The Unglamorous Secret Lives of Superheroes

underoosA few months ago, while getting dressed for work, I was struck by how difficult it is to find underwear that doesn’t show through your clothes. I had to change twice to find things that wouldn’t show a ridge through my shirt or skirt. It was really annoying, because initially I tried on a bra which had previously fit fine, but it had changed in the wash, and now had a little fold, which showed, where there had been none before. I realized that I’d have to go through the very tedious process of going all the way downtown to shop for a new one (this is not something you can do online, because all bras are slightly different sizes and shapes, and if you’re buying something that you want to be invisible under clothes, you really need to try it on to check that out — so no easy online buying). “When will I have the time to do this dull shopping”, I thought? After work? At the weekend? This is not how I want to spend my spare time.

This is when it struck me. Realistically, if you were a superhero you’d not only need something extremely supportive, for all of that running and jumping, but you’d also need something which doesn’t show under those ridiculously tight clothes. You wouldn’t have time to painstakingly hand wash those undergarments, you’d be lucky to find time to throw them in the washing machine, so they’d get stretched out and lose their shape in no time. So as a working superhero, (with a full-time secret identity job too), when would you find time to go underwear shopping? This is not a quick thing, you have to try on 5 or 6 bras to find one that actually works in some small way and has no visible lines under clingy clothes. So when do these people with two jobs, who basically work at least 80 hours a week, find the time do go shopping for extremely supportive, virtually invisible undergarments? And where do they find them? Is there a special store?

Then there are all the other things that a person needs to live, food, paying bills, seeing friends… I often forget to buy food, and then I have no bananas for my morning smoothie, or no milk for my evening cocoa puffs (okay, that’s just a rare treat, but when I want them, it’s really annoying if I’ve got no milk). And superheroes can’t just pick up some milk on the way home from work, not if it’s on the way home from superhero work, because you can’t drag shopping bags home when you’re flying over buildings in your skin-tight suit. It’s just not done.

And how about that food? Do some superheroes have special dietary restriction? In the Avengers headquarters do they all eat together, or do the vegetarians have their own food? Are there vegetarian superheroes? Are some superheroes lactose intolerant? Maybe there are some superheroes who’s “kryptonite” is actually peanuts, because one peanut would trigger their fatal allergy? Why do we never hear about them eating? Personally I can only remember Spider-Man eating (I think I read an issue where he ate a hot dog in the ’80’s, and not long ago he went for sushi with kids from Runaways). But with those 80+ hour work weeks, you’d think that they’d do a lot of eating on the run, because there would hardly ever be time for a relaxed, sit-down meal.

Then what happens afterwards? What about going to the bathroom? You never see Batman rushing off because he ate a really nasty curry and needs to take a massive dump RIGHT NOW. That never happens, because it’d be hard to get out of that suit in a hurry. And how on earth does Tony Stark go, when he’s flying from one country to another in his suit? Does he have some kind of arrangement like airplanes, where it just routes through his suit and get stored somewhere, or flushed out into the air? What does happen to his waste?

All of this running around, when is there time to relax? These people have very stressful, often secret, jobs. When is there time to just sit down and take a mental health break?

These are the thoughts that run through my head on a a daily basis. Obviously I’m not the only person that wonders about the private lives of superheroes, because this week a new sitcom is launching in Britain. No Heroics is a look at the lives of a group of London-based superheroes. It shows the superheroes wrestling with the problems of fame and everyday life posed by being a british superhero in the “real” world. From everything that I’ve read and heard, it pushes the boundaries of good taste in a really good way, the writing is supposed to be great. Clearly there’s a nod to Top 10 and the old JLI (comics which probably didn’t help my strange obsession with the real lives of superheroes), and I can’t wait to see it.

If you’ve known many britons, you’ll know that we’re bloody good at a few things. Those include being really funny about really macabre things, and mocking each other soundly. Combine these innate national super powers with the concept of superheroes, and I think this could be a damn good show, I only hope it doesn’t take as long to get over here as Spaced did.


Sonia Harris can thank her mum for her Wonder Woman underoos and telling her about “No Heroics”. If your mum is as cool as Sonia’s, you can mail her about it at



  1. Re: the underwear problem, two words: unstable molecules.

    Seriously, this sounds like a cool show! 


  2. NO HEROICS looks great!

  3. Would No Heroics be on the BBC America? I only get that with my cable, the show sounds really interesting.

    I usually think too on what happens between the issues of certain heroes. What is their life like on an average day? What do they do after they win a big battle? If someone is killed or someone kills someone, is it awkward after we read the last panel? That sounds like something josh would totally write about for a comic.

  4. Sonia, your columns are the best columns on the site. I don’t know why women worry so much about pantylines, I think most men find them sexy actually.

  5. No Heroics does indeed look great, well done again Sonia.

  6. Sonia lives in a scandalous headspace, full of naked heroes and shagging and underpants. What better way to end the week, I ask you?

  7. Troy Hickman explored this concept in "Common Grounds". He was nominated for an Eisner.

  8. Sonia, I am starting to look forward to your quirky (and by quirky, I guess I mean sexualized) take on comics every week.  It never fails to give me a laugh.

    If you read Disassembled, the Avengers were all sitting around having cheerios and talking about your favorite subject right before Jack of Hearts showed up and blew everyone up.  I think Jarvis handles all the shopping chores for them…probably buys their underwear, and in some awful Avengers one-shot spin off from this past year, it showed him having to wash all the female avengers’ uniforms after a fight with the snake squad or some such rot.  The comic sucked, but at least that is how the Avengers seem to deal with it all.  I think the Justice league has the guys on the watchtower do it… 

  9. on the vegetarian theme, Myriad from Dynamo 5 is a vegetarian, and I think there are a couple of others who’ve stated their philosophy on eating somewhere along the line…

  10. The blonde runaway alien is a vegetarian.

  11. I really, really miss Underoos.

    Like, A LOT.

  12. @TheNextChampion: I don’t know if it’s going to be on BBC America. If it is, let us know what you think.

    @IronclaMerc: Maybe they do, but I don’t. VPL is tacky.

    @JumpingJupiter: Thanks for the heads up, have ordered and will read.

    @Conor: Underoos were great. I’ve searched and searched, but all I can find are female adult underoos ( Maybe you can cross dress?

  13. Didn’t Birthright make Superman a vegetarian?

  14. Tork – Birthright did a lot of weird things.

  15. @Conor: Here you go: Superman Starburst Supershield Boxers for men

    Find yourself a t-shirt to match and you are set.  Unless you are a briefs guy, then I can’t help you.


  16. Let me know what you think of "Common Grounds". Troy also wrote Twilight Guardian which follows suit on the super hero slice of life theme.

  17. It’s James Lance!

    I have good hopes for No Heroics, as the premise and cast is great. But we Brits know to be wary of new ITV comedies… Anyone remember Martin Freeman’s The Office follow-up ‘DIY’?… ‘Nuff said!

  18. Batman doesn’t really strike me as a dude that’s all that… regular, if you ask me. I mean he is very up-tight.

    Let’s just say as well as being a former field surgeon, Alfred gives a great enima too!

  19. Did anyone on here get to watch it? It’s on ITV over here so it won’t be on BBC in the US…

    Overall I thought it was ok. There were some really funny moments and some not so funny moments. It’s the kind of thing I’d watch if I catch it by accident but not look forward to or anything. 

  20. Animal Man is a vegetarian. I’ve seen many of the Bat family eat……Due to Alfred……And the JL/JSA @ thanksgiving…..

  21. Not sure if this works in the US but try here:-



  22. OMG I just watched No Heroics S1E1 and I loved it.  My favorite was Thunder Monkey.

  23. Really not impressed by No Heroics, after the huge bigging-up from Rich Johnston and others. For one thing, it went over the top on the shagging and effing, as if it’s going for a teenage audience only. For another, there wasn’t much in the way of wit. Perhaps it’ll improve.

    And you never know, it might show up on BBC America – Primeval is an ITV show, and it’s there.

    Great column though, Sonia (hey, how come this column isn’t called Read Sonia, She-Devil With a Pen? actually, I can imagine).

  24. Clearly, the Avengers have Jarvis to make they’re meals, and Spidey has Aunt May’s wheatcakes (wow, that sounded unnecessarily sexual). I think as far as main stream comics go, the X-Men have done a great job of showing the downtime. Beast likes to cook, Logan enjoys escaping to the nearest dive bar, Jubilee and Iceman watch too much TV, etc. And then there’s the Claremontball- I mean baseball. I think it’s because the X-Men have that family dynamic and pretty much all live together.

  25. @Actual  Though it’s interesting that, in New Avengers, Logan always seemed to be around for breakfast at Avengers Mansion despite also being an Xmen.  Perhaps he defected because Jarvis is a better cook than Beast.

  26. @ActualButt, but wasn’t that the X-Men of 20 years ago? Nowadays they’re too gritty to have fun. And eat.

  27. i always thought  super heroes get their skivvies made by the same people who make the costumes.

    as for food, they get it delivered from the supermarket. and read ULTRA by the luna bros.

  28. Panties, bra, panities, superhero… you’ve got the nerds listening.

    That sitcom looks great, wasn’t the ‘Spanish’ guy in the excellent sitcom ‘Green Wing’?

  29. I never had underoos, always wanted them.

    now i just get them for my son, who LOVES them!