Holding Out for a Hero?


Baruch Hashem?

And why not? When you're a superhero named Mr. Mitzvah, who's going to make fun of flying tzit-tzit?

Look, up in the sky, it's a pareve, it's a blintze, it's … what is that schmatta that schmendrick is wearing?

No, he's no superschmendrick: He's Ivan Wilzig, in real life, mild-mannered recording artist/philanthropist. But at night — Mr. Mitzvah!

But not just any night: Starting July 26, every Thursday night for eight glorious superpower playoffs, until the question of "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" is answered in the finale on the Sci Fi Channel.

Mr. Mitzvah, you're looking Marvel-ous. And should his mitzvah mobile run over all nine other competitors, he may very well be the next star to tell his story in a new edition from Dark Horse Comics, as well as be turned into an action figure.

Dark horse of a cosmic contestant? First he'll have to prove his otherworldliness to none other than the show's Stan Lee, chairman emeritus of Marvel Comics whose legacy is an incredible hulk of heroes who have graced comic-book panels since the Fantastic Four were merely Pretty Good.

As close to a comic icon as one can get, and closing in on 87, the marvel who brought Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk, Iron Man and Daredevil to life, dares to be devilish, yet quick-witted with answers and advice for more cloaked contestants than any cape cad could go up against.

He is the real Captain America in an era of general malaise, fighting the good fight with a SMACK, BOP and PLAGOOEY to prejudice. That, he allows, has always been important in his work, created alongside Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko — eviscerating evil through a good dose of … goodness.

Goodness knows, he has been ecumenical in equalizing the evildoers. Who can forget Izzy Cohen of Sergeant Fury and the fury he created in the World War II comic?

Not that Lee — his Romanian émigré Jewish parents knew him as Stanley Martin Lieber — has ever focused solely on Jewish giants of power. He may have co-created the character of the Thing, but making him Jewish wasn't his thing. That evolved when different writers took over the character years later.

But the prospects of Izzy Cohen tag-teaming with Mr. Mitzvah as Jewish juggernauts … tag, you're it, Stan.

"I love the idea of team-ups," he says. "But a better choice for Mr. Mitzvah" would be a non-Jewish character. "That would be more all-encompassing."

With the universe as his superpower compass, Lee has encompassed and captained the American dream. Not bad for a kid born at 98th Street and West End Avenue in New York who saw his fortunes head north over the years, and would one day become the life of the party — and comic conventions worldwide.

His perfectionist sense that each character needed a flaw to give him an element of humanity empowers readers to associate with the superheroes even more. Call it a comic-cornucopia of fatal attractions that could help the world live in peaceful harmony.

What the World Needs Now …
"The world is in need of somebody who could bring different sects together," is Lee's law as he laments "that there's too much hatred in the world."

Spanning that world with good works is tzedakah at its most powerful. And, speaking of spanning, Stan … "I'm jealous," is the flaw he'll fess up to — coveting the spandex superheroes wear.

What it covers is key to their success. "What we're looking for is what is inside of them," says Lee of such TV "Superhero" supplicants as Mindset ("a telekinetic time traveler on a mission to end all wars," who got his position thanks to Internet audience mindsets, who voted him in); Hygena, who cleans up "crime and grime making weapons from all types of cleaning utensils," the superhero version of WMD — weapons of meal digestion; and Basura, a bugger of a braveheart who uses insects "to turn trash into treasures."

Sound like a familiar family feud? Those parents who once trashed their kids' comics threw out a treasure trove in doing so. Comics now make book not just on kids as their target audience but their parents, too.

And who's kidding who when it comes to taking life the Lee way; this octogenarian still has the octane fuel firing up his soul to baby BOOM a baddie. "I never thought of myself as a superpower," relates the model of humility — as well as the model of his own action figure just shown at a comics convention.

Figures Lee would downplay that a bit; with credit to DC Comics, his self-deprecation is part of what makes him such a super man.

And mensch. Not that there's much left for him to accomplish.

"Well, I haven't [starred] in a movie — I'm no threat to Sean Connery."

Dr. No with a good sense of humor? Lee's been lauded worldwide for all the good he's accomplished, with a special space reserved for him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.

And while Lee's recognized by superhero superfans whenever he makes film cameos — he's the one in "Spider-Man 3" who tells Peter Parker, "You know, I guess one person can make a difference" — Lee originally thought he would make a difference in the world as a novelist.

Turn the page on that one: "Now I have no patience for [writing] a novel."

It has been an excellent — no, make that "excelsior," his mantra — career of novel proportions. But the man behind the Fantastic Four has a fantastic admission to make; he hasn't seen the screen version this summer.

Why not? Holding out for a hero? Ha — he's invented most of them!

"I have no time to go to the movies," he laments. "I'll wait for when it comes out on DVD." 



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