It might be the sexy swagger of police officers in uniform, the esoteric joy of classical music, or the special friendship we formed in school which always kept us longing for more. Most of us have our own pair of ruby slippers which take us back to where it started.
In 1992, Marvel and DC both changed me forever. But not from the pages of their beautifully illustrated comics. I would come to enjoy those later on in life. It was the year that both X-men: The Animated Series and Batman Returns were released on TV and the Silver Screen respectively.
‘Why is this happening to me? I used to be a normal kid. It’s not my fault!’
These are the first words said by Jubilee, a young Asian American girl who is being hunted by giant robots in the pilot episode of X-men: The Animated Series.
As she runs away to a busy shopping mall, one robot follows her. Then something happens which hooks me for good. Two women appear and attack the giant robot. One dark skinned and almost goddess like, the other a southern belle with a skunk-like pattern through her hair. Storm and Rogue are their names. Those names become immortalised in my memory from that point on. Two more X-men soon join the scene the rescue is a success.
X-men was like no other superhero or action show I’d seen. Most shows had one token female on the team. The Thundercats had Cheetara, He-man had Teela and some teams had a woman around who almost served no purpose, like April O’Neil in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Almost half the X-men team was comprised of women and they were heavy hitters in a fight too. Who cares about an eye beam or metal claws when you can create a hail storm or tornadoes at will?
X-men was about something more though. Unlike most action heroes it wasn’t a fight of good vs evil. Their’s was a fight for acceptance. They were different.
As I passed puberty I started to relate more to the X-men. They were bullied by people and labelled mutants, and I was being bullied by people who labelled me a fag.
Some characters expressed self loathing and shame too. Under her bold, sassy and strong exterior, Rogue saw her power as more of a curse than a gift. She was incapable of touching another person without draining their life and memories. This not only left her traumatized, but meant she was afraid of getting close to anyone.
There’s a theory out there that when the X-men comics were first created it was a way of exposing youth to themes of diversity, prejudice and hysteria. The comics were created during a time in America when racial tensions were at their highest, in 1963. Five years later, Martin Luthor King Jr. was assassinated. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that Professor X resembled Luthor King Jr whereas his rival Magneto was far more extremist like Malcom X.
Growing up, I always felt different. To be honest my affinity for the female characters probably had something to do with an effeminate nature. But it would be remiss not to acknowledge something more complex than that. You see, I didn’t at all like Barbie and I wasn’t a fan of butch women like Ripley from Alien.
I liked women who were feminine sure, but I loved it even more if they could fight.
Michelle Pfeiffer changed my life when she put on a sexy catsuit and exploded on screen with a single word.
In truth I hadn’t even seen the original Batman with Jack Nicholson as the Joker yet.
As time went on, Batman Returns would become one of my all time favourites. Pfeiffer’s representation of Catwoman was unlike any before her. She was just as sneaky and sassy as Catwoman should be, but as unhinged as we’ve come to expect from Harley Quinn.
Her story is actually quite relatable for anyone queer. She struggles to be recognised in a world of domineering men, is beaten down, attacked and comes back for vengeance. She creates a sexy alter ego, rebels against the rules and fights with her own sense of justice. But she’s confused. She envies Batman’s privilege, isn’t sure about fellow outcast The Penguin, and relentlessly stalks and despises Max Shreck.
It certainly helped that she had a cool whip and killer heels! Leather, whips and unhinged anti-heroism. You couldn’t queer code it any more!
I think what I like is the idea that a woman is fighting back without having to conform to a masculine archetype. Ripley had to almost look like a man to be considered a worthy soldier. I liked that women could still keep their feminine wiles and kick ass.
I also adored Princess Leia, Xena, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As time went on I would adjust my ideals of feminine appearance in my heroes, mostly because I educated myself on different waves of feminism and surrounded myself with gay and bisexual women.
Throughout my life I have adopted a similar approach to that of my heroes. At first people might find me unassuming. They may predict from my frivolous social nature that I lack depth or physical strength. But I assure you, I am no ditz, nor am I a meathead. I hold 3 academic degrees, a talent for artwork and I am proficient in combat sports. I love the complexity of who I am because it is the armour I have built from surviving life’s challenges.
I am Andrew. Hear me roar!
#superheroines #catwoman #xmen #xwomen #fanboy #gaygeek #girlpower