Beard: Cross-dressing nothing new for superheroesWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The new cartoon in town, “SheZow,” lays out the adventures of a young boy who uses a magic ring to become a superhero — a female one, that is.
The joint Canadian-Australian animated series, airing currently on The Hub, has drawn criticism and controversy, inspiring a boycott among those who feel a cross-dressing hero isn’t appropriate for the 6- to 11-year-old age group “SheZow” is aimed at. Little do those concerned parents realize that gender-bending in the super-set has been around almost as long as comic books themselves.
Way back in May 1940, Quality Comics introduced a character called Madame Fatal in the unfortunately-named Crack Comics, a debut that would have otherwise been relegated to the overflowing bin of obscure superheroes had the lady in question not been a man in disguise.
Millionaire Richard Stanton took on the identity of an elderly woman to investigate the kidnapping of his daughter and liked the role so much he continued to fight crime as the cane-wielding, red-cloaked hellion. Young readers must not have been swept up in the apparent bonuses of cross-dressing, for Madame Fatal disappeared after only two years of publication and surfaced decades later as the butt of homosexual jokes from modern superheroes.
Apparently, there was something in the ink they used in 1940 as DC editor-writer-artist Sheldon Mayer added a new character to his “Scribbly” strip in All-American Comics with the colorful moniker of the Red Tornado.
Wearing a souppot as a helmet and long johns for, err, long johns, the strapping, virile Tornado was in actuality a portly woman named Ma Hunkel. Ostensibly a humorous character — like SheZow herself — the Red Tornado’s message of cross-dressing went over better than Madame Fatal’s and lasted for several years.
Here in 2013 it’s hard to believe there’s not a greater purpose of diversity behind “SheZow” than simple cartoon fare, something that Madame Fatal and the Red Tornado were most likely never intended for.
Still, without solid ratings, history may still send the newest gender-bending crime-buster to the same end as his/her vintage fellows: obscurity.