On The Familial Lives of Lizard Superheroes

A review of Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human Lizard #3 (2015)
By Derek Newman-Stille

In The Pitiful Human Lizard # 3, author And illustrator Jason Loo finally gives us a glimpse at some of the supporting characters in the comic. We get our first real look at the life of the top tier Toronto superhero Mother Wonder, and a chance to see her civilian life as a mother with small children. Although not the title character, Mother Wonder serves a key role in Loo’s superhero world. She is the superhero who The Pitiful Human Lizard looks up to and considers himself far below her power ‘weight class’.  Loo allows us a view into the life of a character who would be considered second tier and his reactions to meeting a first tier superhero – blending envy with fandom and a desire to assist.

The role of family has been an important one in Loo’s comic, allowing us to see the home life of his character and familial responsibility. This family role transcends his civilian life in the comic when The Pitiful Human Lizard needs to continue to cope with his father’s celebrity as an early Toronto superhero, The Lizard Man, and the fact that people keep making connections between father and son, which could reveal The Pitiful Human Lizard’s civilian identity. The threat posed by the potential for his family to reveal his identity further blurs the space of family and superhero identity, placing him in a precarious space of uncertainty between two identities that most superheroes tend to keep separate.

The blending and mixing of superhero and civilian/family identity is further illustrated through The Pitiful Human Lizard’s interactions with Mother Wonder. Her name itself speaks to the close connection between familial and superhero identities, and The Pitiful Human Lizard’s constant view of her as the superhero he aspires to impress situates her as a sort of maternal figure to him, coaxing him to further develop. When The Pitiful Human Lizard is able to recognize Mother Wonder in her civilian identity while she is out with her family, the line between superhero and family is further blurred, allowing him a glimpse at her familial identity.

Where The Pitiful Human Lizard is inspired by Mother Wonder as a figure to look up to, he inspires the development of a new superhero in a very different way. He evokes the irritation of Lady Accident, who seeks to become a superhero because she is frustrated at the attention-seeking behaviour that she believes underlies most superhero identities. She is able to justify her own voyage into heroism as a reaction to this attention-seeking behaviour rather than a reflection of it, and, rather than continuing to protect the public from the shadows, she sets out into the streets with her own garb (something not too flashy so she can blend in, but different enough so that she can stand out). Lady Accident reveals her own contrasting desires to both be noticed and also continue to be critical of superheroism’s intrinsic attention-seeking.

This issue is one of revelations – characters discovering secret identities as The Pitiful Human Lizard discovers the secret identity of Mother Wonder and also recognizes Lady Accident as his sometime girlfriend Barb, but beyond the plot revelation of secret identities, this issue also reveals the blurring of identity that can occur when a character’s civilian and super identities mix and interchange. 

You can discover more about The Pitiful Human Lizard and get your own copy at PitifulHumanLizard.stoenvy.com 

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Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 23: An Interview with Jason Loo

Continuing my exploration of Canadian Comics, this week I interviewed Jason Loo, the creator of The Pitiful Human Lizard, a Toronto based superhero.

Along with our interview, I had a chance to do a brief discussion of The Pitiful Human Lizard volumes 1 and 2, talking about some of the key features of Jason Loo’s art and narrative.

Jason and I talk about the power of naming a superhero “pitiful” and the potential this has to shift assumptions about superhero narratives. We discuss the normalcy of the Pitiful Human Lizard’s life around his crime fighting and Jason’s ability to take on the hypermasculinity of the genre and suggest some alternatives.

Click below on the icon to listen to a recording of the radio programme!

Stay Tuned: Saaaame Lizard Time…. Saaaame Lizard Channel!!

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Definitely Not A Chameleon.

A Review of Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human-Lizard Issue 1 (May, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Few superheroes call themselves “pitiful”. Most tend to hypermasculinize themselves to try to make themselves seem beyond the human, more powerful, further beyond moral critique, but Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human-Lizard plays with the superhero genre and opens it to critique, question, and, yes, pity.

Jason Loo brings a distinctly Canadian aesthetic to the superhero genre and challenges the notion of moral ease for heroic work. His superhero The Pitiful Human-Lizard has few powers at the start – glue that allows him to stick to walls, but no super strength, no laser vision, no power ring… and he keeps failing his Brazilian Jujitsu classes. Also… he has to hold on to a regular day job… and, with transit time on the subway, that doesn’t give him much time to engage in the superhero business. In order to make ends meet and pay for the repairs to his costume, he even has to undergo drug trials.

Loo creatively takes on the hypermasculinity and intense gender divisions of the superhero genre by creating a superhero who is nominally pitiful, and minimally powerful. He is incredibly outclassed by Toronto’s female superhero Mother Wonder, who has all of the powers (super strength, invulnerability, laser vision) of Superman AND is also a mother with children. The Pitiful Human Lizard just wants to have a chance to collaborate with the big leagues, which is a nice change from the majority of the comic industry which generally leaves the superheroine in the support role. The Pitiful Human-Lizard dwells mostly in the shadows around greater heroes, often serving as a distraction for villains rather than a key threat.

Most superheroes are created by a fundamental loneliness, which is constructed as the necessary setting for creating a figure dependent on no one but themselves to emphasize the superhero’s personification of the American dream of ultimate independence and self reliance. But, he is not a self made man. The Pitiful Human-Lizard relies on his (very much living) parents, piecing together various networks of support in order to conduct his acts of superheroism.

Jason Loo is comfortable expressing the fallibility of superheroes, disrupting their certainty, and in so doing, pointing out the arrogance of the “regular” superhero and our need as a society to have a superhero who is uncertain.

Loo has created a Toronto superhero, putting him in battles at Toronto scenes like the Royal Ontario Museum to counter the habit of Hollywood for trying to create Toronto as the Everycity, filming in Toronto but then calling it New York, Seattle, or whatever city they need for the plot of their film. He has created a superhero who talks about the issues of Toronto life as he travels from place to place on the TTC (subway) and, at the end of this first comic, encounters a supervillain who bears a striking resemblance to Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford.

This is a lizard who is not a chameleon… he is fundamentally at odds with his place, uncertain, and questioning. He expresses the diasporic feeling of many people in large cities, lost to obscurity but wondrously awkward.

To find out more about The Pitiful Human-Lizard, visit the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PitifulHumanLizard or the kickstarter page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/761064731/torontos-new-superhero-the-pitiful-human-lizard-is