|Max Manic, the on-the-spot innovator,|
at your service.
I love their mythos and meta, from their Greek and Roman and Norse and native primogenitors, to the creation stories of Superman as an avenging angel against totalitarian genocide, an idea Michael Chabon extended as elegy in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Through cobble and creation, I used superheroes as a way to teach writing and reading and art at the end of my short career as an elementary school teacher, after all the official No Child Left Behind assessments had been administered.
It was the first time I felt I was truly doing my job as a teacher, and engaging students for long hours in the invention of their superhero alter egos and the bad guy avatars who mess with their real lives.
|Early amorphous superhero—|
his archnemesis, of course,
is whoever flattened and
stretched his left foot.
Paul and partner Doralynn Co of Greenhouse Marketing & Design, Inc. were helping a Sacramento company called Pacific Field Service brand its expertise in the commercial and residential inspection business. Field service is a discipline in the mortgage, real estate and insurance industries, which gives those businesses current information about the condition of their holdings and prospects.
Pacific Field Service seeks a market edge by being nimble and leveraging the latest technology, delivering up-to-the-minute data to its clients.
Paul and Doralynn's job has been to expand Pacific Field Service's profile in those industries, in time for a big trade show. Whole-picture-think-different kinds of folks, they decided to deploy a novel way to create the space of the company's trade booth, play up the high tech quickness as heroic — even superheroic!
|Like this or that? Definitely that. (What's with the ears?|
and what is the guy on the right doing with his right arm?)
|Early idea: Huh?|
Greenhouse and Pacific Field Service literally embodied the company's market strengths and vision into four entities: Max Manic, the innovator; Q and her dog A (quality assurance), the ensurers of professionalism; Virtue, who needs no further introduction; and Inspector, representing the corps of Pacific Field Service's core, the gatherers of data from far and wide.
|Early alter ego idea …|
like this guy for
a brief moment.
Next came the most fun of the fun part, building the superheroes. Except for Virtue (aka Integra), these are gadget junkies. Objects hang off Max and Q's belts. Max wears what appears to be a solar-powered helmet, with fighter-pilot goggles, and Inspector rocks a kind of motorcycle helmet with an airfoil (or vent?) and modified street biker's jacket, not to mention arm and leg rockets. Q and the Inspector have cameras attached to their heads, which correspond to Pacific Field Service's use of documentation tools. All but Virtue have microphones. Virtue wields a torch of integrity (she also goes by Integra).
|Sketches for the Fabulous Four in action for promotional cards.|
In our imaginations, via the printed page, the superhero world works. We project our hopes and wishes on them, and we impel them to solve thorny problems.
In real life, different story: The Inspector's retro rockets, with their fuel lines snaking around his body, would pose a few problems, not the least of which would be steering through space.
That's the other great thing about superhero comics: They only truly work in printed form. Despite the success of Batman and Spider-Man's move to movies (and why is the Spider-Man franchise starting all over again?), and despite the power of computer graphics, cinema takes away our power to empower the superheroes. We get one vision for Spidey riding through the skyscraper canyons, and it's not necessarily my vision or yours, exciting as it is to see the first time. (Insert your vehement protest here; besides, I make an exception with V for Vendetta.)
|Q and Virtue went through|
several iterations, often involving
breast reduction …
Heck, we allow that superheroes in bright, tight-fitting suits and animalistic cowls and capes wander about in that world, the one between the pages. They're not silly at all. Maligned and despised sometimes by the inhabitants of their printed world, but not silly. In context, they face real problems and evil bad guys.
|Inspector also delivers|
the rocket fuel as barista …
But in the real world (think of the fans at Comic-Con or the supposed rise in real-life superheroes in Seattle, New York and elsewhere — a sociologist's dream: Why? Economic woes? Social malaise?), those costumes are just … costumes. Gaudy, out of place, seeming to rob these ersatz superheroes of their power and esteem. Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore explore that sub-theme in Watchmen (again, distorted in movie form because it delivers one level of hyper-violence, one look, and must disregard the story within the story).
Happily, Pacific Field Service's fab four steer clear of that dilemma. Writ large and bold in two dimensions, they tap into our imaginations and sense of play, their ideals intact.
|Pacific Field Service superheroes bust out before shipping off to the trade show.|