Why the UK Is doomed
It just so happened that while I was agonising over what to write about for this article that I happened to be watching Misfits on DVD and seeing the newly released trailer for Iron Man, which inevitably led me to think of The Avengers and refer back in my mind to a post I made not so long ago on my own blog about a UK based Avengers style team (LINK). So, of course, I was led to consider what might happen if something as huge as the Tesserect event from Avengers were to happen in the UK...
Bear in mind, the Tesserect event was major. It was an invasion from an alternate dimension which completely trashed a major US city. Luckily, this damage was mitigated by a brave team of superheroes (who, also caused a lot of damage themselves but, hey, they probably caused less than would have been caused if the alien invasion had actually happened... probably) and thus the world was saved.
So, what if that happened in London? How would our homeborn Superheroes deal with the threat?
Well, things are not looking good. For one, the UK does not do superheroes. When you compare what America has to offer – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the X men, Spiderman, Iron Man, the list is endless – with what the UK has to offer you can see how we do not compare. So far as I can work out, our ‘superhero’ team consists of the ASBO kids who make up the cast of Misfits and Thermoman, a comedy character played by Father Ted’s Ardal O’Hanlon. There were also two collections of short stories (Temps and Eurotemps ) in which British people who develop superpowers end up lost in an overly bureaucratic and dull branch of the Civil service where they are exploited. In the UK there are no eccentric billionaires who use their vast resources to fight crime and save the world and the patriotic aliens akin to Superman are seen in a lighthearted manner such as Thermoman.
Secondly, our heroes are rarely patriotic. If a Nick Fury-esque character stomped into the lives of the characters from Misfits to recruit them for a mission to save the world, they’d ignore him at best. As a symbol of authority and the state which convicted them of crimes, they’d resent him and, like all of their probation workers to date, there is a good chance he’d end up murdered. Thermoman might step up to the plate to save the world but there is a chance he’d also mess it up in some amusing manner. As for the many and varied heroes of the Temps universe, well they’d follow the orders of whatever government civil service was appointed to oversee them but they’d make damn sure that they got their expenses claim in first.
Finally, there is the issue of relative power levels. While Thermoman is up there in the same league as Superman, the rest of our heroes are somewhat lacklustre in the powers department. If a horde of trans-dimensional aliens were ripping up chunks of Oxford street and an alien god were throwing beams of energy that destroyed Black cabs, it would be nice to know that a force as powerful and unkillable as the Hulk were on hand to oppose this threat. Instead we have relatively minor forces with the Misfits characters packing such gems of power as the ability to change gender, mind reading and understanding how electronics work. OK, that last one is sort of what Tony Stark has as Iron Man because it is what allows him to build the suit, but in the UK it is not applied in the same way. The Temps characters are even worse with one character being an ex drug addict able to detect the presence of illegal drugs and another a Vicar who can control the weather so that it is sunny on weddings and rainy on funerals. None of these powers are really up to the task of stopping a horde of trans-dimensional aliens. In Misfits, the characters have a hard enough time taking care of a frenzied, un-dead cat.
OK, I am being flippant here but it is all in the cause of making a point. In the UK we came into writing superheroes late. The golden and silver ages were largely dominated by US patriotic heroes who did the right thing for the right reasons. We imported our superheroes from there and largely left it to them, occasionally letting them have a writer or two who largely maintained the ethos. By the time Temps came about, a degree of nihilism had hit the genre and it was all about realism – in the case of Temps the idea that any UK superhero would be mired in dull paperwork. By the time Misfits hit TV screens, we were revelling in the ASBO generation and chavs were cool, so cool that they even featured prominently on Doctor Who. Now, instead of heroes who were cheerfully patriotic we have heroes who are moodily apathetic and more likely to shrug at injustices and head off for a pint than actually do anything about it. We in the UK are good at this sort of thing – giving a hero a punk rock, hard drinking demeanour and an attitude of louche selfishness yet still having them do the right thing. Look at John Constantine.
Luckily, it seems as if the universe has a sense of setting an appropriate challenge to heroes. When you hero is the Hulk you get situations which require a whole building to be demolished. When your hero has the ability to create paperclips out of thin air, the plot will likely involve a situation where an office really needs some paperclips. Now. Or the world will end. This is a good thing because it means that the UK is unlikely to get a world shattering disaster that requires superheroes of the calibre of US ones to deal with. If it did, chances are our last best hopes will either be in New York (because they are incompetent and got the address where things were happening wrong), in the pub or hanging out on a street corner drinking special brew and wondering what the hell is going on with all that noise over there.
I suppose it is therefore very fortunate that The Doctor seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in the UK rather than flying off elsewhere in the Universe...
Be sure to check out Book passion for life today for a guest post from Tom Clempson, author of One seriously messed-up week.