If you could be any superhero in the universe, who would you be and why?
That’s the question my nine-year-old son, Ari, just asked most of the Republican presidential candidates — in the spirit of the kind of deep pop cultural conversations that we have all the time.
Except that Ari is a much tougher interviewer with me, usually demanding to know my Five Most Favorite and Five Least Favorite characters across various movies, TV shows, comic books and literature.
Sometimes, the discussion veers off into villains, as well. For the record, no one tops any of the three Catwomen (Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether) from the 1966 Batman series.
This might come across as a cute kids video, but if you’re curious what it all means politically, please check out my “Republicans in Tights: Behind the Scenes of the Superhero Primary” column at The Atlantic.
Harvey Comics superhero "Fruitman" was a mild-mannered grocery clerk who could transform himself into any kind of produce! (Click pic for larger image)
While fully immersed in journalism research on the history of comic books — particularly the anti-Nazi attitudes of Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain America — I accidentally stumbled upon the most scrumptious premise for a superhero.
“Fruitman” is a chubby grocer (alterego: Percival Pineapple) who can transmogrify into any kind of fruit to more effectively combat crime. As a lemon, he can immobilize his enemy by squirting juice in his eye. As a watermelon, he can conk the guilty culprit on the head. And never underestimate the power of a strategically placed banana peel to make the mightiest villain slip and twist an ankle.
Even more delicious: the SuPEARhero’s insatiable appetite for goofy puns.
The character was the brainchild of Harvey Comics, the masterminds behind “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Richie Rich,” “Baby Huey,” and “Sad Sack.” He was usually a supporting actor in teen queen Bunny Ball‘s comic book, but did get one chance at his own issue (above), which must have gone splat.
Check out the courage of Fruitman as he thwarts a bank robbery:
Never underestimate the Power of Citrus!
And it looks like he’s also irresistible to the ladies, especially in produce form:
Saving an island princess from cannibals comes with sweet dividends.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that “Fruitman” was published in the late 1960s, the hey day of the kitschy Batman series.
You can have your gloomy, brooding Caped Crusader. Serve us up some more Fruitman!
Since 6th grade, when I risked daily dogbites to bring people the news, I've devoted my life to the joys of print and broadcast journalism. I'm available for freelance writing assignments, offbeat magazine stories, high-stake corporate gigs and TV field production, teaming up with the most talented HD camera crews and editors in Boston. Contact me at darrengarnick (at) gmail.com