At Last, The Supers!

I’ve been reading comics for a great deal of my life, with a lacuna around adolescence. I grew up on Richie Rich, Archies, and Casper (since I attended a fundie Christian school, I went through a phase when I was actually afraid of Hot Stuff, the Little Devil). And these were all good, particularly for a little kid.

But…what I wanted was superheroes. Particularly She-Hulk, since I was four feet tall in kindergarten and knew what it was like to be the tallest girl in the room. I liked Spider-Man and Superman, but the covers I was drawn to had heroes who looked more like me. My mother, fearing what these days would be called “adult themes,” never let me get these,* though I kept trying every time she took me grocery shopping.

My introduction to more grown-up comics came from a surprising source: my father. Dad was a man who never seemed to be quite in sync with what was going on in our house in the workaholic days of the ’80s, and as far as I know he was never a comics fan. But whenever I got sick, Mom would send Dad to the 7-11 to bring me a Slurpee and something to read, and he would bring me horror comics. He’d noticed my attraction to spook stories, and while Mom clucked at him for bringing the “wrong” books, I’d sip my Slurpee and dig into Ghost Manor.

Those pulpy old stories had such an effect on me that when I finally passed through the adolescent and immediate post-adolescent phases of thinking I was too cool for cartoons, comics and, uh… fun, horror and goth comics were what I turned back to. I dabbled in Sandman but could never get into it, although I loved the art. Reading the horror books was also easier than looking up the old superheroes; Lenore was fairly new, after all, and how the heck could anyone keep up with what Superman’s been doing for the last 50 years? Later, people turned me on to Courtney Crumrin and Serenity Rose (best. goth. comic. ever, particularly if you’re largely unmoved by Jhonen Vasquez), and on my own I discovered the gothic-inspired manga Bizenghast.

All this was good…but I still wanted She-Hulk.

Two weeks ago, I finally ordered Single Green Female, collecting the first six issues of the 2004 She-Hulk run, and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. (Actually, better, since I’m a huge legal-drama nerd. At the moment, a Law & Order spinoff with Jen Walters working for Jack McCoy would make my life complete.) She-Hulk rocks, and for a lot of the same reasons I suspected in the grocery store as a 4’2″ mutant six-year-old: she’s big, but not only is she not ashamed of her size, she uses it to help people. She is what women believe they could be if they had confidence, if they didn’t have to fear walking home after dark, if things were a bit more equal. I’m looking forward to reading a lot more of her.

*I didn’t hold this against her till later. In fact, when my first-grade class put together a “Mothers Are Special Because…” book, my contribution was “…she buys me comic books,” accompanied by a very bad drawing of the two of us circling Safeway’s comics rack. Good times.

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