Gender Swapping: Escalate or Subdue?

As I began to think about this blog post I couldn’t help but think of this nagging thought: Throughout comic book history the male superhero has been the most predominant character. Their plot lines overlap with each other and many hostile situations have arisen mostly because of male dynamics. This lead me to think interesting question, what would happen to a comic book’s plot if some of the male characters were female?


It just so happened that a artist thought of this alternate situation concerning one of the most pivotal story arcs in marvel history. The Marvel Civil War starts with a tragedy instigated by young superheros that lead to the deaths of over six hundred people, mostly children. This event and others lead to the enactment of the Registration Act in which all superheros would be forced to reveal their true identities and receive training. This divided the superheros into two factions: the people for registration lead by Tony Stark i.e. Iron Man and those against it lead by Steve Rogers, Captain America. The fights that ensued caused physical and emotional damage for both superheroes and civilians.


 The alternate scenario concerning the leaders of the factions is thus; Tony Stark as a woman had married Captain America. Because of their relationship and unwillingness to fight each other  The Civil War was averted before it even began. This saved many from harm and stopped many traumatic events that occurred in the aftermath of the War

This alternate world in which Tony Stark was a woman lead me to ask more questions. What would happen if there were more male-turned-female characters. Would situations be averted or would they escalate more than the canon? How would these changes effect the plot of the comic as a whole and what relationships would form or subvert?

Images from Marvel comics and tumblr

  3 comments for “Gender Swapping: Escalate or Subdue?

  1. jrandal2
    April 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Interesting. It just bugs me how whenever there is gender bending in comics how there is romance between characters and how that relationship becomes the way that female characters are formed and are important. Now, I haven’t read this comic, but it sounds as is female Tony Stark’s agency and importance comes through her marriage to Captain America, as opposed to it just being about how she is a super-genius that saves the day because of finding a new technology.

  2. Sam Partonen
    April 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Similarly to the comment above, I feel that the true problem here lies within the fact that in order to create a female superhero she must be somehow romantically involved with a male powerhouse. Even when we do see a female superhero, for instance, Wonder Woman, we see an overtly sexual cartoon version of a woman; and last I checked, I don’t see many superhero men running around in scantily clad clothing because they wouldn’t have adequate protection. Although I think that graphic novels do give females a fair shot at having lead roles or being prominent characters, when it comes to being the “hero” I wonder if women will ever truly be able to fulfill that role to the same extent that we have seen their male counterparts do in the past.

    I know you raised the question of whether situations would escalate or the plot would change – I think this largely depends, sadly, on the marital status of the woman. In today’s society, to have a female physically defeat a male would raise many eyebrows and often lead to a sense of implausibility that would turn many readers of graphic novels away. However, if the woman has a male by her side to help defeat her opponent, there is a new sense of truth and honesty to the story that readers would be more willing to accept.

    Until the entire dynamics of graphic novels are changed, that is, both the hero and the antagonist are made to be female, I unfortunately do not see a place for a female hero in graphic novels to defeat a male enemy without a loss of readership in the genre.

    • tdor6475
      April 4, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      You both bring up very interesting points. At first I had thought that by changing the gender of certain characters it would change the way the plot flowed. But the point you bring up about the traditional female hero role and how they need a male to overcome adversities to be plausible,it made me think of earlier female comic book heroes. Wonder Woman, Super Girl and Wonder Girl are some of the most powerful superheros in the DC comic universe but are continually put into situations that involve romance and/or male interaction. I believe that if they changed their gender these type of situations would not happen. On the other hand the if male superheros switched gender these situations would undoubtedly happen again but with different results. I too believe this must change, female heroes do not need to have these over romanticized plot lines and males do not have to have overemphasized ‘manly’ plot lines. I believe that if some of these characters, both male and female, were to change sex, there could be a change in how readers view gender roles in general. A each hero would still have their known personalities(perhaps a bit changed due to the differences in gender upbringings?) but in a different body; Peter Parker is still Peter Parker even though ‘he’ has boobs.

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