America takes its superheroes seriously. They’ve become icons of American exceptionalism, personifying perceived national values like freedom, capitalism, and democracy. It’s true that in these ironic times superheroes are allowed to have their darker aspects, as in Michael Keaton’s portrayal of a brooding Caped Crusader in Batman. Tim Burton seems to be a sort of licensed Hollywood court jester who is allowed to go where other directors fear to tread. But they’ve usually been portrayed in films as a fairly wholesome bunch.
Another, more radical, interpretation is provided by the splendid 2010 black comedy, Kick-Ass. This is about Do It Yourself, aspirational superheroes, where a geeky high school kid puts on a silly costume and goes out to kick ass, suffering bone-crunching injuries before he learns to dish it out to the bad guys himself. It’s also notable for the foul-mouthed 11 year old girl he teams up with, who teaches him the tricks of the trade. Even then, he’s still a geeky kid at heart.
Which brings me to Rain City Superheroes, a group of 10 wannabe superheroes who patrol Seattle’s mean streets and glory in such personas as Phoenix Jones, Mr. Xtreme, Urban Avenger, Pitch Black, Knight Owl, and Ghost. Here’s a news report featuring Phoenix Jones, their spokesman, and couple of his cohorts.
But every superhero needs a villain and, not surprisingly, one has popped up to challenge Phoenix Jones. This is Rex Velvet, a faux-British sort of chap, who comes over as an evil, demented John Steed. I’m impressed. Can’t wait to see Phoenix Jones and Rex Velvet go head to head.
Where Rex Velvet is obviously a satirical poke at the Rain City Superhero Movement, I’m actually a bit worried about Phoenix Jones and the “superheroes” who are taking this seriously. We have enough vigilantes already, what with the likes of George Zimmerman provoking confrontations based on the dubious stand your ground laws, now being endorsed by the NRA.
What happens when “superheroes” carry concealed firearms, as they are perfectly entitled to under the crazy American laws on gun ownership? What is now an entertaining clown show could turn into something tragic.