Peter Parker wouldn’t stand a chance on Who Wants to Be a Superhero?.
The show, which airs on the SciFi Channel, is a “reality” program where a bunch of borderline personality types create their own superhero with a backstory and powers, dress up in that character’s costume and live in a secret lair while Stan Lee hands out vaguely superheroic missions and kicks people off the show at least twice an episode. This is a program that’s really pushing the boundaries of what a “reality” show is, especially because everything on the show seems faker than the puppets on Farscape. I don’t know that I’ve seen a single realistic or truthful reaction from this overscripted bunch of phonies. Don’t get me wrong – the show is wildly entertaining, and part of that comes from the immense and obvious fraud being perpetrated upon the viewing audience.
But let’s go back to poor Peter Parker. He’s Stan Lee’s signature creation – when the guy dies I certainly hope it’s Pete who heads up the obituary and not Stripperella. What makes Spider-Man so great are his foibles, his all-too human shortcomings. We take that for granted these days, but when the character first debuted he was up against a sea of clean-cut, goody two-shoes DC Silver Age characters; the kinds of characters who wouldn’t be able to so much as litter outside the confines of an imaginary story.
Spider-Man was just the vanguard of the flawed characters Stan would create (although he wasn’t the first – the Fantastic Four were lovably dysfunctional before Spidey swung on the scene), and over the course of the 60s Stan Lee and his stable of improperly credited and massively disrespected artists would churn out a number of real world superheroes, including Dr. Strange, whose very origin was tied into being a complete douchebag, the Hulk, who would often go apeshit and smash everything around him while harboring blatantly sociopathic tendencies and Daredevil, who was so blind that he made a yellow and purple costume for himself. Also, he was a complete asshole.
What happened to that guy? He certainly can’t be found on Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, that’s for sure. Each week the contestants tremble before the easily triggered wrath of Stan Lee, who can be set off by something as simple as flirting with men or taking off a cape. The first guy Stan threw off the show was someone who was considering making toys of himself, surely the kind of thing any number of Marvel superheroes have done. Hell, the Fantastic Four licensed themselves out for a Marvel comic book, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby!
Every week Stan Lee gets all uppity about his superheroes acting like the kind of superheroes he would have created back in 1965. Hell, at one point he gives Major Victory a hard time for being an ex-stripper – while sitting in front of a Stripperella painting! Oh Stan, have you no self-awareness? In
another episode he gave the environmentally oriented Creature shit for throwing things out of a hotel window long before she became a
I wish I had tried out for this show, because I’m a big enough nerd to be able to name issue numbers where Stan’s own creations behaved much worse than anyone on the program. I understand that the show needs to have some system to judge these people, but it’s so annoying to see Stan upholding a very square and old-fashioned version of superheroics that he himself helped do away with.
[The following section contains spoilers for the latest episode of the show]
What’s really driving me nuts, though, is who is getting kicked off the show. The grand prize for Who Wants To Be A Superhero? is getting your character in a Dark Horse comic and having a SciFi Channel movie made about you. The whole show is so patently phony that I assumed the producers had already picked the winner based on who would make the best SciFi Channel movie, and the obvious answer to that was Lemuria, who weirdly transposes the e and u in her name (it’s pronounced Lumeria, and she has light based powers. Lemuria is a mythical, Atlantis-like sunken continent). Lemuria’s HOT, and while hot chicks don’t sell comics, they probably do better on basic cable movies. But somehow she got kicked off the show after failing a grotesquely staged challenge involving an actor playing a convict, and playing it poorly (seriously – if these people aren’t aware that all of this is phony they’re quite possibly unfit to live unsupervised. They could start a fire while trying to cook or something), leaving us with Major Victory, a doofus in a Mork & Mindy outfit, Feedback, a guy who cries like a bitch, and Fat Mama, who would be laughed out of the Great Lakes Avengers, even if they didn’t already have their own ridiculous fat lady on the team.
I can’t imagine sitting through a TV movie featuring one of these dweebs. I could easily imagine sitting through a Lemuria movie, especially one where she often runs in slow motion and where the misspelling of her name is addressed. Hell, I would buy that on DVD.
The show is a big hit, so we’ll be seeing it again next year. Here’s my advice to Stan and the people behind Who Wants To Be A Superhero? – let the patented Stan Lee Marvel version of superheroes come to the fore. Imagine how much fun this show would be if it was Real World with superheroes? What if Creature totally banged out Ty’Veculus like she wanted to? What if the gay guy hadn’t been kicked off first and he got it on with Major Victory (fact – all male strippers go both ways)? What if Stan lightened the fuck up and let the show be as fun as it is phony?