As some of you might remember, the January edition of Brain featured an interview with Nicolas De Santis, the creator of Captain Euro. We weren’t convinced that the high-kicking hunk offers everything that Europe needs in a superhero and asked a few young Europeans for help in coming up with some alternatives. Here you can find their ideas, all which have been brought to life by E&M cartoonist Laura Hempel.
Our first alternative superhero comes from Prague-based novelist and PhD candidate Lucy Duggan. Lucy, one of the founders of E&M and a long-serving editor of Heart, leads us to Moscow, where something strange seems to be going on amongst the dusty old documents of the city…
If you saw Ursula Uhrmacher on the bus, you probably wouldn’t look at her twice. An archivist working in Moscow, she spends each day labelling historical documents in her copperplate hand. Most people who hear about her work soon begin to feel drowsy – despite the fact that she has travelled across Europe and beyond, categorising and labelling secret police files in Bucharest, records of the interwar years in Budapest, Vatican memoranda concerning the thirty years’ war, and financial documents from the time of slavery in London. She speaks most European languages without an accent – though always in the same slightly impatient tone. She has two cats, both grey, called Lethe and Mnemosyne.
Even if you’d seen Ursula Uhrmacher making copies of Stalin’s personal diaries at lightning speed, or switching from Finnish to Uzbek as she types irritable requests for the full records of collectivisation in the more far-flung regions of the USSR, you’d probably never connect her with the strange goings on that have been reported across Europe over the last few years. The brief disappearances, the strange moments of uncomfortable clarity. There was the British demagogue who ranted about people from Bongo-Bongo-Land, who vanished on the spot. Then there was the Romanian politician who refused to publish records of surveillance and interrogation in the 1980s, saying that it was “all in the past now” – he disappeared, too, and just when everyone was looking for somebody to blame, he was back, his face a strange shade of green. Apparently, he had been “transported” to a room where a prisoner was being questioned. And there were countless other unexplained cases – most people didn’t like to give it a name, except for a twelve-year-old from a village in eastern Germany, who had been telling a racist joke when he apparently found himself marching with the Hitler Youth. “Time travel” is what he said it was.
There are rumours – people who think they spotted a silvery figure beside the Romanian’s armchair, or reaching out for the British demagogue’s pint glass. Despite the fact that the figure is said to be slight and bespectacled, people whisper about the “Time Machine” or “Ghostman”. Maybe one day, someone will discover the story of Ursula Uhrmacher aka Anna Chronic, filed carefully in an archive, among other documents of historical battles.
Our next suggestion comes from another former E&M editor Velislav Ivanov. Born and living in Sofia, Bulgaria, Velislav is a doctoral student by day and a bohemian by night. In his vision of a European superhero, there is more to one of Brussels’ many officials than meets the eye.
You might have never thought him a superhero. Yet, beneath his dull grey suit and his bland bespectacled complexion, this Brussels-based eurocrat is… a dull, grey-suited, bland, bespectacled, Brussels-based SuperEurocrat!
Not convinced what extraordinary superpowers he might have? Well listen up. He’ll initiate loads of lobbying so that a comma gets written off in a draft legislative proposal! He’ll speak the EU acronym vernacular in order to bore the other committee members to the point that they no longer care about obstructing whatever dubious amendments he may put forward! He’ll even lull the public with his smooth speeches on the necessity of these particular dimensions of belt buckles in the EU, as stated in the respective regulation. And if anything should ever go awry, our superhero has taken care of the dilution of bureaucratic responsibility to the extent that neither he nor anyone else would suffer consequences.
It clearly takes more than an ordinary man to go these extreme lengths, and to pull of such feats with appropriate gusto. The SuperEurocrat is, however, hardly alone in his quest for legalistic justice – he is naturally accompanied by his ubiquitous sidekick, the Unpaid Intern, looking much like a younger, skinnier version of him.
If you should ever be in dire need of the duo, just make sure the weather is sufficiently cloudy, and flicker the €uro sign in the sky.
21-year-old Anna Wandschneider, a media student from Brunswick and our third contributor, envisages a strong female superhero, modelled on Europa from classical Greek mythology. Given the current European debt crisis and the pariah that Greece seems to have become, she was keen to point out where many of our political and societal roots lie.
Europa is as a young, beautiful and intelligent woman with bull horns. Her horns fulfil two functions: on the one hand, they are cornucopias, the symbol for wealth, opulence and fertility because Europe is a wealthy continent and the EU one of the main economic forces in the world. The horns are filled with a wine-like potion, which she can use as a weapon. During battles, she is able to take the horns off to spill the wine, bringing about a delighted, Maenadic furore which makes it easy to incapacitate her foes, but she is not capable of removing them permanently. At the same time, they also depict her darker side – if the battle lasts too long, the wine infects Europa, turning her into a sort of Minotaur; greedy, strong but unbalanced.
As her horns make it hard for Europa to leave the house regularly as a civilian, she works from home as a translator for instruction manuals. She can conceal the horns with a cloth, but this often results in her being mistaken for Muslim and the possibility of hostilities ensuing.
Staying halfway close to the original myth, which saw Ariadne keep the Minotaur alive and at bay, Europa’s sidekick is her brother Adrian, a successful fashion designer with contacts to next to every influential person in civil life, who represents the USA. Her main antagonist is, of course, Putin, a sulking Poseidon with an inferiority complex.
William Clark, who is currently doing his European Voluntary Service with Citizens of Europe in Berlin, chose to take a different tack. Leaving the behind the bureaucracy of Brussels and the world of Greek mythology, William’s superhero is a thoroughly modern man, very much in touch with his feminine side.
By day, he works remotely for a company based in Oslo. It does something to do with new media and he sends them mockups from the third-wave coffee shops of Vienna and Prague, armed with a Chromebook and a V60 brew.
His tailored suits, skinny-fit shirts, crafted man-makeup and mani-pedi’d extremities have the power to offend the most liberal of hardline jihadist Isis ringleaders.
To transform into his superhero self, M-Man simply reapplies a light layer of eyeliner, runs some product through his regularly barbered hair, pops his jacket collar, and attaches to his lapel a badge featuring the EU flag, only the stars are in the colours of the rainbow so that M-Man can call upon his friends in the LGBT Alliance when in need.
As his grandparents on his mother’s side were immigrants from North Africa somewhere, his shield of successful integration grants him extra protection against far-right political parties. In addition, the constant threat of Putinism is no match for his twin weapons: petition websites and barbed comments.
The sidekick: a four-month-old French bulldog named Princess with the praeternatural ability to piss on the legs of M-Man’s enemies just in time to interrupt their evil doings – and to look adorable while she’s at it!
Our fifth and final character is another superheroine, but one whose powers have a much more practical application in today’s Europe. She was imagined by Ana-Maria Anghelescu, a Romanian student currently in her final year of a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and European Studies.
These days the European Union is facing a lot of difficulties, but there is the chance that they can be overcome. Because we have a superheroine among us, a person most of us don’t even pay attention to. Her name is Amena and she is a simple girl born to Algerian refugee parents. Her name means peaceful, trustworthy and honest. During her day-to-day life, she is a history teacher at a local school in France, where she helps children understand the struggles through which Europe has passed over the years, but which only made it stronger, more powerful, albeit with a few identity issues.
As a superheroine, Amena becomes Amena-Star, has a rainbow headscarf and wears a blue skirt (symbolising peace and trust) and an orange T-shirt (which stands for social communication and optimism) with a badge based on the European flag on her arm. She wears blue boots up to the knees as a sign of confidence and stability. Her hair is black and curly and her eyes are green. She chose everything regarding her look with care, because she knows people usually tend to judge others based on their appearance.
Her superpower is helping people be tolerant. She believes that understanding comes from little changes and she acts accordingly, aiding people, solving problems and providing unprejudiced information about Islam and Muslims. During her quests, she makes sure everybody understands the role of EU as a connection between people.
Cover photo: Geoffrey Fairchild (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0 *Image cropped by E&M