The new Hollywood superhero: The Bystander

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Since the release of The Avengers — a superhero flick that unites multiple Marvel characters and marks the culmination of decades of marketing — Hollywood executives have been scratching their pates. They wonder: which hero is next?

Cash cows like X-Men and Spider-Man have been revamped. Lesser-known characters have already been mined (before 2008 and Robert Downey Junior, Iron Man wasn’t a hot name). Last summer, Marvel dragged out a demigod from Norse mythology for mainstream audiences. There’s even talk of Ant Man coming to the silver screen.

Who does Hollywood turn to now? An unofficial source has leaked the name: The Bystander.

Like the characters in The Avengers, The Bystander has appeared in previous superhero films. This excites producers, and it’s good for audiences. He’s already set up: the fabric of The Bystander’s character exists in audience members’ imaginations before they enter the theatre. Perhaps you’ve seen him: scrambling away from a streetside explosion? Craning his head back to glimpse hero and nemesis duke it out atop a skyscraper? Just trying to get to work when his goddamn train gets hijacked? Tearing up when it looks like the spandex messiah is going to die?

Studio execs have big plans for The Bystander. He’s got all the prerequisites of any Marvel or DC hero: costume, love interest, story arc. He always wears a beige trench coat. Sometimes he totes an umbrella. He often gobbles street food — munches a hot dog or washes souvlaki down with some cola. His face is stubbly, and when he moves, the change in his pockets jangles.

The Bystander’s romantic interest is downplayed. The two aren’t going to exchange any dialogue. The film as a whole is going to air on the artsy side. Expect a lot of silence. It’ll accentuate the surround-sound ka-boom of explosions. Audiences will still know who The Bystander has feelings for — there, that one: The Girl on the City Bench. They will know this by the way he lowers his newspaper and peers over its edge, less like the neighbour of Tim the Toolman Taylor, and more like Jack sketching naked Rose in Titanic.

Advertising consultants are unsure of their exact angle. As it stands, there’s a mockup poster of The Bystander walking about his daily life with a tagline below: Something Might Happen.

Not a whole lot’s going to happen actually. Writers have pitched the script as Phone Booth meets Waiting for Godot. There will be a lot of time lapse. There will also be a lot of mundane activity — visiting urinals, tying shoelaces, picking pennies up off of the sidewalk — until the film builds to its climax. Until that falling cinderblock just misses The Bystander’s shoe, and he and The Girl on the City Bench look on, dumbfounded. And he says nothing. And later, he goes to the movies.

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