Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The New Avengers and Herman's Head

Okay, I should warn you that this column is behind the times a bit. I just finished reading the New Avengers up to issue 11. I'm well aware that the run is now up into the 20's but I just got back into comics again so cut me a bit of slack. Besides, the issue I wanted to point out still applies.

The issue is the makeup of the New Avengers. Thus far in my reading it's been Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman (WTF?), Wolverine (WTF The Sequel!?!), Luke Cage and Spiderwoman. So that's 5 guys and one gal. And the one gal is Spiderwoman. OoooOOhh! Venom blasts! OOoooOOOooh! Pheremones!

I'm not going to accuse B.M. (unfortunate abbreviation there Brian) Bendis of sexism because I really don't think that's the case. He's the man who writes Powers which has some great female characters in it. I think the root problem here is a great writer who's building a team around the male ego. The Herman's Head Syndrome.

To explain;I remember watching an episode of Herman's Head when I was much younger. It was a sitcom from the early ninetie's that lasted about 5 minutes. The main character was a man who's inner workings (in terms of his mind) were personified by four people. There were three men and one woman and she represented, I think, his emotions. I watched that show and it occurred to me that the people who made up Herman's mind reflected the makeup of many superhero teams. The people on the team were there to represent certain aspects of the (male) writer's ego. There was the leader, the physical strong guy, the darker character, etc. On the roster there's generally be a woman to signify the feminine aspects and as such she'd often be weepy and irrational, an avid shopper or prone to wearing just panties and bras at inappropriate times. This was Jean Grey of the original X-Men, Sue Storm, the Wasp, etc. Those odd women were doubly useful because of the panty and bra thing. If you, as a fanboy, couldn't identify with your feminine qualities, then she still had nice, bouncy melons.

So fast forward a quarter of a century. Mr. Bendis gets the New Avengers and instantly indulges in Herman's Head Syndrome. It's pretty easy to see that Jessica is the token chick and representative of the 'feminine'. She gets, "Damn woman," when she prances about in her costume, makes the men dizzy with pheremones and answers the door in her panties (I haven't seen that comic book yet, it's later in the run, but I've heard about it. Oh yes.). All of this wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb if there were more women on the team but, well, she's it. She's the representive of the male ego's feminine bits. Of course, what are the guys?

Captain America - the honourable bit
Spiderman - the humour bit
Wolverine - the killer bit
Luke Cage - the tough guy bit (black men often seem to get stuck with this role)
Iron Man - the playboy penis bit

Now I don't have a problem with building a team like an ego but to build it from a male POV, where almost all the roles are filled by guys with whom you have a penis in common, means you're excluding great characters and female readers. If you want to use the ego thing consider females in the humour and honour roles. Mix it up and take a few chances.


At 12:26 PM, Blogger Bully said...

Verrrry interesting! I started an inadvertant meme a couple months back asking people to design their own modern League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from modern literature, and quite a few people have pointed out that the the roles of the League correspond to a lot of traditional team archetypes--for example, The A-Team falls in much the same category. I don't believe anyone mentioned New Avengers and certainly not Herman's Head, but maybe it's a sign that those certain archetypes are more insidious in every factor of team relationships than you'd think.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks! The only exceptions I could think of were Runaways and Nextwave. Runaways seem to put the characters before any specific role they need to fill and Nextwave flips the typecasting on it's head. For example, Monica plays the leader role but she lies and toasted puppies with her powers when she was a kid.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger notintheface said...

How do the Young Avengers fit here?


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