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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Sunday, 1 January 2006
From the well
There are five possibilities when you find yourself able to turn your body paper thin or you just start wearing a costume and calling out thugs:

  1. become a superhero
  2. be labelled an 'anti-hero' because your cause only intersects with humans at times and your priorities are with your own people
  3. become an anti-hero in truth because your methods of apprehending criminals is brutal if not fatal
  4. remain your slacker self
  5. become a supervillain

    What each of these options, slackers aside, suggest is that there will be elements of drama, crime, and action. Now it is possible that a superhero could use their power to get a kite down from a tree but such fey adventures would not enthrall the average reader, so baddy bopping it is.

    So is there any genre crossover worth talking about? Well, allowing for the fact that many superheroes have fought on the battlefront, making this just a variation on what they do, that leaves the western and spy thriller.
    Masked heroes like the Durango Kid are often written as precursors to the superhero, with the uncanny ability to shoot the gun from outlaws' hands.

    No matter how many mystery men there are who only come out at night, and no matter how dark the costume, however, they are different to Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Spies work for the government in a covert capacity. They dress down more than they dress up (James Bond excepted) though they do share larger than life villains and plots to overthrow the world. The key difference is that many of the superheroes operate as vigilantes and are tolerated by the authorities only to a degree: from the close cooperation of a Commissioner Gordon to the outright hostility you or I would be treated to should we try the same thing in the real world.

    There has been a licensing and corraling of metahumans from time to time, and several plotlines deal with the hero attempting to trap his quarry while at the same time avoiding police or government operatives. But the true synthesis of the two is best exemplified by the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, government agents given their powers and identities by the United Nations and restricted to the task at hand and the need to work as a team.

    Posted by berko_wills at 1:19 PM EADT
    Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006 11:59 PM EADT

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