Super-heroes have not been so cool since the so-called “Golden Age" of comic books in the 1940s. Not long ago, they could be dismissed as “kids’ stuff", but 2006 was a vintage year for super-heroes. Perhaps, just like in World War II, the problems of the world have reached the stage where it would seem to require people with superhuman abilities to save the day. Let's look at some of the super-hero milestones of 2006:
For 45 years, almost nobody - apart from comic-book readers and movie audiences - has known that Spider-Man is actually young newspaper photographer and science genius Peter Parker. Secret identities have been a major facet of super-heroes ever since Superman first disguised himself as Clark Kent (and even earlier, with heroes like the Scarlet Pimpernel). In 2006, however, Spider-Man revealed his identity to the world. In this day and age, masked vigilantes aren't as cool as they used to be.
The unmasking was part of Marvel Comics’ series Civil War, in which - after an insane super-villain kills hundreds of innocents - the US Government orders all super-powered people (good or bad) to register their details, including their true identities. This results in a rather violent clash of opinions, as some heroes agree that it's all for the best, while others see it as a violation of their civil liberties. Spider-Man's revelation is one of the many twists of the series, which aims to remodel Marvel's super-heroes (including Captain America, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four) for the future.
DC Comics had their own super-series with this violent, convoluted, but visually stunning series, which also shook up the world of their heroes. Many characters died, including Superboy, Superman and Lois Lane. (Well. . . sort of. Long story. )
One of the few new hit shows in the US this year was this NBC super-hero show without tights, masks, or cackling villains who use lines like “Say your prayers, you costumed fool - nyah-hah-hah-hah!" Just as Lost turned people into science fiction fans, Heroes is converting people who probably thought that comics were for geeks. It does not, however, deny its comic-book influences.
WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO?
Yes, it seems that reality TV has lost the plot when it tackles something as removed from reality as super-heroes. But while it can't seriously be termed “reality TV", we can still applaud this Sci-Fi Channel series, in which Marvel Comics’ legendary founder Stan Lee takes on a role similar to Donald Trump in The Apprentice, choosing which aspiring comic-book nerd gets to be a super-hero (with their comic-book, if not powers). While reality TV has constantly shown the benefits of selfishness and cunning, Who Wants to be a Superhero? awards the comic-book qualities of kindness, chivalry and general heroism.
Box-office, while disappointing, actually wasn't so bad. Critics loved it. The first comic-book super-hero was back on the big screen.
Mark Juddery is a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy and lives in Australia. He is a freelance journalist and has published a book: “1975 - Australia's Greatest Year"