Young Star

Boys club no more

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Comics were always thought of as a boy’s club. We all grew up with these superpowered beings that had capes on their backs and wore their briefs outside of their pants. It’s the superhero standard. People don’t instantly picture a skirt or body-fitting spandex when someone says “superhero.” Ask anyone to name one and, unconsciously, they will utter Superman, Batman, Iron-Man, Spider-Man — all men. Who can blame them? They were the heroes that made comics an actual industry. But for industries to thrive, they must go with the changing times. What’s art if not a reflection of its time? This change goes beyond the shift from comics to TV or the silver screen. We’re talking about giving the men in briefs a rest and letting the women in skirts have their narrative.

Comics have become more diverse in story and characters over the years, but the diversity in TV adaptations has just started.  Superhero shows once were commonly about a hero either struggling to understand his power or settling a personal vendetta. Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash exhibit this phenomenon. Gotham shifts this trope a bit by focusing on the young Bruce Wayne (Batman), working through the grief of losing his parents; but apart from his age, it’s still the same thing. Don’t get us wrong — who wouldn’t do a fangirl/boy screech if they saw iconic heroes as millennials not unlike themselves? But if comics can evolve in terms of visual medium, then why can’t we do the same with their narratives? The answer comes from a new Weezer track: Thank God for Girls.

We now have heroines who’re not just supporting characters and aren’t named Wonder Woman. Last aired on TV back in the ‘70s, Wonder Woman was the last superheroine-centered show until SSR’s most underrated agent from the 1940s decided to finally end the four-decade TV heroine drought. Agent Carter decided to break the long absence in the main narrative and has been fighting with a pistol in one hand, and her stubbornness doing the rest, effortlessly walking the streets of misogynistic New York. The show proves to skeptic Marvel fans that she’s more than just the Cap’s girlfriend. Although the show is set in the 1940s, the struggle that Peggy goes through is timeless and has been made way too real. Her main conflict throughout is being underestimated, harassed and sneered at by her male colleagues regardless of her diverse skill set and her experience on the battlefield. Sounds familiar? Regardless of our progress in gender equality, Peggy’s ‘40s struggle is still an ongoing trend that, unfortunately, has not died out.

Up, up and away: Agent Carter is more than just the Cap’s girlfriend.


Another heroine-centric show out now is Netflix’s Jessica Jones. Peggy and Jessica operate under one Marvel universe and both undergo misogyny, but they couldn’t approach their respective conflicts more differently. Peggy might be stubborn, but Jessica is an unapologetic, stone-cold mess. Jessica is far from your conventional hero. You think Batman has problems? Wait ‘till you meet Jess. The show introduces her as a private investigator, since her career as superhero tragically failed. With self-loathing, and numerous vices to keep herself numb, Jessica destroys her potential (and current) human relationships, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The reasons for her behavior are explained as the show progresses. Suffice to say the show deals with unspoken psychological elephants in the room like PTSD, emotional manipulation, drug addiction and rape. These are topics we hear about in the news, yet hardly ever mentioned among superheroes or heroines. Being able to open up a discussion on such themes through a fantasy heroine is a triumph.

D.C. Comics was a bit late to the party with Supergirl but it’s really better late than never. Apart from Jessica and Peggy being under the rival company, Kara Zor-El is a whole different story. The story’s not as daring and dark as Jessica Jones but it does offer a bigger pool of TV heroines to watch right now. When it comes to the common hero trope, Kara’s not too far from it, though she’s no anti-hero. She’s girly and bubbly which what makes Kara, well... Kara. But Supergirl’s positivity doesn’t stop her from calling out people’s sexist attitudes and educating them about it. This show may not be older audiences’ cup of tea, though young impressionable minds will likely see a bit of themselves in Kara.

This is what happens if you put heroines front and center. They’re game changers. It goes beyond the shift of gender and representation for female comic fans out there — superheroines will change the game forever through the stories they tell. Introducing these heroines in our era is one thing; letting them face the conflicts we deal with in modern society is a whole different monster. It’s safe to say the comic universe will never be the same again.













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