My City, My Hero

As I staggered out of the hospital for the 200th time, completely broke and completely broken, it began to dawn on me that I might not be cut out for this superhero business.

did I do that?I’d been in the hero game for too long to still be doing so badly. I was supposed to be a “street-level” hero, but that didn’t mean I had to spend so much time with my face at actual street level. I had arrived in Paragon City six long months earlier and had been stalking the streets ever since as my alter ego, Hood. Actually, I had to stalk the streets as “H00D”; there was allegedly someone already stalking the streets of Paragon City as “Hood,” though I couldn’t find him anywhere in town no matter how hard I looked. I wasn’t much of an investigator. I wasn’t much of an anything, except maybe gangland punching bag. I was an extraordinary gangland punching bag. That other Hood had probably left town months ago but never relinquished the name. Story of my life. My life of picking unoriginal names.

It couldn’t be helped; I had to be Hood, or H00D. I had come up with the Hood persona before Paragon City ever existed, even before Marvel Comics unveiled a very different character with the same name in 2002. Hood had been prowling my version of the Marvel Universe for twenty years now.

There’s something about comic books that makes creators out of the audience. Millions of people go to the movies every weekend, but maybe 1% of the people in those multiplex stadium seats leave the theater saying, “I could totally do that,” and then go home and begin making a movie. Comedy lovers who own every album George Carlin ever released and who have been told they’re funny by coworkers all their lives almost never put together a tight five minutes about airline food and take the stand-up stage. Maybe a few more avid readers have some short stories and the beginning chapters of a novel on their hard drives. For some reason, though, it seems like eleven out of every ten comic book readers have done some work on their own book, at least in their own minds. There is almost no consumer of comic books who, suddenly tapped on the shoulder by one of the Image partners holding a bag with a cartoon dollar sign on it, would not be ready to show up for work the very next day with a couple of story arcs plotted out. Something about the simple ink on paper makes it all seem so attainable.

I was no different than anyone else, at least when I was a kid. As a grade schooler, I “wrote” and/or “pencilled” the adventures of Hood for several years (mostly just “wrote,” when it became clear that the art skills were not going to be rivaling da Vinci any time soon, and it also became clear that drawing hands is really hard). Hood was a mutant in the Marvel Universe whose superpower was inadequacy. Well, actually, he had control over light but was too inexperienced and untrained to know how to use it; he could shoot laser blasts from his hand, make himself invisible, and cast holographic illusions, but all of this required more concentration than he could usually maintain. Most of his battles began with Hood sneaking up on his foe invisibly or conjuring a terrifying beast to freak everyone out, but almost all of them ended the same way: Hood running for his life after being startled by a car horn or something and losing the illusion before he could get the drop on anyone. He lost a couple of fights by accidentally blinding himself.

H00d's baseball cardObviously, Hood was no rival to the Superman legacy; mostly, I was trying to be funny (of all things). He was a homeless teen whose mutant-phobic parents had thrown him out after his powers had manifested themselves, and he was trying to be a hero strictly for publicity, profit, and to prove everyone wrong about him… except nobody was wrong about him. He was completely incompetent. He was named “Hood” because his costume was a hooded sweatshirt and a bandana covering his face. Occasionally, he would rescue people from muggers and then ask for a donation. He spent every adventure trying to get the attention of the Avengers’ recruiter or the local media, only to end up being upstaged by some other hero who had come along just in time to “team up” with him (i.e., save his life). He spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the X-Men lived so he could get a piece of that sweet action. I remember writing a running joke about Hood being increasingly infuriated by how many amazing pictures Spider-Man managed to get in the newspaper. If I had kept writing him all this time, I’m not sure Hood would still be a hero; I think he would have eventually become one of Spidey’s archnemeses, although possibly without Spidey ever realizing it.

Hood did have a nemesis of his own, a vigilante named Gunman who asked the question, “What if Batman hadn’t had any money?” and answered it, “Oh, he would have been a blood-soaked sociopath. No one would have given him a police-HQ-mounted ‘signal,’ I can promise you that much.”

Looking back on him now, I think Hood kept me in the hobby longer than I might have otherwise been; I was seeing some of the more absurd things about the genre and using Hood to mock them rather than just outgrowing the whole thing and calling it a day. I used to insert him into the background of the big crossover events; he was like my Forrest Gump of 80s Marvel, a lot like what the real Marvel ended up doing with Ant-Man years later.

Gunman's baseball cardNeedless to say, I would saw off the toe of your choice to get these homemade masterpieces back, but they are forever lost. My mom found them at the time and did a lot of “aww, isn’t that adorable? My son, the little artist!” cooing that embarrassed me into cramming them somewhere from which they never got uncrammed. I stopped reading comic books not too long after that and didn’t give Hood’s adventures any thought for many years… and then came City of Heroes.

A lot of my friends were playing online role playing games in 2004, but they had never lured me in. They were all that epic, EverWarQuestCraft, sword-and-fantasy hogwash. You can promise me all the fun that pixels have to offer, but when all is said and done I just don’t give a s*** about elves. City of Heroes came along and changed all that; here was a game where you could patrol a modern city full of cars and sidewalks and machine guns, with nary a faerie daemon creaeautiure in sight. Better yet, you could create your own hero down to most granular detail, from his origin to his power set to the color of his shoes.

It all came flooding back. I didn’t have to create a hero; I laid all the groundwork when I was twelve. I might not be able to draw worth a lick or get my character into print, but by cracky, Hood would live to dispense justice once again.

Making Hood (and, later, Gunman) live in the game went even better than I could have dreamed. Sure, the menu didn’t exactly include a “create elaborate light illusions” power, but everything else was there. As I applied the finishing touches, I was awestruck to see something I had created all those years ago staring back at me in living color from my monitor. He was real.

It was all downhill from there.

typical Hood poseLike the Hood I had written all those years ago, I intended to kick ass and take names but ended up spending a lot of time having my name taken and taste-testing the neighborhood asphalt. I truly had a power set in which I was not proficient or as powerful as I thought I was; I truly did need people to swoop in and save my bacon on a nightly basis. I had a bad habit of suddenly becoming visible in caves full of trolls. Worse still, I was playing on an overclocked laptop that was never meant for hero duty; it kept freezing up or shutting down in the middle of challenges, making me the worst team-up partner this side of Squirrel Girl. Within a matter of months, I was a pariah among my heroing friends, all of whom were 15 levels above me before I had time to don my cowl.

In the end, I tired of the RPG grind. In a game where you can never “win,” you’re basically just playing very elaborate Tetris. I also found myself thinking, “This multiplayer game would be great if it weren’t for all these other players.” Strangers kept browbeating or propositioning me, and I found I was getting annoyed that the game didn’t let you kill the other heroes. That, combined with the massive point-debt that one can only accrue by dying many, many, many times, finally drove me out of the game and back into the sunshine that day when I found I’d memorized the layout of the hospital.


I have upgraded my laptop since then, and sometimes when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet, I miss Hood a little bit. I liked seeing my childhood creation bound from rooftop to rooftop just like Spider-Man did on my PS2. Who knows? Maybe one day, when the streets of Paragon City once again cry out for a champion, the masked protector known only as H00D will rise to the challenge once agai– wait, no he won’t. That game was like $20 a month. Have you seen how much comics cost now? Yikes. Priorities.

Jim Mroczkowski is totally ready to sell you Hood, Marvel, as long as you’re ready to pay without seeing anything on paper. Lucrative contracts can be sent via or Twitter.



  1. *cough*NERD*cough*

    Haha, H00D’s battle cry is awesome!

  2. You have to wonder if this is how some creators at the Big Two must feel.  You’ve got a great character and a great idea and suddenly you’re forced to deal with everyone else’s characters and plots interfering with your plans.  It’s so much easier to keep it pure when it’s all in your 12-year-old head.

    Then again, those writers get paid to do that, which I’m sure softens the ego blow a lot more than paying $20 a month out of your pocket to get your dreams bashed repeatedly against a wall.

    I think there’s a reason I’ve never followed my little brother into the multiplayer RPG world.

    (Oh, and great article, but that almost goes without saying. My laughter knows no bounds when one of your pieces pops up.)

  3. City of Heroes was a nice concept, and was entertaining for awhile. But your right brush, there is reasons why we usually dont go into the RPG, or MMORPG world….It gets so boring! I’ve tried playing WoW, Heroes, and even The Sims…but it gets so boring doing the same stuff every day, man I cant imagine getting sucked into something like that.

    Then again, has anyone seen the stuff for the DC MMORPG yet? That looks like it’s gonna kick some ass and then some.

  4. i play this game for a long time, but after a while it just started getting tiring…very tiring. i stopped for a while and play on/off its not too bad but its just not that much fun anymore

  5. this was great, how’d you get those stills?  Is thi actual footage of the H00D in action?

  6. @throughthebrush   You know Ed Brubaker says this twenty times a day.  "How did all these damn skrulls get into Bucky’s universe???"

    Jimski, another home run!   You were a very clever twelve-year-old.  That premise sounds about twenty times as nuanced as ‘Kick-Ass.’

  7. This reminds me of that brillant aourgpark WOW episode. Multiplayers would indeed be awesome withot all those pesky players. With all the recent "save the industry" talk, some company should just facilitate a line of books created by  imginative 12 year olds.  Want to hook kids on comics? Show them how much fun it is to create. I’d totally plop some cash down for spiderman tales written by a bunch of kids.

     I cant possibly have been the only dude who broke his iscriptwriting teeth, producing mock scrips of Captian Kirk and Company, including the time they traverseredv the cosmos in a bathtub.

  8. "Wayne Brice".


  9. I’m actually pretty excited about the new game this team is putting out (I think it’s called Champions Online…).  Nice work on H00D.  I definitely would have read that comic!

  10. @TheNextChampion- I heard a weird rumor regarding the DCU online game that you won’t be able to play as a DCU character.  If that’s true, that’s a horrible idea.  I’m hoping that’s just a rumor because I was so looking forward to playing as Aquaman or Hawkman and beating people up with my mace.

  11. that’s not a rumor, it’s straight from JIM LEE’s mouth. You only get to create your own DCU hero or villain. But I am looking forward to playing alongside Superman and Batman. I think they did it because it would get annoyning if you were in a world with a thousand Supermen or Batmen.

  12. @Kory – It would make no sense to let people play as DCU characters in the DC MMORPG for the reasons Charles said and more.  The DCU heroes will appear as NPCs that you can interact with.

  13. I thought I heard there was a version you could play on PS3 by yourself. I’m sorry for getting it wrong, I don’t know much about these sorts of games because I never play them.  I usually stick to just playing Madden.

  14. i played CoHs for a while, and although i like the superhero concept better then fantasy, WoW was always better.

  15. You were never a pariah, dude.  Except possibly in your own mind – step away from your characters!  

    I still await the day H00d stalks the streets of Paragon City again.

  16. ya know, they have an illusion control power under the ‘controller’ powerset.