Fire is Hot.

As if I didn’t already know it, this weekend drove home the point that I don’t have what it takes to hack it as a superhero. It turns out I don’t even have what it takes to dress like a sidekick. Maybe I could be a lookout. It would depend on whether or not I was allowed to sit down during my shift.

This was a weekend of the kind of pain and suffering meant to elicit confessions. When I woke up Sunday morning, every inch of my torso was in an angry, hateful shouting match with my skull. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but it felt like some kind of labor dispute; my spine in particular was complaining loudly about working conditions. The muscles in my chest ached so fiercely when I moved that while I was still in bed I began trying to devise a method of staying alive without breathing.

“I’m sorry,” I told my wife through barely parted lips when she came in to check on me that morning, “but I’m afraid I must be dying. Please apologize to our child for me the next time you see her.”

“That’s probably not true,” my wife said, “but I can call somebody if you’re sick. A doctor or someone.”

“No,” I whimpered. “If you call an ambulance, they’ll only try to move me. I want to die as I lived, groaning and groaning while remaining as motionless as possible. ‘He died doing what he loved,’ they’ll say.”

“I’ll leave you to it, then,” she said. “In the meantime, try to get a little more sleep, in case you’re not dying.”

I ignored the ache in my back long enough to roll over, and I found myself thinking about Batman. Batman doesn’t have a super power to his name, but he’s always coming home from 12-hour shifts jumping from highrise to highrise with a curtain hanging off his neck and getting dragged behind Jokermobiles, covered in gashes and bruises, only to give himself forty stitches with his Holly Hobbie sewing kit, mummify his abs with gauze, and strut out to Bruce Wayne’s cocktail party fresh as a daisy with an Ambien prescription. Sure, he breaks a rib a week, but he pushes through the pain because he has to, dammit. The Gotham City water supply isn’t going to secure itself.

Gives himself stitches, you understand. Try poking yourself with a needle a single time, and see how that goes. If I broke a rib, I would cry until they put me into a medically induced coma. I was paralyzed with agony this weekend from a day of standing.

Mind you, I had no regrets. I was honored when my friend asked me to be a groomsman, and I knew the risks that came with the job when I took it. It would be a day spent in grownup clothes, with enough eyes and lenses pointed at me to make loosening the tie or rolling up the sleeves an unavailable option. It would be a hot summer day in a suit, much of it spent in a public park with a sadistic wedding photographer capturing cherished memories of magic moments that were completely staged for the photographs. (“Now we’ll get some shots of you triumphantly leaving through the church doors, even though the ceremony ended twenty-five minutes ago and we’re actually going to be here another half hour. Your veil will be blowing in the wind; Steve, hold the back of her veil up as if this happened.”) A significant amount of thought would be expended on cufflinks and their location at any given moment. I loved the couple, though. I would push through the pain because I had to, dammit. That altar wasn’t going to uselessly stand on itself.

But no matter how much I try to prepare myself, I am never ready to withstand the medieval torture device that is the tuxedo. Sure, they look nice, but those rentals with their barbed wire tags and silver vests are really just incredibly large Barbie clothes. They’re shiny, but no human is meant to wear them. Those pants that can be any size you want them to be, provided you can adjust them with the side-straps that you may remember from no pant you’ve ever seen in your life. Those ties that are half tie, half clip-on, and all garrotte. And the shoes; oh, the shoes! Are they made out of licorice? Is there a reason they have to be less substantial than ballerina slippers? Does the arch support have to be a damp Fruit Roll-Up? You formalwear peddling sons-of-bitches know I’m going to be standing in these things for ten hours; do you have some kind of problem with me? Say what you want about what a dainty buttercup I am, but Batman had his boots custom made for a reason.

After the ceremony, as the photographer frog-marched my fellow groomsmen and I deep into the park for the traditional “tuxes in the woods” shots (“all right, fellas; strut this way and give me the Reservoir Dogs. Okay, now let’s see Blue Steel”) we passed a family grilling some steaks in the ninety-degree weather. Maybe because I was about to burst into flames (the groom knew this wedding was in July when he was opting to go with the vests; were we really friends? Would the photographer Photoshop out the head-steam?) I found myself thinking about the Human Torch. I could feel heat from the grill radiating towards me in waves. Imagine the poor souls who have to spend any serious amount of time with Johnny Storm when he’s doing his thing. Reed and Sue must go through three sticks of deodorant a day. I especially love the move where Johnny’s carrying somebody through the air with his flaming body, but it’s okay because his hands aren’t flaming. “No, you’ll be fine; you’ll be a full eighteen inches away from the raging fire.” “Oh, well in that case, ow ow ow get away from me.” That’s how you cook things. Fire is hot.

It’s funny how I’m not bothered at all by the part where cosmic rays make a guy burst into flames, or the part where being on fire somehow enables him to fly, but I am bothered by how people can stand to be around all the heat. No part of Batman’s multimillion dollar armor repair, cave maintenance, or sleep schedule makes me bat an eye, but the part where he shakes off the aches and starts his day bright and early the next morning, that part is just implausible. I can’t get out of bed the next morning if I wear a vest on a hot day. We have a reputation for being nitpicky, but we’re weirdly selective about what we choose to let slide. We’re picky about being nitpicky.

After I eventually got out of bed and discovered my 101-degree fever, it occurred to me that I might actually be suffering from dehydration and exhaustion and, worse still, could therefore never make fun of Lindsay Lohan again. Daredevil and Spider-Man never have these problems. Hell, just last week Spider-Man got stabbed and went ahead and had a fistfight afterward. Daredevil runs a marathon on the roofs of a place called Hell’s Kitchen every night and, as far as I can remember, never comes home at the end with so much as a bead of sweat from his pores. Remember Ben Affleck coming home after a night of acrobatics, popping some pain pills and going to bed without a shower? At the beginning, when it still looked like that might be a really good movie?… Actually, maybe I should go watch that one again while I’m still delirious. I might nitpick it less.

Jim Mroczkowski should have taken that bottled water on the party bus. He can be e-mailed during his convalescense, and he is also on the Twitter.


  1. Awesome, just damn awesome. Your column makes monday morning great for the time i’m reading it and then i am thrust back into the exciting world of journalism or as i like to call it "Waiting for people I don’t know to call me back"

  2. If you really want to test your delirium, try watching ELEKTRA.  That should be a better barometer for you.

    And hey, just keep up the mantra that we all learned from ROAD HOUSE and that every single superhero has embraced: Pain don’t hurt.

  3. Great column!  I

    love how superheroes are rarely ever given away by bruises on their faces, despite that being the place that people usually hit first.

    Although shooting them there is definite no-no.

  4. @SelfStyler  i know Spider-Man comics have addressed this before by having Peter wear makeup over the bruise, like the kind they use in movies to cover up tattoo’s. or he says he got mugged sometimes which people buy given that he’s "Puny Parker".

  5. Lovely and hilarious, as usual.

    Though I have to say that men have NO right to complain about dress shoes being uncomfortable.  Any woman would gladly trade her heels for your support-free flats.

  6. This is why I hate when people say Batman’s better hero than others because he’s "real".  No he’s not real, he’s not even realistic.  If it were realistic Batman would either be dead or too addicted to pain killers to properly function.

  7. @throughthebrush, I knew your comment was coming before my fingers hit the keys; it was only a question of who would step up and say it.

  8. I just assumed Jim had a bet going with his wife about how long it would take some female person to make that comment.

    Well-observed, in any case.  There’s a certain Energizer-bunny quality you expect from an action hero, but sometimes it goes to extremes and you just have to shrug.  Though I was hoping for a missing scene in "Iron Man" where Pepper notices Tony’s bruises (from when, like, his jetpack slammed him into a concrete wall 3 times in a row?) and just assumes he was paying women to beat him up.   

  9. The Human Torch always bothers me. Especially that picture your using.

    How are they not getting burned alive!? Sometimes the comics show the torch can have his hands be normal….sometimes he cant do that. But overall your next to someone who is probably hotter then….well not the sun, but probably over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. That just puzzles me.

  10. I hate to bring this up but I recall an attempt in the 90s to say Batman had a metahuman genre that gave him above normal mental, physical and recuperatory powers. It was a lame attempt to justify exactly what you’re talking about. I think it has since (and best) been forgotten, but I think ever so often some odd, sidelong reference is made to it. (Checkmate labeling Batman an alpha-class threat along with Superman and Wonder Woman?)

    Great article. Always. And watch the Daredevil Director’s cut: it apparently makes the movie bearable.

  11. Now you mention it, there’s got to be a strong element of unconscious "deliberate self-harm" (DSH) going on with a lot of these heroes. There they are, all sad and tortured by whatever trauma drove them to don the cape/spandex/adamantium/gamma rays/whatever in the first place. That pain can’t simply be vented by beating up others, some of it has to turn inward, (especially on some of the more stoic, angry heroes. Batman, I’m looking at you.)

    You’ve given my superhero penchant a whole new dimension. Thanks Jim!

  12. So some heroes are masochists? yea i can see that. Batman, Spider-man, Daredevil has the whole Catholic guilt going on. I’m sure you could right an entire article on that Sonia.

    Jim great article as always, you make me look forward to mondays because i know i will get a great laugh from what ever you write. I hope you make a speedy recover.

  13. Just to put the fanboy back in ifanboy:  It’s Namorita in the picture hugging Torch right?  She’s got the powers to deal with the flame kiss.  Now, how she flies with small ankle wings is another dumb mystery altogether.   

  14. That was terrific.  Thanks, Jimski!

  15. Awesome as always.

  16. Oh yeah, and i also meant to say thanks for another great article Jimski.

  17. There you go again. Trying to inject reality into fantasy. Funny article, though.

  18. Another Monday, another awesome article. Nice to know there are some things you can still rely on in this life. 

  19. Of course Batman’s somewhat unrealistic, and in some stories more than others, but not as absurdly improbable as your post seems to suggest.

    The average person can’t get the shit kicked out of them on a nightly basis, no. But Bruce Wayne isn’t an average person. Look at Christian Bale in the Batman movies, his musculature is a good example of what can be achieved by the kind of physical exercise that Bruce puts himself through. All of that mass serves as the best layer of body armor that nature can offer. Muscle is dense and strong, with tightly woven strands of protein and blood vessels that serve as a natural bit of Kevlar to protect bones and organs. Taking the kind of musculature inherent in the characters that occupy the average “street level” comic, alongside the various nutrition supplements and meditation that many practice, they can all very well take a beating and keep on ticking.

    And about the “marathon” run every night by Mr. Matt Murdock, what of it? There are human beings who run ultra marathons of 100 miles for fun. Take for instance the angelically beautiful and supremely bad ass Jen Shelton who has, on occasion kicked out 50+ miles with two pitchers of beer jostling around in her belly. The human body can do extraordinary things. Don’t count it’s ability out.

  20. When you’re obsessed and you enjoy inflicting pain, and you’re a sociopath – the good people saving kind, or if you were injected with a "serum" (wink wink) the pain doesn’t mean much anymore. When you’re squeezing a confession from a criminal there’s some scientific mumbo jumbo that says you secrete something into your body that holds back the pain. Those nail scratches are like the wound you feel only hours after.

    Daredevil was okay, as long as you get past the shitty origin story of "running, bumping into some open can of chemicals and getting blinded. Oops".