If Superman Can Do It…

Miss me? I sure have missed you. I didn’t mean to fall of the face of the Internet but as I’ve mentioned before I can have a demanding schedule. But I have encountered a great opportunity to address something of recent news in the world of fandom.

You may have heard that I read comic books. This is true. But I don’t get to direct nearly as much time to one of my favorite hobbies as I’d like. And so over the last few weekends I’ve been trying to get caught up on reading Superman comics, namely “Action Comics” and “Superman,” both of which are written by former all-things-Avengers scribe and Miles Morales creator Brian Michael Bendis. I don’t keep up with sales figures or reviews or anything like that so I don’t know if his stuff meshes well with the current lineup of DC Comics titles but I feel like he knows how to strike that great balance of incorporating the spectacular power of Superman and the bespectacled humanity of Clark Kent. But now things are about to change.

I finally got around to reading the well-publicized “Superman 18″ in which Superman reveals to the world that he is Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. It could very well mean that this is one of the single most important comic books of the early 21st century. Despite speculation from some fans that this will be a reversed decision it feels to me to be a turning point in comics that will forever shift their dynamics. One only has to look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the game changing ending of “Iron Man” in which Tony Stark reveals Iron Man’s identity to see that the challenges of being human and super powerful are always complicated and that secret identities are not always realistic or relevant story points. I just picked up “Superman 19” this week and cannot wait to see how things begin to shake out.

But beyond the arc of comic book stories I found something far more profound within the events of this comic book which drove me to joyous tears. Context: I like to listen to audio books when I am driving around for work. My most recent one was the autobiographical Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace. Much of the book is about her drives into drug abuse and depression as she deals with her gender dysphoria. It was a subject that I had an intellectual conception of but it wasn’t until I read this book that I really got a sense of the feelings it must mean to be transsexual. The book answers a lot of sensitive, difficult subjects that a trans person shouldn’t have to share with others but is revelatory to those of us who are not trans. When I think about my handful of friends who have transitioned over the years I can only imagine the struggles that they have had to deal with internally, much less externally. And when Laura finally opens up to those she loves and comes out it is both a relief and the beginning of a whole new world of challenges.

And so now we have Superman coming out. Not as trans or gay or (as in my case an atheist) but as both the birth son of Krypton and the adopted son of Earth. But surely this won’t come easy for him and others to process. Yes, he spoke to his loved ones first as they will likely be directly affected by his decision (the wordless page with him and Perry White KILLED ME), but ultimately it’s a story about a person who has it all but has had to lived a lie and now he has to deal with it. Yes, Superman will have to deal with his life of deception. And while it was a deception he kept up for the perceived good of the world it still stood in violation of his pursuit of Truth and Justice. Despite all of the acts of bravery and valor attributed to Superman I was moved to tears because opening oneself up to criticism, self reflection, and vulnerability is perhaps his greatest act of courage. I often differentiate heroic characters as either inspirational or aspirational and for me Superman is the ultimate inspiration. It is my hope that with Superman coming out to the world that others may find the inspiration they need to open up their own hearts and lives.

Superman 18” is available at any of your totally awesome local comic retailers and Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout is available online and at better bookstores and cool ass libraries!

Review: “HEATHEN Vol 1” by Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering (Vault Comics)

After the recent announcement that “TWILIGHT” director Catherine Hardwicke has signed on to make the an adaptation of Natasha Alterici’s fantasy comic book “HEATHEN” the following summary was given in IndieWire:

“The story follows fierce Viking warrior Aydis, who is scorned by her village for kissing another woman and declares a one-woman feminist war against the ultimate patriarch, Odin, the god-king of Asgard and all-seeing father to thunder-god Thor.”

What a pitch! I immediately ordered a copy of the collection of the first 4 issues of the comic. After reading the collection you couldn’t find a more succinct, accurate description of the narrative. Of course this is just the first 4 issues of the comic. Since then 2 more issues have come out and it was recently announced this year that issues 7-12 are to follow.

The heathen in question, Aydis, is the daughter of a respected warrior of a Viking community. She flees her tribe because of an earnest, loving kiss to another woman setting up her story of adventure and self discovery. Elements of Norse folklore, with immortal warriors, Valkyries, and enchanted animals act as a backdrop to what is essentially a tale about finding empowerment in yourself and loved ones, embracing your individual journey, and rejoicing in your sexuality, whatever it may be. It’s not an overly complicated story but it’s an earnest one.

It’s unfortunate that the world is filled with myopic individuals and communities that want to set limitations on self exploration and want to place obstacles to growth and experience. And while that myopia may be of many different stripes in “HEATHEN” that limitation is the socio-religious regulations set forth by their chief god, Odin. And given that Odin is one-eyed, and therefore of singular vision, it is no surprise that Aydis knows to bring about liberation to herself and her community she needs to begin by destroying the source of patriarchal oppression, the aptly named All Father.

On a strictly formal level I want to give an appreciation to Alterici’s art. Her artwork has a graphic quality that brings to mind the clear storytelling of Alex Toth and David Aja. And while she still plays around with the illusion of space the intentional flatness of the artwork gives it a storybook quality that makes “HEATHEN” feel as much as fairy tale as it does a comic book. It has an overt sexiness to it, as it should given the storyline, but it isn’t played for licentious reasons. It shows sexuality in different forms, and all of them are about love – a love of others and a love of self. Given the positivity of that message it should come as no surprise that the book was recognized by the American Library Association YALSA in 2018 as one of their “Great Graphic Novels For Teens.”

“Heathen” is available at your local comic book store!