My wife and her friends were discussing the topic “What is the deepest question ever”, so I gave them my choice: “What superhero would you be?”
The women sneered that my favoured issue was not clever nor existential, but the guys in the room backed me, agreeing that choosing a superpower was an important subject deserving serious consideration. This may be a Guy Thing.
I know two lads who have been having a passionate two-year debate over whether it would be better to be a Beetleman or a Lizardman.
They initially supported Lizardman, as lizards can move each eye independently, can detach their tails, and have tongues which strike faster than the eye can see. But after much heart-searching, they switched to Beetleman, as beetles generate their own body armour, outlived the dinosaurs, and will likely inherit the Earth, possibly some time this year, judging by trends in global politics.
Superhero fans of either sex struggling with this crucial issue will be interested to hear that there’s a new candidate for best new origin concept: Tardigrade Man or Woman. I learned about this from a writer friend who reads incredibly boring scientific papers as a source of inspiration.
A tardigrade is a very small bug with astonishing superpowers.
1) It can survive at minus 272 Kelvin, an unbelievably cold temperature found only in deep space ice planets and the heart cavities of nationalist politicians.
2) You can more or less kill a tardigrade and dry it out and then bring it back to life, months later, an ability hitherto seen only in this writer’s hard-drinking great-uncles and a certain vintage of journalist.
3) Tardigrades can stay alive on food-free diets for up to 30 years, a trait that reminds me of my wife and her friends, many of whom have forsworn food, living for decades only on herbal tea and traces of frosted lipstick.
Using bugs as a source of powers is a classic tradition, although the recent fashion in superhero literature is to have regular human characters inside large machines, as seen in Gundam. It frankly astonishes me that science today is focused on useless things like travelling to the stars instead of making the world a better place by developing cool machines which we can climb inside and use to hit each other.
When I mentioned this, a friend told me about two machine-using brothers in the United States who recently had an argument. Stanley Emanuel was in a crane and his brother Peter was in a front-end loader when the row escalated and turned into a battle. Who won? Peter’s front-end loader eventually tipped the crane over, but Stanley jumped out and had his brother arrested, according to news reports.
Someone showed me a video from China of guys fighting from inside construction equipment, so I guess this is a Thing now.
The above-mentioned wives thought having fisticuffs from inside machines was dangerous and irresponsible, but the mental image prompted one of the guys to raise a new philosophical question: “What construction vehicle would you be?” Oh, that’s deep.
We’ll get back to you in a couple of years, maybe.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and suggestions via his Facebook page)