I’ve been toying with putting together a post about my new morning routine and how I’d managed to find a way to channel my focus in short enough bursts to be productive, but then I realized that, actually, it only took one significant setback to throw me off routine — and I’m still stumbling at it — so that seems like a bad topic to blather on about.
Let’s talk super heroes instead!
No, that’s not the left turn from the introduction it looks like, but this is a thing I do, where I jump several connection points in quick succession and don’t always realize I’ve missed relaying some of the interstitial bits. I’ll back up.
One of the reasons I came up with that routine I was going to brag on is that, after having a creeping suspicion for a while now, I finally talked to a professional who seemed to agree that: yeah, it does sound like I have some stripe of ADD / ADHD. The diagnosis is still pretty fresh, and my experience of trying to parse and re-parse the ways I’d defined my various proclivities in light of it is ongoing. I’m not in any position to give one of those Really Insightful ADHD Breakdowns, or even a Scarily Accurate Quiz.
But it has got me thinking about how every take on the Hourman concept inevitably runs to using him as an addiction metaphor. I get it. Hourman is a super hero who gets his limited-time super powers from a drug — Miraclo. The pill has a predictable effect range, taking too much of it (or too many doses in quick succession) is risky and has bad effects on the Hourman-of-the-moment’s body. And we’ve been hearing about the War on Drugs for ages now (sadly I’m not talking about the Barenaked Ladies song. We don’t hear that nearly enough in comparison). Most good super hero stories lean on their hero’s weaknesses as often as they do their strengths. It’s not a stretch to turn the original pill-popping super into a drug addict.
Wait, there are at least two versions of folks named Hourman that don’t tread into addiction (that I’m aware of. Hourman isn’t like Power Pack for me, so I’m not encyclopedic on him): There’s an Hourman from the future, an android / nanotech collective. There’s also the version in the live action Stargirl show. In both cases, though, the premises threw out the notion of a miracle drug with an on-the-nose name and replaced it with super-robotics and a magical hourglass respectively. It seems, then, that there’s an inevitable tie for creators between “takes pills” and “addictive drug use.”
But what if, I thought — as I struggled to find the right dosage of meds to help me wrangle my brain into a state where I can get things done — what if Miraclo wasn’t the source of a pumped up super hero high? What if it were instead a maintenance or regulating agent?
And that, friends, is how we get from botching a morning routine to talking about super heroes. Super narratives often delve into the need for controlling great power. Those tend to be forward-moving arcs: characters gain powers, then incrementally (or all at once) gain more and more control of those powers. Whether it’s a long journey or a quick one, the road goes one way.
What this leaves us with is a familiar paradigm, where the success of Doing What Heroes Do, of integrating themselves into the world in a responsible way, is a matter of willpower, dedication, and discipline. Using your powers becomes a sign of the moral fortitude of a super-hero.
In that framework, of course taking regular infusions of a foreign substance is bad. But what if they weren’t? I just wonder: what if Hourman takes Miraclo not to become super-human, but to take control of his superhuman traits? Superman can pick up cars, but he can also crumple a car up like it’s so much tissue paper. The only reason he doesn’t shred a car to bits every time he picks one up is his ability to regulate that super-strength.
Not so our new Hourman: the powers are always available to access, but if he taps his super-strength, it’s shredded cars all the way down. Super-speed comes without brakes and turns to super-running-into-walls. Or, in a set of extra complications, he can’t be sure accessing his super-heroic energy will manifest in the power he wants: Hourman could try to activate his super-hearing only to be overwhelmed when his night vision turns a well-lit room into a whitewash, instead. Enter Miraclo which, so long as his dosage lasts, gives Hourman the control his peers benefit from.
It feels like a take on super-heroism we don’t see a lot of. And a paradigm that allows for a lot of different arcs that might question assumptions and resonate with readers who haven’t seen much of themselves on the four-color page.