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Comics scholar Will Brooker (he’s a top expert on Batman) has taken a step over to the other side and started writing a superhero comic that veers pretty far from Gotham City. As he tells Alison Flood in an interview at The Guardian, his new comic My So-Called Secret Identity takes a “feminist approach from the ground up, in terms of story, character, artwork and production.”
That’s a nice idea but not much of a selling point. How about this: It’s a good story. The lead character is interesting, and the first issue draws you into her world, and then brings in a dramatic twist to hold your interest. Brooker’s writing is witty, and the art, by Suze Shore and Sarah Zaidan, is attractive and easy to “read” visually, something that is not always the case with superhero comics.
Lord knows, as a reader who rolls her eyes at most superheroines (and superheroes for that matter), I like the idea of what Brooker is doing, but Comics With Agendas seldom turn out well. Good comics are all about good stories, and good stories seldom fit neatly into ideological niches. This has the makings of a good story, and I would hate for the “feminist” selling point to be a turn-off for potential readers. I’d prefer see this comic presented as something new, rather than a pushback at a tired genre.
Admittedly, My So-Called Secret Identity uses many of the storytelling conventions of superhero comics—the paneling and the way the character is narrating the story from inside her head, for instance. There’s even a grim edge to Cat’s point of view, as she opines that in her city, if you’re not a celebrity or a superhero, you’re “little people.” But then on the next page she’s thinking about the scent of warm muffins and her favorite bookstore. I’ll go out on a limb here (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) and say that no one in Gotham City thinks about muffins.