REALITY FATALITY pt. 1
Geek alert: the following extremely long post will most likely bore you to tears unless you’re a fan of comic books and/or reality TV. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Are you as excited about the new Sci-Fi Channel reality program Who Wants To Be A Superhero as I am? I submit to you that you are NOT.
I got wind of this show a couple of months ago. It was being created/hosted by Stan Lee who has, in recent years, demonstrated that there’s not a lot he won’t do for a buck. But, this guy created or co-created some of the most iconic superheroes known today: Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Daredevil… and the list goes on. So I’ll give him a pass. And if you’re looking for someone who is connected with the comic book world and is known by the general public, you can’t go wrong with Stan “The Man” Lee.
At first I really didn’t get the concept. It seemed like they were looking for people with real powers for this show. Not that I expected people to actually be able to fly or shoot laser beams out of their eyeballs… but I thought you’d see a lot of gymnasts, aerialists, weightlifters and the like.
But no. Oh no.
What you got instead (at least judging by the try-out segments of those who didn’t get on the show) was a bunch of kooks dressed up in homemade costumes claiming to be able to control people with their minds, shoot freeze-rays out of their fingers, stuff like that.
And it started to all make sense. Stan Lee is a comic book WRITER. He isn’t looking for people who could actually leap tall buildings parkour-style or lift 3x their own body weight. He figures he can embellish that part, what he really wants are people who are heroes in their heart. He wants people who will commit to wearing a silly costume in public while jumping through hoops (figuratively speaking). So let’s run down those who actually made the cut.
First, you have to acknowledge that this is a TV show first and foremost, so I’m sure the producers had more than a little say in who got cast. Since this is the typical living-under-the-same-roof-while-you-are-eliminated-one-by-one scenario, you’re going to want to have an interesting mix of personalities. That accounts for some of the casting… but not all of it. You have to also keep in mind that Stan Lee is in his 80s, and his sensibilities about what makes a costumed comic book hero are probably different than yours or mine. Stan Lee is old school, baby. What follows is some info stolen from the Sci-Fi website, and my opinions.
Super powers: Absorbs powers and abilities from video games that he plays; generates a feedback field that disrupts electronics within 15 feet; computer genius.
[My opinion of] Why he’s on the show: Because he’s clearly a big geek, and his costume is cool. I don’t think you can underestimate the power of a great suit.
Chance of winning: 65%. His head is in the right place, his powers are timely (at least in Stan Lee’s mind) and, again, cool suit.
Name: Fat Mama
Super powers: Can grow to five times her normal size when she gets angry.
Why she’s on the show: Comic relief. She has a utility belt OF DONUTS.
Chance of winning: 0%. She’ll go further than most people expect, I think, but won’t win. Take a look at Stan Lee’s history… how many heroes has he created that are overweight? The same as her percentage of winning: 0.
Name: Nitro G
Super powers: Super strength; super speed; flight; manipulates energy.
Why he’s on the show: Again, a decent suit with the addition of some kickin’ goggles.
Chance of winning: 5%. Clearly he’s doing the show for a lark, his heart isn’t into it.
Super powers: Shoots laser-beams and fireballs; levitates; drains energy from people, animals and plants; hurls orbs of solar energy.
Why she’s on the show: Official reason: the producers posted three audition videos on the website and let fans pick who would compete; she won. Unofficial reason: the decision came from comic book fanboys and her costume shows off her boobs? You do the math.
Chance of winning: 45%. She’s into it, and has the advantage of being a fan favorite before the show even aired.
Name: The Iron Enforcer
Super powers: Densest bone structure of any human; mind-blowing "death punch;" wields an arsenal of high-tech weapons.
Why he’s on the show: Producers’ choice. He’s abrasive and sure to make for some good TV.
Chance of winning: 0%. This guy is typical of late-80s “weapon heroes.” Stan Lee doesn’t do weapon heroes; the closest he’s ever come is Iron Man who basically wore a whole-body weapon ONLY because he needed it to save his life.
Name: Monkey Woman
Super powers: High-tech weapons and gadgets disguised as bananas.
Why she’s on the show: Nice body, skimpy costume; more good TV, but of a very different sort than the Iron Enforcer.
Chance of winning: 35%. Stan digs the obvious hero names (Iron Man, guy who wears a suit made of iron; The Hulk, a guy who’s really big and, um, hulking) and he appreciates a little whimsy in his heroes.
Name: Major Victory
Super powers: Can levitate and is never knocked down; super-strength; can jump 375 feet straight up; can go 25 minutes without air; super-acute vision; can manipulate sound waves to create noises or throw his voice.
Why he’s on the show: Best homemade suit of the lot, actually has the body of a hero, down to the chiseled chin.
Chance of winning: 95%. Unless this guy really stumbles or the producers screw things up, this guy is smart money. He is IN TO IT, heart and soul.
Name: Cell Phone Girl
Super powers: Teleport from one active cell phone to another; eyes can take digital photos; download any information available on a computer (i.e., learn Japanese on the fly); use cell-phone waves to move physical objects; fires beams from her cell phone.
Why she’s on the show: Producers’ choice (and a nice ass doesn’t hurt, either). I imagine the conversation after her audition went like this:
Producers: Wow, we love Cell Phone Girl! She’s cute, and with the whole cell phone shtick, we can sell in some telcom sponsors! What do you think, Stan?
Stan Lee: I think the whole idea is fucking stupid.
Chance of winning: 15%. I’d like to say 0%, just because her entire concept is ridiculous, but since she made the cut she has a chance. But, she’s kinda making fun of comic book conventions, and that won’t sit well with Stan.
Super powers: Super-strength; super-speed; fire resistance; always detects lies because he can only hear the truth.
Why he’s on the show: Producers’ choice, adds to the diversity. Plus, he seems to be a little dim-witted, which always make good TV.
Chance of winning: 15%. I don’t think he has a strong enough personality to make Stan take notice. But, he has a odd made-up name, and Stan loves that kind of stuff.
Super powers: Can heal others with fruit and raw foods; shoots fire-beams; wields a magical bullwhip; throws knives with unerring precision.
Why she’s on the show: Again, nice bod, skimpy outfit. Plus, she’s quirky bordering on annoying, which makes for, yep, good TV.
Chance of winning: 10%. I don’t think she’s really into it either, doesn’t really seem to get the super hero thing. Plus, Creature? What the hell kind of name is that?
Super powers: Controls air molecules; creates force fields; shoots blasts of air that can penetrate concrete.
Why he’s on the show: Um, because he’s gay? This didn’t come out on the show, but the press kit seems to make a big deal out of the fact that he “fights for people who are ‘different’” and that he is “especially devoted to protecting gay people from harassment.” I think it’s because he’s the only person who has a coherent collection of powers. Stan likes it when all the powers work together for a reason, like this guy, who’s powers all stem from controlling “air molecules.”
Chance of winning: 35%. He gets extra points for being an animator in his day job.
I’m basing the percentages above on just what I saw on the first show. If these guys are smart they’ll quickly figure out what Stan Lee is looking for, and will adapt.
The first challenge was pretty damn sneaky. There was a plant (named ROTIART -- TRAITOR spelled backwards, get it?) in the first meeting of all the new superheroes, asking probing questions. This is where we learn that Levity is a animator and toy designer in real life. He and ROTIART have a conversation that goes like this:
ROTIART: So you make custom action figures?So later in the show Stan Lee blasts him, saying that a superhero isn’t in it for the money, but rather because he’s a hero in his heart or some such bullshit. It seemed like entrapment to me. And really, I was a lot more alarmed by The Iron Enforcer, who went on at length about how he likes to kill his opponents with his giant gun. Stan also yells at Creature for just being on the show to "meet hot guys in tights." This strikes me as a little disingenuous from the guy who created Stripperella. But, Levity gets the boot before they even get in the new hideout which, in the irony of ironies, Stan Lee calls “the Bat Cave.”
Levity: Yeah, it’s a cool job.
R: I bet you could make an action figure of yourself if you win this show!
L: I guess I could, ha ha. That might make some money.
R: Yeah, you could become a millionaire selling your own image!
L: A millionaire. That would be funny!
But this first “challenge” does set the stage, and woe to the superhero who doesn’t pay attention to the lesson. Stan Lee is looking for superheroes. Not regular people who think they are playing superheroes on a reality TV program; he’s looking for the real deal.
See, Stan Lee is a little nuts.
And if anyone didn’t get the message the first time, the second challenge (the elimination challenge) makes it crystal clear. The heroes are asked to dress in street clothes and meet at a park. One by one they are given the word to burst into action, but first they have to find a place to secretly change into costume. Stan references Superman changing in a phone booth, and again, coming from the king of Marvel Comics, this blows me away. Once in costume, the hero races to a designated point, with the person putting in the fastest time winning.
However, as they run through the park they have to run past a little girl who is loudly crying and saying she has lost her mommy. It’s apparent that the real challenge is to stop and help the little girl. Four of the 10 heroes stop and help. I asked myself if I would have stopped. I like to think so… crying girl, I have children of my own… but I think most of the heroes were just focused on the goal. It’s going to be fun to watch them second guess everything for the rest of the show. Wait a minute… that hotdog vendor is out of change! Is the real challenge to help this small businessman?
That night is the elimination ceremony. Out of the six who missed the boat, three are put on the chopping block: Nitro G, The Iron Enforcer and Creature. I’m not sure how these three were selected out of all six. Nitro G gets the ax, mostly because he’s a bit of a dick, I think. And he’s not really into the spirit of the show. I mean, he changed into his costume in plain sight, for christsakes!
NEXT WEEK: New costumes! Dog attacks! Same Bat-time! Same Bat-Channel!