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.