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KU lecturer challenges conventions with new comic book

By River Reporter Mar 7, 2013

She’s averagely pretty, she lives in a shared house, she studies, she doesn’t have any special abilities just her extraordinary intelligence. 

Emma Piercy

She might sound like the quintessential female student, but this is the new super heroine on the block – enter Cat, the creation of KU lecturer Will Brooker, who’s here to fight off gender stereotypes, clothing intact.

The norm in superhero comics

A KU PhD supervisor by day and a comic book writer by night, Will Brooker was so frustrated by the “cheesecake pin-up” women he saw in a visit to a local comic book store that he created his own remedy in the form of his new series, My Secret So-Called Identity.

“I walked out of the store feeling disappointed about what had become the norm in superhero comics, and frustrated that they couldn’t be different,” said Mr Brooker. He later returned to work at Kingston University, where he was leading a PhD induction session.

He said: “I looked around at the room full of young women – so smart, determined, keen and committed – and remembered that in the original comic, Batgirl was meant to be a PhD student.

Just extremely intelligent

“Why do we never see women like this in comics – women who are normal, likeable and just really, really clever? I attempted to put someone who was more like a genuine PhD student – not a model, not an athlete, just incredibly intelligent and adept at making connections – into the superhero genre, and see what happened.”

The result was Cat – Catherine Abigail Daniels – a PhD student in her early twenties and daughter of a policeman, endowed with her only superpower of astounding intelligence.

Self funded first issue

Unlike traditional super heroines whose costumes include little more than underwear, Cat combats crime fully clothed – when she does wear a costume, it’s the kind of thing anyone could buy and put together from shops, teamed with her dad’s old police gear. She wears big chunky boots, not heels. When she’s not in costume, she wears clothes that most females her age would like to wear.

The 22-page first issue launched last month and is available to read for free here, where donations for funding the next four issues can be made. Mr Brooker funded the entire first issue himself, including the website, and his team made a donation of £200 to women’s charities. 

The female empowering superwoman has proven a hit by attracting 1,200 fans

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