SuperHero of the Day

Superhero Book 2e
ISBN: 9781578593750

Which superhero worked as an insurance agent for years?

  • He had to leave the superhero business after being sued by a man whom he prevented from committing suicide.
  • His wife and children are also superheroes.
  • His main power is pure physical strength on a collosal scale.
  • His best friend is an African American hero named Frozone.

Mr. Incredible

One of the greatest critical and commercial successes from Pixar Animation Studios, The Incredibles is a computer-animated motion picture about a family of superheroes. This contemporary classic premiered in 2004 and was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures (the Walt Disney Company bought Pixar in 2006). Although filled with comedy, The Incredibles also succeeds in working as a suspenseful and serious superhero adventure saga.

The Incredibles was directed and written by Brad Bird. A protege of Milt Kahl, one of Walt Disney's leading animators known as his "Nine Old Men," Bird became a director and executive consultant on The Simpsons in its first eight years. Bird directed Warner Bros.' 1999 animated film The Iron Giant, which makes references to both Superman and Will Eisner's The Spirit.

The Incredibles' title characters include Bob Parr, alias Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), who is superhumanly strong. His feisty wife, Helen, alias Elastigirl (played by Holly Hunter), who can stretch any part of her body. Their initially shy teenage daughter Violet (voiced by author Sarah Vowell) who can turn invisible and generate protective force fields, and Her rambunctious younger brother Dash (voiced by Spencer Fox) who can move at superspeed. Bob and Helen also have a new infant son, Jack-Jack, who proves to have superpowers of his own.

Other major characters include the supervillain Syndrome (voiced by Jason Lee), who as a boy tried to become Mr. Incredible's sidekick and as an adult tries to destroy all superheroes out of frustrated envy. His sultry assistant is Mirage (voiced by Elizabeth Pena). Bob Parr's best friend is the African American superhero Frozone (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), who has freezing powers. Brad Bird himself voices Edna Mode, the eccentric woman who designs the Incredibles' costumes. (Bird has stated that he intended Edna to be a combination of fashion aficionado and gadget builder along the lines of James Bond's Q; others have noted similarities to famed costume designer Edith Head.)

The film opens by showing how, soon after Mr. Incredible married Elastigirl, the federal government forced them and all other superheroes into retirement due to an onslaught of lawsuits. Years later Bob and Helen live in a suburb as the parents of three children, though Bob is frustrated at having to work at a dull desk job--a metaphor for a conformist society in which no one is allowed to use his talents to stand out from others. Bob secretly goes to work as Mr. Incredible for Mirage, only to captured by her employer Syndrome, who has been killing off the retired superheroes. Violet and Dash are stowaways when Helen goes to find Bob. The family go into action together as superheroes to combat Syndrome's minions and then to stop his gigantic Omnidroid robot from destroying a major city.

Though distinct in its approach, the Incredibles bear similarities to Marvel's own superhero family, the Fantastic Four. Violet has the same powers as Susan Richards, the Invisible Woman. Bob has superstrength like the Thing, and his alias "Mr. Incredible" resembles Reed Richards' name "Mr. Fantastic." Elastigirl has the same power as Mr. Fantastic, and the same superhero name (minus the hyphen) as Rita Farr of DC Comics' Doom Patrol. Perhaps partly in response, Rita recently changed her alias to "Elasti-Woman." Dash's name and superpower seem to be homages to DC's super-speedster, the Flash. The similarities are appropriate because The Incredibles echoes the superhero genre of comics' Silver Age, while nodding to other examples of 1960s pop culture; for example, Michael Giacchino's score evokes the music of Sean Connery's James Bond films of the era.

The Incredibles won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and BOOM! Studios published the comics miniseries The Incredibles: Family Matters, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Marcio Takara, in 2009, followed that same year by an ongoing monthly The Incredibles comics series. The marketplace also saw a flood of Incredibles tie-in merchandise, including costumes, toys, and movie collectibles. --PS & GM

The Inferior Five

For much of the company's existence, DC Comics had been the comic industry's most conservative publisher, somewhat staid and reserved, but the rise of Marvel Comics and the success of the 1960s camp Batman television show changed all that. One of DC's responses to a growing superhero market that could stand a bit of comedy was to introduce the Inferior Five. It was one of the first self-referential strips, taking swipes at the whole superhero genre and its conventions, and--most satisfyingly--actually managing to be funny.

The team was introduced in the pages of Showcase #62 (1966) by longtime fan/writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Joe Orlando, and soon graduated to its own title. The story begins with the aging (and less-than-athletic) members of the Freedom Brigade being summoned by the Megalopolis police force to defend the city from the menace of a mad scientist. Quickly realizing that their crime-fighting days are well behind them, the Patriot, Lady Liberty, and their fellow Freedom Brigade members decide to send their children instead. Sadly, the younger generation lack their parents' awesome crime-fighting skills, but nevertheless decide to band together as the aptly named Inferior Five.

The team's leader was young cartoonist Myron Victor who, as the comic declared, "used to be a ninety-seven-pound weakling before losing weight." With no powers whatsoever, Victor dressed himself in a jester's costume, to illustrate the futility of his crime-fighting career, and went by the unheroic name of Merryman. Rotund Herman Cramer was the Blimp ("He flies like a bird with the speed of a snail"), who sadly did not inherit the incredible running prowess of his father, Captain Swift. The politically incorrect Dumb Bunny ("stronger than an ox ... and almost as intelligent!") was beautiful but vacant model Athena Tremor, who wore a bunny-girl costume, complete with fluffy tail and ears. The team's strongman was beatnik beach-bum Leander Brent ("more powerful than a locomotive, but always getting derailed"), whose accident-prone bumbling earned him the name Awkwardman. Rounding out the group was the White Feather ("the only bird who's chicken!"), also known as glamour photographer William King, whose archery skills were somewhat undermined by his abject cowardice. The group communicated using telephones known as the Lukewarm Line, and rode about the city in their jalopy, the Inferi-Car.

Bridwell had a real talent for humor, which meant that the comic emphasized laughs over thrills. Indeed, with villains like Dr. Gruesome, the Sparrow, and the Masked Swastika (an armor-clad Napoleon Bonaparte look-alike), the title was always lighthearted. Another unusual aspect of the comic was its wholesale lampooning of Marvel's all-conquering heroes, who involuntarily guest-starred in many strips, frequently as rather pathetic villains. The Hulk became the Man Mountain, the Sub-Mariner was Prince Nabob the Submoron, and the Fantastic Four were the Kookie Quartet, while Spider-Man, Thor, the X-Men, and Iron Man were also affectionately parodied. Marvel replied with its own spoof comic, Not Brand Echh, but in that book by-and-large concentrated on satirizing its own characters (presumably being reluctant to give publicity to its rivals).

Perhaps the strip's most ambitious moment was in issue #6, in a bizarre story titled "How to Make a Bomb," which featured the Five taking a tour of DC's offices, and starred pretty much the company's full editorial team. Among other incidents, artists Carmine Infantino and Mike Sekowsky were shown having a fight, and DC owner Irwin Donenfeld was depicted as a lollipop-sucking child! Sadly, the comic got lost in the camp craze and, after ten issues of its own title, it was canceled, leaving in its wake a small, but enthusiastic, cult following.

After a long absence from print, Dumb Bunny turned up in the 1991 Angel and the Ape miniseries. But it was in the twenty-first century that the Inferior Five's time finally came once more. Merryman made a surprise appearance in Grant Morrison's Final Crisis: Superman Beyond (October 2008-March 2009), which, in a touch of meta-fiction, revealed him to be the "King of Limbo" for long missing superheroes. Dumb Bunny returned in Ambush Bug: Year None #3 (November 2008). Then writer J. Michael Straczynski brought back the entire Inferior Five in the comic The Brave and the Bold #35 (August 2010), in which Dumb Bunny revealed that she was not as dumb as she has pretended to be all these years.

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ISBN: 9781578593750