Never mind capes, superheroes should wear sensible shoes

As an avid sci-fi fan, late middle-age has taught Steve Coronella reality inevitably intrudes

Film-maker and novelist Neil Jordan recently made a case in these pages for the impressive symbolism and storytelling qualities behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, admitting that after viewing WandaVision: “I was green with envy, wondering: who writes this stuff?”

Other cinema trends may come and go — and no one knows this better than a veteran director like Mr Jordan — but this kind of celluloid escapism, often reflecting present-day concerns, never goes out of style. For example, although devoid of explicit superheroes, two sci-fi films from the 1950s — Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day The Earth Stood Still — addressed McCarthyism and the threat of nuclear war, respectively.

I too have an abiding respect and affection for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its offshoots. Indeed, over the years I’ve contributed enough to various comic book franchises to get an on-screen credit.

My favourite film in the genre, just pipping Zack Snyder’s Watchmen from 2009, remains Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 epic Pacific Rim, which features oversized monsters and mechanised robots and echoes my devotion to Ultraman, a dubbed Japanese TV production that I devoured at home on my primary school lunch breaks in the mid-1960s.

But with each passing year, as I experience a far from empowering transition into late middle-age, I find my attitude toward superheroes is changing. Gone is the unquestioning awe I used to feel as a boy whenever I opened a Marvel comic featuring Iron Man or The Fantastic Four. These days, I’m more inclined to apply the rigorous logic of day-to-day life to the extraordinary exploits of my childhood heroes.

No matter what your particular superpower might be, whether you can fly like a rocket or lift a city bus with the tip of your finger, reality inevitably intrudes as you get older. The utility bill for your space-age lab needs to be paid, your fleet of futuristic vehicles requires that extra bit of servicing, and as for maintaining a superhero physique, we’re talking some seriously expensive dietary supplements.

So with this theme in mind, I’ve drawn up a list of concerns that contemporary comic book authors and film-makers might want to address, to make their tales more accessible to mature fans like me.

For starters, in the costume line, today’s superhero needs to think long term and insist on a sensible pair of shoes.

Nothing is more likely to shorten a productive career spent rescuing mankind than chronic back problems brought on by inferior footwear. (In a retrospective episode, for instance, I’d have the Flash meeting the R&D people at Nike and Reebok.)

I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of superheroes and arch-villains like to take their skirmishes into outer space, which is fine if you’re prepared. This is where a ready supply of sunscreen with SPF 100 (or better) is a must. I don’t care how tough or resilient their skin may be, even superheroes need to protect against premature ageing brought on by direct exposure to the sun’s rays.

And as for the general health of today’s crime-fighting elite: no one lives forever, even if you are able to withstand the impact of a runaway locomotive or an energy field in the shape of a hammer that comes crashing down on your head.

I don’t care who ends up paying for it, but I wouldn’t let any of my comic book creations lift a finger until I knew they had comprehensive healthcare cover. All it takes is a moment’s distraction for an accident to happen.

Maybe Green Lantern doesn’t get his protective force field up in time and the next thing you know he’s being carted off to the local emergency department with burns and lacerations from an undeflected death ray. As I’d script it, Green Lantern would have his insurance information on him in a secure back pocket, ready to be presented at the hospital reception desk.

And lastly, it’s essential that today’s superheroes — those with families, anyway — have access to flexible, affordable, and reliable childcare. No X-Man or Woman should be worried about arriving late to pick up the kids as they’re battling some evil mastermind intent on using his diabolical intelligence to enslave the human race. I mean, what’s the point of saving the world if your own children are worse off in the end?

Those are my suggestions, anyway, for creating a contemporary superhero. The finished product might not be as glamorous or exciting as the comic book characters currently getting the Hollywood treatment.

But when trouble strikes, who are you going to call — a guy with super stretchy arms or someone who has their kids’ best interests at heart and can work within a household budget?