(Em)Power-Up!

Power Up #2

Power Up hasn’t been around for very long. There have been two issues released so far and I’ve adored both of them. The concept caught my attention straight away; three unlikely people, Amie, Kevin and Sandy (along with Silas the fish) are suddenly granted cosmic powers. Pretty cool, except with great power comes creepy monsters. They need to band together to figure out what on earth is happening and why its happening to them. I love the colours, the characters, the dialogue and the super-fish so I was pretty quickly and completely sold on this book.

The first issue made me so optimistic for the rest of the mini-series, I read it way too many times and tweeted about it a little too much. Then issue #2 arrived and I didn’t tweet at all. I couldn’t. I couldn’t because there was just too much to say, too many things I loved and couldn’t cram into 140-character sized chunks. Above everything, there was one thing in particular that I loved about Power Up #2; it’s relationship with gender-roles and stereotypes.

Magical Girl stories usually come with cute outfits. I’m talking full on frills and flippy skirts and a ton of accessories usually complete with mystical powers. This story is no different in that regard, the only difference here is the person wearing the adorable outfit. Instead of the usual teen girl we have Kevin, former high school athlete and Capture222222222222construction worker.

This is important for so many reasons. Aggressive or hyper masculinity and the dismissal of anything feminine perpetuates the idea that femininity is weak. Anything seen as typically feminine or “for women” is seen as lesser. This is harmful for all genders. Women are constantly being told that they can’t or they shouldn’t, told that certain things just aren’t for them. Here is your little corner, stay here and do not budge.

In turn men are told to push away everything femme – reject, deny and maybe scorn a little. Men who enjoy these things are seen as feminine and therefore weak or less manly. Masculinity is accepted as superior in terms of strength, power and respectability.

This kind of toxic masculinity and acceptance of gender stereotypes or norms pushes those who do not conform to the side. They exclude and alienate those who don’t fit into typical notions of gender or gender expression.

Positive representation of people who break those societal norms and define their own gender expression is invaluable. It tells those people that they are not alone, that their identities are valid and deserve recognition and respect. It tells people who do fit into those pre-made gender roles that not everyone does or has to fit those same roles. It teaches acceptance and tolerance.

This is especially important in a medium like comics which is full to the brim with toxic masculinity, extremely restricted views on women and very little awareness of everyone else.

CaptureI especially loved that Kevin referred to his outfit as his armour. Armour is a powerful word, it tells us that Kevin feels strong and safe in his outfit. This mixed with the incredibly proud look on his face and the pure awe on Amie’s makes for a really moving page.

On top of this, Sandy, the sweet and tiny mother of two teenagers is now super strong. Super strength in the hands of a dainty woman and a beautiful Magical Girl outfit in the hands of a middle-aged construction worker and exactly none of it played for laughs? Power Up is wonderful and in even more wonderful hands.

With only two issues of Power Up Kate Leth and Matt Cummings have created a safe space for everyone.

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