A Crisis of Faith in Superhero Comic Books

This is all Spider-Woman’s fault. So blame her.

And by Spider-Woman, I mean Brian Michael Bendis. And by Bendis – I mean all comic book writers. Blame them.

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.

That's right girl, exercise that Primal Scream.

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.

Spider-Woman takes a moment to contemplate her long and tangled history.

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.

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

9 responses to “A Crisis of Faith in Superhero Comic Books”

  1. Hisham says :

    Would it be a bad time to mention that Spider-woman is ending with the seventh issue? Not because of sales, but because the artist apparently got burned out working on the motion comic at the same time.

    Just to add to your point about supporting comics with female characters, it’s a dilemma that male readers have never had to deal with. I’m sure that if American comics were dominated by comics featuring female characters, male fans would be making it a priority to support “guy” books.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Noooo! Damn, this is a bummer. I was really in love with the art work, the writer and the storyline. Granted, I’d only read one issue.

      But it’s hard to have a constantly shifting writer and artist. I’m kinda glad they are ending the book if they can’t have that awesome symbiotic relationship that is integral to making real art happen, but it’s frustrating to say the least.

      I can see getting burnt out on the regular print book and the motion comic though.

      Not really sure how I feel about motion comics at this point. I want to do some more delving into that medium before I denounce or praise it. 🙂

  2. Michael says :

    Bendis and Maleev produce gold.

    That being said, I’m not sure I really get what you were saying here: do you love it? Or do you hate it?

    I like Spider-Woman the character but I never bought her book.

    But I think what you’re saying is…that you want to like superhero comics more? Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking!

    Thanks for the comment on mine, I hope to speak with you more about all these comic booky issues.

    • tinyheroes says :

      I’m saying I love Spider-Woman, but in doing so and trying to figure out why I felt more drawn to her, than other characters…I discovered that I am just not a huge fan of most superheroes in general.

      And currently the only ones who really interest me are more out of nostalgia, and already knowing the history of the characters, versus a strong desire to get as involved with another series as I have with X-Men.

      I hope that makes sense. But I’ve really enjoyed Spider-Woman, and a friend loaned me a couple issues of Bat-Woman which have also piqued my interest back towards superhero books.

      Hope that helps clarify some of my thoughts – and I do look forward to more comic booky conversations! 🙂

      • Michael says :

        Yeah, totally makes sense. Sorry, I don’t know WTF was wrong with me when I left that first comment. I come across like I was stoned. (But I wasn’t.)

        I like the Batwoman run that’s been going on in Detective, with Rucka writing and JH Williams doing the art, but the last arc (w/o Williams on the art) has really slipped.

        Also, Batgirl is pretty radical. I have a friend that reads Power Girl and he says it’s fun.

        I’m still not reading any X books, mainly out of protesting that same nostalgia that I think you love, but I hear there’s some great things going on. I’m jealous of all your cool stores up there (re: latest entry).

        • tinyheroes says :

          I only got a few issues in the middle of the first Bat-Woman arc, so I’m hoping to get the entire run and see how I feel about it then.

          This is probably going to sound lame…but I do have a hard time reading comics with the name “girl” in the title. It seems like we’ve done away with most “boy” comics, and yet…the “girl” moniker still lingers. It’s a term I’ve worked very actively to cull from my vocabulary, unless I’m talking about a young girl. Teenagers are young women, or ladies. Women are women. Women are not girls. Men are not boys. You know?

          I did pick up the latest issues of the X-Books to see if they were worth getting into, and I have to admit I am liking what Matt Fraction and Mike Carey are doing. This seems like a good jumping in point until the books get crappy again (it’s such a vicious cycle). I’ll save more of those thoughts for a blog post this week!

  3. Erica McGillivray says :

    I’ve really enjoyed Spider-Woman’s run.

    I definitely know how you feel about women-character titles. Most everything I currently pick up features women characters, and I’ve had to push some titles back to trades because of money and time concerns. Of course, when I really looked at my pull list, I discovered that only like 5 of 20-ish titles on my pull list were on-going, 10 were minis, and 5 were one-shots.

    • tinyheroes says :

      I’m with you on needing the trades…the only thing that bothers me is relying on trades is that you get so far behind in what’s going on in the storyline, that inevitably something will pop up to spoil it for you.

      It’s the same way for many television shows. I would rather wait until the end of a season and watch it all at my leisure…but then I miss out on some of the fan excitement of watching it weekly.

      Pretty bummed that Spider-Woman is coming to an end so soon. That’s the thing about falling in love with a strong female character, it seems like their solo efforts crash and burn so quickly. If not from low sales, from something else. *sigh*

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