Americas-Got-Powers-taps-into-TV-zeitgeist-4919II99-x-largeLet’s just say… I was disappointed.

I have a name for my disappointment and it’s America’s Got Powers #1, the first issue – hey, with the screwy numbering system American Comics use nowadays, one can’t be sure # 1 is actually the first issue – of the new mini-series from Image. Disappointing because it was such a cynical and negative portrayal of America. So let’s proceed that I might give voice to my disappointment.

In the not too distant future, to borrow a line from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme – because “borrow” sounds so much nicer than steal – something happened. Which, makes America’s Got Powers better than most mainstream comic books, where super heroes can take four pages just to get their mail – and you only think I’m making that up – so as to stretch out some skimpy story out for the six issues suitable for framing or collecting into a trade paperback.

What happened? A big blue crystal fell from outer space and landed in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Then, in a real break from mainstream comic books, something else happened. Yes two things happened in the same issue. Every pregnant woman within a five mile radius of the crystal went into labor. (Good thing that crystal didn’t land in Arizona where the new abortion law says pregnancy starts on the first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Under that definition, girls who’d never had sex would still be pregnant and might have given spontaneous, virgin births. The theological implications are staggering.)

Now you might think that’s enough for the first issue of a comic book. “But wait!” I say in my best Ron Popeil imitation, “There’s more!” Every one of those babies was born with a super power. And that’s where the fun began.

After all those super babies were born, the country endured the Power Riots, whatever those were, which “destabilized the entire country.” In order to calm the public, the US government rounded up the children who got super powers from a crystal, or “Stoners” as they were called, then put them in camps and a training school. The government conducted research on the interred Stoners and trained them how to use their powers, all, ostensibly, in an effort to “re-integrate them” into society. The government funded this facility with the TV series America’s Got Powers.

What’s America’s Got Powers? It was the country’s newest mega-hit reality TV show. The show’s premise was simple. Imagine a reality show which took the best parts of American Idol and American Gladiators, tossed them out, and presented a mash-up of the rest. In other words, in America’s Got Powers, Stoners fought both mechanical adversaries and each other in televised combat all in an effort to be the last one standing. America’s Got Powers was kind of like The Hunger Games but with less food. The winners got to join the world’s only super-hero team,“Power Generation,” while the losers who survived went “back to the camps.”

As the story opened, America’s Got Powers was about to start its seventeenth season. Each of the shows’s first sixteen seasons had become increasingly brutal. With its seventeenth season, the producers decided to reduce all the safety protocols in the combat arena to the minimum settings and to handicap the Stoners with secret treatments or devices that slowed them down. The result was the Stoners couldn’t fight their robotic opponents effectively and were pounded on until they looked like Wile E. Coyote on a particularly bad day.

Now, you might have noticed that I used the word “ostensibly” when I said the purpose of the government’s program was to re-integrate the Stoners into normal society. We’re dealing with an agency of the United States government in a comic book. In today’s comic books, any government agency that doesn’t have a secret agenda is underachieving. America’s Got Powers’ evil secret agenda was confirmed by the producers of the show; an Army general, a United States Senator, and a corporate CEO. We’re not quite sure what the secret agenda was, but we’re pretty sure it was up to no good. After all, what fun is a secret government agenda that’s up to good?

(One point about this trio of producers: Creators, when you set up a government agency with an evil secret agenda, you risk both having your political motivations questioned and having subtlety points deducted from your score by drawing the politician to be a dead ringer for Sarah Palin.)

“But, Bob,” you ask in one of those marvelous imaginary conversations between reader and columnist which I pretend can happen as a way of making a transition, “why fret about the subtlety of political caricatures when this story postulated that the US government was rounding up differently-abled minors, putting them into camps and training them to become involuntary soldiers or some such? We have the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment. And child endangerment laws. And child labor laws. Those sorts of things can’t happen, can they?”

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why colleges and high schools all over this country televise football games. Games in which young men get injured, seriously injured, catastrophically injured, and even fatally injured. And that’s just college and high school. Imagine if a government with a secret agenda got involved. Because that sort of thing can’t happen.

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why this country never had a Selective Service Commission or a draft and it never conscripted minors who couldn’t even vote yet into the armed forces to fight wars in North America, Europe, Africa, western Asia, southeast Asia., central Asia, and anywhere else where those conscripted minors ended up in the path of enemy bullets and fragmentation grenades. Because that sort of thing can’t happen.

Of course not. Those things can’t happen. That’s why the PATRIOT Act doesn’t exist and has never been used to abolish the Writ of habeas corpus or to justify rounding up people and confining them in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without trial. Because that sort of thing… Oh you get the idea.

And before you argue that Gitmo is used to house – or warehouse – foreign nationals and such confinement can’t happen to United States citizens, I remind you of the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II. You know, the program where thousands of people who happened to have Japanese ancestry but who were born in this country and were unquestionably United States citizens, were removed from their homes, deprived of their property, and placed in indefinite confinement in internment camps without ever having been charged with a crime. Without, in fact, ever even having committed a crime.

And I guess that’s why I was so disappointed with America’s Got Powers and its cynical and negative portrayal of America. Given what we know about what truly happens in this country, I don’t think America’s Got Powers was anywhere near cynical or negative enough.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time I have been running columns I wrote years ago which, for one reason or another, have not been widely published. This is another one of them. This is, in fact, the last such column I have in my files. So I guess I’d better get busy writing the next new column, because I don’t have any more old ones with which to buy myself some time.