If I learned anything interning at Marvel, it’s that the superhero genre has repeated itself so routinely that it seems to have run out of options, becoming ripe for satire.
Like Jimmy Corrigan, many parodies seek to deny the sensationalism of the superheros as the age of average readers climbs. The Defenders of Stan, however, seeks to exploit the fantastic elements of comic books to their fullest, creating a robust superhero parody that uses both cheeky meta commentary (i.e. “Red Herring cereal may cause a hacky plot-hole filled, body switching episode”) and sweet action sequences.
Defenders has enjoyed a long run on New York’s Channel 101; it’s had a fifteen-episode, 13-month stint so far on a site which votes off five shows every month. This longevity, and the relatively non-homogeneous nature of internet shorts, has allowed the creators some room to play. Often, they get pretty far out.
The show parodies everything from Superman and Adam West’s Batman to this year’s presidential election and psychotherapy. But the series works mostly on the dynamic between Stan – played by Austin Bragg – and Captain Ultra – played Hunter Christy – who along with Meredith Bragg make up The Big Honkin’ crew behind the show.
The series is part buddy pic and part genre study. Stan – a “pre-powered” human – and his little brother Ted/Captain Ultra – the most powerful hero on earth – live in a post-human world where superheroes are as ubiquitous as Hasidim in Williamsburg and Stan is one of just a few “normals” left.
The brotherly bonds are strained because Stan feels inadequate and alienated as a non-powered individual, and because Captain Ultra’s a self-satisfied moron, and a lady’s man, and refers to Stan as “Hey, douche-bag.” Christy’s Captain Ultra can be reminiscent of the good parts of Jack Black – his timing is right on, and his delivery of profanity is masterly. Bragg is much less in your face, the archetypal straight man, whose existential woes get the sympathetic laugh.
The on-screen dynamic between Christy and Bragg entertains enough to carry the show, even without any semblance of plot (as is the case in my personal favorite episode 11 game show parody). The relationship is based partly on each creator’s relationship with their own brothers. “I think that sibling rivalry is something that almost everyone experiences, and something everyone can relate to,” wrote Christy.
The show is extremely successful in it’s use of animation and editing. From wonderfully accurate comic book panel intros to awesome Superman light rings and Captain Ultra doppelgangers, it’s seamless and professionally done. Christy does amazing work with digital effects, allowing the show to move in unexpected directions, which has undoubtedly aided its success.
The Big Honkin’ are also responsible for another Channel 101 short, Jesus Christ Supercop. It’s equally hilarious and hard to classify. Bragg plays Jesus as a gun crazy cop, who continually resurrects three days after being shot by bad guys, or himself. Christy makes his appearance as the villainous Nietzche, and still refers to Bragg as “douche-bag.”
The Big Honkin’ has more work coming as well, having recently completed two pilots for Warner 2.0. Christy hinted at the possibility of more Jesus Christ Supercop, and we can definitely expect more The Defenders of Stan. “We’re in discussions about turning Stan into a television show, but the odds on such things are so long we shouldn’t even bring it up. We’re always looking for something to do next,” wrote Austin.
Whatever that something is, expect these guys to deliver big things.