ON SUPERHERO EROTICA
Some theoretical ramblings here...
Why am I interested in the subject of sexuality
for comic characters.?
Well, I love both comics, and erotica, so to look for combinations of both
is only logical. Also, if we stop to consider the iconic nature of several
comic book characters, the issue of sexuality becomes even more important in
the context of the superhero as the modern myth, a concern which has been
ever present in all mythological
pantheons and collections of folklore. In iconic characters, traits are
emphasized to represent major symbolism, so to deprive superheroes of sexual
natures would be to render them unnaturally stilted, incomplete, artificial.
Does this mean superheroes should be perpetually horny bastards? No of
course. What I meant is that their sexual nature should be addressed, even
if simply to explain its nonexistence.
Is the sexuality issue out of place in a medium aimed theoretically at
children? Not really. Are morality, politics and other such concerns also
unfit with cohabitation with the superheroic ideal? No. You just need to
express them properly, aiming it at the proper audience in proper fashion.
Younger readers may see surface plot and action, but the more experience
reader can see deeper meanings in reading, and sexuality can be one of those
deeper levels. And, just as there is a Batman Adventures comic geared toward
younger readers, there could be a Batman Mature geared towards the adult
audience, focusing on more "touchy" issues.
Some books have written about sex in superhero world, aiming more for
sensationalism, seeking to shock the reader with the inclusion of "dirty"
matters in the pristine, innocent comicworld, than trying to explore it as
just one more seldom seen side of normal existence in the superhero
existence. These books, like Veitch's Bratpack, focus on perversion, on the
depravity hidden behind the innocence.
What I prefer however are books like Savage Dragon and Starman, where
innocence, normal sexuality, and depravity, can exist side by side, showing
a more real, more complete image of the fictional scenarios.
The fact is that the perennial titillation factor of comics leads to
inevitable sexual thoughts, but like I have written before, lead nowhere,
foreplay without payoff, teasing the reader with innuendo and showing off of
the wares while declining to sell. This leads of course, to deviant
mentality, with shame and regret as consequences.
Who has not thought to himself "Boy, if I were SUpes, I would nail WW for
sure" or "Man, the Hulk must be hung like a Brontosaurus!". Very few, but
most repress that ashamed of projecting sexuality onto an innocent, chaste
situation/character. Well, the sexuality IS there, just not acknowledged.
And to acknowledge it would deprive it of much of its perversion stigma.
One of you commented once that you believed that drawing personal erotic
comics was a normal development for any comic fan with artistic abilities.
Well, I agree. As we begin to seek that which we are growing more interested
in, and find it lacking in our comics, we begin to try to fill the lack
And surprisingly, much like the potential for action, I believe comics have
enormous potential for depictions of sexuality.
Another once told me that he did not share the need of some people to see
cartoon characters indulging in sex. That it puzzled him a bit. Well, I do
understand that sex may remove the patina of innocent joy some cartoons such
as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Bambi have for us. But I feel that
superhero comics in particular do suit the erotic treatment.
Why? Because superhero comics are based more upon the action/adventure genre
than other comic characters, which focus on humor or whimsical adventure.
And we all know that most action adventure stories are based upon a constant
sexual tension between characters.
And what mostly interests me in the comic medium is the potential for
defusing troublesome situations. Simply, sex in comics can be more
imaginative, diverse and appealing than in real life because of the
aesthetic distortions possible in the medium.
We all know that people in comics are idealized to the point of absurdity.
Women are impossibly beautiful and voluptuous. Men are exaggeratedly
and powerful. Thus, to show them as sexual creatures engaged in erotic
endeavors also benefit from the virtues of such possible exaggeration. The
sex can be as athletic, intense, and beautiful as desired. Sad is the fact
that real people engaged in sex rarely paint pretty pictures, often giving
the impression of unappealing animal mechanicity or even ridiculousness. My
wife often tells me that I never look so dumb as when I am having sex (!).
But the comic book sex can be depicted as beautiful. it can be idealized
and defused from negative connotations much as violence is.
We often see outstanding feats of physical action and extreme violence in
comics. The hero punches the villain and he is sent flying. The furious
exchange of blows and the hurling of object to be shredded upon impact
account for great dynamic scenes with intense excitement.
But we know real violence is not that pretty or well choreographed. Violence
is messy, chaotic and brutal, and can very easily be sickening. However, the
comic medium manages to portray it in more innocuous ways, "it is just sheer
fun" we are told. Well, the same can apply to sex. Sex can be then portrayed
as violence is, forsaking certain realism for enhancing its "fun" aspect, so
that when certain degrees of realism do intrude (premature culmination,
temporary impotence, etc.) we notice it pleasantly.
But it is important that the comic IS capable of showing sex as FUN.
And isn't that a message we should be teaching people more often?
Also, the technical lack of restriction in a comic, that can allow us to
show a character performing impossibly feats of strength, or facing
immensely disproportionate foes, can also allow us to show sex in as wildly
possible configurations as we wish. Storytellers have always played around
impossible match-ups, like Beauty and the Beast, like Pygmalion, which
if enacted in realistic depictions would seem grossly grotesque most likely.
But comics can give life and make palatable such clichés as the beautiful
heroine falling for the noble monster, and can show us the culmination of
such relationships in a way that can sidestep the absurdity and frank
ugliness of such a liaison.
But that does not mean I want all comic characters to screw everyone and
everything in sight. Their particular, individual sexuality should be
approached as another part of characterization, enriching it.
And superheroes in particular should lead interesting sexual lives both in
its richness of lack of, given that as larger-than-life figures, they fall
under what Heinlein called great people. Those, he expounded, were generally
either Apollonian or Dionysian, since their wider range of opportunities and
choices allowed them to go to extremes, either becoming extremely
promiscuous (Dionysian) or chaste (Apollonian). Being fully honest, who
us would not have a richer, varied sexual life if given the chance? Anyone?
And anyone who decides not to, must have a particular reason for it, which
is often strong enough to lead to strict monogamy or even celibacy.
For example, a large part of Superman's appeal is his iconic character as
the "savior form above", the benevolent all-powerful overseer of good
behavior in the world. Superman is the one who came from high, from the
heavens, seeming like one of us, but truly a superior order of being, yet
humble enough to cohabit with us, and share our mundane existence. He uses
his power not to change drastically the status quo, as he easily could, but
more to provide a role model to aspire to, being a defender from non-mundane
concerns, which acts only upon extraordinary circumstances with miraculous
actions. He saves us from evil although he does not dabble in political
change. To Caesar what is Caesar´s. The Christ symbolism is truly strong.
Thus, Superman perennially remained a chaste symbol. His relationship with
Lois Lane was more in the ideal plane, Platonic in the true sense of the
word, and he constantly spurred the advances of worldly temptation, such as
Maxima, and others. Part of the strength of the Superman icon is his
character of purity. Even through the biologically impossible marriage with
Lois, Superman can still be seen as chaste, trapped in the standard
stereotype of dulled sexuality that marriage has become.
Batman however, is a womanizer, not only to preserve his playboy facade or
because he seeks gratuitous pleasure, but because he needs an anchor to his
humanity to avoid being consumed and destroyed by his obsession. Batman does
not love, he grasps for companionship, for humanity. Will his sexual life be
then frantic, desperate, fueled by an urgency to remind himself of his basic
human normalcy? Is Batman's sexuality a cry for help?
On the other hand, Wonder Woman represents a figure with enormous sexual
potential and curious ambiguities. She comes from a matriarchal society, a
messenger of peace, of reformation of values. Unlike Superman, she wants to
change the status quo, she wants to preach love and sharing. She represents
the female principle of preservation, of protection against the runaway
destructive tendencies of mankind. And she wants to better ourselves through
integration of the male/female principles, not through domination of one
over the other. She is against the cancerous side-products of ownership, of
subjugation. She wants freedom of expression, of realization and of
integration. Thus, WW should be the antithesis of Superman, and as such, she
should practice freely her sexuality as a further means of expression.
Still, just as WW's warrior nature seems to contradict her message of peace,
there are other dichotomies hidden at the basis of her persona, mostly
involved sex, because of her restricted upbringing and her drastic change
of environs when entering Man's World.
WW was raised by an all-female society, composed particularly of women with
a very bad opinion of men and their behavior. By current DC continuity, all
Amazons are reincarnations of women abused by men through the ages. Thus,
despite their stated philosophy of love and understanding, Amazons are
probably justifiably paranoid about men and their sexual urges. And so, WW
was raised surrounded only by women and being taught that even though all
humankind should love each other, men could be beasts who only want sex, as
a means of subjugation, and that men seek to dominate and abuse women to
restrict their potential into "owned" sex toys (A view sadly not too
With that background, when drop-dead-gorgeous Diana, the only Amazon without
memories of being actually mistreated by men, arrived at Man's World, she
had to have a long held curiosity regarding that creature "man" and his
oh-so-often-mentioned sexuality. But the fact that Mommy Hipollyta had
probably warned her again and again about the dangers of sex-crazed men, had
to make her reserved and wary.
Diana however, had none of the sexual mores we have, as she was raised in a
society without bipolar interchange, whose only sexual activity would be
lesbian sex by necessity, and where all modern sexual hang-ups would be
inexistent. She was actually raised believing as truth the facts we take as
myth: the existence of Olympian Gods. She must then be familiar with (in her
world) the promiscuous sexuality of such myth/culture, including actual
transformed-god bestiality, where to be ravished by a god impersonating an
animal was to gain favor in Heaven's eyes!
The fact is then that Diana can quite possible consider as perfectly
acceptable sexual practices we would frown upon, being held back only by her
education's instilled distrust for males and the way that sex symbolizes
their ownership over women.
Thus WW has to reconcile such diametrically opposite views into one of
integration. She must integrate the message of love with that of the fight
against discrimination. She must find the way to teach the world to stop
poisoning the sexual bipolar nature with attitudes of restriction, ownership
and abuse. She must teach to share, not to conquer. Sex must then for her
involve not "possession" as commonly seen, but as sharing, as the practice
of bridging differences and healing spirits.
So, from her background we have two different possibilities regarding WW:
1. Either WW is a sexual free-spirit with no hang-ups about sex, who would
then feel glad to practice any way of bringing people closer, and would
actually be willing to have sex with even possible enemies to attempt to
"mend differences", seeking thus to include sexual liberation as part of her
2. She has been well-taught by a men-despising Amazon culture, and is thus
wary of men, and at guard against their lusts. However, her complete
ignorance of men and her natural curiosity, together with the subconscious
desire to do that which is forbidden, must make her feel secretly attracted
to sexuality, further compounded that having been gifted by Aphrodite
must have also included great sexual potential as well as merely
superficially attractive looks.
Both possibilities lead to a very likely sexually active character, although
the second one leads more to what could be called perverted reactive
behavior. Thus I prefer the first option.
That would further counterpoint Wonder Woman's immanent nature against
Superman's transcendental role. Superman protects from above, detached,
disguised when amongst us, while WW works from within, openly and with a
more personal involvement.
There are many contradictions involved in the above, but they do parallel
the contradictions present in WW's stance regarding violence.
Oh, well, too much ranting already, I will continue later with the Hulk,
Prof. Xavier, and others, plus isolating particular instances of interesting
sexual development potential.