Behind The Cape
if there really was a superhero?
As high concepts go, that's a question that Marvel, DC
and many other comic book creators ask with each hero. After
all, it's finding the man in super that brings us back month
still, no matter how "real" they may claim to be, few comics
are willing to look that closely at the question. To answer
it adequately, we have to look hard at ourselves, and might
not like what we see. Writers/directors Bill
Lae and Mark
Teague took that look, set the boundaries for their
hero, and unleashed SuperGuy upon the world.
resulting film, fully titled SuperGuy:
Behind The Cape, has as much to say about society
as it does the fantasies that fuel it. We create heroes
out of celebrities, and celebrities out of heroes, but we
love discovering scandals for them, too. No matter how great
we make them out to be, we'll find a way to push them down.
All of that's here in a satirical mockumentary that is in
turns funny and poignant, and ultimately, yeah, super.
Warmly narrated by Peter Stacker, the film captures the
rhythms of an A&E Biography, with occasional dips into E!
True Hollywood territory. Though pretty much restricted
to Los Angeles, SuperGuy (Teague) has become something of
a global phenomenon, so naturally it's time for a documentary.
The production team has only marginal trouble putting it
together, as SuperGuy, Inc. refuses cooperation.
In a clever and ruefully realistic story point, the hero
doesn't actually own the rights to his own name. All merchandising
profits this faceless corporate entity; in the real world,
the Luthor types win by simply ripping off the hero's father,
Sam Trent (Charles Dierkop). They control SuperGuy's image,
but they can't control him.
From this conceit, Lae and Teague take shots at their
central question from a variety of angles. Because of its
independent origins, the film is freer to spotlight certain
issues than a book published by DC (controlled by TimeWarner)
or Marvel ever could.
A religion springs up around SuperGuy, funny and a little
bit sad, while mainstream Christianity fears his role in
society. Hesitant to call him savior, it's easier to brand
him the Anti-Christ. And yet, the script allows the televangelist
leading that crusade to sound fairly rational about it.
Heck, it seems only recently that Marvel got around to noticing
that a Norse God running around New York might earn some
worshippers. And though Superman has acknowledged he has
spawned a religion, it's always uneasy and offhand. SuperGuy:
Behind The Cape presents it far more cleanly.
Of course, in American society, we make more of a religion
out of celebrity, and that takes its shots, too. The fame
machine sucks SuperGuy in and chews him up. Having a man
who can fly inspires pop songs in a variety of genres, and
the film includes videos for many.
Among SuperGuy's effects on society, of course, is the
birth of would-be supervillains. Most are treated as jokes,
but the filmmakers do not shy away from dark turns. It is,
in fact, one of the deft things about this film, how each
element provokes thought as much as laughter. If a guy leaps
off a building hoping for a flying rescue, it may be slapstick
funny, but they intercut that with a woman grieving that
SuperGuy arrived too late at the scene of an accident. It's
risky, bold and heartfelt as an artistic choice.
In the most poignant moment, the "documentary crew" enters
the basement domain of Ronald Pittman (producer Tim Peyton),
SuperGuy's biggest fan. Still living at home with his mother,
this undernourished postal carrier starts off as an object
of derision. But he has a dignity that shines through, and
if fans recognize themselves in him, it really underscores
the reasons we love comics.
The finished film offers a few snippets of Pittman's nervous
adulation as he shows off some of his memorabilia, but the
DVD extras include a complete interview. Not only does it
demonstrate some incredible improvisation from Peyton, who
refuses to be thrown for a loop, the footage is outright
funny. In the context of the film, it would have slowed
things down, but it serves as a great featurette on its
Thankfully, the DVD is not bogged down with too many extras.
In our interview, Lae acknowledged they had a lot
of extra footage, but what they chose to see the light of
day is just enough. Besides Pittman, the DVD has an extended
look at a chilling terrorist threat and a couple of music
If you're sharp-eyed, you'll notice that one of SuperGuy
singing the blues made a brief appearance in Comic Book:
The Movie. It works better as a standalone bit, and
yes, Teague really is playing the guitar. But what right
does he have to sing the blues after this film's positive
You may want to skip over the blooper reel, as like most
such things, it really serves only to prove that the filmmakers
had a good time most of the time. A repeated bit with SuperGuy
trying to help an old lady across the street during high
winds is actually much funnier in the film, when it has
a planned but lightly tossed off punchline.
By all means, SuperGuy: Behind The Cape (see our
sidebar for the Amazon link) is a must for any Fanboy's
DVD collection, and not just for completion's sake. The
filmmakers, Teague in particular, know their subject, hit
all the right touchstone moments, and still create something
fresh and new. More importantly, SuperGuy may just
refresh your love of heroes.