Justice has a new face, and it wears a mask. Who are we talking about? Ordinary folk like Mike McMullen, a.k.a. The Amazing Whitebread, who become something entirely new and occasionally borderline pathological: Real-Life Superheroes (RLSHs).
"Being a singing superheroine is a way for me to not only pay the bills, it also helps me give the baddies such a headache." --Danger Woman
Complete with costumes and all the gadgetry they can afford from selling old copies of Action Comics on eBay, RLSHs dish out their own brand of justice--while criminals go about their business and law enforcers roll their eyes.
"Me and Shadowhare were walking past a bank and we stopped to make a phone call. As soon as we started walking away, the police came up and said, 'Do you know why we stopped you? Because you guys are wearing masks standing in front of a bank.'" --Mr. Xtreme
McMullen spans the country, coach class, seeking to develop his own RLSH identity and address such weighty issues as:
Sidekicks: Faithful wards or CPS bait?
Bad Guys: Where the hell are they all hiding?
Super-tights: How snug is too snug?
So don your mask, suck in your gut, and join us.
"Hey, you're with a superhero. . .what could go wrong?" --Geist, the Emerald Cowboy
Michael McMullen, a.k.a. The Amazing Whitebread, was born in Wichita Falls, Texas. He earned an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, and subsequently took the only employment option open to someone with the resultant lack of marketable skills: government service. He's worked as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice for just over a decade and currently lives in Arlington, Texas, with his wife, Lauren, and their children, Grant and Gracie. His hobbies include aspiring to get some woodworking done, thinking about learning a musical instrument, and trying to get interested in any computer game other than Text Twist. He has had short pieces published in various science fiction/fantasy magazines and currently holds the record for "Worst-Kept Secret Identity."
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I, SUPERHERO!!MY JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD OF REAL-LIFE SUPERHEROES, SPANDEX, AND SEX
By MIKE MCMULLEN
CITADEL PRESSCopyright © 2010 Mike McMullen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIN WHICH I PUT EVERYTHING THAT WOULD NORMALLY GO IN THE INTRODUCTION
But No One Ever Reads Those, or at Least I Don't, So I'm Putting It Here
Let me tell you a quick story.
A few years ago, two German men-Arnim Meiwes and Bernd Brandes-met in an Internet chat room called Gay Cannibals and came to the joint decision that for their mutual sexual pleasure Meiwes would kill and eat Brandes. The meal would climax, if you'll pardon my diction, with Meiwes eating Brandes' penis. At trial, Meiwes told the court that he'd been looking for someone slim and blonde to eat like Sandy from the Flipper films.
This short story, completely true, brings three important facts to light:
1. An Internet chat room exists called Gay Cannibals-dear holy God.
2. The actor, Luke Halpin, who played Sandy Ricks in Flipper, is apparently some sort of fetish figure among at least some of the aforementioned homosexual flesh eaters.
3. Some people are crazy as all hell and will do anything.
So why the living crap did I just disgust and horrify you with that story? For one, How to Write Non-Fiction That Sells, the book I skimmed just prior to sitting down to write, says you want an attention grabber at the beginning of your book to hook the audience. In addition, and almost just as important, I included it because this was the story that got me thinking about heroes. To be specific: superheroes. Those guys and gals in comics and movies and occasionally TV who run around in inappropriately tight costumes catching criminals and causing, on average, an estimated $3.2 million in property damage for every $1,000 in stolen property recovered. In a world where gay (no judgment implied) cannibals willingly offer themselves up so that other gay (no judgment implied) cannibals can eat their penises while watching Flipper, Why, dear Lord, why has no one yet put on a cape and cavorted through the city primeval, saving damsels from falling bits of building and punching carjackers in their coin purses? There are people who will put on a leather hood and yell at you while you lick their shoes, but no one wants to put on a mask and yell a snappy catchphrase before swinging down from a rooftop and jerking an old woman out from in front of a bus full of toxic chemicals barreling down on her like the dark specter of hell itself.
Is that too much to ask?
Surely this state of affairs is not right. There's a Batman-shaped void in society calling out to be filled. Specifically, I feel it's calling out to me, a lifetime devotee to all things superhero. And why shouldn't I be the one to step up? I've read almost every issue of Daredevil ever published. I once lovingly handcrafted a statue of no less a third-stringer than the Absorbing Man out of Super Sculpey, and when I was a boy, I used to run around the house with my tighty whities on my head playing Spider-Man. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize there's really only one obstacle, albeit a big one, in the way of becoming the world's first superhero, and l'obstacle, c'est moi. Specifically, the obstacle is my body and the plethora of superhuman, or even reasonablyathletichuman, abilities it utterly fails to support. For example, I'm not (and this is something only a few people know about me) impervious to pain. I'm actually quite pervious to it. I also can't become invisible. I don't have superspeed and can't even run particularly fast. I'm a bit (read: a lot) overweight, and while my legs are strong, I have the upper body strength of a nine-year-old girl-a malnourished nine-year-old girl.
A malnourished 9-year-old girl who's contracted malaria just as she's coming off a bad case of mono. I'm not strong, is what I'm saying.
A natural by-product of my out of shapeness is that my stamina isn't what it used to be. One could also say I never had much in the way of stamina in the first place, but I like the way I say it better. For example, I just finished installing a new light fixture in the entryway of my house. And I swear the strain brought on by twisting some wires together and driving in about three screws, all while holding my hands above my head for approximately two minutes, kicked my ass so hard that I'd dialed the 9 and a 1, before my wife talked me down, or rather up, because by that point I was lying on the floor with one hand on the phone and the other on my pulse, making sure it was still there.
As if all that weren't enough to disqualify me, I also slouch, say "good" when I mean "well," and don't call my mother as often as I should. Long story short, I'm beginning to think I need to find a way to do the superhero gig without being born with awesome physical might beyond the ken of mere mortals, although that would have been nifty too. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
After some contemplation and drawing upon the accumulated knowledge gained from a lifetime of reading, watching, talking, and thinking about superheroes, I've realized very few are actually born with their powers. In fact, I've narrowed the origins of superpowers down to the following six:
1. Aliens. Either being one (Superman) or by coming into contact with them (The Greatest American Hero-remember that show?-that was a great show). This seems to my mind the easiest and, relatively speaking, safest way of becoming superpowered. The only drawback here is that I'm not, in fact, an alien, and I have yet to see one. I was probed once, but that had less to do with creatures from other worlds than with a little curiosity and a lot of cheap booze. 2. Exposure to radiation. This can happen either directly (the Incredible Hulk) or via animal and insect bites (Spider-Man). I'm ruling out this method for two reasons: First, I wouldn't even know where to begin looking for any type of radiation more powerful than a malfunctioning tanning bed. I don't recall seeing barrels of toxic sludge on special at Wal-Mart, although I could be wrong. Second, I have equally little knowledge re: locating an irradiated creature. Plus, that might hurt a bit. I'm not willing to suffer for my art as of yet. Refer back to my statements regarding perviousness to pain. 3. Methods involving the supernatural. These methods come into play either by practicing magic (Dr. Strange) or by being some sort of unnatural creature (werewolf, vampire). I can easily discount the first half of this option just by observing people who claim to be able to perform magic. They all share the same traits: Worldview of a neo-hippie Names like Madame Maleficent and Impious Wolfsbane Over 10,000 hours Dungeons & Dragons (D&J) Pot-reek Children named Starchild, the Explorer, and Chad
None of these traits automatically falsify their claims of the ability to perform magic; I simply refuse to associate with such people. Plus, Doug Henning claimed to perform real magic. Remember him? Neither does anyone else.
4. Pseudoscience (Iron Man). This method can be logically eliminated simply by considering the ratio of real-world practitioners of pseudoscience to real-world superheroes, which works out to something in the vicinity of eleventy gazillion to goose egg. 5. Results of genetic mutation (X-Men). This option is a nonstarter, as the only noticeable genetic mutations I'm aware of generally take the form of webbed feet, vestigial tails, or, at best, double jointedness. I was blessed with none of these characteristics, although I can do a mean belly roll. Not being naturally mutated, if I desired to effect an aftermarket modification to my genes, I'd be left holding the bag back at Option 2.
This leaves me with only one option, which I call Option 6, what with it coming after Option 5 and all.
6. Cultivation of powers through training, study, and effort (Batman). Really, this route can be summarized with one word-exercise.
After this realization that I might have to put forth regular, extended physical effort to achieve my newly minted life's dream of becoming the world's first superhero, I get online to find the number for Home Depot's Toxic Sludge department, using the one source of wisdom and infallibly accurate knowledge regarding all things in existence or yet to exist: Google. Just as I'm about to hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, I have another realization, the second one today and fifth overall for my entire life: I'd better check and make sure I actually would be the world's first real superhero before I go through all this trouble. I delete the words "Home Depot radioactive" from the search bar and replace them with "real-life superhero."
Crap on a cracker, I get so many results you'd think I'd planned it. I scan down the search results and there, third one down, is a Wikipedia article filed under "real-life superhero," and it's filled with stories about people calling themselves things like Angle-Grinder Man, Terrifica, and Superbarrio. I'm a little let down that once again, I'm not as original as I thought, but fascinated that someone else not only had the same idea but also the nerve or lack of self-awareness actually to follow through with it. This realization, at least, offsets my disappointment.
I page back to my search results. Just a few entries below the Wikipedia article is a link to a site that dares call itself, without a hint of sarcasm or even a Monty Pythonesque "wink, wink, nudge, nudge," The World Superhero Registry. I click, and mere seconds later (slow connection), I'm confronted by the grimacing faces of no less than 29 active real-life superheroes (RLSHs) and 121 heroes in training and "unconfirmed" heroes, which I can only assume is a hero who hasn't done his or her catechism.
The first one that catches my eye is Entomo, the Italian Insect-Man.
To try to relate anything about Entomo and his mission myself would be a grievous disservice to you, dear reader, when he expresses it so eloquently himself (on his MySpace page, of course. Where else would you go to learn about a real-life superhero?:)
A stylized SIGMA is my symbol. SIGMA, because I sum up all the powerful, silent and venomous small creatures inhabiting this world. SIGMA, because I'm a synthesis, the humanlike swansong of millions of races. From investigation to crime-fighting to activism, I stand for the biggest conundrum of the known universe: balance between enthalpy and entropy. To be a Real Life Superhero is truly the greatest deed a man can accomplish in a backward world like this, where fiction is truer to reality than reality itself. On the other hand, the chance to fight for such a stunning planet is too significant to be turned down. Hear my buzz, fear my bite: I inject justice.
Holy freakin' crap, did that guy just say he injects justice? Excuse me while I go back and read that one more time.
Uh, yeah, he did. Sweet, sweet Lord, there are so many jokes I can't even think of one to put down here. It's like a Three Stooges episode in my head, when Larry, Moe, and Curly all try to go through a door at the same time and they're lodged in there so tight none of them can get through.
Excited by the prospect of who else may be a member of the World Justice Academy of Superheroes or whatever the crap this is called, I scan down the page. They fly at me, one after another. I finally stop at Amazonia.
According to the World Superhero Registry, Amazonia "patrols the streets of Ocala, FL and Lowell, MA, protecting the innocent and seeking to keep order," which makes it sound like she's the world's first retiree superhero, tripping up and down the coast as the weather changes. However, a closer reading reveals she's just thirty-eight, so maybe calling her the migrant worker of superheroes is slightly more accurate.
Speaking of retirees, a little further down the pages is the Queen of Hearts, from Jackson, Michigan, who looks to be at least late fifties, and that's my Southern politeness coming through. I skim over her blurb and initially think it says she "frequently does volunteer work in her community as well as assaulting local children," and I think, Well good Lord, woman. You just can't do that. Turns out it actually says "assisting local charities." My bad. Sorry, Ms. of Hearts.
And then there's Shadow Hare, who says, "It was the best of times and the worst of times. I've stopped many evil doers ... such as drug dealers, muggers, rapists, and crazy hobos with pipes."
Sooo freakin' awesome. Between the Dickens quote and the image of crazy hobos-the old kind, who hopped trains and wore greasy old fedoras and chewed unlit, half-smoked cigars-coming at the "vicious looking yet named for a rabbit" superhero with lead pipes, I want to giggle and giggle like a two-year-old at the tickle factory until I fall off the Pilates ball I use as a desk chair.
After catching my breath, I look over the galaxy of RLSHs and notice one common thread (two, if you count abject lunacy): none of them have any, you know, superpowers. Some claim to have special psychic facilities or the ability to talk to animals or plants, but really, if they're anything, they're mostly low-level Option 6s (Batman). It seems, not only does it not take a rocket scientist to be a superhero, it doesn't take superpowers or even, in some cases, a modicum of physical prowess.
That really takes a lot of the pressure off. Of course, that means I'll still have to exercise because, powers or not, the current fat state of my ass isn't going to play in skintight spandex unless I call myself The Supersizer or Fatty Fantastico or something of that ilk.
But before I go through all that trouble, I have to ask, is there even a point to my becoming a superhero anymore, when I can't be the first, the innovator, the man or superman as the case may be? Is there a point to becoming one of the very proud, very ridiculous, proudly ridiculous and/or ridiculously proud people who, daily and with benevolence aforethought, leave their homes to fight the scum of society with nothing between them and the criminal element but a layer of red spandex, an overblown sense of justice, and a grappling hook? Why join the ranks of those who spend long, lonely nights on patrol, saving potential assault victims, thwarting mugging attempts, foiling bank robberies, and queering, dare I say it, plots (it's so reassuring to me to know that things still get queered and foiled. You have no idea), when I can just stay home and watch reruns of Project Runway? Not that I watch Project Runway.
I take a break to get a cookie, turn on the TV, and think about whether to pursue my ten-minute-old dream of superherodom, when I hear a familiar screeching upstairs. The baby's up from his nap and mommy's at the store, so I pause Iron Chef and head upstairs to the nursery. My Spidey sense starts tingling just outside the door, warning me I'm about to face a dirty diaper of epic proportions. I shove the rest of the cookie into my mouth to preserve it from being tainted by the odor, lift the collar of my T-shirt over my nose, and head in.
Excerpted from I, SUPERHERO!! by MIKE MCMULLEN Copyright © 2010 by Mike McMullen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 IN WHICH I PUT EVERYTHING THAT WOULD NORMALLY GO IN THE INTRODUCTION But No One Ever Reads Those, or at Least I Don't, So I'm Putting It Here....................1
CHAPTER 2 COWBOY SECRET SPACE DETECTIVE: GEIST....................14
CHAPTER 3 IN WHICH I EXERCISE ... Kinda....................43
CHAPTER 4 SUPERWHATNOW? or, All the Good Names Are Taken....................59
CHAPTER 5 DON QUIXOTE DE ORLANDO: MASTER LEGEND....................70
CHAPTER 6 SIDEKICKS The Also-Rans of the Superhero World....................111
CHAPTER 7 ARMY OF ONE: MR. XTREME....................126
CHAPTER 8 DOES THIS CAPE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG? Superhero Costuming and Equipmentage....................170
CHAPTER 9 THE BAD GUYS ARE BROUGHT Real-Life Super Villains....................202
CHAPTER 10 SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH AMAZONIA....................228
CHAPTER 11 ME, GEIST, AND MY JUNK A Hero Is Born....................256
CHAPTER 12 LESSONS LEARNED or, Remind Me Why I Did This Again?....................285
The Amazing Whitebread's Legion of Superbuddies League of Societies....................291
APPENDIX 1 The Hall of Spandex or, Nine Bigger-Than-Life Heroes and One Little Bitty Villain....................292
APPENDIX 2 Mortified by Justice Mrs. Whitebread Speaks!....................321
APPENDIX 3 You Can Pick Your Name, and You Can Pick Your Nose, but You Can't Pick Your Name's Nose or Something Like That....................326
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
We superheroes dont all wear tights... I wear a polka dotted fedora and zebra suspenders.
Don't dismiss this book because of its slightly cheesy cover art. What looks goofy turns out to be one of the funniest and most interesting books I've ever read. Did you know there are about 200 people around America who call themselves Real Life Superheroes? I didn't, and truthfully, the idea sounded a little ridiculous until I read author Mike McMullen's book. Instead of being kooks (okay, they are a little kooky, but who isn't?) the people McMullen interviews turn out to be decent individuals who just want to help. Nothing wrong with that. However, what makes this book so funny is McMullen himself. To understand these individuals better, he decides to become a Real Life Superhero, too, complete with an alter ego and costume. It's his self-deprecating humor about his weight, his costume and the whole process that make this book such an enjoyable read. If you like wickedly funny, page-turner books, I recommend you get this one. If you have any comic-book-loving, superhero wannabes in your life, then buy two books.