Tagged: Hero

MARTHA THOMASES: Mom’s the word

MARTHA THOMASES: Mom’s the word

Tomorrow is Mothers Day. To some, it’s the most important day of the year. To others, it’s a crass exploitation, using real feelings to sell flowers, brunch, and long-distance calls.

In superhero comics, it’s pretty much a non-event. Good mothers are almost non-existent, if not dead. The good moms send their children away (see Lara) or die in a rain of pearls (Martha Wayne). Living moms are over-bearing control fiends (Phantom Girl’s mom in the 31st Century) or distracted career women (Queen Hippolyta). Recently, the mother in Blue Beetle looks like she has the most realistic relationship with her kids.

Except for Sue Storm, there aren’t any premiere super-hero moms.

The best moms in comics are those who adopt. Martha Kent, Aunt May, even Alfred Pennyworth did fabulously maternal jobs raising children who would grow up to make the world a better place.

Why is this? Some of it may be a remnant from folk tales, where heroes are orphaned so they may have adventures without familial responsibilities or ties to complicate the quest. More to the point, superhero comics are power fantasies, often aimed at adolescents (of all ages) who are extremely frustrated with their bodies. Imagining super-strength, flight, and other extraordinary abilities is comforting and satisfying to someone experiencing growth spurts, hormonal fluctuations and acne.

This is not compatible with feeling like somebody’s baby. And you will always be your mom’s sweet baby.

A mother is an even more uncomfortable reminder of sexuality. Until recently, one couldn’t be a mother without having sex. Children don’t like to think about their parents having sex. (Parents also don’t like thinking about their children having sex, even when their children are grown.) An adoptive mother can be pure and untouched, at least in the mind of her child.

And yet, being a mother is an astonishingly sensual experience. It’s more complicated and more pure than could be easily conveyed in a 22-page story, even by an expert, and almost certainly not by a man. The smell of your child’s head, the smoothness of a baby’s skin, the music of a toddler’s laugh – these are glorious sensations. Beyond this kind of intimate contact, having a child permits a mother to experience the wonders of life all over again. As an adult, you expect to see snow or rain or flowers in the spring, but these are new and awe-inspiring to a child. You know why a fire fighter wears red suspenders, but it’s all new to your kid.


Superhero patrols Phoenix

Superhero patrols Phoenix

Via BoingBoing, we learn of a certain guy named Jim.  He lives in Tempe, AZ.  He drives a Nissan. 

And he is a crime-fighting hero.

Several nights a week, he patrols the streets of his town as Citizen Prime.  He wears a leather mask, a silk cape, and a steel-plated body shield on his upper body.  He drives through bad neighborhoods, armed with a cell phone to take photos and call the police.  If things get really tough (they haven’t yet), he has a stun gun and a bean bag stun gun.

When he isn’t driving, he walks the streets, distributing pamphlets to his fellow citizens urging them to get more involved in their community. 

If you want to learn more, check out his MySpace page.  Sorry, girls, he’s married!

Now if he can only do something about Tempe’s vampire outbreak

DENNIS O’NEIL: Who knows what evil lurks…?  Part 2

DENNIS O’NEIL: Who knows what evil lurks…? Part 2

Suddenly, the air was full of bats!

The “air” here is metaphorical and if you’d allow me to fully ripen the trope, possibly to the point where it emits a faint odor, it might read, The air of popular culture in the 30s and 40s was full of bats.

Let’s see.  There was a Mary Roberts Rheinhart novel and an early talkie adapted from it, both called The Bat, and there was a pulp hero also called The Bat and, a bit later, another pulp do-gooder who labeled himself The Black Bat.  Am I forgetting anyone…?  Oh yeah.  A comic book character that was introduced in Detective Comics #27, dated May 1939, as Batman.  Like an estimated eighty percent of your fellow earthlings, you may have heard of him.

And, again metaphorically, standing behind the Batman and maybe some of the others was one of the greatest pulp heroes, The Shadow.  The writer of the early Batman stories, Bill Finger, made no secret of his admiration for the Shadow novels.  He went so far as to admit that the Shadow’s influence on his batwork was extremely direct when he told historian (and author and artist and publisher) Jim Steranko, “I patterned my style of writing Batman after the Shadow.”  And: “My first script was a take-off on a Shadow story.”

Which brings us to Anthony Tollin.  Remember him?  I introduced the two of you a couple of weeks ago in this very feature. I told you that a company Anthony owns has been issuing reprints of the Shadow books. Recently, he sent me an early copy of one of those books, titled Partners of Peril, and suggested that I might want to compare it to the first Batman adventure, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate. 

Of course there are differences.  After all, the Shadow novel is probably around 50,000 words long and Batman’s debut is six comic book pages.  But there are also similarities.  I won’t even try to describe them all – see Robert Greenberger’s ComicMix article, or Anthony’s text piece in the book itself – but they are manifold.  In a phone conversation a few hours ago, Anthony mentioned the most obvious, among which are:

  • Both are about a – yes! – chemical syndicate.
  • The heroes of both get involved in the proceedings while visiting a law-enforcing friend.
  • Both feature virtually identical death traps, which each hero beats in the same way.
  • Both heroes offer the same whodunit-type explanation at the adventure’s end.
  • Both heroes spend a lot of time on a rooftop after a safe robbery.
  • The denouements of both stories are, again, virtually identical.

Et cetera.

As I wrote in the earlier column, anyone with even the dimmest interest in pop culture or comics history, or who just wants to sample the kind of entertainment that kept pops or granddad reading by flashlight under the covers, or who’s just in the mood for capital-M Melodrama combined with capital-H Heroics, might want to see if the Shadow has anything for them.

For me, the stuff has another aspect, one which is as modern as hip-hop. But that’s for next week.


Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.

Guy’s Choice Awards to air June 13

Guy’s Choice Awards to air June 13

Because men have so little power in modern life, Spike TV will provide them a safe place to express their opinions this year when they present the first-ever Guy’s Choice Awards.  Categories will include Best Asskicker (that’s what it says in the press release), Ballsiest Band, Hottest Girl on the Planet (Saturn Girl is not eligible), Luckiest M.F. (sic, again), Luckiest Bastard, Most Dangerous Man.  They also promise to deliver a prize they call The Brass Balls Award to a legendary action hero.

Unlike any other program ever on television, Spike TV dares to feature what they describe as "unbelievably foxy trophy girls."

If you’re a guy and you never, ever get to have an opinion, vote, run for office, or run a branch of government, you can make yourself feel powerful by voting at www.spiketv.com.  However, you’ll have to wait until May 1.  All this authority goes away when voting closes on June 1.

The official sponsors are American Express, Cingular, Jeep, Pizza Hut, Snickers, Southern Comfort and the U.S. Army.