Saturday, June 27, 2015

Empowerment and Super-Empowerment

The Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four. Art by Stuart Immonen
The relations between the sexes still leave something to be desired in superhero comics.
For example, in a 2007 issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four, Reed Richards has been abusively addressed by his father and refuses to discuss it with Sue Storm. As he walks away, Sue forms a force field and slams Reed into it face first. Hardy har har.
Reverse the situation. If Sue had asked for privacy and Reed had instead slammed her into a force field wall, the readers would be livid. As well they should be. Writer Mike Carey appears to have confused empowering women with turning them into bullies.
Yes, Sue was a something of a shrinking violet when the Fantastic Four began in 1961, but overcompensation is not the answer.
And yet the attitudes of all the superhero comics in 1961 were not as retrograde as people think. Check out the Julius Schwartz titles at DC — Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman. Iris West, Carol Ferris and Jean Loring were all independent career woman focused on the own accomplishments, not on their boyfriends and certainly not on the weird costumed heroes who operated at the margins of their lives. Hawkgirl and Hawkman were married, and full partners in crimefighting.
And not one of them needed to slam her man’s face into a wall to make a point. The real point that should be kept in mind, I think, is mutual respect.

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