(In case you couldn’t tell, I did not take Latin in High School.)
I generally put something on in the background to listen to while I work, and while I was working today, I found myself going down a rabbit hole in YouTube, which led me to some videos that I had seen before, including this one by Jonathan Carlin of The Super Carlin Brothers. The video explains
No, not The Fantastic Four.
Watchmen is what will happen if Team Iron Man wins Civil War so hard that literally no one is allowed to be a superhero any more. In 1985, eight years after the passage of the Keene Act, a man named Edward Blake is thrown through a window to his death. This isn’t a spoiler, this is how the book starts. In fact that quote you’re probably thinking of is right in the third panel of the first chapter.
“The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’ and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No.'”
Powerful stuff. The thing is, Edward Blake was a costumed vigilante called “The Comedian”, who was part of a sort-of league of justice called “The Crimebusters.” (Yeah, not quite as catchy.) Rorschach believes that someone is trying to kill all the surviving costumed vigilantes. Initially, no one believes him. Watchmen is a fantastic deconstruction of the superhero genre, Alan Moore is amazing, and I love it.
If anyone tells you that it is their favorite comic, run like hell.
So back to Pixar, I do think that Jonathan is right in saying that the government was the one that created the Supers, but I don’t think that they used them to fight crime, at least not initially. I say this because if The Incredibles were trying to reflect Watchmen, only one person would have superpowers. The only one with real powers in Watchmen was Dr. Manhattan. This is where the Greater Pixar Theory comes in handy, because the Pixar Universe does not have a 1-to-1 reflection of ours like Watchmen does up to the point where people started putting on masks and fighting crime. In the Pixar Universe, the magic of the will-o-the-wisps inspires the creation of Supers– but given how science based The Incredibles is, I don’t think that the US government was able to harness magic to create the Supers. I think they were created through radioactivity. The actual science behind this is about as plausible as any comic book science (yeah, Gamma Rays made the Hulk. Sure, Stan), but again, let’s look back at Watchmen— In August of 1959, Dr. Manhattan gains his powers through a lab accident trying to retrieve a watch. He gets blasted with radiation and atomized. When he re-materializes, he’s been changed. Of course, Dr. Manhattan was only in nuclear research because his father wanted him to.
Jonathan Osterman wanted to be a watchmaker.
I’m not saying that this is the exact process that the government used to create Supers, but lets say that it has something to do with radiation and nuclear physics. Now, in the introduction (before the Supers are forced out of being Supers) we’re given a mid-20th century vibe. If The Incredibles followed Watchmen‘s timeline, then it would have to be after 1959 but before 1965, for reasons that I’ll explain in a moment. This cannot be the case, based on all of the supplemental material Pixar has given, but one date in particular. April 23, 1957, the day Stratogale died. Stratogale was a high school student, too young to be a government test subject, and yet had powers. Following Jonathan’s logic, the only way a child Super can exist is if they have two Super parents. Stratogale had to have been born to two Super parents between 1939 and 1943– during WWII. The Manhattan project started in 1942.
My theory is that Pixar’s Manhattan Project created the Supers.
As Jonathan says in his video, in terms of crime fighting the Supers are “like bringing a gun to a pillow fight”, but in a war, especially the all-out war that WWII was, guns are necessary, and the guys with the bigger and better guns tend to win wars. This would also explain why the Supers would have the training that Jonathan cites in his video, including infiltrating an enemy base, identifying the source of airborne missiles, and piloting jets– that wasn’t just government training, that was military training. But that leads to the question why would people that well trained be worried about cats stuck up trees or run-of-the-mill bank robbers? These people are walking Nukes. Well, the Nuke doesn’t exactly have the best press. Supers, on the other hand, can sit for interviews and wear bright colors and be marketed by the government as protectors of the every-man. (Of course, just because they can get good press doesn’t mean they do. Again, Dr. Manhattan.) And with that press comes reminders to both allies and adversaries that the US has walking, talking weapons of mass destruction, and they use them to effectively take out the garbage.
So why 1965?
Well, I believe that the Super Registration Act had to have been enacted before 1965, because otherwise the Supers would have been sent to Vietnam. Who was sent to Vietnam? Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian. They were there two months and the war was over. Having the Super Registration Act passing before 65 would exclude them from participating, or force them to participate in a very restricted manner. If they did participate, that could have made Vietnam an even less popular war than it already was in that time, especially if it was coming right on the heels of that legislation. Either way, the US government had to come up with some other way to fight without being able to use the Supers.
Enter Adrien Viedt. No, wait, Buddy Pines. Sorry.
Syndrome is obviously a weapons developer (which makes his plan to sell his inventions as toys a bit concerning…) and probably went through several government contracts to get to the point where Mr. Incredible is asked to go up against the first Omnidroid of the movie. I mean, I can see the pitch to the Pentagon now– “An AI unit that’s so strong it will only hurt itself. It has laser cannons and claws, and can wipe out a city block in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered.” How was the Pentagon supposed to know that he had his own plan for the thing? That, plus the many, many other weapons he had to have built in order to fund that island base had to be sold to people with deep pockets and the government has very deep pockets. Jonathan wonders if perhaps this could be the case, and I would say it probably is, and I would go a step further to say that perhaps the government was providing Syndrome with the names of Supers in order to test his weapons. At this point, the Supers are becoming more and more of a liability to the government. We see that Mr. Incredible has moved a lot because he keeps revealing himself, and he’s worried about having to move again after throwing his boss Not-Vizzini through several walls. Some Supers, like Elastigirl and Frozone, seem to have adjusted (“Hey, what if we actually do what our wives think we’re doing?”), but I would imagine that many are like Mr. Incredible– not satisfied to simply help in the way that normal people do. The government gives the names of the dissatisfied Supers to Syndrome so that they can feel like they’re helping again. The agreement was likely that the Supers would be fully briefed on why they were going to Nomanisan Island, and what the Omnidroid was supposed to be, but there seemed to be little government oversight on the island. It’s likely that the weapons that Syndrome was already giving them were so good, they didn’t look too closely at where they were coming from. It’s not until Syndrome reveals his ultimate plan to the public that the government realizes that they effed up. Jonathan notes how quickly the government seems to have frozen Syndrome’s accounts, but they were probably already on that as soon as the Omnidroid landed in Metroville.
While I don’t personally ascribe to the Greater Pixar Theory, I do find some of the tangents that it leads to quite fascinating. And while I know that Brad Bird did not intentionally model The Incedibles after Watchmen, the comparisons and contrasts between the two properties are certainly going to come up again on this blog. I think what people like the Carlin Brothers and Jon Negroni do for children’s movies are great– children’s media can and will be held to the same standards as any other media on this blog, and will be held under the same scrutiny. But I’m out of things to talk about, so as the Carlin brothers would say: See you in another life.