Superhuman Is Still Human: Six Major Superhero Screw Ups1
By Thomas Chandler
Thank Watchmen. It all started with them. Give a shout out to Christopher Nolan. He took the idea to the next level. Go rent Kick Ass then scratch your head as to why no one saw it. These comic-to-movie adaptations all share a characteristic that has come to define the modern superhero: flawed.
Think about the word “superhuman.” Equal parts super… and human. The days of a do-no-wrong hero like the beloved World War II-era Superman are long gone. That guy would barrel through entire Nazi armies only to emerge worried if he’d be late to pick up Lois. In these complicated and confusing times, being good isn’t what it used to be. To relate to our heroes, we need to know that they have a few skeletons in their closets.
Every once in a while, real, flawed people rise above their circumstances to become true life heroes. That’s one way we see ourselves in the fictional superheroes we admire. The other way – the overwhelmingly prevalent way – is watching them do really stupid things before smiling to ourselves and saying, “Been there before.” Mistakes are made. It’s human nature. There’s that word again…
George Reeves – The Original Superman
In the case of Jessica James, the central character in KoldCast TV’s new comedy series Super Knocked Up, mistakes were made, super-villains were impregnated, and babies were born. Jessica is a working girl – robbing banks, subverting authority, and wreaking havoc on innocents. All in a day’s work for a super-villain, but a girl needs to have fun too, right? And she did, in the form of a drunken hookup with her arch-nemesis, a womanizing superhero. That means condom-busting super-sperm. Forced together, they must now raise their baby without killing each other first.
Click to play Episode 1 of Super Knocked Up, “One Night Stand”
Jessica’s not the first superhero to act first and think later. We found classic comic book characters notable for acting more human than super at times, in some cases costing them their status as a hero. Can you think of any more?
Ozymandias was one of the smartest men in the world, if not the smartest. Unfortunately, book smarts can oftentimes overshadow human empathy, which is exactly what happened to the blonde-haired sometimes-antagonist of Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel, Watchmen. Ozymandias recognized a problem: the United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of mutual nuclear annihilation. So he did what he thought he had to do – kill millions of people to unite both nations against a common, inter-dimensional enemy. But it was all for nothing, it seems, as the last panel of the book hints heavily that his perfect plan may not have been so perfect after all…
In what many comic fans deem “the end of the Silver Age”, Spiderman accidentally killed his girlfriend Gwen Stacy with his own superpowers. Bronze Age material indeed. Dark, less glossy. Now, we don’t want to get too deep into the physics of it all, but apparently one’s neck isn’t built to withstand the whiplash effect of being roped around the ankles during freefall. Who knew? Pretty horrific stuff. Of course, Spidey wouldn’t have had to resort to such drastic measures if Ms. Stacy hadn’t been tossed off a bridge by the Green Goblin in the first place, but being the good natured guy that he is, Spiderman always blames himself first and foremost for her tragic death.
You wouldn’t really know it from the recent family-friendly films, but Tony Stark has a pretty serious drinking problem. It’s a tough life, being a superrich genius inventor who flies around all day, kicking ass and coming up with witty quips – only a matter of time until the booze comes-a-callin’. The “Demon in the Bottle” storyline took Tony to the depths of his addiction, lowering him to the bottom rung of his humanity. He could barely crawl into his suit to do battle with the evils of the day. Luckily for us, Stark eventually overcame his drinking woes… for the most part. We’d like to think he was still drunk when he came out in support of the Superhero Registration Act.
The Illuminati consist of a handful of genius minds, so it’s surprising the best plan they could come up with, at the start of Planet Hulk, to get rid of the green menace, was tricking him into boarding a spaceship and just blasting it out of sight. To start with, they shouldn’t have sent the Hulk off earth in the first place. What a gross misuse of Illuminati funds, meddling where no meddling was necessary, and, ultimately, an act that eventually led to World War Hulk! It was about as destructive as it sounds. Let’s hope they learned a valuable lesson that day. Don’t send anyone off in a space ship that isn’t tested a thousand times over, in the event that it’s erected as a monument by a distant alien society only to detonate, killing the Hulk’s wife and his unborn child. Think, geniuses, think!
Wolverine & Raphael
What does the adamantium-clawed X-Man have to do with the katana-wielding Ninja Turtle? Not much, really, except for their devil-may-care attitudes. These guys, they’re the loner rebel types on their respective teams. These are the ones who don’t take orders from nobody, even superiors Professor Xavier and Master Splinter. They do their own thing, which – if you think about it – goes against the main tenets of being a traditional superhero. Superheroes are meant to be emulated and you can’t be a role model if you don’t, at the very least, compromise with your teammates. Believe you me, both of them have made their compadres’ lives a million times harder. Usually, it’s by charging into battle without considering their comrades may be killed as a result. They might be a little too human, or turtle, or… whatever.
John Constantine: badass. Described as a foul-mouthed cynic who pursues a life of sorcery and danger, John is constantly walking a tightrope between heaven and hell. In his world, there are no superheroes to screw things up. As a detective who has a mysterious connection to the occult, he’s the closest thing to it. He does what’s necessary to get the job done, which from time to time includes making deals with the devil himself. That’s right, Lucifer; El Diablo; Harvey Keitel. Major Ouija party foul. The devil is both nemesis and ally to John Constantine; a resource that must be paid off or prodded, depending on what the situation calls for. If John wasn’t guilt-tripped by heaven every now and again to do the right thing, he might have been a permanent screw-up.
Click to play Episode 2 of Super Knocked Up, “Mom”
Thomas Chandler was born and raised in a small town outside Seattle. He’s currently writing a screenplay about two robots striving to reform the American educational system.