Superheroes have long cloaked themselves in the inky vestments of media – what better way for Superman and Spider-Man to moonlight? Their respective gigs as reporter Clark Kent and photographer Peter Parker keep them in the field where they’re available to deter dastardly deeds, vanquish villains and keep the karmic balance of metropoleis the world over. If the super-heroes aren’t keeping media day-jobs, their girlfriends are – Batman could always count on his main squeeze, Vicky Vale, to get the gossip to Gotham. If Superman missed a deadline, Lois Lane always had the straight dope. Superheroes and media are like chocolate and peanut butter – or, as we say in Sonoma – prosciutto and melon.
Given the surfeit of media in our small town, it’s a wonder that Sonoma hasn’t revealed itself to be a haven for superheroes (it’s of note that crime-fighting comic strip heroine-reporter Brenda Starr was hatched by Dale Messick, late of Oakmont). Odds are that one or more of our fine media mavens boasts some order of secret identity and has used it for the common good (though the notion if music columnist James Marshall Berry in tights might technically be an act of evil-doing).
The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, a database containing “conflicting images of the journalist in film, television, radio, fiction, commercials, cartoons, comic books, music, art,” currently features 357 references to the query “superhero.” Run by the Norman Lear Center at University of Southern California, Annenberg, the online resource is overseen by scholar Joe Saltzman who recently opined in an interview:
“A reporter is an obvious disguise for a superhero because it puts the superhero right in the thick of the news and gives him or her an opportunity to know what is going on in the city, the country and the world … It is no surprise that the most enduring image of the journalist is the Daily Planet family – Clark Kent (Superman), Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen.”
It’s a gratifying sentiment for sure, which, for me, leads inevitably to the notion of which super-personae my colleagues might portray. With the risk of inadvertently outing one or more of their alter-egos, I won’t task-the-mask with spurious speculation but rather envision what superheroes Sonoma needs to remedy its particular evils.
For example, The Spork, also known as the Culinary Conundrum, might just be the avenging angel of local comestibles. It’s not uncommon that a guileless gastronome must be rescued from the evils of “epidrearia,” when local foodstuffs aren’t up to snuff. Moreover, the Spork must avenge Vinoman, who was offed by the evil Stain, a once mild-mannered wine writer who transforms into a burgundy-hued hellion when he imbibes his secret elixir – cheap wine. Stain is also in the sights of the Prophet of Non, whose beat is Sonoma’s ubiquitous non-profit industry by day and punishing tax improprieties at night (you know who you are!). Of course, “dotting the eyes and crossing the tease” throughout is the Editrix, who would just as soon cut your nut-graph as polish your news-peg.
There’s more, surely, lurking behind a copy-desk, a microphone, a camera lens – all ready to don the cape and take on the machinations of the Historic Sonoma Plasma and other scourges to our fair burg. What’s germane is that these pursuers of truth, justice and the American way, no matter their affiliation, no matter their media, are all superheroes in their own right. They’ve committed their lives to telling the greatest story of all – our story.