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Saturday, June 26, 2010 

Superheroes on drugs, and how this was taken too far

A writer on Suite 101 writes a very awkward article about superheroes who've dealt with drugs. For example, he says:
For the most part, comic book superheroes should serve as role models for children. On the subject of drugs, it is not uncommon to see a hero take the moral high ground and preach to the kids to just say no. Yet even the mighty can fall, and in their moments of weakness, these heroes have found themselves succumbing to the temptations of drug abuse.


Golden Age DC character and longtime JSA member Hourman could perhaps be considered as the world's first drug-abusing superhero. In fact, that's practically how he got his super powers. As chemist Rex Tyler, he formulates a "miraculous vitamin" pill that he creatively names "Miraclo." Swallowing the pill, Rex discovers that his physical strength is greatly increased for a period of sixty minutes. As the aptly-named crimefighter the Hourman, he devotes one "hour of power" a day to fight evil. Or if just an hour isn't enough, he can always extend it by popping another pill. And another. And another. And so it goes.

Back when Hourman first appeared in Adventure Comics #48 (April 1940), the idea of a pill-popping superhero wasn't so controversial. Indeed, he was only one among many heroes who obtained their powers through ingesting substances (interestingly, a number of these are humorous cartoon characters such as Underdog and Roger Ramjet). But in modern times when even Mighty Mouse can be accused of cocaine use just by sniffing a flower, Rex Tyler's wonder drug would eventually be held under scrutiny.
Talk about taking this all out of context! While vitamins are technically drugs, Hourman's initial use of Miraclo was along the lines of most legal forms of vitamins, even the famous one known by the letter C. What's dismaying about this piece is how it succumbs to political correctness, just like DC did in the late 80s-early 90s when they started changing the premises because they were ridiculously embarrassed about how the heroes first began. This even extended to Jay Garrick's habit of smoking, which was downplayed, or later just dropped, and for Elongated Man, they tried to rework his use of gingold juice chemicals, all because it supposedly represented drug use!

And what's this about Mighty Mouse being a crack user by sniffing flowers? That's really exaggerating there and insulting famous cartoon creations for no good reason. By that logic, I guess boyfriends can't give their girlfriends a bunch of roses and tulips, and nobody can smell them either, because that's drug use too, huh? Wow. Some way to demonize even the most harmless of things, all for the sake of political correctness, and moonbat nonsense to boot.
Later stories would emphasize the adverse effects of the Miraclo pills. Addicted to both the drug and to the superhero lifestyle, Tyler would continue on as Hourman, even after the pills prove to be detrimental to his health. His son Rick would eventually take up both the Hourman mantle and the Miraclo addiction that comes with it, which leads him to contract leukaemia. Rex would then come up with alternative ways to activate his latent powers, from a "black light beam" to a form of hypnotic suggestion. The elder Tyler is currently retired from costumed crime-fighting, but not before developing a non-addicitve Miraclo formula presently used by his son (who had since recovered from both his leukaemia and his addiction).
And it wasn't the wisest of story turns either, but I guess that doesn't matter to the writer of this junk. It's a shame how some of the simplest forms of science fiction and fantasy were ruined by the alleged similarities they share with real life problems. Even Captain America has been a victim of this kind of PC-garbage in the past decade.

They even superficially talks about Roy Harper's addiction and how he boomeranged back:
Rather than having the superhero encounter the drug problem through others, as stories of this type usually do, Snowbirds... has much more weight in having the hero himself experience it firsthand (a feat that would later be matched by the Iron Man alcoholism storyline). And while it may seem that Speedy had overcome his addiction at the arc's end, his struggle is far from over. In the recent Justice League mini-series Cry for Justice (September 2009-April 2010), Harper (in his current Red Arrow identity) has suffered the trauma of losing his left arm and the grief of his daughter's murder. Pushed to the brink of despair, he has taken up his drug habit once more.
But no criticism of how a decent story of a guy who lost his head and learned some important lessons, and tried to use his experience to teach others why not to make the same errors, was recently ruined by the sleaze peddlers currently running the asylum at DC?

And they even talk about how Batman first had a brush with drugs:
As hard as it may be to believe, no less a hero than the Dark Knight himself had been a drug user at one point in his career. This is a man who had trained all his life conditioning his body to achieve the pinnacle of human perfection. The ultimate health-nut, if you will. It would seem inconceivable for such an outstanding physical specimen to be hooked on drugs, let alone to one that is connected to one of his deadliest foes.

It was actually Batman's desire to become physically stronger that drove him to put his health and sanity at risk in Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 (March-July 1991). After failing to save a young girl's life, the Caped Crusader becomes obssessed with increasing his own strength. This leads him to take "Venom," a performance-enhancing designer drug that puts steroids to shame. As a result, he starts to depend more on brute force rather than his usually sharp mind. His personality becomes more aggressive than usual, at the expense of his morals. And he becomes so addicted that he is reduced to a common junkie under the thrall of his supplier.

But you can't keep the Dark Knight down for long, and the Batman ultimately triumphs over his weakness, flushing the Venom out of his system before it could completely destroy his life. But it would not be his last brush with the drug. It would menace him again in the form of Bane, the Venom-pumped powerhouse who breaks his back in the 1993-94 Knightfall storyline. It was later revealed in JSA Classified #17 (November 2006) that Venom was actually a derivative of Hourman's Miraclo; and the history of super-drug abuse in the DC Universe comes full circle.
It also becomes very insulting. I won't be the least bit surprised if that 2006 JSA story really turns Hourman's history into a mockery in retrospect. While this article does tell where the idea for making Batman into a control freak may have come from, it still doesn't really tell anything beyond that, like whether these storylines were good or bad in long term, and is otherwise a letdown.

Maybe the biggest problem is how it doesn't make any distinction between good or bad drugs, chemicals, or even medicines.

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At first I thought you were talking about a comedy article. They always go to the "pill popping" Hourman (and sometimes Underdog).

As for Mighty Mouse, I assume the author refers to an episode of Bakshi's Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures where MM sniffs a flower so hard that some of the petals go into his nose. Apparently, some crusading pastor (the type that gives crusading pastors a bad name, which the anti-Christians are more than happy to use to their ends) immediately started yelling "cocaine" and got some do-gooder parent group to help him force CBS to ban it.

Personally, I thought the only good that came of the show was Mighty Mouse finally getting a secret identity and another supporting cast besides Pearl Pureheart. I just wasn't a fan. But this was just stupid, and the harping's gone on ever since.

Yeah, I remember that goofy Mighty Mouse controversy. Bakshi had kind of a sleazy reputation, so some folks jumped to conclusions on that.

The Hourman thing is just idiotic, guess this means Popeye is a crack addict and 'roid rager now. Dumb dumb dumb.

Remember kids, don't do spinach.

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