If you’ve been popping into this blog for a while then you might have hit upon the fact that I read comics probably as much as I read books. I don’t have a particular favourite comic book character, but I do have an un-favourite:
Now, it’s nothing personal; if he was real then I’m sure that he’d be a thoroughly decent chap, but as a superhero he just doesn’t do it for me. Why? Well, here are some of his most ridiculous exploits over the past several decades:
Oh come on!
Right, that’s it. I’m out.
So if someone hands me a Superman comic, I hand it straight back. I know how it begins: Superman begins the day with Losi Lane and perfect hair. And I know how it ends: Superman wins against a woefully underpowered opponent (I mean why in God’s name did this idiot go up against him; doesn’t he read the Daily Planet?), and finishes the day with Lois Lane and perfect hair.
Where’s the excitement in being flawless? If you think about it, it’s a credit to generations of writers that they’ve managed to keep Superman as popular as he is. Along the way, they’ve depowered him, added powers back, taken them away again… but for me, the underlying problem remains; the man is too powerful to be exciting.
And there’s the challenge. I like the occasional writing exercise (some of mine have lasted two years) and so I think now’s a good time to return to Science-Fiction and write something with a tinge of the omnipotent about it: a book in which the central character can do absolutely anything. I’ve already started the research, and discovered that Marvel has a few omnipotents of its own.
First up, we have The Gladiator:
Strong enough to smash planets, can withstand the force of a supernova, can fly faster than the speed of light, has X-ray vision, can hear a pin drop from a galaxy away… all the usual stuff, along with one very odd flaw; his power level is determined by his self-confidence. That’s weird, but very human (considering he’s an alien). He can wake up, look in the mirror, hate himself, and the universe is safe for another day.
Marvel’s other big heavyweight is Hyperion:
Once prevented two planets from colliding, with his bare hands, y’know. Hyperion can fly (obviously) and his vision is so good he can see atoms. He can melt steel by looking at it, and he has the most ridiculous costume in all of comicdom. He’s clearly a tongue-in-cheek take on Superman, and in one form or another, Marvel Comics have been poking fun at the Man Of Steel for years. Hyperion (or Marc Milton, because God forbid a superhero has different letters at the beginnings of his birthnames) is just the latest in a long line of mickey-takes.
He’s also their most successful. Despite his power, his lack of empathy and poor understanding of human frailities makes him a pretty shoddy hero, usually causing more damage than the villain he’s fighting, and occasionally killing people, though he doesn’t mean to… What can you do with atomic vision and a childish temperment. He has a nice catchphrase though:
Truth without compromise
Thought without error
All things for the betterment of the whole.
Great words to live by; pity he doesn’t.
Marvel doesn’t ever give those with God-like powers their own long-running series; that would see the same criticisms that Superman pulls in after every galaxy-sized victory. They only crop up occasionally, and oddly enough, given their level of power, spend much of their time in the background.
So here’s my challenge: Write about a book about a frail God. I reckon my character study starts with Hyperion. At least he knows that a pair of spectacles isn’t really a disguise.