The Ultimate Hero
I was standing in the kitchen and thinking of becoming a superhero. Then, I thought better of it, and got back to washing the pans.
It was then that the giant baby in a toga appeared.
"I am The Watcher," said The Watcher (for it was he, The Watcher), "I have travelled from the far-flung future in order to aid you in your quest to become a superhero. Destiny has decreed that you will indeed become a superhero and that one day your abilities will be needed to save the earth from aliens in a galactic multi-parter."
"Yeah, sure," I replied.
"You're dismissive of the idea because in this universe becoming a superhero tends to involve exposure to deadly radiation or rays, but it doesn't have to be that way. I see many, many, many worlds, and I will take you back in time to a different earth, a second earth, an earth experiencing a golden age, an earth full of heroes. All you have to do is choose which hero to emulate, and it is pre-destined that I bestow their powers on you. Normally I don't interfere in the ways of man, but, as I said, it's pre-destined so that's okay."
The Watcher was as true as his word. He took me back and showed me a world full of heroes, the likes of The Justice Society Of America, The Seven Soldiers Of Victory, and many, many more. Finally he turned round to me. It was decision time.
"I have now shown you all the heroes of this world. More than I was supposed to in fact, but I'm confident that won't affect your judgement. It is now time for you to decide which hero to emulate."
"Can we just go through the options one more time?" I asked. There were just too many heroes to remember.
"Batman?" asked The Watcher.
"Nope, too much training involved. Although I must admit I find the millionaire playboy aspect appealing."
"No way. Call yourself something like that and you're asking for trouble. Everybody'll want to pick a fight with you. Besides he's always getting called out to sort out some disaster or another. Some of us have got a social life, you know?"
"I can't say that I've observed much of that," said The Watcher.
"That's rich coming from a guy who sits at home all day watching his infinite channels. Who's next?" I replied. Sheepishly he continued going through the list.
"Uh uh. Everyone one would accuse me of ripping off Captain America."
"No, if I did the stuff he did, it would give me nightmares."
"No, I get vertigo real easily."
"Not to mention motion sickness."
"He's got a weakness to wood? What's all that about? I don't want to get trounced by Pinnochio. Where I come from it's the villains, not the heroes, that have the weaknesses. It's bad enough that the villains outnumber us, but if we had weaknesses as well. Just don't get me started."
"His powers only last an hour, and he has to take a pill. That's a glass of water and a stop-watch I'd need just for starters. Next."
"Wildcat? The Atom?"
"They're both basically Batman without the money. Forget it."
"What sort of egomaniac calls themself Mr Terrific? I thought Mr Fantastic's name was over the top but at least he's got elastic band powers. Plus, who in their right mind wants to play fair, certainly not the villains I can tell you."
"He's not a superhero, he's just got a superhero pet. And there's that 'Say you' stuff. All it would take would be a bout of laryngitis and he'd be flummoxed."
"I'm always losing my keys. What chance would I have with a gravity rod. It'd get lost on the ceiling."
"Stop it, you're sending me to sleep. Besides, that's a villain's name."
"Dr Fate? Dr Mid-Nite?"
"A doctor? My mom would be so proud of me. Still, magic and a pet owl will never catch on. Besides, we've already got Doctor Strange where I come from, and as for a blind superhero - well it just wouldn't work on my world."
And so it continued, through numerous names. But none of them felt quite right to me.
"He had it easy, he didn't have the Comics Code to contend with. If a villain called Mad-Dog attacked me I wouldn't stand a chance."
"Wonder Woman? Black Canary?"
"They're dames. Where I come from the only dame super-heroes try to stay unnoticed. Sue Storm goes invisible. The Wasp shrinks. Marvel Girl can't do either so the X-Men have to keep their existence secret."
The Watcher smiled. "Even though you're the singularly most unenlightened individual I've ever observed your instincts are impeccable. There remain only two heroes to choose from, and I'm sure even you cannot make the wrong decision under these circumstances." The Watcher paused for dramatic effect and then continued, "You couldn't possibly be interested in The Red Tornado?" He asked the question with what sounded like disdain, but clearly he was just testing me.
"That's the one. The Red Tornado is an everyman, a working class hero. A different kind of hero, not just another Brand X. All the other heroes had gifts and were forced to decide what to use them for. The Red Tornado had no gifts and made that decision out of free will. The others had greatness thrust upon them, The Red Tornado achieved greatness. With no power comes the greatest responsibility. It takes real guts to fight crime when you've got the least chance of winning. Also The Red Tornado's just like you or me, well not quite like you, except maybe circumferencially. The Red Tornado's got no gadgets, no super-powers, no training. A human standing tall amongst gods. The Red Tornado with that ambiguous costume could be anyone, any gender, any race." I was on a roll.
"She's a woman!" protested The Watcher, still testing me.
"Exactly, I'm glad to see you got my point. The Red Tornado is a universal hero. The Red Tornado represents us all, and inspires us all, and, most importantly of all, inspires me. One person can make a difference. I want to be that person. I want to inspire the human race to defeat those aliens you were mentioning."
"But what about Kid Eternity?"
"A kid who sees dead people? Who'd want to see that?"
"But I could be your 'Mr. Keeper'. I've got the haircut," joked The Watcher in a mock-pleading manner.
"No, nothing you can say will dissuade me. I will fashion a costume to honour The Red Tornado, and then the world will know me as Forbush Man (after all I don't like the name Red Tornado - The Yancy Street Gang would call me Red Tomato, nuff said). Thanks, Watcher, you've bestowed on me the greatest power of all - no power."
"Is that your final answer?" asked The Watcher.
"You have chosen wisely, young Irving. Now I must be gone," said The Watcher.
The Watcher wasn't happy. Irving was supposed to have picked Kid Eternity. How would Irving Forbush fulfill his cosmic destiny and summon the dead golden age superheroes during the Kree-Skrull War now? Maybe The Watcher could do a deal with Rick Jones. As long as he didn't let it slip to Rick that they were all comic book characters everything would be okay.