When it’s late at night and you’re staring up at the ceiling, does your mind wander to thoughts of a life of adventure? Storming the castle, fighting impossible odds, to save the maiden fair?
Who doesn’t want to be a hero, to have an alter-ego that would leave Bonnie Tyler speechless? It’s a very attractive idea, that you can be Johnny Punchclock one moment, and Muscles McSixpack the next. You can live an ordinary life, hiding in plain sight, until such time that you are needed. Your duty done – the bad guys smashed up and the damsel in distress suitably snogged – you slink back into the shadows and proudly smirk at the headlines the next day.
The vast majority of comic or cartoon superheroes function this way. They’re not in “hero mode” all the time. And a large portion of these also rely on some kind of weapon or device to achieve the transformation from zero to hero. Let’s take a look at some of these dual-identity heroes, and ask ourselves if we would want to be in their shoes.
Popeye the Sailor Man – We’ve heard that he lives in a caravan.
Born in 1929, Popeye could be considered a progenitor to many modern superheroes. He’d generally mind his own business and try to win the heart of beanpole beauty Olive Oyl, until the brutish Bluto would come along and physically assault him. Back then, this was not considered socially-inappropriate behaviour. These days, Bluto would have an Asbo and an ankle tag before you could toot twice from your corncob pipe.
Normally no match for the man-mountain, Popeye would burst open a can of Del Monte’s finest spinach (no mean feat in itself, really), swallow the whole thing in one go and be invigorated with the strength of ten men. We’d often be treated to an X-ray view of his biceps, which would be shown to metaphorically contain a steamhammer or turbine or something.
Transformed and galvanised by the magnesium and Vitamin A content of the leafy vegetable, Popeye would give Bluto a bloody good hiding. Violence breeds more violence, kids.
Want Rating: 1/5 – Let’s face it, spinach can’t really make you super strong. Even if it could, it would be a pain in the ass to carry cans of it around. Its valuable nutrients are, however, necessary for proper growth and development. So it gets a point.
Holding aloft his magic sword, the young Prince Adam is transformed into the invincible warrior and Most Powerful Man in the Universe™ – He-Man. In his spare time he defends the secrets of Castle Grayskull and whittles mustache combs for Duncan.
In the old series, He-Man was identical to Adam, even down to the juice-abuse muscles and blonde bob. In the new series however, the Power of Grayskull caused the young prince to change rather dramatically into a whole new person. The sword got a purely aesthetic makeover, too, for no other reason than to make it look badass.
Want Rating: 5/5 – You’d be a bigger fool than Orko to turn this down. Who wouldn’t want a magic sword that makes you literally the most powerful man in the universe? As a bonus, you get a talking falcon/bikini-clad babe and a green tiger to ride to work on. So what if your clothes fall off? When you have muscles that make it look like you’re carrying a couple prize pigs on your shoulders, you can get away with walking around in your pants.
She-Ra was He-Man’s sister. Twin sister, no less. She was
hastily written in kidnapped by lazy writers the evil Hordak in order to cash in rule the alternate world of Etheria.
Breaking free of her programming, Princess Adora used her own Power Sword to call on the Honor of Grayskull and was transformed into She-Ra – the most Powerful Woman in the Universe™.
Remarkably, this didn’t cause her to grow giant muscles and strut around in sheer lingerie. Nope, she actually acquired more clothing. She also rode around on a horse instead of a tiger, in a rare moment of something in the He-Maniverse making sense.
SPECIAL NOTE: The animators were forbidden from drawing She-Ra’s knickers or having the ‘camera’ look up her skirt. Good; She-Ra was a lady, and unlike many female superheroes today, didn’t need to flash her boobs or undercarriage to win favour with the audience.
Want Rating: 4/5 – She-Ra loses points because “honor” isn’t nearly as cool as “power” -or honour for that matter – and her sword was just the same as He-Man’s but with a little gem in it.
In truth, Lion-O doesn’t really belong on this list, as his sword bestowed on him no special power. But you just can’t talk about He-Man without mentioning the Thundercats!
It’s the rules.
Lion-O carried the Sword of Omens, notable for having a whacking great crystal inside and for having the very unusual property of being able to grow and shrink. It can pretty much cut through anything, and has a handful of other mysterious powers too.
Want Rating: 4/5 – What the Sword of Omens actually does it up for debate, but what’s for sure is that it’s bloody cool. We love how it changes shape, almost like it’s alive. The funky crystal inside can fire all sorts of lasers and stuff, too. If you haven’t thrust a stick or a broom handle in the air and said “Thundercats, Hoooooo!” then you’re a liar.
The Power Rangers
Here’s an experiment. Find a group of young people aged between, say, thirty and twenty five. Thrust your hands (palms forward) out together and yell “Mastodon!” at the top of your lungs. We guarantee that a chorus of prehistoric animal names will follow. We guarantee it.
There isn’t really a better symbol of the nineties. Those six colours and that diamond pattern are instantly recognisable. So is “the morpher” – a metal hexagon with a golden coin in the middle. These sorts of things have been decorating the belts of Japanese superheroes since the seventies, but for us in the western world it was the first time we’d seen anything like it.
Want Rating: 5/5 – Recently, Ban Dai released a special edition morpher. It’s a screen-accurate replica of the original. It’s metal, lights up and comes with a whole set of die-cast coins. The only thing it doesn’t do is turn you into a Power Ranger. You can, however, wear it over your fist and clobber people over the head with it thanks to the (also metal) handle on the back.
At Toy Meets World, we don’t read many DC comics, and therefore have no real understanding of who Green Lantern is. We know that he wears a ring, though, and apparently there’s a whole squad of Lanterns – each a different colour – whose rings give them slightly different powers.
The internet tells us that the Green Lantern can use his ring to make anything he wants appear. He uses the power of imagination, and can magic up a giant fist or a hammer or something to squash all who oppose him.
Want Rating: 2/5 – It sounds useful. But it’s rather spoiled by everything you make having to be translucent green. And does he glow…? We’re certain there’s an amount of glowing involved. People would make fun of you and it would be very difficult to hide in the dark. Besides, “The Green Lantern” sounds like a Chinese restaurant. Pass!
Thor hasn’t had the same kind of success as other Marvel heroes, and has only begun to appear in movies very recently. Well, unless you count the old Bill Bixby movie The Incredible Hulk Returns.
Truth be told we always thought the best part of the Incredible Hulk TV show was the ‘walking away’ music. It’s a catchy tune – recently lampooned in Adam’s Choice® My Little Pony.
There’s something we don’t quite get about Thor. Initially, he was a normal man – Donald Blake. He found the hammer of Thor and could call on the power therin to be transformed into (or replaced by) Thor himself.
Then something happened and Blake was never seen or spoken of again. We seem to remember in the aformentioned movie they have Blake call on Thor and just sort of boss him about. But in the comics, it’s like Donald just stopped existing. He turned into Thor and never changed back. They killed Donald Blake. Bet he wishes he left the hammer alone now.
Want Rating: 1/5 – Thor is very much like He-Man, even down to the blonde hair. But a hammer just isn’t as good as a sword, unless you’re repairing a fence. And it’s not worth the risk of disappearing forever. Oh, and Thor talks in that stupid quasi-Olde English way. I HATH THINE POWERRRR!
Adam didn’t realise that The Mask was a comic book character until about 10 years after the movie came out. Boy, he sure is dumb – were it not for his encyclopedic knowledge of equine anatomy, he’d be pretty useless. (I’m stifling a laugh – Adam)
Gurning, rubber-faced idiot Jim Carry finds the mask of Loki and uses it to turn into a different gurning, rubber-faced idiot, creatively dubbed “The Mask”. He’s indestructible and has all sorts of uncanny powers and things. He’s like a comic book character in the real world. Although we’re not convinced that the movie actually takes place in the real world, if you see what we mean. It’s more like a live action comic, in stark contrast to modern movies from Marvel and DC.
Want Rating: 2/5 – It would be fun to wear the mask, and take it for a spin so to speak. Although it just wouldn’t be the same without the Jim Carrey-style wisecracks. What’s the point of being a pantomime lunatic if you don’t have the attitude to go with it…?
Well, that will be all. We’ve all dreamed of picking up a magic sword or hammer or whatever, although in reading this you may have come to see the downside of such things. Except He-Man, because he’s awesome.
Oh, in answer to the question posed at the very top of this article:
A warrior still!
“A horse instead”