Faux REALS: On the Longevity of the Longjohn-Wearing Hero

“…but brother, there are days when I wish I was Plastic Man or the Flash or one of those happy-go-lucky bozos.”

I wrote about Gwydion Suilebhan‘s new superhero play REALS this week, taking his provocation that “Superhero films are bad for you” as a jumping off point for talking about, well, superhero films.

Not quite 10 years ago, I spent the better part of a year trying to write one. It was called Hero Complex, and it was about a guy who becomes convinced he’s the illegitimate son of The Gryphon, the mightiest hero around. I was aiming for a bittersweet comedy with touches of doomed romance and magical realism. I pitched it to my professor and fellow students in my screenwriting program as “a Wes Anderson superhero movie.”

I wrote two full drafts and many more first acts. I had a version where my hero was in his early 20s and unattached, and a version where he was 40 and married with kids. Neither was very good, but there was a scene here, a line there, that I thought might be worth saving.

Then The Incredibles came out. That’s not a film that bears much resemblance to my description of the one I was trying to sweat into existence, but at the time it felt close enough to make me throw up my hands. I loved The Incredibles. I felt certain my screenplay would never get to be that good, no matter how many night and weekends I sacrificed to it on the altar of my crumb-covered, coffee-stained keyboard.

Lots more superhero films have come out since then, including a handful that don’t fit squarely into the simple, square, unironic superhero peg: Hancock. Kick-Ass. I don’t love those movies, but seeing them did make me feel like maybe the problems of my long-abandoned superhero script were not insoluble. Perhaps one day I’ll break my leg on an irradiated square of pavement, and be mysteriously imbued with the power of… patience, as I’m laid up waiting to be healed, to maybe take another crack at it.

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One response to “Faux REALS: On the Longevity of the Longjohn-Wearing Hero

  1. Of further interest, perhaps: http://www.suilebhan.com/2012/08/28/doubts-about-superheroes/

    (This is the playwright’s note from the REALS program…)

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