The Making of a Corporate Super Villain

Economics

 

The idea for Super Corporate Heroes came in 2008. Miguel Guerra’s brother was diagnosed with cancer and he didn’t have health insurance. Miguel, my partner in this project, pictured a man desperately hanging from the ledge of a burning building. At the last moment, a superhero swings over ready to rescue him, but the man is uninsured. After hearing some contracts and payment options, he signs up for an insurance plan and is saved. Like almost all things in our society, we corporatized superheroes.

 

2008 was also the beginning of the financial crisis and the public bailouts for private “too big to fail” banks. Miguel and I were kibitzing about the sad state of the economy and the dogmatic belief in economist Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” a mysterious godlike force that brings balance to the free market. But what market is free? And if it is free, how long before someone corners a market and creates a monopoly? That’s when I thought—why not personify “Invisible Hand” into a villain? Miguel dug the idea and we put our comic book hats on and had some fun. Invisible Hand is the alter ego of Bradshaw Winters, the most enigmatic and sinister super villain of all time. Invisible Hand is actually an android built by Winters, who himself was born in 1723 and was a good friend of ... wait for it ... Adam Smith. They were both part of the Scottish Enlightenment that brought us modern economic theory. Aren’t comic books fun?

 

With all of these influences in mind, we quickly built a plot that looks something like this: After powerful companies (and lobbyists) decimate the golden age of nonprofit superheroes, new rules are designed and a new generation of superheroes use their extraordinary powers to earn a living. In this alternate reality, superheroes must be licensed by a mega insurance company called Superhero, Inc. and people must pay to be rescued.

 

The new dilemma—how to structure a graphic novel (comic book) series around our idea? Since there are a lot of superheroes in our world, we couldn’t take the traditional route and focus on one main hero—think Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Besides all that, our main character is the villain.

 

Our narrative thread weaves around short vignettes detailing moments in the lives of key superheroes that work for Superhero, Inc. The benefits of working for the company are fame and fortune. Their celebrity can dwarf the paparazzi frenzy of Hollywood stars and all-star athletes combined. Then there’s the working stiff heroes, who are overworked, underpaid, and punished for saving people without Rescue Insurance. Back in the golden age, when altruism was noble, the biggest name was Tom Walters, the original American Icon, until his name was illegally trademarked by Superhero, Inc.1 Tom is fighting the rise of the corporate superhero to get back his name and the right to rescue people without a Superhero License. Behind it all is Invisible Hand. He threads the needle that weaves the plot, stitching seemingly random events together to capture the wealth of nations in his nefarious net.

 

And that’s it, in a nutshell. We’ve completed volume one, called Sticky Fingers, dedicated to all those “too big to fail” bankers who seem to have their hands permanently wedged in our pockets ... and the Rolling Stones, who also inspired the cover.

 

1. We had our own brush with the corporate superhero police when we tried to trademark our original title: Superhero, Inc. We soon received a letter from the counsel representing DC Comics and Marvel, explaining that they were the joint owners of the trademark “super heroes” (superheroes, super-heroes, super heroines, etc.). He hoped the issued raised by our application would be “amicably resolved.” After doing some research and confirming their claim, Miguel and I decided to skip the hassle and apply for a new title: Super Corporate Heroes. For anyone out there thinking that DC and Marvel were the first to use the "superheroes," think again. Superheroes has been in the public domain since 1917. It’s even in the dictionary. Publishers (like Dell) even had a comic called “Superheroes” in the 1960s. DC and Marvel only registered their trademark in 1979. 

 

*

 

Super Corporate Heroes (vol.1): Sticky Fingers will be released January 8, 2014. Advanced digital copies are available now ($6.99) at www.7robots.com/shop. Print copies will be available in the new year ($19.99).

 

 

Follow Suzy, Miguel, and Super Corporate Heroes on Twitter @SuperCorpHeroes

 

Editor's note: Read a review of the first two issues of Super Corporate Heroes on The Mantle here. This is the second installment of The Making Of series.

 

 

Comics, Satire, The Making Of