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Top 5: Reluctant superheroes of TV, film

What is it about superheroes lately that makes them so resentful of their special powers? The only superhero skill I possess is my ability to power through an 18-inch supreme pizza in less than a half-hour. Though, yes, afterward I feel some resentment. And nausea.

The latest batch of hesitant heroes arrives Tuesday with the series premiere of ABC's sci-fi drama No Ordinary Family. Michael Chiklis — no stranger to the lifestyle after a turn as the Thing in Fantastic Four — plays a dad whose family is slowly crumbling. His solution: taking the wife and two kids to the Amazon, of course. (Were flights to Orlando all booked?)

One plane crash and a dip in some mysterious water later, and suddenly everyone has a new special power, whether they wanted one or not. Think Pixar's The Incredibles (without the animation) or Disney's Sky High (without the sanitized '80s soundtrack).

If it all sounds a bit familiar, well, it is. Television and the movies have been cashing in on this mopey mold for superheroes for a while now. Here are five favorites.


1. Bruce Banner (The Incredible Hulk): Pick between the late '70s show or the 2008 movie, but I lean toward Bill Bixby (over Edward Norton) as the nerdy scientist you definitely don't want to see angry. And yet, Dr. Banner managed to get annoyed at least twice an episode. Clearly his doctorate wasn't in behavioral psychology. Next time you're feeling stressed, doc, try a chai tea.

2. RALPH HINKLEY (The Greatest American Hero): William Katt (Hinkley) and Robert Culp teamed up for this early '80s TV comedy/drama about a schoolteacher who's given a superhero outfit ("magic jammies," Culp called them), only to lose the instruction manual. This being before the Internet and the ability to download a replacement, hilarity ensued.

3. ROGUE (X-Men): Personally, being referred to as "a mutant" would be enough for anyone to want to shed their superhero alter-ego. But Rogue (Anna Paquin) is understandably morose. Her special power, to drain the life from someone by a simple touch, should be used only on next-door neighbors who crank Michael Buble records after 11 p.m.

4. JohnnY Baze (Ghost Rider): The master of dapper-but-depressed acting, Nicolas Cage plays a lovelorn stunt rider who is less than enthused to discover he occasionally has all the flesh burned from his body as he transforms into the fiery vigilante Ghost Rider. Think Leaving Las Vegas, but sub out the booze bottles and prostitutes for soul-robbing demons on the prowl in the desert.

5. PETER PETRELLI (Heroes): For a guy who could absorb the powers of any other super dude around him, Milo Ventimiglia's Petrelli is a surprising sad sack. Despite getting to fly, move things with his mind and heal himself, Petrelli moped through Heroes' four seasons as the embodiment of the show's fanboy-killing missteps. Given that Ventimiglia was hooking up in real life with his co-star, blond beauty Hayden Panettiere, he really had nothing to grouse about on or off screen.

Top 5: Reluctant superheroes of TV, film 09/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 27, 2010 9:14am]
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