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Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Olympic Level Superheroes
One of the great dividing lines among comic book heroes is the line between those that are "powered" (ex. bitten by a radioactive snail, able to do produce slime from hands) and those that are "non-powered" (ex. like to wear tights and beat up on other people in tights, with no particular extrahuman advantage.) The epitomies of the two camps, which all others are compared against are (of course) Superman and Batman. When trying to rate the skills of the non-powered heroes, an often-cited benchmark of ability is 'Olympic level'. What does this really mean?

Generally, this term refers to the gymnastic ability of the hero in question, as gymnasts are the uber-athletes of the Olympics (anybody remember the movie "Gymkata"?) So, a non-powered but Olympic level calibre hero like Daredevil, can be expected to perform flips and tumbles and whatnot which far surpass the average criminal. Fair enough, it's fun to watch `hornhead' do a double-back twisting somersault followed by a handspring into some goons face. After watching the Olympics, it's also a little easier to believe, which is no doubt where the classification came into play.

For heroes like this 'Olympic level' skills are their bread and butter. Imagine a hero with Olympic level skills in weight-lifting, fencing, martial arts, biathlon, or archery. Any of those skills would be pretty useful in a fight against Doctor Octopus. Similarly, if you've won a Gold (or are at that skill level) in javelin, shot put, hammer throw, baseball, tennis, or even basketball, in the right combat situation you're going to do some serious damage. Sprinting, running, marathoning, skiing, speed skating, swimming. . .the endurance gained from such activities are definitely going to be an asset when you're "dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight".

But what about those heroes who possess Beyond Olympic level skills? Imagine what Batman could do on the parallel bars, or Lady Shiva on the uneven bars? How do you fit that into a story? I mean, if Bruce Wayne scored a 12 out of 10 in a gymnastic routine, it wouldn't take a villain long to put it together and say, "you're Batman!"

Of course, every time I hear about the 'Olympic level' classification, I always wonder. . .What if it was in some sport other than gymnastics? It's no secret that some villains (DC's Javelin being a good example) are based on sports skills. So, I've taken it upon myself to fashion some new heroes based on other less combat friendly Olympic level sports. Here's a few quotes:

"Stop, or I'll throw this rock!" and "I'll be sure it connects!" - Curler and his sidekick, Sweeper. (Yes, the adventures of Curler and Sweeper, guarding Reykjavik Iceland, where the streets are always icy.)

"If I can just wiggle this ribbon enough, it will distract their fire," says the day-glo pink costumed Rhythmic Gymnast.

"Must maintain form, can't really run, must maintain form." - Mantra of the Speed Walker during his high speed chases.

"Steady, 'Bob, time it so the villain is at the bottom of the run exactly 49.913 seconds from our starting time." - Luge Rider to his partner, the Human Bobsled.

"Easy fellah, don't refuse this ditch." - the Equestrian to his mount.

"How do you like that? A triple toe-loop to the gut must really hurt!" - Combat commentary from. . . the Figure Skater. (Oops, I forgot. . .there really is a psychotic DC villainess named Golden Glider who uses her figure skates to disembowel her opponents. Reminds me of Tonya Harding. I guess the truth is stranger than fiction, or rather the truth about fiction is sometimes stranger than the fiction about fiction.)

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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