When read with a critical eye, the world of superhero comics often offers a lens with which we can examine society, our values, the meaning of justice, and the role of the individual in regards to the greater community. If all of this information is garnered from critical reading, then the way in which the medium of comics constructs these meanings will reflect an embrace or a rejection of the common symbols and ideology of it’s source culture. In the case of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1987 graphic novel, Watchmen, the second approach is used, as Moore’s writing draws upon the common cultural understanding of superheroes and exaggerates or tweaks them, exposing their underlying ideals. In this way, Watchmen functions not only as a…show more content… The emphasis of these characteristics coupled with the prevalence and narrative authority of superheroes constitute a type of hegemonic masculinity, defined as the “culturally exalted form of masculinity,” which is linked to institutional power and the subjugation of women (Aulette and Wittner 527). Hegemonic masculinity suggests that there is one correct way to hold power, and that it is hypermasculine, a standard reinforced by dominant trends in comic book portrayals of superheroes. Any grand deviation from these stringent ideals creates a subordinated masculinity, one that challenges the dominant narrative of hypermasculinity, though often throwing into question the identity of the man in question (8). On the surface, the characters in Watchmen seem to bend to these ideals, but as each of them lack or challenge key aspects of hypermasculinity they serve to question both its importance and the misogynistic basis of hegemonic masculinity.
The physicality and violence of the hypermasculine hero is emphasized in the character of Edward Blake, the costumed crime fighter known as The Comedian, but this emphasis serves not to glorify him but to expose our acceptance of vigilante violence, especially when abstracted from morality. Many superheroes