Monday, May 15, 2023

Silver age idealism and Cape Punk

Around a year ago, I wrote about how I had started reading the ‘Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain’ series. (Man, I’m not sure how to shorten that. Please Don’t just sounds creepy)

It is a Cape Punk storyline (I love the term Cape Punk but find it hilariously vague) about a middle school mad scientist who wants to be a hero like her parents. But, on top of teen emotions leading to bad choices, the things her powers do when she goes to the madness place make Penny become a villain. (Girl Genius as a superhero?)

I have to note that the series falls _very_ much on the optimistic side of Cape Punk. Super activities are more like extreme sports than extreme actions of crime and/or politics. (I’m sorry. The Red Skull trying to take over the world is a very political thing) Which does make the books a lot of fun to read.

It also makes the case that mad science is the most powerful power without ever saying it out loud. The ability to make endless devices that are all like a super power is more potent than having one power. It’s cute Reed Richards can stretch. It is devastating that his brain treats physical laws as optional.

Five of the books form Penny’s arc, her struggling to figure out the different relationships in her life. While the one with her parents gets a lot of focus, the series ends up being about her relationship with herself and her power.

After I finished the main arc, I set the series aside for a while but knew I’d get around to the 
ancillary books. And the first one I’ve read is I Did Not Give That Spider Super-Human Intelligence, which is an origin story for the setting.

Because key elements of the setting, that heroes and villains private lives are forbidden to be interfered with and wanton acts of murder and such are successfully outlawed, are a bit too idealistic to be easily swallowed.

And, honestly, seeing how the rules of the agreement came to be, it still feels pretty idealistic and built on the basis that most people with super powers are basically decent people. It’s also built on the idea that the zombie-vampire-cyborg who enforces the agreement will be able to take out the ones who break it and only the ones who break it.

Frankly, it’s pretty silver age.

That said, the Bad Doctor, the monstrous villain who pushes the need to have a zombie-vampire-cyborg to police the super powered society, is pure nightmare fuel. He only appears once but his crimes pervade the book. I Did Not Give et al is one of the weaker books in the series that I’ve read but the Bad Doctor lifts it up.

I enjoyed the book and it’s heroine Goodnight (she likes to drop heavy objects on enemy’s heads) but I hope the other spinoff books are better.

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