American culture is obsessed with the idea of larger than life heroism. Our icons and cultural touchstones are not real world figures. They’re teenagers trying to balance high school while stemming the decimation of a neighborhood. They’re vapid, wealthy playboy vigilantes who are so bored, they decide to turn taking the law into their own hands into a hobby. Despite their serialized lives often pushing way past the edge of realistic and grounded, they’re human. They’re us, but in a different, imagined reality. They’re human.
These men and women—some with superpowers, some without— are without a doubt the idealized embodiment of every moral and principle we like to hold up together. We admire and revel in these stories because of the lessons they teach and relay, but also, because sometimes it’s really cool to read about a grown man turning into a green bioweapon every time he gets the slightest bit irritated or angry.
Hero culture is ubiquitous in our day and age because they’re who we want to be. They’re fun. They’re charming. They’re powerful. They’re who we believe would save us; paragons of humanity, of life, of happiness, of the ultimate sacrifices.
3. If you were a super-hero (or villain), what would your powers be? What city would you protect (or terrorize)? Who would be the best person to play you in a cinematic adaptation, and who would be the villain (or hero) to oppose you?
Robert Zeglinski: The easy answers to these questions always center around superhuman strength, speed, telekinesis, and flying. (Strength and speed should be implied.) But if I were an anti-hero (which is what I would be), I would be a master of linguistics first. That’s not just with people and the myriad languages across the planet. I would have the ability to communicate with and relate to every living thing. Gazelles. Beluga whales. Alien invaders several centuries ahead of humanity in technological advancements that want to decimate the Earth, and someone needs to talk them down. With this kind of tongue and mind, any other power feels redundant. A master of the ultimate communication (and occasional manipulation) of life needs no such other individual prowess.
In the interest of freshness, London is home. There’s something about having Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge as my consistent backdrop that appeals to my worldly sensibilities. Not to mention that the London I straddle the line of morality in would have a steampunk aesthetic. A young Robert Redford would play me in the inevitable greatest movie franchise of all-time, and 70s era Clint Eastwood—a fellow antihero—opposes my vigilantism. Could you imagine the verbal duels?
Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Picking your super powers seems like more of a villain thing to do. Let a radioactive spider bite me, or a truck carrying radioactive chemicals smash into me, or let my parents get murdered in front of me (wait, what?). Being super rich in Siesta Key, Florida seems like my fun super-hero thing to do.
Erik Duerrwaechter: Oh God. The cultured person inside wants every power in existence. Anime, manga, superhero movies, I’ve seen it all. If we’re going to limit ourselves here, then I am Optimist Prime. Plain and simple: I inspire greatness in everyone around me. Not a single ounce of negativity would exist in my presence. Oh, and I’d wield a badass sword along with a blaster.
I think I’d have to be animated, and voiced by Peter Cullen. Negatron is my nemesis.
Robert Schmitz: I‘ve always been intrigued by the concept of short-range teleportation (think Nightcrawler from X-Men), so I think that’d be cool — it’s not “overpowered”, per se, but it’s still useful. I’d likely protect Dallas, my home city, but that’s mostly because I’d still be trying to live a normal life, a la Spider-Man.
In a cinematic adaptation, I’d look for a new actor to give the lead role to. I can’t even begin to guess what kind of villain would oppose me — I’d start out trying to help out around the city and would therefore unintentionally “foil someone’s grand plans”, thus creating the villain (maybe a mob boss?). You can’t know your villain ahead of time!
Ken Mitchell: I would be “Know-It-All-Man”, and be omnipresent (but not omniscient). I would have my home base out of a mountain cliff on the Big Island of Hawaii. Because Hawaii. People would come to me with their problems, as if I were the Oracle of Delphi. I would oppose “Packer-Man,” of course. Doesn’t that go without saying?
Patti Curl: I would be able to shape-shift to look like anybody or anything. I would use this power mostly for selfish reasons and practical jokes. Twice a year, I would turn into Aaron Rodgers and suit up against the Bears in order to embarrass the Packers with my amateur quarterbacking and acquire sack-hugs from Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack. I would be played by both Rihanna and Staley Da Bear because if I could look like anything, I’d probably spend half my time looking like Rihanna and the other half looking like Staley.
Sam Householder: I think I would like to have super strength and superhuman reflexes. If I wanted, I could basically slow down the world around me and concentrate to be able to say weave in and out of traffic safely while driving or catch any item that were to fall off a table, etc.) I would protect the area I live in Indiana, as well as the greater Chicagoland area.
I am really bad at knowing celebrities these days and I have no idea who a good quasi-lookalike to me would be. Maybe Zac Efron because he’s the exact same age as me. As for a villain, I don’t know, Adam Driver? He seems like he could be a good villain.
Bill Zimmerman: When people say what would your super powers be, why does nobody answer “all of them”? The ability to fly, invincibility, x-ray vision, super speed, you know, all of ‘em. Why choose?
Of course, the city of Chicago would be protected.
You never see fat super heroes. That’s going to change in my film adaptation. I’ll take Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from The Office) to play me. I’m not as bald as him, but it’ll take super hero movies to the next level.
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