Any comic book collector worth his protective Mylar bags knows it’s tough out there for a super hero. Especially for a guy like Superman, who is world-famous and nearly invincible with a reliable track record for saving the day, people just assume he is always going to deliver. That’s the problem with flying so high; there’s nowhere to go but down.
At least our favorite Kryptonian Kal-El can relate to another superstar with a funny name, Bono.
Pop 20: Superman and pop-culture greatness
The patron saint of sunglasses-at-night and the rest of his boys in U2 performed their new single, “Get On Your Boots,” at last Sunday’s 51st Grammy Awards with a lot of fanfare and energy, but without much effect. The song was a heaping helping of “meh” despite how much I was hoping for the opening salvo from the band’s first album in four years, “No Line On The Horizon,” to get me psyched. After “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” left me wanting in aught-four, my whistle was in need of some serious whetting from some of rock’s newer gods.
“Boots” may very well be an excellent song whose awesomeness eludes me. Sadly, I fear that after creating several amazing albums, I will never truly dig U2 again because they can never top their earlier successes. Back to the Superman comparison, when you’ve saved the universe countless times, and even came back from the dead (with long hair and goth-black suit, natch), simply leaping a tall building in a single bound is less impressive.
The hidden trapdoor of achieving pop-culture greatness is that in order to hold on to it, you’ve got to always one-up your previous effort or disappointment is bound to set in. (The rules don’t necessarily apply to the real world where guys like Edmund Hillary may have come down from Everest, but he never went downhill.)
I discovered this rule of pop as a kid when “Jurassic Park” was followed up by “The Lost World.” After being awed by dinos walking the (movie) Earth and eating dudes on the toilet, I returned to the theaters four years later to see, well, more of the same. Even if I was able to chalk that up to more of a sophomore slump, there was no explaining Guns N’ Roses “The Spaghetti Incident?” after the “Illusion” albums or the spies-in-space James Bond flick “Moonraker” after pretty much any other 007 movie.
Sadly, the trend from mindblowing to mediocre continues today with “The Simpsons,” re-makes featuring Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers (the killer not the love guru), and Robert DeNiro’s current career path. Even the second Star Wars trilogy wouldn’t be that bad without the original to compare it to. Between you and me, dear reader, I think that’s why fantasy author George R.R. Martin won’t get around to finally finishing his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series; on some level, he must know that his previous works are so celebrated that the big finale is doomed to disappoint.
In the end, I could be wrong and U2’s “Horizon” much brighter than I expect. There are such things as comebacks where faded glories can become glorious once more (Bob Dylan comes to mind), but overall, once you become great in pop-culture, success is its own kryptonite.
DIG! (Or, What I’m Popping Into This Week):
“I Saw You…: Comics Inspired By Real-Life Missed Connections,” edited by Julia Wertz
Anyone who has ever tried to find a job or buy a sofa on Craigslist has wandered over to the Personals sections for a little virtual peeping, vicarious thrills and the “I’m pretty normal, after all” affirmation-by-comparison. Well, this new collection of cartoons by Three Rivers Press takes the experience one step further by imagining the stories behind people who believe they missed a fated opportunity with a stranger. Ranging from sweet to hilarious to creepy (to hilariously creepy), “I Saw You…” a variety of drawing styles that complement the wackiness of the ads. And yes, you feel a little better about yourself after reading them.
“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” (Season 2)
The sketch comedy duo of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim isn’t for everyone. Their Adult Swim show is fairly absurd, the effects cheesy and the experience is overall a pretty odd exercise in bad taste. Of course, that’s what makes it fun. If names like John C. Reilly, Zach Galifianakis or Rainn Wilson (along with other celebrity guest stars) appeal to your funny bone, and you’re up for viewer toilet training and sketches with eczema-plagued tone-deaf singers, check it out.
Entertainment columnist Aaron Sagers writes weekly about all things pop-culture. He can be reached at sagers.aaron AT gmail.com.