Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Interlibrary loan has finally come through for me.

All the searching I did on the web persuaded me that any serious reading about superheroes must begin with Kane's Mask Wars 1984-1996. There are other books that attempt to explain superheroes to us, but they're sensationalistic and lack inside information. This guy T.Z. Kane, though, was somehow able to get all the dope on who was who, and who did what, and why. This is my understanding, anyway.

The problem is that the damn book is out of print and hard to find. Apparently there were legal problems with it. So I put my fate in the hands of the Empire City library system. They called me yesterday saying they had finally found a copy in Maryland, and I could come pick it up at my earliest convenience.

I'm about a third of the way done (slow day around here). It's pretty good; Kane can write.

Anyway, here's the superhero chronology as I understand it:

1984. Various supervillains come out of the woodwork in cities and towns all across North America. Some of them go on a big rampage and burn out immediately, some are taken down by cops and National Guard, most quickly figure that they can do pretty much anything they want if they're careful enough.

1985. Law enforcement tries everything they can think of to bring down all the supervillains, more of which are appearing all the time. It becomes legal in some states to assassinate them. Nothing works very well, though, and some of the supervillains consolidate their power by taking over little towns entirely and cutting off all contact with the outside world.

(I was little when all this happened; I don't remember hearing about much of it. Shows you how much good our history classes did us.)

1986. The first superheroes appear - Thunderhead in Empire City and Incandesca out in California. Initially they're mistrusted, but since they're effective at dealing with supervillains and nobody else is, they quickly become very popular. Not only that, but they also soon acquire some scary kinds of legal authority as governments seize on any possible hope to get rid of this menace.

That's as far as I've got. Already I've learned stuff, though. Normally you'd have to be nuts to think that cops and governments are going to let people in funny suits run around town apprehending criminals with no regard for due process. The way it happened it makes sense, though; there were two years of violence and anarchy during which nobody could do a damn thing to stop the supervillains. By the time Thunderhead came along, everybody was desperate for a solution that worked; they were ready to throw out all the rules.

One thing I don't get yet. In the comics, the heroes showed up first - Superman, Batman, all those guys. You didn't get any decent supervillains until much later. In the real world, though, we had two years of supervillains, and only a slow trickle of superheroes against this deluge of bad guys. Why the difference?

No mention of Greyghost yet.
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