Invulnerable, but not boring!

Nickelodeon’s superhero comedy show, The Adventures of Kid Danger, is in its final season. This show is one of my guilty pleasures. It is mostly about Henry Danger, the sidekick to the superhero. Captain Man is heroic, handsome, conceited, pontificating, brave and bold, and his superpower is… hmm, let’s do a flashback.

THE NICKELODEON WRITER’S ROOM. A BRAINSTORMING SESSION SEVERAL YEARS AGO.

Writers are sitting around a table. A guy in a Spongebob t-shirt says, “We gotta get into this superhero thing! Lookit all the moolah those movies are making!”

A guy in a Superman t-shirt(size XXXXXXL, he is build like the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy) sits with a sourpuss pout. “Yeah. At Marvel. But didja see DC’s Man of Steel?”

A man in an Iron Man t-shirt sighed deeply. “Why don’t you tell us for the two hundredth time?”

“Making Superman and his dad follow that objectivist crap?” The Supes-t-shirt guy stands up, making his 49 inch waist wave and roll like a tsunami. He thrusts out his pudgy arms to strangle something invisible. “If I had the power of time travel, I’d strangle Ayn Rand! WHILE SHE’S STILL IN HER CRIB!!!”

He sits back down—THOOM!!!—and crosses his arms, which makes his blubbery chest stop bouncing a few seconds sooner.

A young woman in a Black Widow t-shirt glares at him. “Hey, it’s only a movie, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

Supes guy turns red in the face. He opens his mouth and clenches his teeth. “I will let that go. I see you are new here. But we must respect the fanboys!”

The woman meets his fiery gaze. “And fangirls!”

The man nods. “I totally concur! We must give the children Marvel type heroes! Flawed! Funny! Heroic!”

The woman nods, and wipes off a tear. “Like Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.”

Everyone at the table puts their hand over their hearts and choruses, “Ernest and Tim, we hardly knew yee.”

The Iron Man guy says, “Okay, let’s do a kid sidekick show. Kids like seeing kids. All we gotta do is create a superhero, and we got it!”

Supes guy and Black Widow gal shoot him withering glares. “Really? A kid hero-worships the hero? Where’s the FUN?!?!”

Iron Man guy says, “Oh, when the superhero is being shot or hit or something, and everything just bounces off, the kid can scream when he almost gets caught in the crossfire and the hero stands, hands on hips, heroic smile, and says, ‘You cannot hurt me!'”

The woman’s lips curls. “I hate him already.”

Supes says, “Bah! The reason Superman is hard to write is that he is invulnerable!”

The woman says, “Don’t forget the…” she pantomimes a big fat yawn, “perfect personality.”

Supes says, “Of course. We can make our superhero conceited, full of himself!” He stands again, hands on hips, and thrusts out his ample chest and belly. “A hero with a hilariously obnoxious personality!”

The woman smiles. “Where’d you get that idea?”

Supes says, “But there is that problem of invulnerability. If nothing can hurt him, where’s the danger?”

The woman says, “You know, it’s funny. Superman has bled, he’s even died.”

Iron Man guy says, “He got better.”

The woman says, “My point is you are either 100% invulnerable or zero percent.”

The writer’s room door open fast, smacking Supes in the butt. A pizza guy enters the room. “Pepperoni and anchovies?”

Supes guy stumbles, holding his butt. “Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! That smarts!”

Iron guy laughs. “Ain’t you invulnerable?”

The woman ogles Supes. She smiles big, bigger, BIGGER! Her eyes look like fireworks are going off! “Eureka! Yes, YES, YESSSS!!!”

Supes guy glares at her. “What is so frakin’ funny?”

The woman says, “What if Superman said, ‘Ouch?'”

Supes guy’s eyes light up also. His smile become that of a great white shark about to feast on unsuspecting, 18-21 year old, muscle-beach, sculpted lean meat surfers. “Yes! YES!!! HE IS INVULNERABLE!!! BUT…”

The woman rushed up to him and hugs him! “But he still says ‘OW!'” And the woman and Supes guy dance around the room, not caring how they bash the table and knock over chairs and spill pizza and high-caffeine colas.

Supes guy says, “Think of the slapstick! Boulders bounce off his big stupid cement head, and he says, ‘Ouch, ooo, owie!'”

She laughs. “Lasers bounce off his chest, and he scream, OOOOCH, my nipples! If we can sneak that past the censors.”

Supes laughs, expertly spinning her. “We’ll call it hot purple nurples!”

The woman laughs as she whirls to a stop and embraces him to get right up to his face. “But you know what he needs!”

Supes dips her. “Of course. A catchphrase.”

The woman smiles wickedly, then winces. “Ooo, kink in my back!”

Supes’ face gets worried. “Are you hurt?”

She smiles. “No. I’m okay.”

Their faces, mere inches apart, light up. He says, “THAT’S IT!!!”

She says, “Anvils bash his head, rockslides bury him, huge burly wrestlers pick him up and bash him onto the hard concrete floor, and he says ‘OW OUCH OOO THE PAIN,’ and then he gets up and smiles and says…”

Supes lifts her high and they crow together, “I’M OKAY!!!”

He sets her down. “We need a skirt in the show also.”

She says, “Of course. Two guys together doing dangerous stuff? Get a smart girl to be the voice of reason!”

Supes lowers her. She smiles up at him. They say, “I think I love you!” They kiss.

Iron guy munches pizza and says, “Ah, I love when ideas come together. Take that, Ayn Rand!” He shakes his fist at the heavens. “MOO HAHAHAHA… wait. Wrong direction.” He shakes his fist toward the center of the Earth. “MOO HAHAHAHAHA!!!”

OKAY, BACK TO DAVE!

Captain Man, a hero who is indestructible, but who still says ouch. Who gets bashed and mashed and comes back for more. I wonder where they got that idea…

YEARS AGO. THE MARVEL BULLPEN.

Stan Lee is shaking his head. “Guys, we need a new type of hero and we need one now!”

Roy Thomas and Les Wein (Hulk and Spider-Man t-shirts, respectively) say (respectively), “Uh, how about a teenage superhero?” “But bulletproof?”

Stan looks like someone force-fed him a lemon. “What? No! If he’s invulnerable, we just got a younger and even-more-boring Superman!”

WHAM! The door opens, hitting Stan in the nose. The pizza guy says, “Uh, pepperoni and anchovies?”

Ron and Les jump out of their chairs and huddle around Stan. “You okay? Does it hurt? You gotta little nosebleed!”

Stan pulls a hanky out and dabs his nose. “Nah, I’m fine, it’ll get better.”

Les Wein’s eyes light up. “Yeah. YEAH!!!”

Roy says, “Wait… YEAH!!!”

Stan looks at both. “What?”

Roy and Les babble together: “A hero who is tough and fights and gets shot and stabbed and punched and kicked and lasered and smashed! AND HE HEALS UP AND GETS BETTER!!! REAL FAST!!! And he fights again with the fury of a honey badger!”

Stan says, “Um, how about a wolverine?”

Les says, “Iron Man has armor on the outside, so he never says OW.” Les grins wickedly. “But what if this Wolverine guy…”

Roy says, “Is armored on the inside! Invulnerable skeleton! Bullets blow bloody holes in him! Swords stab into his chest and out his back! Knives gouge hunks of flesh off his arms and legs! And he gets up and heals fast and says…”

Stan Lee shouts, “‘Is that all yuh got, bub?'”

Stan and Roy and Less hug and jump for joy. “The blood! The gore! The violence! The kids will love it!”

Captain Man and Wolverine. Invulnerable does not have to be boring.

Spoiled Joker

SPOILER ALERT! I am gonna talk about the Joker movie and I am gonna reveal stuff in it and that could spoil it for people who still have not seen it but intend to (and I can’t believe anyone would wait longer than I did to see it). So if you don’t want to know, then read no further, for spoilers await you all, with nasty big pointy teeth!

I enjoyed the movie. I can tell you in two words why it got the Oscar nominations: Joaquin Phoenix. This movie boils down to his one man show. His painful, heartfelt, bone-deep performance in mind, mind, and soul would have been just as glorious even if he was alone on an empty stage, performing in front of a packed auditorium. That is not my complaint.

My complaint comes from being a whiny fanboy. This Joker is too far from the comics. He is the Joker, right? Then how come he can’t tell a joke?

I do open mics. I know how to stand in front of a coffee house crowd and perform my stories. But I always read the story, either from my iPad or from printout on a primitive papyrus medium. At open mics, I admire the stand-up comics the most, for theirs is the toughest act. No script, no music, just them and the audience. When the Joker first did his stand-up act, he was fumbling, barely able to get through it, it was cringing. When he go on the talk show later, he still did not tell any jokes. Instead, he whined about nobody caring about him, and oh yeah, he shot those rich kids, why don’t you care about me me me?

Did the scriptwriters think that if he gave a good performance at a comedy club, then, POOF, all his financial and psychological problems would disappear in a puff of smoke? I know from personal experience that a few stage performances do not bring instant success. Why make this Joker a loser on the stage? Even at the end, after the rioting crowds worship him, the movie sticks him into a mental institution, snatching his feet right out of the jaws of victory. Sure, the Joker is crazy, (oh yes he is, Mr. Phillips, why do you think he takes meds?) but he is also supposed to be smart. This Joker is not as dumb as Lex Luthor’s henchman Otis (“It’s amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving”) but he is in danger of getting close.

The screenwriters should have made him good at joking and still not get financial success, that kind of thing happens in the real world ALL THE FRAKIN’ TIME!!! That would have fit perfectly with this movie’s theme of class warfare (a great theme to use, especially in America). Why not have him perform well enough to get a hint of success, but the upper class pressures him to punch down instead of up?

Joker = a person who jokes. This Joker could not joke if you pumped him full of laughing gas. And he is supposed to become The Clown Prince of Crime? How’s he gonna lead a gang when he can’t lead himself? I will watch a sequel to enjoy, to love, to bathe in another brilliant performance. But this ain’t my Joker. I heart Mark Hamill.

P.S. As for the ending, I do not buy that it was that old, rotting, annoying, and downright lazy plot device of “it was just a dream.” I’m not supposed to carry the story, the story is supposed to carry me! Get a frakin’ backbone and make your story work.