Preamble to the League of Reformed Supervillains

           The biggest problem with exporting Superheroes out into the real word has very little to do with the whole superpowers thing. Mankind, whether you personally grasp this fact or not, has it within its ability to reach as far as we can imagine; a lack of powers has hardly ever been our main problem. The real trouble begins when we start to feel ourselves to be in the right, when we look imperiously upon the sins of others with a self-righteous mandate that says that what we perceive as impure must be punished and that all manner of violence has become justified. The biggest problem with superheroes, like any other sacred office or lofty title to which one might ascend, is that the cape, when offered, gives each of us a golden opportunity to gleefully become an authoritarian fascist, and I think that we’ve all been given more than enough encouragement to move in that direction already.

           I have never aspired, and will never aspire, to become any sort of “people’s champion.” “The people,” if you care to believe in such gross oversimplifications, seem to dimly discern their own heroes amongst a sad slate of state sanctioned murders and bullies, over paid athletes and surgically symmetrysized entertainers. I want no part of that heroism, although I acknowledge that I am probably only training exactly those kinds of heroes, because in the end “the people” will always have their due, and few, it seems, have the courage to simply ignore them.

           The essentially inspirational nature of the “superhero” has made this very controversial territory indeed, to be fought over by those subtle social forces which ultimately end up defining all of our most important words, telling us, in no uncertain terms, exactly what such terms should mean. For the reasons mentioned above, you all can have this cheap and theatrical word anyway; I come here now in order to clarify the rather strange place where all of this madness puts the so-called “supervillain,” and why, despite the terribly unfortunate timing of this act, I’m coming out as one.

           While no less theatrical, essentially a villain is someone who fundamentally disagrees with a thing that not everyone else, or perhaps even anyone else, seems to be against; logically, this fact all by itself is insufficient to make them necessarily wrong, but, sociologically at least, this recalcitrant characteristic seems to be sufficient to plant the seed by which any person may one day grow into a proper supervillain, because it is only in the course of becoming thus alienated from most other people that one can be drawn into taking some action or actions which normal people simply can’t conscience or even understand.

           Now, I’m not defending every possible action of every possible villain, as if holding a merely personal conviction was somehow important enough to sanctify any sort of behavior, because it's not. No, I’m just saying that when good and evil have become dumbed down to the point that what we like, agree with, or understand is placed on one side, and what we dislike, disagree with or fail to understand is on the other, then our so-called villains suddenly have the most to teach us about the sort of big picture mistakes that we probably don’t even know we’re making. As of late my own personal goal has become to point out our various authoritarian neuroses and the ubiquitous nature of the neo-fascist values that are driving America today, but this awkward distopian vision, or the alienation that typically accompanies such divergent thoughts, has never driven me to make far worse mistakes than the ones I currently perceive all around me, unlike some who need not be named, and I can assure you right now that it never will; That is emphatically not where all of this is going.

           I set out to inspire people to become more than they would otherwise think possible by advertising “superhero” classes, a word that, despite my reservations, I still feel describes something that is at once innocent and empowering and idealistic and honorable and yet, perhaps most important of all, is simple enough that almost anyone “gets it.” Perhaps this is because almost all of us, as children, used to unambiguously believe that superheroes could, and perhaps, in some form or another, actually did, exist in this world, and, most importantly, that they were always, and in all ways, completely good in a manner that no one else really could be. Of course, it’s that last part which is the dangerous trap into which I now feel that I must keep each of the students in my charge from falling, and so this is the main reason for my perhaps financially disastrous move into the newly formed League of Reformed Supervillains.

           Comic books, of course, have grown up quite a bit and therefore have tried to address my Superhero concerns with some truly brilliant storytelling. At one point in “The Dark Knight Strikes Back,” a god-like Green Lantern point outs what a thinly veiled farce it has always been to act as if Earth’s so-called superheroes were really anything other than merely criminals themselves, because, in a world like this, it couldn’t possibly be any other way.

           I imagine I’m not the only one who grew up reading the rather cynical revisionist works of comic book revolutionaries like Frank Miller, at an age long before I was actually able to really digest these messages, because, although I was an extremely precocious youth, I for one really had no way of understanding what those words meant when I first read them so many years ago. No, it wasn’t really until I was far older that I could possibly understand such ideas, because by then I was able to experience first hand all of the innocuous, well-intentioned and readily available ways that one could very quickly become a criminal in our supposedly free society, and what most of our so-called heroes were actually doing that we so cravenly and shallowly called “heroism.”

           I feel that children shouldn’t have to come face to face with our multitude of hypocrisies and moral compromises, at least not until it’s absolutely necessary, whenever they reach that unfortunate but inevitable point where they themselves will have to be woken up to the various responsibilities of an adult life. Some of these responsibilities, once we can acknowledge, understand, and, at last, accept them, absolutely insist upon a certain manner of so-called “villainy’ which, among other things, questions the status quo, and, almost certainly, authority as well, so that, if nothing else, we can somehow foil all of those authoritarian attempts to indefinitely extend what then becomes the most morbid and intellectually dishonest form of childhood imaginable.

           The same sober adult appraisal of things that reveals why the all powerful Superman, if he existed, couldn’t possibly be considered an actual hero, comes from the sad revelation that life just isn’t good enough to highly recommend the God or the Government that supposedly has all of this under its control. Even among those who are brave enough, or perceptive enough, to swallow as bitter and uncomfortable a pill as all that, few can make that next logical step that tells them that it’s no one else but their own responsibility to do whatever it is that God or our Government (if they actually exist) are failing to do.

           I will continue talking about superheroes as if the world deserved them, but my own roots must trace back to the supervillainous impulse if I’m to remain honest about all of the things that I find deplorable in humanity and which stand to be corrected. I am at best an anti-hero, and most realistically a somewhat reformed Supervillain who has pragmatically promised to momentarily play nice with a tragically sick and misguided world. The League of Reformed Supervillains will allow me to foster a sense of wonder for the possibilities of Mankind, yet will free me, and hopefully my young superheroes, of the fascist imperative to violently force my own enlightened prerogatives onto others. My villainous back story invites us to examine important psychological concepts such as alienation, self-reflection, behavioral consequence, forgiveness and redemption, and also opens the door onto a unique and inspired education in any and all of the various sciences, as well as numerous other empowering, although commonly overlooked, fields of study that could perhaps benefit from a little rational scrutiny as well.

          Of course, I know the limits to what I can actually do in our current society; all of my students will still be training as Superheroes (even if I may remind them, occasionally, that I run this school so that they can stop both unreformed Supervillains such as my former self, as well as similarly misguided Superheroes). After all, I meet very few children, or adults for that matter, who are savvy enough to grasp moral ambiguities. Thankfully, being willing and/or able to read also seems to be a common trait among those who are fit for such extensive explanations and back stories as these, and so, here they will remain, hidden right out in the open and obscured only by the shadows of human apathy.

           If you find yourself interested in joining the League of Reformed Supervillains, please contact me immediately. Just to be absolutely clear, this is not a call to violence or even the so-called gentlemanly criminal arts; This is a chance to repent of all past mistakes and move on to something that will not only improve your world but also the worlds of those around you; More specifically, it’s a chance to build a secret lair and then to make it very, very, public, for both fun and profit. Now, who wouldn’t want to do that? Good Luck and Namaste.

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