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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Tag Archives: The Incredibles


“Why is it that so many of our favorite characters from film and television wear masks?” asks the Hal Leonard website. “Jay Bocook examines this disturbing phenomenon in this intense yet entertaining medley.”

Bocook is a staff composer/arranger for the Hal Leonard music company, biggest supplier of sheet music to middle schools in the U.S. Including my son’s, Lylburn Downing Middle School in Lexington, VA. Their spring band concert featured Bocook’s arrangement “Who’s That Masked Man?” The company owns the rights to over 200,000 titles, but he whittled them down to just five mask-themed songs.


The medley opens with “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” the fourth and last section of Gioachino Rossini’s overture to his 1829 opera William Tell. I know it from the black and white reruns of The Lone Ranger I used to watch on my aunts’ ancient TV set. The 1950s series went off the air a decade before I was born, but the Overture had been the masked ranger’s theme since his 1933 radio debut.  The galloping beat originally belonged to the Swiss folk hero known for shooting an apple off of his son’s head with a crossbow—an evil Austrian overlord’s way of punishing Tell for not bowing to his authority. Tell eventually assassinates the overlord, sparking the Swiss rebellion.

spider-man 1967

Bocook uses the Overture for a ten-second intro, no saxophones, so my son doesn’t come in till the key-changing transition to Spider-Man. The 1967 cartoon started Saturday mornings on ABC the year after I was born. Disney now owns both Marvel and ABC, but the company that originally produced the show went bankrupt after two seasons. The cost-cutting third season is notorious for its recycled bits.  The theme song is better—or at least better known—than the cartoon, though my son found the sax line repetitious. Composer Robert Harris also scored Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation Lolita—a very different kind of “disturbing”—but lyricist Paul Francis Webster started writing hits in the early 30s, including for Shirley Temple and Duke Ellington. I would love to hear either sing, “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can,” but it’s always Homer Simpson’s “Spider-Pig” version playing in my head.

phantom of the opera title

A very different kind of webber wrote the 1986 The Phantom Of The Opera. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is the longest running on Broadway—over 10,000 performances and counting—but I think Bocook cheated with this one. Yes, the deformed Lon Chaney character wears a mask, but not the heroic kind of Spider-Man and the Lone Ranger. 1925 audiences reportedly shrieked in horror when the Phantom’s damsel-in-distress unmasked him: “Feast your eyes—glut your soul on my accursed ugliness!”But in Bocook and Webber’s defense, my son likes the sax parts.

the incredibles

Instead of operas and pretend operas, Michael Giacchino is better known for his Pixar films (RatatouilleUpCars 2), J. J. Abrahams TV shows (Alias, Lost, Fringe), and first-person shooter video games (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor). When he scored the 2004 The Incredibles, he was channeling the 1960s. “The Glory Days” theme is an amalgam of retro spy beats. My son is fourteen, so the 30s and 60s and 90s are all the same to him—but he did recognize the James Bond knock-off chords. Director-writer Brad Bird confirmed last month that he’s finally getting around to making the much deserved sequel too.  The Incredibles was my son’s first drive-in movie. He thought it was pretty cool that we could just park the mini-van somewhere and a movie would start playing. He was four.


His favorite of Bocook’s selections is “Zorro’s Theme” from the 1998 The Mask of Zorro staring Antonio Banderas. James Horner also scored The Rocketeer and The Amazing Spider-Man, but I appreciate how the faux-Mexican melody gestures back to the 19th century, mirroring the medley’s authentically 19th century opening the way “Glory Days” mirrors the authentically 1960s Spider-Man. Zorro is even a revolutionary like the legendary William Tell. He also has the best rhythm for sax.

I don’t have a recording of the LDMS 8th grade band, but here’s another middle school performing the same “Who’s That Masked Man” medley. I admit to wishing the 1966 Batman TV show theme were in there, or John Williams’ 1977 Superman film, or Danny Elfman’s 1989 Batman, or my all-time favorite, the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon theme, “Go Teen Titans!” Our whole family used to watch those reruns. But I doubt Puffy AmiYumi is on Bocook’s list of available Hall Leonard music.

Fortunately, my son is also in Jazz Band, and they closed the concert with “Smoke on the Water.” Which makes up for any other omissions.

smoke on the water

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Well, he’d like to be. Mr. Incredible was Santorum’s surprisingly witty answer when asked by nine-year-old Ari Garnick what superhero he most liked. (As previously discussed, the rest of the Republican field went with the yawningly obvious Superman. Republicans in Tights.)

Mr. Incredible is the dad from Pixar’s 2004 The Incredibles. It’s creator, Brad Bird, worked with a budget of $92 million and grossed over $631 million worldwide. Mr. Santorum’s 2011 fundraising budget was under $2.2 million. Until he swept Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, then he pulled in as much in two days.

But Santorum wasn’t talking cashflow with Ari. He was talking family values: “I would have to go with the guy who played in The Incredibles, because he was a good dad, cared about his family, and cared about his community and tried to do what the right thing was.”

Unfortunately, the Incredibles aren’t the kind of family Mr. Santorum would ever value.

The Incredibles hid their true selves under the name Parr (get it?) because their community hated them for being “super.” Their country even passed legislation to prevent them from living in the open. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl didn’t choose to have superpowers. Like Lady Gaga, they were born that way. And so were their three kids. Which means a life of pretending to be “normal.”

This is the America Santorum would create for gay people. He declared that homosexuality is the same as bigamy, incest and adultery. The legislation he has in mind is the Marriage Protection Amendment to prevent same-sex marriages anywhere in the country. He would even turn the military clock back to the days before Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell.

So what kind of families does Santorum value?

Well, he says old style “shotgun marriages” weren’t all that bad. And with abstinence-only sex education high on his agenda, you can count on a lot more of them. Fortunately, he’s making sure there are plenty of shotguns cocked and ready. He voted against trigger locks and background checks, and he doesn’t think anyone should ever sue a gun manufacturer. His abstinence plan is double barreled too, because he thinks it will stop poverty (although a higher minimum wage apparently won’t). Stricter divorce laws are in, and mandatory inoculations for children are out, as is public education and state mandated insurance (because then forced sterilization would be okay). English would be the “official” language, and, oh yeah, the division between church and state, that’s out too. Santorum’s American will be a Christian nation the same way Iran is a Muslim one.

So if you’re gay, non-English speaking, not a Christian, be prepared to live like the Parrs. Because under Santorum’s family values agenda, your family is all you’re going to have.

But that actually worked out pretty well for the Parrs. When Mr. Incredible got himself captured by the supervillain Syndrome (currently played by Mitt Romney), his wife snapped on her elastic tights and flew to his rescue. This despite Santorum’s insistence that women not perform combat duties because male soldiers will be distracted with rescuing the damsels-in-arms. (He must have been buying popcorn during Elastigirl’s scenes.)

Santorum also thinks women should stay at home, though he doesn’t seem to mind when Mrs. Santorum moonlights on his behalf. A devoted wife’s domestic chores include writing her husband’s book without receiving credit. Karen Santorum’s name doesn’t appear on the cover of It Takes a Family or in the list of names acknowledged for helping, but Rick recently explained that Karen wrote the section attacking “radical feminists.” When a passage was quoted to him, he said he’d never heard it before. So not only did he not write his own book, he didn’t bother reading it either. (And that might be the only thing he and I have in common.)

The book Santorum should read is Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel–and not because the hero sounds so gay (he’s the only superhero named after a flower). The Pimpernel is the savior of the aristocracy. When the working class rebels, he swoops in and rescues the idle rich. That’s the world Santorum thinks he’s living in under Obama’s liberal mob:  “When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left in France became the guillotine.” Santorum is even championing the division between the wealthy and the poor: “There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.” Since he also wants to dismantle the national education system that aids underprivileged children, more income inequality is a political promise he intends to keep.

So, let those home-schooled pregnant teen welfare mothers stay at home and eat cake from an English language cookbook and feed it to their closeted gay husbands after they all get home from church. (Which, sadly, maybe does sum up America.)

Since his three-state sweep, Mr. I-Want-To-Be-Incredible lost in Maine (another non-binding “beauty pageant”), but he tripled Gingrich’s numbers. Next week, it’s Arizona, Michigan and Washington. Then Super ten-state Tuesday a week after that. Despite his moment in the superhero spotlight, I’m praying Santorum, like The Incredibles, won’t have a sequel.

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