The Slotbot 3000, a 16-foot-tall robotic representation of the New York Stock Exchange, squares off against Unemployed Man in a "Superheroes versus Economic Supervillains" event Monday in New York's Zucotti Park.
Unemployed Man and his costumed colleagues stormed Wall Street on Monday morning, bringing some superhero street theater — and a 16-foot evil robot known as the Slot Bot — to the Occupy protests in New York.
The Superheroes versus Economic Supervillains smackdown was staged by Gan Golan, 37, co-author of the 2010 graphic novel The Adventures of Unemployed Man. Occupy Wall Street is a perfect stage for the book’s characters, a team of superheroes battling economic injustice.
“People at Occupy are fighting incredible forces in our society — that’s a perfect description of what you find in a superhero,” Golan told Wired.com.
Golan donned Unemployed Man’s custom orange-and-blue fetish costume for Monday’s event and joined others dressed as economic warriors from the book: undocumented worker Fantasma, student-debt-burdened Master of Degrees, Captain Generica and Wonder Mother. They waged battle against dark forces of the Just Us League, including such scoundrels as The Outsourcerer, Pink Slip and a the giant Slot Bot — part robot, part casino, with a head shaped like the New York Stock Exchange building and a menacing vacuum arm that hoovered up money.
Based in Los Angeles, Golan has been at Occupy New York for about a month now. One of his first actions was to donate a copy of The Adventures of Unemployed Man, which he co-wrote with Erich Origen, to Occupy’s then-nascent library. It’s perfect reading for those gathered in the park to speak out against corporate greed and economic inequality.
With golden-age graphics, the graphic novel tells the tale of a 1-percenter who morphs into the other 99. In the book, playboy billionaire The Ultimatum, “a motivational vigilante who sees poverty as a symptom of poor mental hygiene,” gets booted from his own company and becomes a job-seeker beset by debt, bankruptcy, a lack of health care and a bad FICO score.
He becomes Unemployed Man and is joined by a trusty, silver-haired sidekick called Plan B and other “down-but-not-out” superheroes. The book, described by its creators as a “traumedy,” delivers a somewhat promising ending.
“Stories are a powerful way to guide us and keep us strong,” Golan said.
For an out-of-work guy, Unemployed Man definitely has his hustle on. When the graphic novel came out, Origen, a writer/artist, and Golan, a writer/activist, custom-ordered the title character’s orange-and-blue costume from a fetish site for about $200 and sold signed copies of the book on the streets of San Francisco. (Golan says fetish sites are the way for DIY superheroes to go — just remember to ask the manufacturers to cut an opening where the face should be. The resulting full-body suit is “very comfortable,” he says.)
What’s next for the dynamic duo? Golan and Origen recently signed a contract with Ten Speed Press for a children’s political parody book, due in summer 2012, along the lines of their first work, Goodnight Bush. They also said they are in talks for an animated TV series based on Unemployed Man. The writers spend about 15 to 20 hours a week updating Facebook pages for the characters and responding to media requests.
“So far, it’s a labor of love,” Origen said. “We really haven’t seen any money from it.”
That didn’t stop the cash-challenged heroes from heading to WonderCon this year, where they couldn’t afford a booth. After selling a few copies outside, they snuck in and organizers ended up giving them a booth from a no-show.
“Things were starting to taper off in the summer, but the reception there was great — we became sort of celebrities,” said Origen, 39. “People were giving me high fives; a lot of them could relate.”
The original novel was something of a frantic, superhuman effort for Golan and Origen, in part because publisher Little, Brown thought the character might be a flash in the pan. But amidst the current economic climate and the growing Occupy movement, the characters seem particularly timely.
“Occupy is kind of what we envisioned, it just took longer than we thought,” Origen said. “Collective action is exactly what we hoped and the movement is directed at the same villains.”
Photos: Bryan Derballa/Wired.com