February 27th, 2007

Collateral Damage

I like to see things being built. It’s fascinating to me to see how all the parts fit together to make a whole. I’ve been in the local Subaru plant and I saw the Corvette plant in Kentucky, and the whole process of fitting things together that were designed to fit together makes me happy.

(Side note: I think this is why I thought Voltron was so cool back in the day – all those giant lion-robots fitting together to make one huge robot?!? Awesome! Of course, I’ve since realized Voltron is anime and therefore awful, but at the time I was distracted by the shiny fitting-together robotitude of it all.)

(Further side note: This is also why I like to put together the “build it yourself” furniture like desks and bookcases that come in a flat box. It’s designed to go together and when it does, it activates the “Yay!” center in my brain. (That’s not the scientific name, but my Latin’s a little rusty.))

I particularly like to watch buildings go up – not the day to day business, that’s kind of boring. But driving by a building project every so often and seeing the progress or getting to tour a building before it’s completely done? I love that. It amazes me to think how much time, effort, and money goes into those projects. I’m a little envious of architects and engineers, even though I’d never be able to do either job. Their jobs are like watch-making on a grander scale – all the pieces have to fit together exactly right, or there’ll be trouble.

There are a few big building projects going on around town right now – a couple of new hospitals, talk of one or two more Starbucks (bringing our total to somewhere around… 500, I think), and even a new community center our church is building. The ground is barely broken on one hospital, the other is at the “skeletal beams in place” stage, and the community center is mostly closed in and just needs the internal stuff done.

Corporations like McDonald’s and Starbucks seem to be able to put up a new building in no time at all. One minute there’s a “Coming Soon!” sign and the next minute you’re getting your hazelnut steamer or Filet o’ Fish.

Different types of buildings in different areas are designed to withstand or accommodate specific circumstances. Skyscrapers are built to allow for being swayed by the wind. Homes along the coasts are designed to better weather hurricanes. Homes in the Midwest have basements because of tornadoes. Even igloos take the environment into account.

But no matter how much planning goes into a building, there’s one eventuality that can’t be protected against:


I think we can all agree that we’re thankful for superheroes. If a guy like Juggernaut or Galactus comes to town, you want a Spider-Man or a Wolverine or a Fantastic Four around to take care of it. I mean, what are you gonna do about a guy bullets bounce off or who can shoot electricity at you? Not much. Hide, probably.

People see these things coming and they can get out of the way. It’s the buildings that take the brunt of it. Villains are constantly blowing buildings up, and when they aren’t, they’re barreling into them in some sort of destructive vehicle, or, worse, just throwing superheroes through them. No one said being a superhero would be easy, so you expect this sort of thing to happen. The creators of the “Death of Superman” storyline were inspired to come up with the character Doomsday by the image of Metropolis with a wide swath of destruction through the middle of it. A dude who can kill Superman can also take down pretty much any building around, I guess.

But the heroes are just as bad as the villains in the property damage department. In the process of saving lives and protecting Earth, there’s bound to be some incidental harm.

In Superman Returns, there’s a plane headed for certain disaster until Superman shows up (or, if you will, returns) to take care of it. In the process of trying to bring it under control, he rips a wing of the plane off. Sure, the plane’s a lost cause at this point, so it’s not such a big deal that it’s losing a wing, but when Superman lets go of that wing to grab the fuselage of the plane, where does that wing go? What does it land on? Superman finally gets control of the plane and is able to set it safely down in a baseball stadium – again, no one’s faulting him for messing up the infield with the plane, but when it’s down and the people are out, he flies off. Does he come back later to remove the plane from the field? How do they get the plane out of there?

In Batman Begins, Batman’s in the process of rescuing Rachel, who is fast succumbing to the Scarecrow’s poison. He’s driving his big old tank of a Batmobile, and that’s garnered him some attention from the police force. They’ve got him cornered at the top of a parking garage, pretty much leaving Batman with one option: bust through the wall and start driving on rooftops. Structural questions aside (can a roof really support a car that big?), the Batmobile is tearing up tiles, knocking things over, and generally making a mess of things. Further along in the chase, police cars are flipping over and crashing. But in the end, he rescues Rachel and saves her life, so all the damage is worth it, right? We never see it, but I suspect Batman, as Bruce Wayne, donates money from the millions he has to various funds that work to repair the damage he’s done as Batman. If he doesn’t, he ought to.

Pretty much every superhero I can think of does damage to structures in the area. Spider-Man, Hulk, The Tick… the list goes on. I think an awareness committee needs to be formed. After all, just because you can drop a building on someone’s head doesn’t mean you should.

14 Comments on “Collateral Damage”

  1. G-Knee says:

    waaaa huh, hey?

  2. M. Kate says:

    It is somewhat bothersome to me, that somewhere during the course of reading this essay, I realized that 1+1=5 could somehow be true.

  3. bd says:

    Man, nobody wants Spiderman for anything. that guy just sucks.

  4. mrross says:

    I don't recall Captain Planet ever ruining anything that wasn't detrimental to the world in the first place. :)

  5. Lorelei says:

    Two things:
    1-As a student of architecture, I must you pose an interesting theory. I may have to pose this question to a professor. Or maybe I should concentrate on remaining in the program. :)
    2- Mark, you just have too much time on your hands. Can't you use your blog for something useful, like debating which would win: the Enterprise-D or a Star Destroyer??? I mean, come on bud…stick with the important issues!! :)

    (fyi..Star Destroyer, most definately.)

  6. SpirituallyStarving says:

    You propose an interesting question.

    When my child falls and is hurt, I stop everything that I am doing and run to her aide. When protecting "my stuff" I would suggest that "your stuff" is not as important, and damage to your items are acceptable. How much Collateral Damage can voltron take?

    I just don't get how your mind goes from Anime (awesome stuff) to Batman Begins (gag). But then again, who can question the mind of MadMup!

  7. TheBon says:

    As someone who has a degree in architecture I can tell you that there is lots and lots and lots of super mundane stuff [cad anyone?] to balance out the glory. I think that's why I've veered away from traditional practice. But I will totally agree that there is nothing cooler than getting to see the meat of a building, the how and why of it. I love reading buildings, finding where they've been added on to or taken away from.

  8. BNick says:

    In a world with true superheroes, "Repair costs for superhuman-induced structural damage" would most certainly be a line item in the budget of every major city. Taxes would be so high that people would have to leave those cities for rural communities. Ah, but that's where superheroes practice their powers, damaging farm structures and such. Maybe no city is safe…

  9. A person says:

    If ever there was proof that men are little boys . . .

  10. Lorelei says:


    You are right! People would resent the superheroes because of the raise in taxes and the destruction they routinely cause. It might force superheroes to quit, look for other work or go underground with their powers.

    Have you seen "The Incredibles"??? :)

  11. Gretchen says:

    Mark —
    GREAT post. I was chuckling throughout.

    This sort of thought would have plagued me as a child, but I would not have had the ability to reason out how everything was fixed. A similar issue in my way of thinking is the poor beasts of burden who are constantly being killed in battle scenes. Maybe that doesn't win or lose the battle, but poor Blackie biting the dust has to impact Captain Jones's moral! And I imagine there was no grief counseling provided for soldiers who lost their faithful steeds.

    At least with superheroes, it COULD be easily mended.

  12. kat says:

    "This is also why I like to put together the “build it yourself” furniture like desks and bookcases that come in a flat box."

    Yeah … it's the disassembling, moving to a new apartment and piecing back together that your little walnut brain can't handle.

  13. MadMup says:

    G-Knee: I don't know what you're saying!

    MK: Can I sell you some nice swampland in Florida?

    bd: If there were some way to ban you, I would! Who doesn't like Spider-Man?!

    Scott: I'm talking about *actual* superheroes here, not your fancy made-up ones. ;)

    Lorelei: Man, I gotta go with the Enterprise-D here! Picard's da man!

    JP: You can take your anime-lovin', Batman-hatin' self to the same place bd's Spider-Man hatin' is going! Nertz!

    TheBon: Next time you get together with your architect buddies, pose the "How do we plan for superheroes?" question to them.

    bnick: As always, a well-reasoned answer. Ban 'em all!

    Danna: Hey, be nice! :)

    Lorelei (again!): I thought about mentioning that part of "The Incerdibles," but never got around to it :)

    Gret: I've had those same thoughts about the horses :( Poor horses. Especially the ones in "Braveheart"!

    Kat: You are so absolutely right – once it's together, that's how it needs to stay! My walnut brain can't handle anything more :(

  14. M. Kate says:

    Mup – the last guy that bought a bunch a swampland in Florida seemed to have done pretty well with it…I could be queen of my own empire! Where do I sign?

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