Friday, May 15, 2009

Out of the comics & onto the streets

Finally got around to reading "The Legend of Master Legend," Joshua Bearman's "epic tale" of self-created real-life superheroes from the Dec. 25, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone. As Bearman noted in BoingBoing back when the story first ran ,

[T]he narrative at Boing Boing (and in the wider world) about real life superheroes has mostly been bemusement at the weirdos in spandex. That was my perception of the world when I started reporting. But this is [a?] most serious look at what it actually means that people are doing this, and having found Master Legend and spent a lot of time with him, I realize that what he's doing is strange, yes, but also strangely sympathetic.

Sure enough, while there's a tongue-in-cheek quality to the story, you do get the sense that our narrator believes there is more to ML and colleagues like these and these than an easy punchline. Here's a bit from the end of the piece:

This may be the real reason Master Legend inhabits a never-ending comic book in his mind, assigning everyone a character in the grand narrative. ... [T]he reality of Master Legend, a guy who has no job and lives in a run-down house in a crummy neighborhood in Orlando, is transmuted via secret decoder ring into an everlasting tale of heroic outsiders, overcoming the odds and vanquishing enemies. To the outside world, this makes Master Legend seem like a lunatic. But to the people around him, he is the charismatic center of an inviting universe. ... Being a Real Life Superhero means that Master Legend can get in his Nissan pickup and call it the Battle Truck. He can tape together a potato gun and call it the Master Blaster. He can stand in the porch light of a disintegrating clapboard house, a beer in his hand, and behold a glorious clandestine citadel. And who are we to tell him otherwise?

Who, indeed?

BONUS! Actual comments from and flame wars between some of the heroes in Bearman's tale here and on page 1 of the online version of the story.
EXTRA BONUS! Deleted material from the original story here.

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