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-by Ernie Diaz
Eighty-nine year old Stan Lee has given kids of all ages our most celebrated superheroes: Spiderman, the Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-men. Now he is working with Chinese film investors to create a Sino-hero who will generate just as much box office popularity. His name – the Annihilator. His incongruous mission – to save the world.
China has suffered no end of annihilators, many hailed initially as heroes out to save the world.
Hollywood writer Dan Gilroy, attached to the project, has certainly studied his lines, if not his Chinese history. “I love China and Chinese culture,” he enthuses. “I have been looking for the chance to cooperate with Chinese movie makers and bring forward Chinese culture to the world. I believe the Chinese superhero will be the best and the most popular superhero loved by people all over the world.”
Annihilation is not a concept to inspire love, either in China or the rest of the world. As self-appointed China culture mavens, we humbly suggest the following concepts as replacements for the Annihilator, if indeed the goal is a Sino-enlightening character aimed at audiences other than 8 to 12 year old boys.
Proposed Character: Verses
Based On: Li Bai
A hero to lit majors, poetry slammers, and assorted geeks, as well as vagabonds, dipsomaniacs, and assorted freaks. Much more likely to be found semi-conscious in a tavern than boring a writer’s circle, Li Bai has cross-over appeal for the rebel sleeping in all of us who want to ditch the day job and take to the road, knocking people out with our groovy po-ems. He’ll need to be updated, for sure – Stan Lee can swap out his robes for skinny jeans; the hipster goatee can stay. Best to have Verses’ family killed in the first five minutes to justify his constant drinking and taking to the road, seeking revenge.
Superpower – Hypnotic word-play, accurate projectile spewing of partially-digested baijiu.
Kryptonite – Prone to leaping headlong at any reflection of the moon.
Nemesis – 12-Step, a self-righteous malefactor always trying to convince Verses he would write just as well sober.
Proposed Character: Brown Nose
Based on: Lei Feng
This can be the superhero audiences love to hate, while fulfilling the Chinese producers’ government mandate to “promote positive values, such as patriotism”. Whoever found Captain America an odious propaganda tool should have been a Chinese student in the 60s and 70s, when the “Learn from Comrade Lei Feng” campaign was drilled into every skull, by all media available. The updated Lei Feng, Brown Nose, will mirror Chinese society by cashing in on his PLA connections to make a fortune, but using that fortune to Serve the People, of course, especially the people in his family.
Superpower: Turns all hostile energy into an overwhelming compulsion to run out and plant trees.
Kryptonite: Falling telephone poles.
Nemesis: The Ministry of Propaganda, who can turn Lei Feng from poster boy to outcast with one call to Xinhua.
Proposed Character: Rocket Man
Based on: Yang Liwei
China’s first man in space, Yang is currently Deputy Director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center. Rocket Man’s story line will revolve around the center, where he will inspire his colleagues to reverse-engineer captured technology, and contain ruthless capitalist superpowers trying to use space for anti-socialist purposes.
Superpower: Late 60s-style jet pack and arm-mounted mini-rocket launchers.
Kryptonite: Allergic to Tang.
Nemesis: Armstrong, who will continue to send him mocking text messages until he walks on the moon.
Proposed Character: Aquaman
Based on: Yu the Great
Lucky eighth grandson of the Yellow Emperor, Mighty Yu was born for greatness, and delivered by controlling the floods that menaced Bronze Age China. Sustainability sells, so this Aquaman will ditch the yellow underwear-over-tights in favor of green planning and water conservation, battling wasted resources from hotel buffets to endless hot showers at the health club.
Superpower: Can end droughts or drown the evil with an instant canal’s worth of silty river water.
Weakness: Dealing with enemies at a considerably higher elevation than his.
Nemesis: VanDam, who can turn Aquaman’s greatest torrents into quickly evaporating reservoirs.
Proposed Character: Redbud
Based on: Redbud
How about a real superhero pretender for some cinematic edginess, a sexy female superhero pretender at that? Ever since last Christmas, Redbud has been sporadically spotted ministering to the many bundles of hungry despair camped on Beijing’s streets. In Beijing you need only stop and look upward determinedly to draw a crowd, so naturally a lithe young lady in full cosplay attire, helping the sidewalk-hopeless, creates the kind of audience you’d have to set yourself on fire for in other parts of China. Like the Lone Ranger, she gives no information about herself, only that she wants to help the needy. In a superhero costume. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Superpower: Turning the most chaotic Chinese thoroughfares into still, silent, staring crowds.
Weakness: Beijing subways, where she is held up indefinitely by folk-singing almsmen.
Nemesis: Panhandle, mendicant overlord who controls all China’s bar-street beggary.