Delving Into SHE-ZOW, the Cross-Dressing Superhero Animated Series
Still from SHE-ZOW
The age-old tale of a young hero inheriting the powers of a hero that came before him has a new twist this summer. SheZow tells the story of twelve year-old Guy Hamdon who mistakenly takes his aunt's magic ring and becoming the superhero called Shezow, breaking the long heroic legacy that was passed from aunt to niece.
Before the showed even aired in the United States, however, there were numerous petitions for the Hub to take SheZow off, stating that transgender adventures don't have a place on children's television (one being from the controversial group One Million Moms). Throughout it all though, creator Obie Scott Wade has had his head held high and is ready for SheZow to come to American audiences. Newsarama spoke with Wade about SheZow's world and the inspirations behind it, touched a little on the controversy, as well as cleared up some of the floating misinformation out there.
Newsarama: So, Obie, SheZow...it's sort of like Shazam, but completely different. Can you tell us a little bit about what exactly what it's about?
Obie Scott Wade: I grew up cartoons on Saturday morning, back in the day when you had to get out of the bed in the morning to watch cartoons, and one of the shows that was on was a live-action show called "Shazam!" where Billy Batson would turn into Captain Marvel by saying Shazam and I wondered what would happen if he accidentally said Shezam. Would his costume change? Would he turn into a different hero? So I just grew up loving super heroes and just realized that a concept like that hasn't been done before. Oops, just put on the wrong magic ring, you know, a ring that was meant for a woman, but works on a guy. So I just thought it was funny. I didn't have any thoughts or motives about it other than that. I just thought it was a funny, new twist on superhero mythology.
Nrama: Well certain things like this have been done before. The Manga series Ramna 1/2, you have Mighty Man from Savage Dragon, so it's interesting to something like SheZow make it to an animated program.
Wade: That's actually one bit of misfinormation floating around. In Ramna 1/2, Ranma actually changes gender, Guy in SheZow doesn't. He's still a boy, just trapped in an outrageously flamboyant superhero costume designed for a woman. He's got high heels and a "beautility" belt around his waist that houses various weapons disguised as feminine hygiene products like laser lipstick and vanishing cream and turbo tweezers. So part of his "powers" are gadgets and then he has physical powers like super strength and the super-powered She-slap where his hand turns big, and of course a sonic shriek. So part Batman, part Superman in that aspect.
Nrama: The main character of SheZow is interestingly enough named Guy, but who does he have along side him as he adapts to his new superhero life?
Wade: He's got a team of three people. One of them is Sheila, who is a giant pair of lips displayed on a super computer in the She-Lair. By the way, the whole "she" pun is something we play along with throughout the series. His car is called the "She-hicle" and when something crazy or funny happens, he'll say "she-diculous" or "she-larious". Another character is his sister, Kelly who is the world's leading expert on SheZow and President of the International SheZow Fan Club. When her and Guy found the ring in the basement, she thought she was going to be the next Shezow as she found out her Aunt Agnes was SheZow and was just flipping out, but Guy doesn't believe it and just grabs the ring and puts it on fooling around, but it turns him into SheZow and it's stuck on his finger.
I wanted to create a story that had instant conflict: a laid back boy that has to suddenly have the responsibility of saving the world dressed as a girl and the conflict between him and his sister. Somebody who wanted to be SheZow and it literally grabbed out from her hands and so she's pretty bitter about it. And sets him still from time to time, but also loves the SheZow legend so much that she wants him to to do a great job. So she becomes almost the drill instructor.
Guy's best friend, Maz, loves it! His first question when he's done cracking up about it is "can I be your sidekick". So in every episode, Maz dresses up as a completely different sidekick character trying to help out. Sometimes he gets in the way, sometimes he actually does help.
Nrama: You mentioned that Maz cracks up about it, so do the jokes about Guy dressed as a girl linger or does Kelly and Maz accept this is how he has to look to do good?
Wade: This is how he can do good and that's just the way it is. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, they all think he is a she anyways.
Nrama: How long has the SheZow character been around in this world? Do you explore the mythos of that?
Wade: Actually we do talk about the fact she was missing for a month and then she came back. So everybody else, including the villains, thinks it's the original SheZow when Guy takes over.
Nrama: Can you tell us a little about the villains in Guy's rogues gallery?
Wade: We've got really silly villains. We've got one called Candy Rapper, he's a candy bar who raps and we've got Terra, who actually is the old Shezow's best friend and fellow hero, but SheZow became more famous and Terra was forgotten. So she became really bitter and turned into a villain and the joke is when SheZow comes back and Guy doesn't know who Terra is and is all "what's your name again". This all takes place on a This Is Your Life sort of talk show and when they bring Terra out, Guy doesn't know and she gets pissed and starts to blow up the studio and SheZow has to stop her.
Another thing I really like about the show is that Guy's dad, who is a cop, hates SheZow in the same way J. Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man. Because he thinks SheZow is a vigilante vixen and getting in the way of "real" police work and getting all the glory. So it makes for some very interesting dinner conversations.
Nrama: I've been told SheZow has already been on the air for about a year in Australia and Canada, what took so long to debut it in the United States?
Wade: That's another piece of misinformation floating around out there. It has not been on the air in Canada...yet, and it has not been in Australia for a year. It has been on the air in Australia, but only started in December of last year.
We produced the series as an international co-production between a company in Canada and a company in Australia. The first channels to acquire the program were Australian channels. Then our distributor, DHX Media, started to selling the show into other territories including the United States, but that process takes a while.
Nrama: Why did you choose the Hub to take SheZow to?
Wade: Because I love the Hub! I love the programming they have on and I think they get a good mix of kids and families watching and if you watch the show the parents play an active role in some of the stories. If you haven't seen the first episode, the Hub has put it online to watch.
Nrama: I'm sure you've heard some of the feedback from supporters and those who disagree and think that something like SheZow isn't appropriate, what do you have to say to the people are already calling for the show to be taken off the air?
Wade: I think people are reading a lot into the show, but really I just set out to make a comedy that I would have liked as a kid and I just think they need to watch it. Most of these people are reacting to a show they haven't even seen and I'd like for them to go Hubworld.com and watch episode one and then develop an opinion. Because they'll just see it's just a silly comedy and a cartoon.
Nrama: Do you already have a full season? How many episodes do you have lined up so far?
Wade: We're producing fifty-two eleven minute episodes and those fifty-two are paired up, so you get twenty-six half-hour episodes.
Nrama: What are you hoping viewers who haven't watched SheZow yet gain from the show?
Wade: I'm hoping they discover the dynamic of the characters and between Guy and Maz that it's a fun, buddy picture. I'm also hoping they want to learn more about the history of SheZow and I'd actually like to do some timeshifting next season to see what happens with SheZow in the future.
SheZow airs Saturdays at 12:30 ET/9:30 PT on the Hub