I was watching Superman IV: The Quest For Peace for the first time the other week (it wasn't as bad as I feared, starting off with some promise but falling apart completely by the end) - along with the Superman's 50th Anniversary Celebration that was on the Blu-Ray - and the thing that struck me more than anything was how the mainstream media has now embraced the idea of costumed crimefighters.
I shan't be going into an in-depth analysis of how superheroes have now become "cool" (because they always were to me) and why shows such as the quite painful Anniversary Special from 1988 felt the only sensible approach to marking five decades of Superman history was to take the piss, send the character up and generally dumb it down (despite some fleeting talking heads from actors involved in the films and TV shows and comic book writer/artist John Byrne).
However, looking for the positive across the two films - the documentary and the main feature - I came across a couple of threads that I thought could work well either individually or in combination.
THE LOVE CHILD
Pick a player-character hero - the more virtuous the better - and then have some random, trailer trash (or the local equivalent) show up, either directly at the hero's door or, better, in the press or on TV claiming she is the mother of the hero's love child!
Her story is vague and her evidence next to nothing (she has trouble even describing the character accurately - "he said he was Startling Man, but didn't look like he does on TV"), she is more a nuisance sub-plot than anything.
The key to this storyline is the woman's motivation.
- Is she deranged or deluded, and just needs help?
- Does she genuinely believe the father of the child is the hero?
- Is she simply after cold, hard cash?
- Or is it something more sinister (perhaps she's a pawn - wittingly or not - of the hero's arch nemesis?)
If you've been running a reasonably straight-forward campaign, and the player-characters have been behaving like true heroes, then they should have a good working rapport with the local media, be it news web sites, radio, television, newspapers etc
But what happens when suddenly that news outlet is purchased by someone more interested in making money than reporting the truth (see also the last season of Aaron Sorkin's peerless The Newsroom)?
We're not talking the Weekly World News here (as that has its place in a campaign anyway), but a media outlet that once supported the heroes in their crusade now turning to salacious scandal (such as a superhero's "love child") based on hearsay and tittle-tattle. Out go the professional, fact-checking reporters and in come the untrained 'citizen journalists' armed with camera phones and gossip...