Warning: The term “asshole” occasionally appears in this review. It is used as a descriptive term only and not as an actual vulgarity. Reader discretion is advised for the truly innocent. You know who you are. Yes, you, in the third row. No need to blush, I’m sure your cohorts will corrupt you quickly enough…
Robert Howard: Before we start, it’s been a few years since our last Tangents Roundtable, Steve, so why don’t you introduce yourself to those readers of mine who’ve not seen our previous Roundtables (and yes, I know I have to restore the other archived Roundtables).
Steve Anderson: Yes yes, whatever, I’m Steve Anderson, formerly of Film Threat, formerly of Screenhead, currently of several other publications and a general all-around curmudgeon when it comes to comics. I keep this schmuck on something of an even keel because without me around it’d be sunshine and unicorn farts and all sorts of nonsense.
Robert Howard: I must admit I find that amusing, seeing that we have conflicting points of view concerning Randy Milholland’s current heroic-themed storyline concerning Pythagorean, aka Mike, Something Positive‘s resident buttmonkey. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Today’s update is totally awesome, especially with the damn CAT Mike rescued being in a cape and mask attacking the asshole blogger… but I am still puzzled Mike hasn’t screwed things up totally yet.
Steve Anderson: It’s definitely weird, supporting a character like this. But having read SP for some time now, I’ve discovered that Randy is many things. Petty is not one of them. Mike has been a wildly improved character of late. He’s got a family, he’s no longer a complete jerk, and now he’s putting together this superhero persona to do still more good. It’s been paying off for him. And while I expect some comic pratfalls–Mike has never been what you’d call super-coordinated–I don’t expect this to fall apart the way, oddly enough, our good host does.
Robert Howard: Well, that’s just the thing. Mike’s already walked this path in the past. Sure, he wasn’t wearing tights and a mask while saving cats and helping old ladies and the like, but when he got his girlfriend pregnant he tried. He got a job (which sucked, but still) and worked hard and was doing his best to be a better person. And then things went south and he backtracked and become an asshole once more. So why should now be any different?
Steve Anderson: It’s entirely possible that he could become an asshole. Sure it is. The fame could go to his head, he could do something stupid. But here’s the thing. Nothing bad is going to happen until he actually turns asshole again. And one thing that’s true, he hasn’t been an asshole since he put on the mask. This may well stick.
Robert Howard: So you think Mike needs a mask in order to be good? Anonymity in reverse… instead of becoming an ass when you’re unknown, becoming a decent person?
Steve Anderson: No…not so much that he needs it…so much as he’s working to live up to it. The guy works in fast food. My guess is he’s in his late twenties, early thirties. That’s not anyone’s goal in life. The mask is the closest thing he’s got to a life goal. He’s got a family, a paying job, and his life’s goal all in one hand. He’s working hard to live up to that. Look at his interaction with all those other capes back at the Congressman’s event. He didn’t go to that for the cheering crowds, he went to keep the crowd from rioting if he didn’t.
Robert Howard: But that’s the thing. You think of a “superhero” and you think of someone fighting crime and the like. Mike seems more like those old old Superman comics where he’d rescue a cat from a tree and save someone from an accident. He’s wearing the mask and costume, but he’s not living up to the dream of being a superhero. He’s just helping people… noble in and of itself, but you don’t need to dress up to do that.
Steve Anderson: Mike isn’t delusional. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’s not delusional. He knows that, on some level. Look, there’s an old principle that says that, while good begets good, the good you do that no one knows about does even better. Mike’s costume lets people attribute all the good to this character instead of to him. Lets him live out a childish fantasy while at the same time helping people. Does it really matter how he’s dressed given what he’s doing?
Robert Howard: Perhaps. Though it’s odd then that we have someone going around wearing a costume to be a villain of all things. Sure, he was even more inept than Mike tends to be and got caught along with Mike by the anti-hero blogger, but it seems weird somehow that someone would try and become an anti-Mike. It’s not even that he’s a criminal. Just some twit trying to be an antagonist.
Steve Anderson: Hey, every hero needs a villain. I spent large portions of my childhood recesses pretending to be Jason Voorhees stalking “campers”. Admittedly, at the time, all I knew from Jason was the Friday the 13th game for NES–I thought Jason had a pathological fear of pitchforks–but still. Heroes need villains, and some of those childish fantasies revolved around playing the bad guy.
Robert Howard: Speaking of childish fantasies, I admit I was amused by the shout-outs to Girls With Slingshots with Jamie the Romance Detective and Questionable Content with Pizza Delivery Girl. We’ve already seen a GWS/SP crossover… think we might see an AnthroPC pop into the comic at some point?
Steve Anderson: Considering how all these comics seem to pass around characters and guest updates, sure, why not?
Robert Howard: Any other thoughts as to the future viability of Pythagorean? I still admit I’m waiting to see Mike stumble and fall… I suppose it’s like the Green Goblin said in Spiderman: people love to watch a hero fall. And Mike is a most unlikely hero.
Steve Anderson: It’s possible. Sure it is. I suppose it’s fairly likely. But right now, Mike is the Pythagorean, the hero Boston deserves. And that’ll do just fine for the time being.
Robert Howard: Think the cat will stick around as Mike’s sidekick?
Steve Anderson: …that’s a good question. I can see Mike wanting to, but I can also see some resistance to having a cat around Shazzie and all.
Steve Anderson: But cats and babies have gotten along before–why not now? Maybe Randy’ll name the cat Tangent!
Robert Howard: Hah! That’ll be the day. I will admit that for all my anticipation for Mike to stumble once more, Milholland has done a fine job of showing him climb out of the pit he’d fallen into, something that I’ve seen fumbled in other comics in the past. And maybe that’s part of the reason I expect the stumble: Milholland needs his chew-toy characters.
Steve Anderson: Why not? After all, what is the Pythagorean theorem but a distillation of trigonometry? The tangent is part of the Pythagorean theorem, if I remember it right. Besides, Randy’s got chew toys aplenty. Ollie. Kharisma. Hell, even Davan what with Fred’s Alzheimers and all.
Robert Howard: True. And who knows, you may be right. Mike might actually be building enough karma to negate the curse of the chew toy. Any last thoughts?
Steve Anderson: I’ve been reading SP for years. I see no reason to stop now. It’s about the highest endorsement I can give.
Robert Howard: In that, we both agree.