Marc Alan Fishman: If I Could Be A Super-Hero…

… I’d probably opt to not.

It’s that rare question kids pose to one another in an effort to ensure they can field their own Justice League at a moment’s notice. Why else do many of us turn to comic book heroes as children if but to live vicariously through their adventures – and in turn relish in the delight of super-human abilities?

Prior to the race to space, pulp heroes were more often than not akin to modern-day Batmen minus all the swearing, gravel-voiced threats and plucky pre-pubescent sidekicks: human beings granted the time, energy, and personal wealth enough to be at peak physical and mental strength. Around the time we split the atom. science fiction boomed, and, Superman and the mighty demi-gods of the day were joined by sets of super-powered show-offs in sparkly suits. I’d like to think shortly after said boom, the schoolyard became a breeding ground for adolescent aspirations for astronomical abilities.

But then, we grow up. For some of us, we still cherish these previous flights of fancy. We chase windmills, and exorcise our personal demons (a great example by my compatriot, John Ostrander, wrote about last week). I’d like to think that every time I’ve put written word to page (as few as that’s been, all things considered), any character involved who happened to be beyond human has left me that opportunity to think of the world through eyes that can’t exist. And each time I’ve concluded the story, I’ve been thankful that I didn’t live in the world I’d created – even when it ended on the happiest of notes.

If I were to have a super power, I’m realistic about the end results. Super strength? Useful if I had to move furniture. Otherwise, it’s a burden. I imagine a life where I try not to decimate private property when my boss asks me to redesign the company holiday card for the third time, or to have to command the muscle control enough to ensure patting my son on the back doesn’t leave him a cripple. It exhausts me just thinking of it.

Perhaps telepathy? Certainly the lure to peer inside the minds of everyone I know would lead straight down a path of inconsolable anguish. For every fleeting thought about me I’d take as positive might then be trampled by a mental shudder when I lumber by. I need to lose a few pounds, and being forced to hear it idly from every passerby with a working brain would drive me up a mountain to never return again.

Super speed? Well, if it came with the metabolism, I’d sure love to be lithe. But if I didn’t immediately go public with a display of my powers in order to snag some celebrity endorsements? I’d run myself straight into the poorhouse trying to stay sated. Also? I hate running.

And flight? Well, I’m pretty sure Southwest Air would still be cheaper, and they give me a Diet Coke.

The reality of the world we live in – the one where innocent men can be murdered by those we pay to protect us, and walk away without punishment or remorse – is simply too real to handle the surreal. Ration and logic dictate that any person with a power comparable to those that exist in our funny books would be subject to no known amount of stress, guilt, and responsibility. Plus Heroes kinda showed us that most people would keep it a secret and end up serial killing time travelers who couldn’t hold our attention for more than 13 or 14 episodes. But I digress.

Uncle Ben’s wise-words for his young ward can’t hold any truer for our society. With great power comes great responsibility. Yet, those in this world with actual power, use it and abuse it without a second thought. Philanthropy walks hand-in-hand with lobbying, and self-interest. No good deed is done in our world without a litany of trolls ready to refute it.

Remember when we all dumped buckets of ice water on our heads in an attempt to raise some money and awareness for a terrible disease? Of course you do, because you live in California, and you saw folks wasting precious drops of water, and how dare they! The cynical response to every mitzvah (look it up, goyem) weakens our mutual calls for peace and prosperity. Every election is a slap in the face to the party that “loses.” Every man we’ve voted into office (even if he didn’t win the popular vote) is held to impossible standards and is eventually eviscerated by pundits and bloggers alike. No one can do right without immediately being told they are wrong.

And Rao help us… if a man stood above all others and used his powers for good – say curing the sick, feeding the hungry, and preaching that the world should spend more time loving, and less time killing – well, I get the feeling he’d end up on the cross for even attempting it.