Sunday, August 28, 2011

At the Movies: Superheroes and Such

Superhero movies are all in vogue in my world. Films featuring our favorite super-powered heroes from our adolescence do brisk trade at the box office, and it's a sure bet that every summer, there will at least be several blockbusters bearing the well-known names from the comic books of our childhood.

Needless to say, the superheroes of my world are quite different from those in yours.  For one thing, from Superwoman to Spider Woman, from the Watchwomen to the X-Women, all the heroic characters in the big-name comic books are female.  The vast majority of male characters are nothing but dudes in distress who also double as temporary sexual conquests that commonly last no longer than a few panels, or an issue at the most.  Any longer-lasting male characters usually play the role of a long-suffering yet intensely devoted lover, or secretary, or domestic servant.  The only distinguishing feature these men possess over those of the long litany of nameless playthings, is that they are privy to the secret identities of our masked crusaders.  If there are any story arcs about them in the glossy prestige titles, it's more than likely to involve being kidnapped and (more often than you think) being violated in some way before being rescued.

Males with superpowers?  There are only a few, and those powers are mostly reduced to such "soft" abilities as limited telepathy or an ability for premonition.  For instance, the only ever male quasi-member of the X-Women was a mutant psychic who got shown once every few issues having vague premonitions of foreboding.  He was kidnapped several times too, before the writers eventually killed him off as almost all readers thought his continued existence ludicrous.

Because the prestige titles – expensively produced with detailed art and color and with intricate plots – are geared to girls, they do feature graphic violence and sex, and what some would call derisory attitudes towards the weaker gender (check out the frequent gags about fragile males in the sack with super-powered females for a laugh!).  However, in spite of laws prohibiting any males from buying such material from newsstands and bookstores, it's well-known that many of them have a massive male fan-base who manage to evade the rules meant to guard their delicate senses.

There are also cheaply-produced comic books geared for boys in the superhero genre that feature the long-suffering lover or secretary or domestic servant in the title role.  Thus, The Life and Times of Louis Lane, about the Daily Planet's society pages reporter, who also manages to scoop stories about Superwoman due to his "special access," and his struggles in his on-again, off-again relationship Earth's greatest superhero.  Then, there's Pepper Potts, about Iron Woman's devoted and permanently infatuated secretary, often depicted picking up her hastily-dispatched clothes and those of the latest notch on her belt off the floor of the many rooms of her palatial estate.  Since these comics are written for boys, the sex is only hinted at, and there's not much violence.  Even the kidnapping and extortion plots are sanitized.  Many male fans of superhero comic books dismiss them – with their cheap paper, artwork and rote romance plots – as nothing more than Archie with capes.  It must be said, though, that they do sell incredibly well, and they have a vast audience among teenage boys.  It must also be said that Archie is still doing gangbusters after all these years of angst-ridden romantic entanglements with billionaire playgirl Veronica Lodge and high-school quarterback Betty Cooper.

In this era of superhero movie-making though, with deeper plots and more rounded characters, even poor old Louis Lane has come to have a prominent role in the new Superwoman movie.  We male comic book fans in our world hope that this might lead to better depictions of male characters in superhero comics and other media meant for our young and impressionable adolescent audience.


  1. Superwoman can save my life any day! *gets himself stuck up in a tree* Okay, so perhaps the fire department can handle this one, but it's not like I'll complain about being carried down in the arms of a strong young firewoman.

    I love the movie posters you do.

  2. Mmmmm firewomen. If only I could get some decent source material to create such a picture for this blog. I've always wanted to make one but, well, the Internet does not cooperate.

    Well, I'll still keep on making pictures of sweaty soot-covered firewomen in my head.

  3. Sorry I haven't done a lot in regards to that story; school, other writings, etc. Nice post, as always. I hope my female character comes off as a bit less chauvinistic than most women towards their husbands in your world.

  4. Hi jFan, no rush. My world a big world, with plenty of space for different points of view. Although, I would say that the majority opinion of the world is chauvinistic like I have described, there are millions of women who have more progressive views.