In the old days, superheroes were muscled men wearing underwear over their tights, notorious for beating up criminals and saving the world. Thankfully, times have changed, and there are some new superheroes on the horizon.
Eager to reinvent pop culture from a queer perspective, one Vancouver entrepreneur is the full-time creative brain behind überbabe, a queer superhero for the 21st century.
Lisa Voldeng, a former media and technology consultant and now cochair of Vancouver’s Gay and Lesbian Business Association, developed the überbabe character because she wanted to challenge the female stereotypes seen in films and animation.
“The way you see female characters portrayed is flat, bland, and boring,” says Voldeng. “I started doing this because I wanted to create things that I want to see in the world-for myself and for people like me.”
After creating the überbabe character, Voldeng pulled together a team of artists and media professionals to help her produce the first series of graphic novels.
Described as the “mother of all superheroes,” überbabe is a sassy bisexual who fights “the forces of fear and bigotry.” Along with her former lover, the dyke hero Danger Cat, überbabe travels through history advising spiritual leaders and confronting tyrants.
Published this year in a glossy graphic novel called überbabe: same as it ever was, the stories are designed for adults and “savvy 13-year-olds.”
A campy mix of mythology, history and pop culture, the stories feature Adolf Hitler, the medieval mystic St Hildegard von Bingen and a George W Bush look-a-like called Little Big It. “Probably the simplest way to describe it is Lord of the Rings on acid… in hot pants,” laughs Voldeng.
As promised, Voldeng’s tales take readers on a wild ride. Even if the stream-of-consciousness lingo is a bit hard to follow, it’s still exhilarating to time-travel with a sexy superhero.
One story jumps from the Oval Office to ancient Israel, pausing briefly for a galactic sword fight. Appearing in an olive grove and playing a lute, Jesus tries to reassure überbabe about the state of the planet. Even a Disco Platform Starship makes an appearance, transporting an extraterrestrial cat and dog debating leisure suits and government bureaucracy.
The crazy mix of characters may be confusing, but fans support Voldeng’s effort. Iona Miller, an Oregon artist who is a member of the on-line “überbabe tribe,” declares that überbabe is “an icon of woman’s strength for the 21st century”.
Voldeng agrees. “People want to live life on their own terms, and they really respond to the transgressive nature of the story,” she says.
Admirers of überbabe also attend themed parties up and down the West Coast. In May, a Vancouver überbabe party featured secret passwords and “saucy superhero costumes” designed for fantasy personas. “It’s all about flaunting your own inner überbabe,” says Voldeng.
Organizing parties is just part of Voldeng’s strategy to connect with the überbabe audience. In an unconventional move, Voldeng wants to encourage fans to download and modify existing überbabe stories, images and music. In order to make this possible, she plans to release a new computer protocol called “godware” that will facilitate the creation of fan fiction, music remixes, and re-tooled graphics in a noncommercial framework.
“We plan to create an environment where people can make their own unofficial gospel of überbabe,” says Voldeng.
Not surprisingly, Voldeng has a unique perspective on file sharing and illegal downloading. “Unfortunately, the traditional industries look at it like theft, and are doing everything in their power to put a stop to it,” she says. “My perspective is to harness it, because this is what people want to do.”
Voldeng says she relates personally to the character she developed. “I’m the lady überbabe, both the creator and shepherd of the überbabe mythology,” Voldeng states. “Much of überbabe is drawn from my own experience.”
As lady überbabe, Voldeng is busy producing the next installment of superhero tales. Called Stars Over Shootland, the second überbabe series will be released as graphic and narrative novels, animation and music CDs. “The different product mix with each series is simply different ways of telling the story,” she explains.
And it’s the storytelling that inspires Voldeng. “Growing up as a kid we all loved this idea that magic existed in the world, and then we get older and that stuff gets dulled and trampled out of us,” she says. “I wanted to create something that allowed us to cultivate that magic…. Ultimately überbabe is about sitting around a campfire and telling an amazing story.”