The Heroes We Need

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Look around today and you see heroes everywhere. TV, films, comic books, toys, happy meals, games, amusement parks, cross-trainers, pajamas. Everywhere, capes and cowls, boots and gloves. All that spandex. All those smiles.

From Superman to Batman, the Avengers to the X-Men, there’s another heroic cosmology lurking behind every virtual corner, another bunch of body-suited shit-kickers looking for their piece of the postmodern economic pie. But what if we shut them all down? What if we told Fox, Sony, Marvel, DC, Disney, and all the rest that we were tired of their games, tired of their CGI bullshit?  What if we told them that we had our own heroes, a new set of real ones we were going to stick with?

Maybe if all the peoples and countries and religions of the world finally worked together, we could undertake a sort of Superheroic Moonshot. We could put Joe Biden in charge. Under Uncle Joe’s leadership we could build a team of real, honest-to-goodness badasses, the sort of heroes who could really, finally, straighten this shit out…

Ms. Joie De Vivre:
Of course it sounds French. That’s because it is. Aside from the chilly reception Ms. Joie might get in the parts of America that still serve Freedom Fries, the majority of people recognize the French as being pretty, pretty, pretty good at quite a few things. One of them is having fun. Sex and food, wine and art: these are just a few French strong suits. Ms. Joie is not only super knowledgeable in every way in which one can have a good time. She imparts that knowledge…that joie de vivre…to others. Ms. Joie can stop wars with a wave of her swizzle stick. She can end political rancor with a wink, a nod, and a well-placed hair toss. She can instantly and irrevocably stifle the (not so) simmering malice that ruins nations small and great.

The Universal Lottery:
The Universal Lottery (TUL) is twenty feet tall and comes clad in gold from head to toe. Though ostensibly male and seemingly naked (albeit gold), TUL’s superhuman sense of decorum allows him to adjust his appearance to camouflage the less unwieldy aspects of his anatomy. Thus does TUL roam the countryside bearing the appearance of a super-sized Ken doll dispensing wealth on all who cross his path; thus does TUL avoid dispensing injury with an ill-timed testicular sashay or accidental penile wallop.

The Reality Whisperer:
A sort of interpreter between humanity and itself (cum simultaneous interpreter between us and the rest of the world), The Reality Whisperer has three principal abilities: 1. To permanently mute the 65.6% of human speech that qualifies as white noise; 2. To selectively cancel the 34.3999% of human speech that amounts to nonsense (discussions about the existence of God, the lack of a scientific consensus on climate change, and the Downton Abbey finale for example); and 3. To communicate our goals and desires to plants, animals, inanimate natural phenomena, and even the planet itself and, more importantly, to relay their goals and desires back to us.

The Hormonal Modulator:
Cortistatin, Estrogen, Inhibin, Relaxin, Secretin, Testosterone, Thyroxine. They sound a little like superheroes in their own right, but they’re not. They’re naturally produced compounds that can alternately serve necessary biochemical functions and take us for a couple laps around the bat-shit bonkerama porcupine racetrack. The Hormonal Modulator would loom everywhere, day and night, regulating human hormonality, smoothing out the manic highs and depressive lows. She’d keep Rick the out-of-work trucker from slashing his wife’s throat. She’d keep Suzy the new mom from stifling her crying infant.

New Buddha:
Though billions revere her as a god, New Buddha sees herself as human, nothing more. Rather than espousing a complex philotheology replete with myriad precepts, rules, and dictums, New Buddha leads by example, spending her days as a harmonious beacon of love, one nonetheless inexplicably magnified by the Cosmos. From her rent-controlled penthouse on New York’s Upper West Side, she sends her good vibrations out into the world. When struck by her metaphysical beams of love, power mad dictators throw down their cruise missiles and profit-hungry billionaires give it all away. Her only enemy is Human Nature, a foul, formless presence that roams The Veil, the metaphysical link between our world and the next, seeking ever to undo New Buddha’s Power of Love. (Primarily through the endless, maddening repetition of the Huey Lewis and the News song “Power of Love”.)



Some people will tell you that heroes wouldn’t mean anything without villains. That one really can’t exist without the other. They’ll tell you that for any yin to manifest, there must also be a yang.

Now, I’m not suggesting we go out and build these villainous beasts. We don’t need to. They’re already here, more or less. That’s the strange thing about villains. Unlike heroes, which we seem to need to create (or at least augment), villains live among us. They’re like a byproduct of humanity in a way. All you have to do is add a dab of magical realism and voila…

Big Bad Dogma Daddy:
Big Bad Dogma Daddy (BBDD for short) always comes clad in black (cape, mask, boots, gloves) and white (a bodysuit so uncomfortably tight it can destroy any conversation). BBDD comes from a sunny place no one’s ever heard of. He has traveled countless miles to get wherever he is. While many dispute what he has to say, BBDD keeps his own counsel, for he knows himself to be right. Ever trusting of that little voice inside his head, the one that repeats the wisdom it has taken humanity millennia to gain, BBDD can quote chapter and verse from any belief system, all with the clear-eyed surety of a true believer.

Mr. Apocalypse, Someday:
Something’s going to get us, somehow, someway. This is what Mr. Apocalypse, Someday keeps telling us. He’s been with us forever, literally, looming, waiting, looking for his chance. He’s written books, composed songs, painted pictures. He’s done it all because he’s concerned for us, and he wants us to be concerned, too. The problems he talks about may be incredibly complex, nigh on unsolvable. They may not even be problems at all, strictly speaking. We’re bound to die eventually as a species. Everything goes extinct one way or another.

The Nuclear Djinni:
He was born in the New Mexico desert, born out of thin air as all the best djinnis are. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer spoke his name three times, or so goes the legend. Trinity, Oppenheimer said. Trinity. Trinity. And in a whirl of fire, dust, and explosive fury, the Nuclear Djinni became real. His greatest gift is that he cannot be put back in his bottle. We must find a way to make him obsolete, to make him disappear. The Doomsday Clock is ticking. It’s three minutes, two minutes, one minute to midnight. And if that clock ever stops, the hour will already be too late.

Burning Man:
Once upon a time, Burning Man was a lowly service station attendant. Back in the 50’s he pumped gas and checked oil. He washed windows and polished chrome. Eventually becoming an oil company executive and ultimately top lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, Burning Man grew old and fearful that his days of burning were coming to an end. He journeyed to the annual Extron Oil board meeting in Hell where he pledged his soul to Extron Chairman Satan in exchange for immortality. Thus does he now spend his days roaming the earth, consuming fossil fuels 24/7.

Her full name Scarlett Apple IPhone Purity, the baby who would come to be known simply as Purity was left on the steps of an orphanage one snowy Christmas Eve. That orphanage, run by the Order of the Sisters of Blessed Torment, would become Purity’s home for the next sixteen years. The sisters were tough on Purity, but not too tough. No, it wasn’t religion turned her bad. It was the fact that her parents had named her after a telephone and an actress who couldn’t even spell her own name correctly. Growing angrier and angrier every time she saw the word “scarlet,” Purity eventually saw red figuratively, setting her violent sights first on her birth parents, then on the endless mistakes of a world that had allowed them to reproduce.



I wonder sometimes what we’d do with a second chance, another crack at being a species. If we could go back to the beginning, to the time when we first related with ourselves and our world, would we be able to do it better? You know, knowing what we know, would we be able to learn from our mistakes?

Instead of the lies we told ourselves back then—the myriad explanations we came up with for rain and snow, sun and moon—I wonder if we’d be able to come up with new lies. You know, better ones. Lies that would have put us on a more solid footing to this day. Or maybe, is it possible, we’d be able to get by without lies at all? Maybe we’d be able to tell ourselves the truth.

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About Kurt Baumeister

Kurt Baumeister’s writing has appeared in Salon, Electric Literature, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and The Good Men Project. His debut novel PAX AMERICANA will be published in 2017 by Stalking Horse Press. A graduate of Emerson’s MFA program, Kurt lives in Virginia. Find him at
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