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The Pitfalls of Superheroism

Kick-Ass: An unrealistic realistic superhero

Greetings, Citizens of Nerdtropolis!

I’ll just come right out and say it: I am tired of superhero movies. I know they make butt-ass lots of money, and some of them are very well done, blah blah blah. I’m just sick of them. Comic books about superheroes work so much better than movies about them because the books are meant to be hyper-realistic and arch and operatic, but the films based on them have to be at least partially based in reality, and that squanders their potential. “Green Lantern” is one of my favorite comic books, but the film of it is getting almost universally bad reviews. I’m not going to see it, simply because I don’t want my love of the story to be tainted by the shoddy writing of the film. I think the main reason these movies fail is that they’re trying to take essentially a mythic being and make them Ryan Reynolds. Real people aren’t super anything.

“Iron Man” and Chris Nolan’s “Batman” series work like gangbusters because they are about as “realistic” as those arch characters can be made, and even then it’s not particularly real. There are now also several films about “regular” people becoming super heroes, namely “Kick-Ass” and “Super.” In both cases, they’re about what would happen if real people became crime fighters, but instead of having super powers, they shoot and stab people to death. Even in a movie depicting “real” superheroics, there are a huge number of liberties taken in the “that’d never happen” category. Dude in “Kick-Ass” had a jet pack at one point and a bazooka. Seriously.

They got me thinking about is how un-fun it would actually be to do all that stuff, realistically. It’s conceivable, based on these not-real realistic movies, people might start to believe they can do this too. Here are six reasons why that’s a shit idea.

VI – The Idiotic Costumes
Have you ever worn spandex? Does it look good? Even if you’re super hot, it’s unlikely spandex is flattering to your every nook and cranny. Do you have a particular part of yourself you’d rather others not focus on? Too bad! Everyone’s gonna see it now that you’ve become a super hero. In fact, that’s ALL they’re gonna see. And you’re going to get laughed at. Hard. Worse than Star Wars Kid and that dad who cries weird combined. Even if you’re awesome at superheroing, people are going to be like, “Hey, that guy who looks like a fucking idiot is kicking those criminals in the face! Go, dumbass in a costume!” Your weakness better not be the sound of derisive laughter or you’re sunk.

V – No Downtime
In order to find crimes, you either need a series of security cameras feeding directly into your secret hideout that display what’s happening throughout the city (or whatever your chosen turf is), or you need to spend all your time walking around looking for crimes to stop. Like all the time. No matter what you need to do. Crime doesn’t stop because you need to shit, shower, and shave. So you’d also smell terrible because all you’d ever do is walk around in the same form-fitting Lycra jumpsuit all the live-long day. The ball-sweat alone would cause immeasurable chafing. And street crime happens so fast, how can you be sure you’re in the exact spot at the right time? It involves an enormous amount of coincidence, which I’m sure most of us don’t have the patience for. Logistically, given constant movement, you’d probably stop one crime every two months. And that guy would probably just run away from the weird guy with a cape and a dump in his pants .

IV – Lack of Fightable Crime
Superheroism depends and awful lot on criminals who are stupid enough to commit their crimes out in the open. Most crimes nowadays are either internet or fraud-based and don’t actually include much dark alley shenanigans. In fact, most people tell you to NOT walk down dark alleys. Why would you be walking home at night through dark alleys in the first place? Everyone knows that’s where jackbooted thugs amass and take turns playing the murder game. Anyone who’d fall prey to that type of stupidity is probably going to do it again even if you save their life. You’ll lull them into a false sense of security thinking that every time they walk somewhere dangerous a stinky, tired superhero will jump out and save them. But you won’t, because you’ll be six miles across town staking out a warehouse you think is full of drugs but is actually just full of Turkish textiles. Then, all things being equal, not saving those idiots is really just helping Darwin along.

III – Lookie-Loos
If I know anything it’s that people are two things: Discourteous to retail employees, and nosy as hell. Even if you’re a “stick-to-the-shadows”-type hero, you’ll probably get a lot of people looking at you and wondering what the hell you’re doing. You lose the entire element of surprise if you get a group of passers-by pointing at you as you lie in wait for the unsuspecting criminal. If I were a bad guy, which I am not, I’d surely want to steer clear of any large congregation of citizenry. I’d probably go around them or turn around and walk the other direction. Even now, if there’s ever a massing of people looking at something, I’ll go somewhere else. There’s probably something horrible or dangerous over there anyway. And for all I know there’s a superhero just around the corner waiting to punch me in the face. I don’t want to get punched in the face.

II – Physical stamina and lack thereof
To say nothing of agility, speed, and strength, the sheer amount of fighting you’d have to do would put a tremendous strain on your body. Most professional fighters train for months at a time to ensure they’re in peak physical form before getting into the ring, or “octagon,” as I’m told it’s now called, and slug it out. And usually they’re wrecked afterwards. Imagine going out night after night and, perfect conditions applied, stopping two crimes a night. Just two! You’d be battered and bloody and probably get a concussion before having to sit in a bathtub for six hours so you can do it all again. Your utility belt would have to be full of Icy Hot and 5-Hour Energy. Exhaustion is one villain that even a vow to your dead parents can’t defeat.

I – Death
You would die. Flat out die. Probably by getting shot, but possibly also stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, strangled, crushed, or devoured by angry guard dogs. But mostly shot. Oh baby, would you die. Probably the first day, too. You’d be all, “I’m Action Guy, and I want you to leave that young Episcopalian alone,” and they’d be all, “Just walk away, freak show.” Then you’d do the Adam West chuckle and say something witty and strike a fighting stance. And that’s when the guy would pull his gun and shoot you in the chest. And you’d be dead. If you happen to be “Getting Shot Man,” then you’ll probably be used to stuff like this happening, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t still die when they throw a grenade, or drop a piano, or suggest you read “Twilight” so you can pick up all the Nazi references thus confusing you long enough for them to poison you with a strychnine-laced crossbow bolt fired from across the street.

Basically, don’t be a superhero.

And stop making superhero movies.

You’re welcome.


The real crime would be not following me on TWITTER. Do your civic duty. EXCELSIOR!!


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  1. Cody Jarvis says:

    Wow… so I have read my share of comics and I’m pretty sure if you’ve truly read the good ones than you know that these characters weren’t created as occupational options for people. These characters were created to entertain kids and in the long run show them that everyone can be a superhero, not in a literal way, but just by being the guy who will stand up for whats right and will do the right thing in a time of need. Not many of us can simply walk away from a gunshot, but I’m fairly certain that we can all lend a hand to those in need.

  2. Erik Eastham says:

    The one mistake I would point out with this article is the idea that realistic superhero movies work like Batman and Iron Man (which aren’t realistic btw) and more fantasy based movies like Green Lantern don’t. We’ll let’s not forget Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve and Spider Man. Those movies are all unrealistic fantasy and are awesome. Furthermore, I know it’s comedy and not to take it seriously, but the comedy in this article to me was using Green Lantern as an example for why these movies have run their course and then stating that the author has not and will not see the movie . . . Kanderson must know what he/she is talking about.

    PS Mystery Men is fabulous especially considering that Paul Rubins (The Spleen) get’s his powers from an old gypsy woman.

  3. just saying... says:

    People are just leaving negative comments because it was a negative article. In my opinion, hollywood is actually just finally getting super hero movies right. And I really don’t know why
    “Super Heroes”, a sub-genre of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, needs to be criticized for being unrealistic. The fact that the word “Super” is included in the Genre negates Kyle’s arguement.

  4. Gospel X says:

    You lost me at the point where you basically said you were letting other people influence your ability to make your own opinion about the Green Lantern movie. Isn’t one of the best things about being a nerd the fact that we don’t care what other people think? Go see the Green Lantern and make up your own mind. If you don’t like it, I’ll disagree, but at least I’ll know you put some effort into it.

  5. Friendlyman says:

    Jesus fucking christ why are there so many negative comments? People should stop being such dicks. Also Scott, go fuck yourself.

  6. keven says:

    Forgive me if it’s been brought up already, I agree on all points… and it takes money, too… and if you look at the people who have the money to try being a real superhero, they’re not the most ideal fits for the part of crimefighter are they?

  7. Anon says:

    I loled at that little dialog between Chris and Gnat.

  8. Maggie says:

    P.S. SCOTT: Seriously your jab at Chris was really horrible. What a terrible thing to say to someone. It almost made me ashamed just to read it.

  9. Maggie says:

    Whoa. I’m always amazed by how many people get their undies all in a knot in these comment sections. I keep telling myself not to read them, but then inevitably I do and I end up completely dumbfounded at the anger and sincere meanness in people. It’s bizarre and sort of soul sucking.
    Anyway, great entertaining article Mr. Anderson. May not have been understood by some, but it is hilarious. Because it’s true. 🙂

  10. just saying... says:

    All of your points were covered in Kick Ass. I never saw super because it just looked like a rip off of Kick Ass. And it’s silly to complain about super hero movies not being realistic enough. Im done…

  11. Jimbo says:

    Don’t forget reason VII!
    Health insurance rates should your new career gain… traction. Which is where you’ll spend most of your time.

  12. Rich says:

    As an amateur fighter, I can personally say that point 2 is true. I’m only 23, yet after an hour of BJJ rolling, my back feels like it belongs to a 50-year old man. I did boxing sparring for ONE ROUND last night alone and that produced a bloody nose. I see Batman and think “I hope Alfred prepared an epsom salt bath”

  13. roblesjesse says:

    MMmm.. after reading the first couple of paragraphs I was heartbroken, then hilarity ensued. So, I heart this post…. and I heart Ryan Reynolds.. he’s just dreamy…

  14. Michael says:

    Once again I read a whole heap of negative comments which makes it seem like I was reading a completely different article. I was going to laugh out loud but then remembered I was at work, so had to suppress the laughter. Looking around, I realised I was the only one in the office, so it really wouldn’t have mattered.

    Keep up the good work. Also, remember to avoid succumbing to the negative comments, it’ll just grow the demented creature that lurks below.

  15. Lee says:

    Well i have to say most of them points were brought up in kick ass even if it did get a bit crazy towards the end.

  16. duncan7 says:

    Being a super-villain is no better. The real story is in being a consultant to super-villains. It makes for a good podcast, too:

  17. Liz says:

    Wow, people. I’m just going to bypass the negative comments posted, and say I found this article very funny and enjoyable, KAnderson and Nerdist crew. As much as I love the superhero genre, yes, I too have started to tire of some of the films, even as I look forward to the next one.

    The line ‘and that guy would probably just run away from the weird guy with a cape and a dump in his pants’ particularly got me. 🙂

    (By the way, Chris or Kyle, I think many of us would be in support of you using your DGD powers on a couple of these posts if you wanted.)

  18. LaceyL00 says:

    Speaking of how awful it is to be a superhero, and comics, check out Empowered. It’s a 5 book graphic novel that goes over how horrible being a super hero is, especially when you get your butt handed to you on a regular basis. It also mentions wardrobe insecurities, and malfunctions. But my favorite implication, maybe they don’t want to be a superhero, but you are. Almost obligated by fate. Great series.
    On a second note, who is getting upset about o.p. having his own opinion? Thats really up to him. No one is reading your article about his article. There are a ton of good points, with reference backing…. You write an article about why you’d love a superhero job, maybe someone will read it. But I find this one well thoufht out and interesting. So suck it.

  19. Astoria says:

    This made my day. Reading it in class probably wasn’t the best idea because I may or may not have laughed out loud while reading it (yes, I do actually think this is funny). I like your view on things Kanderson.

  20. Scully says:

    @ Reglidan I don’t want to fight about it.

    Let’s just say I got it and I don’t think I am the only one. I’m sorry you didn’t find it funny

  21. Reglidan says:

    “People, dry humor is subtle. Not every joke should hit us over the head with a shovel.

    We all know there are many superhero movies and not all of them good. Its okay to poke fun at our own nerdy icons. I promise Hollywood is not going to take them away anytime soon.”

    I agree. But there has to be some passing stab at humor for it to be called comedy, even if your sense of humor is as dry as the Sahara.

    The only real stab at actually being funny about the subject here is the riff on costumes and spandex. And jokes about costumes and spandex were sort of old by 1989, which is why the comic books had the era of the trench coat and black leather.

    The rest of it, in a nutshell, is basically that superheroing is simultaenously draining, boring, dangerous, and dumb. Well, okay. If there’s anyone out there considering trying to become one, this might work as a PSA.

    But it just isn’t comedy.

  22. Photovatar says:

    Have none of you heard of Phoenix Jones?

  23. Scully says:

    People, dry humor is subtle. Not every joke should hit us over the head with a shovel.

    We all know there are many superhero movies and not all of them good. Its okay to poke fun at our own nerdy icons. I promise Hollywood is not going to take them away anytime soon.

  24. Cyrus says:

    The Internet=Serious business

  25. CW says:

    There’s another great (though slightly less comedic) essay along the same lines at

  26. Otis says:

    Scifi should stick to books too. Because that stuff is just too not-based on extant reality.

  27. John says:

    Note to self: Stop reading the conments on these posts…

  28. Reglidan says:

    Next time a post is intended to be comedy, perhaps there should be subtle clues to that, such as the post being funny.

  29. mj.starchilde says:

    The best part of the whole article, “you’ll die”. how many times have superheroes come back from the dead in comics 😛

  30. K2theM says:

    I too am bored with “super Hero” movies. I kept waiting for the last two I’ve seen to start (Thor and Green Lantern).

    Iron Man and Batman both have enough plausibility to get by (plus a more than lukewarm plot), but recently it seems like we are watching the same movie over and over again, just with different colors. We watch the hero get chosen, we watch the hero fail, we watch the hero triumph over the big baddie in an epic CG encrusted battle. To be sure this is the age old formula, and it works, but I feel like these recent movies are tripping over themselves to get at “The Good Stuff” coming in part 2. It’s as if they are trying as hard as they can to charge through the “origin” story and show the fans what they want that they miss out on a chance to do something different/new/amazing.

    Also, more on the point of the article: Batman probably did the best job of showing what it was like to actually be a “Super-Hero” with the scene where Bruce wakes up in the late afternoon with several bruises on his body, but the scene was fleeting and pushed aside.

  31. Scott says:

    The problem with “Superheroes” is they waste their time with criminals and don’t go for after the source of it all…the rich bastards in charge who create the conditions conducive to crime. Period

  32. Ian says:

    The biggest problem with comic book movies is that they are nearly all in the “action” category, which is notorious for awful plots and dialog so they only have a 10% chance of being any good, let alone being a decent adaption of the original. More money is spent on the marketing than in actually making the movie in the first place.

    There is a good reason why there aren’t any real superheroes, and you’ve cited all of them. Especially the “n0t finding crime for ages, then getting shot” part. Nice use of Roman numerals!

  33. Scott says:

    I notice you(Christ Hardwick) spend quite a bit of time mocking and making fun of the young people who, under a lifetime media barrage and especially after watching a show like Jackass(appropriate…you made fun of many online kid “deaths”…how about your recently dead friend?) copy the idiot behavior they are sold. Does this mean I can make fun of your dead pal now?

  34. Lincoln says:

    I approve this post.

  35. Kyle Anderson says:

    @Chris Hardwick
    Took the words right out of my keyboard.

    So it sounds like everyone here knows what humor is and enjoys laughing. Good too, given it’s a comedy website. Glad we’re all on the same page.

  36. JDDP says:

    Oh, I see what you did there… hard dick…

  37. whatever says:

    I cant believe sum1 would take the time to type out such a lengthy assessment. That was frickin ridiculous. For 1, not everyone has read the comics or even has access to them. Did we forget the world doesn’t revolve around you?

    In the future, remember – hater rants are good to get it off your chest but as your opinion isn’t unanimous, and probably far from it, its just better to praise something that appeals to you than cry and complain about things that don’t. World has enough about people bitching about stuff.

  38. Scott says:

    If the media, fake philosophers(Ayn Rand) and such weren’t selling us radical individualism and selfishness…the I am number one syndrome…the answer to who was number one in the BBC series “The Prisoner”…then maybe ordinary people would be more heroic in everyday life and not, for instance, step over or just gawk at a dying man in Manhattan for instance and we wouldn’t have a government that ruthlessly exploits and manipulates the people they claim to represent and serve…a lie of course.

  39. GNAT NOOP says:

    Chris Harddick: It’s a comment bro, chill out.

  40. Chris Hardwick says:

    GNAT POOP: It’s a comedy post bro, chill out.

  41. GNAT NOOP says:

    It’s fantasy bro, chill out.

  42. Jason G says:

    Agreed. Enough with the Hollywood treatment for superheroes… until the inevitable “Nerdist: How Chris Hardwick Conquered the World”
    (muah ha haaaah)


  43. Adam Lyon says:

    Can I draw attention to my beloved “Mystery Men”? The film where no one has great powers and the heroes generally do get their butts kicked.
    Plus that movie has EVERYONE in it.

  44. Jad Bean says:

    All good points. I agree that superhero movies have largely run their course (though I am excited for what The Avengers will bring us).

    I would argue that the next frontier in super-storytelling ought to be the big-budget TV miniseries. I enjoyed X-Men First Class, but all I could think during the movie was this: I don’t want 2 hours of this, I want 12 hours of this!

    Give me a cinematic superhero story with an episodic structure, and I’ll be set. (PS. NBC’s Heroes showed us how NOT to do it.)