(Rated PG-13 but with references to X sites)

    "But I was weak from having fought Dr. Zargon's robot-mutants earlier. I could not summon the strength to resist Prince Xala as he…"

Now that I think about it, of course. Of course there's a superhero fetish. Any hormone-flush adolescent would be titillated by the attractive, ulta-fit, do-gooders in brightly-colored, tight-fitting spandex with exciting, universe-saving adventures of alternating helplessness and heroism. And having the stimulation routinely delivered in a parent-approved—but rarely parent-reviewed—format only added an implicit sanction to the thrill. But I read comic books as an adolescent and didn't develop the fetish myself, so it came as a bit of a surprise to stumble on this marvelous subculture.

True to both forms, the fetish is expressed mostly visually. Not surprising since men are primarily visually stimulated and comics are a visual medium. There is some text out there, too; some slash fiction, and some original-character work. Text stories focus less on the visual aspects of the fetish and more on the emotional, situational, and novel. (Is sex with a telepath exactly everything you each want it to be? Is safe sex with a telekinetic as hot/freaky as it sounds? Would a regenerator get deeply into mascochism? And would the ultimate sadist seek him out for this purpose?) Despite such intriguing questions, there's not as much text out there as the visual stuff.

Online quality ranges astonishingly. There are amazingly-well executed images (c.f. Rifferus) and poorly drawn, creepily purile rubbish (none worth citing). There are weekly publications of live-action photo novella stories (hardheroes or helplessheroes.com) to Photoshopped existing images (http://www.clubclassic.net/gallery/eroi7.html). There are DVDs with simple titles such as "Midessa vs. X-Ray" and "Die Hard Conquers Dyno Man." It's a big industry.

The hallmarks of the fetish are those predictable features to which I alluded above…

  • Ultra-fit characters, often exaggerated musculature
  • Brightly-colored, tight fitting costumes
  • Masks
  • Bondage and domination scenes
  • Wrestling or struggling scenes
  • (In the drawn stuff) Macrophilia
…as well as some others that are unique to (my exposure to) porn.

Bright costumes
I'm struck by the accidents of history that influence modern sexuality. In this case, the brightly-colored costumes are a consequence of printing technology. Full-color comics began in Sunday newspapers, which were restricted in its first many decades to very simple combinations of its CYMK components. Taking advantage of the color and distinguishing different characters meant bright colors (and syntactical iconography, below). That was OK, because the bright colors were exciting, perfect for the audience and the topic. This tradition set an artistic tone that survives in the medium to this day. Your kink may be indebtted to crude tech.

Bondage, domination, struggling
As a business of recurring narrative for kids, heroes and villains alike are rarely killed but routinely captured, threatened, and released. Many scenes take place with the hero tied up in the villain's dungeon, the hero facing certain death from a Goldberg-esque trap while the villain insults him, wallows in his momentary domination, and exposes his foolproof plan. It only takes an adult-minded nudge for these to evolve into bondage and domination scenes.

Given the drawn medium, artists are free to exaggerate exciting parts, and they've done just that. Nearly all the women have lower-back crippling, spheroid breasts, and the men have erections that, to rouse, would drain enough blood to knock any of us lesser men unconscious.

Recurring characters
Again, as a business of recurring narrative for kids, popular characters that bring in the money recur. I thought this aspect would be lost in the transition to pornography. After all, most of the superhero fetish porn seems to be for men, and porn for men doesn't hinge on centrally recurring characters as much as it does centrally recurring acts. I was wrong. Nearly all of it—straight, gay, and bisexual—has characters that are already pre-established (Green Lantern and Aquaman are surprisingly common) or, if created, recur. There are teams of good characters and bad ones. There are formulaic plots of daring-do and mind control that lead to the requisite capture and sexiness.

Syntactical iconography
As with the canon of the saints in Christian imagery, the readers and editors of superhero comics can't rely on photorealistic continuity between representations. Unless the art is being rotoscoped off real people, the details of the characters will change between panels, and artists change over the life of a given title. Readers know to look beyond the details, and authors know how to stick to the telling iconography to make this work, e.g., "black female with white hair" in the Marvel universe is reserved for Storm. Having another character with similar traits risks reader confusion. I was surprised to find this same strategy at play in live action superhero porn as well. Any woman wearing the Black Widow costume counts as Black Widow. Any man wearing the Blue Diamond suit counts as Blue Diamond. (There was even a switch of race for one shoot. Casting is a breeze.) This iconographic approach to sexuality offers an even cooler bring-it-home opportunity, i.e. there are sites where you can purchase the costumes yourself to re-enact the scenes you saw on screen.

And last but not least, there's lots of opportunity for comedy. Nearly every superpower can be tweaked for back-of-the-magazine yuks, and nearly every superhero/superheroine has a catch phrase that can become a double entrendre, though not always for the better. Really, who brags about being faster than a speeding bullet?

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