Most people probably don’t think of fairy godmothers as superheroes. They’re not buff young people in spandex. Their true natures and motivations are hard to understand, and they generally appear in supportive, rather than starring roles.
This last, more than anything, may be why they are underrated. But let’s look at the evidence.
Most superhero origin stories wouldn’t stand up to real scientific analysis. Radioactive spider bite imparts massive genetic changes rather than a rash? C’mon. Mutations that defy the laws of physics, allowing flesh to stretch far beyond normal capacities, bones to endure unheard of stresses, eyes to emit laser beams without going blind, etc, etc? I don’t think so. The rays of our sun are different than Superman’s sun of origin and that imbues him with amazing strength rather than a sunburn? This is not science. This is magic.
And what is a fairy godmother’s stock in trade? Magic – a superpower by another, more honest name. In fact the fairy godmother in Wonder Guy implies that what we see as magic is rooted in an advanced understanding of the nature of the universe, one in which the emotional connections between people exert a far greater power than the physical sciences would recognize.
Fairy godmothers have been part of our folklore for hundreds of years, appearing in tales shared by old wives with their grandchildren in peasant cottages throughout Europe as well as in the inventions of French courtiers. Fairy godmothers have stepped in and used their superior powers to help worthy young men and women find happiness in countless tales. They use their powers for good – another sign of the superhero.
They act as a balancing influence in a world where the powerful and corrupt too often hold all the cards. They assert that good hearts and characters have an edge all their own.
The superheroes of comics and movies often use their powers in dramatic ways – the flashier the better. Very often in folklore the fairy godmother makes a single appearance, imparting some magical gift or bit of wisdom and departing again, leaving center stage to the young hero or heroine of a story. They are generous, but it’s not like they don’t have anything better to do than interfere in others’ lives.
They are powerful, but use their power conservatively: just the right touch in the right time and place to do the trick.
In this regard, Wonder Guy is a bit different from my other Fairy Godmothers’ Union stories. The FGU makes an exception in his case because a lot of flashy magic is what it takes to accomplish their goals – as well as helping the good-hearted hero, Greg Roberts to win the regard of Gloria, the girl he’s loved since he was twelve.
With his fairy godmother’s help, Greg becomes a superhero of the buff young spandex-wearing, flashy dramatics kind — but it’s all due to the help of the unsung Fairy Godmothers’ Union supplying the magic.
Are fairy godmothers an iconic archetype representing the understated power of grannies throughout history? Of little old ladies working together and behind-the-scenes to help their offspring and communities thrive? Maybe so. I wouldn’t discount the possibility.