Comic! Many words!
Love Val’s facial expressions in this comic.
I think that glare may have had more to do with the fact that Val was denied hero status because of her figure.
I second it being the silluette requirements not Shiver on Val’s side, but maybe the hero thought she was thinking of Shiver. He was talking about standards and best, standards that are too superficial to accept Val despite being best.
…and lack of an interesting backstory
Man, that look in Val’s eye screams “Remember Shiver and all his BS?” and Grey realized that. I like he admitted the system isn’t perfect and explained why hero school is important. If there was a school I could put my knowledge of tropes to work with I’d go to get a support roll, if nothing else as something like a report writer for the agency to help out the heroes and side kicks.
That’s what I was thinking. Shiver not only became a hero, he became a borderline psycho whose problematic attitude (along with himself) got sent to their city. I wonder if this school provides its heroes-in-training with psych tests?
Dat glare. Pardon my meme-speak, but I feel very proud that Val van give that glare. That glare had years built into it, years in college, years in the field, yeas where Agent Grey has told her she is top of the top, having her placed with a hero so there can be someone competent to finally bring him down… And she’s a Sidekick. Her name is “Sidekick Girl”. I mean, bless Mac but… That glare was earned.
ha! and I also just realized, literal years! I’ve been reading this comic for a long time, but it’s been going on longer… Man, time flies.
Score one for Val…!
When I read “exacting standards of the agency” followed by Agent Grey’s “Those standards exist to ensure the Safety of the community!” I wasn’t thinking about Shiver; any screening process has to be run by people, and people are fallible.
I was thinking about Val, and why she wasn’t allowed to be a “Hero”, and Illumina as we first saw her, who was allowed to be a “Hero”.
Mr. Grey sounds like he means it when he talks of the standards. And has treated Val as fairly as he can under the system.
Which leads me to wonder. What were the conditions that lead to the hero system created in this fashion?
Illumina is at least a second generation hero. Were the originals actually that easy to type and sort?
BTW, we don’t know that the Vigelante DIDN’T try going through the system first. Maybe he, like Val, didn’t have an imposing figure or tragic backstory and, unlike Val, wasn’t interested in taking Sidekick status. Maybe the Hero Agency should look through its files as rejects who were rejected for cosmetic reasons!
It took them long enough to get to the real argument for the agency (despite its many faults) and we even saw that in a previous storyline: What system is in place to hold a “hero” accountable if they decide to abuse their power and/or position? The Agency. The best reason for the Agency is that it can insure people with great power will also use those powers responsibly.
You know that moment when 100 unrelated things suddenly come together and everything makes sense? Well, that happened to me with this comic a little while ago, and I’ve been debating whether I should post and share because it’s pretty long, but this actually seems like a pretty good time for it, so here goes:
I think I might know why the Hero Agency is the way it is.
We know from Isauro’s backstory that the Villain agency is active internationally. But the Hero Agency has been referred to several times as being a specifically American institution (I believe it was referred to early on as the American Superhero Society at least once). Other countries, like Mexico, seem to use more traditional channels for fighting super crime, like secret black ops task forces (which have the advantage of having other, more morally ambiguous, uses as well). This is backed up by the fact that Isauro admits his training didn’t cover hero/villain cliches at all, whereas Val’s training allows her to spot Esperanza’s ploy right off.
To me, this begs the following question: Could it be that the origins of the Hero and Villain agencies are not the mirror images one would expect at first glance given the similar ways the agencies are staffed and structured today? If so, this could shed some major light on why they work the way they do.
Here’s what I’m thinking. What if the Villain agency came first? Suppose it’s basically a worldwide super powered mafia. It could have been founded by the first generation of super criminals that managed to really establish themselves, at the point in their lives when they were looking for a sustainable way to secure their retirement, and decided to pool their ill gotten fortunes to start their own syndicate, recruiting and sponsoring a new generation of criminal up and comers. The inner circle stays hidden and supports a huge network of more or less independent operators, in return for getting a cut of the profits, or free access to discoveries, or being able to call upon those operators at any time to do certain particular jobs. The only contact the inner circle has with those operators is through a middle ring of highly trusted agents, like Esparanza, or Patrick. Piss off the inner circle, and the authorities get an anonymous tip off, and the wayward operator is toast.
In most countries, this forced the governments to step up their game, and maybe rethink their policies on hiring and or persecuting people with powers (something that probably contributed to so many people going villain up until that point), hence programs like the one in Mexico. (Although to be fair, Mexican law still doesn’t seem to be well set up to deal with the challenges faced by the “differently abled” hence how Isauro would up in prison for an accident he could never have anticipated. In America that would probably be treated as a one way ticket to Blue Card Academy with a Tragic Backstory to boot.)
So perhaps in the United States, super heroes decided to take an extra step and fight fire with fire. They decided that the only way to effectively combat the newly organized Villain threat was for them to organize themselves, go public, and start working with the authorities instead of around them. And so the American Superheroes of the time (probably of Illumina’s parents’ generation or the generation immediately before) created the hero agency. They probably modeled it in large part off of the Villain agency, (or what parts of it they were aware of; cards, secret offices, etc.) because it seemed to be a very successful model, and was probably also similar to whatever sort of underground mentor/student system they had already been using.
However, I’m guessing those early American super heroes also had an even bigger motivation for what they did: they were trying to protect “their people” (read “people with powers and mutations”) from being tracked down and disappeared by secret government agencies, or being lynched by mobs of paranoid civilians, both of which they probably saw starting to happen with alarming frequency.
Think about it. Up until this point super powers were probably the stuff of urban legends (like vampires and the occult still are in this universe), and people and groups who used or dealt with them tried to stay discreet ( much like the secret order that Father Mark belongs to, that deals with things like vampires and the occult, and clearly comes from a much earlier era, and still does try to stay discrete) Then all of a sudden, everywhere you look, super villains are coming out of nowhere, with horrifying powers, bewildering technology, and seamless logistical support, all backed by a terrifying shadow agency that seems to have limitless resources. And worst of all, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can stand up to them. You’re DOG FOOD. People would be confused and terrified, and terrified, confused people tend to do awful things. And this was probably exactly what the villain agency wanted, because the more frightened people with powers are of the society they live in, the easier it is to manipulate them into turning against it.
More than anything else, this helplessness and paranoia that was gripping people around the world and driving them to commit atrocities, might be what the American Hero Agency was created to fight in the first place, its true mission being to protect and secure a safe future for “their people” first and protect ordinary people from the villains second, and that might be why the Leadership of the American Hero Agency (who, if we posit a marked generational divide between the leadership and the rank and file, could primarily come from an era when this was still a real concern) always puts image first. It’s a well documented fact that the most important factors determining how we view strangers is whether or not they are physically attractive, and whether we feel bad for them. Indeed, let’s not forget that physical attractiveness was not the only thing that the Hero Agency was looking for. They were also looking for tragic backstories, narratives they could use to elicit the public’s sympathy and combat their anti-power prejudices, and in particular they were looking for orphans, who in this period were probably orphans BECAUSE of people’s anti-power prejudices (dynephobia?), and the ones most at risk of turning villain and perpetuating a cycle of violence.
If the heroes of this era really saw “winning over a hostile public” as their top priority, then it’s understandable how they could view other concerns, like “respecting different body types” as trivial, and not be worried about them. Conversely, we’ve never seen the villain agency put any kind of emphasis on style or appearance, and while some of them, like Esparanza, are quite attractive, others, like Doctor Wright, are not.
Follow this chain of logic a little further, and we can also see why the agency might be willing to hide Shiver’s actions while at the same time getting so worked up about the vigilante, because while an angry public with sticks, stones, and shotguns might be scary to people with superpowers, an American government with detectives, Army battalions, and secret laboratories full of secretive scientists would actually be DANGEROUS to them. As has been noted by several people on this page, the rule bound nature of agency life is designed to let heroes participate in the legal process in a systematic and accountable way, and I think this is why. I’d bet anything that the American government’s willingness to recognize the Hero agency (instead of simply taking matters into their own hands the Mexican way), is dependent on the Hero agency’s promise that they can control their own, and that they won’t let super powered crime fighting undermine the government or the rule of law in any way. Thus, to their thinking, while what Shiver did was bad, word of it getting out would be even worse, since each scandal weakens the standing of the Hero Agency itself, and could jeopardize everything that they have worked for. Better to keep it quiet and risk a few people becoming victims than to make a big fuss and risk everyone becoming government test subjects. Similarly, this could be the real reason the vigilante (who the police already know about, so it’s too late to run a cover up) is such a big concern to the agency leadership: he’s making them look bad, and raising doubts as to whether or not they really can control the super powered population the way they promised they could. Because if they can’t, guess who’s going to do it for them… (cue creepy af remix of “Here Come The Men In Black”)
TL, DR; It all makes sense if we assume it’s a holdover from a time when the heroes believed they were in as much danger from governments and the public as the public was in from the villains.
That is actually interesting and does offer an explanation of the whole body dynamic or at least deep background story. They want front page heroes to be a showcase.
Well thought out.
Val reveals a heretofore unknown super power: Stinkface!
OK I know this doesn’t fit the narrative so far, but how about The Vigilante is a super of some kind who doesn’t want to do the hero thing, does NOT want to villain, and just can’t avoid acting when stuff goes down around them, and has the bad luck or Karma that they are frequently around when Bad Things Happen. In D&D terms neutral or chaotic good who does NOT like “The System” but can’t just “leave it alone” when Bad Things Happen? Emotionally can’t let bad things happen to people, or be part of the “Hero System”? I play a lot of ChG characters in D&D, and my “What kind of D&D character are you?” tests are always ChG something or other, so I understand this dynamic.
That glare is a thing of (frightening) beauty.
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