A Shocking Display of Utter Geekitude

I've been watching the Sci Fi Channel's reality series Who Wants To Be A Superhero? since it premiered earlier this summer.

The premise is that participants create a superhero character and portray that character themselves during the course of the show; the payoff is that the last surviving superhero will have a professional (Dark Horse Comics) comic book produced about their character, written by Stan Lee. Participants are eliminated in each episode via tests and trials for the proper characteristics of a superhero: helpfulness, courage, self-sacrifice, honesty, etc. The judge for the elimination process is Lee.

This is not a great reality series; I'd like to see more of the personal interactions between participants (a la The Real World) when they're not being tested; the editing is rather lacklustre and the seams show at times.

But it's been interesting, particularly to someone who's been reading comics on a fairly regular basis since childhood, daydreamed about having superpowers himself, and when he got older and started writing fiction, made a few attempts toward breaking into actual comic-writing.

(In fact, the very first real story I wrote, when I was fourteen, was a superhero story. Actually, more of a supervillain story: The character was a scientist who was repeatedly turned down for research money, had to do his experiments on the cheap, and had them blow up in his face as a result. Good news: the chemical explosion gave him superpowers; bad news: they also drove him insane and turned him into a compulsive bank robber. Even back then, I tried to put a twist into my fiction.)

When I saw the announcement of the show earlier this year, my first thought was "No way would -I- ever dress up in a costume and let myself be filmed wearing it for weeks." Writing about superheroes is one thing; dressing up like one for more than a convention masquerade or the like is another.

And, if I created a superhero character that was going to have an actual comic produced around the idea, I wouldn't want it to be written by Stan Lee. I'd want to write it myself, dammit!!

So I had no urge to participate in the show. But it's been interesting to watch. It's coming close to the end of its run, and only three superheroes are left: Major Victory, Feedback, and Fat Momma.

I'm going to predict that Feedback will the the final winner of the series, barring some boneheaded error during the remaining trials.

The reason I say this is that in terms of character (courage, honesty, etc), the remaining participants are on about equal footing. So I think the final choice will be determined by one question: Which superhero will be the most interesting hero for Stan Lee to write a comic about?

Major Victory is a hero out of the Big Strong Doofus school of superheroes. (Superman, Captain Marvel, etc.) Admirable, but... in the end... boring.

Fat Momma is a "novelty" superhero, with a limited cause of action. (She defends the "differently sized".) Again, admirable, but not that interesting as a character.

Until last week's episode, I'd have said the same thing about Feedback. But in that episode, we learned that Feedback's real-life father had committed suicide during Feedback's childhood. (And that, in part, was why Feedback became a heavy-duty comic fan, seeking a better, more understandable world there.)

And that was the point at which Feedback became an interesting character, one that a writer would want to write about. His father's suicide, like Uncle Ben's death in Spiderman, could be the starting point for the comic book's origin and motivation.

So I'm calling Feedback to be the winner of the series.

1 comment:

Gary Farber said...

I blogged about the proposal for this show a couple of times last year, before anything much happened on it (no links; you can google at my site for the posts if you care).

My main thought: "the payoff is that the last surviving superhero will have a professional (Dark Horse Comics)"

Ya'd think Marvel would show enough gratitude, though, to do that, wouldn't you?

They even paid Stan to do a "Stan's Soapbox" column in the comics in recent years, just as if he still was an editor, or connected to the company beyond doing cameos in the movies, after all.)

(Not being able, greatly alas, to afford cable tv, I'm figuring I'll eventually give this show a try on Netflix; next year, when that happens.)

"This is not a great reality series"

There's such a thing? I haven't yet looked at one that I didn't think was unwatchable crap.

Even the couple that might appeal to me, you'd think, such as the one about the geeks, or the comedy ones, I couldn't stand more than a few minutes of.

So far as I can tell -- and I realize this means I'm just a curmudgeon -- tv went to hell a few years ago, and there's nothing left to watch (on broadcast, anyway), beyond an occasional and rare Frontline and Nova.

And it's not as if I don't like crap! I liked the first few episodes of Threshold -- before it was cancelled.

And I loved Alias and West Wing.

Now it's just Smallville and Veronica Mars, and a vast wasteland.

On broadcast, anyway. (Absent the Fox channel, which disappeared from here a couple of years ago; I think they moved their antenna.)

(I'm catching up to both Stargate series on Netflix DVD, though.) (Netflix being a gift.)

Not that any of the aforementioned shows were crap. It's just that every night now, it's "reality" tv (which isn't at all real, and is all, to my taste, crap), and that's all. Oh, and Dateline: Child Molesters. Even more icky.

Good thing Newton Minow isn't around to see it.