I could totally do it. I could be a superhero.
I like to think I have a good sense of right and wrong. My momma raised me right. I believe in being honest, forthright and kind. I believe in the power of generosity, the power of good and the right of the wronged to seek justice.
I know all of that isn’t enough, though. A passion for justice alone does not a superhero make. If that were the case, we’d all be superheroes. (And then we wouldn’t be super anymore would we?) The will to exact just revenge on the misdemeaning will not alone propel me to the ranks of the likes of Aquaman and the Flash. No, to be a superhero, one must have superpowers.
Don’t come back at me with Batman. Batman doesn’t count. Batman bought his way in. Batman was playing golf with his live-in teenage boy companion while Chinese gold farmers leveled up his character. Screw Batman. Having more money than Vishnu definitely counts as a superpower in my book. Can’t buy me love, maybe, but it can buy a jet boat shaped like a bat. Batman can go to hell.
Aquaman’s power might not be overwhelmingly cool either, but it’s a power. He can do something you can’t, ergo, he’s a superhero. Same with the Flash. He doesn’t do much, but he does it fast. What the hell good is that? I don’t know. But you can’t run that fast – hell, nobody can – so he’s a superhero and you aren’t. Life isn’t always fair, but there it is. Want to go to superhero meetings at the Superhero Club? You need a superpower. Good thing I have one.
In 1987, a freak accident as a child left me with the strange ability to predict thunderstorms. Scientifically speaking, I have a crack in my skull the length of a dollar bill. Changes in barometric pressure give me headaches. Spidey-sense? Perhaps. “Fascinating,” you may say, “but what good is this superpower?”.What good, indeed. See: the Flash, and sit back down, pipsqueak. I can do something you can’t. I’m a superhero.
My origin tale goes something like this: Boy seeks the solace of the local neighborhood swimming pool on a hot summer day. Boy likes the water slide. Boy foolishly slides down it head first. Boy cracks skull. Boy becomes superhero. Done. No radioactive spiders, no kryptonite. Just a water slide and a stupid child. Did the water slide make him, or did he make the water slide? That’s the question. Laugh if you want, but I have a third eye and it sees the weather.
Practically speaking, the applications for my superpower are few. Since I’m not the Flash, the weather tends to move faster than I’m able. So even when I’m aware a storm is approaching, there’s not much I can do about it beyond pointing up at the sky and saying “There’s a storm approaching.”
What’s worse, typically by the time I can feel the change in pressure, the approaching storm isn’t exactly a secret. Even if you don’t keep a weather website bookmarked, once I start to get a headache from a passing weather pattern, chances are the darkening sky and blustery wind have already tipped you off.
Like Aquaman, I’m just about the most useless superhero imaginable. Actually, I suppose he has me beat. The earth is two-thirds water. If you’re on a cruise ship and drop your car keys in the ocean, Aquaman can fetch them for you. I’ll be up on deck watching for storms.
So what, you might ask, does a superhero with a near-useless superpower intend to do to make the world a better place? Good question. Allow me to answer – I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know just which nefarious offenders I’ll be targeting on my Quest for Justice. I’ve got my area of expertise all picked out. I won’t fight just any crime. Oh no. I’m after the worst of all offenders: the dog poo leavers.
You know who you are, irreverent evildoers. People walk on those lawns, you know. Children play on them. Lovers occasionally lie on them. I cannot allow indiscriminate disobedience of the local statutes regarding proper disposal of pet waste go unpunished.
But what price vigilante justice? For one thing, there’s danger in setting oneself apart from the crowd. If you keep your head down and don’t stand out, you’ll be invisible. You’ll probably get through this life without a scratch. Stand up and start accosting people in the park, though, and things might get ugly. I have to sleep, eat. I need a safe haven. This is why superheroes wear masks.
My mask will be a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and one of those corduroy blazers with the leather patches on the elbows, and I will call myself Righteous Indignation Man or The Masked Corrector. No, Captain Peevish. Yes. That’s the one. If common decency alone doesn’t compel evildoers to mend their ways, the hand of justice must. And if that hand is busy playing pocket pool, that’s where I come in. Captain Peevish to the rescue. I do what I must. Because I can.
The real question, however, is how do I use my powers to fight crime? Aquaman spends most of his time hanging out in the Hall of Justice waiting for some hare-brained evildoer to take to the high seas. Pro-tip for evildoers: Don’t try to escape by boat. On dry land, you might stand a chance against Superman or Batman or even the Flash, but if you go out on the water, you’re boned. Aquaman and his mighty dolphin will take you out. Just don’t try it.
I suppose I could use my power to frighten and intimidate my enemies. Accost them for not picking up their dogs’ poo, then warn them I can call down the power of the skies to lash them into obedience. This would only work if a storm were imminent, so, let’s say less than 10 percent of the time. And I’m not sure it’d be considered using my powers for good. Alas, it seems my ability to fight crime may be severely limited.
The absolute biggest obstacle to my becoming a superhero, though – aside from my near worthlessness on the superpower scale – is my lack of dedication to the cause. The 2006 film Superman Returns shows the titular character moonlighting as mild-mannered Clark Kent by day and napping in the upper atmosphere by night, waiting for trouble to occur so he can swoop into action and save the day/night/whatever.
What you don’t see is Supes hanging out on the patio drinking a mint julep, or playing the videogame version of his story. You don’t see him reading books or watching TV. And to date the ladies, he has to strip himself of his powers, lest he tear the poor girls to shreds. So we don’t see that too often. Perhaps he does these things and we just don’t hear about it. Perhaps it’s like Star Trek, where the interminable waiting between starting the warp engine in one part of space and arriving in the next is omitted to preserve the pacing of the narrative.
Even so, to be a crime fighter, you have to be on 24/7. Crime never sleeps, so neither can you. I shake my head at the dog poo left on the lawn and wish – oh, how I wish – I could have been there to accost the malefactor who failed to pick it up. Captain Peevish to the rescue! But I’m not about to lose any sleep to make sure I’m there every time to put a stop to it. Sorry, I have a life.
Superman ultimately gave up his designs on Lois Lane, opting to be the world’s savior rather than one woman’s man. How do you juggle career and family when your job is to save mankind from itself? You can’t. Porn and hand lotion for you, Supes. But hey, you’re freakin’ Superman. You’ll deal.
Me? I’m sorry, I just can’t. The world might be a better place were I to cast off my worldly pursuits and dedicate myself to a life of tracking down and punishing misdemeanor offenders, but I’d miss the little things, like watching TV on a Sunday evening or cuddling with my dog on the couch.
To take up the debate raised in the latest Superman film, is the question really whether or not the world needs Superman? Could it possibly be whether or not anyone wants the job? It’s easier to be aggrieved by the lapses of others when doing something about it isn’t in your job description. Put on that cape, though, and you’re responsible. Who wants that?
Russ Pitts lives in the eternal twilight between wanting to change the world and wishing it would just leave him alone. Join his adventures at www.falsegravity.com.