Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

There’s a relative dearth of female characters that truly have depth in comic books. You’ve got to give Watchmen credit where it’s due. It might not be your favorite comic book story but it was just so ahead of its time and the curve so to speak of comics and how people wrote comics. And I find the Silk Spectre one of the most human and relatable characters in the whole thing.

A bit of a Black Canary knockoff, Silk Spectre in a second generation superhero, following in her mother’s footsteps. She’s beautiful, she’s throws a mean right hook and she’s comfortable with herself and her sexuality. But I guess what I’ve come to love about this character is that she isn’t just another perfect female character. It’s the moments where she’s vulnerable that really make her tick, I think.

I think what the Silk Spectre is really trying to do is what most women are trying to do: feel good about herself in a world filled with double standards and misogyny. She deserves to capitalize on the things that are great about her- she’s smart, sexy and heroic, but too often people think poorly of women who are all of these great things. Treat them poorly. For me the penultimate Silk Spectre moment is the disturbing realization that her mother had been practically assaulted by a beloved American superhero. The Comedian had tried to use her mother and take advantage of her.

What does that mean for Silk Spectre? Is she doomed for the same fate? Is she going to be able to respect herself? Will other people respect her?

I always read Silk Spectre as just wanting to feel good about herself. It’s so simple in a way. She just wants to be with someone who really appreciates her for all the great things she is. And she doesn’t wanted to be reduced to just one thing; a sex object, a superhero without a personal life, a loving partner who doesn’t have her own career or goal. It always seems that she’s trying to do her best at fighting crime and just finding a way to coexist with a man in a relationship that doesn’t diminish all the great things she is somehow.

Sure, she’s drawn to Dr. Manhattan initially. I mean, the guy is all powerful. It’s a hard thing for women to resist. She’s young and she wants to be loved. But as time goes on, I like to think that the Silk Spectre thinks about herself differently. She might have been reckless when she got involved with Manhattan--needy even--but by the time we catch up with her in present day, she’s moved past that relationship. She’s started to respect herself differently.

Seeing her serve as a bit of the motivating force for Nite Owl to come back into his own is inspiring. Maybe he is the one guy who could really be a partner for her the way she deserves. It’s that last scene when she sleeps with him that always seems so human to me. It doesn’t seem cowardly. It just seems vulnerable. She just wants to do the right thing and find a way to feel good. Isn’t that only human? Maybe the most heroic goal is just that: questing for a way to embody your strengths in a world that too often minimizes and undercuts women’s attempts to do so and to just find a life for yourself that feels good. Doesn’t everybody deserve that?


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