Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 3 (The real and the fantastic)

The Hub and I finally made it to Fantastic Four tonight. Both of us were mighty glad we waited till it was at the cheap joint. As H said, "The only good thing about that movie was the costumes." And, yes, it was mighty refreshing to see spandex-clad superheroes actually clad in spandex, or something resembling it (though I also enjoyed the shots of bare-chested Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans).

But this isn't really a post about the movie; it's really a post about what was on the TV in the Mexican restaurant where we ate before the movie: an episode of America's Most Wanted about the "Erie Collar Bomber" who snapped an explosive device on a pizza delivery guy and ordered him to rob a bank, back in 2003. Amazingly enough, I don't recall hearing anything about the case at the time, though the Hub did. (Well, he is in law enforcement.) We couldn't make out most of the narrative over the Mexi-muzak in the restaurant, but we pieced together as much as possible, and then I looked up more online on the way to the movie.

Suffice to say that Fantastic Four could not possibly compete with the Pizza Bomber when it comes to mind-blowing adventure--spandex or no spandex. Turns out several people at the time of the crime in question (like this one and several of these) had the same thought I did: that this whole thing is straight out of a comic book. Joker? Riddler? Clock King? The Puzzler? Could be just about any of 'em...

For the record, the collar bomber/pizza bomber saga also reminds me of this almost equally bizarre (and equally comic-book-like) saga of an online gaming guy and the artists who essentially stalked him as an art project. Once again, an "innocent" bystander is plucked out of his daily routine and plunged into a surreal adventure involving false pretenses, clues, challenges, and the like--only this time the game is not a deadly one (and the "victim" lives to tell the tale in his own words, too).

I find both of these strange tales utterly fascinating, in much the same way that my own bat-adventures with the Monk and various other quasi-fictional but still-real characters blur the lines between fantasy and something more tangible. (Inevitable disclaimer: just as I don't want to end up the prey of a cannibal, I am not interested in tangling with actual master criminals, either.)

Could it be that, as real life feels more and more scripted and predictable, deviations from that script--deviations that resemble actual comic-book-movie scripts--are what keep us going?

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