"I have so many things to write about, I don't know which one to choose," I told Kris as we got in the car this morning. "I could write about Proust. I could write about how Ant-Man is lamer even than Aquaman. I could write a love letter to Jennifer Garner."
"Those are all lame," said Kris, "especially the one with Aquaman. Only Denise cares."
This one's for Denise.
I often mock Aquaman as the lamest of superheroes, and justifiably so.
"Hello, my name is Aquaman. I'm a superhero. My powers are: I can breathe underwater and I can talk to fish. Beware evil-doers!"
Can you imagine how frustrated the other Super Friends must be to have Aquaman always hanging around, lounging in the hot tub?
"Aquaman! Lex Luthor just turned the citizens of Metropolis into bats! We've got to defeat him," cry Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman. "How can you help us?"
"No problem. You just get ol' Lex near a lake and I'll make the trout jump all over him. There's no way he can escape."
What a great guy to have on your team.
At the other end of the spectrum is Superman, who is lame because he's become so God-like. (In his original incarnation, his powers were modest but respectable.)
"That nuclear blast had no effect on me, evil-doer. I will now grab your hideout and fly with it into the center of the sun. You shall never trouble mankind again."
Of course, it's easy to defeat Superman if you have a green rock or you know magic, but he always finds some way to escape.
Recently I've been reading some old, old Marvel Comics. One of these is a compilation of Ant-Man stories. Ant-Man was Marvel's second (or fifth, depending on how you count) modern superhero, after the Fantastic Four (which comprise Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, the Human Torch, and the Invisible Girl). The first Ant-Man and the second Fantastic Four story appeared concurrently. Before Spider-Man, before the Hulk, before the X-Men and Daredevil, there was Ant-Man.
Why haven't you, the average American, ever heard of Ant-Man? Because he's lame.
Let's allow Ant-Man to explain his powers in his own words: "This helmet I've devised will enable me to contact the ants — to tune in on their 'wave length' and actually communicate with them! And I've designed a protective costume to wear, which will shield me from accidental ant-sting or bite."
But wait! There's more!
"I've developed my reducing and growth serums in a gas form! It makes it a lot easier to carry them with me! All I have to do now is release the reducing gas and inhale it through my filter [and] within a moment, it will start to act upon my cell tissues...shrinking me to the size of an ant!"
Though he's ant-sized, Ant-Man retains normal human strength. This makes him immensely powerful, of course, even if it doesn't make sense.
But think about it: Ant-Man is exactly like Aquaman, except much smaller, and instead of talking to fish, he talks to ants. How useful is that? Not very. Unless you have the imagination of a comic book writer.
Early on it's established that Ant-Man has a tiny catapult built into the side of his home. This catapult can fling him anywhere in the city (a city without a name, by the way). As he's hurtled through the air, Ant-Man communicates with the ants: "My cybernetic transmitter is sending out impulses! The ants will detect them with their antennae and follow them! There they are — converging on the exact spot where I'm about to land."
That's right: somehow the ants know precisely where Ant-Man is going to land, and they're able to mound into a great pile of antness for him to land on.
You'd think that as Ant-Man battles gangsters and Russian spies — this is 1962, remember — he'd simply be stepped on at some point. Not so. Instead, time and again he triumphs, though the's nearly done in by the menace of the Scarlet Beetle.
Ant-Man: Insects! Hundreds of them! All gathered together! But for what purpose??
Ant-Man: Wait! That one beetle is glowing strangely! And all the other insects have their attention fixed on him! It's almost as though he is speaking to them!
Ant-Man: Holy cow! The beetle is communicating with them! He's using mental telepathy!! I can detect his thoughts!
Scarlet Beetle: For ages, the human race has ruled the Earth! But now, due to radiation which accidentally hit me during one of mankind's atomic experiments I have been given a brain which is the equal of any humans!!"
Scarlet Beetle: Now, under my leadership, our species will at last fulfill its destiny! We insects, who number in the trillions, shall seize control of the Earth from mankind! We shall become the masters of the world!
Ant-Man: He-he means it! Humanity wouldn't have a chance against an organized attack by the insect world! This could mean the end of mankind!
Humanity wouldn't have a chance against an organized attack by the fish world, either, but that doesn't mean I want to read about Aquaman fighting a hyper-intelligent carp.
If I think Ant-Man is this lame, then why am I reading him? I guess because he's so lame, in a cheesy way, that he's off the scale. Reading Ant-Man isn't painful, it's hilarious. I can't wait to see what absurdity comes next: Ants carrying great globs of honey to stick the bad guy's shoes to the ground! A swarm of ants carrying heavy machinery!
Aren't comic books great?
On this day at foldedspace.org
2005 — First Grade This morning, as I soaked in a hot bath in a darkened room, I was overwhelmed by memories of first-grade.
2003 — Little Things In which cats are wonderful creatures. In which Lisa gives birth to a cat. In which I drove home listening to Italian Mexican music. In which I waste time and money on a game.
2002 — Abba Gold A symptom of hope or a symptom of despair? This morning, Tony and I had a disagreement over ownership of the Abba CD that he had in his car. I claim it for my own, but he insists it's his.