When I was eleven I invented my own female superhero – her name was ‘Catastrophica’ and she was awesome.
I don’t believe there are any copies of my hand-drawn comic from around that time, and if there is I will build a pyre and burn them as they were ruddy awful. I had neither the initiative nor the skill to staple together copies in school and sell them to fellow pupils like Stephen King or Darick Robertson, although to be fair if I had tried to do something like that at my school I would have ended up being hung from the coat pegs and forced to eat them page by page so there’s a blessing.
At that age my reading material was fairly limited – too young for adult novels, too old for childish literature – I spent a lot of time reading hand-me-down Bunty and Jackie comics while mainlining Viz and Cosmopolitan. Ah, Cosmo. Wither (that’s a word, right?) there was a magazine quite so full of doublethink and bollocks, as to make a young woman lose her fucking reason. Even at that age I was confused. With articles like ‘How to Dump that Sack of Shit’ snuggled up next to ‘How to Snare that Man and Keep Him!” my evolving brain would struggle to process what the future me ought to be doing.
‘Am I snaring sacks of shit?’ the woman of the early 90s would think as she applied her Rimmell lipstick in Heather Shimmer, reeking of Doir’s Poison, ‘Or am I dumping and keeping? Should I be having a multiple orgasm RIGHT NOW or should I put it in my filofax for later?’
Catastrophica’s look was somewhere between Wonder Woman and Hulk Hogan, although that was the fault of my artistry rather than intent. She dressed like Miami Vice meets the Cure, like the DNA of a Hawaiian shirt spliced with Kate Bush. You get the picture. And she had MASSIVE hair. I would have drawn it bigger, but there wasn’t enough page in the world to fit her crowning glory in. She wore boots and a cape and had a belt with a big golden ‘C’ on it, for reference. Her catchphrase was ‘Call Me!” and she would make the phone shape thingy with her thumb and pinky against her ear. Fuck knows why. Mobiles hadn’t been invented then, and the effort of finding a payphone just to have this strutting, preening, colossal haired halfwit appear would have sapped the will of even the strongest of victims.
Ah, strutting – even at that age I figured that if you weren’t strutting everywhere than you weren’t going anywhere. So Catastrophica strutted EVERYWHERE. This is hard to draw, unless you are an accomplished graphic artist with years of diligent work in your field. If you are a bored eleven year old girl who thinks flip books are going to be ‘the new cartoons’ then what you end up with is a character seeming to goosestep across the pages like the advancing Gestapo.
And she talked. Ah Christ, she talked. Whole pages of speech bubbles dedicated to her making a point. Not for Catastrophica the subtleties of language, nor the filtering of words. She deflected editing the way she deflected bullets. The problem was, at that abstract, surreal age – on one side a cartoonish vision of childhood, on the other the dark and shaky precipice of puberty – it was difficult to know what that message was, and with the reading material I had access to it often became confused and polaric, so that a gentle reminder not to speak to strangers would be followed with a two page rant on the female G-spot, ending with a joke about gonads (Viz©) which I only had a remote understanding of.
The one trick I missed with Catastrophica was not giving her any superpowers at all, other than the ability to witter, and carry a hairdo which you could hide a golden eagle in. There were no bad guys, only children encountering mild peril, and no evil supervillans or henchmen, just elderly women losing cats. What I had managed to create – as far as I can tell now with the benefit of hindsight and no evidence to convince me otherwise – was the future me, lycra clad and belligerent, restless and power mad. So while Catastrophica had no superpowers of her own, the eleven year old me back in her bedroom on a gloomy day in Cornwall had had a vision of the future, and it was BADASS.