Monday, June 23, 2008

On Superheroes



Sprocket Man was a creation of of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, designed to get the kids excited about bike safety (and spandex, presumably). I found him at the World's Worst Comic Book Museum, which is a great website.

On Saturday, Brendan and I, along with some other people at my house, got to talking about superheroes and their logistical dilemmas and policy choices. This is a matter that needs further reflection and the input of the interwebs. We were talking about how superheroes always operate in large cities (usually New York or some New York proxy) and how they're always concerned primarily with the Big Menaces (supervillains, meteors hurtling toward earth, etc.). Conveniently for them, the Big Menaces always get started or are soluble in big cities - and in fact, that's convenient for all mankind, because if Lex Luthor had decided to hatch his diabolical plots in Sioux City, Iowa, he probably would have totally flown below Superman's radar until it was too late, and then Superman's only recourse would have been to fly around the earth backward to reverse time, and he would have had to put up with flashbacks of Marlon Brando saying, "It is forbidden," which is tolerable if the reward is some R and R with Margot Kidder in her prime, but not so much when you're playing catch-up to keep California from getting sunk into the ocean or whatever.

What we wondered was, could Hartford have a superhero? How would this person effectively locate crime and vanquish it? Because even with surveillance cameras they haven't been able to find the people who ran over Angel Arce Torres, right? So what could a superhero bring to the table in that situation? Brendan was concerned that superheroes should know their beat intimately - one for the South End, one for the North End, etc. - because the social norms vary from community to community and you wouldn't want some masked avenger coming in the mix, misapprehending a situation, and causing more trouble than he solved (or getting arrested himself, which risk especially concerned Brendan). Would a network of neighborhood superheroes, working in separate jurisdictions but with constant communication and the ability team up as needed, be the right model for the Beat? Would they be called upon to be super in neighboring communities too small to maintain their own corps of superheroes, like Willimantic or Bristol? Given the large number of heroes needed to make this model work, would non-superpowered people with cool gadgets (a la Iron Man and Batman) suffice? This is a matter that needs some serious reflection in the comments.

Also, assuming we like the neighborhood-based, non-superpowered superheroes, is a bicycle a good thing for the job? On the one hand, it allows the hero to move quickly around the area while maintaining more maneuverability than if s/he were in a car. (Also, lower costs, nice to the environment, etc.) On the other hand, a superhero who can be effectively flummoxed by a flat tire or thrown chain is kinda lame.

27 comments:

Julie Dixon said...

I have an idea for a mini superhero (a subhero?).

His name is Barry Square. He has two superpowers unaided by tech:

1. he can fly
2. he shoots large cubes of foam from silvery wristlets

When some guy comes buzzing down your street on one of those pimped up scooters at any hour of the day or night (even 6 in the morning on a Sunday!), Barry Square flies up behind him and shoots cubes of foam from his silvery wristlets right into the path of the scooter-rider, creating a just-in-time traffic calming measure.

Julie Dixon said...

Duhhh...

Silvery wristlets are tech.

Why do you always notice these things just as you hit "submit?"

Brendan said...

Who would win: Barry Square or Clay Arsenal?

Julie Dixon said...

Dude,

What does Clay Arsenal do? (Besides having a better name than Barry Square?)

Julie Dixon said...

What about Sheldon Charter Oak?

El Presidente de China said...

I think Clay Arsenal devotes himself tirelessly to defeating the nefarious machinations of Hartford's amphibious supervillain, The Hollow Frog.

Julie Dixon said...

But I've heard the Hollow Frog, who spends a lot of time Behind the Rocks, is frequently distracted by our villainess to the north, the voluptuous Blue Hills. But I've heard she is often distracted by Clay Arsenal's South End.

El Presidente de China said...

We could run with this place name/superhero name joke for a while:

Danbury's diminutive champion of justice, Little Brazil;

New Britain's masked crusader, Stanley Quarter;

Who else?

Caitlynne said...

I think Hartford needs two superheroes.

The first one reconfigures the statewide tax structure, and the second one eats the evening news for breakfast.

Both ride bikes, both smash surveillance cameras. Did I spell surveillance right?

Oh and they live in the parks.

Brendan said...

I think Sphr. Arsenal just has a lot of stuff to fight with. Or, he's a soccer team.

Why does everything have to be by bike? Doesn't anyone walk?

Tom said...

I think that Hartford's superhereo would commute (on a bike) from Manchester. Its a quieter, a little crime, and that way she (or he) could have time for the family.

A bike is a good vehicle for a superhereo because superhereos can pedal damn fast.... the bike might need a few more gears, some grappling mechanisms for getting from Busnell park to the top of the state capital building, and fenders to protect their cool outfits from mud during rain storms.

El Presidente de China said...

Superheroes generally need some fast way to get around (see, e.g., batmobile, swinging from building to building on webs, flying, space surfboard, etc.), although maybe with our neighborhood-based superhero model, walking would be adequate.

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

Hartford's superheroes definitely can't commute in from the suburbs, unless of course the superhero doing so was Wreck-Hartford's-Infrastructure-Then-
Disparage-It-Then -Make-Sure-It-Gets-No-Tax-
Revenue-To-Help-Solve-Its-Problems-
Man

I had to deleted that the first time because comments can't handle that many hyphens.

El Presidente de China said...

Fer shure. The suburbs could have their own local superheroes. West Hartford could have The Mower, who vanquishes any lackadaisical homeowners who fail properly to keep their lawns in peak condition. Farmington could have 50 Cent.

Karma said...

Simsbury and Avon wouldn't need superheroes as they have plenty of soccer moms who can run over any criminal, dissident, or outsider with their Suburbans and Escalades, terrifying!

Brendan said...

You can't use "the mower" idea. lawnmowing is reserved for a teen coming of age movie I've been working on in which the popular sport in this town is lawn mowing.

Maybe tonight at Kenny's I'll regale everyone with the premise.

I always thought the superhero for the Farmington Valley would be King Philip, though I'm not quite sure how, seeing that he burned down Simsbury. Or, maybe like the JLA, it could be The Land Trust. Sprawl is the biggest villain out there.

Karma said...

For the areas cities to be adequately monitored I definitely think there would need to be a corps of superheroes, as in order to pay local rents they would have to take a second job at a coffee shop in the morning or would bartend at night. This would severely stretch the availability of just one or two superbeings so many would be needed.

Also I don't think these superheroes would be slowed by flats or thrown chains as one of their required superpowers would be wrench skills so honed that thrown chains would never be a threat and flats would be changed faster than they occurred. They also, of course, would by necessity ride Conti Gatorskins.

Brendan said...

no way

schwalbe marathons

El Presidente de China said...

If they're super, it probably wouldn't be so hard for them to endure the bone-shaking ride of those airless, solid rubber tires.

Karma said...

I thought about the solid tires but came to the conclusion that the Gatorskins sounded more bad-ass, of course Marathons have that epic quality to them. I think either would suffice.

Brendan said...

I often wonder if you can ride more than 26 miles on marathons.

El Presidente de China said...

26.2. Then the tires, like the famed Marathon messenger of ancient Greece, collapse and die.

Karma said...

Stole the words right out of my comment section. That is unless they are the Ultra Marathons in which case they can push more like 50 miles. Otherwise yes, 26.2 and its caput. Woe the hordes of Xerxes.

Helder said...

Barry Square and Clay Arsenal must fight the Hollow Frog and Parkvillain on the Asylum Hill of Justice. The best superheroes can't have families, therefore living in Manchester is unnecessary. Just look at what recently happened to Spider-Man: the devil erased his marriage and now he doesn't have to worry about being burdened by a wife, just constantly whining about worrying about Aunt May. I wonder if Sprockets got taken away by Jack Kirby's the Black Skier (the New Gods' Death).

Brendan said...

That sucks about the mileage on the schwalbes. They're pretty expensive.

tire tubes said...

I do not know many superheroes who ride bikes. Many of them can fly or possess other unearthly powers. It would be cool to create one like that, as I also like to ride my bicycle from time to time.