Once upon a time, comic books were tailored not to twenty and thirty-something adults (as they are now), but to teeming hordes of Baby Boom children.
Following the creation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, comic books of the next two decades became more kid-friendly than ever. With such a huge audience of young children buying comics, it should come as no surprise that the adult characters within them had many of the same childish emotions and conflicts as their audience. Since young boys were the primary readers of superhero comics, the heroes and their casts routinely reenacted common boyhood anxieties. Chief among those anxieties was the ever-present “danger” of.... GIRLS!
Whether they were barging their way into a boy's secret clubhouse, besting him in competition, or...horror of horrors...targeting him for marriage, girls represented a very real threat to the Boy Way of Life (except for mom, of course).
This boyish conviction was reinforced by their favorite superheroes, whose female cast members were little more than grown-up versions of pesky kid sisters, tenacious tomboys and flirty girl classmates.
Real-life kid sisters were often bratty pests and hair-trigger tattlers, blabbing a boy's secrets at the drop of a hat.
Supergirl pretty much confirms that assessment on the cover of Action Comics #313 (1964) by blowing Superman's precious secret identity.
Over in Flash #204 (1971), Iris Allen also "can't keep it a secret" and blows her hubby's cover.
Sisters were also perceived as devilish schemers who loved tormenting their brothers, as sister-figure Supergirl demonstrates (quite literally) on the cover of Action Comics #324 (1965)...
...or the power-stealing Lana Lang from Superboy #72 (1959)...
...or the treacherous sabotage of Supergirl and Batgirl in World's Finest #169 (1967)....
...or, worst of all, Supergirl's fort-stealing power play from Action Comics #336 (1966)! The nerve! Stealing a guy's secret hideout!
On the rare occasion a boy would need an assist from his sister, her girlish ways often rendered her unreliable...like Batgirl's "wardrobe malfunction" on the cover of Detective Comics #371 (1968).
However, nothing burned up a boy more than getting beaten by a girl, as Detective #233 (1956) makes clear.
It's bad enough she beat Batman and Robin, but her cute little motorcycle beat....the Batmobile! Is there no end to the madness?
On the cover of Adventure Comics #368 (1968), girls have not only taken over the headquarters of the Legion of Superheroes (which was bad enough), but they've also thoroughly humiliated two of the team's most powerful male members, Superboy and Ultra Boy.
Things get even worse for the grown-up Superboy in Superman #180 (1965), when the Man of Steel faces a double boy-nightmare of getting "beaten by a girl"...then being forced to marry her! Eeewwww!
Green Lantern #26 (1964) finds the evil Star Sapphire hearing wedding bells after unmasking Hal Jordan, his helplessness amplified by the background color of bright yellow (the color his wondrous ring was powerless against).
Renowned marriage groupies Lana Lang and Lois Lane take a break from trying to sang Superman and scheme for the affections of the unfortunately-named Ideal Man in Lois Lane #56 (1965). Naturally, Lois appears to have an ace up her sleeve.
Marriage-crazy girls find their ultimate symbolic representation on the cover of Lois Lane #67 (1966). "Queen Lois", apparently driven mad by her obsession to marry "commoner" Superman, orders his decapitation when he refuses!
Lois and Lana weren't the only girls to harass Superman with marriage talk. On Action Comics #163 (1951), an early 50's hottie attempts to blackmail him into marriage using her mind-reading powers.
As boys grew older, some of them gradually abandoned their fishing holes and clubhouses for the company of girls...leaving alienated and perplexed chums behind them. There was a sense that once a pal went over to the gals, he was done for...and the fun was over.
Batman #87 (1954) illustrates that notion as an alarmed Robin pleads with a smitten Batman, who appears to have turned his back on his crime-fighting career...for a girl.
Blackhawk #155 (1960) finds the title character marrying Lady Blackhawk, eliciting a mournful "it's the end of our team" from a fellow squad member.
Of course, it has to be mentioned that part of the Girl Germs phenomena can be attributed to the generation of men who created these comics, hardly giants of progressive feminist thought.
However, apart from the built-in chauvinism of the creators, there remains a peculiar "authenticity" to the "Girl Germs" comics that really does seem to tap into the collective anxiety of young (and not so young) boys and their views toward the somewhat alien, perplexing and always mysterious presence of...girls!