Thursday, August 17, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Superhero? #3: Stan Never Promised A Rose Garden

Previously on Who Wants To Be A Superhero?: The remaining heroes had their courage tested by two trained attack dogs. Cell Phone Girl lasted a mere four seconds, and that was enough for Stan Lee to suspend her service. The heroes got shiny new costumes which they all liked...except for Tyveculus, who drew the short straw with an outfit that would guarantee a beatdown anywhere he’d go. In the end, Stan had enough of Iron Enforcer, what with the failed challenges, the bad attitude, and the accusations of body odor and steroid abuse. However, Stan decided to recruit Enforcer as the show’s resident supervillian: Dark Enforcer. Seven heroes remain...who gets eliminated tonight?

Good news: the opening spiel got cut down to one minute and three seconds, reducing the time before the new episode to 3:42. So cheers to Bruce Nash for taking out the extraneous stuff.

Lair. We hear the familiar noises of Monkey Woman as she – what else? – monkeys around, dusting a shelf while hanging from a nearby wall. She interviews that she has to excel at today’s challenge in order to win the game. Feedback practices his high-kicks in the living room. He reminds us about getting redcubed last week, and now he’s going to be even more serious and fouced on becoming the ultimate superhero. He kicks again...and somehow turns on the ceiling fan. I’m thinking that Stan will install a Danger Room for the next season. In the bathroom, Lemuria is scrubbing around the toilet rim using her foot. She thinks she’s in the lead, and she needs not to do anything to make Stan think badly of her. Like what? Cleaning the john using those expensive boots?

Stan summons the heroes into the living room. “Greetings, True Believers!” Drink! He goes into a spiel about how every superhero has a supervillain, and that the bad guy is almost as important as the hero himself. “In fact,” he adds, “sometimes it seems that the supervillain defines the superhero.” He draws the usual examples: Batman & Joker, Spider-Man & Green Goblin. “However,” he gravely intones, “there is one additional supervillian who might just be the greatest menace of all, because he is someone who’s threatening all of you, it’s right here and right now.” Whuh oh. Dramatic music plays as the heroes look at each other.

Suddenly, the lights flicker and go out. The heroes look around, all of them on red alert. A white light bursts from the stairs. Heroes go into defensive positions, especially Monkey Woman with her staff. A cloaked figure walks up the stairs. Feedback looks like his head’s about to explode.

The figure walks in front of the heroes. “Mr. Supervillain,” Stan asks, “what do you think makes a good arch-nemesis?” The villain speaks in an altered tone: “Maybe it’s a guy who’s been shunned by other people. Maybe it’s everyone’s favorite punching bag.” Holy crap...I could be a supervillain! Creature smiles, Lemuria gasps, and Tyveculus shakes his head. “Maybe it’s a guy who everyone claims uses steroids.” Ty: “No, it can’t be.” I guess nobody said, “So you’re not Levity?” “Maybe it’s me,” the villain declares, taking his hood and mask off, “THE DARK ENFORCER!” Dun dun duuuuuun! I’ll give this to Steel Chambers...the buggy eyes really sell the evilness. On the down side, the editors break off Ty shouting, “What is this treachery?!?” so all you hear is, “What is this-?!?” Bad form, guys.

Anyway, the heroines smile while the guys try their best to look determined. “None of you deserve to be on this show!” Dark Enforcer declares, “And I’m takin’ every one of you out!” Tyveculus pounds his chest plate, itching for a fight. Enforcer calls Ty a “joke,” then declares he doesn’t like any of the heroes. Major Victory: “Man, that was hellafunny, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Enforcer: “SHUT UP!” Great...the one other guy who doesn’t like the Major, and it’s this 'roided rival. Fat Momma snaps about Enforcer’s body odor, only to have Lemuria telling her to shut up. Enforcer reminds them that he was on their side once, but they insulted him. “The game starts tonight,” he seethes, as Major Victory gives his own gritty look. “I suggest you all watch your backs.” Tyveculus looks exasperated, interviewing about feeling betrayed because being a bad guy wasn’t what Enforcer signed up for. Ty...I love ya, but if the Enforcer was a bigger plant, he’d be Swamp Thing. Fat Momma tells us that she has to keep her eyes and ears open.

After Dark Enforcer departs, Stan tells the team that they’re probably shocked, but he reminds them that there would be twists, and Dark Enforcer is proof of that. “From this point on,” Stan says, “you’d better be on your game, because now more than ever, nothing will be exactly as it seems.”

Meeting. Creature tells us that the others became angry about the Enforcer turning evil because they don’t know what will happen next. Tyveculus gripes that he’d rather go back to his job than play a “bad person” for the show. Fat Momma figures that’s just Enforcer, and she states that it’s important to tell the truth, and nobody says to walk around and be nice. Lemuria: “Nice doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to lose at the end of the game. I still want to be friends with these people.” Momma: “If you’re silly enough to let it get to you and not be a goo sport at the end...” Now the two heroines are fighting, and I’m feeling that I’m missing some of the story. Lemuria dismisses Momma, saying that this is what “they” want. Momma goes on about winning the game. Lemuria: “Kiss my natural brown ass!” Damn! More bickering. Feedback deduces that Dark Enforcer has done his job because heroes are turning on each other. He tells the team that they’ll rise whenever they get challenged.

Feedback expositions that Stan sent them out on a challenge. The deal: each hero gets $20. One at a time, they walk into a nearby café and order lunch. Stan will decide if their choices are befitting of a superhero. Separate shots of the heroes walking into the café in full costume. Feedback figures this is a trap because it’s “too easy,” but he didn’t see any cameras in the place, so he hung out and got his food. He thanks a waitress, and she gives a weird smile. For some reason, I think she might have been on a reality show. Then again, I’d probably think that of anybody 18-30 in Los Angeles and in good shape.

Lair. The heroes file in, putting their food down. I wonder how many of them ordered hero sandwiches. Stan welcomes them and is about to start when he’s interrupted. “Excuse me, boss,” Dark Enforcer says, as the music gets dramatic and the heroes make “oh, crap!” faces. Enforcer pops up on a screen next to the one Stan’s on, which must be a perk for turning to the dark side. “You got bigger fish to fry than this stupid food game!” he tells Stan. “You’d be surprised what we can find with a little bribery and a restaurant full of cameras.” He asks Stan the first rule for being a superhero. Stan’s response: never give up the secret identity. Cut to the heroes looking sad. Enforcer: “Ooooh, you’re not gonna like this, boss.” Stan folds his arms like a pissed-off teacher. Enforcer mockingly waves to the heroes, and we fade to art.

After a quick recap, Stan orders the footage to be rolled. Dark Enforcer disappears in favor of black-and-white footage from the café. Tyveculus tells the waitress that he’ll take his order to go. There’s a mild flirtatious vibe about Ty sticking around, since he doesn’t want to scare the customers. She asks for his name, and he introduces himself as Tyveculus, “Ty” for short. I feel vindicated for abbreviating the name. The waitress presses for his real name Finally, Ty asks her to keep it to herself, since people could be watching. He slips his driver’s license from underneath an armband. Very suave. She reads it out loud: “E. Quincy Sloan.” D’oh! Back at the lair, Ty looks on, while Stan shakes his head. Ty interviews about being pissed at himself. “[Dark Enforcer] might have set up the trap,” he adds, “but I’m the one that walked right into it.”

Footage. Feedback orders his food, and the same waitress asks if he’s an actor. He says that he isn’t, then introduces himself. Once again, she asks for a real name. Tense music plays. Feedback: “I can’t disclose my secret identity.” Triumphant music plays, and Stan gives a slight smile. On the other screen, Dark Enforcer gives the “I’ll get you next time!!!” face. Feedback interviews that he’s happy about not letting Stan down, adding that this challenge was easy. “Cameras or no cameras,” he points out, “a superhero never gives up his true identity.”

Footage. Creature giggles to a waiter. He asks if she’s on a reality show, then asks for her name. She gives it up right away: “Tonya Kay.” The waiter asks if they have to wear the costumes all day. She tells him about her new outfit, which he thinks is sexy. “Man, I really failed this test,” she interviews. “How could I have fallen for that?”

Up next is Lemuria. Jimmy (the waiter) asks for her name, and she introduces herself as “Tonatzin." She blinks at the footage, wondering what she was thinking, and knowing she fell for it.

Here comes Major Victory, who has passed every test so far. Waitress: “As a human, I’m CC.” Major: “CC? As a human, I’m Chris.” Down goes the Major! Down goes the Major! CC asks if he’s on a reality show, and he confirms it. “This really was an eye-opener for me,” he glumly interviews. “Sadly, today I was a weiner, not a winner.”

Next to the plate is Fat Momma. Jimmy introduces himself, then asks for her real name. Cue the thick tension. “Just Fat Momma,” she tells him. “I’m trying to rid the world of bullies, one doughnut at a time.” I’m guessing that the heroes get paid every time they spout off their catchphrases. Stan smiles, while Momma tries not to beam too brightly. “I just like to go around,” she tells Jimmy, “and see what I can do to help people out.” She interviews about being proud of her actions.

Finally, we come to Monkey Woman. Jimmy gives her a bunch of bananas. She introduces herself as “Monkey Woman, a.k.a. Mary.” Uh oh. Jimmy asks if this is a reality show. She nods. He admits to wanting to become an actor, but he doesn’t know how to start. Monkey Woman offers up three websites for him to check up. Stan folds his arms. “I have really messed up,” Monkey Woman admits. “I was trying to help that waiter, but all I was doing was giving away valuable information.”

Denouement. Stan cannot believe what he saw. Dark Enforcer: “Oops!” He’s obnoxious, but the group totally deserved that. Stan orders the team into the living’s time for an elimination. Feedback’s face looks tense, and he actually did the right thing. Major Victory: “I have a new name: Major Dumbass.” Dark Enforcer taunts the heroes, wishing them luck.

Living room. Stan goes into review mode, noting that the challenge was about commitment and sincerety. He wanted to find which heroes can commit to their persona, and which ones can be easily persuaded. Needless to say, he was shocked by the results. He goes off about Superhero Commandment Numero Uno: Thou Shalt Not Give Up Thy Secret Identity. “Look at Clark Kent and Peter Parker,” Stern Stan lectures. “How many times have they been tempted to reveal who they really are? Unlike what happened with most of you, it would have taken a lot more than a little flirtation for them to reveal their true identities.” Make your own Civil War joke. Stan compliments Fat Momma and Feedback for not giving up the goods. The rest of them failed, and one of them disappointed Stan the most.

Stan calls on Monkey Woman, ordering her front and center. Turns out she was the only hero to give up her name without being asked. Cut to her introducing herself to Jimmy. Stan expresses how troubled he feels by her giving him websites for actor auditions, which is backed up by a flashback. Stan: “How do you know about such websites?” Ummm...she learned about them by watching him? Monkey Woman: “Because I too am an actress.” Bad move, simian sister. Dramatic drums pound as we zoom in on her. Stan is even more upset now, because everybody had to be here for the right reasons, and she had originally told him that she was a real estate investor and not an actress. She’s from California, buddy...can’t she be both? “But today the truth came out,” Sermonizin’ Stan notes, “and I couldn’t be more disappointed. Being a superhero shouldn’t be a shortcut to an acting job. It’s a way of life.” Monkey Woman stands strong, even though she’s dug herself a grave deep enough to fit Mighty Joe Young.

Stan: “Fat Momma...please get the trash can.” The massive matriarch places the can next to Monkey Woman, who chooses this time to start begging for survival. She’s really sorry for lying to him, and she now knows it was wrong. Stan looks on. Heroes look on. We fade to art, and we come back to even more drama. I think some old-school Batman narration is in order.

Will Stan Lee cut Monkey Woman from the team? Can the Primate Princess save herself from the cold streets of the urban jungle, where she would have to pay for her bananas? Tune in next week...same Stan time, same Stan chan-oh, crap, he’s made a decision...

“Monkey Woman...turn in your costume.” Totally deserved, even if she felt like it was the right thing to do. She places her staff and a bracelet in the trash can, as the heroes mournfully look on. She smiles at Stan’s monitor and does a graceful cartwheel. Her stuff gets blown up in the can. Lemuria looks shaken up.

Monkey Woman packs up, interviewing how it sucks for this to end for her. She adds that she’ll miss the other heroes. “Monkey Woman will definitely live on,” she adds, “and somewhere in a tree near you, you’ll be hearing the telltale...” Then she breaks into her trademark monkey noises, as we see her walk down the stairs. Awwwwww. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her...or at least for the business cards dropped from the tallest trees.

Living room. Stan hopes they all learned a valuable lesson about giving up their identities. “And when a superhero tells you something,” he adds, “you gotta be able to take it to the bank. Honesty is the number one trait of being a superhero. I won’t tolerate anything less.” He orders the team to bed, telling them to think about what they learned. Tyveculus interviews that the test was about commitment and he failed. “It won’t happen again,” he foreshadows. “It can’t happen again.” Creature: “The group just keeps dwindling and getting smaller, and then recent members of the group come back and are your enemies.”

Daytime at the Lair. Stan Headroom is in the kitchen, telling the heroes about the scariest challenge yet. “I’m sorry to say,” he adds, “it won’t get any more difficult than this one.” He orders the team to meet up on the roof. Major Victory doesn’t know what to expect, but he knows that the competition is getting crazier.

Rooftop. The group gathers around a television set. Stan says that one of the main attributes of a superhero is courage. He adds that they’re expected to have nerves of steel, and they will be tested on their nerves in the most dangerous challenge so far. Cut to a woman from a higher adjacent rooftop screaming for help, smoke billowing near her. Major Victory waves to her, yelling that they’ll be there to help. Stan points out the obvious: that woman is in desperate need of help. Since the heroes can’t fly to her, he’s dreamed up another way to get to the damsel. He orders them to look over the roof’s edge. “Careful!” he advises. “It’s a long way down!” The gang peer over the edge to see a construction crew at work. Stan directs their attention to a narrow beam, which will be placed so they can walk to the damsel. They also get a rope to guide them as they bring the lady to safety. “I’m aware that this is a dangerous challenge,” Snarky Stan says. “But one said it’s easy to be a superhero.” Fat Momma smiles, Lemuria looks nervous, and Creature grins. The damsel yells some more, and we fade to her yelling “Help!”

Lair. Tyveculus brings up his experience with the fire service, adding that he got thirteen weeks of training. Lemuria notes that they Ty trained that long for what they’re about to do. Ty notes that the challenge is about testing courage. Creature tell Lemuria it’s a big test, since she’s afraid of heights. Ty: “I’ve seen people get hurt and we’ve had people killed in smaller things than this.” Thanks for the pep talk! Feedback: “Game on.”

Stan: “Superheroes! It’s time!” Cut to Major Victory slowly walking towards Dark Enforcer. The Major lets us in on another twist: the Enforcer gets to blindfold them before they start off. Creature thinks that any human being would be scared.

Rooftop. Damsel yells some more. Dark Enforcer escorts the blind Creature to the beam, directing up up the stairs leading to it. Cut to the damsel yelling some more, as we see a beam on her rooftop. Enforcer gets Creature to feel the rope, and she starts walking on the beam. Walking. Tense music. Damsel yells some more. The wind whips up. Cut to an overhead shot to reveal that Creature is walking over a blue mat, nowhere near the roof's edge. Dark Enforcer hams it up nearby, enjoying the plight of the heroine. In a weird twist, the damsel has a twin waiting for Creature at the end of the beam.

Montage! Each hero slowly walks on the beam. Lemuria makes her stride in impractical high-heeled boots. “This is nuts,” she interviews. “I’m five stories off the ground and I’m terrified.” Cut to a shot showing that she’s five inches from the ground. “And now the wind’s starting to blow like a freakin’ hurricane.” Cut to Dark Enforcer wielding a giant electric fan. Major Victory nears his target, openly hoping the wind doesn’t mess up his hair. Spilt screen of Dark Enforcer hamming it up some more. Fat Momma, Feedback and Lemuria reach the end of the beam. Fat Momma tells the damsel to take one of her doughnuts for energy. Cut to the damsel hanging onto Tyveculus. Major Victory: “Hold your hands on my sexy hips!” Has Superman ever said that before? He wiggles his hips a little, stumbling on the beam. The heroes escort the damsel on their respective runs. Feedback orders her to hang onto his belt. Lemuria and Ty go forward. Ty notes that she didn’t ask for his name. He introduces himself, and gets thanked as they reach the end.

Lemuria is done, as the damsel stands on the blue area. Stan congratulates her, then instructs her to take off her blindfold. She does as told, and the damsel laughs, direction Lemuria to her twin. The heroine screams and laughs. Fat Momma takes off her blindfold, and she doesn’t notice the lack of peril right away. Once it dawns on her, she laughs. Tyveculus does a double take as he sees the twin on the rooftop.

Creature gets to the end, and Dark Enforcer turns her around. She takes off her blindfold and laughs. “I felt like there was a direction change!” she says. Major Victory takes his blindfold off. “You are hot,” he tells the damsel. She laughs, and he looks down to realize he got fooled. Feedback takes his blindfold off, not giving any real reaction to how “dangerous” this test was. Stan appears on the billboard, telling him that he passed the test. Feedback actually wanted to go from ledge to leade. He boasts about going all the way, and that nothing will stop him from winning. He keeps shooting his mouth off until Dark Enforcer taps his chest and threatens to take him down. “You’re gonna get me?” Feedback snipes. “Try with all of your might.” Enforcer points a finger at Feedback, their rivalry in full effect.

Living room. Stan tells the team that this was quite a challenge for team. He apologizes for the trickery, reminding them that this was a test of courage, not the ability to fly. All of the heroes completed the task, but somebody has to go. Turns out Stan has something in store for them. “I’ll give you all the rare opportunity,” he goes on, “to appreciate how difficult my job is.” The challenge: each hero will stand up and declare – in their best superhero manner – who deserves to be eliminated. Major Victory: “Woooow.” Stan adds that they must consider each other’s character, actions and personality, and they have to justify why their choice is no superhero. The Major interviews that this will be the hardest thing. “I don’t think this is hard at all,” Tyveculus announces aloud, “especially when you have a trained eye.” He turns his head to the side. “You know exactly who has the qualities of a superhero.”

Suddenly, Creature rushes to the front, wanting to go first. She talks about looking at a room of superheroes, not knowing what she’s doing here. She turns to Stan’s screen. “I think I should be taken off the show,” she says. Tense music. Stan turns to the side. Fade to art.

Coming back from commercials, Creature goes on about wondering why she’s not folding under the pressure, and she isn’t sure that she should be the superhero. She turns to Stan’s monitor, telling him that she doesn’t want to get her wrong about quitting, because she still wants to play.

After Creature sits down, Stan asks Major Victory who he thinks should be eliminated. He tells Stan that he won’t make things easier for him. He tells Feedback that he has the biggest heart. To Fat Momma: “You’re just a love.” Awwwww. The Major admits to Lemuria that he also has a fear of heights. To Tyveculus: “You’re what I strive to be, man.” He calls Creature “the most free spirit.” Turning to Stan, Major Victory picks himself for elimination.

Stan asks for a volunteer. Tyveculus gets up. He thinks Lemuria’s determination is outstanding, but she lacks self-control. In his eyes, she is missing the ability to know when to give up. Before the challenge, she had talked about getting through it even if it meant her life. Lemuria smiles, not believing what she’s hearing. Ty asks her if she would risk her life. Lemuria tries to reply, saying that wasn’t going to do that. Ty notes that he went up before her in order to let her justify her actions. He thinks that she has to understand her limitations, and he didn’t think that she did, making her a liablity to herself and the others. Ty tells “Mr. Lee” that he chooses Lemuria for elimination. She sighs, clearly not happy with Ty’s opinion.

Feedback comes up next. He feels that he’s inhibiting the others’ ability to enjoy the experience because he takes things too seriously. Feedback thinks he should be eliminated. Stan folds his hands as Feedback sits down.

Here comes Lemuria. She feels that everybody has different qualities...some she agrees with and some she doesn’t (close-up on Tyveculus). She thinks that the heroes are good and she loves them all. She tells Stan that if he can’t make a choice, she’ll volunteer herself.

Stan calls up Fat Momma. She doesn’t want to do his job, she doesn’t wish to go over the reasons why they should go, and she wants to stay in the game. Stan points out that it’s important to find out who she would elect. Momma figures that if she had to pick somebody, she’d choose Feedback, because he gets too upset with himself. “At any moment,” she notes, “he could snap.” Thank you! I’ve been thinking that from the first week! Fat Momma would pick Feedback for his safety.

Stan wraps things up, saying that he knows what he needs to do. He orders the team to the’s time for an elimination.

Rooftop. Lit cubes. The heroes arrive and step up on the cubes. Stan pops up on the billboard, wasting no time in ordering Tyveculus and Fat Momma on the red cubes. Stan then orders the final red cube to be turned off, because nobody else will be stepping forward. Stan looks very serious, as we fade to art.

Coming back, Stan states that the purpose of the show is to find a person with all the essential qualities of a superhero, and each one has demonstrated these one of those qualities is self-sacrifice. Stan admits he can’t measure the sincerity of the four heroes who volunteered to walk off, but they did the right thing, because it was a heroic thing to say. As for Tyveculus and Fat Momma? They pointed a “derogatory finger” at their fellow heroes. “Superheroes would never sacrifice a fellow hero,” he adds. “They’d choose to take the bullet themselves.”

Stan turns to Tyveculus, openly wondering if he picked Lemuria for the right reasons. Stan asks Ty of he doesn’t think she’s a good superhero, or if he just doesn’t like her. One thing is for sure: Ty failed the self-sacrifice test. Stan comes to Fat Momma next...she failed while picking Feedback, but Stan thinks her choice was made out of compassion. “I think, in your way,” Stan continues, “you were trying to save him, and at the end of the day, saving people is the business we’re in.”

You can probably guess what happens next. “Tyveculus...turn in your costume.” Great...the one guy I was rooting for, and he’s done. Ty nods and steps off his cube towards the trash can. Lemuria quietly says “sorry” as he inserts his articles into the can. Major Victory gets off his cube and hugs Ty, not wanting for him to go without saying goodbye. Feedback and Fat Momma join in on the group hug, with Momma getting on the verge of tears. She tells Ty that he’s a superhero for helping her. The trio say farewell, while Creature and Lemuria stay on their cubes. Ty places his helmet on the bottom of the can. Cue the lightning and smoke, followed by Ty walking away.

Tyveculus packs up, thinking Stan might have been right. He admits to possibly not having a right reason for pointing his finger at Lemuria, and maybe he let personal feeling get in the way. “What was I thinking?” he interviews. “Stan told us on the first night that we’d be tested on self-sacrifice. I should have remembered that, and now I’m paying the price...the ultimate price of being eliminated.”

Roof. Fat Momma is back on her cube, voice cracking as she expresses how sorry she is for Tyveculus getting eliminated. She adds that she’d prefer to go in his place. “I feel like my spirit is broken,” she sniffles out. Stan isn’t in the mood for a reprieve, as he tells the heroes that this would never be easy. He orders them to get some rest. “We’ve come another step closer,” he concludes, “to immortalizing one of you.” The heroes get off their cubes.

Lair. Fat Momma feels like the others were fake in sacrificing themselves, adding that Lemuria pretends to be so emotional. Lemuria snaps that Momma crossed the line. Both argue some more. Lemuria interviews that she’s do whatever it takes to win. “Stan’s gonna have to do a lot more than that to outsmart me,” she adds. Major Victory says that they lost a great man in Tyveculus, and it isn’t easy for him. Fat Momma declares that is the reason why she’s upset. She interviews that she’s having a hard time with this, and she thinks things are getting harder after every elimination. She adds that she was just playing a game at first, but now she has a plan: get payback for Ty. She concludes: “I’m gonna make sure that each of them go before I do.” Fade out on five panels of our heroes.

With Tyveculus gone, I think it would take a major boo-boo for Major Victory to lose. Creature has been failed the most tests, and I’m starting to wonder if she’s a plant like Dark Enforcer, if not merely Rotiart. Notice how she jumped up first and volunteered herself out of the game. Could she have seen Stan’s plan without a script? Lemuria looks a bit bitchy, albeit nowhere near as bad as some of the other women I’ve recapped. Fat Momma? She’s a little broken, and I can’t see a doughnut-eating forty-something being a heroine. Feedback? We might as well call him “Tick” because he’s a walking time bomb. In my mind, Tyveculus had the best shot to deny the Major the comic book and the movie. But it wasn’t to be...he wasn’t honest to Stan about the crap costume, and he was too honest about wanting Lemuria gone.

Next time: Dealing with convicts! Major Victory: “This is not a conjugal visit.” Guard: “The way you’re dressed, I can’t guarantee that!” Also: one hero has a dark, dark secret!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Delays & Other Stuff

I haven't really started working on the latest episode of Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, because I was working on a profile piece. In other words, I might be able to get the recap in by Thursday. This is for the eight or ten people who know about this blog.

While I'm thinking about it:

1. Last week's WWTBAH episode was a bit of a bummer. I understand the defrocking of Monkey Woman, who crashed and burned by revealing her "secret identity" and the fact that she's an actress. Apparently, Stan Lee hasn't figured out that anybody in California can be found on IMDB. But the departure that hurt the most was that of Tyveculus. Last week, he wasn't honest to Stan about his crappy new costume. One week later, he was too honest about his feeling for Lemuria, and he got the heave-ho over Fat Momma. Meanwhile, Creature has messed up most of her challenges, and she's still there.

To review: Creature: brings little to the table. Fat Momma: starting to crack under the pressure. Lemuria: turning into the token bitch of the show (albeit far hotter and tamer than what I deal with). Feedback: a ticking time bomb. Basically, it would take a complete disaster for Major Victory to not win this competition. I'm not finding him that annoying as before (especially since he screwed up for the first time), but it's still too easy to call.

2. Looks like Theo and Darrell will finally be sweating during a Challenge. Theo & Chanda got sent into Exile by Derrick & Diem, and the other players (including the odious Wes and Tina) kicked Darrell & Aviv in. Both guys have been in three Challenges apiece, and neither one have been close to getting eliminated. Actually, Theo did get ousted from Battle of the Network Reality Stars, but we pretend that never happened.

Assuming neither one of them bail themselves out, who do I root for? On the one hand, I still remember Darrell as being part of the Road Rules alliance to boot out Sarah during The Gauntlet, and he does massacre the English language. On the other hand, Theo disrespected Chip during BONRS, and he won "Last Comic Downloaded" on Last Comic Standing, despite the fact that his material manly consists of Kevin Federline and his really old father. So I'll be pulling for Pootie next week.

With Coral & Evan gone, it looks like we're not going to get a happy ending. Darrell & Aviv seem like the most harmless team to pull through, followed by Theo & Chanda. It would be worth it for Derrick to finally win a Challenge, but Diem looks too screwy and fake for my taste. Kenny seems nice, but Tina's a motormouth who can't possibly back up her big mouth. Wes & Casey? You're kidding, right? They have the combined intelligence of an average Big Brother contestant, they've won five Exiles based on the luggage weight and stupidity of the other teams, and you get the feeling that Wes would have taken Casey out if he could gotten away with it. It would be like watching Beth win over and over again last season, only fifty times worse.

3. It's official...I'm going to the Baltimore Comic Con next month. I found a room for $89 per night, it's a three hour drive, and the Orioles will be in town for the weekend to face the Yankees. Last time I went down there was 1994, during the players' strike. My family and myself wanted to see the Orioles at Camden Yards, but ended up taking a tour of the stadium instead. Also, we went to nearby Bowie to see the Baysox.'s a two-day convention, and it'll be cheaper than last year's trip to Toronto.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Superhero? #2: Mad Dogs & Makeovers

We’ve established that this show is a hit, but there’s one problem: it takes too long to get into the action. Apparently, we’ll be getting the introductory spiel every week. Not only is that two minutes and 44 seconds long, but you can make out who gets eliminated from the highlights. Then we have 41 seconds of cheesy credits, followed by 1:10 worth of recap from last week’s episode. That’s 4:35 before any new material.

Previously on Who Wants To Be A Superhero?: Stan Lee assembled twelve novices aspriring to be the next great superhero. Wait...I meant eleven, since Rotiart was working with Stan from the beginning to weed out those that don’t have their hearts in the right place. Oh, and “Rotiart” spelled backwards is “Traitor.” In an ironic twist for a show that parallels The Apprentice, Levity the action figure entrepreneur was dismissed. Next, the heroes had to go out in public, change into their costumes, and run back. Sounds simple...until we see a little girl crying for her mommy. Nitro G not only missed the kid, but he also had people noticing him change, so he was sent packing to Staten Island, where his fellow working at the comic shop will never let him hear the end of it. Nine heroes remain...who turns in their costume tonight?

Stan wastes no time in assembling the heroes to the living room. There’s Monkey Woman in the kitchen in full costume. I’m guessing that the players are in hero drag 24/7. Does spandex smell after constant wear? Lemuria interviews that she gets scared and excited when Stan pops up because she doesn’t know if they’re going on a mission or if an elimination is coming.

The team gathers around the monitor. Stan has a pre-breakfast assignment for them. “If you think the person standing next to you is not superhero material,” he says, “now is the time to let me know.” The task: write questions to ask to each other. No names need to be given. Put the questions in a tube, and stick that in a pseudo-pneumatic pipe, so Stan can read them out loud. “Let’s see how each of you reacts under pressure,” he continues, “when you’re on the hot seat.”

The gang writes down their questions, sneaking looks at each other. Tyveculus wishes it wasn’t an anoymous procedure, and he feels these questions shows a person’s hear and true character. Iron Enforcer writes his stuff down. He interviews: “Bet your ass I got some questions for these pinheads.” Save your hatred,’s gonna be a long episode. Creature collects the questions in the tube and drops in down the pipe, as we get a cheesy CGI lightshow.

Stan’s back with the questions. “Ouch,” he playfully winces at the query for Creature. “This is a little rough.” The question: “Your hair is starting to scare me. When [was] the last time you washed it?” The heroes laugh, but that quickly fades. Creature notes that her hair stores her powers, and washing it renders her powerless. Enforcer gives out a “What the hell?!?” face. “Creature needs to work on her appearance,” he snipes in an interview. “She looks like a homeless Princess Leia.”

Stan: “This next question is a little mean-spirited.” Fat Momma grins until she hears this: “Do you really think that a fat superheroine would be a good role model for children?” Tense music plays as the heroes look on and Iron Enforcer grins. “I certainly do,” Momma replies, “or I wouldn’t be here.” She looks hurt in her interview, saying that if anybody has a problem with her weight, they should say it to her face. I understand the pain, but come on. She’s heavy, has “fat” in her name, has “Nell” as her real first name, and she wasn’t expecting a question like that? Gimme a break.

Iron Enforcer gets the next question: “It’s starting to stink in here. Would it kill you to use a little anti-perspirant?” Everybody gets a chuckle out of this, including Enforcer himself. Fat Momma: “He doesn’t even wear clothes! All he has ro do is wash under his arms and put on some deodorant.” Enforcer responds by simulating pass gas. “Whatever,” he interviews. “I don’t care what people think of me. I’m not here to make any friends at all. I’m only here to win the prize.”

The next question goes to Major Victory, who is all smiles. “Do you think a superhero who’s a male stripper sends a bad message to the kids?” More tense music, as the smile all but vanishes. The Major interviews that this was a low blow, and he’d like to know who asked that. The heroes laugh as Major tries to spin about how he’s not a stripper anymore, and that he could spread his experience to the youth. Tyveculus tries to run with that, but Major cuts him off: “I’m not saying, ‘Hit a pole, kids!’” Nice recovery. He interviews that he just wanted to show that he learned from his mistakes.

Last question goes to our least-favorite bald-headed goon: “Iron Enforcer seems to be on steroids. Is that legal?” Monkey Woman and Lemuria’s mouths hang open. “If steroids are used for a positive thing,” Enforcer answers, “I think it’s a good thing, no?” The others remain quiet, and Fat Momma looks stunned. “What the hell?” Enforcer interviews. “Are you kidding me? I look better than anyone else in this house. How dare they single me out when they’re the ones with all the problems.” Okay, then. Creature wraps things up by telling us this was the “first cruel day” because the line between people and their alter egos is getting blurred. Stan dismisses the team so that they can have a quick breakfast before the next challenge.

Kitchen. Lemuria wonders what the next challenge will be. Major Victory figures it will be hard. Naturally, Stan pops up on the monitor. He notes that the group answered questions that tested their emotional courage and integrity, and it’s time to test one of the qualities that make a superhero.

Now we’re riding in “the transport.” Stan voiceovers to the gang, leading them to a “little old lady” who has locked herself out of the house. Said granny thanks the heroes for their arrival, as Major Victory and Feedback snap off quick salutes. Granny tells the team to go through an alley, where she’ll wait for them at the door. Cut to the team walking in slow-motion. “All you have to do,” Stan voiceovers, “is climb over the back fence, go through the back door, and let her into the house.” The team finds the fence and do a quick homage to The Little Rascals, as they pop their heads over the top. Anybody else smell the aroma of multiple takes? Cut to two really determined German Shepherds barking and snarling. Very nice. The heroes look scared, while the dogs bark, snarl, and push on a loose piece of fence. Only thing missing here is bits of Levity and Nitro G’s costumes hanging from their teeth.

Coming back from commercials, we get a warning: “The following event involves HIGHLY TRAINED ATTACK DOGS under the supervision of experts and should not be attempted by anyone anywhere, anyplace under ANY circumstances.” Just once, I’d like to see a warning that ends with “Y’know what? Screw it. Get yourself hurt or killed. See if we care.”

Dogs barking. Nervous heroes. Fat Momma tells us that the dogs almost knocked the fence over getting to the heroes. “Holy smokes,” Lemuria interviews. “There’s the back door, and it looks like it’s a mile away.”

Suddenly, an ambulance siren wails, as the vehicle screeches to a halt. Two guys pop out, open the back doors...and there’s Stan on the monitor, which is resting on a stretcher. He tells his charges that he would hate for their costumes to be ruined. One of the guys presents a protective suit, complete with “Major Victory” on the back. Major: “I think I have a new name: Major Dog Food.”

Stan goes over the challenge: get past the dogs and touch the back door with any part of the body. This challenge is all about courage and tenacity, and if any hero loses courage, all they have to do is say “uncle” for the dogs to back off. Stan expresses his curiosity about who makes it to the door, and how long they last before giving up. Tyveculus volunteers to go first, so he can tire the dogs out. “Be my guest,” Creature interviews, “as long as it’s not me.”

Tyveculus gets suited up, while the dogs growl in anticipation. He interviews that he’s faced dangerous situations as a firefighter in the past, but his heart is racing right now. Ty drops over the fence and charges. The dogs charge. Ty actually knocks both dogs down, forcing at least one of them to whimper. Both canines hang onto Ty’s left sleeve as he hits the ground and flips over. He quickly crawls up the stairs leading to the door, lifting a dog with him. Ty touches the door after sixteen seconds, pushing one of the pooches away afterwards. Shot of Ty staring at the dogs. Shot of one of them barking. Shot of Ty looking back fiercely. He interviews that he accomplished his mission, and he doesn’t think anybody can match his time.

Creature steps up next, laughing as the dogs bark at her. “Tyveculus made it,” she interviews. “I weigh as much as one of his legs. I’m chopped liver, and dogs like liver.” She runs out, only to get knocked back by the dogs. One goes for her arm, while another grabs a leg. They manage to drag her around before she cries uncle after twelve seconds. Creature gasps and laughs afterwards. She interviews that the dogs were playing tug-of-war with her. Let’s go to the 'Roid Gallery for reaction. “It’s one thing to laugh if you accomplish your goal,” Iron Enforcer interviews, “but Blondie didn’t even make it to the door, and she was laughing anyway. How stupid is that?”

Speaking of the Enforcer, he’s up next. He interviews about being a bouncer, and how he’ll throw the dogs across the field if necessary. He lets the dogs come to him, and they slam into him so hard that the fence opens up from the impact. Both dogs grab his left sleeve as he makes a run for it, dragging his new friends along for the ride. Enforcer makes it to the steps, falls over...and then yells uncle in 23 seconds. Huh? He tells us that he can’t believe he did that one step away from the door. Monkey Woman: “How are you that big and get that close to the door, and just quit? I don’t understand it.”

Feedback interviews about refusing to let Stan down again. He adds, “It’s gonna take more than two attack dogs to stop me.” Both dogs charge, grabbing Feedback’s left side, sending him stumbling. Caption: “!” Damn, Feedback loves ellipses as much as I do. The dogs do take him down to the ground, pulling him away from the door. Feedback: “This...will the end.” Aside from Iron Enforcer, I’d say Feedback makes me the most nervous amongst the heroes. He touches the door at 33 seconds. “It felt amazing to complete my mission,” he interviews. “Stan’s gotta be proud of me now.”

Here comes Fat Momma, snacking on a cruller before her run. So those doughnuts aren’t mere props? The dogs bark as Momma tossing a cruller onto the grass. Shot of dogs panting. Shot of the doughnut lying there. Shot of the dogs barking some more. Momma lumbers in her suit, crullers dropping from the clips in the front. The beasts grab her left sleeve, pulling her down and working on her collar. Momma declares that she can’t budge, and she uncles out at 18 seconds, laughing while laying on the ground. She interviews that she hoped the dogs would go for the doughnuts. Cut to the cruller still lying in the grass...and one of the dogs snaps it up. Very cute, even if it is editorial manipulation.

Major Victory climbs up the fence, playfully taunting the dogs. “This’ll be a cinch,” he brags in an interview. “Dogs love me, and I’m pretty easy to digest.” He salutes the “ferocious animals” before dropping to the other side. The dogs hang onto each arm, but the Major doesn’t go down. In fact, he manages to walk the dogs on their hind legs, snarking about how sexy they are. As much as I can’t stand the constant cheese, I have to give props for the effort. He reaches the door at 17 seconds, then proceeds to make humping motions and shouting, “Feel the love, baby! Feel the love!” He interviews that he was into it, and how he got an incredible adrenaline rush. “How’s my hair?” he asks the camera, as a tooth-sparkling effect is put in. Oy.

Lemuria steps up for her run, and she can’t believe that she’s walking into the yard with the “vicious dogs.” She runs, but they jump up and knock her down, pulling on her sleeves. She struggles and uncles out at 18 seconds. She interviews about trying, and now she hopes Stan doesn’t eliminate her.

Up comes Cell Phone Girl, who was bit by a dog once when she was young. This won’t end well. She jumps down, and the dogs knock her down, forcing her to say uncle after a mere four seconds. “I have a horrible headache,” she voiceovers, “and those dogs made it worse.” Cut to her lying on her back, groaning about how being a superhero was harder than she thought. Cue the tense music of foreshadowing.

Final hero up: Monkey Woman. She reminds us about disappointing Stan last week, and he gave her another chance. She adds, “Those dogs are going to have to kill me before I stop.” She drops down, runs out, and the dogs slam into her. Cut to the others turning their heads, followed by Creature running up to the fence to get a look. The dogs gnaw on Monkey Woman’s jacket, and we fade into art.

Back from commercials, the dogs are still snacking on our primate princess. Creature tells Monkey Woman to tap out, but she isn’t about to hear it. The dogs drag her about by the sleeve and collar. Elapsed time: 0:26 and counting. Creature interviews that she’s getting worried about Monkey Woman. Elapsed time: 1:11. The dogs are not letting go. Monkey Woman gasps as she’s dragged, and the dogs are still going at it. Time elapses: 3:47, 5:19, 7:06. On the up side, she’s getting dragged closer to the door. Fat Momma interviews that everybody else had either gotten to the door or quit in under one minute. She adds, “That girl just wouldn’t give up!”

Time elapsed: 9:03. Monkey Woman finally makes it up the stairs, the dogs pulling on her as she climbs up. At long last, she taps the door at 9:42. She gasps for the camera, telling us that this was the hardest thing she’s done. “I made it to that door,” she interviews afterwards. “I don’t care if it took me three hours. I was not going to give up.” Cut to her at the door making monkey noises, then fakes a fainting spell. At least I hope she was faking it.

Stan hits the heroes up on their communicators, complimenting them on the mission. He reminds that an elimination can happen at any time...and that time is now. Stan orders the team back to the living room over at the lair. Somebody’s gonna get cut.

Living room. The heroes line up in front of the monitor. Stan pops up, telling the group that the challenge was about courage...particularly for Monkey Woman. “I don’t know,” he continues, “if I’ve ever seen anything like what you did today.” She beams, the memories of getting shamed last week fading fast. “Young lady, I am very proud of you.” After Monkey Woman thanks Stan, he notes that not all of the heroes made it to the door, and three of them reacted in ways that makes him question their will to be superheroes.

Stan goes to Cell Phone Girl first, pointing out her complaining about her headache, followed by giving up. “If the world is in grave danger,” Snarky Stan wonders, “do we just ignore it because of a headache?” Since her time of four seconds was the shortest run, she gets to step forward.

Next, Stan takes a shot at Iron Enforcer. Again. Stan calls Enforcer the “biggest and strongest” one in the group, then brings up his giving up twelve inches from the door. He adds, “You just cannot get that close to accomplishing something and then quit.” Once again, Iron Enforcer steps forward towards possible elimination.

Stan moves on to Lemuria and Creature, since something bothered him in each of their runs. He tells Lemuria that she got far, but she let the dogs drag her away. “A little strategy might have come in handy there,” he opines. “You’ve got to be smarter with these challenges.” To her credit, Lemuria doesn’t ask Stan to put on the protective suit and see how long he lasts with the dogs. Instead, she wipes her eye. Stan then comes to Creature’s laughing during the mission. He's on the same wavelength as Iron Enforcer in terms of laughing while failing, but at least Stan isn’t a dick about it. Stan adds that the laughing makes him question her commitment and sincerity. Since Lemuria lasted longer in the mission, Creature is asked to step forward.

Stan asks the trio of troubled heroes to state why they shouldn’t be eliminated. Cell Phone Girl brings up the headache she still has, adding that she’s proud of herself for trying. Iron Enforcer’s plea: “I don’t want the others to get to know me for my physical side, which is the most apparent. It’s the spiritual side of me that’s my best quality. This is why I would like to say.” Say what? Creature claims the only sound she could make was laughter, and that fueled her. “I’m ready,” she declares, “and I might do it laughing, but I will be there and I’ll do it.” Stan claims that this is the most difficult decision he’s had to make, but somebody has to go home. Close-ups on our three heroes as we fade to art.

Coming back, Stan makes his choice: Cell Phone Girl. My approximate reaction: “ARRRRRGGGGHHH!!!” Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Iron least not yet. Enforcer looks relieved, and Creature glances at CPG. Stan: “I’m afraid you’re out of minutes.” Oh, that stunk. How about “Looks like your number is up”? Stan asks CPG to turn in her costume. She walks to the garbage can, taking off her gloves and discarding them. She interviews about being dissapointed, since she put so much time into being a superhero. She drops her cell phone and its case into the can, along with her cape. Lightning, fire, smoke, goodbye. Stan wraps things up by saying that everybody will miss CPG, and asks the team to meet him first thing tomorrow morning. He has a surprise for them that they might like.

Night lapses to day. Heroic music plays as Stan tells the team what this day is all about: fantasy fulfillment. Today, each hero is going to get a costume makeover. This triggers a huge reaction, as Stan calls on Lemuria to join him in another room.

Lemuria walks towards the camera, and we get a heels-to-head pan of her outfit: golden one-piece suit, high heels, and no visible bra. She interviews that she can’t wait to see Stan’s vision for her. “As far as your costume,” Stan notes, “disco is from the Seventies!” “And so am I,” Lemuria laughs. Stan calls forth two ladies in white suits and dark shades. He instructs them to give her what he wants, ordering them to blindfold her until she looks in a mirror. It’s awesome...the show is ripping off The Swan, but it’s a good thing.

The makeover maidens escort the blindfolded Lemuria to another room. We get a cheesy earthquake effect and a bright flash of light behind the doors. The room opens up to show Lemuria sparkling, CGI style. She now has more practical boots, a cape, some black to go with her gold, a collar that’s turned up, long gloves, and some cris-cross support up top. Stan orders her to remove the blindfold, and she walks to the mirror with closed eyes. Her reaction? Laughter and happiness. She tells us that she feels like a superhero. “It makes me feel like I can throw fireballs!” she gushes.

Lemuria rejoins the group, and they are in total awe about the makeover. She celebrates by busting out some martial arts moves. Monkey Woman loves Lemuria’s new costume, and she can’t wait to see her own makeover.

Here comes Tyveculus. He has black boots, a little exposed leg, a tunic, a breastplate with his symbol, a cape and a helmet. Honestly, not much tweaking to be done here. Stan asks Ty if he can trust him. Naturally, Ty consents to the revisions. The makeover maidens bring him to the hidden room. The doors close. Afterwards...oh, my. Ty still has boots and a cape. The breastplate has eight glittery things that spell out “T.” It looks like Tana Goertz got her hands on a Bedazzler and attacked Ty. The worst accessories? It’s a toss-up between the Trojanesque helmet with feathers sticking out (think Marvin the Martian) and the shoulder pads pointing to the sides. Ty opens his eyes, and we get the sound of a car screeching to a halt. He looks startled, gasping out a “whoa.” Sinister Stan says that this wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, and he asks Ty what he thinks. Ty manages to squeeze out a smile. “Today,” he declares, “my fantasy’s been fulfilled. I am a superhero. the source of light, I am Tyveculus!” Right now, I’m not getting tired of that. Stan is glad that Ty is a happy camper, but Ty interviews that he was going to stay strong, yet he was doubting on the inside.

Tyveculus comes out, as the other heroes laugh and cheer. Ty seems cool at first, going as far as chicken-dancing with Major Victory. Feedback interviews that the new costume looks ridiculous, and the feathers make the helmet look like a giant fan. “Right now,” he tells Ty, “you’re Stan Lee’s biggest fan!” Ty is taken aback, as Feedback flashes the biggest smile. Hello, Major Dickweed! Ty asks Feedback if he doesn’t like it, and Feedback smiles and says nothing. Ty interviews about telling Stan that he liked the new duds, but he doesn’t like them. He adds, “I got this big feathery cock-a-doodle-doo on top of my head.” Ty tries to cut the feathers down, but he looks like a demented Mohawk. Ty makes a decision: he’s going to talk to Stan again and hope there’s no anger. In the dressing room. Stan keeps a straight face and asks Ty if he has a problem with the new outfit. Ty looks sheepish, and we fade to art.

Coming back, Tyveculus decides that he’ll deal with his new look, and that it’s okay to be laughed at. Stan: “It’s not ever okay for a superhero to be laughed at.” He orders Ty to put on his original costume. Ty interviews that he should be relieved, but he’s worried about letting Stan down.

Next up: Major Victory, Fat Momma and Feedback. Doors close, lights go off, yadda yadda yadda. Major Victory: “Yes! Mr. Shiny Pants!” All the makeover maidens did was give him a brighter outfit with padding, as well as replacing the “V” emblem that came off earlier. I’ll give credit to the Big Red Weiner: his costume is refreshing basic, and there’s little to improve on. Stan laughs as the Major, as he brags about not needing to work out anymore.

Fat Momma has her hair done up, stars dotting her collar. Her boots and top are still pink, but it looks more professional. She also has her own insignia: two lines forming a “M” on her chest. Also, her crullers have been moved to her sides. Stan: You have suddenly become Hot Momma now!” Didn’t need to hear that from Lecherous Lee.

Feedback has a costume that looks like something Frank Quitely designed for the X-Men. It looks like leather from head to toe, with a slanted “F” on his chest. Feedback loves the new look, as he whoops it up and breaks out the karate kicks. Stan: “Now that’s a superhero!”

More makeovers: Creature, Iron Enforcer and Monkey Woman. Creature comes out with braided hair, eyeshadow, a new top and black socks instead of striped. She loves the new looks. Monkey Woman’s fuzzy top is gone. I don’t see any other changes aside from a rolled-up vine on her side. He tells her that she has to live up to the costume. She responds the only way she can: with monkey noises. As for Iron Enforcer? He has white stuff on his right ankle and left knee, and that’s about it. He still looks like something Rob Liefeld drew in the mid-90s. Stan thinks that something isn’t right, but he can’t put a finger on it. Enforcer interviews that he doesn’t know what Stan is thinking. Stan tells the gruff hero that he’ll get back to him.

The neophytes show off their new duds to each other. Much happiness and hugging ensues. Tyveculus comes back in his original costume, and he tells the gang about how he didn’t like Stan’s new look for him. Feedback nods, agreeing with him. Ty interviews that he’s worried Stan will cut him. Speaking of Stan, here he is to remind the heroes that they’re being judged at all times...and it’s time for an elimination. Cut to Tyveculus, doing everything but tossing his helmet in the trash can. Stan tells the gang that he’ll see them on the roof.

Rooftop. Nine cubes lit up, two remaining dark in memory of Nitro G and Cell Phone Girl. The heroes step up on the cubes. Stan pops up on the billboard screen, going over the makeovers, noting that he watched how they acted. Tyveculus puts his head down. “Actually,” Stan continues, “it was quite telling.” Shots of nervous heroes. Stan goes through the spiel: three heroes step forward, one gets axed. Our trio this time: Tyveculus, Iron Enforcer and Feedback.

Stan sinks his teeth into Tyveculus first, saying that he was taken aback. Cut to flashback: “My fantasy has been fulfilled. I am a superhero.” Damn, that’s nasty. Stan says that he has no problem with Ty not liking the costume. “Honesty is one of the most important traits of a superhero,” he continues. “And yet you lied right to my face.” Come on...Stan wasn’t even in the room!

Lecturing Lee moves on to Feedback, unable to believe he made fun of Tyveculus’ new costume. Flashback: “Right now, you’re Stan Lee’s biggest fan!” Stan: “Superheroes make people feel better about themselves, not worse.” Feedback make an “Oh, crap” face He interviews that things make sense now, and he never should’ve teased Ty.

Stan comes to Iron Enforcer, noting that his head is on the chopping block at every elimination. He brings up passing poor Alice last week, as well as punking out with the dogs and not being liked by the other heroes, what with the accusations of body odor and steroid use. Also, the makeover didn’t seem to work. “I don’t know,” Stan notes, “maybe I just can’t past that gun.” Sing along if you know the words: “Superheroes don’t kill, they save people.” The music starts to swell. Stan says that it’s time for one hero to leave the lair. Tyveculus’ head is down. Enforcer waits for the decision. Feedback looks ten seconds from exploding.

Coming back from commericals, Stan drops the hammer on...Iron Enforcer! Finally! “Iron Enforcer...turn in your costume.” The big fella walks to the trash can, throwing out his gun and gloves. Fat Momma: “Usually I’m kinda sad to see someone go, but he didn’t really fit in with all of us anyway. Plus, it’s sure gonna smell a lot nicer around here.” Enforcer takes off his arm wrap, balancing it on the gun. Lightning strikes, magically obliterating Enforcer’s gear.

The heroes take in the lastest dismissal, as Stan congratulates them for surviving. “Do not get complacent,” he adds, “because trust me, your quest is about to get more difficult. Much more difficult.”

Outside, Iron Enforcer storms out with a shirt on, pushing back branches from his face. “I’m really pissed right now about this whole thing,” he interviews. “Stan Lee throwing me out, it’s ridiculous. You think Fat Woman is a superhero? You must be kidding me.” Just as the hatred within me builds, we hear this: “Hey! Iron Enforcer!” It’s Stan! He’s coming in on a television near some garbage. What happens next makes for some good times.

Stan remains Iron Enforcer about how something was bothering him...and now he has it. “You make a lousy superhero,” Stan says. “But you’d make a great supervillian.” Enforcer: “Really?” The veiny-armed, baldheaded gorilla with the big plastic gun never thought he’d be a bad guy? Okay, let’s run with it. Stan: “Spider-Man had the Green Goblin. Superman had Lex Luthor. I want you to be the new supervillain of this show. You can help test your former competitors to see if they really got what it takes.” Enforcer: “Yeah.” Satanic Stan: “How would you like to help me make their lives extremely difficult?” Enforcer cracks a smile. “I would love it,” he answers. Stan: “Can I give you the makeover you really deserve, a supervillian makeover?” Enforcer: “Sure.” Stan: “Good.” Enforcer’s face: “Wait...what did I just agree to do?”

Stan: “Ladies?” A white van screeches to a halt, and the makeover maidens get out. They’re still wearing white, which is weird given what’s about to happen. Also: how come we don’t see Rotiart driving? That would’ve been cool. The maidens take measurements, then hustle him into the van. The front seat of the van lights up. Stan: “Life for our superheroes is about to change...when they meet my newest creation...the Dark Enforcer.” A figure jumps out of the van. It’s hard to tell if it’s our freak, since he’s wearing a mask. So that’s what we’ve been missing! He’s got a loose mask, a dark helmet with spikes, and a black costume with criss-crossing silver straps. Dark Enforcer strikes an evil pose. Fade to art. “To Be Continued...” Damn right.

I think Iron Enforcer was a plant from the beginning. Think about it...why would Stan keep a gun-toting goon last this long? If he was a ringer from the start, then the dismissals of Levity, Nitro G and Cell Phone Girl make even more sense. Also, Enforcer’s real name is listed as “Steel Chambers.” C’mon, now. And I wouldn’t believe that somebody could be as belligerent as he has been. I’ll only concede as far as him getting “recruited” by the producers to be the bad guy, followed by taping unflattering interview segments. But if we find out that the Enforcer was an actor from the start, don’t forget who called it.

Next time: Dark Enforcer...unleashed! Damsel in distress! Tyveculus: “What is this treachery!” Step away from the Chenbot and “Chilltown,” True Believers, and get in on the fun!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Superhero? #1: Heroism 101

Looks like I’m back on the reality recap grind again. I was going to write a blow-by-blow of the prologue, but I stopped after four pages worth of notes. For the record, I ended up with just over 27 pages for the premiere. I’ll save you the time: thousands of freaks, geeks, and weirdos auditioned for the show. The big prize: a comic book based on their heroic alter ego and a made-for-TV movie that will air on the Sci-Fi Channel. The judge: Stan Lee, the legendary writer from Marvel Comics and co-creator of such cash cows as Spider-Man, X-Men, Daredevil, Hulk, and Fantastic Four. The goal: to find the person who best displays the qualities of a superhero. Oh, and getting Stan to shout “Excelsior!” in order for viewers to hold drinking games at home. Believe it or not, this is more fun to watch than I thought.

Credits. We got a CGI mecha tearing through a city. The cast members pop up in panels, as they change into their superhero duds. In order, we have Major Victory (caption: “An All-American Hero!”), Cell Phone Girl (“Calling All Heroes!”), Levity (“Air Powered Heroics!”), Creature (“Feel The Pain!”), Feedback (“Game On!”), Lemuria (“Time To Shine!”), Nitro G (“Adrenaline Pumping Heroics!”), Fat Momma (“An Appetite For Heroics!”), Iron Enforcer (“Powerhouse!”), Monkey Woman (“A Barrel Full of Heroics!”) and Tyveculus (“Righteous Might!”). Cut to the group shot, zooming out to the show’s title over a globe, as a giant-sized Stan Lee reaches for the globe. Honestly, who else could pull this off?

It’s a rainy day, as we see would-be hero Feedback with an umbrella. “My name is Stan Lee,” we hear the voiceover. “This was my mission. I set out to find the world’s next great superhero.” Cut to wall-to-wall freaks, none of whom could be benefitted by gamma radiation. “Thousands applied from all over the planet.” Freak, freak, Snake Eyes knockoff, pale bald dude with an accordion who I saw on Reality Remix, guy with a furry bat head. “And maybe one or two from other planets!” Stan adds that he has to narrow the field down to the best twelve. “That turned out to be a lot easier said than done!”

Dark room. Stan’s up on a big screen, waiting to either interview the heroes or send them to the Phantom Zone. Our first hero walks into the spotlight. He’s a big fella working a Roman motif. Stan asks for his name. “By the source of light,” the hero bellows, “I am Tyveclus!” Montage of panels: skinny guy with green skin introduces himself as Slimeball. A woman makes chimp noises before revealing that she’s Monkey Woman. Cut to a dude with dreadlocks and a leather jacket: “INNNSSAAAAAAANNNEEE MAAAAAANN!” Here’s Ice Bitch with the light hair and skimpy suit. Stan asks for her catchphrase, and she gives it: “FREEZE, MOTHERFUCKER!” Very nice. Now we have a big black woman with a pink top, a cape with “FM” on it, and snack cakes clipped to her belt. She even has a theme song: “Fat Momma/Fat Momma/I’m here to say the day. Fat Momma/Fat Momma/I’ll take your food away.” Stan chuckles, clearly in love with his unusual heroine.

More heroes, more panels. Random guy in blue, guy with a mullet, and some guy bouncing around in a pink bubble. Major Victory comes by to do some weird war yells and a fighting stance. His catchphrase: “Be a winner, not a weiner!” I hate him. Guy with a hoop that’s supposed to be a mirror. Random girl in blue. Shot of Iron Enforcer, but we don’t get anything from him now. Cut to a guy in high-heeled boots, yellow shorts and a red jacket. Turns out he’s tarted up as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. Either I suck for not knowing that right away, or my brain protected me from realizing this. “I was born with my hairy ass,” Fayebo tells Stan. “My powers were completely unknown until I got into this outfit.” Another hero: “I’m also in fear of my mother, being a Jewish superhero.” Stan has a good laugh. Yet another hero: “If I don’t eat enough humus every day, I lose all my powers.” Stan: “I would imagine that would be the case, wouldn’t it?”

Here’s a lady in tight pants taking about how has martial arts skills. She takes her top off for “distraction purposes.” Note to Nash Entertainment: if you’re going to make Stan look like he turned for a moment and got floored by boobs in one panel, make sure it covers the panel where she takes her top off and Stan’s looking at her. Stan asks Feedback why he’s here. Feedback replies that Stan is doing is the cumulation of everything that the would-be hero has done to this point. Finally, there’s a guy in festive camoplauge shouting out stuff and yelling “hoo-rah!” Stan turns to an off-screen presence: “What the hell does ‘hoo-rah’ mean?” Maybe he could ask Ian or Laterrian.

New day! A limousine with a California “SUPERHRO” license plate rolls towards a mansion. Stan voiceovers that he finally had his elite group of promising heroes, and he’s given instructions to assemble the group at an undisclosed location. First hero out of the limo is a fella in black and red with a triangle thing going. “I think the reason why I like superheroes,” he voiceovers, “is because I grew up as an outcast.” He strikes a pose, and we fade to a comic-like page. Turns out his name is Levity, also known as Tobias Trost, a toymaker from Lakeside, MT. He’s also the token gay cast member (that we know about) with a partner named Michael. Levity interviews that there are a number of gay comic book characters, and he’d love to be a role model for the kids. Better him then Tyler Duckworth, that’s for sure. Levity enters the mansion.

Hero #2 comes out of the limo...he’s big and bearded with some sort of metal motif, cape, and “ROTIART” taped across his chest. Turns out that’s his identity, and his real name is Jonathan Finestone, a business owner from Los Angeles. He interviews that he’s a huge fan of Stan. “I’m just gonna keep my eyes and ears open,” he adds, “and see what happens.” That’s odd...he’s not in the credits. Rotiart shakes hands with Levity, asking him what he does. Levity says that he makes custom action figures. Rotiart asks Levity what he would do if he won.

Here comes Hero #3: a blonde woman in a sports bra, miniskirt and sneakers. Her hair is vaguely reminiscent of Lori Petty in Tank Girl. She raises her arms for a pose, exposing some ribs. Not cool. Her name is Creature, a.k.a. Tonya Kay, an auto mechanic from Coldwater, MI. Turns out she’s a “raw foodist” who drives a car that runs on vegetable oil. She wants to show lifestyle options to people that they might not know about.

Hero #4 comes out in black shorts and red spandex, with a “V” emblem. He’s Major Victory, a.k.a Chris Watters, a disc jockey from San Francisco. He admits to making mistakes with his life, including a career in exotic dancing. This took a toll on his relationship with his daughter; he wasn’t a part of her life, and he wants to make up for it. He shakes hands with Creature, and she jokes about going to the club. “He’s gonna be entertaining,” she interviews.

Tense music plays as Hero #5, a topless bald man holding a gun, grunts “Begone” at the departing limo. His name: Iron Enforcer, a.k.a. Steel Chambers, a bodyguard from Brooklyn, NY. That’s what it says on screen. He interviews that he’s here for destiny. “Annihilation is my name,” he adds, “winning is my game.” He shows off his gun to Creature, calling it “the most high-tech weapon to date.” Major Victory: “Can it caulk a bathroom?” That’s funny, but I deduct points to the Major for laughing at his own joke. Enforcer gives a stern look.

Hero #6 is Monkey Woman, who comes out with boots, a fuzzy top, a staff and bananas clipped to her belt. Her real name is Mary Votava, a real estate investor from Seattle. She interviews that this is her chance to use “obscure talents” such as climbing trees and making monkey noises. She adds that the idea of being immortalized in a comic book is the coolest thing ever. She does some screeching for the others, prompting the editors to throw in a record scratching to a halt, as well as Major Victory caught speechless.

Hero #7 doesn’t get a good introduction, as the editors insert earthquake noises as her pink booties hit the ground. Turns out Fat Momma made the cut; the only real change seen here is that crullers have replaced the snack cakes on her belt. Her real name is Nell Wilson, a single mother of three kids from Los Angeles. “I want to prove that just because you’re fat and overweight” she interviews, “doesn’t mean that you can’t do the things that other people do.” Cut to a panel of the other heroes laughing as she twirls, revealing “FAT MOMMA” on the back of her cape. “I’m gonna rid the world of bullies,” she adds, “one doughnut at a time.” Creature finds out that Momma gets super powers from said doughnuts. She interviews that she’s worried about doughnuts being part of loving a body.

Hero #8 arrives in a tight green and black bodysuit. His name: Nitro G, a.k.a. Darren Passarello from...Staten Island? Where I live? Turns out that not only is he a student, but he also works at a comic book shop part-time and weekends, and that’s one of the places I poke around from time to time. Small world, right? Anyway, he knows everything about superheroes, and he’s up-to-date on all the issues. He shakes hands with the others, giving up inches to the other male heroes..

Hero #9 is a lady in a red cape, black top, red shorts and fishnet stockings. Also, she has a cell phone. Yes, this is Cell Phone Girl, a.k.a. Chelsea Ward, an interior designer from Le Crescenta, CA. She loves cell phones, she knew that she’d be Cell Phone Girl, and that’s about it.

Hero #10 comes in with blue on black spandex, shoulder pads and a “F” on his chest. Not the best letter to use, since it’s not symmetrical. His name is Feedback, a.k.a. Matthew Atherton, a software engineer from Las Crules, NM. After his father died when he was 14, this hero found role models in Stan’s books. “To become one of those people that I looked up to,” he interviews, “would be the culmination of my life.” Bonus: he couldn’t get away from work to do this show, so he quit.

Hero #11 is the aforementioned Tyveculus, a.k.a E. Quincy Sloan, a fire captain from Bakersfield, CA. He has three sons (ages 6, 5 and 3), and they’re his motivation for being here. He interviews that their father in a comic book would give them joy for the rest of their lives. I’d snark on that, but he seems very nice. Also, he might knock me out in one punch.

Our final hero comes in an one-piece golden suit with no visible bra. She’s Lemuria, a.k.a. Tonatzia Mondragon, a property manager from Los Angeles. She got into the final round by fan vote via, and she doesn’t want to let her supporters down.

The heroes raise their glasses for a toast, and time! Yeah, I’m sure the cameramen didn’t prompt them to go nuts. Creature and Lemuria dance, Monkey Woman does some pole moves with her staff, and even Iron Enforcer is getting funky. More partying. Conga line. Fat Momma smacks Major Victory’s butt. And then...Stan’s image pops up on screen. “Hold it there!” Stern Stan shouts, bringing the record scratching effect back. “This is serious business!” he rattles to the silent heroes. “Don’t you realize what you’re here for? We’re looking for the next superhero! I spent my life creating superheroes! They don’t act like that!” Everybody’s looking solemn, as we fade to artwork and commercials.

Coming back, Stan’s taken his medication. He’s not Smilin’ Stan just yet, but he’s getting there. Turns out the Legion of Newbies will be living in a “very secret lair,” since the mansion is too visible. He gives the address (11400 Willoughby Street, in case anybody wants to visit), then orders the team to commit it to memory. Nitro G: “Anybody get that?” Cell Phone Girl interviews that she doesn’t want to leave the mansion. Stan continues, saying that he’ll meet them at the address. “And then,” he adds, “the adventure begins.” He arranges for an inconspicuous ride to pick them up, and concludes the meeting with “Excelsior!” The gang repeats it, clearly feeling the spirit.

The ride is a huge SUV, with weird neon lighting on the ceiling. Feedback wonders what the lair will be like. Soon, the heroes get edgier, as the neighbor gets a little more urban for their taste. They arrive at 11400 Willoughby St. Nitro G doesn’t think this isn’t the place. Creature slides a door open...and Stan Lee pops up on another big screen. Turns out he gave the right location. The heroes gather around, as Tyveculus gives Nitro a boost on his shoulder. Stan delivers grim news: one of the heroes won’t be allowed to enter. Cut to everybody looking around, caught in the tension. “What could Stan have on us?” Lemuria interviews. “It’s day one, and we just got here!” Stan reveals that there’s a spy in the fold, an assistant of his assigned to infiltrate the group and make sure that the heroes are there for the right reasons. Monkey Woman repeats the information to us, her voice cracking just thinking about it.

The gang looks at each other, trying to dig up the mole. Let’s see...twelve heroes gathered, eleven in the credits. I wonder who’s the odd man out? As the heroes aimlessly speculate, Rotiart steps forward, telling Stan that he has information. He then jumps up and does a 180-degree turn facing the heroes. How does he top that? By dramatically announcing, “‘Rotiart’ spelled backwards is ‘Traitor’!” As if this wasn’t funny enough, he rips the “ROTIART” label off his chest, revealing “TRAITOR.” I think this is the point where I started coming around to this show. I knew it was him, but I didn’t think to reverse the letters. Anyway, Rotiart has been taping the gang from the beginning and recording their conversations on a hidden camera. He reveals a laptop to show some offending footage. Fat Momma interviews this never occurred to her, and she has to watch out for the little things. At Stan’s command, Rotiart reveals three heroes of suspect character.

The first clip starts with Levity talking about making custom action figures. Rotiart thinks it’s clever to become an action hero and then sell the figures. Levity admits he sells figures for $300-500. Yes, there is a market for this. Rotiart laughs about Levity possibly making millions. Cut to Levity in the now, smiling and looking down in embarrassment.

Next, we have Creature telling Major Victory that she loves to “kiss bodies.” She digs his body, and he jokes about “Creature comfort.” Cut to Creature gasping to Tyveculus, purring, “Hello, superhero!” Creature blinks at the footage, trying to process what’s going on. In her defense, Ty would be an upgrade.

Finally, there’s Iron Enforcer showing off his gun, bragging about his “delay-released explosion ammunition bullets.” He can actually choose when the bullets would go off, depending on who he wants to kill. Tense music plays as the hidden camera zooms in on the gun. Major Victory doesn’t think superheroes are supposed to be killers. Cut to Enforcer telling Nitro about how they have the same concept with adrenaline with their respective abilities, prompting Nitro to say that he wouldn’t kill. Cut to Creature asking Enforcer why he’d want to kill people. He claims that once he leaves the house, he’ll be going to the Middle East. Is anybody else’s blood running cold right now?

Rotiart turns his laptop off. Stan dresses down Levity about the quality of selflessness, albeit understanding about the whole “make millions” thing. He moves on to Creature. “You seem to flirt with every male superhero who flew in here!” he proclaims. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were just here to meet hot guys in tights.” I don’t think Stan has ever seen a reality show on MTV. Stan wraps up with Enforcer’s abrasiveness and bravado about killing. “Superheroes don’t kill people,” he notes. “They save people.” He wraps up, saying it pains him to eliminate one of the three heroes, but a figurehead’s gotta do what a figurehead’s gotta do. Shots of the heroes awaiting their fates, and fade to artwork.

We return as Stan drops the hammer on...Levity? Really? Wow. Stan points out a trash can nearby, grimly ordering, “I’m afraid I’ve got to ask you to turn in your costume.” Niiiicce. Levity walks over, telling his sympathetic colleagues to be careful. He gets hugged, while Rotiart grins nearby, happy to earn a check and some camera time. Thankfully, the departing hero just drops his gloves and basket into the can, as we see his symbol tattooed on his inner arm. Now that’s commitment. A cheesy effect simulates lightning striking the can, incinerating the discarded articles. Levity interviews that he’s disappointed about not moving on, and he has to tell everybody he’s the first one gone. Rotiart escorts Levity off the premises.

As the remaining heroes deal with the expulsion, Stan orders the team to take a freight elevator to the lair, where he’ll be meeting them. Major Victory interviews that he can’t imagine seeing himself or anybody else leaving one by one. The gang walk into a shop with dresses and two Asian women arguing with each other. Major asks about the elevator, only to get waved off. Cut to the grungy elevator with a bonus “condemned” sign. Monkey Woman comments about the “old rickety wooden crate attached to dental floss,” wondering how much superheroes weigh. The elevator screeches upwards, the door opens...

...and we’re in a posh lair fit for heroes in training. No matter how many times I see stuff like this, it’s always fun to watch. “It’s like a superhero wet dream,” Major Victory interviews. “It’s surreal, yet fantastic.” Shots of the living room and dining room. Cut to the individually-colored beds with names on the headboards. Cue the happiness and bouncing on beds. Stan’s voice beckons the team to join him (on screen) in the dining room.

As the heroes eat, Stan admits that he can’t test them on who can leap the tallest buildings, fly the highest or stop a locomotive with a pinky. “Every really good superhero has what’s important on the inside,” he tells the newbies. “It’s about heart, compassion, intelligence, courage, honesty and integrity. And those are the human characteristics that you’ll be tested on.” Interesting note: Stan has a portrait of Stripperella behind him while he’s saying this. I know he helped to create her, and I’m guessing he couldn’t put up Marvel stuff, but it’s just a little weird. “Welcome to what will become the adventure of a lifetime,” Stan notes. Monkey Woman hopes they’ll do him proud. “You all have so far!” he replies, causing the gang to laugh. Major Victory interviews that Stan wants them to be super humans, adding, “I think it would be easier for me to fly!”

Stan wraps things up, as he directs the heroes to a box containing their own communicators, for when he has to get in contact with them. Nitro G enthuses about waiting for something like that since he was a kid. Stan orders the gang to dress in “ordinary clothes” for tomorrow’s challenge. He raises a glass, shouting, “Excelsior to you!” After they follow suit, Stan asks them what it means. Naturally, they don’t know. He defines it as “upward and onward to greater glory.” I still think it’s Latin for “drink up!”

Time-lapse shot of cars driving, as night becomes day. The heroes arrive at the site in civilian garb and large bags. Sadly, nobody thought to wear glasses. Here’s Stan on the screen again: “Okay, True Believers, listen up!” “True Believer” can also be used in a drinking game, in case you’re thinking about it. Today’s theme: superheroes have to change into their gear at a moment’s notice. “Think Clark Kent looking for a phone booth,” Stan helpfully notes. The mission: Stan will call on the heroes to run out, find a place to change without anybody noticing, and race underneath a purple arch in the fastest time “in true superhero fashion.” Cut to Cell Phone Girl: “You gotta be kidding me.”

The heroes mill around. “Feedback!” Stan shouts. “Do your best! Go!” Feedback starts to run, then slows down, trying to pick his place in a nonchalant way. He finds a small ledge, drops backwards off of it, and begins to change. He interviews that he’s not self-conscious about changing in public, and it’s important that nobody sees him. Fast forward to Feedback running towards the end...and then we meet a girl in pigtails crying her heart out. “I want my mom!” she wails. “Help me! I’m lost!” Plot twist! Feedback keeps up the speed, whizzing past the girl as she sobs. To plunge the dagger in deeper, we get three different shots of the snub. “This cannot be more important to me,” Feedback interviews, unaware of the vultures circling him, “so I took everything very seriously and followed instructions to the letter.” The girl? Still sobbing, and we fade to art, as she gets a “Help!”in a word balloon.

Stan summons Fat Momma to get started. I wasn’t expecting her to be swift, but she has little to no support up top. It’s like watching Cirie all over again. As she looks around, Stan launches Tyveculus and Cell Phone Girl in separate panels. Ty pulls out a portable john, mutters “How’re you doing?” to a guy getting out of an adjoining john, and begins to change between two johns and one in front of him. CPG has her fishnets on, and she pulls up her skirt. She interviews that she has to make sure nobody sees her. The camera zooms to a civilian sitting behind her, then pans to two women walking and gawking. Three panels: Ty straps on gauntlets, CPG gets her cape on, and Momma finally finds trees to hide behind.

Here comes Cell Phone Girl running for the finish, carrying her plainclothes in a bag. Cue the girl crying for mommy. CPG runs past the girl, slows down, then turns around. The girl gasps about not finding her mother. CPG asks where she saw Mom last, then finds a place with a “Security Office” sign. Cut to CPG completing her run. She interviews that she would rather help a crying girl than win a competition.

Tyveculus pops out in costume, pushing the potty back to where he found it. He makes his run. The girl cries...and Ty runs past her. The editors only show this in two angles, so they must like Ty more than Feedback. “I hope I made Stan proud,” Ty interviews. “I fufilled my objective, I did so quickly, so be it.” Cut to the girl sobbing.

Fat Momma is in costume, rumbling her way to the finish, still bouncing up top. Also, she’s down to one cruellar on her belt. “Come on, Fat Momma,” she gasps to herself, “you can make it!” Cue the girl in distress. Momma runs and makes a 90-degree turn towards the true objective, asking the girl what her mother looks like. She eventually finds the secuirty office. “It’s okay,” she coos, “Fat Momma’s here.” Awwwwwwww. Cut to her finishing her run, her cape falling off. She interviews that she’d be devastated if any of her kids got lost, and she’d want somebody to help them.

Next up: Iron Enforcer, Lemuria and Monkey Woman. Enforcer finds a stairwell to change. Lemuria jumps on a ledge and trips over a trash can. Monkey Woman jumps up a tree, clearly into her character. Three panels of changing.

Monkey Woman swings down, running to the finish and carrying her staff. Cue the crying girl. Cue Monkey Woman blowing by her. She pumps her staff over her head in triumph. “This is very much in keeping with Monkey Woman,” she interviews, digging her own monkey grave. “I think I made Stan proud.” Cut to the girl sobbing. Ouch.

Iron Enforcer pokes out of his changing area, looking around and dramatically pointing his weapon. Cue the girl sobbing. Cue the Enforcer rushing by her. Really, wouldn’t the first instinct would be to flee from a guy who looks like that? “Absolutely nothing distracted me,” he interviews. “I saw the arches, I focused on it, and I bust through it.” Annnnnnd the girl’s still crying. That has to be exhausting for her.

Here comes Lemuria, running and bouncing to the finish. Cue the girl crying. Lemuria slows down, trying to reassure the girl. Turns out her name is Alice. The heroine introduces herself, lifting Alice into her arms. Cut to Lemuria finishing up. She interviews about being lost as a little girl, and she wouldn’t want anybody else to lose a girl.

Final round: Nitro G, Creature and Major Victory. Nitro parks in a garden with short ledges for cover. His panel is filled with people staring, which isn’t a good sign. Creature does Lemuria one better by getting inside the trash basket to change. Major Victory leaps to a secluded spot. Changing, changing, changing. Nitro G races towards the finish, blowing past Alice. “I may be little,” he interviews, “but I’m fast.” Creature runs out waving her whip. Cut to Alice crying for her mother. Creature whizzes past her, and seems to look back while running. At least that’s what it looked like to me. Creature twirls her whip on her way to the finish.

Major Victory....oy. He jumps around, pointing finger guns towards pigeons He dances around like a dope, near where Alice is positioned. Naturally, the most annoying of the heroes can put two and two together the fastest. “Who is this child’s mother?!?” he shouts to nobody in particular. He finds the security office. “Here,” he tells Alice, “climb into my arms.” Oh, man. The Major milks it for all he’s worth, darting his head from side to side dramatically. Cut to the dork in tights jumping down stairs and racing to the finish. He interviews that he may not have the fastest time but “I felt like a winner, not a weiner.” He punctuates his point with a “weiner” gesture using his hands. Look, I like ham, but I don’t like it getting shoved down my throat.

Denouement. Stan calls up the gang on the communicators, telling them that this wasn’t a test about speed. He tells them about placing Alice near the finish line. The truth slowly dawns on the newbies, as Tyveculus shakes his head. “That crying child,” Stan continues, keeping the glee of twisting the knife to a minimum, “was the most important element of this test.” Feedback: “Every part of my body wanted to cave in because [long pause as he struggles for the words] I missed it.” Stan orders the team back to the lair, adding that he’ll meet them on the rooftop. It’s elimination time, baby!

Night. Rooftop. Ten cubes lit in white, three in red. The heroes arrive and get on the cubes. Cell Phone Girl notes that the atmosphere is intense and intimidating. Stan’s image pops up on a billboard screen. Major Victory: “He’s larger than life. He’s an Oz-like figure. It’s a trip.” Stan goes over the challenge, noting that some of the heroes were fantastic. The others? Not so much. Stern Stan was appalled by those who didn’t help Alice, and one of them will be going home because of that. Feedback looks five seconds away from punching himself in the face. Those on the chopping block: Creature, Tyveculus, Monkey Woman, Nitro G, Iron Enforcer and Feedback. Three of these failures will step up to the red cubes and explain why they should not be eliminated.

Stan goes to Nitro G first. Not only did this guy not help Alice, but he changed in the open where everybody can see him. In his defense, the ledges might have provided cover if he laid down. Cut to replays of Nitro changing and people turning their heads. “You were told to be inconspicous,” Stan continues. “That was anything but.” Cut to Nitro grinning like a fool. “Stop smiling,” Stan snaps. “This really is very serious.” Ouch. He orders a clammed-up Nitro G to step onto a red cube. Iron Enforcer is halfway towards laughing out loud. Nitro interviews that as soon as he heard his name, he knew he was done.

Stan turns on Monkey Woman. He notes that the others missed Alice, but he isn’t sure that she did. In his eyes, Alice turned her head and looked at Monkey Woman, and she appaered to glance over and kept running. Stan orders Monkey Woman onto the red cube.

Moving on to Iron Enforcer, Stan goes over the whole “Superheroes don’t kill, they save” thing. He adds that Enforcer ignored the “poor child,” and this makes Stan question his qualities that make up a true superheroes. Enforce takes his place on the final red cube. The music swells, the drama thickens. Iron Enforcer interviews that he felt like being called to the principal’s office.

Stan gives the three fallen heroes a chance to wriggle off the hook. Nitro G apologizes, promising to learn from his mistake and not let Stan down again. Stan thanks him, then focuses on Monkey Woman, asking her if she ignored Alice on purpose. Damn, Stan can be nasty. Monkey Woman looks close to cracking, expressing that she’s so sorry for failing him, claiming that she didn’t hear or see Alice. Apparently, she was so focused that she missed things around her. Stan thanks her for her plea.

Next up to bat is Iron Enforcer. He apologizes for letting Stan down, adding that “there was much drama going on.” What? He couldn’t focus on Alice’s crying, and he was focused on the mission. “My true nature,” he claims, “as a human being, a mortal, is of caring and helping.” Okay, then. Stan says that this is a difficult decision, but there can be only one winner. Drama, drama, fade to art.

Coming back from commercials, we get Stan’s spiel again. And our lucky loser is...Nitro G?!? What the hell? Nitro looks glum as the cube underneath him turns black. Cue the somber music, as Monkey Woman looks down and Iron Enforcer is trying not to celebrate right away. “Son,” Stan tells the booted hero, “you still have a little growing up to do.” Damn, that’s insult to injury. Way to smack the little guy around. Nitro G nods slightly. “But tomorrow is another day,” Stan continues, “and I’m sure I shall see you again.” Awwwwwww.

“Nitro G...turn in your costume.” Nitro steps off the cube, depositing his goggles and gloves into the trash basket as the others look on. Cue the fake lightning and fire, followed by some real smoke. Nitro walks down the stairs, interviewing that he’d figured to be there a lot longer. He adds that he knew about messing up once he found out about Alice. “I should have been more conscious,” he adds, “I should have been more aware. It wasn’t about the race, it wasn’t about the changing, it was about helping a person in need, and I totally didn’t notice.” Nitro packs up his stuff. He plans on going back home and working to become a better hero and person. I’ll say this much...even with the dorkwear, he represented Staten Island better than Danielle & Dani.

Rooftop. “Superheroes,” Stan tells the group, “I told you at the beginning that some of our challenges would not be as simple as they appeared. Now I think you realize what I was talking about. I wish you all luck. You’re going to need it.” Overhead shot of the heroes. Fade to art with a “To Be Continued” caption.

So what did we learn? Well, we learned that finding a bad hiding place ranks below killing people, but above selling your likeness for profit. We learned about the troubles that tunnel vision can cause. Most of all, I learned that a show that had been in production limbo for years can actually come out smelling sweet. Yeah, Stan Lee made like Trump with two bad expulsions, but he fits his role very well. The next few weeks should be interesting to say the least.

Next time: Costume makeovers! Tension! Pissed-off German Shepherds! Major Victory: “I think I have a new name: Major Dog Food.” Don’t tease me, Weiner Boy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Second Thought...

You're a comic book fan. You might be overweight, but you don't fall into the stereotypes set by mainstream America. You go to conventions to get good deals and sketches, but you don't dress up like a damn Stormtrooper. You cringe anytime a comic-themed new story starts with words like "KAPOW!" and "BIFF!" Right now, you're happy that your selected genre is gaining more acceptance, and that you don't look like a total dork when you're reading your copy of Watchmen on the train. Well...Stan Lee is gonna set the movement back about twenty years.

That's how I started the thread for Who Wants To Be A Superhero? on the TWoP forums. You couldn't blame me for being cynical. For one thing, starting a title with "Who Wants To Be" went out years ago. The show was produced by Bruce Nash, who brought us such "groundbreaking" shows as Mr. Personality, Meet My Folks, and Who Wants To Marry My Dad?. Look at his IMDB's like a whole day's programming from Fox Reality. Then there was Smilin' Stan himself, who hasn't been that big of a player in years. Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating The DC Universe? After reading a trade paperback of the first few issues, I wanted to repress those memories.

But last night, as I watched the show on Sci Fi in the wee hours (power outtage took me from the 9 p.m. preimere), I was impressed. This isn't the best reality show out there, but it's far from the worst. The contestants aren't nearly as ridiculous as I had feared. The initial task had a hidden edge to it that only four of the heroes managed to accomplish, leaving the rest to look stupid. The "hidden lair" is kitschy, but swank enough for anybody outside the age range for The Real World. The elimination ceremony is dramatic, as the heroes wait on the roof as Stan Lee picks out three who aren't being "super" enough. Once a contestant is eliminated, that person has to throw out parts of the costume before departing.

As for Stan Lee? Nobody else could pull off his job right now. What other comic book creator has a larger-than-life persona reserved for big screens? The only knock I have on him right now is that he let Iron Enforcer skate on the first two eliminations. Levity got called out for wanting to sell his own action figure for big bucks. Enforcer has a big gun and a willingness to kill. Not exactly Silver Age material, but Levity was shown the door instead. At the end of the episode, Enforcer got another pass as Nitro G paid the price for passing up the "lost" girl. In his defense, he was short enough to hide in his chosen changing area. Still, Stan has given the show a recognizable face, as well as a drinking game anytime he shouts "Excelsior!"

I'm working on the recap right now...I have about a dozen pages of notes, and I'm at the part where Levity pays the price for blabbing his dreams to Rotiart. Don't worry...this isn't going to be a Battle Chasers deal. I'll get the recap up by Thursday, with all the juicy stuff you might have missed the first time. Right now, I'm just happy to be proven wrong.