How a Three-Year-Old Girl Introduced Her Dad to Superhero Comics
It's very easy to examine at the state of the mainstream American comic book industry and its relationship with women and come with away with a diagnosis of "grim." With respect to very young women, like the seven-year-old girl who last year had to give up on her idol Starfire because of the character's updated and decidedly "adult" depiction in DC Comics' Red Hood and the Outlaws, things can seem even worse.
But earlier this week I came across a little story that confounds the gender status quo on multiple levels, and reminded me of how much comics and the fantastic superhero characters can mean to young readers. It's the story of a widower who found himself raising a daughter who's "way into comic book characters, superheroes, Star Wars and other sh*t I know nothing about," and how his local comic book shop stepped in to help.Some of you have probably heard of Matthew Logelin, the blogger and author of New York Times bestseller Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, which details the tragic death of his wife Liz Logelin, who passed away just 27 hours after the birth of their first child, Madeline. Logelin and Maddy's story continues in the form of a blog, where he writes often about the challenges and triumphs of single fatherhood.
An update from earlier this week crossed directly into ComicsAlliance airspace. Logelin wrote that he was surprised to discover his three-year-old daughter was "a total tomboy," and that while he was prepared to teach her about sports and fishing and so forth, he found himself completely at a loss when she professed her love for things like Star Wars and comic book superheroes. No doubt a future ComicsAlliance reader, Maddy is particularly fond of Batman.
A few weeks back her mind was completely blown when she found a Batman mask ready to be cut from the box of her favorite breakfast cereal, and no matter where on Earth you live, you probably heard her squeal when i pulled a Batman comic book from inside the package. ("Squeeeeeeeeeee! Dad! This is soooooo cooooool!"). A few days later Brooke [Logelin's new partner] bought her a t-shirt with a bunch of superheroes on it, and when Madeline chose it as her shirt for the day, she spent the entire drive to school asking me questions about the superheroes and their personalities and super powers... questions I couldn't answer for her other than to say that the Hulk turns green when he's angry.
Logelin decided to take Maddy to consult their local comic book retailer. I know that sentence fills many of you with a profound sense of dread, but you should know that the Logelins live here in Los Angeles and our city is blessed with an abundance of great comics retailers. From his photographs I could easily identify Silver Lake's own Secret Headquarters, one of the most distinct comics shops to be found anywhere. It was even more distinct than Logelin knew, because rather than the Android's Dungeon-esque clerk he expected to find behind the counter, the gender stereotype was once again turned upside down when the Logelins were greeted by a young woman.
Maddy eagerly hit her with questions about Batman, Wolverine, Green Lantern, and all the other superheroes she could think of, and the woman answered her questions enthusiastically, pulling out age-appropriate comic books for Maddy.
Our young friend especially dug DC Comics' Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. (Sadly, that series will conclude with March's issue #50, but Maddy will be glad to learn the creative team will reunite in May's Superman Family Adventures #1, which stars the Man of Steel as well as Supergirl, Superboy, Krypto the Super Dog, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and the whole Metropolis gang.)
Logelin was taken aback by Maddy's ferocity for the material, and they sat together in Secret Headquarters' exceptionally comfy leather chairs and read comics together for the next 35 minutes. Because Maddy had so many questions about the characters on every page, Logelin's resolved to learn as much as he can about comics for his daughter.
Like Logelin, I was struck by how all of these circumstances confronted the traditional understanding of girls and comics. Obviously this is something we cover quite a lot on CA, but it was great to see it play out in such a touching little story. I think Logelin summed it up best:
"So now I'm trying learn as much as I can about comic books and superheroes so I can be a better father. But just when I think i've figured things out, I'm reminded that gender identification is malleable and our assumptions are bullsh*t..."