In a world of buff, sculptural heroes, power bear brings body positivity and mental health discussions to the queer community.
Imagine a superhero. They can be tall and muscular, like Henry Cavill’s Superman, or have the shoulder-to-height ratio of Chris Evan’s Captain America. Maybe they even have his beloved “America’s ass.”
But a new breed of heroes is slowly emerging in pop culture, more representative of the beauty and variety of body shapes in the real world.
“Bears are hard to find in the mainstream of comics,” Łukasz Majcher, creator of power bear, tells PinkNews.
“The only character I could put in this category is Marvel’s Hercules, but I guess when he hits the cinema screen sooner or later, a young actor with an athletic body will be hired for his role.”
Majcher, a comic book creator from Berlin, has made it his mission to create a protagonist who appeals to those who feel unrepresented in the world of superheroes, especially those in the LGBT+ community.
The result is power bear, which follows the story of a seemingly unassuming office worker.
Max feels trapped in an “endless cycle of insignificance” as he struggles to balance his relationship, his job, and the sudden decline in a family member’s health. During a shower scene, Max recalls being “full of energy” doing chores while singing Kate Bush’s “Babooshka” at the height of his aspirations.
“Today I barely have enough strength to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube,” he says.
All the while, a group of aliens judge the value of Earth’s continued existence. While many believe humanity is doomed, an alien believes there is still hope for the planet and that it’s up to Max to save the world. Queer superhero shenanigans ensue as Max becomes the one and only Power Bear.
Majcher describes the widespread depiction of the LGBT+ community in pop culture as “a colorful rainbow and unicorns.”
While this may be true, there is a flip side: complex people, struggling with mental health issues, issues with self-esteem and body confidence, among others.
“I’m happy with the positive reception of our community in mass culture, but on the other hand, the mental health issue that sexual minorities face is very often overlooked,” says Majcher.
“I often see muscular and hairy guys on Instagram who are very eager to post their selfies. I’ve met a few personally and very often they’re people who struggle with their complexes and don’t feel as sexy as they think they do.
Majcher had wanted to create Power Bear for a long time, but he felt defeated and doubted his creative abilities, struggling to complete the projects.
Despite his mother’s constant encouragement, it wasn’t until he met her boyfriend Stefan that he really found his inspiration.
“[Stefan] felt flattered and at the same time also recognized as a whole person who suffers from an illness [depression] that nobody usually talks about,” says Majcher.
“Depression makes people feel weak and inadequate and like a failure, a loser. But what if such a person suddenly gains superpowers?”
Majcher spoke with several people from the wider LGBT+ community who live with poor mental health while creating power bear and was “shocked” by how many people could relate to his partner and his struggles.
“I wanted our experiences to spark discussion and be heard,” he explains. “Several times I have heard the opinions of my readers that I hit the nail on the head.”
Majcher adds: “It made me even more convinced that I had chosen the right direction.”
It would be easy to assume that a gay comic called power bear would look at sex. Majcher said bear comics are “popular in the underground” partly for this reason, especially on the internet where fanfics are aplenty.
There is also a community that enjoys “erotic manga bara” – a genre of Japanese manga that features men with varying degrees of body fat, muscle, and body hair.
Corn power bear renounces “erotic” scenes to concentrate on its central theme.
“I wish it was a comic for everyone,” adds Majcher. “Max, the main character of power bear, struggles with her own trauma and depression. Each of us can identify with this problem, regardless of our sexual orientation.