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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

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

Tag Archives: U2

Scene One. JULIE TAYMOR (played by Julianne Moore) is arguing backstage with PRODUCER, a sixty-year-old roadie, with fuzzy hair and beard, dressed in jeans and a U2 concert T-shirt. He’s smoking a joint.  JULIE wears the remains of a Lion King costume, most of which has been shredded from her body, exposing her left breast in an act of tasteful and artistically appropriate nudity. The first notes of the opening song, “The Show May or May Not Go On,” squeak from the orchestra pit. Enter GREEN GOBLIN (played by Willem Dafoe). He is painted green with pointy ears, but with an oversized white neck brace and matching foot cast. He walks with a pair of crutches. Ropes connect his harness to the unseen flyrail. PRODUCER bursts into song . . .


Julie, when will we open?


I keep on hoping,

but I just don’t know if or when.


This costume is cheesy, I hate that trapeze,

oh god I hope they don’t drop me again.


This isn’t funny. I’m out of money.


I just need another million or ten.

A strange moving presence churns in the shadowy upper recesses of the stage. Its enormous, spider-like body hovers above the cast, almost but never quite bobbing into view. One of its tentacles gestures at a doorway, which is immediately bathed in light. Enter IAGO (played simultaneously by a midget set designer and Taymor’s trusted writing partner, a giant talking pencil). Tempo slows as IAGO starts to belt out “We Need You, Bono”


If only there were someone,

someone who could save us.


A hero to get things done?


Instead of making all this fuss.


Can he stave off these reviews?


And shave the budget? That’s a must.


We’re only in previews. You’re such a wuss.

Power chord. Dramatic light change. Enter BONO (played by Ben Stiller) with supermodel CHRISTY TURLINGTON (played by supermodel Christy Turlington) and a CHORUS of identical, red-lipped models from that old Robert Palmer video. BONO is carrying an almost empty six-pack of Stella Artois.  All, including BONO, wear tops that expose their left breasts. The CHORUS pretends to play instruments as BONO sings “(I’m a) Pissin’ Philanthropist.”


I save the world and I do it pissed.

Bend over AIDS, here comes my fist.

African debt, give my junk a kiss.

Cause I’m a pissin’ philanthropist.


Because he’s a pissin’ philanthropist!

ALL (except JULIE)

Oh yeah, he’s a pissin’ philanthropist!


Bono, can you get us out of debt?


Without touching my post-modern sets?


This is Broadway not the bleedin’ Met.


It’s about vision, not the gross and net.


Yeah, but you’re not a pissin’ philanthropist!

ALL (except JULIE):

Oh no, she’s not a pissin’ philanthropist!


I make art!


You make farts.


This show’s a farce.


Eat my arse.


Because he’s a pissin’ philanthropist!

BONO attempts to drop his pants, trips, and passes out face down center stage. All stare in silence. The spider monster in the shadows stirs. Orchestra begins “Changes Suck” which plays under the conversation, while IAGO makes a pass at TURLINGTON.

PRODUCER: Okay, so we need to fix the songs as best we can, come up with a new ending.*

JULIE: It is not easy to change anything, but now I think it is a matter of lyrical and musical changes — *


It’s always so hard. Changes aren’t easy.

JULIE: And perhaps cutting a scene or two from the second act.*


They make me feel strange. They make me feel sleazy.


A black tentacle yanks GREEN GOBLIN out of view and then drops his body in a mangled pile, before yanking him up again, repeating the process through the duration of the show and then long, long afterwards. The song stops as the cast and orchestra turn and watch until bored.

JULIE: Okay. Good meeting. Let’s reconvene tomorrow.

All begin to leave, except IAGO, who smiles at JULIE and lovingly paws her exposed breast. He watches her exit until satisfied that he is alone, and then he steps toward the shadows.

IAGO: Master?

The monster descends. It is THE EDGE (played by an enormous, eight-tubed sock puppet animated by thirty-seven stagehands).

THE EDGE: You have completed the scenes as I instructed?

IAGO: Best not to mention anything to J.*

THE EDGE: Then the time is ripe to implement . . . Plan X!*

IAGO: Please know that anything you need from me — I’m at your service.*

THE EDGE: Plan X will crush Julie’s naive artistic ambitions and plunge this show into blockbuster mediocrity! MWAHAHAHAHA!

IAGO: Is that ‘X’ as in the letter ‘x’ or the Greek number ‘ten’? Because by my count—

THE EDGE: Silence, human. Bring me my focus groups!

Lights out. Scene Two. Opening Night. Enter PRODUCER and BILL CLINTON (played by Robert Palmer) in matching tuxedos that expose their left breasts. BONO and JULIE are in the corner of the stage having sex. Orchestra plays “A Freak Like Me Needs Company,” a song added to the show after JULIE was fired.


All the weirdos from out of town
And all the freaks always around
All the weirdos in the world
Are here in New York City tonight

BILL CLINTON: What an amazing and historic night on Broadway. New York has never seen anything like Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. And I am very proud of them for not giving up, it was fabulous.*

THE EDGE descends and devours CLINTON.



If you’re looking for a night out on the town
You just found me
A freak like me needs company
I’m a 75 million dollar circus tragedy

JULIE: (shouting over BONO’s naked back) I am very excited. It’s opening night! I am delighted to be here. Also, I’m suing. These are very dark times.*

BONO: She’s clearly exhausted, overwrought.*

JULIE: Shakespeare would have been appalled!*

All the weirdos in the world
Are here right now in New York City

Lights out. Applause. No curtain call.

[*Things they actually said.]

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My daughter’s Latin teacher told me this joke over a pitcher of beer:

While an angel is giving a tour of heaven, a new arrival sees someone in a leather jacket and shades slouching in a corner and acting cool.

“Oh my God,” he asks, “is that Bono?”

“No,” says the angel, “that’s God. He just THINKS he’s Bono.”

Everybody at the table cracked up. Bono is bigger than God. Even God thinks so. It’s a good joke, even without the beer. But I swear I’d heard it before. Was it Lennon who said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus? Or was that the other Lenin? The one who called religion an opium for the masses?  (Or was that Groucho Marx?) Either way, Nietzsche made the joke first. Except his punchline isn’t half as good. “God is dead” never gets a laugh.

The comic book Superman was Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s adolescent response to Hitler, but his namesake, “the Superman,” was Frederic Nietzsche’s adolescent response to Darwin. Nietzsche, slouching in a corner of the 19th century with his shades on, saw that the world no longer needed supernatural forces to make sense of itself. And if God’s dead, it’s up to humankind to replace Him. Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton made the same leap. The year Nietzsche introduced his ubermensch, Galton coined the term “eugenics,” the pseudo science of human-controlled evolution. They both envisioned the rise of the planet of the supermen.

And, apparently, so does Bono.

I finally gave in and downloaded the U2 soundtrack to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark to listen to on my daily jogs. A lot of rock ballads belted out in well-enunciated Broadway style, no surprises there. Patrick Page’s Green Goblin thankfully muscles in around the halfway mark, usually leading an ensemble of toe-tapping supervillainy. Nietzsche and Galton sing harmony.

It turns out the Goblin’s “life’s work” is “enhanced genetics” and “super-human kinetics” directed toward the creation of “new men,” a “new species.” The military wants a “new breed of Marines” (same as Captain America’s old handlers), but the Goblin’s “designer genes” lead him into a much bolder “do it yourself world” in which human beings become the “masters of creation,” claiming “powers once reserved for the ancient gods.”

Man wants to evolve himself into God.It’s as if U2 were adapting Also sprach Zarathustra for the stage.

As the fates would have it, another Green Goblin (James Franco played him in the first, soon-to-be-extinct Spider-Man films) assumes the same Frankenstein role in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s the lure of the superman (this time in the form of super-intelligence) that puts his research on the fast track and results in (spoiler alert!) the creation of a new species and the extinction of humankind. What Nietzsche and Galton were singing about over a century ago.  Except without the cool CGI.

Neither of them read Frankenstein very closely. The first superman was bred in Mary Shelley’s writing laboratory, looking not like a stitched-up corpse but a towering Greek god (the original illustrations depicted him in tunic and sandals). Unlike James Franco, Shelly’s mad scientist realizes his mistake in time and prevents his creation from breeding, because “a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror.” Nietzsche and Galton and the Nazi eugenicists who followed them made that terror their goal.

Reviews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark do not prophesy the rise of a new breed of musical anytime soon.  And while “Rise Above” makes a nice superstar spectacle on American Idol, a superhero is still an odd creature to put to song. But then most musicals are. Shelley’s novel was so big, the Victorians made a musical out of it too. An act of hubris even Bono wouldn’t attempt.

(Next Monday: Spider-Man vs. the Superman, Round 2)

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