Superhero Secret Origins: Special Edition – Andrew Roper

I went to see Andrew Roper’s Superhero Secret Origins: Special Edition (Bar 50, 20:30) because it sounded different and I felt that with having seen a fair few films I’d get all of the references (in marked contrast to a show I saw the other day). Beyond the title, I had no knowledge about the show and my preconception was that it would be a show poking fun at people being bitten by radioactive spiders, caught in atomic bomb tests or seeing their parents bumped off after walking down a mugger infested alley. Instead it was part stand up and part lecture about the real world origin, as opposed to the fictional inception of a superhero. There are different superheroes being discussed each night, but tonight it was Wonder Woman. This is a very timely show, as not only is it riding on the crest of a surge of interest in this genre, but also there is a new Wonder Woman film coming out next year.

To begin with, Roper discussed the casual misogyny contained within the early comics, showing how Wonder Woman was given the role of Secretary to the Justice League. However, he then placed this in context and it began to be seen as something more progressive. Roper then discussed the amazing amount of times WW ended up in chains, or roped up, pointing out how suggestive this all looked, before again providing the context of women breaking the chains of society. We then had a look at how WW had evolved in sartorial style and as a superhero through the ages, showing the ups of her shorts and the downs of her powers. This was then followed by a very entertaining section on female superheroes and their fates (fridging) and the contrast in how male characters are drawn, showing how ridiculous a lot of the poses are.

Probably the most interesting section was the talk about the inventor of WW, William Marston, who had an unusual domestic arrangement, featuring two and then three women in the same relationship, all of whom had influence upon the direction that WW took. Marston appears as the sort of cove for whom the internet was invented all too late, but if it had been invented sooner, then he would probably never have left his room and this production wouldn’t have been possible.

This show was certainly something different. There was no banter, no real routines, but instead the laughter came from the idiosyncrasies of the subject matter itself, with Roper pointing out the various ironies. It was highly accessible as opposed to niche and nerdish and with the exception of having to talk over some of the louder bits of music (as opposed to the theme tunes), well delivered. It erred on the side of informative over comedy, but that is just the sort of show it was and it’s unfair to criticise it on that ground. I’m glad I saw it and I’d certainly see any of the other secret origins stories.

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