A Crisis of Faith in Superhero Comic Books
This is all Spider-Woman’s fault. So blame her.
I’ll admit that I was no fan of Secret Invasion (which killed my comic book appetite for at least a year). But now that the dust has settled, I’m back to picking up Marvel books. Lucky for me that Marvel is attempting to be more inclusive of my gender.
And that’s where Spider-Woman enters the equation.
Traditional superhero books have always been a difficult stretch for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted about that fact either:
Maybe it’s the same reason that I never enjoyed Superman, the Justice League, Captain America or The Avengers quite as much as the X-Men because the X-Men have always been the under-dog, and I’ve always had an intense fascination with the under-dog. Wonder Woman/Superman, Batman, Captain America all get love wherever they go. Of course their duties lie in protecting and serving the American Dream.
The X-Men on the other hand were hated and feared by the general public and often their help was misconstrued as violence. So their reasoning behind saving the world was always more compelling, and constantly being questioned. Also, most of them aren’t some mystical being or aliens, which makes it easier to stomach their differences. They’re real people who struggle with oppression and bigotry.
These thoughts aside – I’m starting to wonder if my continually underwhelming attempts at continuing to read X-Men aren’t also based around some kind of nostalgia and sense of loyalty, versus a true desire for superhero books.
Which leads me to the state I’m in today…I’d love to get behind a character like Spider-Woman (she is neither magical nor an alien, just a woman who’s been seriously screwed with most of her life). In fact, judging from the Issue #1 of the new Bendis run, I’m pretty sure I’ll start becoming a regular reader.
I’d like to say the same for She-Hulk as well – I’ll probably pick up the Peter David run and read through that at some point…but there must be some reason that I don’t stop by on Wednesday to pick up these books specifically.
Spider-Woman, and the overall push for Marvel to become more woman friendly has caused me to stop and really examine the work I’m attracted to, and for what reasons.
I’m sure you’re probably thinking – it’s silly to think you have to support women centered books…men certainly don’t have a similar allegiance. Have you ever encountered a dude beating himself up for not purchasing Ultimate Spiderman because he wasn’t supporting his gender?
Sure – budget plays a factor. I can’t afford to support every single book with a woman in the lead role. Financial constraints demand that I am selective with the titles I pick up on a regular basis.
There’s time constraints too – I can only read so many comic books.
Maybe it’s processing through the decades of history behind most Superheroes that causes me to go numb when I ponder picking up their book. Consider the fact that a comic book character is a serious investment of your time and energy. Like any other person in your life – they need to prove their worth. They need to be the right fit. Because chances are – they’re going to be there for awhile. The X-Men have become permanent fixtures in my life (permanently inked on my skin, even). These books and characters have lasted longer and produced more content than any other popular culture phenomenon in history. No, seriously.
With Spider-Woman, it took me about 30 minutes to read through her Wikipedia page and get all the background information. She’s a character that has been meddled very little with – aside from the Secret Invasion crap. And that’s all behind us, like some distant, bad dream. As far as I’m concerned – she’s wide open.
And that is highly appealing.
Superheroes lead lives FULL of baggage – dead relatives, failed marriages, stolen identities, murder, financial troubles. Once in awhile it’s nice to make a clean break of it, without resorting to world altering timelines. It’s funny how some creators, writers and editors think this is the proper way to achieve catharsis or transformation. If there’s something wrong with the characters – just change the world.
I can appreciate what Bendis is doing here (at least in this first issue). Instead of saying – “Let’s completely change this person’s world (again) and have Spiderwoman in a new reality!” He’s keeping it real.
She’s actually experienced everything in her current timeline and retains the knowledge of these events. There is not going to be some magic eraser or delete button to take it all away. She’s going to survive and push on despite the decades of bullcrap weighing her down. And maybe, just maybe…she can take care of some of that baggage without having to change the world. She can simply change herself.
And by she – I mean Bendis. And by Bendis – I mean all comic book writers.
I’ll save my thoughts about motion comics and the artwork of Spider-Woman for another post.