Bones: The Superhero in the Alley
A body is found in an alley. It’s a badly decomposed skeleton that indicates a fall or push from a high building, and next to it is found a maggot-ridden graphic novel. (“It’s a comic book” explains one of the resident geeks on the investigative team.)
I typically watch Bones anyway, because I enjoy the interplay between Emily Deschanel’s straightforward forensic anthropologist (nicknamed “Bones”) and David Boreanaz’s FBI agent. This one, though, had friends at work asking me the day after “did you see the one about the comics?” I now kind of wish I hadn’t, because it’s not a good portrayal of either fans or the usual quality and appeal of the show.
Dental identification of the body reveals a friendless teen named Warren who spent all his time in his attic room with toys and comics. Agent Booth recognizes some of the comics, causing Bones to ask him teasingly if he’s a nerd. He responds that “it’s quite normal for an American male to read comic books.” (But is Batman #127 really worth $300 because it features the Hammer of Thor? I somehow doubt it.)
Turns out the kid was trying to be a superhero, writing his own adventures and making his own superhero costume. He was also part of a live-action roleplaying (larp) group Bones characterizes by its “social awkwardness and active fantasy life.”
Although Bones is herself a novelist, it takes her crew to point out to her that a writer reveals more about themselves than they intend to. One of her assistants enjoys his graphic novel research, comparing the adventures of the superheroes to those of the Greek gods and saying that he would like to have superpowers himself, since his extreme intelligence makes others resentful. Typical of her disinterest in anything but science, she tells him he doesn’t need to fantasize because he’s smart, that superheroes would also make others uncomfortable, and the real world is what matters.
Angela is an artist who usually creates crime scene recreations using really snazzy 3-D holograms. In this case, she uses the evidence found on the skeleton to create a cartoon-like version of his murder, using the villain from his comic in place of his killer. It takes her and the team 40 minutes into the show to realize that the comic Warren was creating was drawn by someone else and to go talk to the artist. They end up solving the killing by translating the graphic novel into real life, analogizing the love interest and villain to determine what conflict Warren was battling.
The episode ends with the characters at Warren’s funeral, leaving items on his casket. Angela has created a new page of comic art showing a conclusion to his story, a nice touch, I thought, from one artist to another. The episode has little to do with the comic world I know, but I never got involved in larping. I’m not upset at how they used stereotypes to build their story; it’s a one-hour show that visits a new milieu every week, of course they use shortcuts. I watch the show because I care more about the characters and their interactions more than I do the plots, anyway.