I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s episode of Word Balloon , the excellent interview based comics podcast by Chicago radio man John “Principal” Suintres. I always look forward to the show, but this one was rather special. All three sections of the triple bill were fascinating, but I was particularly pleased that a certain Tom Katers was one of the guests.
Tom is the host of Tom v Aquaman, an ifanboy writer and former Around Comics alumni (hopefully soon to be again, we live in hope). From listening to him on podcasts over the years I’ve got a lot of time for Tom, he’s hilariously funny but also really smart, the kind of guy who can make you laugh while talking a great deal of sense. Tom’s role on the show was to talk about the new DCU from the perspective of someone who’s been reading DC Comics for a very long time. And it was really refreshing to hear his view on fan reaction and any closed minded negativity that fans may have to the relaunch, born from their love of the medium. He talked about how much his nephew likes Batman, Superman, and Spider-man based on their simple premises (he loves Superman because he flies, he’s strong and he helps people) rather than on decades of continuity heavy history. Make sure you download it from Word Balloon if you haven’t already it’s well worth your time.
One of the things that Tom suggested was that every comic fan aged over 18 should be assigned a 3 or 4 year old that likes Superman. I’m lucky enough to have been assigned my own 4 year old that loves superheroes, my daughter Maisey and what he had to say made me think about her relationship with these icons. Because I am someone who enjoys reading comics, including superhero books, as well as writing them she has had a much higher than average exposure to these characters than most children her age, especially girls.
The fact that I like superhero comics and that her older male cousins also do has certainly played a part in her interest in this area. But the resurgence of these icons in mainstream media has also been a factor, she sees characters with enhanced abilities everywhere she turns. She doesn’t see the boundaries of universes or companies and is happy to put Superman, Batman and Spider-Man together with Dr Who (she still calls Daleks Garlics though), Harry Potter, Ben 10 and Power Rangers. Someone to come to the rescue if there’s a big enough threat that your parents can’t handle.
She attended two different day care nurseries prior to starting school last week and would come home from both of them talking about playing superheroes (mainly with the boys) and they’d interchange between various DC and Marvel heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman and Iron Man usually with the cry of “insert hero name…to the rescue”. Occasionally she’d want to be Cyclops or Storm (thanks to my Secret Wars t-shirt) which usually confused her playmates no end. As she’s gotten older she’s asked me more about the different characters, especially the female ones. The fact that She-Hulk is the Hulk’s cousin is a big deal to her, but Wonder Woman leaves her completely cold as she’s not tied to a family or group of people with a similar name and look. But it was when she found out there was a character called Batgirl that she really got interested, “You mean like Batman, but a girl like me? Wow”. It also meant she didn’t have to be Robin in nursery any more, a character she’d discovered from watching the Adam West 60s movie she uncovered in my DVD collection. She liked the notion of Supergirl and Spider-girl, but for her it was definitely Batgirl all the way.
Now that Batgirl was firmly established on the same importance level as Peppa Pig and the Disney Princesses I decided to pick up Tiny Titans to read with her. Her verdict – “They’re heroes, but they’re little like me and their friends are there and some of them are girls and they like pink and they’re still good at rescuing people”. As a starting school present I finally gave in and bought her the Batgirl outfit she’s been asking for endlessly all year. And she is over the moon. Our garden shed, previously named The Adventure Shed, is now the Bat Cave, I’m Batman, my wife is Batwoman, her Fisher Price dog is Batdog(!). And she has invisible Robin helping us catch invisible Joker, Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman with an old piece of rope. In fact she now has two uniforms she wears on a daily basis, because as soon as she gets home from school she puts it on and starts righting wrongs. She doesn’t have all the background, she doesn’t know all the intricate details, she just thinks it’s good fun and wants the good guys and girls to win. Looks like Tom was right.