As the very occasional visitor to the Avengers Universe that I am, you must excuse me if I have got this wrong, but I believe that there are very few, if any, British Super-Heroes protecting that troubled world, and that knowledge has spurred me to question ‘Why?’ Is there something about being British that precludes us from entrance into the hallowed realms of Superherodom? What, exactly, is stopping us from saving the world?
Well, for a start, in these politically uncertain times, there is the imperative that we use the full, politically correct title for our sceptred isles and Captain United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland does not trip easily off the tongue. In any case, we would tend to go for the even more specific: the obvious question for any potential Captain UK being ‘North or South?’ Captain No I Get Dizzy When I Stray Outside of London would not cut the mustard. Nor would a northern superhero serve any great purpose if the endangered folk of the planet were ‘Nowt but soft, spoiled southerners’. We are of one nation, but a hundred different regions, none of which particularly care for the others. I suppose that we would have to go for a team of Captain Regional UKs – all a little bit shambolic and slightly home-made: a slight afterthought – like the regional news programme on the BBC. (I cannot stop myself harking back to an episode of The Goodies in the 1970’s that centred around the Lancashire martial art of ‘Ecky-Thump’, in which black puddings were utilised as super-weapons. Perhaps not as effective as Thor’s hammer, but a whole lot more entertaining.)
If we were to have a super-personification of the nation’s true identity, around which we could all coalesce, it would be General Heroic Failure; The Terribly Apologetic Hulk; The Iron Man that comes with a can-opener just in case. We would take to Wolverine only if he could be taught to ‘fetch’ and ‘beg’. And as for British Wonder Woman – my word, where do I even start? She would be criticised for her hair, her costume, her physique. She would be asked if she didn’t think that she could make better use of her time by being at home cooking tea for Wonder Husband. She would spend so much time explaining that ‘No, I am not just the wife of Wonder Man’ that she would have little time left for fighting baddies – especially if the ironing still needed doing…
We’ve all played the game – ‘what would be your super-power?’ (That last sentence started out very differently, but ending a sentence with a preposition is something with which I will not put, so… Super-Pedant for me then. ) Would you be super strong, have super hearing, be invisible, be able to detect the faintest whiff of political bullshit with the merest twitch of the nostril? My Super Power would be to make people ‘get on’ – not necessarily to agree, just to tolerate one another: not to fall out over things that really should not matter between two rational adults – that would do the job. I would be Peaceful Co-Existence Man. My ‘uniform’ would be my treasured snake skin boots (simply because Jimmy Page had a pair and he’s the closest thing to a super being that I have ever managed to see in the flesh) my Ziggy Stardust T-shirt (for similar reasons) and my grey felt Fedora thinking hat, as it would serve its purpose in both sun and rain, and is an ideal receptacle for salted peanuts. I would, of course, wear jeans, because I’m that age quite frankly. I would probably have to buy a pair of Union Jack socks – which wouldn’t be seen under the boots. (Unless, of course, I was called upon to do a love scene – because everybody in Hollywood knows that British men always keep their socks on – actually, I’ve just read that through and you might choose to close your mind to it. I know I would.) Of course, none of the above would be the defining reason for my exclusion from any prospective ‘Avengers – Déjà vu (Again)’. That would be my flat-vowelled northern accent, which would mean that I would either have to be sub-titled, or my character would have to be accompanied at all times by Super Signer – all in all, not the greatest of innovations if Dr Evil does not know the Makaton for ‘all out thermo nuclear war’, or the twin Suns of Gallifrey had temporarily blinded him to the translation of my ultimatum*. Even Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Strange) only got the gig because he pretended to be American and his accent didn’t set off car alarms.
Anyway, until Hollywood decides that it need some more down-to-earth superheroes – like the person that can conjure up a cup of tea and a supportive shoulder in the direst of circumstance; like super-neighbour, super-teacher, super-nurse – we’re probably better off leaving it all to somebody else anyway. What possible use has love and compassion in saving the world?
*I realise that plenty of people will find the inaccuracies contained within this sentence more provocative than the dreadful irony of the ironing gag – what can I say?
So, yesterday I watched a program about the Apollo 9 moon landings. If you wanted a hero, there were three strapped to that rocket. And then I remembered that is 50 years ago today since the release of this:
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Space Oddity – Bowie