178
February 23, 2001

Superpowers

We answer the following questions about superpowers: Can superheroes be real people? (No.) Can real people become superheroes? (Maybe.) And which is better: flight or invisibility? (Depends who you ask.)

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to comic artist Chris Ware, who thought about superheroes a lot of the time as a kid. In grade school, Chris drew superheroes, he invented his own character named The Hurricane (not to be confused with Reuben Carter), and he made a superhero costume. Sometimes he wore parts of the costume to school under his regular clothes, which went fine until he realized he would have to change clothes for gym class. Click below to see the comic Chris made about this story. His book, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, is also inhabited by a "superhero" of sorts. (6 minutes)

Invisible Man Vs. Hawkman

John Hodgman conducts an informal survey in which he asks the age-old question: Which is better: The power of flight or the power of invisibility? He finds that how you answer tells a lot about what kind of person you are. And also, no matter which power people choose, they never use it to fight crime. (14 minutes)

Wonder Woman

Kelly McEvers with the story of Zora, a self-made superhero. From the time she was five, Zora had recurring dreams in which she was a 6'5" warrior queen who could fly and shoot lightning from her hands. She made a list of all the skills she would need to master if she wanted to actually become the superhero she dreamed of being. Sample items: Martial arts, evasive driving and bomb diffusion. She actually checked off most things on the list...and then had a run-in with the CIA. (17 minutes)

Song:

“Goldfinger” by David Sedaris

The Wonder Twins

Ira talks with journalist Jason Bleibtreu about Luther and Johnny Htoo, twelve-year-old twins, and the leaders of a rebel army of Burmese separatists called God's Army. Everyone around them, both their own forces and their enemies, believed they possessed superpowers, that they could not be harmed by bullets, that they had the power to command ghost armies. Bleibtrau visited the twins while they were in the jungle and explains why they were so widely believed. (9 minutes)