Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks, Kurt Busiek (Introduction)

Fairy tale twists are gobs of fun. Like the fractured fairy tale, this is the fractured superhero tale. You've seen them before in "A Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom" or "Captain Underpants," or the movie, "Guardians of the Galaxy." Parodies are one way of dismantling the superhero archetype and Superhero girl does this as well, except she is anything but superhero-y. She's a bonafide klutz with self-deprecating humor and a mask that she forgets to take off all the time. We meet girl hero sitting in an overstuffed chair going through her official superhero checklist: superpowers, cape, arch-nemesis, and saving the world. Her nemesis is Shaun, a boy that questions and belittles her. He insists that she needs a tragedy to be a superhero. He insists it is more cool to fly than leap over buildings which is what she does. He insists she is bad at fighting monsters. When she meets him at the end of the story in her civilian attire, she becomes a real hero as a friend in an unexpected way. Not that Shaun knows that. But then superheroes need to cover their identity from the world.

Superhero girl lives with a roommate that knows of her powers. She is watching the television when a special broadcast interrupts the news to show a monster landing in the ocean. The comic strip-like illustrations show Superhero girl whipping into her street clothes, slamming the door, only to scream, "Aw CRAP. I forgot my cape!" The next frame shows only her foot in the upper left side of the page as she leaps impossibly high off the ground and says, "Whatever." The dry humor continues with the story as she meets Shaun, deals with her brother, and fights the dorky ninjas that show up like popcorn trying to foil her plans.

The story pokes fun at superheroes while taking on universal themes. Superhero girl with all her superpowers feels inadequate and unsure of herself. Her brother, Kevin, is the polished, professional superhero with his own line of special edition dolls. Superhero girl has a weakness for kittens and is a bit of a softy for all of her bravado. She wants to be polished, but feels under-appreciated. She's doing her best, but sometimes it doesn't seem like it is enough for the other people in her life. Sound familiar? So while she is the common person's superhero, the story is about everyday life. She needs a job, wants to meet boys, and drools in her sleep. All with ninja's trying to make her late to the interview and showing up with her mask on. Pretty funny.

I'm not a graphic novel connoisseur. More of a newbie. But I do notice, and like, the use of block-letter sound effects along with images and dialogue. This amalgamation makes for a unique reading experience. Emotions are not limited to text, but are conveyed with color, line, and contrasts. The color patterned backgrounds contrast with the dialogue displayed in the only white-colored speech bubbles and Superhero girl's white eyes; an accent that makes them pop out accenting her expressions and feelings. I've read some really good graphic novels lately. Piqued by the process, I ran upstairs to the middle school library and checked out the book, "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art," by Scott McCloud. Maybe I'll learn a thing or two. Let me know if there is a superhero writer out there. I need some tips. It takes me longer to write a graphic novel review than read it.

4 Smileys

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