Do you know anybody whose name consists solely of a noun preceded by ‘The’?
Have you had a friend or family member murdered by a cackling madman with a fetish for day-glo lycra?
Ever sat down to watch your favourite show only to find it replaced by an all-channel global broadcast address by some guy in a cape who refers to himself in the third person?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions I’m afraid you’re more than likely living in a comic book universe, my friend. But there is good news – you won’t be living in it for much longer.
As an entirely anonymous member of the mundane masses (as you almost certainly are; there being in any given comic book world only a handful of actual characters surrounded by six billion bystanders) you are doomed to die a terrible, albeit spectacular and entertaining, death.
This is due to the fact that such worlds spend most of their collective time cowering beneath some mega-scale threat or other, because such threats make the heroes that face them look cool. They also make you, the average joe, cool too. But unfortunately not cool as in ‘good, popular’ but rather cool as in ‘colder than normal body temperature, because you’re dead’.
Yes, those heroes always save the world in the end. But that’s in the end, after the drama’s already been racketed up by a few picturesque mass cullings…and you’re not ‘the world’ are you?
But take heart. There is more to your future than (in this exact order and really close together) disaster, death and a brick-dust burial. That is, if you read and make use of this handy, carefully researched survival guide.*
STEP 1: AVOID ALL METROPOLITAN AREAS
Ah, the big city. The bright lights. The twenty-four hour lifestyle. The sound the skyscrapers make when they topple like a row of dominoes. Let’s face it, if you’re thinking about making a trip to a major conurbation, you may as well just drive on down to the morgue and cut out the middleman.
The larger and more important a city is, the more likely it is to qualify for smoking craterdom. And that goes double for those made-up places like Gotham, because they can be thoroughly drubbed without people getting offended or the atlases being changed.
STEP 2: AVOID ALL RURAL AREAS
And it’s no use hiding out in the country. Everybody knows that what eventually lays waste to the cities always starts by getting busy in Farmer Jed’s back paddock.**
STEP 3: AVOID EVERYWHERE ELSE
But before you book those one-way tickets to Antarctica, Outer Siberia or some godforsaken Mid-Pacific H-bomb test site - or worse, Belgium - ruminate on the fact that before these things get to either the country or the city, they’ve invariably been lying dormant in places like these.
Plus, supervillians always have their bases there too because those things always look like giant skulls or something, and being such eyesores they can’t get planning permission for them anywhere else.
STEP 4: BUILD A SAFE HOUSE
Now that we’ve established that nowhere is safe, your only option is to slide inexorably into denial and attempt to make something that IS safe. You know those panic rooms that rich people have? Well, just build an entire house out of those. To ensure proper protection from possible superpowered encroachers, make sure the walls are made of something sturdy. Sixteen metres of depleted uranium ought to do it.
STEP 5: ABANDON SAFEHOUSE
Congratulations. You are now self-entombed inside a giant metal isolation cell. But don’t worry, the loneliness and paranoia will finish you off long before the truly horrific radiation levels do. Or you could leave. Whatever works for you.
Another good reason to abandon the property is that you’ve just built the dream home of most supervillians, and so you might like to think about how you’d feel being forced to share a toilet with a cannibal or some guy who’s technically dead.
STEP 6: STALK A SUPERHERO
No, there’s only one way in this whole damn world of yours that you can truly be safe – and that’s by being in the immediate presence of a superhero. But you don’t want them to know that you’re shadowing them. It’s best if you can get them to come to you. They’re forever saving idiots that have fallen off buildings or are about to get run over, so merely by constantly jeopardizing your own life you will ensure yourself virtual immortality.
Note: Since most superheroes possess some form of supersensory ability and will therefore soon wise up to your little ruse, it would be prudent to regularly change not only your appearance but weight, height and sex via tortuously painful and invasive surgery. If this seems a little daunting, bear in mind that due to your daily suicide attempts you will be luckily undergoing the insufferable anguish of major bodily trauma already; so a little more won’t hurt, you big wuss.
STEP 7: BECOME A SUPERHERO
But there’s a catch. If you get too close to your chosen superhero you might end up getting caught in the crossfire the next time one of their foes turns up for their obligatory ass-kicking. Just look at Jason Todd, Gwen Stacey or any of Daredevil’s ex-girlfriends. On second thoughts, don’t look at them, because they’re all dead and accordingly not easy on the eye.
The only way round this problem is to become a superhero yourself. True, they do spend inordinate quantities of their waking hours in stupendous amounts of mortal danger, but they (almost) always live to fight another day ***.
A lot has been written about how to create a superhero, but really it’s as simple as this: pick something that isn’t copyrighted, no matter how stupid, and go with it. It worked for Image.
STEP 8: GET A CIVILIAN IDENTITY
Things may get rather hectic now that you’re Defendo, defender of the undefended defenceless or whatever. There’s evil to be thwarted, baddies to be brutalized, and other superheroes to engage in pointless and protracted physical violence before you both realize it was all a terrible mistake and gang up on some other poor sod. Although your life may be marginally safer now, you may in fact find it unlivable.
Thus, in order to procure a little much-needed quiet time before you are driven to auto-euthanasia by your insane lifestyle you will find it necessary to adopt an ordinary common-schmuck alter ego.
Who will then inevitably, unavoidably have to -
STEP 9: BEGIN AGAIN AT STEP 1
And go through the whole harrowing, nightmarish process again. And again. And again.
* Survival not guaranteed. Or even probable. Especially if you live in The Authority’s universe, in which case you’re on your own, pal.
**This may or may not be an euphemism.
***And even if they don’t, they always come back again – in order to express the infinite profundity of such experiences as death and resurrection via a new haircut or slight costume change.