Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Construction Industry in Comics

It has occurred to me that building repairs must make up something like 90% of the economy in comic book universes. This must be true to combat the rampant destruction in the comic book world. Nearly ever major title from DC comics showcases this constant and overwhelming destruction. Superman frequently levels Metropolis while "protecting" its citizens. Riots happen in Gotham City roughly every five minutes. A FRICKIN DARK GOD POSSESSED EVERY LIVING SOUL ON THE PLANET AND DESTROYED TONS OF BUILDINGS WHILE BURNING EVERY BOOK EVER WRITTEN!

The same is true of the Marvel side of the superhero world. In a decidely random sampling of issues in the Marvel Universe, New York has been destroyed roughly 5 times in the span of a few comic book months. Thats right, in less than a comic book year Marvel Comic's version of New York City has been leveled by a weather-controlling Ultron Robot, a plague of Venom symbiotes infecting every citizen in Manhattan, an invasion by shape-changing aliens from outer space, a terrorist raid of the United Nations performed by a french acrobat, and a battle with a rogue Norse god. Each time, buildings have crumbled, streets have been cracked, and the carts of hot dog vendors have been thoroughly over-turned.

In order to recover from such devastating blows, the comic book world must have an array of daring contractors and craftsman, willing to jump into the fray at a moment's notice. They are the truly amazing people in the comics universe. Somehow they are capable of repairing the Chrysler building overnight after Thor has been punched through it, only for the Green Goblin to the blow the top off of it the next day. And they do this consistently. For this to work, the public works department of Marvel's New York must be 1 billion workers strong. But still, with the amount of damage caused to the comic book world, the construction and repair can never stop.

The work of the comic-book contractor truly is a never-ending battle. These intrepid contractors were given powers. The power of wood-working. The power of welding. The godlike ability to drive rivets into steel with unerring accuracy. And with this great power comes great responsibility. Only the comic-book contractor can use their triple barrelled caulk gun to repair the damage Wolverine causes to a truck-stop bathroom. Only the comic-book craftsman can repair Lexcorp tower every five seconds while watching tensely for a flash of blue and red or a giant purple and green battlesuit.

Of course this begs the question of what taxes are like in the Marvel and DC universe. In order to pay for Superhero damage, it must be 18 billion dollars per person per year.

41 comments:

Ben said...

I wonder if those buildings are meta-proofed. In Japan, the high rises are on rollers due to the region's tectonic activity. Do you think meta-architecture has in some way mitigated the neccessity for such costly repairs? Perhaps in the way that we "green" our houses, DC universe citizens metaproof their homes.

Mark said...

Hmmm. An interesting theory. I think meta-proofing would definitely be a good investment in the comic book world. However, since most of the property damage in comic books tends to involve incredibly strong people beating other incredibly strong people with actual pieces of their environment, it would be very difficult to introduce meta-proofing. If a super villain is actually using the globe of the Daily Planet like a boxing glove, no amount of anti-tectonic rollers would reduce property damage. I think the only way to truly reduce damage would be to make all comic book buildings out of Play-Doh or peanut butter.

Ben said...

peanut butter? the Mole Man would love that!

Tim said...

Taxes would undoubtedly be out of control. However, one way the construction could be funded is by immense concentrations of private equity gobbling up the public works bonds. The works would not only get completed but yield quite a hefty profit for the investors. The question being, who are the primary holders of those bonds? Probably the criminals and super villains that destroyed the buildings in the first place. An endless feedback loop of destruction and profit! Muahaha!

Mark said...

My god Tim, you've uncovered the secret motivations of super-villainy! This is the one true answer underlying every comic book plot for the last 70 years.

Anonymous said...

Either the cities are much bigger than the parts we see getting trashed, or else we really should be seeing cityscapes with far fewer older-style buildings.

I really would like to see more metaproofed buildings, though. I realise that tossing Captain Underpants through a concrete wall is one way to underscore how powerful the Nutjob Avenger is, but it'd be amusing if the wall simply flexed instead, or was a lot stronger than it looked.

Erik said...

Not a billion laborers. A handful of super-laborers. Powerful beings who's sensibilities and prevent them from committing or fighting crime. Imagine if Superman was a pacifist, or a coward. He could easily repair a large chunk of this damage by himself, and his sense of moral duty might lead him to do so for a modest hourly wage. His comic book wouldn't be very interesting though...

Ben said...

why did we not discuss the introduction of adamantium into building materials?

Thelonious_Nick said...

See this comics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damage_Control_(comics)

Damage Control was (is?) a Marvel firm that cleans up after superheroes. I read a couple of these back in the day but found them kind of boring, as it was about people, you know, cleaning up.

DiabolicalMechanism said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

MrDave2176 said...

Construction in an environment where devastating destruction can come at a moment's notice forces you to adapt to that environment. That's why you get earthquake proofing in Japan and Los Angeles but not in Washington DC (although nuclear fallout is a big factor there).

Therefore, it makes sense that construction materials are made from an "unstable" compound that is solid enough to maintain integrity of the building but would toughen in some way in response to an impact, and might even respond by softening in response to some stimulus (say a specific frequency of sonics or radiation). This makes construction simple in that you can reuse the same materials from the building on-site replacing only trim materials like carpeting and glass.

You could have amazing mechanical devices capable of feats of construction far beyond our technology (as this is a world of super-science and in most cases robots). It isn't inconceivable that rebuilding is quick and efficient. Only the replacement of historic, vintage, or unique buildings would be costly as you'd have to replace them with obsolete materials or all-new ones.

These ultra-tech materials would be initially expensive, but they would pay for themselves dozens of times over if the building was flattened more than twice a year.

Harrison Brookie said...

I often wondered how much money Superman could make if he went into the construction business himself. I bet he has quite a comparative advantage... or maybe just an absolute advantage. So that begs the question, what is the comparative advantage of someone who is super strong, super fast, and super smart?

Jenny said...

Of course, disaster proofing may go the other direction - contractors may cut corners and use extra cheap materials if they know their building is only going to last until next Friday, anyway. It's not like it really matters how far apart the wall supports are in those circumstances, you know?

And I don't know that the comic universe's contractors are necessarily the good guys. Who else builds secret lairs, machines and assembles destruct-o-rays and otherwise carries out the mechanical necesities of most villains? I mean, no one at the custom car shop ever seems to think, "Hmm, I really should put some duds in the Joker's missile launchers," when they're outfitting his latest deadly hot rod.

But maybe there's an arrangement. Maybe the average working stiff gets to be Switzerland when it comes to his profession - he doesn't give up the plans to the booby traps in Batman's cave, and he doesn't arrange faulty wiring in the Penguin's little umbrella copters. He gives top quality work to the bad guys because he's available to the good guys, too.

Scott said...

Two points:

As someone pointed out, Marvel has already addressed this to some extent with Damage Control. The same role seems to be taken to some extent by the superheroes themselves over in DC.

Also, this seems to be restricted mostly to NYC in the MU, and to major fictional cities like Gotham and Metropolis (and recently, real ones like DC) in the DCU. It's not a big problem in, say, Kansas City or Des Moines. Since the cost of living in such cities tends to be much higher than in other areas anyway, maybe the added costs of super-insurance and/or disaster fund taxes aren't as apparent.

I also believe there was at least one story at Marvel where an insurance company tried to deny a claim because somebody's superhero insurance had the standard 'Act of God' rider in it and one of the combatants causing the damage was Thor or Hercules, forget which.

admin said...

Not a billion laborers. A handful of super-laborers. Powerful beings who's sensibilities and prevent them from committing or fighting crime. Imagine if Superman was a pacifist, or a coward. He could easily repair a large chunk of this damage by himself, and his sense of moral duty might lead him to do so for a modest hourly wage. His comic book wouldn't be very interesting though...


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andre said...

My god Tim, you've uncovered the secret motivations of super-villainy! This is the one true answer underlying every comic book plot for the last 70 years.
HCIiTHI

Generic Cialis said...

The contractor in comic books has to be a very wealthy man, no doubts on that at all. And most be a super hero as well, They have to stop time to make believe that everything was done over night, There is no task force fast enough to rebuild a city in a day.

Jhon smith said...

why did we not discuss the introduction of adamantium into building materials?

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Jason Mandrix said...

Hello there,

We’re getting a lot more people coming in (from) the White Card Tas construction industry, where some of the projects have been shut down or slowed down.

Kind Regards,
jason

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Therefore, it makes sense that construction materials are made from an "unstable" compound that is solid enough to maintain integrity of the building but would toughen in some way in response to an impact, and might even respond by softening in response to some stimulus (say a specific frequency of sonics or radiation). This makes construction simple in that you can reuse the same materials from the building on-site replacing only trim materials like carpeting and glass.

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