Notes (March #8)

Christopher Peterson and Nansook Park: “Villains with whom superheroes battle are always having fun. These archenemies are frequently mad scientists bent on world domination, immortality, and other goals that never seem to lose their appeal. Villains pursue their goals with obvious relish. The Joker not only looks like a clown but also enjoys killing for its own sake, playing whimsical pranks, and matching wits with Batman. […] The enemy of Thor, his brother Loki, is the god of lies and mischief. The Black Manta (from Aquaman) seeks personal power. Captain Cold, one of the villains who battled the Flash, is motivated by money and—unusual for a comic book character—lechery. As Billy Joel sung, ‘the sinners are much more fun.'”

Kerri L. Johnson, Leah E. Lurye, and Jonathan B. Freeman: “The very nomenclature of superheroes suggests that the gender of Supers is a critical aspect of their identity. Supers’ names, for example, frequently highlight not only an exceptional talent, but also their sex. This is true for both female (e.g., Wonder-Woman, Supergirl, She-ra, Powerpuff Girls, Vampirella, Invisible Girl, and Elastigirl) and male (Superman, He-Man, Spider-Man, Mr. Fantastic, Mr. Incredible) superheroes. Granted, sex is important for identifying the non-superheroes among us too (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.). Yet the manifestation of sex in superheroes is unique. In addition to possessing super-human powers, superheroes possess a super-human gender as well. Indeed, even the Supers whose names do not connote their gender (e.g., Storm from X-Men) remain highly gender stereotyped in form and function. (We should note that we did seek exceptions to this general rule—that whether in name or in form, Supers’ gender is noted and caricatured—to no avail. In fact, we would hazard to suggest that there is simply no such thing as an androgynous superhero.)”

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