In this preview of the upcoming Spider-Woman series, Jessica Drew is noticeably pregnant, setting up a historic storyline for Marvel Comics. (Photo: Marvel)
With the upcoming October re-launch of Marvel Comics, dubbed the “All-New All-Different” Marvel, the most noticeable difference in the company’s superhero universe might be in Spider-Woman, who, according to a preview of the upcoming series, will be pregnant in her first issue.
The cover of the Spider-Women #1, by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Javier Rodriguez, shows Jessica Drew (aka Spider-Woman) sporting her costume and a very big bump. The subtitle? “Parent by day. Hero by night.”
It’s new territory for Marvel, which has rarely shown pregnant superheroes. “It’s significant that such a high profile super-heroine is having a number one issue of her book kicked off with this as a main aspect of her life,” Joan Hilty, a former DC comics editor and comics consultant for a number of publishers, tells Yahoo Parenting. “There are plenty of examples throughout the history of superhero comic books of heroes having children — biological or adopted children, or wards who take after them and carry on their legacy — but there have been very few instances where we follow a hero working to raise a child from day one. Having that be an integral part of the story could be a great thing. Because, of course, parenting is an epic story in and of itself.”
Hilty says the move might reflect the changing comic book audience, as well. “I think bringing in female readers is definitely a part of this,” she says. “Especially because females are such a fast growing readership and movie audience for this type of entertainment.”
It’s taken a while to get here, though. Just last year, Marvel came under fire for a Spider-Woman cover that had the titular character in a skin-tight outfit and sexual pose. “She looks like she’s wearing body-paint, and that’s a big no-no for an industry still trying to remember that women exist and may perhaps read comics, and also don’t want to feel completely gross when they do so,” wrote the science fiction site io9 at the time. “Here’s a simple rule: If it’s inappropriate for a male character, it should also be inappropriate for a female character.“
Hilty says comic book publishers are paying better attention to where they have fallen short in the past. “Comics, even very recently, have not had the best track record with how they portray female characters and how much autonomy and power they have versus male characters,” she says. “It’s only when you really start telling stories that genuinely treat women like equal players that you start to make a difference, and that you really start to build a new audience. Hopefully the next step will be that they introduce a single male character who discovers he is solely in charge of an infant, or a gay superhero couple will have a baby. Maybe the many permutations that are realities for parents will continue to pop up in this imaginary world.”
For Jessica Drew, the publication of her new series will probably raise the questions that are a reality for plenty of parents, like how she will balance her crime-fighting work and her home life. And it remains to be seen who the father is, or if Spider-Woman will be a single mom. “That is often the reality for modern parents, that their career or their family structure does not fit the traditional definition, but that doesn’t make them any less capable of being parents,” Hilty says. “This has the potential to reveal where society is at right now. I hope they stick to the story of what it’s like on both sides of the coin. In superhero comics you always try to keep things constantly changing, but you can’t undo having a child, so I hope they make the most of it.”