Saturday, January 06, 2007

Superheroes, lame heroes and maniacs

Somehow, on Saturday mornings, I am drawn towards the kids TV programming, on WB, ABC or even the usually hopeless Fox. And most of this comes from a childhood obsession with comics, superheroes and cartoons. Today, I reflexively switched on the telly, to find “The Legion of Superheroes” on WB, and this triggered off a series of memories.

Now, the Legion had its heydays in the 60’s and 70’s, and DC comics went overboard in coming up with the most inane superheroes the mind can fathom. But my introduction to them came through another set of comics, Spectrum comics, that a few (and only a few) of us in India will still remember. In the early/mid eighties (by revealing the fact that I read these comics in the early/mid eighties I’m also revealing that I’m ancient by some blogger standards) our world in India was taken by storm. No, not by Maruti cars, but by Indrajaal and Spectrum comics. Indrajaal (and much later Diamond) published Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and (most importantly) Bahadur comics (and if you crave for them, you can find them here). But Spectrum comics published some of the old DC classics, Spiderman, many forgettable heroes, and the legion of superheroes. Thanks to a granduncle who was connected with the publishers, I got the whole lot of Indrajaal and Spectrum comics (for free!). And so, I was introduced to the zany world of the Legion.

The legion was a gathering of the ultimate group of superheroes, led by Superboy himself (yup, all the heroes were teenagers, and not the men/women they would grow to become). The legion provided an opportunity for DC to come up with the most stupid powers possible. And by stupid, I mean extraordinarily stupid. Two of my favorites were Bouncing Boy, and Mater-eating lad (I still own the Spectrum comics where these two made their grand appearance). Bouncing Boy had the fantastic power of inflating in to a rubber ball.

Yes. I kid you not. And in the issue where he makes his appearance (which I still proudly own), he’s just a regular kid, Charles Taine (I would later learn that the name was a tribute to Citizen Kane), who drinks a potion thinking it’s pop, and becomes a bouncing rubber ball shooting across the road.

What use can that power be, you ask? As a curious kid, I did too, and then read on. In his debut comic, he had to face a super villain, who conducted electricity, and could shock-freeze anyone he touched. So, the other superlegionnaires would try to grab this fiend, only to be shocked to stillness. But Bouncing Boy, being just a bouncing rubber ball, was immune to electric current, and so knocks down the arch-fiend, and saves the day!

Now, if that isn’t way, waaaaay more stupid than being bitten by a radioactive spider, I don’t know what is. When it comes to bragging rights about superpowers, guess where Bouncing Boy fits? (“You can fart lasers? You suck. I can bounce!”).

Coming back to today’s episode on TV, clearly Bouncing Boy’s inability to do anything useful was on constant display. He does nothing (apart from getting caught by some flying robot spiders), even as the others take on robots and crazed man-animals.

And that brings me to my final crib. Why, oh why, do the creators of comic book superheroes hate science and scientists so much? Almost all super villains have no superpowers, but are just smart, and invent fantastic gadgets (and then decide to rule the world). Or else, the superheroes are a result of a crazy science experiment gone wrong. And the superheroes go in, and smash and destroy every little invention the scientist has come up with. I mean, they could just capture the guy. Why trash the computers? Doesn’t brain win over brawn and tights ever? At least they've stopped coming up with bouncing boy and matter-eating lad. We should all be thankful for small mercies.

Now I can wait impatiently for next saturday, and the next installment of Batman or the legion of superheroes on WB.


gawker said...

I think I would like rubber inflatable boy to go up against matter-eating guy. That way it's brawn against brawn. Matter-eating boy would want to eat the rubber boy but due to his bouncing he wouldn't know where to put his mouth. I think that would be very exciting.

Happy new year by the way.

Sunil said...

bouncing boy would kick matter-eating lad's ass. Knock him down like a bowling pin. That's my verdict. A happy new year to you too.

Anonymous said...

I saw this show a couple times--not impressed. I do wake up just in time to catch The Batman, though.

Watch Justice League instead. ;)

Sunil said...

vi...this show is pretty awful. But the justice League is almost as bad. Still...I watch them all :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Great blog, glad to have discovered you! When it came to comics, I was more of an Archie/Betty fan, but I remember loving "Phantom"! :) Not sure how popular he is/was this side of the world.

Sunil said...

lotus reads.....Phantom was very, very popular in the 1930s-40s in America. Lee Falk (who wrote phantom and mandrake) made plenty of money. But interest in the phantom died by the 50s, particularly with the rise of DC and other comics.

Keep visiting!

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