As I have mentioned elsewhere, my love for superhero comics began as a little girl, but my *first* love was Archie Comics. Archie was a subtly extraordinary comic that is, by far, superior to most of the offerings of DC and Marvel for several reasons, but the biggest is that Archie is more a *Matriarchal* hero than a Patriarchal one (he is not a character without faults or limitations, but he is a genuine hero and needs no mask, cape and cowl to shine). DC and Marvel are obsessively skewed toward the Patriarchal, but Archie Andrews is the greatest hero of them all: he does not judge. He has kind-hearted friends such as Dilton, Betty, Chuck, Ethyl, Kevin, Freddie, and Nancy, but he is also friends with Jughead, Reggie, Veronica, Cheryl, Midge, and Moose.
What is the difference between the two groups?
The former half are all worthy heroes, but it is the latter half that, in any other comic book, would be clearly classified as *villains*. Reggie Mantle is an obnoxious narcissist and practical joker always looking to best others to elevate himself; Veronica Lodge is a wealthy indulgent, Jughead Jones is far too crafty to be a hero, Cheryl Blossom is conniving, Midge Klump dates one boy as she leads on another, and Moose Mason has an explosive temper and often resorts to fisticuffs. If the genre of Archie shifted, *none* of these characters could ever hope to be the close friend or love interest of the protagonist.
Archie does not enable *any* of them. He calls them out on the carpet and stands up to them when they have done something wrong, yet he does not ostracize them or belittle them. He does not place himself at the top of a pecking order. Most of these characters have or had their own series, meaning he is a character who happily *shares* a spotlight (though the books are standalones that do not share an interconnected storytelling structure – these books spotlight one character rather than others). They are his friends and when they are at a low ebb, they can always rely on him to be there for them and vice versa. The groups support him as much as he supports both of them.
It is truly an extraordinary way of presenting a story where traditional heroes and villains come together and have a genuine affection for each other. Reggie could easily be made to be Archie’s villainous antagonist, but Archie does not function that way. Archie sees Reggie’s good side and does not isolate him or bully him, even when he isn’t behaving as well as he should.
The structure of the superhero comic is far more dysfunctional: there are heroes and *villains* – and the villain is *inferior* to the hero. The hero is *always* right and the villain is *always* wrong. The hero is pious and the villain is evil. The villain is someone who dislikes and disagrees with the hero; so, of course, the villain has to be of inferior mental stock to be pitied by the hero – the villain has to be evil, crazy, jealous, stupid, irrational, wrong, misguided, destructive, bad, demonized, and/or infantilized. There is no room to even consider the possibility that it is the hero who is an arrogant little propagandist who is sabotaging the villain and then constructing a narrative where he maligns someone who does not think or act the way the hero expects him to think or act.
The hero has a script and any deviations mean the hero must go out and teach the villain a lesson.
How many former spouses paint themselves in the same heroic light as they demonize their exes and their new mates? How many siblings function by agitating and then destroying their own *blood relatives* with ease? (As an aside, I know many people whose default personal narrative is the hyperheroic one – they can *never* be at fault for *anything* substantial, even when they are the clear and sole instigators of the dispute despite their best propagandistic spin trying to cover this fact up, and anyone who says anything that can be construed as negative toward them is promptly given the insane villain treatment. This narrative is most often associated with the Mary Sue trope, yet most superheroes of comics clearly fall into *this* category, yet these are *male* characters who are the most severe and common example, yet the trope is christened with a *female* name).
It is a destructive narrative that shows the weakness of the Patriarchal style: it is an *us versus them* Manichean Universe where you are either with us or against us. You are either part of our tribe, or you are an enemy who must be destroyed and humiliated. There is no debate – the hero’s “reasoning” with the villain always involves getting the villain to change his ways in such a way that it perfectly aligns with the hero’s. If the villain leads a group of people, often the mission of the hero is to defeat the villainous leader to free and liberate those under his leadership as they will be seen as oppressed and enslaved and will be grateful to convert and become part of the hero’s tribe because the hero’s thinking is absolutely and obviously normal and natural.
Other times, the big-hearted hero may decide the villain is mentally ill and thus, must be pitied and rehabilitated so that he is assimilated by the hero’s own standards of acceptability.
Because the Patriarchal style has a built-in confirmation bias, we do not get a chance to explore or question the narrative hypothesis to determine whether or not it has merit. We cannot judge a character’s heroic worth because the narrator has decreed it is beyond question.
Often, there are authors who rebel against the superhero (or more accurately, hyperhero) framework by casting heroes as hypocritical villains as Garth Ennis did with his comic book series *The Boys*, yet we still had to take his word that what we encountered was the truth, not a creator’s diatribe. When one of his religious characters asks her creator why she was going through the horrendous traumas without divine intervention, her creator Garth Ennis wanted the readers to deduce that there was no creator in her world or any other, including their own, yet it is ironic that a fictional character has a real-life god named Garth Ennis. Of course she has a creator, even if that creator is in absolute denial that he exists and deliberately treats one of his few female characters in such an abusively misogynistic manner in an attempt to make his point.
Her god owed her a genuine apology.
The Patriarchal Storytelling style is not a logical or scientific way of examining characters – it is too authoritative and constricting. It has become *anti-scientific* and requires the reader to appeal to *Narrative Authority*.
However, the Matriarchal Style enthusiastically delves into those very questions by allowing protagonists to see the world in a more realistic and nuanced way. Its mandate is to see people through multiple lenses and explore the results. No, you will not always get along with everyone, like everyone, or have everyone like you, but it does not mean that anyone in these equations is a villain. We all make mistakes and hold on to wrong ideas and beliefs to our peril – yet heroism is the act of acknowledging our faults and changing the way *we* see, think, feel, and do while understanding those who do not change – or want or need to change in a different direction. We give others the time and space to do the same.
People grow together, but they also grow apart. It is not a question of good versus evil or right versus wrong. As the meaning of life differs for every one of us, we understand the world is a mosaic of different pieces that have their own time and place. The piece on the left is not defective in comparison to the piece on the right. We examine the pieces that fall or break – we understand them without degrading them, justifying their defects, or excusing them. We look to prevent ourselves from falling into emotional disrepair as well as prevent the problem from reoccurring.
It is not a contest of who is the mightiest hero – it is a cooperation to weave various needs and wants together so that we can all progress and grow.
The Matriarchal Storyteller is both a scientist and a detective: we examine human behavior carefully from various angles to build stories of different live in different eras. We look for clues as we gather grains, finding the one grain that pulls the rest together. The Castle of Sorites is built one story at a time until the one story that weaves all the rest to see the big picture.
The Patriarchal Style allows for none of those necessary deliberations – it is all about power and control – two highly dangerous and more importantly, illusionary concepts. People have power only if others *give* it to him, meaning Spider-Man’s mantra that with great power comes great responsibility is *challenged* on every level: power is illusionary: we may lord over others until those others snap and rebel or a larger entity or group show just how little power we had all along. Just as the teenager who tells lies to his apathetic parents starts to believe he is cunning, he tries his tricks on someone with more experience and venom to tear him down in seconds.
There is no responsibility to be had when you delude yourself into believing there is such thing as power: a politician in “power” merely has the goodwill of a group of people who gave him a paper crown to do the work they find unworthy of their own attention or were terrorized into doing it until they eventually snap and then revolt when they had enough of his tyranny and see his paper crown for the foolish delusion it really is.
Spider-Man’s lofty mantra is an empty phrase from a character whose own apathy and arrogance cost his own Uncle Ben his life – yet what Peter Parker failed to see is that he never had power to stop that tragedy in the first place (as he also spectacularly failed to stop the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy when he was an allegedly enlightened hero, his empowerment phrase wasn’t working because it was hopelessly *wrong*). He is a character driven by remorse, but tries to save face by mislabelling it as power and responsibility.
His true motives are easily discovered by the Scientist Detective in the Matriarchal Style; however, we must blindly follow his narrative spin in the Patriarchal, never questioning his most basic assumptions as we must follow along as he seems to make more enemies along his journeys. Spider-Man may weave his narrative web, but the Matriarchal tests its contents, structure, and strength.
Archie, on the other hand, never stoops to those feel-good phrases. He is always there when needed, never needing a tragedy to wallow in. He has no power and is aware of it; he is an everyday teenager in a small town, yet shares the spotlight with others as he makes more friends along the way
The Matriarchal Storyteller is a detective and scientist out looking to build paradise: it is about creating and constructing ideas to touch hearts and open minds without anyone feel it necessary to create a pecking order. We are all heroes in some stories and supporting characters in others, yet that is the reason we live full and productive lives. The Matriarchal celebrates our shifting places in the world and explores the deeper meanings of it with each story and character as new worlds are built from them both.