Abstract: The Power of Superheroes and Male Potency
by Jeremy Frank
Far from being the stuff of children, today's graphic novels are full of wholly adult concepts. Sex crops up constantly in both the plot and characterization in many such novels, and it requires a serious examination. Any psychologist will tell you sex often revolves around and/or is a metaphor for power. Where else could sex and power be more intertwined than in the superhero?
Looking only at male heroes, we find a deeper level of complication in studying them. In the male mind, sex and male identity are endlessly dependent on one another. Therefore, I suggest that there is a deep connection between a superhero's power, sexual potency and male identity. In order to confirm this point, I will use Concrete,Watchmen, and the works of psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud to get a better understanding of the underlying psychological principles governing their actions and emotions.
Specificially, there are two characters of interest: Concrete and Dan Dreiberg. Concrete was once a man, and with the onset of his power (the loss of his human body), he has lost his sexual ability and feels a threat to his identity as a man. This is played out in misplaced agression, denial, and transferrance. It also leads to certain competition with his friend and an urge for the redefinition of manhood. Dreiberg, on the other hand, has lost his potency and only regains it when he once again dons the cowl of Nite Owl II. To him, power and sex must go together because when he feels weak, he does not feel like man.