Sometimes, the best way to deal with a bad situation is to laugh at it. That's the idea behind "The Adventures of Unemployed Man," a parody of classic superhero comics, written for America's current economic meltdown.
In it, writers Erich Origen and Gan Golan send Unemployed Man on a heroic search for work. With the help of other down-on-their-luck superheroes, he wages an epic battle against economic super villains. Will Unemployed Man find a job? Will the villains prevail?
Ultimatum is a man with a mission. He teaches the power of positive thinking. If you can believe it, you can achieve it!
That's until he meets a woman foraging for food in a garbage dumpster. She explains she has a job and works hard, but is still paid too little and has to go dumpster-diving to survive. When Ultimatum tries to help her, he is fired, and becomes Unemployed Man. Despite his best efforts, he can't find a job.
"Unemployed Man lost his house in a fantastic foreclosure," Origen says. "He's living in a cave, Rock Bottom, which is the cave underneath his former mansion," says co-author Origen.
Co-author Origen explains that early on in "The Adventures of Unemployed Man," our hero meets his silver-haired sidekick, Plan B, who can't get hired because he's too old.
"They meet in a job line and of course Plan B has been in the business for decades and can't afford to go into retirement because the broker made a joke with his 401K."
Origen and Golan had fun with the names of their characters, making allusions to real superheroes and puns on terms from financial news headlines. Golan says Unemployed Man and Plan B meet others who also emerged from the economic crisis such as Wonder Mother, who built an invisible jet from pieces of the 'glass ceiling' that often keeps women from being promoted and shadow worker, Fantasma.
"Fantasma is perhaps one of the first undocumented immigrant superheroes ever in comics," Golan says. "She is from Oaxaca, Mexico. Her family loses their farm due to NAFTA and The Subsidizer is a villain flooding the market with cheap corn. So she comes to the United States to look for work and then finds out that she's starting to become invisible. So like a classic superhero her power is being invisible, only she realizes she can't be seen by the people who employ her and her humanity is not seen either."
Our superheroes wrestle with the economic crisis and a group of evil doers who are profiting from it. The villains include Outsource - which is happening to many U.S. jobs - and Pink Slip, the notice that you've been fired.
Classic American superheroes, like Superman and Batman, appeared in the late 1930's, in the wake of the Great Depression, as symbols of hope and determination. Origen says their out-of-work superheroes were also inspired by the economy. But unlike Superman and Wonder Woman, he says, none of Unemployed Man's friends has any superpower other than the ability to face reality.
"We really want people to see how super they are in their own lives," Origen explains. "For instance, Wonder Mother is a working mother who is having to fight economic villains at the same time that she's breastfeeding her baby. That's heroic. Getting up and looking for work and have these astounding interviews with the human resource, that's heroic. We want people to see how heroic they are."
Origen and Golan also co-authored a political parody of the children's classic, "Goodnight Moon." Their version features the former president and is called, "Goodnight Bush." Golan says this was their first experience with a comic book.
"Comic books are incredibly complicated medium," he says. "It's almost like making a small film and we had so many amazing artists working with us. Really the most rewarding part was to work with artists who began making comics on the 1950s and 1960s, legendary artists like Ramona Fradon, Rick Vietch, Mike Netzer and the whole group of artists."
As "The Adventures of Unemployed Man" ends, our hero is still looking for a job. The authors say they chose this ambiguous ending because they did not want to give readers false hope.
"A depression is not just an economic term, it's an emotional term," Golan says. "And I think we're providing a kind of comedic stimulus package for the country and for other people who are struggling right now.
Golan and Origen hope to provide relief in uncertain times by making people laugh as they confront their troubles.