Passed on by Elizabeth Zwicky from the Cheezburger site, this pastiche of superheroes that’s all about the abdominals, hence the regrettable portmanteau Ab-vengers (a substitution portmanteau combining abs and Avengers):

The whole thing is heavily sexualized, most spectacularly with Spider-Man presenting his butt in a coy starlet pose. Otherwise, the men are displaying their musculature — especially the abs — and connecting not at all with one another (as collaborators, competitors, or potential partners). Superheroes standing and posing, cruising for tricks the way men do at some gay bars. (There’s a lot of grousing about standing-and-posing, and there are certainly plenty of alternatives, including sports bars, piano bars, dance bars, bars with a lot of political events, and some bars — like Twin Peaks, at Castro and Market in San Francisco, specifically valued for their pleasant atmosphere — but there will always be a place for meat markets.)

(Linguistic notes on the passage above: the clipping abs, the formula standing-and-posing, the specialized sense of the idiom meat market.)

Commenters picked up mostly on two points: the gayness of the display (one commenter just says “Naturally, they’re all gay”, adding the emoticon


which a Wikipedia page glosses as ‘skeptical, annoyed, undecided, uneasy, hesitant’); and what they see as the scandalous mixture of superheroes from different universes.

In other domains, it’s mostly Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald’s vs. Burger King, PC vs. Mac, etc.; in Comic Superworld the big split is DC vs. Marvel. The DC universe includes a huge number of superheroes eventually assembled as the Justice League of America (including Superman, Batman, and the Flash), while Marvel has Spider-Man, X-Men (Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Phoenix), the Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing, and the Human Torch), and, of special interest here, the Avengers (featured in a big 2012 film). Some Wikipedia notes follow.

Avengers (the comics). The Avengers is a team of superheroes, appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The team made its debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics’ Justice League of America.

Labeled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers originally consisted of Iron Man (Tony Stark), Ant-Man (Dr. Henry Pym), Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Thor, and Hulk (Bruce Banner). The original Captain America was discovered, trapped in ice (issue #4), and joined the group after they revived him. A rotating roster became a hallmark, although one theme remained consistent: the Avengers fight “the foes no single superhero can withstand.” The team, famous for its battle cry of Avengers Assemble!, has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains. (link)

Avengers (the film)Marvel’s The Avengers (… Marvel Avengers Assemble in the UK and Ireland), or simply The Avengers, is a 2012 American superhero film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures,1 based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. [Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye; plus Tom Hiddleston as the villain Loki and a number of support characters] (link)

(Note that the Avengers work together as a team here.)

The Justice League. The Justice League, also called the Justice League of America or JLA, is a fictional superhero team that appears in comic books published by DC Comics.

First appearing in The Brave and the Bold #28 (February/March 1960), the Justice League originally appeared with the line-up of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. The team roster has been rotated throughout the years with characters such as Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, Black Canary, the Atom, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Zatanna, Hawkgirl, other Green Lanterns, and dozens of others. The team received its own comic book title in October 1960, when the first issue was published. (link)

(A group portrait of the JLA standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity.)

The Flash (the comics). The Flash is a name shared by several fictional comic book superheroes from the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, the original Flash first appeared in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940).

Nicknamed the Scarlet Speedster, all incarnations of the Flash possess “super-speed”, which includes the ability to run and move extremely fast, use superhuman reflexes and seemingly violate certain laws of physics. Thus far, four different characters—each of whom somehow gained the power of “super-speed”—have assumed the identity of the Flash: Jay Garrick (1940–present), Barry Allen (1956–1985, 2008–present), Wally West (1986–2006, 2007–present), and Bart Allen (2006–2007, 2009–present). Before Wally and Bart’s ascension to the mantle of the Flash, they were both Flash protégés under the same name Kid Flash. (link)

The Flash (the tv series)The Flash is a 1990 American television series that starred John Wesley Shipp as the superhero, the Flash (Created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert), and co-starred Amanda Pays. The series was developed from the DC Comics characters by the writing team of Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, and produced by their company, Pet Fly Productions, in association with Warner Bros. (link)

Spider-Man (the comics). Spider-Man is a fictional character, a comic book superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, he first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962). Lee and Ditko conceived the character as an orphan being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and as a teenager, having to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence in addition to those of a costumed crimefighter. Spider-Man’s creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using devices of his own invention which he called “web-shooters”, and react to danger quickly with his “spider-sense”, enabling him to combat his foes.

When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student and person behind Spider-Man’s secret identity to whose “self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness” young readers could relate. (link)

Spider-Man (the film)Spider-Man is a 2002 American superhero film directed by Sam Raimi and written by David Koepp. Based on the fictional Marvel Comics character Spider-Man, the film stars Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, a high-school student who turns to crimefighting after developing spider-like powers. Spider-Man also stars Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn (a.k.a. the Green Goblin), Kirsten Dunst as Peter’s love interest Mary-Jane Watson, and James Franco as his best friend Harry Osborn. (link)

Comic superheroes are very heavily male, though there are female heroes in the Avengers, the JLA, the Fabulous Four, and X-Men. The Ab-vengers are, not surprisingly, male only.

9 Responses to “Ab-vengers”

  1. Tom Says:

    Only one appears to have a hairy chest… how ideas of masculinity have changed over the years.
    On the use of ‘an’ in the subhead, “Do You Have What It Takes to Be An Hero?” – hypercorrection, perhaps?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Bears continue to be with us, and represent a type that is sought out by some gay men. But my impression is, like yours, that tastes have swung hard to the smooth. And there’s some evidence for that in sales of porn, surveys of sexual tastes, etc. Still, Jacob and Esau have both been fantasy types for a long time, in competition with one another.

      My guess was that an hero was a hypercorrection, but it could have arisen in other ways.

  2. Julian Lander Says:

    I really never thought of Jacob as a fantasy-type of that sort. The only possible response is to say, with disgust, “you heel!” (See Gen. 25:26.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The Jacob/Esau thing is something of a little joke of mine for referring to two different foci of gay male sexual attraction: the adolescent, freshly sexualized man, smooth and lithe (sometimes seen as feminine and seductive); versus the mature, sexually experienced man, hairy and heavily muscled (in charge and goatishly sexual). Sometimes conceptualized in art as Apollo vs. Priapus and configured in modern extreme gay stereotypes as twink vs. bear. Thanks to “But my brother Esau is an hairy man, and I am a smooth man” (in the Beyond the Fringe version of Genesis 27:11), I’ve chosen to use the two brothers as tags for the types.

  3. AJ Says:

    An hero (there’s some linguistic content as well).

  4. Emoticons amok « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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