Superhero insularity

Many superhero readers seem to misconstrue superhero comics as mainstream, if we go by readership numbers they’re practically cult. Many people are into superheroes but not for life so their affection’s fleeting or passing at the very least. These people will outgrow them, leaving them to their more diehard counterparts.

The diehards are smaller but more persuasive. They have far more spending power and say on the industry than casual fans do. This has the unfortunate effect of producers coming to cater to them a lot as well as growing numbers of these fans becoming producers themselves.

The same can be said of any industry or thing with cult followings. The mainstream has moved on, said idols are left with cultists. For every gateway drug like Superman and Black Sabbath, there’ll be those with devout, angry followers and those that need an acquired taste.

So superhero comics are as mainstream as heavy metal is, recognisable but cultish to the core.

Superhero underground

I remember reading an article which is a review of this book called ‘Leaping Tall Buildings’ saying that superhero comics these days are practically underground. It’s not widely read by anybody else, even if you can easily find them online. I suspect what makes them underground is that they don’t interest anybody else but those in the know.

Meanwhile, Harlequin and Mills and Boons have been selling fine despite their critics. I guess it’s easier to hype what geeks love more than stuff normies like. Not that either of them are any better, it’s that what normies like better gets marginalised or ignored by nerdy elitists.

Not that normies can’t enjoy superheroes but aren’t so devoted to them for long and divest their interests somewhere else. So inevitably producers are left with pandering to diehards if mainstream interest in superheroes fades.

Self-referential

It’s become a particularly dominant aesthetic in superhero and Japanese animanga media. Not that it’s bad for as long as it’s balanced by other influences like fashion and pop music for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures but superhero and most recent animanga stories seem to be created for those already in the know. For every story that can easily attract outsiders, there are those that don’t and don’t bother.

I suppose it’s because it’s that hard to accept or try out new things and ideas, even if that’ll enrich stories and make it easier to create characters that aren’t like the author. Maybe easier’s not the precise word but perhaps more willing. Either way, it’s a matter of open-mindedness and opportunism.

While it’s understandable to feel wary of outsiders writing stuff with minimal interest and experience, one wonders if it’s a sense of entitlement where one has to share space with them. Might a writer who seldom reads fiction but writes those anyways be more apt to write characters that act like actual people?

It undermines a number of problems with geek stories, perhaps disturbingly invoking unsavoury stereotypes and why they’re so insular to begin with.

That Scottish wolf girl

Rahne Sinclair is a rare example of a female werewolf character though as what others suggested, female werewolves would’ve been more commonplace in prior lore and even Elizabeth Bathory was pegged as such. Some languages like Spanish* and French easily allow room for feminised versions of words though whether if it also extends to folklore is up to anybody else’s guess.

DC, being Marvel’s rival, pretty much beat the latter to it with House of Mystery featuring a female werewolf and Tigra was going to be one herself. Wolfsbane seems conceptually interesting but her portrayal leaves much to be desired especially not only how she’s presented but also how she uses that ability.

That writers can’t seem to make up their minds over her, that’s other than her conflicted conscience is disappointing. Nonetheless some Scottish folklore has room for a female weredog at the very least and Angela Carter herself has written similar stories, which would essentially be Wolfsbane done right when you bring up religion.

*The Spanish word for she-wolf, ‘loba’, also means a very attractive woman

Closer to reality

Like I said about Fiffi Anaman and Usain Bolt, there’s going to be real life people who aren’t even actors who’re far closer to what fans expect of how the characters should be presented as. Usain Bolt’s practically a real life black Wally West not just because he runs fast but also because he’s said to be outgoing and easygoing. Much like how Wally was portrayed in the cartoons.

Logically Fiffi Anaman’s everything Supergirl’s James Olsen’s supposed to be, right down to the fashion sense being more reminiscent of the latter’s comics counterpart. It’s pretty remarkable that a real life person who’s not an actor (Fiifi’s an actual cub reporter and Usain’s a sprinter) is like a fictional character coming to life. A case of truth being stranger than fiction.

Gotta shave that jaw

Not that they’re anything wrong with a square jaw but it’s irritating to see almost every superheroic and supervillainous male with it. Like there can’t be any real facial variation, let alone a proper degree of asymmetry. Like it wouldn’t hurt if Barry Allen were drawn to have a consistently gaunt face or if Batman didn’t have a square jaw. For that matter, Ben Affleck played Batman but he doesn’t have a very pronounced square jaw.

It wouldn’t be any better if roles required more specific facial features but that would mean any actor regardless of ethnicity could nab that role if it both has the skill and the face shape for it. A gaunt-faced Jamaican could play Barry and coincidentally there’s a Jamaican sprinter named Usain Bolt. The very same man who could be black Wally West done right as he’s both fast and outgoing.

It’s still pretty irritating that every superhero adult male is square-jawed, it robs them of any real facial diversity. Facial asymmetry is needed to vary it, even though it’s more needed for women as they actually have even less facial diversity. Whatever the gender or race facial diversity is needed.

Too loud, too feminist

I talked about Carol Danvers before and there’s a sizable number of superhero readers who can’t stand her either having short hair or being an outspoken feminist type albeit in a more modest costume. The writer Mike Madrid recalled similar remarks in his book about her.

When you think about it, save for the costume she too had short hair and is intended to be a feminist, riding on the feminist wave along with Tigra whose initial appearance and intention is similar to how Squirrel Girl’s currently portrayed.

Some degree of sexualisation, demonisation or marginalisation is needed to bring these women down. This is why it can get hard to take them seriously given their more popular character designs but if truly go against it longer you’d have many complaining about it even if some liked the newer designs better.

It’s like how some prefer Tigra to look more animalistic as it befits her intended characterisation. Same goes for giving Carol short hair. Or making She-Hulk really swole. That not only fits their characters well but also reflects some intent in the tweaking. But they can’t sit well so they have to be knocked out.