Sunday, September 18, 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out

As part of the Speak Out With Your Geek Out event, I'd like to talk about something that really gets my geek engine revving. A lot of other people are taking on the really big subjects (RPGs, Star Trek, Doctor Who), so I have decided to take on a slightly lesser known subject: The Greatest American Hero.

I was only 3 years old or so when it first aired in 1981. In fact, I can't recall seeing a complete episode until I discovered the series last year on Youtube. I devoured every episode in a pretty short time.

The series stars William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a teacher who is trying to make a difference to a class of miscreants and troublemakers. His life changes drastically (and not always for the better) when he gets a super-suit from an alien encounter and proceeds to lose the instructions. He is helped (somewhat) by an FBI agent named Bill Maxwell and his girlfriend (later wife) Pam Davidson.

I love this show because it combined two things that I love immensely: superheroes and comedy. Ralph never really got the hang of flying (or landing, for that matter). And in spite of the immense strength granted by the suit, he was never much in the muscles department.

My favorite episode was “Captain Bellybuster and the Speed Factory.” In this episode, Ralph teams up with Captain Bellybuster, a burger chain mascot who is working to topple the meth traffickers who are putting the squeeze on his boss. While many fans point to the first season's “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” as an episode with Ralph pondering what it means to be a hero, “Captain Bellybuster” is much the same, but with a bit more humor.

One thing I've wanted to do was run a roleplaying campaign using this series as inspiration. The main characters would be granted a super-suit, but no support in using it. It would be a sandbox/pinball campaign as the players try to balance saving the world, developing their (initially meager) powers and all the other priorities in their characters' lives.

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