Last week I complained about some recent comics (you know the ones) and my frustration with parts of the industry that still don’t understand where people like me are coming from. And when I say people like me I don’t necessarily mean just women, as I know some men share my sentiments on the current controversy as well, but comic fans who want more from their favorite publishers, comic fans who have a specific history with their characters.
I think it’s difficult for people to elucidate their feelings when it comes to some topics. While many have moments of clarity where they can share their thoughts plainly to others, that’s not always the case. Especially when it comes to fandom. People who are “fans” are passionate. A casual fan is one thing but when you are truly a fan, you become emotionally invested in whatever it is you love. That has its ups and downs.Some fans take that passion and run with it. Perhaps it jump starts their own creativity and it leads them to create their own work that in turn, others become passionate about. And some fans seem to only take things personally. That’s not a terrible thing but it isn’t a great thing either. Taking something done, let’s say to a character, and seeing it as a personal attack on yourself and your devotion to a character can get tricky. It can cost you a lot mentally and emotionally and perhaps even cause you to perceive things incorrectly. But taking a character so much to heart can also bring you a lot of joy and perhaps even change your life in a positive way. If you want an example just read anything I’ve written about Oracle.
But putting different levels of fandom aside, I felt like I should share with you all some of where I come from personally as a fan. I can try and speak on behalf of the countless stories I’ve heard from others on this topic but I can only truly speak for myself and how I view things. I’ve seen a lot of readers forget that’s why I’m here to write this column, to share my own outlook. Opinions are just that, sometimes people agree, sometimes they don’t and we form those opinions based on our personal experiences. Well let me tell you how I came to love a few of my favorite female superheroes.Harley Quinn - I’ve told my personal history with comics a few times here and there online or in interviews but if you don’t know, I came to comic books later in life. My love of superheroes was formed at a very young age when I saw things like the 1960s Batman television show and other such comic adaptations. As a young child those things were such an amazing spectacle to behold – the costumes, the powers, the outlandish plots. When Batman: The Animated Series came along I was just ten years old and extremely impressionable as it turns out because that show formed a view of certain characters that has lasted until now. And one of those characters is Harley Quinn.
You probably know that Harley was created specifically for Batman:TAS and boy, was that one of the best things Paul Dini and Bruce Timm ever did. Like many girls, I quickly became attached to Harley. Why? Well, besides her cool-looking costume and quirky voice, I have to assume it was her love for the Joker. I didn’t realize as a child that Harley was literally crazy for him. Obviously, as a show for kids, it wasn’t supposed to come off as unhealthy as their relationship is usually portrayed, but to me it was just mad love. There were tons of guys I felt that way about and so it resonated. As I grew up I examined the character more and realized how sad it was to be her but that little girl inside me will always remember when it felt like to be in love with a guy you’d hit people with a giant mallet for, even if he didn’t feel the same way. And I think a lot of young girls can relate. Even if you grow out of that kind of thinking, you’ll still always be able to remember what it felt like and sympathize.Supergirl - My mom dressed me up as Supergirl for Halloween in Kindergarten and I like to say the rest was history. It was almost as if I was destined to wind up where I am today, just like Supergirl was destined to be a hero on Earth. And how did I come to love Supergirl (besides the costume I wore constantly)? The Supergirl film starring Helen Slater. Yes, a female comic character who got her own movie that tanked. Unfortunately it set a terrible precedent and it makes me sad to hear people talk crap about it when the subject comes up. I loved that movie. I still do! And that’s not me looking through nostalgic glasses either. Sure, it had some weird stuff, like most 80s films, but it also had some great stuff. They had Supergirl go up against magic; the Christopher Reeve films never touched that particular weakness of Kryptons and well, that made her badass in my eyes.
The other part of Supergirl that really touched me was her innocence and compassion. Sure, she was a superpowered being who needed to be tough but that didn’t mean she had to let her powers dictate her emotions. That was a very interesting lesson I didn’t know I was learning at that age, that no matter how much power you had, you had to use it wisely and treat others with respect. And Supergirl, while technically only being on Earth for a short time in the film, didn’t let her negative experiences with some humans affect the way she saw all humans. We all know people can suck on occasion but because of my early experience with Supergirl from her film I always told myself not to become jaded and I have many instances with which to remind myself of that. Bonus points for getting to meet and interview Slater a few years back and tell her how much her role played a part in my life.Rogue - Poor Rogue. I used to say that a lot while watching the X-Men animated series during the 90s. That show was my very first exposure to the famous team and probably Marvel in general now that I’m thinking of it. All of the X-Men’s powers amazed me but Rogue’s really left an impact on me. It wasn’t as much relating to this character, as it was feeling sorry for her. I may not have had the social life I wanted when I was younger but I did have a family who loved me and I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be like not to do something as simple as hug them. And the way she was tricked by Mystique! Oh man, I didn’t know that kind of betrayal when I was younger but I do now and so in that way at least I can relate. But Rogue, like many heroes, was hell bent on overcoming the struggles life laid before her. She may not have always accepted them with grace and courage but that’s why I liked her. She was just as much human as the non-mutants around her and that made her all the more real to me.
This is a short list of names obviously, I could go on for hours about my favorite characters (male, female, cat), as I’m sure most of you could as well. You’re a fan of comics, that’s why you’re on this website to begin with. Besides giving you an insight into my fandom, the point of all of this is to show you how one person can form their opinions and outlook on comic book characters. They’re not always from comics but they sure as hell can take you there. Like I said, this is how I see things but I know many other women who found superheroes this way and I want to see that happen more often. We’ve got new animated comic series and Hollywood films coming out of our ears these days. I just hope when the kids who enjoyed them eventually get a comic in their hands, they see at least echoes of what they’re familiar with. Share with your friends whichever comics you like but remember that adults can be just as impressionable as children and are just as apt to make first-look judgments.