and bravery, Smith decides to assume the hero’s name and identity herself. Clad in the original Action Girl’s vintage jacket with an “AG” logo on the chest, tothe- knee wrestling boots, and flared skirt, Smith becomes the costumed crime fighter’s successor, leaving the confines of her bedroom hideout to fight against typical teenage angst. Her signature quote: “Action is everything!”
Action Girl was created by writer/artist Sarah Dyer, who started various Action Girl projects in 1992 “as a desire to see self-published work by women profiled.” Although Smith first appeared as a nonsuperhero alter ego of Dyer herself in various fanzines and Dyer’s own Action Girl Newsletter during the early 1990s, it was not until 1995 that Action Girl appeared as a superhero, in Dyer’s self-published Action Girl Comics #2. Dyer quickly introduced Action Girl’s support team, friends Jenna, Lilia, and Marina, who collectively make up “Team Action,” as well as a cool “signal ring” that Jenna created so that Action Girl could call upon her comrades in times of need. With no superpowers except for superheroic determination, the group has battled the Go-Go Gang, the Catgirls from Mars, and Neutrina (who eventually reformed and joined Team Action as Ultra Girl).
Action Girl is often aided by her ally, fellow highschool student Flying Girl, created by Elizabeth Watasin. Flying Girl is Ginnie Exupery, Action Girl’s best friend and one true confidante. Watasin has taken time to flesh out their friendship—devoting an entire story to the girls discussing their motivations as heroes—Action Girl having chosen her profession, Flying Girl reluctantly pursuing it. As a birthday present, Flying Girl introduces Action Girl to the power of flight by taking her to a vertical wind tunnel (as depicted on the cover of Action Girl #7 ).
Action Girl Comics, a comic anthology created to showcase the work of women comic-book writers and artists, drew a surprisingly mixed fan base. Fans of both genders responded to the display of “practical, small-scale action” (as one reviewer termed it), the girl-friendly heroes being a refreshing departure from the very adult-themed mainstream superheroine fare of the day. “Girls naturally responded to the empowerment undertones of the comic, but guys seemed to really embrace it as something that was not didactic, anti-male, or exclusivist,” observed Dyer. Every issue of the comic features paper-doll cutouts, with hip wardrobe additions such as thrift-store-bought Doc Martens. While the comic has showcased the work of some forty writers and artists, the creators other than Dyer who have contributed to Action Girlstories are Watasin and artist Elim Mak. —GM