The Heroes We Need: Talking To The Comic Shop Worker Who Saved The Day Thanks To ‘Supergirl’
On Saturday December 3, 2016, an Indiana-based comics retail worker named Mary tweeted a story about an an encounter with a young Supergirl fan that made waves across the comics internet, reaching thousands of fans, as well as comic creators and the cast of the Supergirl TV show. ComicsAlliance caught up with Mary to talk about the state of LGBTQ representation in superhero comics, and to find out which books she would recommend to young readers.
Mary's story, for those who didn't see the tweets that have been shared over 11,000 times, tells of a nervous teenage girl who came into the store looking for Supergirl comics, and named Supergirl's sister Alex Danvers as her favorite character.
Mary quickly realized that the girl was struggling with being queer, and had come looking for Supergirl comics after watching Alex Danvers come out as a lesbian on the show. This was a situation Mary identified with immediately, having similarly struggled a decade earlier.
After talking with the girl, Mary not only sold her Batwoman: Elegy, she also dipped into her own pocket to buy her Midnighter, Gotham Central, and Adventures of Supergirl. As Mary explained on Twitter, she remembered how important Batwoman and other queer comics characters were to her as she was struggling with coming out, and she felt it was her duty to help this girl find the same comfort and strength she had found.
The story went viral among both comics professionals and fans, with Mary being widely and rightly praised for her heroic actions. Many people offered to refund the money she spent buying the girl comics, but she asked them to instead make a donation to Equality Florida, which supports those affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this year.
The story also caught the attention of Chyler Leigh, the actress who plays Alex Danvers on Supergirl, who retweeted it as well, and commended Mary for her actions:
We at ComicsAlliance were moved by Mary's story, so we reached out to her to learn more about her perspective as a queer comics retailer and fan.
ComicsAlliance: Obviously representation is important in all genres, but do you think there's something about seeing heroes like ourselves that's especially moving to queer kids?
Mary S: Superheroes are a kind of modern mythology is our society. We're openly devoted to them, wear their iconography, and even strive for their ideals. We see them on these fantastical adventures that usually end in some kind of a moralistic dilemma.
However, I think what sets them apart from classic mythology is the human element. At the end of the day they are portrayed as regular people, and that's the part we can identify with. Seeing these larger-than-life characters face unimaginable challenges is one thing, but knowing that at the end of the day this person is no different than we are means a lot to all of us.
But for queer kids, seeing heroes save the day and be themselves as queer people shows them that you can do exceptional thing and still be queer. You can be the hero and still be queer.
CA: It's great that we have mainstream comics with openly queer characters, but it often seems like DC and Marvel still have a lot to learn. What do you think are the next steps in making comics more queer-inclusive?
MS: While both companies still have much to learn, I think DC is on the right track. They're openly embracing their queer characters with books like Midnighter, Batwoman's upcoming Rebirth title, Harley Quinn, and Bombshells to name a few. DC is even breaking convention with their inclusion of non-binary characters like with Sam in Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and Porcelain in Secret Six.
We're also seeing a lot of these books come from queer creative talent with folks like Phil Jimenez, Steve Orlando, Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion, and Marc Andreyko, just to throw a few out. The next big step DC needs to take is better inclusion of queer PoC, both on the page and in creative talent. (And just a better representation of PoC in general.)
On the flip side, while Marvel has been amazing with their representation with PoC, their queer representation has been mostly relegated to side stories and and supporting characters. Since the cancellation of Angela: Queen of Hel, Marvel has had no books headlined and lead solely by queer characters in their 70-some odd titles.
We have America Chavez and Iceman solo titles coming, and even have a spectacular side story in the World of Wakanda anthology series, but based on the sheer volume of their titles they don't ever seem to have more than one or two queer solo books at a time. While side and supporting characters are great, queer people deserve better than to be background in a heterosexual character's story.
CA: Are there any superheroes that you think of as queer, or would like to see as queer, that aren't officially out yet? Who would you like to see come out in superhero comics?
MS: Until recently, my biggest dream was to see Wonder Woman's long teased sexuality addressed and, as usual, Greg Rucka made my dreams come true.
CA: What other comics would you recommend to young queer readers?
MS: DC Bombshells, Secret Six, Young Avengers, Batgirl (New 52), Batgirl of Burnside, and the weekly series 52. Even looking outside the Big Two we have fantastic books like The Wicked and The Divine, Goldie Vance, Jonesy, and Red Sonja. I could go on for ages.
If you would like to make a donation to Equality Florida, you can do so via their website. If you have questions about your own identity and would like to talk to someone, try the GLBT Hotline or The Trevor Project.
Here are Mary's original tweets from last Saturday: