Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kate Spencer and the Mama-Thon ReCap

(And here I go, associating the Manhunter with endings again.) Manhunter is one of two books DC Comics puts out that features a mother as the main character. But unlike Selina's devoted protective motherhood that causes her to withdraw from the costumed world, Kate's inclined to join up with the rest of them. She's a workaholic, a public prosecutor for her day job who considers superheroics overtime. Kate doesn't have primary custody of her son, only visitation rights, but that doesn't mean her choices and decisions don't affect him, or that being a mother doesn't have a major impact on her life.

One year later, I have to admit, Kate's parenting skills have certainly improved. She's learned to put up the dangerous weapons, she's making more time for her son to visit, and she's on good terms with the ex's new wife. She's not exactly Mother of the Year yet, but she's not out of the running either.

Yes, there's more.Come to think of it, she made up for her huge mistake last year. Yes, she left the staff where Ramsey could find it. He got injured. This is a pretty big strike. However, when he was kidnapped by his grandfather and separated from his father, -- who was it who pulled strings to track them down, snuck into the enemy's compound in the dead of night, fought off three villains (killing two) and rescuing Ramsey and his dad?

It was Mommy, that's who. This should at least have put her back in the running. Might've even swept it, if only she hadn't been up against KT21 and Sue Storm.

Okay, maybe that's pushing it. She's not a nuturing personality. She's not really even a compassionate person. But she tries, and she's been learning and growing -- like a real parent tries, learns, and grows as a person. And most of all, she is someone her son can look up to. She's independant, successful, brave, and aggressive. Ramsey can follow in his mother's footsteps if he wants, and still be a valuable, important, heroic person in the future. If anything, he's probably inclined to take up the Manhunter mantle when he grows up. I think this is a huge part of being a mother, being someone your children can look up to and emulate as they try, learn, and grow.

All in all, I'd say, Kate's a positive portrayal of motherhood. So many comic book characters have completely absent (through death or abandonment), or even extremely negative maternal influences. Most of the DC heroes are defined through their father's. A number of them have mothers who are supervillains.

Aside from that, most heroes have been a traditional mother in the background. Martha Kent. You don't see much of her because she's assumed to be like every mother in a fifties sitcom. Practically perfect in every way. It seemed unnatural to me. My own picture of motherhood involves a professional woman, because my own mother worked outside the home. Most of my friends had professional mothers and to be perfectly honest until I joined the military I thought staying home was something women only did on TV and in comic books. No offense to women who can afford to stay at home, but it's just not how I picture a family. So, if you'll notice, most of my choices this year are mothers who are actively superheroes, or else notable for their occupation.

Also, what bothered me was just the notion of the background mother. Like women can't have lives once they start a family, and if they do it's because their selfish evil people (all those villainess moms). Like their story is over then, and the rest is just baking cookies and kissing boo-boos. I like when a mother headlines the book, or is at least an active participant. I also like when a mother, even one who does spend a significant amount of time in the background, shows a certain amount of personality.

I also like anything that helps put the evil, selfish mother/stepmother folklore standard to rest.

Anyway, here's the Mama-Thon Recap (Intentional and Unintentional Participants):
KT-21, Green Lantern of Jerome (Green Lantern)
Liandra/"Lee" (Fallen Angel)
Stephanie Brown, The Spoiler (Robin)
Mary Jane Watson-Parker (Spider-Girl)
Abigail Hunkle, The Red Tornado (JSA)
Mama Reyes (Blue Beetle)
Selina Kyle/Irena Dubrovna (Catwoman)
Lara of Krypton (Superman)
A Mother's Day Poem (Avengers)
Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four)
Boodika of Bellatrix's Mother (Green Lantern)
Martha Wayne (Batman)
Mary West (The Flash)

And some tangential Mother's Day Posts:
Mother's Day: Enter -- The Matriarch!
RAB's Mother (Reality)

Honorable Mentions -- Moms who came up, but who we didn't get around to (this year):
Martha Kent (Superman)
May Parker (Spider-Man) (Yes, the adoptive Aunt counts)
Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman)
Iris Allen (The Flash)
Black Canary I (JSA)
Bonnie King (Young Justice)
Helena Sandsmark (Wonder Woman/Young Justice)
Huntress/Tigress (JSA)
Rocket (Icon)

I'm not the best when it comes to writing about motherhood, but I'm really glad I did this, it helped work out some of my frustrations with comic book depictions of Mothers. I'd like to thank everyone who participated, and encourage everyone reading this to visit their sites.

(Oh, and if anyone has a late Mama-Thon addition, feel free to comment and I'll add it to the list.)


  1. Your blog is awesome. I'm not a girl, but i think it's really cool.
    I put a link to your blog on mine. Keep posting!

  2. Very nice post on Kate; makes me even sadder that the book just got cancelled. *sigh*

  3. frank -- Thanks, Frank!

    Cap'n Neurotic -- I know, I just saw that! :(

  4. I happened to see an interview with Felicity Huffman a while ago and the interviewer (I forget who, other than it was a woman) asked her one of those inane questions about motherhood: something like "Is it the most rewarding thing you've ever done?" Felicity prompty answered, "No." When the interviewer looked a bit taken aback, she elaborated. I forget her exact words, but it was something like: it sounds terrible, doesn't it, because I'm supposed to say motherhood is the best thing I've ever done, but it isn't.

    And like your blog, it was a little reminder how we're still supposed to view motherhood as the pinnacle of a woman's purpose in life and how society tends to look down on women who don't feel that way. That once she procreates, a woman is supposed to regard all personal considerations as secondary to her children. And hey, it's cool if a woman feels that way; certainly I expect parents to take responsibility for their offspring. But it seems outdated - not to mention a little silly - to expect every woman to feel that way.