Welcome to the D-List: Tough Bunny

Although women have made great strides toward equality since the dawn of feminism, sexism is still quite prevalent throughout the world. I’m not going to preach social justice, but it is evident that female comic book characters have been treated poorly compared to their male counterparts. For that reason, I have chosen not to constantly refer to this month’s D-Lister by her historic codename, and instead, will refer to her either by her real name, or her most recent, altered codename. I understand that she was created in a completely different time, and my intention is not to erase her history, but I would rather not perpetuate the dated attitudes of a thankfully bygone era. This is a personal choice – I don’t feel good referring to her by a name with such negative implications.

This is exactly how I got my NES to work when I was a kid. (Art by Win Mortimer)

Athena Tremor has existed for more than five decades, but has primarily been featured alongside a group of useless losers. Although she was created to do little more than perpetuate the “dumb blonde” stereotype while also being overtly sexualized, Athena was the most effective member of her team due to her super strength. Unfortunately, as her original codename, Dumb Bunny, implies, she is not very intelligent. Despite her frequent misuse, I still find this character full of delightful potential. This month, the D-List is hopping mad as we welcome Athena Tremor.

Created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando, Athena first appeared in Showcase vol. 1 #62 in 1966. The retired heroes of the Freedom Brigade all had super-powered offspring, but these young adults also had inherent weaknesses. For example, Awkwardman was strong, but very clumsy, and Merryman was a genius, but extremely scrawny and weak. Athena had super strength, and wore a tiny hat with bunny ears, because she was told that she would have better TV reception with rabbit ears (televisions used to have antennas, kids, so that’s the joke). This self-loathing group of heroes called themselves the “Inferior Five,” and they eventually landed their own comic book.

While the Five never fought any large-scale threats, Tremor was certainly the muscle of the team. On multiple occasions, she defeated villains with nothing more than a single punch, and singlehandedly defeated aliens who tried to brainwash the Five. Athena even captured a villain who was able to split into smaller versions of himself by sucking him up with a vacuum (so she really took care of those dust bunnies).

Although Tremor was a sexualized stereotype, it was evident that she was the most powerful and confident member of the Inferior Five. However, none of the team’s earliest appearances were meant to be serious, so Athena was never written into mainstream DC stories, and was never able to interact with popular heroes or even grow as a character. I don’t think it ever occurred to writers to utilize her outside of outlandish circumstances (she was supposed to be a funny bunny, I suppose).

Once the Inferior Five’s comic book was cancelled, Tremor’s appearances were sparse, at best. Athena appeared in reprints of early Inferior Five stories and was later shown in “comic-book limbo” with her teammates and other losers in the DC Universe (they did not put the hip in Athena’s hop). Although she had existed for two decades at this point, she had yet to appear independent of the Inferior Five. Thankfully, in the early 90s, Athena was featured prominently in the miniseries, Angel and the Ape.

Apparently, Athena was the half-sister of investigator, Angel O’Day. Angel had no superpowers, and was resentful toward Athena because of her superhuman strength, so the two never had a good relationship (so Tremor’s relationship with her sister was shaky). However, Athena convinced Angel to have lunch together, and although what Tremor revealed was disturbing, it at least gave Athena’s character some depth.

Athena never had a boyfriend, but had feelings for her sister’s partner, Sam…a humanoid ape. Angel, clearly disturbed, berated Athena, and demeaned her for belonging to a team of losers and wearing a sexist costume. Tremor defended herself, however, which was quite surprising, because she had never been assertive before.

The bunny ears are missing because she needed to use the hare-dryer. (Art by Phil Foglio)

It is extremely weird to imagine an attractive woman with romantic feelings for an ape, but as silly as it may sound, it showed that Athena was capable of a range of emotions. However nice it was to see Athena’s sweet, seemingly innocent sentiments displayed, I wish the creative team had chosen a less disconcerting way to highlight her feelings. Regardless, I was happy to see her featured independent of her teammates, even if it was just for a couple of issues.

Sam was kidnapped by his grandfather, Gorilla Grodd, so Athena called the Inferior Five, and the team defeated the villain. Before Angel and the Ape ended, Merryman revealed that he was in love with Athena, and Tremor seemed to return Merryman’s romantic feelings. While the interest in Sam was completely forgotten, it was certainly for the best, so this story ended happily for Athena (very hop-timistically).

While this miniseries showed Athena as a caring and brave individual, it was sadly the best characterization she ever received. It has been nearly three decades since this volume of Angel and the Ape, and no writer has further explored Athena’s familial relationship with her half-sister, or romantic relationship with Merryman. Tremor appeared briefly in an issue of Ambush Bug, where she married the titular character after the two had a drunken night together. Ambush Bug ditched Athena and tried to get a divorce for the rest of the issue. This comic was a travesty and nearly negated any strides toward legitimacy that Athena Tremor had made (it was truly a bad-hare day).

Athena most recently appeared in an issue of Bat-Mite, where the miniature hero transformed the Inferior Five into stronger versions of themselves to combat a villain named Gridlock. By this time, Athena had ditched her original codename, and started to call herself “Tough Bunny.” Although the Five were now confident fighters, they became violent, and it scared Athena (it was a hare-raising experience). After the battle, Athena asked Bat-Mite to change the Five back to normal. This comic was released over two years ago, and to my knowledge, Athena has not been seen since.

To be fair, Bat-Mite DOES have Ben Affleck’s eyes, so I can understand the confusion. (Art by Corin Howell)

Athena Tremor may not be an intelligent person, but she was an asset to the Inferior Five, and regardless of her misuse, was a delightful character. Angel and the Ape and the single issue of Bat-Mite are two examples of decent storytelling featuring this character, so hopefully it can be replicated in the future. Jeff Lemire and Keith Giffen are allegedly reviving Inferior Five for a new volume, but unfortunately, Giffen is responsible for Tough Bunny’s terrible characterization in Ambush Bug. Regardless, I’m confident that this character can be written better, and I hope that writers use “Tough Bunny” instead of her original codename, in order to highlight her more positive characteristics.

The only alternate version of Bunny of which I am aware is an evil version who called herself Lagomorph. Unfortunately, this version of Tremor appeared very briefly in only one comic. A villainous version of Athena could have been very interesting, whether she was intelligent or not. Regardless, I look forward to Athena Tremor’s return to comics, and hope she continues to bunny hop around the DC Universe for years to come.

And that’s it, folks – this is the final “Welcome to the D-List” entry. I’m not going anywhere, but I have D-cided to D-sist writing this D-List column. Perhaps I’ll start writing it again monthly someday, or at least contribute D-List entries occasionally. In the meantime, you can catch me on the Mutant Musings podcast, and I will be starting a new monthly column about anime, called The Anime Annex, right here at Geekade.com.

Jonathan Fugger

Jonathan loves comic books and he loves coffee. Jonathan’s mother gave him his first taste of coffee at the tender age of 3 and it was love at first sip. He now needs to wheel around an IV drip of caffeine at all times or else he turns into a dark, monstrous creature that feeds on despair and makes babies cry. The local village-folk have kept him locked away ever since the “decaf catastrophe of ‘06.” When allowed out of his dungeon, he writes various articles for Geekade, including the monthly column, “Welcome to the D-List,” and records the "Mutant Musings" podcast with his geek-tastic girlfriend, Patti.

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