Tag Archives: Superheroes

Superman Vs. Boredom: Why It Matters (For Your Love Life)

In talking so much about boredom, it can get kind of boring just dwelling on it so much. I don’t know if that counts as irony or a paradox, but I think it’s kind of poetic. The more we contemplate the impact boredom has on our lives and our society, the more we realize just how powerful it is and how quick we are to avoid talking about it.

We still don’t know the true impacts of crippling boredom on society because, for the moment, there are plenty of distractions, jobs, and obligations to keep people busy. Horrific stories like the murder of Christopher Lane, which was allegedly inspired by boredom, will continue to be rare and newsworthy, at least for the near future.

However, there may very well be future generations, including those that will emerge within our lifetime, that will have to deal with a growing glut of boredom. Between advances in biotechnology that will cure disease and the rise of automation, which may necessitate a universal basic income, this may be an issue that impacts us sooner than we think.

That brings me to Superman. Bear with me. I promise that’s not a non-sequiter. I’ve used comic book superheroes before to make my points, be they inspiration for one of my novels or examples of a sex-positive female character. I even cited comics when I singled out Vandal Savage as a villain forged by boredom. For the purposes of this post I need to cite him again, but Superman will be the primary focus.

Being the personification of our ideals and morals, the things that affect Superman also affect and I’m not just referring to kryptonite. If the epitome of our heroes and the icon of our most cherished values cannot handle a certain burden, then what hope do we have? That’s why when there’s a flaw with Superman, one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, we need to take notice.

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In a sense, Superman and the immoral villain, Vandal Savage, are indirectly linked. They’re facing the same overwhelming burden and neither of them has found a way to effectively deal with it. The only difference is that Savage had a huge head start. Superman will catch up eventually and that’s where the true struggle resides.

Based on his current power set, which has been prone to change over the years, Superman is functionally immoral. So long as he replenishes his powers with the energy of a yellow sun, he’ll never age and he’ll never die. That puts him in the same boat as Vandal Savage, who never ages and can’t die. That also means that, at some point, he’ll have to deal with the burden of crippling boredom.

That’s a burden that DC Comics has never had him deal with. Like so many other oversights, such as how glasses can be an effective disguise, it’s one of those flaws that’s easier to just ignore. However, it has been confronted to some extent and the implications for Superman, the real world, and our love lives is pretty distressing.

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Again, that’s not a non-sequiter. I brought up our love lives for a reason and it’s not just because I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer, although that is part of it. While we might not be immortal, our lifespan is increasing. There are emerging technologies that may very well make us functionally immortal. That’s going to, by default, affect our love lives just as it will affect Superman.

Nearly everyone, including non-comic book fans, know the extent of Superman’s love life. They may not know about that time he made a porno tape with Big Barda, but they know that Superman’s primary love interest is Lois Lane. His romance with Lois is, by nearly every measure, the most iconic romance in the history of superhero comics.

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While the romance has evolved a number of ways over time, the core themes remain the same. Lois Lane, being as human as they come, complements Superman in every meaningful way. She often acts as an emotional anchor of shorts, highlighting and strengthening the humanity within Superman. While she isn’t the primary source of Superman’s values, she is definitely a catalyst for strengthening them.

It’s a big part of what makes Superman so strong and so upstanding, with respect to his values. Lois Lane provides that sense of love and connection that reminds Superman that, despite being an alien, he has a strong sense of humanity. That is a humanity that Vandal Savage lost long ago.

While Superman’s romance with Lois Lane may be iconic, it still relies on one major flaw. Lois Lane, as beautiful, sexy, and charismatic as she might be, is still human. That means that at some point, she’s going to grow old and die. Superman may still love her all the same because he’s just that kind of person. However, she’s not immortal and he is. There’s just no way around that.

That’s not a primarily concern for him, though, because in the comics, Superman’s age is usually between 29 and 33 years old. There are some comics that explore an older version of him, but the bulk of his mythos is structured around him being the age of a typical man. That means, by default, the story can only cover a tiny sliver of Superman’s love life with Lois.

That has major implications because if Superman is functionally immortal, then he will outlive Lois Lane and that emotional anchor that helps him be the hero he is disappears. What will that do to him? Can he still be Superman without it?

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Vandal Savage’s descent into madness sets a dangerous precedent. It’s entirely possible that Savage had someone like Lois Lane in his life at some point. The man has been alive for 50,000 years old. The sheer breadth of his lifespan makes that entirely possible.

Unfortunately, or tragically in some respect, that love died because everyone around Savage dies. It’s not because he kills them. He just outlives them. Being immortal, getting attached to anybody means enduring heartbreak and loss.

Even if someone he loves dies peacefully in their sleep, he still feels that loss. People in general, when they lose loved ones, feel emotional pain no matter what the circumstances. I had a relative live into her late 90s and die peacefully. When I went to her funeral, there were still people with tears in their eyes.

Imagine how many times Vandal Savage has endured that over his 50,000 year lifetime. Is it any wonder that he lost his humanity and has such a lower regard for human life? For him, forming human attachments of any kind just guarantees more pain. Whether you’re a human or a worm, you do whatever it takes to avoid that kind of pain.

That brings me back to Superman. He’s only lived a fraction of the life of Vandal Savage. However, he’s in a far worse position because while Savage may be a genius, he doesn’t have anything close to the power set that Superman possesses.

Superman is not just immortal and smart. He possesses the kind of speed, strength, and agility that allows him to do anything, go anywhere, and master every skill. Whereas someone like Savage may take centuries to master something, Superman can do it in seconds. That means he’ll run out of things to do even faster than Savage. It will not take 50,000 years for Superman to be overcome by crippling boredom.

Someone like Lois Lane might be able to keep Superman human, at least in his young age. However, there are many occasions in the comics where Lois Lane’s death leads to Superman becoming distant, detached, and despondent. While their love may be strong, the influence is at the mercy of time.

That’s not to say Superman will inevitably become like Vandal Savage. Granted, there are stories where Superman goes completely insane and becomes the kind of super-powered tyrant that North Korean dictators aspire to be. There are others where he ages gracefully and helps make the world a better place. In a sense, Superman’s potential reflects the uncertainty that such boredom will incur on immortals.

That’s an important concept to grasp because, as we humans live longer, healthier lives, we’ll have to contend with some of Superman’s burdens. Some people may be able to live centuries and maintain a strong sense of humanity. Others may end up like Vandal Savage and see humanity as a bunch of perishable meat bags.

This has huge implications for both our love lives, as well as the attachments we make. If we start living long, near-immortal lives, why even form romantic attachments? Why bother when time is just going to destroy it in the long run? Will we abandon those passions because it only leads to more pain? Will a world of functional immortals be completely devoid of love?

It’s impossible to say for sure and that’s what’s so disturbing about it. If someone as good and pure as Superman struggles to deal with the impact of crippling boredom, then what hope do we have?

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One-Punch Man: A Hero Forged By Boredom

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When it comes to the crippling power of boredom, it’s easy to see how it can create deranged super-villains like Vandal Savage and hardened anti-heroes like Rick Sanchez from “Rick and Morty.” In the real world, boredom tends to inspire people in all the wrong ways. It can even inspire horrific crimes.

As such, it’s hard to imagine boredom being the driving force behind a superhero. That seems utterly antithetical to what a superhero is. As a noted comic book fan, which I’ve belabored many times on this blog, I know more than most people should about what makes a superhero. Boredom should not be on that list.

Heroes are supposed to be champions of all that is good and virtuous. They’re supposed to embody our highest ideals as a people. They raise the bar and set an example for others to follow. Their hearts, souls, and eyes are supposed to radiate hope, love, and everything else we associate with puppies and kittens.

However, it’s because I’m a die-hard comic book fan that I would know about a hero inspired by boredom if he or she even existed. Well, thanks to my love of comics and the extra free time that I enjoy between football season, I have discovered such a hero.

He’s not Superman. He’s not Captain America. He’s not even Wolverine, Deadpool, or Squirrel Girl. He’s not a product of Marvel, DC Comics, or any major comic book company from the past century. He’s in a category of his own, although not for reasons you might not expect. His real name is Saitama, but most know him as “One-Punch Man.”

Unlike most heroes, One-Punch Man is exactly what he sounds like. His story isn’t as convoluted as Wolverine’s or as generic as Superman’s. His powers are nothing fancy. As his name indicates, he has the power to defeat any foe with a single punch. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a giant, mountain-sized titan or some monster from outer space. No matter how big or powerful they are, Saitama beats them with just one punch.

If that sounds bland to you, then congratulations. You’re seeing exactly what the writer, who goes by the pseudonym, One, intended for you to see. Unlike other attempts to create iconic superheroes, most of which fail spectacularly, “One-Punch Man” didn’t set out to create an interesting, compelling hero. It was crafted as a parody, of sorts, to modern superheroes.

In the same tradition of Weird Al Yankovic, “One-Punch Man” took an established narrative and turned it into a joke, of sorts. It went out of its way to do all the things that traditional superhero comics avoid. It actually tried to create a hero who was bland, overpowered, and un-iconic. Whether by design or by accident, it worked.

It was created in 2009, but by 2012 the Japanese comic sold over 7.9 million issues in Japan and was later exported to the United States, where it was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2015. For those of you who don’t know, Eisner Awards are the comic book equivalent of the Oscars. For any comic, let alone one that started off as a joke, to be nominated is a pretty big deal.

Parody or not, “One-Punch Man” struck a chord. It might be due to the saturation of superhero movies or the ongoing frustration of comic book fans about how their favorite characters are treated, but a hero who basically spits all over the standard superhero narrative has a unique appeal. Given the success of Weird Al, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised.

In utterly lampooning modern superhero stories, “One-Punch Man” makes boredom the primary catalyst. In a sense, it channels the power of boredom to create a character who breaks every possible rule for making a compelling superhero and it does it with the blankest of stares.

His backstory is not that compelling. He’s not some alien from a dead planet. He’s not an exiled god or a genetic freak. He’s not even gifted in any way. In fact, the first episode of the anime cartoon shows him as just some generic unemployed office worker who randomly encounters a monster. He defeats the monster, albeit not with one punch, and on the spot he decides to be a superhero.

If you’re hoping for a more compelling story than that, then save yourself the trouble and throw that hope away along with the leftovers and dog shit. That’s as compelling as Saitama’s origin story gets. The way he becomes so powerful is even less compelling than that, if you can believe that.

Saitama didn’t get strong through a genetic mutation, a crazy lab experiment, advanced technology, or even a radioactive bug. Saitama gained his immense power over the course of three short years and he did it through a very simple, very bland workout routine. In his own words, this is how he became the most powerful hero in the world.

100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a 10-kilometer run! And I do it every single day!

Again, it’s every bit as bland as it sounds. The mere fact that everything in Saitama’s workout is nothing more than a set of basic exercises that almost anyone can do is so inane and generic. It’s so generic that people in the real world are even trying this regiment. Given the extent and utter unfeasibility of Batman’s training, it’s basically a joke.

That’s entirely the point, though. Saitama isn’t supposed to be the kind of underdog hero who defies all odds, pushes his limits, and overcome immense obstacles. He is the embodiment of a classic “Deus Ex Machina,” the proverbial god machine that so many stories utilize to resolve a conflict.

In nearly every writing class you take, and I’ve taken more than a few, you’re taught to avoid using the deus ex machina trope as much as possible. It’s not easy, even for erotica romance writers. I like to think I’ve avoided it for the most part in my novels, but I don’t deny the challenge is there. Even comic books struggle with this. Just look up something called the Cosmic Cube for proof of that.

However, whereas most writers avoid a deus ex machine, “One-Punch Man” doubles down on it. It even embraces it to some extent. It doesn’t craft classic superhero stories about how Saitama faces overwhelming odds, powerful enemies, and insane obstacles. He’s so strong that nothing really threatens him anymore. Every threat or enemy he faces is easily defeated with a single punch.

Instead, the narrative of “One-Punch Man” explores Saitama’s struggle with the sheer boredom of being such a powerful hero. He rarely raises his voice. He rarely gets excited. He’s never afraid, threatened, or agitated in any way. He often yawns in the middle of epic battles, much to the annoyance of his enemies and even his fellow heroes.

There’s no getting around it. Saitama is bored out of his mind. Beyond just being powerful, his reasons for being a hero aren’t that deep. He doesn’t have a deep sense of duty like Superman. He didn’t suffer a terrible tragedy like Spider-Man or Batman either. He’s just a hero for the fun of it. That’s the only reason he ever gives. Again, that annoys the hell out of his enemies, but that’s the point.

If you were to put Saitama on the traditional hero’s journey, it would be the shortest journey ever. Everything about Saitama’s backstory, powers, and motivations are bland. They’re intended to be bland because he’s supposed to be a parody of modern hero tropes, a walking joke of how every epic superhero struggle can be reduced to one proverbial punch.

While “One-Punch Man” does an admirable job mocking superhero traditions, sometimes too well, it also reflects the sheer impact of boredom. When someone becomes so powerful and so competent at resolving any conflict, it tends to get boring. Saitama is the perfect embodiment of this.

He might also be a warning sign, of sorts. I’ve talked a lot about the potential for human enhancement in the future, from smart blood to brain implants. While these advancements will do a lot to improve our lives and our bodies, it might also put us in the same position as Saitama.

What happens when it becomes overly easy to master a skill, overcome an obstacle, or achieve a goal? When you’ve got a body that can download knowledge, shape-shift, and make love to an army of sex robots, what else is there? How can you not get bored by all that?

Saitama lives in a world where nothing is a threat to him and nothing challenges him in any way. As such, he’s bored out of his mind. He’s only a hero because he still gets some fun out of it. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. For someone as powerful as him, he’ll take it in any way he can. It might not be the most noble reason for being a hero, but it is understandable.

Parody or not, “One-Punch Man” is a unique exploration of a superhero narrative. It purposefully breaks and mocks all the rules of a heroic narrative, but does so in a way that’s entertaining and quirky. You could argue that Saitama is the only hero forged and driven by boredom.

However, if superheroes are supposed to represent our ideals and hopes, then what kind of message does “One-Punch Man” tell us? If becoming so powerful and so competent leads to boredom, then what does that mean for our own efforts? In a sense, our limits keep us from doing so much, but they also keep us from getting bored. In the end, it’s hard to say whether that’s much of an ideal.

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Vandal Savage: A Super-Villain Forged By Boredom?

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Boredom can sometimes drive you to do crazy things. Give someone a bunch of paperclips, some sticky notes, and too much free time and wonderful things will happen. It can also inspire some truly horrible acts. I’ve already mentioned the horrific murder of Christopher Lane, who was murdered by three bored teenagers. That’s an extreme rarity, for the most part, but it’s an egregious act that helps highlight the power of boredom.

As is often the case with various human quirks, some of our most iconic characters of fiction are built around the extremes of these innate human traits. Heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman embody the noblest ideals for men and women alike. They set the highest of standards for the best of what humanity can be in terms of heart, compassion, love, strength, and charity.

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Conversely, the villains that heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman face highlight the worst of the worst when it comes to human depravity. These characters are manifestations of the darkest parts of the human psyche. They show us just how bad humans can get if you give them enough incentive, hatred, and clown makeup.

That’s what makes characters like the Joker, Lex Luthor, and Apocalypse so terrifying. They are personifications of blood-lust, chaos, narcissism, and pretty much every personality disorder associated with Kanye West. They bring out the worst in people. Their conflict with other heroes mirrors the inner conflict many of us deal with.

I’ve talked about the varying differences between the classic hero’s journey and the more nuanced villain’s journey. Thanks to the success of characters like Walter White, Dexter Morgan, and the cast of “Suicide Squad,” there’s been a surge of interest in super-villains and what makes them tick.

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Being a noted comic book fan, I can talk for hours about various villains, how they came to be, and what makes them so evil. I’ve already talked extensively about Walter White and comic book villains like Magneto. These characters embody a certain type of villainy, each driven by a set of motivations that highlight a villainous aspect of our human mind.

Most people are familiar with the villains driven by greed, narcissism, vengeance, or hatred. They’re usually the characters getting punched, shot, or blasted on lunch boxes or posters. Some of them often get compared to real-life politicians. So if villains can embody so many of these defining traits, can one embody the dark side of boredom?

Well, I can say as someone whose love of comics is only matched by his love of nudity that there is. There is actually a character, a major villain no less, whose motivations and evil is very much a product of boredom. Granted, it’s an indirect kind of boredom, but it’s every bit as devious. Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you Vandal Savage, the poster boy for the evils of boredom.

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Some may be confused. I imagine that even some of my fellow comic book fans are confused. Bear with me, though. There is some twisted logic behind this and boredom is a big part of it.

Vandal Savage is one of the most notorious villains in DC Comics. He’s not as well-known as Lex Luthor or the Joker, but then again, very few villains are. While he may not be an evil all-star, he does show up a lot whenever DC’s heroes need a daunting villain to face.

If you’ve watched shows like “Arrow,” “Flash,” or “Legends of Tomorrow,” then you’ve probably seen him show up in both minor and major roles. He’s also been a major villain in the old “Justice League” cartoon. In terms of sheer reach, Savage’s resume is pretty impressive, but his notoriety is not. There are many reasons for this, but some of it has to do with his origin.

Vandal Savage is not exactly on par with Walter White in terms of the journey he took to become a villain. In fact, it’s kind of mundane in terms of substance. He’s actually a real caveman who lived way back in the hunter/gatherer days of 50,000 BC. He would’ve been nothing more than a fossil sample to frustrate creationists had he not encountered an exotic meteor that crashed near his home.

That meteor, which is basically one of DC’s many mystical McGuffins, transformed Savage from a simple knuckle-dragging caveman to an immortal, super-intelligent being. He’s been running around, causing problems for humanity ever since. That means he’s been in the super-villain business for over 50,000 years. He has a lot of experience being an asshole.

There are a great many events throughout the history of DC Comics that highlight just how big an asshole Savage is. He has such a low regard for human life that even Lex Luthor finds him crass. Most of the time, he’s either trying to conquer humanity or destroy it. It’s basically typical super-villain antics.

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However, what sets him apart and what makes him a potential warning sign for us, as a species, is what motivates him. Throughout his history, he’s given any number of typical excuses. He’s a big, mean bully who thinks he deserves to rule the world because he’s smart and immortal. There’s nothing about that to really set him apart from every other Biff Tannen wannabe.

Like many villains, though, writers have given him other motivations. One of the most recent and, by far, the most relevant occurred in major DC Comics event called “Final Crisis.” It came out in 2008 and it had Savage join an army of super-villains in a plot that would’ve essentially undid creation and remake it. Many villains had their share of reasons for joining this plot, but Savage had one that set him apart.

He joined this universe-ending plot for with simple purpose, to end his boredom. That wasn’t an indirect, off-the-cuff comment. That’s what he actually said to Lex Luthor when they talked about it. He wasn’t trying to conquer humanity this time. He just wanted his boredom to end.

Regardless of how Savage’s motivations and presence affected the plot, it’s an idea worth contemplating. Just think about it from his perspective, if you can, and try to get around all that wanting-to-conquer-humanity crap. Vandal Savage is over 50,000 years old. He’s seen, done, and mastered so much that what else can he do with himself?

He doesn’t age. He doesn’t decline, mentally or physically, in any way. As far as he or anyone else knows, he can’t die. He can be shot, stabbed, punched, buried, and everything else that David Blaine pretends to do to himself and he just brushes it off. Nothing about his condition ever changes.

On top of that, he’s super-intelligent. It’s been documented to some extent that very smart people are often prone to crippling boredom. Being so smart, it’s easy for a genius to master a task. Once they’ve mastered it, they get bored with it and look for another challenge. In a sense, idiots have an edge when it comes to killing time. If they’re always struggling with something, they have something to focus on.

It creates a perfect storm of boredom for Vandal Savage because not only is he a genius, he has unlimited time to kill. Being a genius, he can master pretty much any task. In the comics, he’s described some of the jobs he’s had. He’s been a poet, a priest, a laborer, a scholar, a king, a warrior, and pretty much anything a man could’ve been before 1850.

No matter what he does, he’s mastered every single skill and overcome every challenge he’s ever faced. Even if it’s not through sheer genius, the fact he has unlimited time ensures he’ll always figure it out. Given enough time, he could’ve built the pyramids by himself. He could’ve painted every great masterwork in history on his own. He could’ve done all this multiple times, but it the outcome is the same. He still gets bored.

It’s hard to imagine for anybody who still struggles to use a microwave. No matter what Vandal Savage does, be it advanced calculus or conquering a planet, he still has too much time to kill. He can read every book. He can watch every movie. He can solve every crossword puzzle. He can even do it all multiple times and it still wouldn’t matter. He’d still get bored with it. At what point does he get bored with everything?

In a sense, it’s easy to understand why he keeps clashing with DC’s mightiest heroes. That’s one challenge he’s yet to overcome. He still tries to fight them, but they keep beating him. That’s just one of those skills he hasn’t mastered yet. It leads to pain and frustration, but it also leads to intense awareness, arousal, and exhilaration. When you’re that bored, you’ll get it however you can.

The fact that Savage is still a man, an actual caveman no less, also highlights the painfully human component of his struggle. He’s not some advanced machine or alien that has no concept of boredom. He’s still a man. He still feels all the things other humans feel, including boredom. The problem is, after 50,000 years, he’s got nothing left but boredom.

He can’t create meaningful relationships with other people because other people get old and die. He can’t have a family or fall in love because they’ll get old and die too. At a certain point, everybody around him just becomes another corpse-in-the-making. The fact he has such a low regard for human life is not surprising. If anything, it’s remarkable that he shows as much humanity as he does.

It’s impossible for anyone to truly relate to Vandal Savage and that’s part of what makes him a great villain. At the same time, his circumstances and motivations can act as a warning of sorts. Give a caveman unlimited time and unlimited brilliance and what will happen to him? What does a man do when he’s done pretty much everything a man can do to a point where everything seems boring?

As our medical technology improves at fighting disease and enhancing our bodies, more people will be able to live longer, healthier lives. At a certain point, we may be able to live so long that our only real challenge is filling the hours. Living that long turned Vandal Savage into a cold-hearted super-villain. What will that mean for us? Ironically enough, only time will tell.

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Five Female Superheros That Deserve Their Own Movie

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It’s been a damn good week for female superheroes. Whether you’re a man, woman, or something in between, it’s hard to deny the historic significance of this past weekend. “Wonder Woman” is officially a hit. The glass ceiling for superhero movies is shattered. We can all finally lay the failures of “Catwoman” and “Elektra” to rest.

It’s sad that it took over a decade to make another female superhero movie that succeeded, but good things are worth waiting for. Anyone still waiting for a decent Fantastic Four movie should take comfort in that.

For Wonder Woman, at least, the wait is over. She has proven that female superheroes can succeed. They can carry their own movie. The fact that Wonder Woman had to prove this in the first place is kind of asinine, but that’s a trivial detail at this point. “Wonder Woman” succeeded and that doesn’t just break the myth that female superheros can’t succeed on their own. It opens the door for other female superheroes to shine.

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As I write this, there is only one other female superhero besides Wonder Woman who is set to star in her own movie. That character is Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers, whose movie is set for release in 2019. With Brie Larson having been cast, the movie is already in the works. Wonder Woman’s success can only help.

Unlike Wonder Woman, though, Captain Marvel does not have the kind of iconic status as Wonder Woman. In fact, she only recently gained a surge in popularity when writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, launched “Captain Marvel: In Pursuit Of Flight.” This series, which any Wonder Woman fan would love, effectively revamped a character who had only ever been a secondary character in the Avengers.

Since that run, Captain Marvel has become the closest character Marvel has to Wonder Woman. As such, it makes perfect sense for her to get a solo movie, if only to keep up with DC.

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However, as excited as I am to see more female superheroes get their own movie, there aren’t many others to look forward to. Earlier this year, Avengers director, Joss Whedon, announced that he was pursuing a “Batgirl” movie. As exciting as it sounds, though, this movie is tentative at best. With no release date or cast, this movie could languish in development hell, as Whedon’s own Wonder Woman movie did in 2007.

With “Wonder Woman,” the floodgates have been opened. There’s a new avenue for pursuing big bucks with superhero movies and, seeing as how Hollywood values money over all else, we’re likely to see plenty more female superhero movies in the future.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer my own wishlist of sorts. Wonder Woman is a great female hero and a pop culture icon in the highest degree, but she is far from alone. There’s a wealth of great female heroes in the world of comics who would thrive in their own movie. Below is my personal list of female superheroes who I feel should get their own movie.


#1: Laura “X-23” Kinny

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This one is, by far, the most obvious and logical. After the success of “Logan,” in which X-23 was the breakout star, there’s already a lot of buzz around this possibility. Both Dafne Keen, the actress who played her, and director James Mangold have expressed interest in pursuing an X-23 solo movie.

Given the performance we saw in “Logan,” it would be foolish not to capitalize on X-23’s breakout success. Hugh Jackman gave X-men fans 17 wonderful years as Wolverine. X-23 is in a perfect position to carry on the mantel. She already did so in the comics, adopting both the title and the costume of Wolverine. Why not do the same in the movies?


#2: Thor (Jane Foster)

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This one might be the most controversial. Back in 2014, Marvel made a decision that still has some comic fans whining to this day. They made Thor unworthy of wielding his hammer, Mjolnir. Since the world still needed a Thor, Jane Foster stepped in and took up the mantle, which she’s wielded effectively ever since.

Controversial or not, there’s no denying the strength of the story that followed. Jane Foster had always been a supporting character for Thor. Putting her as the main lead was a bold, but powerful move. Jane isn’t just some glorified arm-candy for any Chris Hemsworth look-alike, though. She’s very much her own character.

In the comics, Jane was dying of cancer before she picked up the hammer. By becoming Thor, she’s trying to make the most of whatever time she has left. That’s a powerful struggle and a meaningful story, especially to anyone who has lost someone to cancer. Plus, being played by Natalie Portman can only help her cause.


#3: Black Canary

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When most people think of DC’s most iconic female heroes, they almost immediately think of Wonder Woman and rightfully so. She is, and likely always will be, the standard by which all female superheroes are measured.

That said, some female heroes make it a point to set themselves apart. That’s what Black Canary does. Dinah Lance is not a demigod warrior like Wonder Woman. She’s not a brooding vigilante like Batman either. She has her own set of superhuman abilities. She’s a tough fighter who’s gone toe-to-toe with some of the most capable fighters in the DC universe. She also looks damn sexy in fishnets.

In addition, Black Canary has a track record of sorts as a supporting character in “Arrow.” Being a successful character in TV doesn’t always translate well into movies, as Baywatch recently learned, but someone with Black Canary’s skill and sex appeal can certainly make that transition.


#4: Starfire

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Admit it. You knew I was going to put her on this list. It was just a matter of how I’d be able to justify giving a solo movie to a female hero that is so comfortable with nudity. I went out of my way to praise Starfire as a sex-positive superhero, one whose open sexuality is both fun and heroic in its own unique way.

Now, I know this one would be a real stretch. However, the success of the “Deadpool” movie has given me hope that there is a future for R-rated, sex-positive superhero movies. It may take a while, given the recent trend in outrage over any female character that dares to be sexy. Remember, people made a big deal about Wonder Woman’s armpits for crying out loud.

At some point, though, there will be a market for a female hero that just doesn’t give a flying fuck about nudity. At some point, fans are going to get sick of being shamed for wanting to see a sexy female hero in a bikini. When that day comes, Starfire will be the perfect female superhero for a generation in need of a sex-positive icon.


#5: She-Hulk

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To date, there have been two lackluster Hulk movies. In both cases, the story was fairly the same. You’ve got a man dealing with serious anger issues, struggling to function in a world that just keeps finding ways to piss him off. Most people are familiar with that story. Those same people, however, are less familiar with She-Hulk’s story.

Jennifer “She-Hulk” Walters is not just a female version of the Hulk. If anything, she’s a very different kind of Hulk. She’s Bruce Banner’s cousin who became the Hulk due to a blood transfusion. Unlike Bruce, she doesn’t need to get angry to become big, strong, and green. She’s pretty much stuck in her Hulk form.

That means she’s more in control of her faculties, so much so that she manages to continue her work as a lawyer. That’s right. This Hulk has a day job and it doesn’t involve smashing. Now most lawyer-driven movies since “My Cousin Vinny” have had limited entertainment value. Add a big, strong, sexy green female hero to the mix and suddenly, there’s a lot more value to go around.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How To NOT Screw Up X-men: Dark Phoenix

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, then you know I love comic books and superheroes. I try to work them into many topics, from effective superhero tactics to sexy female heroes who are uniquely sex positive. Assume, for the future, that if there’s sexy topic that can be related to comics, then I’ll find a way to discuss it.

In addition, those who follow this blog also know that I have a special affinity for the X-men. I tend to cite them more than most, whether it’s discussing a romance among equals, the future of female villains, or candidates for UN Ambassadorship. Again, I’ll use any possible excuse in any sexy topic to cite them again. I’m both a passionate erotica/romance writer and a passionate fan. I make no apologies for that.

So when some major news regarding superhero movies, particularly X-men movies, comes up, I’m going to discuss it. I may even belabor it. I know that may not be the reason some people visit the blog of an aspiring erotica/romance writer, but superhero movies, especially those involving the X-men, are important to me.

Keep in mind, the X-men also have characters like Emma Frost so that means there’s plenty of opportunities for sex appeal. This news, in particular, has its share of sexy and romantic connotations so it is relevant for erotica/romance fans. If you need proof, I have just two words for you: Sophie Turner.

I’ll give “Game of Thrones” fans a second to hide their boner. I’ll give X-men fans another because some of them, myself included, are still buzzing at her limited, but spectacular performance in “X-men: Apocalypse.” Other than Ryan Reynolds, the sexy piece of man meat who brought Deadpool to life, Ms. Turner may very well hold the key to the future of the X-men movies.

This is because late last month, Fox announced its slate of X-men movies for 2018. To say they’re a little ambitious would be like saying Beyoncé’s ass is only somewhat sexy.

Whereas we only got one X-men movie this year with “Logan,” 2018 will bring us three movies. While “Deadpool 2” is sure to generate plenty of interest and dick jokes, it’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix” that will likely determine the fate and future of the X-men movies. Other than Sophie Turner’s sex appeal, there’s a lot of uncertainty about that effort.

That’s because “X-men: Dark Phoenix” isn’t just attempting something bold. The Phoenix Saga it’s based on is, by far, the most iconic and acclaimed X-men story of all time. Talk to any X-men fan in any capacity and most of them will agree. The Phoenix Saga is the gold-encrusted adamantium standard by which all X-men stories are measured. It also happens to be the story that Fox woefully botched once before.

It’s true and it still gives X-men fans nightmares to this day. Back in 2006, Fox attempted to tell the story of the Phoenix in “X-men: The Last Stand.” The end results were so poorly received that they ended up erasing it completely from the timeline in 2014’s “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Yes, it really was that bad.

I could do multiple blog posts on why the movie was so terrible. In fact, I already did one that covered the nauseatingly awful love triangle involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. However, that was just one in a long list of unforgivable crimes that “X-men: The Last Stand” committed.

Chief among those crimes, for X-men fans, was how it handled the Phoenix sub-plot. The mere fact that it was a sub-plot was a huge problem. As I said before, the Phoenix Saga is the most iconic, respected, and beloved X-men story of all time. To treat it as a goddamn sub-plot, while wasting the acting talent and sex appeal of Famke Janssen, is both tragic and infuriating.

Beyond just relegating it to a sub-plot, “X-men: The Last Stand” basically looked over all the major themes of the Phoenix Saga and basically threw them out like expired milk. The Phoenix Saga is a story built around love, humanity, untamed power, and sacrifice. “X-men: The Last Stand” had none of that. It only used the Phoenix as a way to make Wolverine get all whiny about a woman he barely knew. That’s it.

The handling of the Phoenix was so bad that longtime X-men producer, Simon Kinberg, admitted earlier this year that they screwed up. Think about that for a moment. A big-time Hollywood producer, someone with unlimited access to blowjobs and cocaine, admitted a mistake. He didn’t make an excuse, as so many people in power tend to do. He owned his mistake. For that, Mr. Kinberg earns my respect.

I also believe that Mr. Kinberg does not want to go down in history as the man who botched the most beloved X-men story of all time. That kind of reputation can permanently destroy his credibility among a vocal audience. Just ask Joel Shumacher how nasty it can get.

Moreover, Mr. Kinberg already has the resources he needs to make a Phoenix Saga work. He laid the groundwork with “X-men: Apocalypse” by having Sophie Turner shine more in one scene than Famke Jannsen ever could through three movies. He also has an immensely-talented actress in Ms. Turner to bring out the passion and drama that is so vital to the Phoenix Saga.

In other words, Mr. Kinberg and the powers that be at Fox have no excuses this time. They didn’t have any last time with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but the stakes were lower then. The market for superhero movies is going to be very crowded in 2018. Having already screwed up the Fantastic Four, they need to show they can learn from their mistakes.

Being the passionate comic book fan and X-men fan that I am, I want to help in whatever way I can. Given that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with precisely zero influence on anything outside this blog, that’s not saying much. I don’t expect anyone from Fox to ever read this blog or know about me. The most I can do is just put the information out there so I can say I did what I could.

With that in mind, I’m not going to offer a wish list on what must occur in a “X-men: Dark Phoenix “movie. If you base the value of a movie or comic book on something specific, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, it’s better to lay out what to avoid, thereby allowing some creative flexibility along the way. No matter how passionate a fan you are, it’s important to be somewhat flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself among fans whining about how Finn Jones is too white play Iron Fist.

So for X-men fans, comic fans, and superhero fans in general, here’s my list of tips on how to avoid botching the Phoenix Saga again. I write this hoping that the people at Fox understand that X-men fans are a forgiving bunch, but messing up the most iconic story in X-men history twice would be pushing it.


Tip #1: Embrace AND Unleash The Passion

This should be the most obvious, but it somehow slipped everyone’s mind in “X-men: The Last Stand” so it’s worth putting at the top of the list and belaboring to no end. At the core of the Phoenix Saga, which is also its greatest appeal, is the passion behind the story.

It is, in essence, a story about overwhelming power guided by overwhelming passions. Within the story, Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, which pushes her psychic powers to the limit, beyond, and into the depths of space. That’s not an exaggeration either. She actually goes into space with this power.

Now doing that in a movie would be tricky, but Jean doesn’t have to go into space to realize the theme here. She just has to get a chance to emote and lament about the sheer breadth of this power. Her passions are what drive it. They create the huge, emotional spectacle that helped make the Phoenix Saga so iconic.

Famke Jannsen never got a chance to do much in “X-men: The Last Stand.” In fact, all she really did was stand around, look deadpanned, and that’s about it. She never even flashed any Phoenix-like symbolism, which is pretty pathetic since Fox managed to squeeze it in with “X-men: Apocalypse.” A Phoenix Saga with flat emotions is like sandwich without bread. You just can’t have one without the other.


Tip #2: Make Any Sacrifice Feel Genuine

This is somewhat unique to the Phoenix Saga mythos in general. In addition to overwhelming passion and immense power, sacrifice is at the core of what makes a the Phoenix Saga so iconic among X-men fans. In the end, Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice for her friends, the world, and the man she loves. It’s one of the most emotional, dramatic moments in the history of comics.

Again, “X-men: The Last Stand” found a way to completely screw this up. In fact, saying they screwed up would be too polite because they didn’t just undermine this critical moment in X-men lore. They did the exact opposite.

Jean Grey does not make any sacrifice in “X-men: The Last Stand.” What she does is basically an act of pure cowardice. She doesn’t heroically sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. She makes someone else kill her, specifically Wolverine. She doesn’t beg him. She makes him. There’s nothing heroic about that. Hell, that’s a dick move, even by Wolverine standards.

For any Phoenix Saga to work, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice along the way. That sacrifice also has to be genuine, dramatic, and heartfelt. That’s what makes it so endearing. Nobody ever felt any kind of endearment to a coward. Since the X-men are superheroes and all, there’s no room for that kind of cowardice.


Tip #3: Embrace And Expand The Cyclops/Jean Romance

I’ve talked about this romance on multiple occasions and for good reason. It is, by far, the most important, iconic romance in the history of X-men. The romance of Cyclops and Jean Grey goes all the way back to the earliest days of the X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a romance that has resulted marriage, death, resurrection, and multiple children. You won’t find many romances with this kind of depth.

Unfortunately, nobody who saw the original X-men movies ever would’ve suspected as such. Those movies gave the impression that the romance only existed to cock-block Wolverine and Jean Grey only existed to be a piece of ass for him to achieve. The love triangle is toxic enough in the comics, but the movies took it to a level so egregious that both the X-men fan and erotica/romance fan in me wants to vomit violently.

There’s no real depth between Wolverine and Jean Grey, especially in the movies. There is, however, a powerful and important dynamic between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Theirs is a uniquely balanced romance, one where they both stand together in ways that isn’t typical of superhero movies or romance movies in general. They’re both heroes. They share in one another’s struggles and burdens.

Most importantly, though, they complement each other. They inspire one another to be better. That’s what we saw, at least in a limited capacity, in “X-men: Apocalypse.” That movie didn’t just thrust them together and proclaim that they’re star-crossed lovers. They actually laid a foundation for a deeper connection. By the end of that movie, it was easy to see a romance between them blossoming.

In the comics, the Cyclops/Jean romance was central to the Phoenix Saga. Their romance was a catalyst for so much of the drama that to remove it is to remove a critical element of what makes the story work.

X-men: The Last Stand” tried to work around it by thrusting Wolverine into the role of Jean’s love interest. That failed miserably though because again, there was never a single goddamn reason for anyone to believe or accept that there was any meaningful chemistry with them.

It was the history and extent of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s romance that made the Phoenix Saga so meaningful in the comics. At one point in the story, they even talked about getting married. A deep, passionate romance is what helped make the Phoenix Saga so impactful on so many levels.

That kind of romance can’t be forced. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed miserably. A Dark Phoenix movie cannot make that same mistake again. The foundation is already there thanks to “X-men: Apocalypse.” The Dark Phoenix movie just has to crank up the passion. Sophie Turner’s sex appeal will do the rest.


Tip #4: Make The Phoenix The Primary Plot

After what I said earlier about how “X-men: The Last Stand” treated the Phoenix Saga, this should be a no-brainer. Then again, the sheer stupidity of circumventing the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship in the first three movies should’ve been a no-brainer too so I’m not going to assume too much here.

The Phoenix Saga is too dramatic, too iconic, and too emotional a story to relegate to a sub-plot. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed so miserably that no one could really blame Jean Grey for wanting to die in the end. Fox and Mr. Kinberg cannot let that happen again. The X-men, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix Saga deserve better.

From the moment the opening credits begin to the moment the generic 90s grunge music plays at the end, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force should be the central focus. There can certainly be plenty of sub-plots, as there always are in every superhero movie. However, the Phoenix Saga must take priority. If it doesn’t tie into that story in a meaningful way, then it should be tabled for another movie.

The Phoenix Saga is a big enough story to carry the whole movie. In the comics, it unfolded over the course of several years, diverting into plenty of sub-plots along the way. A movie doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, but it still has plenty of time to set up and execute the drama that makes the Phoenix Saga so endearing.

Movies are plenty capable of creating that level of drama. Movies like “Titanic” and “Terminator 2” are able to do it all within a cohesive narrative. More than anything else, the Phoenix Saga should feel complete by the end of the movie. Other sub-plots can linger for sequels, but the Phoenix Saga must get first dibs.


Tip #5: Introduce New Villains And Tie Them Into The Phoenix Story

This might actually be the easiest part of making X-men: Dark Phoenix awesome. Chances are that’s already part of the plan and not just because there’s no hint that Michael Fassbender wants to return to play Magneto again. Now I love Fassbender as much as the next straight X-men fan, but his role as Magneto has been done to death, going all the way back to the first X-men movie.

The X-men have a long and rich library of villains. Very few of those villains have had a chance to grow within the movies. Some, like Mojo, are woefully impractical. Others, such as a devious figure named Mr. Sinister, are ripe for development. Even Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, has expressed an interest in playing Sinister. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about his potential.

On top of that, Mr. Sinister has close ties to Cyclops and Jean Grey. It really wouldn’t take much to involve him in the Phoenix Saga. While he did not participate in it directly in the comics, he did go onto influence a great deal of stories that expanded the Phoenix mythos in X-men. Putting him in the center of the conflict in a Dark Phoenix movie makes too much sense.

There are other lesser villains like the U-men and the Purifiers that could find their way into the mix. So there should be no concerns about not having enough villains. The key is tying these villains into the main Dark Phoenix story. If done well, especially with the aid of Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess, then the movie has everything it needs to succeed.


There’s a lot more to consider in making an X-men: Dark Phoenix movie. I’m just a passionate fan so I’m hardly qualified to evaluate every one of them. If I were, Fox probably would’ve hired me and underpaid me by now to make this movie work. Since they haven’t, I can only assume and hope there are much smarter, much more passionate people working tirelessly to make this movie great.

As a fan, I want to see this movie succeed. I want to see Fox and Mr. Kinberg make up for their mistakes in “X-men: The Last Stand.” It would be both an accomplishment and a service for which fans would be forever grateful. Grateful fans are more willing to give money to those who please them. That is, after all, Fox’s ultimate goal.

The incentives are in place. The story is there. The iconic characters are there. The passion is there. The love, heart, and emotions are there. It’s only a matter of bringing them together into a single, cohesive story that will thrill audiences, evoke tears of joy, and soak panties.

It can be done. I pray to whatever cosmic forces are out there that Fox can pull this off. As an X-men fan, a comic book fan, and a fan of iconic love stories, X-men: Dark Phoenix deserves to be that awesome.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

How To Be An Effective Superhero

This is a direct follow-up to my previous post about why modern superheroes are inherently incompetent and designed to stay that way. I felt I needed to scrutinize the cracks in the foundation, so to speak, before I get around to discussing the stuff build on top of it. That will help make the discussion in this post more relevant and concise.

Even without the context of my previous post, it’s not hard to understand or even acknowledge that so many superheroes are inept, irresponsible, and incompetent at their jobs. Their villains always escape. Their friends/lovers/parents always die/suffer. The world they want to better never changes. It’s a flaw in the system as much as it is an exercise in futility.

Now, I’d like to take a step back, acknowledge the forest from the trees, and offer a solution of sorts. As I’ve done with other issues, I don’t just like to point out flaws. I like to offer viable solutions. Those solutions may not be practical or possible at the moment, but I try to make sure that the concept is sound.

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I’d like to apply that method to superheroes now. By that, I mean I’d like to create a guide of sorts that helps establish the tactics, strategies, and ethics of being a competent, effective superhero. I say this knowing that it could never work in any comic book or major movie. This is mostly just an exercise in the actual pragmatics of superheroes.

First off, let’s establish some guidelines for a prototypical hero that would utilize these tactics. In order for them to work, they have to meet a certain criteria. Here’s a quick list of what that may include:

  • The goal of the hero is to reduce crime, confront injustice, and undermine corruption

  • The hero has a concerted interest in protecting as many innocent people as possible

  • The strategy in question cannot rely on the use of certain superpowers, although the use of superpowers can help supplement the strategy

  • The strategy is equally usable by male, female, and alien characters

  • The hero in question is willing to operate in a manner outside the framework of traditional law enforcement

  • The hero in question is willing to cross a certain set of moral lines, but only to an extent

I’m sure there are other ways to refine and supplement this list, but for now, this is what I’ll use in devising my strategy. In order to ensure that its applicable, heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Daredevil must be equally capable of implementing it.

Keep in mind, though, that some heroes have goals that go beyond just administering justice. Characters like Superman and the X-men have other goals, some of which goes beyond justice. I’ll save those goals for another post. For now, I intend to focus on the traditional superhero goal of justice and countering evil.

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In order to formulate this strategy, it’s also important to acknowledge a few unpleasant truths that would make Superman and Captain America cry. By that, I mean that the strategy cannot, for practical means, rely heavily on ideals. This is supposed to apply to the real world and, unfortunately, the real world is extremely unforgiving when it comes to ideals. Just ask Bernie Sanders.

So if we’re going to create a strategy that operates in the real world, we must make sure it accounts for the eccentricities of human psychology. It must utilize caveman logic and pass the Simpson filter. It can’t be too concerned with the nuts and bolts of people and why they do the crazy things they do. It must focus exclusively on results.

Does your brain hurt yet? Are you wondering if I’m asking you to contemplate dry water, a one-handed clap, or a decent Fantastic Four movie? Bear with me because there is a strategy that checks all these boxes. It’s a strategy I came up with thanks to two books, “Freakanomics” and “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big.”

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I’ve read both these books over the past few years and I’m a big fan of their style. They dig deep into the hidden intricacies of how the world works and challenges readers to think about how doing things in new and novel ways. Seeing as how I have the kind of imagination that links robots with a dominatrix, they fit my unique mentality perfectly.

For the purposes of this discussion, I want to cite an article that the authors of “Freakanamics” wrote a number of years ago on terrorism. Basically, with a gross negligence to the high emotions that come with terrorism, the authors used their understanding of economics and human behavior to come up with the most cost-effective way to conduct terrorism. What they came up with was pretty damn terrifying.

My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to terrorism as well. In that spirit, the best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be. The chaos would be unbelievable, especially considering how few resources it would require of the terrorists. It would also be extremely hard to catch these guys. The damage wouldn’t be as extreme as detonating a nuclear bomb in New York City, of course; but it sure would be a lot easier to obtain a handful of guns than a nuclear weapon.

Think about that for a moment. If terrorists used a tactic like this, how much fear and dread would it inflict on our daily lives? If those terrorists were even marginally competent, then it would be even scarier. No matter what we did, we would dread that we would be a victim and it wouldn’t be entirely misguided.

This is where “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big” comes in. That book talks heavily about how stress and uncertainty affect people. It also teaches on how you can use that to your advantage. It makes painfully clear that the human brain is an irrational device with faulty wiring that hasn’t been updated in 200,000 years. If you’re going to influence it, then you might as well exploit those quirks.

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With these two principles in mind, we can formulate a strategy for our prospective superhero. If utilized, then the criminals, villains, and future threats they face will either be defeated, deterred, or nullified.


  • The hero operates in complete secrecy, working at night or under a different identity. If the hero uses a uniform, then that uniform must not be identifiable or have some sort of stealth feature

This first part of the strategy is simple and not entirely new. Characters like Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles utilize some form of stealth. They operate in the shadows and generally avoid being seen.

Some heroes are even more well-equipped than others. Characters like Solid Snake from the “Metal Gear Solid” video games utilize a stealth suit that utilizes camouflage. Characters like Mystique can shape-shift into looking like someone else. This makes it easier for them to utilize this tactic, but someone as resourceful as Batman could use it just as well.

However, there’s room for improvement.


  • The hero must not have an identifiable name or make themselves known to the media in any way or coordinate with the media. They must, at all costs, avoid creating an identifiable persona

This is where Batman, Spider-Man, and pretty much any hero with a publicly-known name fails. The issue isn’t the name itself. The issue is that by having a name and having some kind of media exposure, they create a tangible, identifiable target.

From a practical perspective, that’s a big problem. That means enemies, be they a mugger or Lex Luthor, have someone they can target and identify. Entire teams of enemies, like the Legion of Doom or the Sinister Six, can rally around a common enemy. That makes enemies stronger and no strategy can succeed with that.


  • The hero must conduct detailed surveillance on villains and criminals, know their crimes and how they connect with others, and focus on those who are high in rank and influence

This is another tactic that most heroes already use to some extent. Batman is probably the most well-known. He uses his detective skills to determine who is a threat, how big a threat they are, and how to go after them. Other heroes, like the Avengers or the Justice League, generally have some type of monitoring system to determine pending threats.

This strategy requires the kind of extensive intelligence and understanding that someone like Batman could appreciate. When Batman determines that someone is a big threat, he’s almost always right. Any hero using this strategy must have similar certainty. Knowing the threat is the first step towards actually defeating it. That’s just a basic rule of war.


  • The hero must defeat their villains/enemies/criminals by making them disappear without a trace, either by killing them and destroying the body or by sending them into a domain from which they can never escape

This is where the strategy conflicts with nearly every major hero, especially the Batmans and Supermans of the comic book world. For the most part, the heroes avoid killing. It’s seen as an ideal. Taking a life is seen as morally abhorrent and for good reason.

However, that moral absolution ends when those same villains, such as the Jokers and Green Goblins of the world, live on to torment again. Despite defeating these villains multiple times, the heroes never do anything to end them. They try and try to lock them away in a prison cell, but they just keep escaping. From a moral standpoint, the suffering those villains inflict is on the heroes’ shoulders.

For most heroes, this means killing is unavoidable. It’s the only sure-fire way to ensure that a villain is never a threat again. For more resourceful/powerful heroes, there are other options like shrinking them to the size of atoms like Ant Man or sending them into the far-distant future, as Superman did with Doomsday.

However, it’s not enough to just kill a villain or enemy in this instance. Superheroes have killed before. Some, like the Punisher, kill a lot, but it still backfires in the long run. Why is that? Well, that’s where the next part strategy comes in.


  • The hero must make sure that nobody knows the villains they kill or disappear are dead, must never take credit for their disappearance, and must do everything possible to disconnect themselves from the villain

This is where even the brutal tactics of the Punisher fail. It’s also where the Freakanomic strategy comes in. The problem with the Punisher’s harsh methods isn’t that they’re harsh or that they result in a lot of killing. The problem is that they give the villains another rallying cry.

The Punisher’s enemies knows he kills. The Punisher usually likes to make clear that he’s the one who killed their associates. While this may shock and horrify some of them, it also has the effect of rallying them against a common enemy. Whether someone is a criminal or a hero, giving your enemies a common threat to rally behind is always a bad idea.

This is why the Punisher’s methods often fail in the long run. Criminals may fear him, but they know he’s responsible. The threat they’re up against has a face. There is a target for them to direct their fear and anger. This means that the criminals and enemies of the hero know who to fight against and in the long run, that never works out for the hero.


  • The hero must make sure that the villains, their allies, and their enemies don’t know why others are disappearing and must never make themselves known. Most importantly, they must make sure the villains are free to make wrong, misguided decisions

Here is where the methods of Scott Adams intersect with “Freakanomics.” In “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big,” Adams constantly talks about how people are at the mercy of their caveman brains. When they’re uncertain or anxious about something, they’re prone to making bad decisions for bad reasons. Make too many of those decisions and you tend to doom yourself to failure.

With this method, the hero must make sure that the villain is free and able to keep making those decisions that will ensure they defeat themselves. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the villain never knows that the hero is even fighting against them. They can’t have a mask, a costume, or a symbol to rally against. If it’s one big unknown, then their irrational caveman brains will do the rest.

The Norman Osborns and Lex Luthors of the world will start making up their own targets, irrationally lashing out at what they think is the source of the threat. The hero, for the most part, just needs to sit back and watch it unfold. Let them attack their rivals, make new enemies, and falter under the pressure. So long as they don’t know who or what they’re fighting against, their paranoia will eventually work against them.

In the long run, the villains will lose. They’ll end up dead. They’ll get caught. Most importantly, from the hero’s perspective, they’ll never know who to blame or why. That’s a scary thought, even for a hardened criminal. Nothing scares people more than the unknown.


  • The hero must never seek any kind of recognition, adulation, or compensation for their deeds

This is the final part of the strategy and, arguably, the most important. The problem with characters like Batman and Superman are that they want to be symbols. They want to be recognized for their efforts. Practically speaking, that’s a mistake.

By being symbols, they give their enemies a clear target and something to rally around. No matter how good the hero is at their job, they still make themselves a target. No matter how many villains they defeat, more will emerge and more will know who to fight.

Remove that symbolism. Remove the recognition. Remove the masks, costumes, and iconography of a hero and suddenly, the world of villains is very scary. They don’t know who to fight. They just know that by doing what they do, they could disappear without a trace and never be heard from again.

That’s more terrifying than any torture or punishment because their caveman brains will fill in the blanks with the worst they can conjure.


This caps off my official perfect superhero strategy. To date, no hero in a comic book uses these tactics and for good reason. If it were a comic book, it wouldn’t be very interesting because the outcome would be too final. The hero would be too competent and that’s just not very interesting.

Remove the need for sales, lunch boxes, and porn parodies and imagine how this strategy could work. Say there’s a superhero that wants to take down organized crime. Say that hero has the power of Superman or the Flash. Using their abilities, they quickly locate the top level bosses and associates of these criminals and just make them disappear.

There’s no body. There’s no trace. There’s no police report. There’s no trial. They just disappear. Not knowing who to fight, the criminals start attacking others they think are responsible. When they don’t know who, they just pick random people they think are enemies.

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This makes them more enemies, both from other criminals and law enforcement. No matter what they do, anyone who becomes a boss just disappears and they don’t know why. As a result, nobody even wants to be a crime boss anymore. The organizations just collapse on their own. Criminals still disappear, ensuring even low-level criminals have an incentive to stop. In the long run, the hero accomplishes what they set out to do.

It works with criminals. It works with those who are corrupt. It exploits the quirks of human nature, but also relies on the traits that make us function as a species. Again, it’s a tactic that I doubt any major heroes with movie rights could ever use. However, if they really do care about results, then this is the best way to go. Spider-Man should take notes.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Why Spider-Man Is The Most Incompetent Hero Of All Time

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Whenever I talk about comic books and superheroes on this blog, I generally try not to single one particular character out unless I’m trying to make a point. I find that singling out one too many characters is like pointing out all the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. It just becomes too frustrating and futile in the long run.

That means if I’m going to dedicate a post to a character, it better be for a damn good reason. They must be a uniquely compelling sex-positive female character or a potential prelude for future female villains. Well, after talking about why most superheroes are incompetent by design, I feel compelled to single out one particular character who is, within this context, the worst offender.

That character isn’t some obscure, little-known sidekick from a bygone era either. In this case, the worst case of inept superheroes who take their incompetence to the next level is one of the most recognizable superheroes of the past 50 years. He’s had multiple movies, multiple cartoons, and multiple actors play him with varying degrees of success and/or failure.

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Yes, I’m talking about Spider-Man, also known as Peter Parker. He is, by far, the most recognizable and iconic of Stan Lee’s many creations. He’s also, by a ridiculous margin, the most profitable superhero in terms of merchandise sales. He makes enough money for Marvel every year for them to eat caviar every day off diamond-encrusted gold plates.

So why, then, is he the most incompetent superhero of all time? Why is Marvel’s most iconic character a case study in how not to operate as a superhero? Well, some of it has to do with the built-in incompetence I mentioned before. Spider-Man can’t be too competent, otherwise his overall narrative just wouldn’t be as compelling and his toys wouldn’t sell.

However, compared to the many other orphaned heroes who get their powers through accident or tragedy, Spider-Man sets himself apart by not just screwing himself over, but also by completely undermining the very principles of power and responsibility that he pretends to cherish. He’s not just an incompetent hero. He’s a hypocrite, albeit not on purpose.

So what exactly makes Spider-Man so inept by both the standards of a superhero and the standards that he sets on himself? Well, that has everything to do with his tactics and how he goes about them. If you’ve ever read a Spider-Man comic, seen a Spider-Man movie, or watched a Spider-Man cartoon, you know those tactics well. It goes like this:

  • Someone commits a crime
  • Peter Parker springs into action, putting on his costume and mask
  • Spider-Man fights the criminal, making jokes and quips along the way
  • The criminal whines and complains about how he’s ruining their master plan
  • The fight plays out and Spider-Man wins
  • Spider-Man ties the criminal up with his webs for the police
  • Spider-Man goes back to being Peter Parker and uses the pictures he takes of himself to make a living

This is Spider-Man’s primary method for dealing with crime and irresponsibility. It is the primary structure of every major battle he’s ever fought, be it the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, or Venom. While he wins/survives many of those battles, and even goes onto marry a supermodel for a while, it’s only when you step back and scrutinize the larger picture that you see how he loses his war against irresponsibility.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that Spider-Man is one of those heroes who doesn’t kill. Like Superman and Batman, he goes out of his way to prevent the loss of life, be it innocent life or that of his enemy. That’s an understandable position to take. Killing is one of those unambiguous moral lines and many superheroes define their heroics by respecting that line.

For Spider-Man, however, this moral stand against killing is a major liability and the catalyst for his ineptitude. Granted, it’s not intentional, but the byproducts are unavoidable and those close to him have suffered as a result. Just ask Gwen Stacy.

Now I’m not saying Spider-Man is directly responsible for such suffering. Like all heroes, his intentions are good. He wants to help people. He wants to save lives. The problem is that, with his tactics, he’s doomed to hurt far more people than he helps.

This is because his tactics essentially guarantee that he will be a target, his loved ones will suffer, and his enemies will become stronger as a result. This isn’t just because Spider-Man refuses to kill them, although that is part of it. It’s because of the very persona that Spider-Man creates that his efforts are so inept.

Spider-Man, unlike Batman or Daredevil, doesn’t present a very intimidating presence. He’s many things, but intimidating isn’t one of them. His costume isn’t that intimidating. He doesn’t operate in the shadows or anything. He’s actually a well-known public figure, thanks largely to his own efforts and those of his boss, the ultimate blowhard that is J. Jonah Jameson.

This is a huge problem because it ensures that Spider-Man’s presence isn’t considered a major threat or danger to his enemies. He’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience. Whether they’re the Green Goblin or a simple mugger, they know Spider-Man isn’t going to kill them. He’s not even going to seriously wound them. He’ll just fight them, tie them up, and give them over to the police.

Even for those without access to overpaid lawyers, that’s not so much a threat as it is a frustration. On top of that, Spider-Man doesn’t really have meaningful conversations that get people to rethink their choices. He’s just cracks jokes, makes lewd comments, and generally carries himself with the maturity of a 13-year-old. Granted, this is part of his charm as a character, but it also ensures his tactics are doomed to fail.

It’s one thing to anger and annoy an enemy in the heat of battle. That can work to a hero’s advantage. However, the problems with Spider-Man manifest after the battle is over.

By annoying and angering his enemies, all he does is give them more incentive to fight him and hurt those he cares about. On top of that, he wears a flashy, distinct costume that’s easily recognizable in both night and broad daylight. It’s also well-known, thanks to his own efforts at taking pictures of himself and selling them to a newspaper.

Even before the era of smart phones and Twitter hacks, that’s putting a pretty big target on his back. He makes himself an identifiable figure on which his enemies can focus on. Even if they don’t know his identity, they know the source of their frustration. Since Spider-Man doesn’t scare them, they have every possible reason to fight him.

To make matters even worse, he gives his enemies a common threat to rally against. Anyone who knows anything about social psychology, or has just been to a Taylor Swift concert, knows that nothing unites people better than a common cause. He doesn’t just make his enemies stronger as individuals. He makes them stronger as a team. How is that responsible?

In essence, Spider-Man doesn’t intimidate his villains, doesn’t do anything to deter their irresponsible decisions, and gives them a common enemy to really around. If being responsible is deterring the kind of criminals that killed his Uncle Ben, then he’s the most irresponsible hero of all time.

I’m not saying Spider-Man has to start killing like the Punisher. I’m saying that his own tactics undermine his goals. Now you could make a similar criticism to characters like Batman or Daredevil because they don’t kill and their enemies constantly escape to torment them. However, there is one key difference that sets them apart.

Batman and Daredevil, despite their gaudy costumes, are intimidating. In fact, intimidation is a key tactic of theirs. Batman said it himself in the early scenes of “Batman Begins.” He seeks to strike fear in those that prey on the fearful. In this sense, he does succeed.

You could make the argument that because of Batman’s presence, there people in Gotham City who choose not to enter a life of crime. The prospect of dealing with Batman is scary. Fear is a powerful deterrent. Only the truly deranged criminals dare to enter this life and take on Batman. In that context, it makes perfect sense that the kind of villains he faces are the exceedingly deranged kind.

Spider-Man can’t make that claim. He can’t claim that he scares or intimidates people into not choosing a life of crime. If anything, his tactics may annoy ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise consider such a life, but try it anyways just to shut him up or make a name for themselves.

Every hero is different. Every hero has their own set of tactics, goals, and ideals. However, no hero is as inept, incompetent, or irresponsible as Spider-Man. So long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, and Marvel has a huge financial interest in never allowing it to change, he’ll continue emboldening his enemies while guaranteeing that everyone around him suffers.

It’s both an irony and a tragedy. In his efforts to be responsible with his powers, Spider-Man conducts himself in the most irresponsible way possible. Even if it’s indirect and unintentional, the results are the same. He can still call himself a hero because of his principles. He just can’t call himself a very competent hero.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes