Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Superman Song - Crash Test Dummies (mp3)
Trans-Neptunian Object #1 - Kay Hanley (mp3)

"Why are you messing with the fantasy? We know about the reality. Don't mess with the fantasy, okay?" -- Gary (Anthony Michael Hall), from Weird Science

When Huey Lewis sang the gawd-awful song "Hip to Be Square," he couldn't possibly have envisioned a time when a comic book convention had transformed into one of the most compelling annual events in the entertainment calendar. San Diego's Comic Con 2008, the Kentucky Derby of comic book conventions, is arguably a hotter ticket to most fans of pop culture than Sundance or even the Oscars.

Entertainment Weekly now has a special section on its web site focused solely on the adventures and revelations surrounding the convention, a reminder of just how much of our current slate of movies, television shows and video games surround the fantastical, the supernatural and the scientifically fictitious. As a retired comic book fanatic, I keep thinking Hollywood will finally tire of the superhero genre and move on to other under-resourced concepts, like musical westerns or chick-flick anime, but each summer seems to bring a new crop of really kick-ass films based on comic books and graphic novels. (I just used this picture 'cuz I think Selma Blair is scrumdiliumptious even if she is maybe a little crazy.)

This year's crop of comic book movies seems to suggest the tide is only rising. Don't even get me started on next year's comic valhalla: Watchmen. Suffice it to say I had five different people email me on the day the trailer broke, which is four more than I've ever had contact me on the day of a movie trailer's release. Hell, one dude on Rotten Tomatoes broke down the damn trailer in a 10-page, nigh-frame-by-frame essay.

All of this has me drifting into an age-old question and spending hours of time (mostly whilst on the crapper, since that's the only place parents can get privacy): What super power do I most covet?

At one time, I most wanted to be invisible. But what sounds cool in theory turns out to be an ability useful mostly for only nefarious or unethical purposes. In fact, I just can't think of many uses for invisibility that aren't out and out naughty or evil.

About the same time I was fascinated by invisibility, my buddies and I were mocking a particularly useless superhero named Cypher. He was a mutant (like the X-Men, born with powers that "sprout" during adolescence) who understood all languages, a walking Tower of Babel, if you will, who could even understand computer languages.

Twenty-five or so years later, Cypher's power seems pretty damn cool. In a world where information is power, and you had the power to comprehend any other human being, or understand any form of computer code, you're suddenly capable of communicating with almost anyone or anything, human or machine. It's almost the opposite of being invisible. Suddenly you're a potential conduit to anyone at any time.

Can't say it's The Best Superpower. Too many others qualify, so long as we can all agree that most great superpowers require some serious suspension of disbelief. I'm still mighty fond of telekinesis.

Any geeks or closet geeks (or, for the overly defensive, totally non-geeks) want to weigh in on this? What's the best or coolest superpower? The most enviable? The lamest?

"Superman Song" is from the Crash Test Dummies' first album, The Ghosts That Haunt Me and can't be found on Amazon.com or iTunes. "Trans-Neptunian Object #1" is from Kay Hanley's first and only true full-length solo album, Cherry Marmalade, available only on iTunes.

BONUS FEATURE! All true superhero lovers will enjoy this brilliant piece of work: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, created by Buffy & Firefly mastermind Joss Whedon:


Bob said...

Billy, I've always thought your ability to drink 6 Hand Grenades was pretty amazing.

jennifer said...

I think I'd like to communicate with animals and get them to come clean up my house a la Enchanted/Cinderella. If that counts as a superpower.