Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bows, Frills, Love and Justice.

When it comes to manga and anime, I tend to surprise myself.  The genres and titles I expect to like often fail to spark my interest for the long term.  However, titles I might not have expected will often become my favorites.  When I first started reading manga, I thought I’d like shonen battle manga like Naruto, Bleach and FullmetalAlchemist because they seemed to be the closest equivalent to the superhero comics I grew up with.  Instead, I found I didn’t have much of a taste for the battles that seemed to drag on for multiple volumes or the constant “I must become stronger” mindset.  Instead, my manga genres of choice ended up being mystery, sports, cooking and even the occasional harem comedy.

However, it’s rare that I jump the gender divide and read or watch something from the shoujo (girls’) or josei (women’s) demographics.  So, it surprised me a bit when I ended up binge-watching all of Sailor Moon Crystal  on Hulu.  I knew of SailorMoon, mind you.  Back in the ‘90s, it was one of the few anime to get a foothold on TV here in the United States before the Toonami boom.  Then after that, it would make a comeback on said Toonami block.  However, I had never watched it all that intently.  So, I decided to do as deep a dive as I could into the “magical girls” genre and see what I could figure out about its appeal.
Now, when I first approached this subject, my knowledge of the genre was limited.  I mostly knew of it in terms of Sailor Moon and to a lesser extent Cardcaptor Sakura and Tokyo Mew Mew (both of the last two were brought to the U.S. as Cardcaptors and Mew Mew Power respectively).  I also had a vague awareness of the PreCure franchise.  So, the way I saw it based on Sailor Moon was that the magical girls genre could be summed up as “like superheroes but frillier”.  You know what I mean: villains, special powers, secret identities and fighting the good fight.  All of it done while wearing skirts and bows and wielding sparkly pink accessories.   However, while that is true to an extent, it’s not completely true.  While some magical girls could be quantified as superheroes, not all are.  I put together a basic Venn diagram so you could get the gist of it, but it doesn’t include every possible property or franchise.
The biggest thing that seems to define the magical girl genre are young, female lead characters with some kind of magical power (duh).  Sometimes it involves a transformation, sometimes it doesn’t.  There’s usually a romantic subplot, but not necessarily (like, 98% of the time).  The main lead will often have a power related to healing of purification, but again not in every case.  For every rule there is an exception and for every exception there is a rule.

So, what did I think of all of it?  Well, let’s set the parameters, first.  During this dive into magical girl territory, I mainly read them in manga form with a few anime sprinkled in.  The titles I read were Wedding Peach, Tokyo Mew Mew, Magic Knight Rayearth, Pichi Pichi Pitch Mermaid Melody, Phantom Thief Jeanne, Shugo Chara and Cardcaptor Sakura.  The anime I watched were Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu and the original Pretty Cure.

As expected, I leaned more towards the ones that had more superheroic tendencies.  Sailor Moon remains a favorite.  Tokyo Mew Mew is also good.  Tokyo Mew Mew kind of reminds me of Spider-Man.  For one, it embraces a science fiction origin in terms of how its characters gained animal powers.  Also, how the main character frets over how her hero duties interfere with her romantic relationship.  Shugo Chara also proved to be a surprise favorite.  I just find the concept rather clever.  The whole thing revolves around people creating heart eggs which hatch into Guardian Characters, which represent a kind of person who the person wants to be.  The main character Amu uses these characters to transform into different magical girl forms.  So, her heroic forms are idealized versions of herself amped up to superheroic proportions.  Amulet Heart is peppy and athletic.  Amulet Spade is artistic.  Amulet Clover is super-skilled at domestic tasks like cooking.  And Amulet Diamond is a cool idol (read as: singer/actress/model).  Instead of it just being “here’s you transformed by magic”, it’s “here’s who you want to be but dialed up to eleven”.  I also really liked the original version of Pretty Cure, which I found on the free streaming service Tubi.  What surprised me in that series was how much physical combat there was.  Shows like Sailor Moon tended to focus on magical and energy attacks.  Cure Black and Cure White, on the other hand, tended to actually get in there and mix it up.  Princess Tutu, which is kind of superhero-y but also about ballet and storytelling and oddly meta, is a series I’ve watched before and is always good.  Seriously, watch Princess Tutu.
There were a couple of magical girl series that I liked that didn’t quite overlap into superhero territory.  Incidentally, both of them were created by the artist collective CLAMP.  Magic Knight Rayearth is a magical girl story about three high school girls who get whisked away to an epic fantasy world and made into magic knights.  They set off with the idea that they’re there for one specific mission only to find they’re there for completely different reasons that create all sorts of negative consequences.  It’s a well-written and well-drawn fantasy series and one that is surprisingly funny in spots.  The other series is Cardcaptor Sakura, which is a little bit closer to an urban fantasy in execution.  It’s about a girl named Sakura Kinomoto who accidentally releases a set of magical Clow Cards into the world and then with the help of the cards’ guardian and her friends, finds them and recaptures them.  This much I knew and expected from the TV show Cardcaptors, which was a heavily edited version of Cardcaptor Sakura (it had an awesome theme song, though).  What I didn’t expect was a light romance comic that seemingly discards any sense of strict sexuality and all the identity politics that come with it.  At least during the first half of the series (haven’t read the second half yet), almost every character seems to be at least bisexual.  Sakura herself has a crush on her older brother’s friend but also talks about how her new female teacher makes her “feel all floaty”.  Meanwhile, her rival is a boy named Li Syaoran.  He’s on the books as becoming a love interest for Sakura later, but also has a crush on her brother’s friend.  The lack of identity politics is actually kind of refreshing.  Here in the U.S., such ideas often seem to get whittled down into who people identify as and what “team” they’re on.  Still, there are some elements that might make American audiences uneasy.  The fact that so much is made of romance in a story where the main character and her rival are about nine years old might bother some people (they are a little young to be so worried about all that).  There’s also a romantic relationship suggested between one of Sakura’s elementary school classmates and her teacher, which might raise a few red flags with people.
Other manga didn’t impress me much.  Phantom Thief Jeanne I stopped reading after one digest.  One of the ones I found particularly disappointing was a series entitled Wedding Peach.  It starts off with the rather crazy premise of the goddess Aphrodite choosing a girl to become the heroine Wedding Peach in order to defend love from demons and retrieve the legendary “four somethings” (something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue).  The really noteworthy part being that her first demon-fighting costume is a big, floofy wedding dress.  As the series goes on though, it changes first to a shorter, almost lingerie-like outfit and then to a sort of Wonder Woman-like outfit but with hearts and angel wings on it.  And then it’s just kind of finding treasures and fighting demons.  Also, a typical will they/won’t they semi-antagonistic, semi-romantic relationship between the main character and one of her classmates.  The whole wedding theme sounds odd and crazy enough that it could be fun, but ultimately the execution of the whole thing proves to be kind of boring and conventional.

Overall though, I enjoyed what I saw.  The ones that did lean in more of a superhero direction, really do tend to read more like the American superhero comics I grew up reading.  It may seem a bit strange at first glance considering how oriented towards romance magical girl manga is.  But then, Spider-Man was always more concerned about his love life than a lot of other things.  Heck, the X-Men comics have often been regarded by fans as just being a big, long, complicated soap opera.  Someone once made the case that the writing of American romance comics from the ‘50s had a big impact on how superheroes were written from the ‘60s onward and I believe them.  As for how the magical heroine stories match up against the battle heroes over on the shonen side of the street, I’d say it’s favorable.  In the magical girl stories, there’s a lot less macho posturing, a lot less obsessing over strength or rivalries and a lot more focus on communal qualities like friendship and love.

I’ve really just scratched the surface, though.  I didn’t even touch the manga and anime that subvert the genre and take it past the usual bounds of girls’ romance stories.  Manga like Puella Madoka Magica, which depicts becoming a magical girl as more of a dark, Faustian pact.  Or Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, which near as I can tell asks the question “What if magical girls were the result of a secret military project?”.  I’m not finished yet, though.  I’m still reading Shugo Chara and Cardcaptor Sakura as well as watching Sailor Moon.  Heck, thanks to Tubi I just discovered a magical girl idol series called Fancy Lala.
I’ll try my best to keep up with them.  You see, I’ve started reading some other manga series.  Staying true to form, I’ve developed an interest in yet another unexpected genre.  This time, it’s . . . romantic comedies.  I’ve begun reading manga like The Quintessential Quintuplets, We Never Learn, Wotakoi, Kaguya-sama: Love isWar and even some more risqué fare like Ao-chan Can’t Study.

When it comes to anime and manga, you never know what you might like until you try it.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Breakfast Club, Kamen Rider style.

I know I talked about tokusatsu before. But I don't tend to talk about the specific tokusatsu I watch all that much.  That's because I don't always get a hold of them in the most copyright-friendly ways. Though I would if I could (seriously, if someone could offer this series on DVD with subtitles, I would totally buy it).

I'm going to break that streak here because I just rewatched a bunch of Kamen Rider Fourze.

Kamen Rider Fourze is the Kamen Rider series that started in 2011 and was made to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the series (Fourze is a portmanteau of "Four" and "Zero").  I rewatched Fourze largely because it's just a fun, positive series. However, I want to talk about it because as an extension of my other interests, I have an interest in little cultural bits that show up in media. Especially when those cultural bits clash and combine. And you see, Kamen Rider Fourze has two big motifs that run through it. One, is space. The other . . . is high school.

Both Japan and the US have a bit of an obsession with high school to the point that they've broken them down into different motifs and stereotypes used to tell stories about it. Whether or not any of them actually reflect the actual high school experience is beside the point. The thing is though, that they're completely different approaches. Here in the US, high school is often depicted as an ordeal of sorts. Filled with awkwardness, embarrassment, cliques and a strict social pecking order. Anyone who's seen a teen movie knows what I'm talking about. Japan, on the other hand, tends to view high school as one of the last gasps of youthful freedom before entering the adult world. Kind of like college is in the US. There's often a focus on young love and bonding with friends in after school clubs and activities. There was also a brief fascination with juvenile delinquency that made it into a lot of their media during the late '70s and into the ‘80s (manga like Cromartie High School and Sukeban Deka, for example). 

Kamen Rider Fourze, despite being a show entirely aimed at Japanese kids, decided to go with both.

It had the uniforms, the clubs, girls confessing their feelings via letter (it’s a thing in Japanese shows set in high school).  And the main character, Gentarou, at least dresses like one of those delinquents from an ‘80s manga (I think the specific term is yanki).  I can’t remember if their were any scenes of characters eating their lunch on the roof (another trope out of high school anime) but it wouldn’t surprise me.  However, they also fill the school with cliques and in-groups like in an ‘80s Hollywood teen comedy.  How much did they incorporate?  A lot.  Sometimes more than you think they should.  For example, they did that bit in American movies where the football players and cheerleaders are the ones who rule the school.  That’s right.  Football players and cheerleaders.  There are just a few problems with that concept.  For one, American football isn’t particularly popular in Japan.  For the other, the social values of Japan and many other East Asian countries don’t quite lend themselves to that situation.  I mean, I’m sure they like high school sports but every other piece of media I’ve seen suggests it wouldn’t be enough to establish any sort of social structure from it.  Heck, academics are so valued in most East Asian countries that you’d be more likely to rule the school if you were on the honor roll.

Right now I’m just imagining a bunch of Japanese writers crowded around a TV playing John Hughes movies with Japanese subtitles furiously taking notes.

But, they make it work.  How?  Well, for one they suggest that the specific social structure of the school is perhaps unique to that school.  Gentarou when he first comes in doesn’t understand why it’s some huge deal if he tries to sit at the cheerleaders’ table because it was nothing like that at the school he transferred in from.  Seeing as the school is rather strange anyway, for reasons of monster attacks, it’s easy to believe.  The other is by combining ideas.  It has the clubs and it has the cliques and it combines them by having Gentarou’s unofficial, unapproved monster-fighting Kamen Rider Club essentially become The Breakfast Club.  The club starts with Gentarou (delinquent-esque), Yuki (geek), Kengo (loner, also the guy whose father invented all the Fourze tech), but then expands to include Miu (cheerleader), Shun (jock), JK (goof-off) and Tomoko (goth) as well as Ryusei, another exchange student who turns out to be Kamen Rider Meteor.  And all this is rendered in the big, over-the-top style that only tokusatsu can manage.

The show might not be for everyone.  But I like it and I think the clashing and combining of cultural storytelling tropes and stereotypes certainly makes it an interesting sight to see.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Scene From Jellystone Park.

Interior- A ranger's station in Jellystone Park. A ranger sits at a desk. A Visitor walks up to him.

Ranger: How could I help you, sir?

Visitor: Yes, I'd like to report an incident that happened this afternoon.

Ranger: Okay, let me just get out the incident report form [pulls form out of drawer]. So, what would you like to report?

Visitor: My picnic basket was stolen. By a bear.

Ranger: Uh-huh. Can you describe this bear?

Visitor: Well, he was brown and walked on two legs. He was wearing a green hat and a green tie. Strange thing, he was also wearing a shirt collar with no shirt.

Ranger: Anything else? Anything unusual?

Visitor: Well, he talked for one thing. And he sounded a lot like Art Carney from The Honeymooners. Also, he was with another bear. A very small bear. I don't know if it was a cub or some kind of dwarf bear or something.

Ranger: If this is who I think it is, no one really knows the answer to that. Anything you can tell us about the smaller bear?

Visitor: Yeah. He wore a bow tie. Also, his voice sounded kind of depressed and whiny.

Ranger: Okay, we're definitely getting a clear picture here. Can you describe the events as they happened?

Visitor: Well, I set the basket on the table and turned around to get something. Then, when I wasn't looking, he shot an arrow with a big suction cup on it at the basket and dragged it off the table. Then he started running with it. I tried chasing after him but I must have been going in circles because I kept passing by the same landmarks over and over again.

Ranger: Yeah, that happens around here. One of the quirks of the park. You probably should have kept going. You'd have gotten there eventually. What were the contents of the basket?

Visitor: Oh, you know. Silverware. Napkins. An entire roast chicken. A whole pie.

Ranger: Standard picnic lunch for Jellystone. Now the last and most important question: Was this bear funny?

Visitor: Hmm. You know, it's kind of hard to describe it. He was sort of mildly amusing but not laugh out loud funny.

Ranger: Yup, that's Yogi alright! I'm going to call this one down to Smith. He's had some experience with this specific bear. We'll get your picnic basket back, sir. I hope this incident won't ruin your visit to our beautiful Jellystone Park

-End of Scene-

Sunday, June 17, 2018

One for the Super-Dads.

You know, it strikes me just now that since I did a post on superhero moms for Mother’s Day, that I should do a post on superhero dads for Father’s day.  The thing is that comics’ relationship with fatherhood is kind of a different ball of wax.  Because of the more boy-oriented past of superhero comics, paternal narratives actually abound.

They’re filled with fathers and father figures who are practically deified and serve as inspirations.  Like Thomas Wayne, Jor-El and Ben Parker.  And of course there are fathers who are literal gods like Odin and Highfather.
 There are also fathers who serve as warnings and antagonists.  Fathers like Thanos, Darkseid, Fu Manchu and . . . oh yeah . . . Satan himself.
 And we could argue that Magneto walks the line between those two.

And then there are cases where the hero becomes a father only for it to be undone in the name of creating more tragedy or because editorial decided it had been a mistake in the first place.  Like when Aquaman’s son Arthur Curry Jr. was killed by Black Manta.  Or when Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s child ended up being stillborn because of a poisoning (at least there was an alternate universe comic with the child as Spider-Girl).  Or how Cyclops’s son Nathan was infected with a sci-fi virus and then sent to the future to be cured.  And don’t even get me started on Wolverine and his relationship with his son Daken.

The dead baby/sad dad stories are probably as close as this category comes to the weird pregnancy stories in the other category.

So, yeah, paternal narratives are by and large about creating pain for the hero or the hero trying to either live up to or move beyond their father (it’s surprising how many male coming-of-age themes are tied up with characters that aren’t even all that young anymore).

And yet, we do get some instances of father’s being portrayed as actual human beings.  Regular guys (albeit sometimes super-powered) just trying to do their best for the world and their family.  And though few and scattered, these positive portrayals of fathers have been appearing a lot longer than the positive portrayals of mothers.

Starting in the ‘60s, Mr. Fantastic was a father.  Maybe a little boring, but he did the job well.  Going back to the ‘80s, we have the second Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang.  Though he was often a bit of a flake, he was never an evil dad or a godlike inspiring one either.  In the ‘90s we had Thunderstrike, a character who spun out from the Thor mythos.  He struggled with his role a bit but always tried to do right by his son Kevin.
Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie from the pages of a Fantastic Four comic.
A more recent example though, is Luke Cage.  He had a child years ago with fellow Netflix star Jessica Jones.  Also, through a little bit of retconning, Black Lightning has two grown daughters named Thunder and Lightning.

And here’s a big one: both Superman and Batman are fathers over at DC.  Superman’s son Jon Kent is the new Superboy and Batman’s son Damian Wayne is the latest Robin.  There were some comic book plot tricks employed to make both “Super Sons” 10 years old, but most comic book fans I’ve encountered seem to find them a welcome addition.  And both Clark and Bruce seem to be doing a good job of parenting.
 These are probably the best examples I can think of, aside from more indie stuff like Saga (Marko is a pretty good dad).  Most depictions of fatherhood seem to still be of the dead dad/evil dad/angsty dad type.  However, things are changing slowly but surely.

So, to all the super dads out there just trying to do your best, Happy Father’s Day!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Mother of all Superhero Posts.

In about 64 different countries on this planet, including the United States, China, Zimbabwe, Japan and many others, the second Sunday in May is set aside as Mothers Day.  Now, it just so happens that this Mothers Day in Japan the Toei company will release a special for its Super Sentai fan club members entitled Hero Mama League.  In this special, three heroines from past seasons of Super Sentai (Hurricanger, Magiranger and Dekaranger respectively) will be shown as married women and mothers trying to balance saving the world with raising a family.  Here’s a trailer.  Keep in mind that it’s just the first part of the video.
To say the least, I am intrigued.  For one, as a thirty-something, I’m kind of curious to see what happens to these characters when they reach my age.  For another, it shows an international extension of a trend I’ve noticed happening in some superhero media.  I’m talking about the rise of “superhero moms”.

Before I start going on about depictions of motherhood and maternal narratives in comic books and superhero fiction, let’s flash back to 2015.  The movie Avengers: Age of Ultron has come out.  Much of the world is excited to see how the character of Black Widow as played by Scarlett Johansson would be developed.  The reason being that by default Black Widow had managed to become the most well-known superheroine in the world.  People were met with dismay when the biggest developments turned out to be that she had started a romantic relationship with Bruce Banner and the reveal that the shady espionage agency that she had once worked for had forcibly sterilized her.  It seems folks out there (notably female movie-goers) weren’t happy with the badass super-spy’s development being reduced down to who she was dating and whether or not she could be a mommy (the “I’m a monster” line didn’t help either).  I bring this up because I wanted to acknowledge that I get that this stuff is . . . tricky.  While motherhood is a possible development for female characters, the media has for too long treated it as the ultimate development for female characters.  It’s a practice that’s outdated and should be replaced with a greater variety of possibilities.  However, I also wanted to bring this up because I wanted to point out how differently comic book readers can perceive things.  You see, I just kind of shrugged it off and thought “well, that figures”.

You see, in superhero comics heroines becoming mothers, or any kind of maternal narratives for that matter, are very rare.  I mean, it’s rare for almost any superhero to become a parent despite some outliers, but there still seem to be paternal narratives all over the place.  Superheroes are always getting hung up on their fathers or father figures and what their fathers said or trying to be better than their fathers if said fathers happen to be evil.  Both of Bruce Wayne’s parents died, but when he reflects on it he usually focus on Thomas Wayne rather than Martha.  Superman’s entire planet went kablooey, and he still focuses mostly on the loss of his father Jor-El.  You get the gist.

Now, like I said, there were outliers.  At Marvel, the Inhuman Crystal had a daughter named Luna with her husband, the mutant Avenger Quicksilver.  The second Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter, first appeared on the scene with a school-age daughter from a failed marriage.  But the most well-recognized superhero mom was probably the Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four. 

The Invisible Woman becoming a mother was kind of an obvious choice to make when it was made.  Of the few superheroines they had back then, she was married and the most stable.  Also, the Fantastic Four already seemed like a nuclear family with the Human Torch and the Thing subbing in as the bickering children of the group.  Looking back on it, it was a simple no-brainer development but kind of a big deal for 1968 when it first happened.
Most of the other times superhero comics attempted to tackle anything related to motherhood or the pregnancies that often preceded them, the results were . . . cringeworthy.  I don’t want to lose anyone but these examples are downright bonkers and surprisingly heavy on continuity, but I feel the need to include all these bad examples.  Links will be provided.  So, here goes . . .

There was the time Scarlet Witch had twin sons with her android husband only for them to be revealed to not be real in the first place.  There was the time Power Girl experienced an immaculate conception only for the magical baby to grow up super fast and disappear.  There was the time Ms. Marvel was essentially raped and gave birth to the reborn form of her rapist who she then ran off with.  And of course there’s Mantis and all the general weirdness of the Celestial Madonna and Celestial Messiah stories.  There’s also just the terrible mother that is Mystique.  Oh, and apparently, the Huntress functionally adopted a kid only for everyone to forget it even happened.  And this isn’t even covering situations where someone meets their possible future child from an alternate timeline or whatever.

So . . . yeah.  Lots of sci-fi weirdness.  Lots of clumsy riffing on the Christian nativity story.  I know people like saying superheroes are modern mythology, but I think those stories are a little bit much.  Many of these stories seemed so steeped in their own weirdness that they kind of lost track of the human element.  There are more referenced in this forum thread.

But a funny thing has happened in the past decade or so.  At Marvel alone, at least a half dozen heroines have become mothers.  Off the top of my head, they include: Jessica Jones, the original Spider-Woman, Tigra, Jubilee, Smasher and Meggan.  Six might not seem like a lot, but it is compared to the past fifty years or so of Marvel history.

DC, on the other hand, hasn’t been boasting as much.  In fact, they kind of seem to have fewer maternal narratives than they used to.  The back stories of both Wonder Woman and Black Canary used to both hinge on the characters’ respective mothers and now they don’t (granted, it’s easy for Diana’s mom to get overshadowed now that they’ve revealed that her father is Zeus).  And yet, DC isn’t completely devoid of supermoms.  Batman is now the father of 10-year old Damian Wayne, whose mother is villainess and eco-terrorist by birth Talia Head.  Talia doesn’t seem to be a particularly good mom, but Damien will probably have Catwoman as a stepmom soon so we’ll see how that goes.  Superman also has a son named Jonathan Kent and whose mother is Lois Lane.  And though Lane isn’t a superheroine, she’s still pretty badass.  In fact, they just introduced a new character named the Silencer, an ex-assassin who has to fight against agents from her old life to protect her husband and three-year old son.
Not only that, they feature a number of women in different marital and maternal situations.
The original Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, chose to go down the single mother route on purpose.  She reached a point in her life where she decided she wanted to have a baby, so she got herself artificially inseminated.  In addition to providing extra agency to the character in this case, it also proved to be rather effective bait-and-switch marketing.  After releasing this rather arresting cover online:
Fans went about speculating for a few months over who the father was only for it to be revealed that there was no father.  Or at least, no father of any importance.

Perhaps the youngest of Marvel’s supermoms (and one of my favorite characters) is the X-Men’s own Jubilee. 
I love this picture.  It's just sweet.
Canonically only 18 years old, Jubilee was away in Europe when a disaster situation struck.  In the chaos, Jubilee rescues an orphaned baby.  In short order, Jubilee decides she’s going to adopt the little guy and names him Shogo (I’m guessing the other X-Men helped grease a few wheels to make it happen).  It was an act that was impulsive and big-hearted and in that way, very Jubilee.  In its own way it also fits perfectly as a grown-up extension of Jubilee’s character, seeing as she started as an orphan in search of a family.  Now she’s giving Shogo what the X-Men gave her.

That’s just two examples.  The story with all the supermoms is different, but most of them vary from the more conservative situation used with the Invisible Woman back in the ‘60s.
The question becomes: why all this now?

Well, I think some of it has to do with the movies.  With the rise of Marvel Studios, the dynamic at Marvel has changed.  Instead of being primarily a comic book publisher, they’re primarily an intellectual property and media company.  The actual comic book publishing side has turned into Research and Development to hash out new story and character ideas to use for movies and TV shows.  So, this probably gives writers a little bit more wiggle room to do things with the personal lives of the characters.  At the same time, the movies have exposed the characters to a whole new audience including women and young girls.  So, writers and artists probably want to more positively depict events that can happen (but don’t necessarily have to) in a woman’s life.  It's a different audience than before.  The superhero genre doesn't entirely have to rely on the attention of 12-year old boys anymore.  That's the case with Hero Mama League too.  Since it's being made for the fan club, there are likely more older fans there.

Personally, I think the whole thing is a net positive.  I mean, I get if some people don’t.  A lot of media, as I mentioned before, has in the past reduced many a female character’s role to wife and mother.  However, those roles are still perfectly valid in their way.  And if comics and other superhero fiction are going to depict the role of mother, it’s better that they depict it well and intelligently rather than writing more cosmic messiah or fast-aging magic baby stories.
I realize I’ve only touched on just a little bit.  I didn’t even mention Helen Parr from TheIncredibles.  And if I push beyond superheroes there’s Alana from the space opera comic Saga.  Also, the new Duck Tales cartoon has based a major mystery around Huey, Dewey and Louie’s mother Della Duck.

But I think it’s time to wrap this up.  But I would like to say that as a 30-something man with no kids, I have much respect for parents of every gender.  It’s a tough job and one I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do in a million years (sometimes I feel I can barely take care of myself).  So, they’re practically superheroes already.

So, to all the supermoms out there both real and fictional, Happy Mothers Day!