All this month, SYFY FANGRRLS is celebrating Warrior Women Month, sharing the stories of female warriors in folklore, fantasy, and genre from around the world. These women — real and imagined alike — inspire us to make change and fight for what's right, no matter the cost.
Frank Miller’s The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century might leave you with a lot of questions but the one thing is clear: Martha Washington is a warrior. She literally saves the world even though her value to it is little to nothing. The world in which Martha lives in is a chaotic mess reminiscent of Judge Dredd’s cursed Earth. There are armies supplied by fast food companies, corrupt politicians, aliens, robots, and mad scientists, but somehow Martha figures out how to navigate this world and save it, even though it might be better off unsaved.
Martha was born on March 11, 1995, and she died exactly 100 years later on March 11, 2095. Similar to another formidable fictional woman, Amanda Waller, she also grew up in Cabrini-Green housing projects of Chicago. Martha lived with her mother and two brothers in abject poverty brought on by the economic policies of the President Erwin Rexall, who is basically a hate child of Ronald Reagan and George Bushes Sr. and Jr. She, unfortunately, doesn’t have the best childhood. While tiring that Frank Miller chose such a background for Martha’s upbringing, it does make it very clear that the world she lives in will require her to go above and beyond to survive it. This makes Martha a warrior by birth and not by choice, something that can be extremely relatable to a number of Black women and other women of color. Martha fights for her right to exist early and it's a constant theme as her story develops.
It’s clear from an early age that Martha has a gift for computer programming and hacking, a skill set that becomes a lifesaver for her and others throughout her life. Instead of thriving in school, however, Martha ends up in a psychiatric hospital after killing a man in the act of defending herself. Warrior by sheer need, her life depends on that attribute. Mind you all of this is still happening when Martha is no older than 11 or 12 years old. After the hospital is closed due to budget cuts, Martha is left homeless and subsequently joins the PAX Peace Force, which is basically a corporate-sponsored army. Her early years with PAX are where her life and heroic legacy begin. Arguably though, her heroic legacy truly begins the moment she was born and manages to stay alive despite the terrible conditions she and her family live in.
Martha’s time with the PAX Peace Force is nothing short of brutal. She is left alone in the world after her mother and brother die in a nuclear explosion during the second Civil War. Martha however perseveres and makes an excellent soldier. She saves the rainforest, almost dying in the process, and catches the attention of her first adversary, a man by the name of Colonel Moretti, a white supremacist’s wet dream of a person. If it weren’t for Martha, this megalomaniac would have brought the country to complete destruction. She does all of this at the tender age of 16, a feat she shouldn’t have been tasked with in the first place.
Martha being a warrior out of necessity is a recurring theme. It's not at all fair but art imitates life. In "Martha Goes To War," Martha learns that all she’s fought to save was not worth her efforts. PAX Peace Force is very much a part of the world’s problems. By the end of this series she comes to terms her reality and relationship with PAX, they see her as nothing more than a weapon and one for them to use to continue their destruction of the world. However, Martha is as strong-willed mentally as she is physically. She joins the revolutionary group tasked with trying to stop the Surgeon General and a destructive A.I. called Harmony. Martha is a warrior with reason, doing what others just don't have the will to do, and that's fight for not just their own best interest.
Martha’s saving isn’t bound by the Earth’s gravity. In Martha Saves the World, she does just that by her sheer will, a will that’s stronger than most, if not all. She defeats an artificial intelligence named Venus who has been mind-controlling humanity and taking the will to do better from it. Martha overcomes this control and with the help of her superior computer hacking skills, defeats Venus, thus saving the entire world. If Martha wasn’t considered a warrior up until this point then the definition of warrior would need to be changed. Someone get Merriam-Webster on the phone because Martha’s picture could be right next to the word.
Martha Washington lived to see 100, but the wars and conflicts continue. Her legacy, however, is used to encourage those continuing to fight against oppressive forces. Martha gives an inspiring speech as she takes her last breaths, solidifying her legacy as one of the greatest warriors the universe has ever known.
Although a fictional character, Martha Washington is a mercenary of good will who saves a world that honestly did not deserve her saving, a truth that can be applied to so many Black women and women of color in real life. Long live all the Martha Washingtons; may they find peace in a world where peace was never an option for them.