Wednesday, January 28, 2015


"Would you like to be?"
I’m generally at least a little skeptical of educational comics which situate major real-world problems on the shoulders of super-heroes. Typically, after all, the ethical implications of anonymous vigilantism alone make the voice of authority suspect, don’t you think? If a man in a mask and a cape and whose primary contribution to society is that he laser-beams monsters in the stomach tells me that I should limit my soda intake and watch out for landmines, I’m left with a lot of questions about his rationale.

This isn’t even mentioning the problem of anthropomorphizing and othering abstract issues, like how making “literacy” or “gambling addiction” into a punchable dude actually diffuses the threat rather than underlines it.

Enter Captain BIO, the hero who solves that problem by not actually doing anything and not having anyone to fight!

Released in 1994 and sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Merck as an aid in the battle to raise awareness of the risk of Hepatitis B, Captain BIO also introduces its eponymous hero … er, protagonist, maybe? No, wait, the story isn’t even about him. I guess the best you can do is to call him the eponymous person named in the self-title of the story.

"Gotta run, I need to grind my hand in more pools of broken glass and spilled blood!" 
The story actually centers around Julie, a nurse and clumsy idiot who opens the tale by colliding with some guy evidently hired to haul a cafeteria tray full of blood and broken glass around blind corners. Julie promptly thereafter manages to get some Hepatitis B-infected blood into an open wound which she otherwise has forgotten about. Fast-forward a few months and whoops, Julie’s looking jaundiced and fatigued. None of her coworkers notice all too much because this is an American hospital.

No one, that is, but Dr.Mark Phillips, inventor of the wondrous BIO-Meter and secretly the costumed blood-invader Captain BIO. Why not Doctor BIO? Too on the nose, I suppose.

The OKCupid questionnaire
is getting weirder.
A one-page origin provides Doc’s backstory: Following the untimely death of his wife, Dr.Phillips is driven to design the amazing BIO-Meter, a pair of ridiculous goggles which can almost instantly diagnose any disease. Why it took the death of his wife to drive him to inventing something I’m sure he could have used any day of his professional life is up in the air. Perhaps she nagged. Maybe she was just really demanding, and this was the first time he could put aside the “me-time” he needed to finish his BIO-Meter and maybe start working on that H/O train set he’d always wanted to do.

The already-remarkable BIO-Meter is amped up when struck by coincidental lightning, now allowing Dr.Phillips the power to not only see inside people’s bodies, but to get inside them as well! I mean all-ll-ll the way inside, right up into the bloodstream! Exciting developments! Oh, and then also Surge.

Surge is Doc’s/Cap’s sidekick, and he literally just shows up at the end of the origin like an afterthought. “Oh, and Surge basically” more or less. This is fine because Surge also doesn’t do anything, have any backstory or contribute anything. “What am I,” he complains at one point, “Chopped liver?” Yes you are, Surge, you are hella chopped liver.

Outside of the one-page origin (where it’s too dark to read) Dr.Phillips happens to be the only local medical professional who notices Julie’s increasing illness. Alone in a locked room, he dons the BIO-Meter which allows him to peer all the way into Julie’s bloodstream, like a super-powered pair of X-Ray glasses, right through the wall and her clothes and her tits and everything. This is a potential HR nightmare.

A glimpse at a typical pornographic film of the near-future.

 The BIO-Meter also allows Dr.Phillips to transform himself into his tiny alter ego and swim Julie’s bloodstream as Captain BIO, joined by Surge outta nowhere like maybe Surge was already there? Maybe Surge had been there all along? Maybe Surge is the REAL reason Julie is sick, basically. KILL SURGE, CAP!

But he can’t, because Captain BIO does not possess one single offensive or curative ability besides “extensive schooling.” Having witnessed the Hepatitis-B at work in Julie’s bloodstream, he takes the opportunity to pull her aside and give her the bad news about her illness. My guess is that even if Julie heeds all of his advice, she’s just gonna collide with the blood wallah again later. This is some low-stakes superheroing, I wouldn’t even bother getting into a costume for something like this.

One last note regarding Captain BIO has to do with the cover indicia, the corner box which – on old Marvel Comics – was typically where the book’s heroes were represented by headshots. The cast of Captain BIO is also in position on their box – there’s Cap, Surge, Julie, the hospital’s blood mule, and winning the award for the least relevant character role to earn a spot on the cover, Julie’s co-worker who literally did nothing else in the book except ask her how her weekend was. In many ways, she did more than Captain BIO ever did.

What even are you, you wretched luminescent homonculus?


Unknown said...

Have you heard of Captain Cure?

It was created by artist Ty Wakefield as he was undergoing chemotherapy.

cup king said...

"Hepatitis B - A disease in need of prevention!"

As opposed to all those diseases that people actively seek out.

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