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CSBG Archive

12/27 – Declarative Rabbit Says…

There should be more female superheroines with male sidekicks.

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66 Comments

Yeah! Bring on Wonder Boy!

I’m trying to think if there actually are any female superheroes with male sidekicks and so far I can’t come up with any. But there’s got to be at least one example…right?

Also, if Black Canary or Zatanna had a boy wonder would he wear fishnets too?

Does the current S.T.R.I.P.E. count as a sidekick to Stargirl? Or Emma Frost and the Hellions?

I guess the point is that sidekicks are a mostly Golden Age/Silver Age phenomenon, which is not a good source for female superheroes. Later on, you start shifting from sidekicks to team books as a way to get superheroes to interact with other superheroes.

How many post Silver Age sidekick have been introduced? (I probably want some comment to rule out cases like Batman, which merely replaced old sidekicks with new sidekicks to continue the formula.)

Hey! What’s wrong with female sidekicks?

Are you guys all misogynists or sexists?

Women can do anything as well as men!

There is Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. However, they are espionage adventurers, not superheroes.

Given our world’s 5000+ year history of male dominated socieities, including the USA…

Given that men in general are hesitent to place women in a place of authority and dominance over other men…

Given that most superhero writers are men…

I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. If it hapens at all, it’d likely not last very long, and then only as a novelty. It’d take one helluva writer to pull it off without her coming off as a dominating witch and him being a submissive panty-waste.

Thinking about it, if a male is agressive enough to become a superhero, he’d be likely NOT to be subservient to anyone once he reaches adulthood. I’ll not go into th emale psychology here, but this scenario happening are against every male personality profile I’ve ever seen. This relationship isn’t the “supervisor” position we’ve all experienced in our jobs, it’s a “mentor” role. Men just aren’t likely to seek out a woman to mentor them. Men look up to other men as powers & authorities. We want to protect and care for women, not be “under” them.

No… this one would be extremely forced. Bad concept that goes against the grain of human nature.

Ooookay. On the other hand, if you consider the possibility that men and women can act beyond antiquated instinctual drives, and that there are, in fact, male comic book writers that can write women well, I think this is a pretty good concept that treats human nature as fluid, not static.

Question is, would it be a new character, or could it be an established character taking on a sidekick?

I like the idea. where do I sign up?

I disagree, but that has more to do with the fact that I believe the whole sidekick concept doesn’t really work anymore. It’s just a holdover from the Golden Age where heroes ran around with little kids so the books’ readers had a figure to identify with. Now that the majority of comics readers aren’t children, the only reason to include a sidekick character is for nostalgia’s sake (or to put some sort of twist on the format).

Hm. I wonder, did the early pairing of Katma Tui and John Stewart count as a female hero with male sidekick, or were they more partners, since she was basically mentoring him?

I’m trying to think who, if anyone, would count. Black Canary and Speedy? No, he’s always been Green Arrow’s sidekick, no matter who he worked with. Black Canary and Conner Hawke? Nope.

Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. is the closest that springs to mind, and he never came off like a sidekick, not how he did to the original Star-Spangled Kid as Stripesy…

When you get right down to it, you’re not going to see a whole lot of mixed-gender pairings to begin with… probably to avoid any suggestions of impropriety. It’s either two males (Cap and Bucky, Human Torch and Toro, Dan and T.N.T., Tick and Arthur, Batman and Robin) or much more rarely, two females (Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl).

Mixed pairs in general seem to be presented more as partnerships or relationships or spinoffs (Doll Man and Doll Girl, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Superman and Supergirl, Batman and Batgirl, ad nauseum.)

In fact, one of the very rare cases I can think of where you had a male superhero with an actual female sidekick is that good old bastion of propriety himself, Captain America and Golden Girl.

Interestingly, and disturbingly, I do have one example of a female superhero with a male (albeit it a crossdressing one) sidekick, and that’s in Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick. Go figure.

A brief list here: http://scifipedia.scifi.com/index.php/Sidekick shows that even when you bring in the non-powered sidekick, it’s still more apt to be a male/female duo, with a romantic element thrown in.

But! I did think of a few more superheroines with their own male sidekicks. You have the Blonde Phantom with Mark Mason, the original Black Canary with Larry Lance, Miss Arrowette with Bowstring Jones… and in all three cases, they ended up marrying said sidekicks … and outliving them. Frankly, it doesn’t seem terribly safe to be the male sidekick of a superheroine.

This is an interesting line of discussion. :>

The general lack of this particular pairing (as opposed to same gender pairings and the somewhat more common male hero/female sidekick) can probably be attributed to the fact that the hero/sidekick relationship is in many respects similiar to a father/son relationship which is markedly different, psychologically, than the mother/son relationship. You go fishing with your father, or you work on a car together, or you beat up supervillains.

I’m not saying that a mother figure can’t fish or beat up supervillains– they can– it’s just that the psychological relationship is generally different in that case.

And, y’know, that could certainly work– that would be an interesting sort of relationship to depict in a superhero comic, it would be fresh and different. But I wouldn’t say that traditional patriachal gender roles or the way society is set up is what prevents this particular pairing– just that it’s less likely to fulfill the same psychological need as the father/son type pairing that most hero/sidekick stories tend to gain much of their power from.

I always thought that Cloak seemed like Dagger’s sidekick… he’s so weird that he needs her around to function.

And I guess Shadowcat and Lockheed don’t count?

Cloak needed Dagger’s light powers to prevent the Darkforce (the source of his powers) from overwhelming him. So there was a physical element to their partnership (which can double as psychological metaphor). They were definitely equal partners, though (the light/dark parallel was a bit forced).

There should be more female superheroines with male sidekicks.

I get the idea of promoting egalitarianism and all, but really though, should we be encouraging sidekicking at all? I get the idea of apprenticeship, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case in most sidekick relationships. Colleagues and partnerships are pretty normal and healthy, but sidekicking doesn’t really shine well on either the hero or the sidekick. The sidekick comes off as little more than a tag-along and the hero appears as if he is keeping an entourage of one to stroke his own ego. As much as we want to stay free from misogyny by having female-dominant hero/sidekick relationships, should we really be promoting the inherent misanthropy of the hero/sidekick relationship at all?
___________________________

p.s. Does Catwoman and Slam Bradley count? Really though

“…if you consider the possibility that men and women can act beyond antiquated instinctual drives…”

While this is entirely possible, it is highly unlikely in this situation. A male superhero would be a powerful, agressive, assertive person. This personality does not lend itself well to playing second fiddle on a regular basis. They would want the limelight, or at minimum an equal partnership. The ego of an dominant male simply wouldn’t allow anything else.

A sidekick would be less powerful, less talented, less qualified, etc. than the leader. I don’t see an adult male hero being comfortable in this role with a female. That would leave it for a young, inexperienced, impressionable teenager. A grown woman hanging out with a 15 year old boy? That’s not likely to happen without some isues of dominance, control, inferiority complex, or near-pedophilia going on in the woman. If that’s the case, the male isn’t likely to stick around long without having some serious issues himself, which would exclude him from the hero business.

Back to the original counter arguement, these instinctual drives can be caled antoquated if you like. You’re doing them a dis-service by doing so, though. These gender instincts are just as hard-coded as the need to reproduce and the survival instinct. These are not mocked or belittled in our “enlightned” world, but gender roles are. There is a reason we haven’t been able to escape these roles for all of recorded history. It’s sheer folly to pretend we can do so now. We may be at a point an history when women CAN take a place of leadership and control without too much resistance, but the instincts will remain. The roles will not change because we cannot let them on a subconscious level.

Have you been reading my mind? I was just working on a leading-lady-with-male-sidekick type of superheroine story for this Image/Shadowline contest…

So, what are we saying?

Male sidekicks are better than Female sidekicks, or vice versa?

(Just stirring the pot)

I don’t buy the “superheroes must be too aggressive to listen to women or anyone else”. By that logic, aggressive real-world people who were, say, inclined to join the military would be incapable of taking orders from guys they knew they could beat up– but this happens all the time. Sometimes they even take orders from women. I think it seems like a violation of perceived gender roles in action stories to have a man taking orders from a woman, but that’s a matter of cliche and reinforcing traditional gender roles, not genetics.

Would Wonder Woman and Nemesis count as a hero-sidekick relationship, or are they two adventurers?

A grown woman hanging out with a 15 year old boy? That’s not likely to happen without some isues of dominance, control, inferiority complex, or near-pedophilia going on in the woman.

So do we call that “projecting” or “just plain crazy?”

“So, what are we saying? Male sidekicks are better than Female sidekicks, or vice versa? (Just stirring the pot)”

(refusing to be stirred) I said neither. Personally, I agree with the opinion that sidekicks are out of place in today’s comics, and for the reasons already stated.

“I don’t buy the “superheroes must be too aggressive to listen to women or anyone else”. ”

That’s good, because I don’t think that either, and that’s not what I said. I said that a dominant male personality would not be comfortable in a long-term period of subservience to a dominant female presonality.

Men are inherently pack animals. The alpha male is in charge, and that’s the end of it. If another member of the pack wants the alpha position, he either beats the current alpha or forms his own pack. The male hero personality is likely to be agressive enough to want to be the alpha.

For a superhero example of this, Robin knew he would never beat Batman and take the lead in their team, so he went off on his own. He felt that he was ready to stand on his own, and even be an effective leader, as demonstrated in the Titans. Robin became the alpha of the Titans, and his own person in solo work.

Put this relationship in a female led scenario and there is nothing but trouble. Men instinctively feel the urge to provide for and protect females. To reverse the gender roles like we’re discussing is a horrible blow to the male psyche. He begins to feel inadequate, helpless, etc. and develops a horrible self image. He feels that if he can’t even take care of himslef, then how can he ever care for anyone else. He then doubts his abilities, which feeds the female’s instinctive need to nurture and guide. The cycle quickly becomes self-feeding and ends in the destruction of his self-worth.

Please note that I’m in no way saying that women are incapable of leading, or that men are incapable of following. I have had many female supervisors at the various jobs I’ve held. I’m sure this is the case with many of us here. But… let’s not take our workforce experiences into the superhero dynamic. They don’t cross over well, and most of the rules just don’t apply. EG: The female hero lead can’t fire you if you buck her authority.

Well, I bet this is certainly turning out to be a LOT more interesting that the rabbit thought! I’m glad that everyone seems to be staying civil so far.

“So do we call that “projecting” or “just plain crazy?””

I’d call it having issues that are in serious need of counciling.

Wow, some of the posts here are (sorry to be blunt here) kind of backwards!

I can’t see a single reason why a super-powered male would have trouble working with a MORE super-powered female in the comic book world. And why? Well, the simple answer is that ITS A COMIC BOOK!

The slightly more complex answer is that comics are fantastical literature, which by definition is about telling us what can be – as opposed to what is. Our world is shaped by myth, stories that are designed to make us consider how bad things can get, and how good we must all strive to be. Setting up a powerful female role with a less-strong male counterpart is a great idea. Society can certainly use more stories that remind us of the essential equality of the two sexes, and the lean towards the male superhero in mainstream comics is impossible to miss. So yeah, the whole “men are bigger and stronger, make them the leader” thing is indeed a cliche that is slowly fading from our society (praise the Great Goddess). They say comics tend to be harbingers of cultural change – let’s see if they lead the way towards a more equitable society as well.

avengers63 wrote: “Men are inherently pack animals. The alpha male is in charge, and that’s the end of it.”

As one guy to another, no, you are wrong, bad male, bad. [where’s my newspaper so I can slap his little nose?] ;-)

We are intensely social primates and all, but I can’t think of a single way in which my life is dominated by any “Alpha Males”. Hell, I work with one, and he knows better than to try the dominant role thing on me. Nor am I an “Alpha” myself, I am a human.

Our social system has many other methods by which to maintain cohesion (manners, etiquette, formalities, rituals) that have been in place for millennia, that’s how we succeed (and sometimes fail) in maintaining social cohesion. In point of fact it’s when we forget ourselves as humans that we fail, not when we give in to societal rules. In the end, there may be disagreement on how much we are still influenced by what’s hard-coded into our systems, but in the end “civilization” is our dominant means of maintaining societal structure, not “I can beat you up”.

PS You’re also wrong about that whole ‘men will feel inadequate and have a horrible self-image if they aren’t in charge’ deal. Or at least wrong in the sense of speaking for the rest of us men. That’s an internal issue some guys have in trying to come to terms with our ever-more-egalitarian society, not an issue with guys in general. Least none of the guys I know.

Here’s the line that my protestors insist on crossing. I’m speaking ONLY to male psychology and the insticts that are hard wired in humanity. I never included anything about any socieity or culture specific standards. All of my detractors have focused on “antiquated instinctual drives”, “socieital norms”, or just mis-quoting my statements. These are not the basis of my arguements, thereofre these or similar stances are not an effective counter-arguement. They are a different viewpoint, and the opinions behind them are valid, but they do not counter the arguement.

For those who claim my thoughts are completely off, I have these for you:
For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray
My understanding of the male/female dynamic comes directly from these books and others like them. You can say I’m off base if you like, but if you do, you say that Dr. Gray & Ms. Feldhahn are off base as well.

To return to a previous statement, “antiquated instinctual drives” is a self-conflicting term.
From Dictionary.com:
in·stinct –noun 1. an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.
an·ti·quat·ed –adjective 1. continued from, resembling, or adhering to the past; old-fashioned
As an instinct is an inborn pattern, and antiquated is old-fashioned, it is by definition incapable of being antiquated. Old-fashioned or out-of-date suggests socieital structure or value judgements. An inborn pattern is separate from socieital rules, and thus uncapable of being constrained by it’s values.

Socieital norms are a constantly changing thing, and are subjective to the specific socieity. I’m not refering to, say, American vs. Chinese socieity. Look around you and see the various sub-cultures and sub-socieities that are represented in your workplace or school. All have a different set of values and norms. Personally, I wouldn’t use this as an arguement if you paid me. There are just too many variables and holes in it.

PAKAAL: So you think you’re not a pack animal and that you don’t know any? Do tell. Your father was the alpha in your household. Do you still live under his roof? If you’re not of that age or financial ability, do you plan on moving out at some point? Maybe when a mate is/was found… so you can start your own pack and be it’s alpha. This may not be your exact situation, but I think you see my point. You ARE a pack animal and most everyone you know is as well.

I’d like to see such a pairing. That said, I find it interesting that it’s easy to come up with any number of co-ed villain pairings with a female in the lead. Perhaps the targeted male audience considers/ed such a woman in power a threat. So a heroine paired with a male sidekick would be less likely, at least back in the day.

How about a duo where she’s the older sister. They both inherited super powers, but she has more training and experience. She takes him under her wing so he can get a handle on his new abilities.

This would remove the psycho-sexual undercurrents. Seems like an easy fix to me.

And if any of you use this, I’ll be expecting my royalties :)

Listen up, rabbit-

Next time you start someting like this, you’re dinner!

Unlike most pack animals, humanity developed logical thinking so we wouldn’t have to rely solely on instincts. It is entirely possible for a man to hold himself back from having sex with any passing female he finds attractive, and it is entirely possible for a man to come across a large edible animal and not hunt it down. Why, then, is it so different with pack instincts?

Avengers, I get what you’re saying, I suppose I’m just concerned with the idea of superhero comics primarily being psychological allegories for concepts of familial dominance. I mean, I was under the impression that they were allegories for breaking free of sexual repression.

(Except for “All-Star Batman and Robin,” where it’s both.)

But for the sake of letting our minds wander, let’s say that the dominant theme of superhero comics isn’t the struggle of the child to overcome the parent, let’s tweak it slightly and say it’s about the attempt of the idealists to create something better than those who came before them – about fixing a broken system.

Could a female hero have a male sidekick then?

Side-question: When we say “sidekick,” who is tihnking of a teenaged boy who needs to learn, and who’s picturing an adult male providing a support system?

avengers63 says: “PAKAAL: So you think you’re not a pack animal and that you don’t know any? Do tell. Your father was the alpha in your household. Do you still live under his roof? If you’re not of that age or financial ability, do you plan on moving out at some point? Maybe when a mate is/was found… so you can start your own pack and be it’s alpha. This may not be your exact situation, but I think you see my point. You ARE a pack animal and most everyone you know is as well.”

First of all, while I know Mr. Pakaal personally, I’ll let him speak of his own personal history himself. But I will say that you’ve him all wrong.

With that said, what of a male who did not have a father figure growing up? He was brought up by a mother who was a strong presence in his life and brought him up well. The boy grew up and became a strong, masculine male without any alpha tendencies. Following your logic, he moves out and starts or joins his own pack… there’s nothing to say that this pack will have alphas or be set up according to instinctual behaviors. A father (or mother) figure is not necessarily an alpha. Being “in charge” does not necessarily make one an alpha. You can have a society or a pack or a family without an alpha, but yet there is still a clear hierarchy of parent/child or leader/citizen without it automatically becoming a alpha/subservient situatiion. My workplace is like that, for example. And I know several individuals and households that buck these instictual “norms” and it’s not challenging for these people because this is their norm.

Dr. Gray writes about male and female instincts, but he allows room for change and growth, and for compromise. With that said, those books tend to be geared towards men and women who are having difficulty communicating, understanding and/or getting along with the opposite sex, and it gives them an opportunity to understand the opposite sex as well as their own gender. It’s science, it’s theory and it’s fluid. They provide a context for people to understand the other gender, but it’s not law. In a situation like I presented above with a healthy, well-adjusted male who didn’t have a father figure present while growing up, they probably won’t need to resort to such books, yet still can live their life without confining themselves to the notions of alphas and such. I agree with your concept of humans being pack animals, but my real life experiences show different outcomes than what you feel is the norm.

On the flipside of all that, there are males who are perfectly okay being in a supporting role. It doesn’t make them a pansy or subservient or anything of the like. The just know and accept that a part of whatever pack we’re talking about, their role is not one of leadership or being an alpha, and they instead serve an otherwise important role in this pack.

Because your experience doesn’t quite match up to any of those examples, or because you reference books written about doctors who write about human instincts and gender roles, you can’t write off real life situations that don’t fit. As is proven daily, instincts can be, and often are, overshadowed by our own actions, often influenced by where we’ve been and how we were raised. And not everybody was raised with an alpha in their lives.
-r-

Jeff: FINALLY! Thank you so much of rbeing the first one to say they understand what I’m trying to say.

We constantly complain about character’s actions not making sense. When I say why this example wouldn’t make sense… dang.

Anyway, I always thought the primary undercurrent in comics was for the reader to live vicariously through the hreoes. We have very little influence in the world we live, and can enact little change. All too often, we’re assaulted by whatever wrong happens to be present that day, and the best we can do is just weather the storm and hope to survive. Heroes, however, can DO something.

Batman is clearly a whack job, but he can vindicate his parents by doing the job the police can’t. Spiderman & the X-Men keep on doing the right thing even though the public wants them dead. The Punisher takes it all to a whole different level.

When it comes right down to it, traditional superhero comics are about good winning over evil. We don’t see this in our lives, so we gobble it up in out entertainment.

As for our tweak, Watchmen explored this quite a bit. Even with this expolration, I still don’t think a female could have a male sidekick. We could have a utopian workd, but as long as it’s inhabited by humans, some things will never change.

Yes, the term “sidekick” explicidly implies, through the Golden Age examples, a teenage protoge. If it were a partnering arrangement, that would be a different story alltogether, though the end results would be similar.

In a pertnering arrangement, the male would “need” to protect the female partner. It would be a learning curve for him to trust her to take care of herself, and even tolet her save his hide as well. This would actually be a great long term story line. Maybe even one of Seavey’s Storytelling Engines.

Okay, let’s centerize this a little bit. By talking about “repairing a broken system,” I didn’t really mean to the extreme extent of a Watchmen-style story, rather I simply meant that all superhero stories are at heart about idealists. The Flash, for instance, is just someone who wants to help, because he thinks he can make things a little bit better.

Maybe the struggle we’re having over the definition of the term “sidekick” is that while they are primarily adolescent “versions” of the adult heroes in superhero comics, if you go outside the genre, sidekicks are usually adults. Higgins to Magnum, PI, for example.

We should also mention Xander to Buffy Summers in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Yes, Xander matured and evolved, but was happy to maintain his status as Buffy’s chief support as he grew into adulthood.

avengers63 wrote: “So you think you’re not a pack animal and that you don’t know any? Do tell. Your father was the alpha in your household. Do you still live under his roof? If you’re not of that age or financial ability, do you plan on moving out at some point? Maybe when a mate is/was found… so you can start your own pack and be it’s alpha. This may not be your exact situation, but I think you see my point. You ARE a pack animal and most everyone you know is as well.”
———

Well then, I shall tell! Interesting to note that you make such large assumptions about others’ lives without any knowledge whatsoever, but that’s your issue to work out, not mine. I grew up in a single parent household – my mom and I moved around a lot, and she was busy raising me, so she didn’t have much chance to date (or in your terminology, no “Alpha Male” around). She has a strong personality, which probably put off the more “traditional minded” men who had such little egos they couldn’t handle a woman who could, did and does have her own thoughts and ideas. It’s a common misperception that a single mom can’t raise a son well – don’t know where that came from, but assume it’s something men perpetrate in order to keep women down, or make themselves feel better or something. In any case it’s simply not true.

As for my living arrangements, I’ve been on my own for the last quarter of a century or so, and the relationships I’ve been in have been equal partnerships – ’cause I demand that in a relationship. Perhaps my advantage was in growing up with a mom who (IMO) did an exemplary job of raising me, which allowed me to get beyond the backwards-thinking mindset of men who are still convinced that women and men have specific roles and functions that cannot be substituted by a member of the opposite sex.

And as for not knowing any Alphas, I didn’t say that. I said I refused to allow the one I know to act that way around me, and that the guys I hang out with don’t act that way either. No definition works in every situation, not even ascribing men to Martian origins (in point of fact men and women are both from Earth, and that’s the truth). I tend more to the idea that we make our own reality through efforts on our own parts. If you want to imply that “men” will always feel uncomfortable with women who are smarter, stronger, whatever, I will continue to disagree. As a guy myself, I and other guys around me (e.g. commenter Richard) have a different way of looking at things. Best thing to do is stop talking as if you represent all men, and keep your comments to “My understanding is…” or “I believe…” because saying “All men think….” is factually incorrect.

avengers63 says: “In a pertnering arrangement, the male would “need” to protect the female partner. It would be a learning curve for him to trust her to take care of herself, and even tolet her save his hide as well. This would actually be a great long term story line. Maybe even one of Seavey’s Storytelling Engines.”

You see, I don’t think that would necessarily be the case. If the woman was stronger, more powerful, or more adept at whatever skill you want to talk about, an intelligent, well-adjusted male would gladly let her take the lead, so to speak, while he would take on a different role. Not necessarily subservient, but a role that would make their partnership thrive. Again, alphas aren’t prevalent in all male/female relationships.
-r-

RICHARD: I can actually speak from experience on your example. Before I do, though, let me respond to your comments on psychology.

The instincts and behavioral patterns are identified through observations of a broad cross-section. The patterns show and can be easily identified ofer time through careful observation. As with any personality profile, there is always rook for individual variance. I never claimed the opposite, I only spoke to the general male psychology.

As to the books I listed being about relationships, isn’t that what I’ve been talking about all day… the relationship between the male under the wing od the female? Relationships are the basis of this entire debate. Pretending otherwise at this point is futile.

I never said a male as the sidekick would be a pansy. I said it would take a great writer to not make him SEEM that way. The subservience would be implied through the situation and how we instinctively perceive things to be.

What of a male who did not have a father figure growing up? That would be me. My father died when I was 2 (1972). My mother remarried when I was 4, but was divorced when I was 8, remaining single to this day. She took on the role of both matron and patriarch. This left me without a proper male role model. I never saw how men act, nor how men & women interact. This particular male did not grow up to be a typical alpha because he never learned how to be one. When it was time to have my own family, it was a complete disaster which ended in divorce. I had no idea how to be a man or how to be married because I never saw it when I grew up. I didn’t even have a set of split patents to observe. All I had were my hard-wired male instincts.

In this situation that reality presents to us. You would present us with with a healthy, well-adjusted male who didn’t have a father figure present while growing up, yet somehow just knew how to be a man without being taught. Reality gives us a man who was mal-adjusted, insecure, and didn’t know how to interact as a man. I feel much better now, but that’s how I was.

When I read Dr. Gray’s book, It was a real eye opener. Somehow, without a male role-model, I had nearly every typical male tendency he described. Likewise, Shaunti Feldhahn’s book was almost a checklist for me. How could this be possible without a man in the house to teach me these supposed stereotypes? If these behaviours were learned, I’d act like a woman. After all, I was raised without a man, so what else could I learn? It was instinct, pure and simple. I act in a way that I “know” to act because that’s how men act.

Instinct can simply not be overlooked. It can be fought off to a certain degree, but it can’t be eliminated. Yes, we can fight off the urge to mate with every attractive female we see. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re attracted to them on a purely physical level, which is the mating urge.

Here’s the bottom line, then I’m signing off for the day. If we want comics to grow and develop, to become more realistic, the formula isn’t hard. We don’t need a hard edge, cynical views, or dark & gritty stories. We need characters, people, who act like people. They don’t seem real sometimes because they don’t act the way people act.

Writers: please give us real characters.

avengers63 says: “In this situation that reality presents to us. You would present us with with a healthy, well-adjusted male who didn’t have a father figure present while growing up, yet somehow just knew how to be a man without being taught. Reality gives us a man who was mal-adjusted, insecure, and didn’t know how to interact as a man. I feel much better now, but that’s how I was.”

Now a littel background to give you some context as to where I’m coming from: I grew up with a father who was not present. He was there and he provided, but he was in no way a true father figure, or a male role model. Yet, through the sheer force of will of my m mother, I grew up a relatively well-adjusted male. Yes, I have my issues, and I’ve gone through one divorce myself, but none of that has anything to do with not knowing how to be a man. I’m currently in a happy marriage, a true partnership. Occasionaly I’m the “lead,” and other times she is, but there’s no power struggle and there’s no need for one of us to be the alpha.

As pakaal pointed out, he grew up without a male figure or an alpha in his household, yet he’s grown up to become a remarkabley well-adjusted male. Regardless of one has a male in the household or not, there’s a difference between growing up knowing how to “be a man” and growing up and knowing how to be a mature, productive human being who can interact with others and communicate his points and emotions well without resorting to instinctual behavior.

Toss aside all the stuff about alpha males and instincts, and you’ve got people behaving maturely and having normal relationships without power struggles. Again, because your circumstances were different, it doesn’t make it truth for all, nor even most.
-r-

OUCH… pardon the typos…

Did…someone let Dave Sim in here?

Anyway, getting past the “panty-waist” commentary (and DC’s current dis-ability to write a Supergirl who isn’t a vapid valley girl aside), I think we’re beginning to see a change in how female leads in comics are handled. Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man springs to mind as a good example in comics of a strong female lead, with supporting male (Yorick, who is technically the ‘lead’, but in reality… not so much). The interplay between Katchoo, Francine and David from Strangers in Paradise springs to mind as well. And there’s Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker from Powers….

Here’s some writers’ takes on the situation now, and where it would be nice to go (linking from a Mother Jones article):

http://www.motherjones.com/arts/feature/2007/07/supergirls_gone_wild.html

“I’m conscious that female characters have been treated poorly for much of comics’ history, and I don’t want to fall into the same traps,” says Superman writer Kurt Busiek. Brian K. Vaughan, who has written The X-Men, says he’s developing more interesting female characters “to raise the dialogue about comics beyond, ‘Could her boobs be smaller?'”

Doesn’t this happen all the time on tv? Butt-kicking female and less physically adept geeky male partner?
Or do those not count as sidekicks?

avengers63:
You’re right, we should just accept our animal instincts and stop fussing with all this “civilization” crap. The next time someone gets in my way at the supermarket, I’m biting them in the face. Now excuse me, I’m off to go take a dump on the lawn and wipe myself against a tree.

Those are ABSOLUTELY sidekicks. I think what we’re looking at is the idea of (possibly adolescent) male sidekicks of superheroines, which is comparatively rare.

But we can’t have that because all male superheroes have a pack-leader alpha male psychology that’s hardwired into them, and so the only stories available would be about how the male hero learns to stop worrying and trust that the woman he’s sidekicking for can take care of herself without his manly protection.

Or something. Things got a bit psychologically murky after a while.

I see female super-heroes with male sidekicks all the time. Admittedly, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if they’re guys playing female characters, but they’re level 50 and have all the mentoring badges, so if they are women in real life, they must have sidekicked a guy at some point. And the guys usually don’t complain, because they don’t get XP if they’re more than five levels lower than her.

Didn’t Dave Sim die after he finished Cerebus?

If not, whatever is the guy up to these days?

Actually Dave Sim is the featured guest at a convention here in Ohio this coming March that caters to indepedent publishers. (S.P.A.C.E con) http://www.spacecon.com ?

Holy Gears Garvin !!!! I better fix that ! Appears the website to check out if you’re really interested in the whereabouts of Dave Sim is http://www.backporchcomics.com/space.htm

Dave Sim is currently arguing with Gary Groth and Jeff Smith on the internet.

Sorry to go off on a new tangent but has there been any comic book sidekicks since Arthur from the Tick?

Like Empowered and Thugboy!

Hulk had Rick Jones.

She-Hulk had Zapper.

I would like to say that my earlier analysis is based on the notion of the adolescent sidekick, of the teacher and student thing that almost always deliberately apes a parental relationship.

Now, a partnership, on the other hand, is completely different. Bucky was Cap’s sidekick, but the Falcon was his partner– an equal, not a student. And I think a partnership is certainly more amenable to long-term mixed-gender pairings than the hero-sidekick relationship which is always based on some sort of imbalance.

This is one of the most intelligent, articulate debates I have ever read on a website (any website) Kudos to all.

Avengers, I usually like and agree with you but in this case I think you are completely wrong.

I know most of the books your cite. One of my business partners is devouring practically that exact list in a desperate attempt to successfully date. And you are correct, all of those books go a very long way to “explain” that men are dominant and women are submissive and that’s just the way it is.

Except, it isn’t.

Point one: Assuming that you are correct and that a male superhero is always going to want to be the Alpha in his pack, then how do you explain the numerous male super hero group members who never lead, never want to lead, and never strike out on their own?

I’m thinking of long-term heroes here like Iceman, Beast Boy, Metamorpho, Hank Pym (definately the alpha in his relationship, but not so much as a super hero), Johnny Storm, Wildfire, etc.

By the reasoning you’ve presented, these heroes should have eventually come to resent Cyclops, Robin, Batman, Captain America, Reed Richards, Lightning Lad, etc. and try to wrest leadership or else strike out on their own.

Point two: Assuming that you are partially correct, and that there are some natural leaders and some natural followers to explain the examples in my first point, you then are also assuming that all natural leaders are male and only some natural followers are male while the rest are female. In a male-dominated (as in numerically) sub-group of people, this would make sense.

Except this doesn’t explain the many capable female leaders that we have seen over the last 20 years. I’m thinking of people like Wasp or Captain Marvel (who were both at time leaders of the Avengers); Oracle, Black Canary (who I think was definately the field leader of Birds of Prey); Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, Moonstar, and other female leaders of X-teams; Wonder Woman, etc.

The only way that this would even be possible, much less believable, would be to assume that this was a list of exceptional people in a sub-sub-sub-group of humanity (people who are super heroes who are also respected and capable leaders who are also women). And the list is quite frankly too long to assume that.

Point three: Never underestimate the power that literature has over the course of social evolution. Is it not possible that the reason that there are more male leaders than female ones isn’t because the writers are male, but because the EIC’s have decreed it with circular logic?

Consider: If the reason that there are fewer strong women characters than men is because strong women characters sell less to boys, then the solution would be to market to girls. But, the logic continues that the target audience is boys because more boys buy comic books than girls. And, the logic continues that the reason more boys buy comics than girls is because there are fewer strong women characters than men. Rinse and repeat.

Point four: I think that the biggest challenge to a project like this would be to not present it as demeaning to men in general. There was a time in the mid 90s (not the best of times for comic books in general, true, but the point still stands) when a comic book featuring a strong woman lead character had to go out of its way to insult men as a whole.

Ghost and Wonder Woman were the worst, but it was incredibly prevelant. A week couldn’t go by without me reading in a comic book about how weak willed, stupid, sheep like, ineffective, incompetant, etc. men were. My first big cutback in comics was when I just plain got tired of being insulted by otherwise entertaining comics.

I think it would be a struggle to not be insulting. But, it is also a struggle to not be insulting to women in comics as well. So, I think that it could be done.

And, more to the point, I think it should be done.

Point five: I think that if a well written, high profile comic book showing a woman in the lead and a man in the support role could be done, then it might help teach the next generation that it is OK for a man to have a woman manager and vice versa.

It would take time, of course. I think it took about 12 years before comic books realized that there could be more than one woman on a super hero team. I’m counting 12 because I think that is how long it took from when I first saw a team with more than one woman on it (I think that was Raven and Starfire in the Titans) to when I noticed that it was commonplace (in Avengers, Justice League, X-Men, New Mutants, etc.). But, it’ll never be accepted if no one ever tries it.

And, again, I think it would only work as a high profile book. Stargirl is, unfortunately, still a B character. But Robin could be Oracle’s sidekick. Wonder Woman could get a male sidekick. I’d love to see Gambit as Rogue’s sidekick but I think that would have had to have happened years ago, back when he was still woo-ing her, to work. A spin-off with Sue and Johnny Storm could work. They could “kill” Iron Man (again) and have Tony pretend to be yet someone else in the armour and be sidekick to someone (Iron Woman? Circuit Breaker? Photon?)

In think it could work. I think it should be done.

Theno

Um, leaving aside the hectic struggle for pack dominance or whatever you guys are engaged in over there (frankly it all seems like rather a load of hooey to me, but then getting any true psychological insight out of pop-psych fads generally does)…

…At any rate, I don’t really have any problem with a female/male mentor/sidekick relationship. The debate thus far seems to have centred around whether the male would be weakened – why can’t we simply assume that the female would be strengthened? As has been repeatedly pointed out above, there are any number of males out there who’ve been successfully raised in a female-dominant household, so why not borrow those paradigms?

Such an interesting discussion here.

Let’s play “skin the rabbit” shall we? ;-)

KM: We can’t we simply assume that the female would be strengthened. In a partnership or team, whenever one gets stronger, another is weakened. Both contribute to the group output of 100%. If one is able to give more than the other, thereby “getting stronger”, the other is weakened by default. Giving their input a numeric rating, let’s say they both give 10, we have a group 100% output totaling 20. If one can now give 11, we have a group output of 100% totaling 21. One is giving a higher percentage to the whole, thereby weakening the effects of the other. The other isn’t literally weakened, but their effectiveness in the team is.

THENODRIN: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are the ONE person who has offered an appropriate counter-arguement my points. Everyone but you tried to make counter-arguements with entirely un-related thoughts & ideas which had absolutely nothing to do with the principles I used. WHERE WERE YOU YESTERDAY!

Your point about heroes who don’t strike out on their own and are natural followers is well taken. Let’s refine and clarify this a bit. I fully concede the point that there are natural followers who will never be able to lead. BUT… we’re not debating the group dynamic, but a 2-person unit.

For any long term partnering, there needs to be a leader and a follower. Two leaders will clash and the partnership will disolve bitterly. Two followers will be just as ineffective, but for opposite reasons. No, there MUST be a leader,even if it’s only by a fraction of a percentage.

When I think of a partnership, I see the pair as capable solo characters who chose to act as a duo for whatever reason. In this arrangement, the male would be more of the alpha personality. She can be his equal, or even superior, but he’ll still be a stand-alone hero without her, and have all that goes along with it. We’ve seen this happen frequently, usually evolving into a romance. It doesn’t HAVE to go this route, but it seems to be the natural progression. With this relationship, the male traditionally takes the leader role.

Before we go any further with this one, let’s make something clear. We’ve all seen marriages where the wife is the leader, and the husband is the follower. We cannot use this as an example here because we’re not talking about average people. We’re talking about agressive, dominant, powerful hero archetypes. Let’s not mix apples with oranges and call them equal.

Back to the partnership. In the long term hero partnership with one leader, the male is most likely to want to be the lead. It is his natural instinct in this situation, where he is fully capable of operation solo.

A sidekick situation is more of a mentor / protoge arangement. With sidekicks, the mentor is clearly superior to the protoge. I suppose the kid’s long-term attitude would depened on his individual personality. If he’s too independant, he’d fight it every step of the way. He could very well be a natural follower, in which case the arrangement could work out nicely. If this is the case, I’ll go back to my first post: It’d take one helluva writer to pull it off without her coming off as a dominating witch and him being a submissive panty-waste.

Of course, an equitable sidekick arrangement brings up another problem. A woman’s natural instinct is to nurture & guide. She would need to fight off the urge to “mother” him. This is, of course, not to say that all womenwant to “mother” everyone, but the instinct would need to be addressed. Consider the situation – he’s a “baby” to the hero game, and it’s her chosen duty to “raise” him into a hero. How could she NOT “mother” him. If she did not have a strong nuturing drive, she’d not have taken him on as her protoge.

This being said, interesting storylines are still possible. He could be forced on her, or she could take him out of guilt or responsibility, all without her actually wanting him or having the drive. Of course, she’d likely act more like a man in these cases, which opens another can of worms entirely.

“THENODRIN: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are the ONE person who has offered an appropriate counter-arguement my points.”

Wow, if I’d known that all I needed to do to be taken seriously is to say you’re a great guy but I disagree with you this time, I’d certainly have said that first. Who knows, you may be a great guy, how do I know, but I’m more than happy to give you the benefit of the doubt.

As to how you define “appropriate counter-argument”, I for one am still in the dark. I’m more than happy to listen to an argument and see if it has validity. In your argument you state:

“I’m speaking ONLY to male psychology and the insticts that are hard wired in humanity.”

As you yourself point out there’s a difference between the psychological element and the purely physical element. Societal structure comes from how we try to mitigate the “hard-wired instincts”, so it’s impossible to talk about one without talking about the other. As others have pointed out here, we control our ‘base’ urges specifically because we as a species no longer tolerate open use of them.

Mostly I’m bringing this up today because you do seem to be interested in the subject at hand, and I certainly agree that if (as your example goes) Robin suddenly decided he was the Alpha and tried to take over Batman’s role, there’d be a big fight, feelings would get hurt, all that stuff. ;-) Or, in Frank Miller’s world, Batman would just bitch-slap Robin like he does in the All-Star B&R. Sure, that’s the easy approach to storytelling, and there’s some basis in reality for that sort of thing to happen.

But you mix that commentary with statements like “Men instinctively feel the urge to provide for and protect females. To reverse the gender roles like we’re discussing is a horrible blow to the male psyche” and you use this argument to dismiss the possibility of a strong female lead with a less strong male ‘sidekick’ by saying it’s a “bad concept”.

As we all know, not everything in comics is going to fit our understanding of how things work, but to dismiss a concept outright as “bad” with some psychology-of-the-day concepts from a book written by a man from Mars doesn’t really cut it IMO, particularly when no theory is going to define all people to begin with, and people are constantly changing so we improve our understanding as we go along.

Why aren’t there more female superheroines with male sidekicks? Maybe we’re seeing some underlying factors that influence the situation right here in the comments….

theno wrote: “Ghost and Wonder Woman were the worst, but it was incredibly prevelant. A week couldn’t go by without me reading in a comic book about how weak willed, stupid, sheep like, ineffective, incompetant, etc. men were. My first big cutback in comics was when I just plain got tired of being insulted by otherwise entertaining comics.”

No comments from anyone here about how stupid/incompetent Supergirl is? Not that it’s quite on-topic, but speaking of how insulting it is when we see our own sex dissed, I got a sub to Supergirl thinking ‘hey, maybe this is DC’s moment where they’ll actually make woman-friendly superheroinies for a change.’ what I got was Green Lantern the pedophile, trying to keep his hands off of SG.

And can I also complain a moment about that incredibly annoying “Thanksgiving Back Page” showing Power Girl’s “girls” above the steaming turkey, with the inevitable “I’m a breast man” comments following?

I don’t doubt that the current demographics lean heavily towards males in the comics world, but getting new readers is the challenge for comic publishers, and junk like that doesn’t help the industry, IMO. If the industry doesn’t start looking at the success women-friendly items like Manga are experiencing, they’re doomed to be left behind, with the epitaph “Boyz Only” written on the tombstone.

Yeah, OK, exaggerating there, but seriously….

Thus does it transform from bickering to a debate. FINALLY (wrings hands in eager anticipation)

PAKAAL: My definition for an appropriate counter argument is simply responding to what I said, not going off on some unrelated tangent. Jack Norris’s comment would be a good example, as would the tangents we got off on about being raised in single-parent households. They just weren’t addressing my thoughts regarding our basic makeup.

Honestly, as far as a debate goes, I could care less if anyone agrees with me or not, much less things I’m a “a great guy”. I’m happy if you just understand and respond without getting personal. Check out Jeff’s response #30 for a great example of this.

I can see the connection you present in response #58 about instinct and societal standards being linked. I think I alluded as much in part of #36. It may have been too vague to come through clearly, though. I do that sometimes. If anyone had ever suggested this earlier, this certainly would have taken a different turn.

I certainly disagree about the “psychology-of-the-day” comment. I don’t believe these authors are just spouting off “warm fuzzy” thoughts to make us feel better. I think that’s reserved for pop culture personalities like Dr. Phil. Grouping them all together is a huge dis-service. But we’re all allowed our opinions on who is a good authority or not.

I agree that I should not have lumped ALL men under the same blanket statement. I should have clearly restricted it to men who would be solo heroes, thus having the traits I described. After Thenodrin’s comments in #54, I had little choice but to refine my thoughts on the archetype.

My conclusion stands as it did in #57. In a partnering of solo-caliber heroes, I think the make would want to take the lead role, even if only by a fraction. In a sidekick role, it would be determined by his tendencies as a natural follower, leader, or lone wolf.

I stand corrected in that it COULD work, but only if the personalities are presented right.

Wow, I’m impressed. Great debate.

Also, I can’t believe nobody mentioned Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable. One of the greatest and most entertaining duos out there.

No mention of Jade and Kyle Rayner?

Wonder Woman and I Ching? (Nemesis was mentioned but there was no follow-up).

Actually, Wonder Woman often partners with males (both super-powered and otherwise) in her supposedly solo stories; Animal Man comes to mind. Then again there was that year-long period when she was partnered witha JLA member at a time.

And after all this repetition of the word “Alpha”, what about Heather Hudson and Puck?

Wow, I’m thinking about it and all I can come up with (aside from superteams or civilian support networks) is the original Red Tornado and one of the Cyclone Kids, and that’s circa 1940. Or Buffy & Angel/Spike/whoever, but that’s not quite the same thing.

What about Rebis (DOom Patrol) ???

Women have been leaders through out history. You might want to do some research about female leaders and warriors avengers63 before falling back on the Alpha male argument.

Women Warriors: A History by Jones, D. is a good place to start.

Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable is a very good example of the female hero and male sidekick, though at first his lack of ability was annoying. Lately he’s come into his own, but Kim Possible is still the Hero.

“I don’t believe these authors are just spouting off ‘warm fuzzy’ thoughts to make us feel better. I think that’s reserved for pop culture personalities like Dr. Phil. […] But we’re all allowed our opinions on who is a good authority or not.”

Gray’s credentials:

– B.A. and M.A. in the Science of Creative Intelligence from the Maharishi European Research University.

(The Science of Creative Intelligence, invented by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is apparently a “scientific theory for the development of higher states of consciousness, which naturally develop through the practice of Trascendental Meditation.”)

– Ph. D. from Columbia Pacific University, which was forced to close in 2001 as it was a diploma mill. Degrees earned before June 1997 – as Gray’s presumably was – are valid, but it makes you wonder.

– He also holds expensive workshops where he talks about magic and astrology, and exorcises demons.

*I* think a man like that’s hard to take seriously as a scientific authority (someone mentioned Modesty Blaise… I’m reminded of her friend Idaho George, the guru/conman.)

More on Gray:

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/women_rebuttal_from_uranus/tmbomb.htm

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/women_rebuttal_from_uranus/school.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_Are_from_Mars%2C_Women_Are_from_Venus#Questionable_educational_background_of_author

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