Without even knowing it, we make assumptions about people every day. This subconscious need to categorize individuals based upon our assumptions is a pretty common process. Martin Eden, the creator of Spandex: Fast and Hard, illustrates this tendency in a light-hearted way with his action league of LGBT folks in his three-part comic book about “the first all super-powered, all-gay superhero team there ever was!”
The title denotes a playful take on the classic superhero saga. There’s nothing like innuendo to earn a chuckle, and that might be all Eden had planned for this group. Together, they’ve got the skill set to defeat a 50 ft. lesbian, a self-replicating pink ninja, and a “hermaphroditic” soul sucker. Separately, they’re clichéd representations of sexual minorities. This is mostly a consequence of adhering to formula. The inherent hardship experienced by the various characters is touched upon but is otherwise nonexistent. Ironically, the Spandex members have a tendency to let their biases and assumptions get the best of them. So who are these characters?
There’s Butch, the dyke with an attitude and super-strength. Prowler is the clairvoyant equipped with a tail. He never uses the tail for anything specific, but we can leave that to the imagination. Indigo is bisexual, although her name is in reference to the Indigo Girls, a lesbian folk group. She’s able to traverse space-time via teleportation ring. Diva is supposedly a lesbian version of Wonder Woman, even though her sexual desires are unaccounted for. Both Diva and Liberty utilize their superhero guise like Clark Kent uses his glasses. They’re the only characters who assume different identities when they’re not with the other Spandex members. Mr. Muscles and Glitter form the gay guy duo, until Mr. Muscles is killed by a sniper, and is later replaced by a yellow ninja (really?) named Neon.
The perceived leader, Liberty, does anything in her power to replace deceased members of the group, all while keeping her motives secret. Here’s where the waters of identity politics get chummy. While confronting Liberty about the set-up to induct a new member, Diva says, “I love you Jason, but I will not be manipulated.” This comment proceeds after Liberty asks Diva not to refer to her as Jason when she’s in costume. Here’s why this is problematic: Popular culture ruthlessly depicts trans women as “deceivers.” They’ve been misrepresented by cis/hetero normative culture as manipulators. There’s not a lot of character development in Spandex to draw any certain conclusions from, but it seems like Liberty wishes she was perceived as female when she’s not in costume. She has dreams of being pleasured by men while wearing her mask—this is also a negative stereotype of trans women, that they only transition for sexual purposes. I highly doubt Eden has a trans woman friend, or did any extensive research into her character. Also problematic is Eden’s description of Nadir—the genderless villain in chapter 3—as a hermaphrodite; it’s an outdated term used for people born with sex organs that don’t conform to binary standards of sex. The appropriate term is intersex.
If Eden continues the Spandex story, it would be nice to see authentic representations of queer men and women (hell, even a gender queer), so the world can start appreciating these individuals for their unique position at the intersection of identity politics.