Contributors assemble! With big budget super-hero epics dominating both the silver screen and television airwaves, we at Idiomanic thought it a good time to list some of our favourite oeuvres about grown men and women running around in their Underoos.
Strikeforce Morituri (1986-1989)
Spoiler alert: not all super-heroes wear their underwear over their tights. Launched by Marvel Comics in 1986 and cancelled three years later, Strikeforce Morituri deals with eight generations of human guinea pigs who are granted random abilities to stave off an insidious alien invasion. The twist lies in the procedure overworking our heroes’ metabolisms so that each is left with only a year to live. With great power comes great responsibility? Hell, yeah, but what do you do when time is so short?
Set in Marvel Comics’ famously failed New Universe, Strikeforce Morituri spins the super-hero concept on its head, mixing it with notions of propaganda, war, reality television, family, duty, and friendship. Picture the rotating roster of the mighty Avengers or the uncanny X-Men but with a damning sense of consequence as the loyal soldiers and colourful rebels die off instead of joining the Defenders. The property has been optioned for the big screen, but my fingers remain crossed for a premium cable series. Go find it now before the bandwagon gets going!
I’ve long argued that Push is what NBC’s Heroes might have looked like if it’d been made into a movie, and involved more thoughtful creators, and took place in Hong Kong, and was good. The premise: born of World War II genetic experiments, a subset of humanity has been granted extra-sensory abilities, be it the power to push (telepathic manipulation), move (telekinesis), sniff (psychometry), wipe (memory erasure), shift (psychic illusion), shadow (psychic shield), bleed (sonic blast), stitch (tissue regeneration), or watch (precognition). Division means to use these super-beings to create the ultimate weapon, but two orphans, mover Nick Grant (Chris Evans) and watcher Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), have hatched a plan to take down the agency.
More interested in character development than geeky wish-fulfillment, Push keeps its protagonists’ power levels fairly low (they suck) so that they must con their way through every step of their scheme. Think of it as a large-scale “push” without digital effects. Director Paul McGuigan understands that the heart of the story lies in Nick and Cassie’s burgeoning friendship, not dime-a-dozen explosions. In fact, many reject the film because of its low-key ending, which closes the driving emotional arc without showing the spectacular campaign that’ll topple Division. Still, I recommend the flick to anyone who favours the word “hero” in “super-hero”.
I’ve never been a fan of mainstream super-hero stories, which strike me as nothing more than soap operas for boys. Rewritten, revamped, and resurrected over and over again, the characters always seem too perfect or too whiny for my tastes. Granted powers after a freak electrical storm, the five teenagers in the British show Misfits prove a welcome exception. Neither valiant nor particularly altruistic, they spend the first season saving their own skins after killing their juvy case worker in self-defense and the second, trying to decide whether they’ll save the world from some even less savoury super-beings.
Every detail of the kids’ characterisation feels painfully real to me, from Nathan’s verbal carapace down to Kelly’s almost unintelligible East Midland accent (I recommend turning on the subtitles). I also like that their respective powers match their personal circumstances. Devoid of Batman’s unwavering devotion or Spider-Man’s inferiority complex, Misfits tells of regular people dealing with an extraordinary situation. Love them or hate them, you can’t help but identify with them, which is more than I than say can say about everybody’s favorite Kryptonian.
City of Heroes (2004)
Because geeks enjoy both comic books and video games, there exist in the gaming industry countless platformers, shooters, and brawlers about super-heroes. However, few let you choose which character to play and what quest to follow. Released in 2004, City of Heroes grants you that exact level of control, providing everything you need to create the perfect super-hero: thousands of costumes, customizable superpowers, secret headquarters, and even the opportunity to team up with your friends.
Whether you’re busting bad guys on the streets, running a small vigilante task force, or joining dozens of heroes to fight an alien threat to Paragon City, the game offers the ultimate sandbox experience. What’s more, you get to spend time with geeky super-hero nuts like yourself, contributing to one of the best massively multiplayer online (MMO) communities out there. Thanks to NCSoft changing its distribution strategy, you can now access most of the features for free, so give City of Heroes a try, and unleash your inner Admiral Spork Master!