Superheroes, bad PR, and why we can't have nice things,

Absurd hypothetical time! Let’s see what I can do before the pizza gets here. We’re back in the world of Bob X, the do-gooder with Superman’s powers, no kryptonite factor, and a kid in middle school. Bob, incidentally, looks rather like this, a fact which will be important later.

First the short version. Recently, after a long day of superheroing, Bob turned down a request to track down a mundane serial killer—partly because he’s not a detective, partly because it seemed like something the cops could handle, but mostly because he was tired. Unfortunately, said killer turned out to be a low-level super who not only struck that night, but also massacred several cops before Bob arrived to settle it. A disgruntled ex-employee of Bob’s recorded his refusal of the initial request and posted a heavily-edited version on the interwebs, sparking a firestorm of protest that’s hindering Bob’s effectiveness. Your job is to figure out the best way for Bob to respond.

That’s enough to start. The poll will be up in a minute, and the TLDR version sixty seconds after that, after which I shall be eating lunch. I’d offer y’all some if I weren’t so selfish

And now the details:

A few years ago, the mighty Robert Exeter got organized about his superheroing, not only setting up a headquarters (nothing Batcavey—just an office building in Chicago) but hiring a support staff. This includes engineers to help him figure out doomsday devices, call center workers to sort through requests for help, and so more. Bob pays everybody’s salary out of his own pocket, But that’s not to say that he doesn’t get any financial assistance. The city gives him a discount on property taxes; Oracle/Sun, Microsoft, and other tech companies donate equipment; Verizon subsidizes the phone bill; et cetera. You are Bob’s number one guy in this operation, running mundane stuff so Bob can focus on catching asteroids. Nonetheless, he retains ultimate authority.

Two weeks ago, Bob came back to the office both tired (he’d spent the day dealing with a tsunami, averting a nuclear meltdown, and fighting the kaiju that caused both) and butt naked (at one point the kaiju swallowed him alive, and its fiery gullet incinerated his clothes). He was also in pain, having broken his left fist busting out of the kaiju’s mouth. He wanted nothing more than to sleep for the three or four hours it would take his broken bones to knit, then see his kid. But before he could even finish dressing, one of the tech heads, Karen (who looks rather like this, which will also be important), came into the locker room and said:

“Excuse me, Bob, Have you read the email I sent you this morning?”

“I just got finished punching my way out of Godzilla’s mouth,” Bob said. “Take a guess. Look, give me a minute to put some pants on, okay?”

“This can’t wait. It’s about that serial killer down in Texas, the one who strikes on religious holidays. It’s Christmas Eve. You need to go on stakeout before”

“That’s something the FBI can handle. Their Behavioral Analysis Unit is on the case. They’ll yell if they need me.”

“But Bob, this freak massacres entire families. He’s struck in Houston and Dallas and Austin and Wichita Falls. You need to track him down. Your super-senses—”

“Are useless for something like this. I have no idea who to look for or what city he’s in. I don’t do forensics or profiling or whatever it is the BAU does. So I’m gonna go take a nap.”

“You could learn the detective stuff. You memorized the schematics of that nuclear reactor in fifteen minutes.”

“That’s different—”

“Right,” Karen said angrily. “The sicko in Texas has only hits white families, so you don’t care. You’ll bust your hump to fight monsters in Africa or Asia, but not lift a finger to help your own country. I think you just don’t like white people.”

“And I think you’re fired,” Bob said. “Talk to DoperName about your severance. Have an unmerry Christmas, bitch.”

But that was not the end of it. The serial killer did strike that night. He was a low-level super — a vampire about as powerful as Angelus on Buffy—doing his killing without the usual revenant signatures so as to stay off Bob’s radar. The FBI had a lead on him but, thinking him a norm, brought no stakes or holy water and thus got creamed. The feds yelled for Bob, who flew down and settled the vamp in about half a second — but that still left four dead civilians and six dead agents, none of whom, sadly, was Jason Gideon.

Nor is that all. Unknown to Bob, Karen had recorded their conversation. Within days she had posted a heavily edited version of it on YouTube, one that made Bob sound like a lazy, racist, sexually harassing jerkwad. This caused a huge public outcry. Now, a week into the new year, there’s a crowd of demonstrators outside the building and a social media campaign against him. Both are getting bigger every day. People are demanding an end to Bob’s subsidies; his corporate sponsors are talking about suspending their support; his staff are getting death threats.

How do you advise Bob to handle this PR nightmare?

Respond with honesty – “this internet video is misleading, but I did make a mistake. I try to do my best but I’m not perfect and sometimes I make a mistake. In this case, I wish I had taken this request more seriously and gone after the dastardly villain before he could kill again. I will try and learn from this mistake and be a better person going forward. I am donating $x [from resources or sales of licensed products or whatever I could afford] to the families of the victims.”

Before I answer the poll, I need you to clarify something for me.

Is he single? :o

I think the traditional thing for a superhero to do in this situation is to say “Fine. You don’t think saving the world on a regular basis is enough? Good. I’m retired. Have fun dealing with the next alien invasion.”

Then the next alien invasion happens, everyone cries “Save us Super, er, uh Bob!” and all is forgiven.

Basically, Bob has to lay out a few simple rules for his superheroing.

a. He’ll handle the big stuff if he can.
b. You don’t get to pick what the big stuff is.
c. (bonus rule) Any collateral damage is the cost of doing business. Not Bob’s problem. He’ll try to avoid getting punched through entire city blocks, but it’s not always an option. If it happens, rest assured that the alternative is worse.

As a postscript, why does a guy who could squeeze diamonds into coal or sell off nickel-iron asteroids on the commodities market need tax breaks? Realistically, all he has to do is appear on on very special episode of Gold Rush where he flies to Alaska, scans with his x-ray vision and then kicks a mountain apart to retrieve Volkswagon sized chunks of gold. Not only can Bob finance his superhero hobby without breaking a sweat, but he can also hire the biggest PR firms on the planet. They can break out Bob’s Go Pro pictures of the last time he rescued cute babies from a fire or took submachine fire in the face to save a cop.

Bob has GOT to place limits on the public’s expectations. Without that he’s doomed to failure because he can’t be everywhere at once. He’ll end up like Samaritan in Astro City…never having time for a life or anything that he might want because there’s always Something that needs doing.

“I do my best but I can’t be everywhere. And that video was doctored. Let’s go examine that now.”

What mistake are you talking about? Is it not being precognitive or not being omnipotent?

Or maybe you mean not vetting Karen well enough, since she was clearly out to screw him from the second she entered the locker room, and not the good kind of screwing, either. But saying he made a mistake is equivalent to saying that he should never ever take a day off. Not tenable, especially as he clearly has limits. He starts the story with a broken hand, after all.

Yes, and likes both boys and girls. You up for groupie duty?

Yup. And as Karen was clearly up to no good from the start of the story, it might be well to see who is working with her. Bob must have some cop friends left.

[quote=“Finagle, post:5, topic:753114”]

As a postscript, why does a guy who could squeeze diamonds into coal or sell off nickel-iron asteroids on the commodities market need tax breaks? /QUOTE]

Bob can’t do hte diamond thing; he’s the post-Crisis Superman, not Silver Age. And I doubt he’s reckless enough to bring an asteroid into near-earth space.
He does charge for non-heroic superfeats. If a cruise ship is capvsizing off the coast of Greece, he’ll save the passengers and crew gratis. If somebody asks him to raise a sunken vessel for salvage, he’ll charge the going rate for such a job plus a premium because it’s boring. And I expect any contract he signs has the clause, “If I have to stop in the middle of a job because of an unexpected volcano or whatever, you guys still have to pay,” so I expect a lot of firms are wary of dealng with him.

[quote=“Skald_the_Rhymer, post:7, topic:753114”]

I was just giving examples. There are lots of ways for a quasi-deity, even an
exceptionally lazy one, to achieve financial independence is what i’m saying.

[quote=“Finagle, post:8, topic:753114”]

Sure. And obviously I agree that Bob could make himself rich. He just can’t be INFINITELY rich (as Bruce Wayne seems to be), because, like time travel, that is story breaker.

Just tell me this guy doesn’t go around calling his female colleague “Baby Girl”. :mad: --> like mad enough to get a fist of fire going and aim it at Shemar Moore.

Morgan only calls his platonic lover Penelope thst., and she doesn’t care.

Hell, my work wife has been known to call me " Dr. Evil" I’m public. Must she stop? :smiley:

Bob goes on TV and admits that he is a racist asshole, and now a supervillain who is going to take over the planet.

The next day the real Bob explains that Karen conspired with the fake Bob to smear him and sow panic in the populace as part of their evil plan. He reassures everyone that Karen and the fake Bob have been banished to the Forbidden Zone and will never be seen again, the final part of which turns out to be true.

First of all I don’t know why anyone would squeeze diamonds into coal. Also there are the problems of a masked superhero which bob is clearly not. The guy should have enough good-will built up to survive one internet hoax. You don’t see Obama running for the hills every time some internet blogger calls him a crook he mostly just ignores it and it goes away.

Oh and your pie needs some lard to come out well.

I have the government throw the book at Karen completely discrediting her in the publics eye and locking her up for most of her life as a condition to my continued super heroing help.

Groupie?? As if, I’m his charismatic, sassy, competent, devious right hand woman who’s had a crush on him since forever ago, hoping that bailing his nicely toned hiney out of this mess will finally make him notice me. And I warned him against hiring that scheming bitch [del]Godzilla[/del] Karen in the first place…

To me, there’s a couple ways to spin this.

First, Bob acts contrite. A sincere apology comes first. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t really make a mistake by not fighting Vampire Guy when he was tired and injured. It’ll sound good and smooth a lot of ruffled feathers. Reparations to the families of the victims as suggested by iiandyiii would be a good move as well.

Meanwhile, I scramble the PR team to round up as many of the people Bob has helped over the years as they can, mostly but not exclusively the white ones. These interviews get edited into 30 second commercials, complete with soulful music and footage of happy, playing children which air frequently. Maybe a few with villians he caught, who reformed while they were in superjail and now live a life of virtue gushing about how no one gave them a chance before Bob pummeled some sense into them.

While that’s going on, get ahold of a few talking heads on the news networks to start asking why the FBI, knowing darn well we live in a world with superhumans, doesn’t take the most rudimentary of precautions when moving in on an unknown bad guy. After all, even heroes can’t be everywhere (except Omnipresent Woman, but she’s no good in a fight) so if the people we rely on to protect us from harm can’t even protect themselves… dang. Anyway, it was a failure on the profilers’ parts. So the guy wasn’t killing in the usual vampire manner; no one hides their tracks that well.

What? A video of Karenzilla getting sloppy drunk at the Christmas party and trying to make out with a potted fern hit Youtube this morning and already has 100,000 hits? How embarrassing! Good thing Bob fired her, amirite?

I’m with **Johnathan Chance **on the matter of what Bob needs to establish as concerns relations with the public going forward.

However on the bigger issue… is Illinois a one-party or both-parties jurisdiction when it comes to consent for recordings of nonpublic conversations? Because part two of his post also has to be brought into play, Bob has to challenge her and discredit her testimony and the social media campaign, because the accusation is not only that he failed to act against Serial Vampire Guy in a timely manner but about the reasons why he failed to do so. His reasons were perfectly valid and this has to be put out there. (That a certain distressingly high percentage of the population will anyway continue to read his real reasons as being a racist asshole, is beyond his control or need to care, because most of them probably already felt that way from the start like Karen did, and the rest are just twits thinking they are Big Men for bringing someone down with their twitting.)

“I made a mistake.”

Posted without reading the other replies.

I draft a press release noting all the good Bob has done for the world, how many hours he works in a typical day, the injuries he’s sustained, etc., and scoff that it’s absurd to say he’s racist given the many people of all races he’s protected and saved.

I also schedule an interview for Bob very soon with a respected talk-show host or top journalist who I know to be sympathetic to/admiring of him, in which Bob can make many of the same points. He can calmly discuss his regret that he can’t be everywhere all the time, his sympathies for those who mourn those slain by the vampire, what he had already done the night he declined Karen’s suggestion, and explain that he fired Karen for her poor attitude and insulting remarks. He can also point out that the heavily-edited version of their conversation does not tell the whole story, not by a long shot.

I’ll provide all the same info to my corporate contacts and urge them to stand with Bob, and do any hand-holding that’s necessary.

We’ll see through polling what response there is to this approach, and make any adjustments we must do to bolster Bob’s public standing and protect his “brand.”

Wait, you mean Bob’s not the kaiju mentioned in the poll?

And Skald, that link to a giant closeup pic of Ann Coulter is a little disconcerting - almost borderline NSFW.

:: shudder ::