The Positively True Adventures of Mr. Meteor and A Girl

This week someone stole a 30 pound meteorite from The Dinosaur Place. The meteorite was on display in the gift shop and the most likely scenario the authorities have come up with is that someone wheeled a baby carriage into the store, tucked the rock into it, and made their way out.

Obviously this is a plot conceived by criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. The only real question is what he plans to do with the meteor. As it is of unspecified origin Lex would take it home for deep analysis to determine how it can be used to a) kill Superman or b) make him money or c) both a and b. If this was a comic book story.

I live in Connecticut, the state most people consider to be the highway between New York and Boston. We have no professional sports teams. NYPD retire to Hartford. We have some casinos, a few theaters and museums, hey, we have The Dinosaur Place. But nothing like our neighbors, and even the people who live here would say nothing much ever happens. Which presumably is why Stamford, Connecticut was chosen as the venue for the botched capture that killed 600 civilians and led to Marvel’s Civil War. Only loser super heroes work in Connecticut. But that makes it the perfect stomping ground for a super villain smart enough to figure that out. Someone like Luthor — or our “Mr. Meteor”.

It has been said many times that Bruce Wayne’s decision to save his city as a masked avenger is what draws out, or even creates, the crazies that he ends up battling. That Superman’s ability to deal with regular criminals with ease is why the villains work to become Super themselves. Magneto’s Brotherhood exists because society didn’t trust super-powered people to be good. The super heroes tend to come before the super villains. I am forced to wonder, if we have a super villain working out of my boring little state, where is our super hero?

Super heroes wouldn’t really work in the real world, right? Super heroes are meant to be a fantasy, that’s why they are otherworldly or enhanced with extraordinary abilities, to set them apart, to make them something else, something we are not. Even Batman and his predecessor, Zorro, or Green Arrow and his predecessor, Robin Hood — they dress up, they make a scene, they act! Bruce’s first Robin had to be a circus performer just to fit in. We’re not meant to relate to Superman or Iron Man — Clark and Tony, maybe, but not their superhero identity. That has to remain super human and fantastic. Something else, something we mere mortals would not aspire to be. Because when mere mortals dress up to make a statement and take the law into their own hands, they are laughed at, arrested, and/or locked up in a mental institution.

I work for a small liberal arts university with an emphasis on the liberal. Two years ago we made the national news because presidential nominee Barack Obama gave our commencement address. Last year we made the national news because one of our students was gunned down in the college bookstore. As it turns out, some things of note do happen in Connecticut. Would the young woman be alive if we’d had a campus super hero? No. And in fact, the local authorities were the heroes of the story, arriving on the scene within minutes and forcing the shooter to abandon his gun instead of continuing on to the outside all-campus music festival that had just begun. We don’t have a campus super hero because we live in the real world and the real world doesn’t need or want super heroes. But it’s times like that I wish we did have one. It’s times like that I wish I was one.

As Civil War, or pretty much any Batman story, will tell you, super heroes cause as many problems as they solve. But then, so do politicians. Maybe super heroes wouldn’t work in the real world. I still think I would make a kick ass campus avenger.

Posted by Anika
twitter: magnetgirl

  • Sam

    Okay, I’ll say this first: read Watchmen. No, wait, I’ll say that second.

    First I’ll say: great post. Very interesting and thought provoking (and you used to have the Whalers, a team I loved, but the NHL is stupid).

    Okay, now I’ll say: read Watchmen. It touches on a lot of themes you mention here. Whether superheroes (or masked heroes, because I don’t know if Batman is very super…) are needed, wanted, or good for society, and what the fallout of having a real superman walking in our world is about. I think you’d like it, considering this post.

    I’m not sure if I agree that we don’t need superheroes. We’ll always have crime and trouble and death and murder. Would it be worse with masked/super heroes wandering around? I don’t know.

    I remember post 9/11 when the next James Bond movie came out. They explained him missing (and therefore not stopping) the event because he was being held captive. And James Bond is a superhero in his on way, right? A man who can do extraordinary things and does them for Good. And then DC released the 9/11 World’s Finest, with that beautiful cover of Superman and Krypto staring up at the poster of the police officers and firefighters that were our real world heroes that day… thinking that he wanted “break free from the fictional pages where [he] live[s] and breath…become real during times of crisis and right the wrongs of an unjust world.”

    And he ends with: “A world fortunately protected by heroes of its own.”

    But then the world moved forward, and the United States government became something less than heroic. I think it’s always hard to say whether or not we need heroes in our real world. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind being able to have a little hope in a guy like Superman.

  • Anika

    As an aside before I answer your real comment, I have had so many debates about how to classify Batman. I should write a post just about that.

    Re: Watchmen, I get so many conflicting opinions on whether or not I’d like it! Obviously I need to JUST READ IT MYSELF. I almost chose it for the challenge to read something I wouldn’t normally a few months back but, honestly, the heftiness of it intimidates me. The TPB is the size of a Harry Potter book. But. Clearly, whether I’ll like it or not, I should buckle down and do it, if only so I can properly debate with all the people who mention it to me :)

    James Bond is absolutely a superhero. I’ve said that without her powers Ms. Marvel would still be a Bond (NOT a Bond Girl, a 007 in her own right) and that’s plenty good enough (I should write a post about that, too). But anyway, he’s also fictional and I don’t know about MI6 but the real CIA is not making me think ‘heroic’ at this moment in time (but that, of course, is related to the US being somewhat less heroic and I expect there are ‘heroes’ in the CIA on the ground troop level so to speak). I like what you say and certainly a side of me wants to think we wouldn’t destroy Superman if he showed up.

  • Caroline

    Great post, Anika! I definitely think about things like this from time to time. I think in balance superheroes *would* create more problems than they solve — who gets to be super? how do the people who aren’t super react to this? For the most part I think it’s best that superhero comic writers don’t get into this too deeply, b/c when you start applying too much real-world logic, the whole framework breaks down and it’s not fun/wish-fulfilment/metaphor anymore. But it’s definitely interesting when an isolated element of realism makes its way into the story (like the problems ‘Daredevil’ had with his identity during Bendis’s run — that was a good story; ‘Civil War’ and the Initiative might really have taken it too far to have the fictional universe keep functioning, though I do think good individual stories came out of it).

    About heroes and villains — I remember taking a mythology class in grad school where we talked about how traditionally the villain came before the hero: the Minotaur is the distintive part of the story; Theseus is the guy who shows up to kill him. I’m not sure how much that holds up across the board but it seems like a decent generaliztion — you have a particular obstacle and in order to overcome it, you need a hero who is particularly strong or particularly cunning. Superheroes, for the most part, have turned that on its head. There’s a great quote from the writer Kyle Baker who something like, “Hawkman carries a mace; therefore, he should be confronted with problems that can be solved with a mace.”