Sue Storm, Modern Woman

Sue Storm is a woman of many talents. Superhero. Wife. Mother. Generally awesome. And I don’t just like her because she quoted Star Wars in “Childhood’s End:”


It didn’t hurt, but it’s not the only reason I admire the Invisible Girl.

I respect the way she is able to balance her life. She delivers across the board, and she takes no shame in loving her family. “Childhood’s End” reinforced that for me. She goes on a talk show to speak with an interesting TV personality – Barbara Walker. Sue is part of a series on the most influential woman in America. Given that major credit, you’d think Barbara would be respectful and ask her questions along that line. I figured Barbara would ask about her heroics, sticky situations, defeating bad guys like Doctor Doom. Nope. Barbara focuses on what she believes to be weaknesses instead.

She more or less attacks Sue. It’s obviously part of the show’s schtick, but I think Barbara feels like she is doing the women of the country justice by demeaning Sue Richards. And the sad part is there are actually people like this on television now. How does she insult her? She basically looks down upon the fact that she has a husband and kid. Well, she starts with that. She makes a remark about Sue taking Reed’s last name. Sue remains classy and doesn’t lash out. Then the lady has the nerve to poke fun at Sue’s powers.

She goes through the Fantastic Four’s abilities and basically calls Sue useless. Barbara calls the invisibility powers ineffectual and chides Sue on her superhero name. Sue uses the opportunity to display the full range of her powers and lifts the “journalist” up on an invisible column. She reminds Barbara that she once took out the Hulk.

Barbara skims over that and switches the conversation to Prince Namor, and Sue’s “affair” with him. I don’t get it; she’s scolding Sue for having a husband and being feminine but instead of celebrating Sue’s accomplishments and feats she brings it back down to gossiping about boys. It’s a mixed message, no doubt meant to trip Sue up, but the whole tone of the fictional interview from the early 80s could easily happen today. In fact, it’s still a relevant issue.

Women shame other women way too often. Women who want to have careers instead of children and husbands are mocked by media and were recently called “woman-children” in an insulting article on Jezebel. On the other side, women who want to stay at home to raise kids and support their families are chastised too. Ladies who balance both don’t get off the hook either. They’re made to feel guilty at their jobs for leaving to attend a soccer game. Stay at home mothers lecture women who work about abandoning their children. It may not be the norm, but I’ve witnessed all sides through my friends… and I just don’t think men face the same challenges.

“Childhood’s End” feeds this overall theme and wraps up in the perfect way. Sue returns home from her interview to disaster. The security system at Baxter Building is down, and she has to enter by creating a huge force field column so she can rise to the upper levels of the skyscraper. She finds Reed and the Thing unconscious and sees a stranger in the process of debilitating Johnny. He shows he has incredible – almost unimaginable – power, and Sue is genuinely concerned for everyone’s safety.

The stranger is her son, Franklin. She reaches him, connects to him, and is able to stop him because she is his mother. Her love for him made him aware and reminded him who he was. Her powers didn’t save the day, who she was did. We should all aspire to be like her.


One Response to Sue Storm, Modern Woman

  1. David Jón Fuller September 15, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    I just re-read this issue recently and was struck by the same things — it was written 30 years ago but the Barbara Walker grilling could have taken place today, and I love how Sue handles it with Michelle Obama-like grace (and a bit of showmanship).
    What’s also telling about the story is that Sue’s power, and her abilities, are underscored dramatically in that it’s she who “defeats” the menace; in fact she is critical in defusing and resolving the whole situation. What do superhero comics need more of today? Strong women, yes; but subtlety, sophistication and smarts in the storytelling don’t hurt either.

Welcoming the Future, Treasuring the Past.