-by Cassy Gonzalez, student volunteer
I have grown up reading comic books and any children I have will as well. This is because there are some pretty awesome and strong characters in comics that are great for shaping personal integrity and teach readers some pretty important life lessons. First off is my personal favorite and secret icon, Katherine Kane and her heroine identity, Batwoman.
Now a back story: Kate Kane was born into a military family with a twin sister Beth. Long story short, Kate, Beth, and their mother were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. Their mother was murdered, but Beth and Kate survived. Thing is, Kate was led to believe that Beth died along with their mother. The truth, hidden by her father, is that Beth was separated and appears in Gotham as an adult involved in the crime organization–The Religion of Crime—which, among other things, kidnaps and murders children. But this is a story for another day. Back to Kate, after the death of her mother and sister, Kate went into the military. Fast forward, she was dishonorably discharged after her 21st birthday when “allegations” were made that she was a lesbian. Her commanding officer gave her a choice—stay silent and remain in active service, or leave.
This is where her true awesomeness shines through: Kate leaves because she is a “proud lesbian” and will never hide who she is or who she loves. Valuable lessons here: don’t let scared bigots decide your future and always remain true to yourself. Kate’s girlfriend did not follow her example and their relationship ended and happened a second time with her next lover, a Gotham detective, who was afraid of her colleagues discovering her sexual orientation and left Kate. Kate moves onto an equally strong homicide detective, Maggie, and currently struggles with her secret life as Batwoman and rebuilding her life after discovering the truth behind her sister’s “death” and betrayal of her father.
Batwoman is by far my favorite female character in the DC universe followed closely by Wonder Woman and Raven, who are also deserving of their own blog posts. Kate Kane stands up for herself and those around her—when the Gotham police department was slacking in their investigation of the disappearances of children of color, she stepped in and listened to the distraught parents and continuously puts her life on the line to rescue them. Even when she is blackmailed by the nefarious Bones (a skeleton who smokes. The impossibility of this adds to his evilness) she “soldiers on” and finds ways to seek justice for everyone but herself.
Batwoman’s life wisdom: Be true to yourself no matter the circumstances, choose partners who will never be ashamed of you and support you through anything, and you can always find ways to redeem yourself, even in the most dire of situations and especially when you doubt yourself.
Now, I will move onto my number one Marvel heroine: Rogue of the X-men! Rogue’s mutant power is absorption—power, memory, mannerisms, anything that makes a person them, she temporarily absorbs and utilizes. Hers is a lonely story: her first crush and kiss at 15 is currently in a coma and her inability to physically touch skin-on-skin sometimes isolates her. Recently in the X-Men:Legacy storyline, Rogue can control her absorbing powers and indulge in physical intimacy much to the delight of her love interests, Gambit and Magneto (though that didn’t always stop them in the past). Rogue’s personal history is what first endeared her to me; she is always alone in some context but refuses to feel sorry for herself and instead concentrates on protecting her beloved fellow X-men.
In the Legacy storyline, she is given a leadership role by Cyclops on their commandeered island exclusively for mutants. This happens after the Phoenix force, the alien super power entity that inhabited Cyclops’ now dead wife Jean Gray, is being hunted by the “Avengers” team in the hopes it will lead to the extinction of the mutant race. After a long battle over several issues, Rogue teams up with a lone Avenger, Ms. Marvel, to stop the useless killing on both sides and find peace. During all this, Rogue is experiencing her own internal battle: Magneto or Remy? This is not a clichéd “Oh I just can’t choose” scenario Hollywood movies use to make women seem incapable of choosing. Rather, Rogue’s battle is questioning if she wants to be in a relationship with either man or focus on herself.
Remy is the patient and non-jealous type. He waits and gives platonic, emotional support when Rogue needs it. Magneto is more aggressive and loud in his affection proclamations and has put his life on the line for Rogue multiple times. Rogue loves both of them, and when Remy leaves for whatever reason (he’s also the random traveler type) Magneto ups his efforts for a future for them together as an exclusive couple. With the arrival of peacetime, Rogue takes it upon herself to become a head official and protector of the Jean Gray Institute for the Gifted, and comes to a final decision. In the end, she tells Magneto she wants to focus on her own heroism and protect mutant kind on her own terms, and she can’t dedicate herself to him and her causes. This caused Rogue a lot of grief and Magneto’s sadness only added to this. She moves on and teaches new mutants and aspiring heroes and heroines and in the end of the Legacy series, has found true happiness with herself and the world she lives in. In other words, Rogues begins the X-men series as a bad-ass and ends it an even more powerful bad-ass.
Rogue’s Life Wisdom: You can’t achieve total happiness until you have grown into the person you want to be, and that does not always include a love interest. Opportunities to do well and teach others are plentiful, so seize them! And my favorite—make your greatest weaknesses your greatest strengths.
Now, I will teach any offspring well. I’m pretty kick-ass, so I would make sure my kids would be too. They will be strong, independent-minded people who will always stick up for themselves. And comic books are fun ways to learn these attributes—certainly more fun than listening to a parent lecture. Batwoman, Rogue, and many other comic book heroines show young girls and boys that female characters do not always have to be weak, wear revealing costumes and wait for rescue. Comic books provide readers with some great strong and beautiful (mentally and physically) heroines who are not sidekicks or side characters, but are their own leaders and forces for justice. This is why my kids will read comic books, to see these amazing women in action and learn from them.