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Who Wants to Be a Superhero?: Truth, Justice, and the Reality Show Wayby Andrea Shuman -- 07/28/2006
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Comic book geeks have always had to deal with conflicting self-images. On the plus side, they have an abiding love for the medium, a great deal of knowledge about the various mythologies, and from their ranks come such cool dudes as Kevin Smith. On the other hand, iconic figures such as The Simpsons’ “Comic Book Guy” have done nothing to dispel the image of a typical fan living in his mother’s basement while being “overly enthusiastic” about his hobby, to the point of having questionable grooming and no other life whatsoever.
How then should outsiders view this peculiarly American sort of individual? Should we celebrate them or poke fun at them? Cheer for them or cringe? Nash Entertainment has found a way to do all of the above: give these true believers a chance to live as “real” Superheroes and put them in that most American of all TV genres, a reality show. A carefully scripted reality show, but a reality show nonetheless.
And for good measure, they’ve added Stan Lee, the famous comic book author, who oversees the competition and guides the would-be Superheroes to even greater accomplishments.
Thus we get Who Wants to Be a Superhero?. If the phrasing of the title sounds a bit familiar, it’s because the show is brought to you by the same people who gave us Who Wants to Marry My Dad? Therefore, be prepared for a good dose of twisted humor and humiliating moments.
But for some reason, when such trickery is combined with Stan Lee’s insistence that true Superheroes are all about honesty, selflessness, and helping others, the result actually works: contestants cannot help but be slowly revealed for who they truly are and where their motivations come from.
And who are these people? Are they true comic book fans? (And if so, how do you measure that? Is there a test you can take?) Are they frustrated comic book writers? Are they would-be actors looking for a big break? My personal guess is that they’re some strange hybrid of the above, but that’s okay with me; the collection of contestants we’re presented with seems to cover a wide range of possibilities: dads, DJs, moms, and bodybuilders – this group runs the gamut.
In the first episode (which you can read all about right here), Stan’s challenge was for the contestants to change into costume discretely in public and race to a finish line (but really figure out they should help a crying child along the way). One contestant called Monkey Girl actually changed costumes in a tree for goodness’ sakes, so kudos to her, if only for her acrobatic skills. And a chiseled-jawed, self-aware Major Victory vogued and posed so much during his challenge that he actually stumbled into the child, and then insisted he carry her off in his arms to find help.
You gotta love contestants like these who get the whole point of this show: sincerity and camp, combined. These are people who, for better or worse, are living out their dream, and embracing the duality of the Comic Book Geek Image. How can we not laugh at such bizarre antics? How can we not cheer on these dreamers? How can we not think about how Fat Momma’s donuts can be better rigged to stay on her costume while she’s racing to the finish line?
Throw in the gorgeous Super Hero Lair, the Red Boxes of Doom, the Garbage Can of Discarded Costumes, and I, for one, am hooked. Not only am I with this show for the long haul, but while I pass the time until next week, I’m taking up a collection to buy Major Victory a cape, the better for him to vogue in. I’m sure both Kevin Smith and Comic Book Guy would approve.
Andrea Shuman has recapped other Nash Entertainment shows for RNO, including Meet My Folks and Who Wants to Marry My Dad? Do you think Superhero will be a hit or a miss? Email Andrea with your thoughts at ABostonGal@yahoo.com
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