Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Becoming a Superhero

I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t so long ago that I used to wake up in the morning, sit morosely on the side of my bed, and wonder “Why am I not a superhero yet?” The answer, I eventually realized, was a simple one: I wasn’t putting in the work! I was going to bed every night, hoping that by the time the sun rose I’d have turned into Spider-Man. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but I thought that radioactive spiders were everywhere, and, because I do not keep my home clean – I at least did that much – it would only be a matter of time before one found its way in and bit me. From there, it would simply be a matter of determining if my “webslingers” were organic, or if I’d have to make them myself. Given my lazy thinking, I was hoping for the former.
Then one day, a friend of mine provided me with humbling inspiration, and helped me put my life on the right track. This friend works in a scientific laboratory, and he’s a big Daredevil fan. One day, he was looking at all the jars of science potion they have there, and he took one off the shelf, opened it, and poured the potion into his eyes. And guess what? He’s completely blind now, which means he’s already halfway there.
Now I know that nobody’s going to just hand me super powers; I’ll have to take them from the cosmos, or the Earth, or the Earth’s oceans, or the Realm of the Eldritch Unknown – whatever is best for me. The best part is that I want to pass on what I’ve learned to you! I want to motivate you to get your own super powers, although if you and I live in the same city, we can’t have the same super powers, unless one of us (you) wants to be a supervillain, in which case you’d better stop reading now, because I’m not going to help anybody do that shit. In fact, I was going to save this for later, but let’s go ahead and get the “supervillain” portion of this essay out of the way now. Okay, I know that some of you are thinking “Hey, if I had a super power – like, say, I could control fire – then I could use it to burn down girls’ locker rooms and banks and so on. Can that hero nonsense! I’m gonna look out for number one, see!?” I believe that it is natural to have these thoughts. But come on, man. Don’t do that.
Back to the point. The important thing to remember when trying to obtain a super power is this: keep a positive attitude. What you’re trying to do isn’t easy, but there are also lots of different ways to achieve your goal. For instance, there’s the radioactive spider I mentioned at the top. What you need to remember about this method of super power acquisition is that it’s pretty much pure luck. Anybody can get bitten by a spider, but that spider has to bring some pretty serious stuff to the table himself if you’re ever going to get anywhere. Of course, you could buy a spider, and a radiation machine, put the spider into the machine, and then put the spider on your arm and say “Bite my arm.” This can work. If this is where your heart takes you, then Godspeed. But what I’m trying to get at here is that there are alternatives. For instance, you could train to become an astronaut, and when you get launched into space, maybe your ship will pass through a magic cloud. It’s space, so the chances of this happening are pretty good. If NASA rejects your application for any reason, you could always stowaway on their next mission. This kind of pluckiness will serve you well in the future.
Perhaps you want to take a more practical, hands-on approach to gaining super powers. Maybe the off-chance that there aren’t any magic clouds in space renders that option too uncertain for you. Perhaps, also, you have a great admiration for Matter-Eater Lad, from the Legion of Super Heroes, but the prospect of transforming yourself from a “Regular Joe” to someone who can consume all matter is, while enormously appealing, also quite daunting. “Where,” you must be thinking, “am I to begin?” Well, how about this? Go home and eat a bowl of soup. The next day, try a sandwich. Then you can try to be like one of those guys from the Guinness Book of World Records, who eat bicycles and cars, one tiny piece at a time (I’m pretty sure I saw somebody do that with a plane once). Once you’ve mastered this, see if you can take a bite out of a brick. If you can, then you know what? You did it, buddy. You’re there.
There’s another option that I’m sure many of you are probably considering, which is the “superhero with no powers” route. This sounds pretty boring to me, but I guess okay, if that’s your thing. If you’d rather have a belt full of shit like marbles, and duct tape that has your name on it, then go to it. When you see me flying over your head with a hot naked girl in my arms, be sure to blow your special whistle at me. But so anyway, if you think you know best, then what you’ll need is some sort of trauma. Everybody has some trauma in their lives – the death of a loved one, the rejection of your poetry and monologues by an ignorant critical “elite” – but if you’re going to use it to shape your superhero persona, you’ll need something special. Your parents will need to be murdered by somebody wearing a snake costume (allowing you to become The Mongoose), or maybe your trauma is something you feel guilty about, like you accidentally killed your best friend in a “watch me swing this axe with my eyes closed” mishap, which would spur you to become The Lumberjack. Or no…who fights lumberjacks? You know what, never mind. This no-super-powers business is really not my thing, so you’re on your own. Good luck!
As for the rest of you, remember: YOU CAN DO IT! Your quest has an endless number of destinations. Just walk into the ocean and see what happens, or put on a metal hat, go out during an electrical storm, and touch whatever animal happens to pass you by. This is an adventure! Enjoy!

The Collection Project Film of the Day:
Remember that scene in Spider-Man 3 (d. Sam Raimi) when the butler tells Harry that he's known for probably about forever that Spider-Man didn't kill Harry's dad, but he kept mum about it for some reason long enough for Harry to become a supervillain? Yeah, I own the movie anyway.


Tony Dayoub said...

I can't stop laughing. This is your funniest post, yet. Not the least because you choose to lead with a picture of Matter-Eater Lad.

bill r. said...

Thanks, Tony! Matter-Eater Lad was supposed to go further down the post, when his powers are actually addressed, but I couldn't find any other good pictures, under the time constraints I had, to go up top. So, there he went. You don't care about any of that, though, and why should you?

Ed Howard said...

I agree, definitely your funniest post so far. I really shouldn't read this stuff at work, because sooner or later the stifled giggles coming from my office are going to arouse some suspicion.

Also, the fact that I keep trying to lure spiders inside and yelling "bite me."

bill r. said...

Thanks, Ed! If that spider thing works, let me know, because I've had fuck-all luck with it so far.

Bryce Wilson said...

I also own Spiderman 3.

Then again I'm the kind of Sam Raimi fan who owns For Love Of The Game To. Yeah... I'm only hurting myself.

Still the thing about Spiderman 3 is its one of those movies that's 50% great and 50% terrible, without the two ever crossing to make "good."

Its either beautiful and haunting like The Sandman creation sequence. Or like that scene where as you mentioned The Butler goes "Oh was this pertinent information? My bad."

bill r. said...

I don't disagree, Bryce, which is why I own the DVD. That Sandman bit you're talking about is so great. It gave me hope that the movie would be flat-out brilliant, and everybody else would be wrong. Alas. But yeah, there's some good stuff in there. Raimi was forced to make that particular SPIDER-MAN movie in that particular way, but he let some good stuff seep through.

Still. Sandman killed Uncle Ben? By accident!? That was fucking moronic, and I cannot forgive it.

Brian Doan said...

Brilliant stuff. I kept thinking it should be in one of those Charles Atlas-style comic strip ads-- "Tired of being a 90-pound weakling at the beach? Become a superhero!"

I actually quite like Spider-Man 3 (which i also own). Some of it doesn't work, but that last scene of Peter and Mary Jane together dancing is very much in the spirit of the books. I do think Tobey Maguire ran his course a long time ago, though, and I'm hoping they hire someone who can actually be funny (a very overlooked part of his character in the films) for the next movie.

bill r. said...

Thanks, Brian. I have to say, though, that I think Tobey Maguire was terrific in all three. He was born to play Spider-Man. His look, his voice, all of it -- he was perfect.

Neil Sarver said...

I have nothing new to add. But I did want to jump in to agree that this was a nicely written and very funny post. Thanks!

bill r. said...

No, thank you, Neil!