Joe Pisani reflects on modern superheroes
In America, we’re blessed to have hundreds of superheroes who protect us and make the world safe for democracy, not to mention idiocy. They’re everywhere. In our television sets, our movie theaters, our lunch boxes and Times Square, as they engage in the never ending struggle against evil.
When our way of life is threatened by, say, Iran, the Joker or illegal aliens from another planet, we can turn to Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Ant-Man and Birdman. Or to the X-Men and X-Women, the Avengers and Revengers, Nightcrawler and Wolverine, Ironman, Iceman, Emma Frost, Beast, Black Panther, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, the Wasp, the Tick, Captain Marvel and Captain America.
I recently read in the New York Post, which is noted for its reporting on scientific advancements, that another superhero has emerged — Squirrel-Man. Hang on to your bird feeders. An Alabama man, who considers himself a cross between Dr. Frankenstein and Stan Lee, was trying to create a mutant “attack squirrel.” In the Marvel pantheon, this subspecies would be classified as X-Rodents.
During his experiments, he gave methamphetamine, commonly known as “meth,” to the squirrel, and it was transformed into an aggressive woodland creature just like Wolverine, police say. Officers had to restrain it when they entered the apartment, and if they hadn’t arrived in time, I suspect the squirrel would have chewed through the cage and then the U.S. Treasury vault.
Fortunately, police arrested Dr. Frankenstein and charged him with possession of a controlled substance and harboring a pet squirrel, which is a criminal offense in Alabama. The good news is that justice prevailed, and the squirrel was set free to live the remainder of his life pillaging bird feeders.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that squirrels are a natural selection to join the ever-growing ranks of superheroes, more suitable than ticks, wasps, ants and worms. They have superior vision and incredible feet with hind paws that rotate so they can come down trees head first. Even Spider-Man doesn’t have toes like that ... or a bushy tail. Squirrels also fearlessly leap from limb to limb, and with their sharp incisors, they can gnaw through plastic, wood and the wires in your car air conditioning.
With their superior intelligence, they’re renowned for cracking open bird feeders with the finesse of a master thief. For years, I’ve been trying to outwit them, but they’re smarter than me. (I mean, smarter than I. Even their grammar is better.)
Squirrels are also patriotic, which is a characteristic of all great superheroes. They’re as American as the bald eagle and wild turkey, which was Ben Franklin’s choice for the national bird.
They’ve been developing their super powers since the Eocene epoch 50 million years ago, give or take a million. Flying squirrels can travel almost 300 feet through the air, which means that like Superman, they can leap tall buildings in a single bound. (Do you remember those illustrious crime-fighters, Rocky the flying squirrel, and his sidekick Bullwinkle J. Moose?)
Laotian giant squirrels can grow up to 42 inches long, so you wouldn’t want to run into one of those beady-eyed rodents in a dark alley or have it land on your head to steal your Planters peanuts.
Recognizing the need for cute and cuddly superheroes, Marvel in 1991 created Squirrel Girl with powerful buck teeth that can chew through prison bars, claws that help her climb and aerobatic skills that let her jump from tree to tree in the tradition of Tarzan. She is also blessed with a four-foot prehensile tail, which is something we all could use. Most important of all, she possesses superior intelligence and is studying computer science at Empire State University. Plus, she can communicate with ordinary squirrels as effectively as President Trump communicates with Congress, which counts for a lot in our era of civil unrest.
Wouldn’t you feel safer being protected by a squirrel than a large spider, bat or wasp? We just have to keep the Super Squirrels away from our bird feeders.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.