Tag Archives: Superman

5 Ways To Make Your Superhero Miserable

So, you’ve probably heard by now all the fuss about writers J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman leaving DC Comics after the editors told them they couldn’t write Batwoman‘s marriage. Big hulabaloo ensues. DC replaces them with an openly gay writer to make themselves look better, and they defend themselves by saying the no marriage thing had “nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the character,” but rather because, as Dan Didio said at Baltimore Comic Con

“Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.”

Okay…

I mean, fine. It’s true. Heroes of the super variety do tend to basically have shitty lives. Batman can’t hold on to a lady friend, Iceman basically almost destroys the world, Rogue can’t get anywhere near first base…

But let’s think about this for a second.  Marriage is kind of a sensitive topic in the LGBTQ community.  You know, the institution being not-so-fictionally denied them until about oh two and a half months ago.

So an editorial board denying one of its few LGBTQ heroes the chance to get married without some kind of story referencing DOMA or something and then saying it has “nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the character” is sort of like putting a giant banana on a comic full of Black characters and saying it has nothing to do with race… Oh wait… that happened too.

Point is, sure maybe they didn’t decide Batwoman couldn’t get married because they are against gay marriage, but rather because they don’t want any of the Bat family getting married (which isn’t actually what they said, they only said they don’t want them having happy personal lives, but whatever). Nonetheless, it’s pretty ignorant to pretend the denial of marriage in general has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community.   Add on top of that the fact that they created an alternate universe Alan Scott, the classic Green Lantern, who was gay and proposed to his boyfriend only to see the boyfriend die like 2 seconds later. Smell an unfortunate trend? But let’s stick with their story and accept that it wasn’t anti-gay marriage, just kinda dumb and insensitive.

Bananas are bananas. Put them on a picture of a bunch of Black folk, they’re not just bananas anymore… regardless of the intent. Is DC’s decision anti-gay? Probably not. Is it ridiculously stupid? Yup.

To exemplify just how stupid, here are 5 other ways that DC could make sure Batwoman’s personal life stays full of suck (mildly spoilery if you don’t keep up with your DC).

1. Paralyze her

oracle-570x414

What could possibly be worse for a hero who’s “committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests,” by punching and kicking things than taking away their ability to punch and kick things. Oracle (Batgirl) knows a thing or two about it, lucky for her she’s also a super computer whiz and managed to stay in the game that way. But what about our military-trained, party-girl Kate Kane? Here’s betting she go on a twenty-year drinking binge and destroy her marriage before Batman bought her bionic legs or something. Then she could be all sad and wompy all the time about how she alienated her wife and was half-android now.

2. Kill her wife.

You know what’s more traumatic than not getting married? Getting married and then watching your significant other die. Just ask Katana. The whole kill the love of your life thing is totally a staple of hero adventures. It’s basically how women got into the business at all. Got a hero? Here, have a woman he can love and lose so he can go all dark and gruffy, just how we like ’em.  And it makes life totally worse if you give the hope of happiness first and then rip it cruelly away and scar them for a good long forever. Just look at Katana, she’s been talking to her husband’s spirit in a sword for some 30 years now.

3. Kill her son. 

damian

Seriously, the potential for a miserable personal life only increases with marriage (no jab intended at you lucky couples), but honestly, imagine if Kane was allowed to marry her beloved, and then they have a successful in vitro, despite all odds, and raise a happy plump little boy name BatAwesome, who lives a solid 10 years only to be used to try to murder you and ultimately get killed by his own clone.  Ya. That’d really suck, wouldn’t it TaliaBatman?

4. Blow up her whole planet. 

Actually, maybe not. Superman seems to be doing alright with all that baggage…

5.  Kill every single woman on Earth in one fell swoop, except her. 

LOL. Ya that’d suck, right?  Brian K. Vaughan was clearly playing off of that male fantasy to be the only male option on Earth when he killed off all but one guy in Y: The Last Man. But imagine it the other way around. A woman who loves women stuck in a world full of dudes… I can’t even deal with the level of sad and effed up that is. But now imagine if she had been married to Mags when that horrible ish went down. Rather than a man alone in a world full of women (with mostly violent intents towards him) searching desperately for his girlfriend, you’d have one really really lonely, miserable, sexually-frustrated Batwoman.

Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get the point, right? Marriage is maybe sort of totally a big deal for everyone, but it’s especially poignant for those denied the right, and the wound is still fresh, so maybe a little extra thought on this one DC? Maybe no hard fast rules that you blanket across your mostly white, male heroes. If you’re gonna have a diversity of heroes, you might want to have a diversity of miseries too, ya?

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‘Man of Steel’ Returns Superman to His Outsider Roots

Superman is an alien.

And the new Superman movie Man of Steel never lets us forget it. In fact, the entire movie is about how Superman is an alien and an outsider. A large chunk of the intro is set on his alien home planet Krypton, and for the first half of the movie the hero is a mysterious bearded man traipsing around the country in flannel under an assumed name and disappearing after raising eyebrows or ire over some superhuman feat or other.

Frankly this first half of the film was the better half.  Intermixed with scenes from a bullied outcast childhood, the first half of the movie reinstates the memory of Superman’s origins as an alien, created by American outsiders.

It’s shockingly something that we often forget when we think of Superman. He’s too much the “American hero”, and decades of his morally upstanding heroics and that freaking perfect hair have created a pretty effective amnesia of his Kryptonian heritage in all but the most dedicated comics fans.

But, indeed, Superman is an alien, an alien created by two young, bullied Jewish kids, the sons of immigrants, growing up between two wars in the 1930s – Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. (Check out Jay Dietcher‘s  great series  “With Great Chutzpah Comes Great Responsibility” for more on the fascinating history of comics and the influence of Jewish creators).

As war sent young American boys overseas, Superman went on to become the iconic American hero…

Keep reading at UnleashTheFanboy.com

Geeks & Soldiers: Why Memorial Day is Important to Geek Culture

Battlestar Galactica officers

This weekend geeks have double the cause to celebrate! Not only is Geek Pride Day May 25th, but we also have Memorial Day to celebrate this Monday. What does geekery have to do with Memorial Day you ask? Well…

Memorial Day is about honoring the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives to defend ours throughout history and today. Whether you’re a comics fan, a gamer, or an avid science fiction geek, you’re familiar with the idea.

Military heroes are everywhere in geek culture. They’re the heroes we play in shooters; they’re the nameless enemies we kill in tabletop battles; they’re who we root for in science fiction shows like Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and Stargate. Many of our beloved superheroes were non-powered heroic military men and women first – Captain America, Nick Fury, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart, and Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), to  name a few. Others represent military values — honor, duty, service, loyalty, courage, sacrifice.

cover of Captain America Comics #1 – Captain America decking Hitler

The armed forces motif in games, comics and and sci-fi is wide-spread and variously contentious, ignored, and/or celebrated in different geek mediums.  Video games are usually criticized for inculcating violent behaviors in youth, science fiction is alternately praised and damned for its tendency to create either laudatory or critical allegories of our own real wars, and in many popular comics where soldiers become superheroes and superheroes become soldiers we idolize the military hero model.

For example, in The Avengers, war hero Captain America and his crew of super-powered patriots answer the government’s call to defend America from threats alien, mutant, and otherwise. There are, of course, many comics that criticize war and the military, like Alan Moore‘s The Watchmen which takes a critical look at the Vietnam War in particular and calls to attention the relationship between superheroes and war in comic books. Truth: Red, White, and Black by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker looks at another troubling aspect of war, re-examing the story of Captain America‘s origin and through the lens of the real-life medical experimentation on American heroes at Tuskegee.

Isaiah Bradley the hero from “Truth: Red, White & Black” star by Robert Morales & Kyle Baker

There are plenty of comics, games, and sci-fi shows that steer clear of battlefields and infantries, nonetheless it’d be difficult to deny that war and armed forces are pervasive in geek entertainments. War and soldiers have been a part of American comic books since their inception in the early 1930’s. The war effort itself used comic books to boost support and recruitment. So what is that about? What’s the deal with geeks and soldiers? Geekery and war?

Gerard Jones’s in his 2004 book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book offers an interesting answer. Jones takes a look at the inventors of the comic book medium, the majority of whom were young Jewish men, the children of Jewish immigrants, whose adult lives were sandwiched between two major wars.  Two of these young men Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created the ultimate outsider, the alien do-gooder Kal-El, who would go on to become one of America’s most iconic superheroes Superman. Shuster and Siegel and cultural outsiders like them claimed a place for themselves in American culture with ink and paper, creating heroes that would come to be definitively American — an American mythos born out of a need to belong.

Photo by Ulvis Alberts – © 1979 Ulvis Alberts – Image courtesy mptvimages.com

Given comics and comics fans’ dedication to legacy and continuity, it’s no wonder that war and military heroes remain a strong motif in comics and comics-inspired stories in film and tv today.

Both the outsider foundations of superheroes and the context of war and military heroes as icons in geek narratives is something we must keep in mind when we discuss/rage/ponder the lacking or mis- representation of women and minorities geek culture. These contexts show us the power of these mediums to influence inclusiveness and represent the values and people that we consider American, and particularly who we consider heroes. Women, people of color and people of various faiths who have served in our real-world wars have been marginalized and often forgotten by history. And this has been reflected in comics, sci-fi, and games.  With heroes like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, comics in particular reflected the woman heroes who joined the war effort in the 40s and made sweeping social gains, but despite their service in American armed forces throughout history, heroes of color remained and remain largely absent from comics until much later.

Science fiction, however, was telling stories of war long before comic books hit the scene, presenting science based fantasies as early as  the 17th century, and finding it’s real footing in the early 19th century with books like Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and Edwin Abbot Abbot‘s Flatland. And war settled itself into the genre’s mold in the beginnings as well with the likes of  H.G. Wells‘s War of the Worlds in 1898 depicting, almost prophetically, a new, more ruthless face of war through the story of an alien invasion of Great Britain, the dominate military power of the time.  Many science fiction stories then and today deal with topics like class, space exploration, technology, often, though not always, in the context of war or apocalypse. Though science fiction inspired the creators of comics like Shuster and Siegel, today the two mediums both inform and inspire stories between them and in video games. Science fiction engages in much more analysis and commentary regarding war, but, like the innovators of comics, science fiction’s heroes are often outsiders who find a place for themselves through battle. This outsider turned patriot and hero theme clearly speaks to the geeky outcast ranks. Sci-fi isn’t all about war and military heroes, but there is much to be said about the vast world of sci-fi by much smarter people than me.

Taking much of their inspiration from science fiction and superhero mythologies, from Space Invaders to Mass Effect, video games are the geeky art form most entwined with military themes. Shooters, MMOs, RPGs… So many of the popular games are about being the heroic leader and going out there and bravely killing thousands of the other side’s foot soldiers. And this engrossing medium takes the outsider attraction to such heroism to a whole new level by putting the player in control, thereby deepening the connection of the player to the hero. It’s a world where death is temporary and ammo is endless. Understandably games that offer the action, adventure, heroism, really cool weapons, and clear goal of war, minus the traumatic consequences of real-life war, would be appealing to anyone bored by the social strictures or outcast by social norms and tensions.

Screenshot from Mass Effect 3

Whether criticizing, evaluating, honoring, or romanticizing militarism, geek history is very much entwined with wars (real and imagined), the men and women who fight them, and the youth who grew up in wartime. At a time when we are fighting wars in the Middle East, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet, we’re living in an increasingly diverse country, and fear is rampant, the escapism, fantasy, and heroism offered by geeky art forms has obvious appeal much as it has in the past. The question is what is the role of this legacy in geek culture today?