Be the Wolverine of the Photocopier: Studies in Crap Carves Up How to Be a Business Superhero


Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

How to Be a Business Superhero

Author: Venture capitalist Sean Wise
Date: 2008
Discovered at:Used book store clearance rack

The Cover Promises: Generic, clip-arty superheroes are much cheaper than the licensed ones.

Representative Quotes:

  • “All Green Lanterns report to the blue-hued immortal Guardians of the Universe, so even while the individual patrolmen have virtual autonomy, in the end they each have a boss to report to. The same is true in business.” (page 55)
  • “So how do Business Superheroes ensure they follow Professor Xavier’s example and not get caught up in the zealotry of Magneto? I suggest a three-pronged approach.” (page 199)

Look! Up in H.R.! In the goofy, self-important tradition of Jesus, CEO and Ronin: The Way of the Samauri, up bounds How to Be a Business Superhero, a two-fisted burst of you-are-not-a-drone workplace inspiration based upon an entirely specious comparison. As in all such books, this one insists that success in your office depends upon your ability to make-believe that you’re a character of legend – preferably one whose exploits have shit-all to do with business.

A self-professed comic geek who seems to have been bitten by a radioactive Chicken Soup for the Executive’s Soul, author Sean Wise suggests you find workplace inspiration in the spirit of superheroes like the Hulk, whose adventures stomping the U.S. military somehow teaches us this business secret: “Don’t Get Angry. . . . The best leaders (and business superheroes) are able to channel their feelings into more positive outcomes.”

So, no “ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT SMASH!” Instead, being a Business Superhero means that you model your life on the Hulk’s by being nothing like him.

Wise pairs up brief and slapdash essays on his favorite heroes with longer passages of business-book cliches. Green Lantern teaches us the power of “visualization” and provides Wise a chance to recommend The Secret. (Oprah is touted as a Business Superhero.)

He compares the thunder god Thor to the founders of Home Depot and finds an excuse to quote the Serenity Prayer in a chapter on Batman’s preparedness. Speaking of Batman, Wise never comes out and says you should ask your superiors to open a billion-dollar off-the-books crime-fighting R&D department headed up by Morgan Freeman, but I’m sure he implies it in there somewhere.

Spider-Man’s mantra “With great power comes great responsibility” gets seven pages. For Spider-Man, these words are an anguished, unshakable reminder of the great task to which his life is dedicated: making up for the single act of negligence that led to his uncle’s death.

For Wise, the words demonstrate why you shouldn’t make excuses for your mistakes, even if you botch an important presentation.

“Some things in life are binary: The PowerPoint slides are either ready or not ready. All the reasons (however justified) in the world can explain the problem, but none can fix it.”

With PowerPoint comes great responsibility.

Wise claims that Spider-Man’s words can show Business Superheroes how to handle tricky situations. His examples: the case of an intern who used to show up late and the time Wise fought with his fiancee over where he should leave his shoes. He works in some 70 year-old advice from Dale Carnegie but neglects to mention that Spider-Man peddles photos of himself to a newspaper that immediately uses them to slander Spider-Man. I’m no Business Super-hero, but I bet that could illustrate bad branding.

In other chapters, Wise also:

  • Writes “If you want to be a Business Superhero, then you need to follow Wolverine’s motto and be the best at what you do.”
  • Claims that Black Bolt, the Inhuman hero whose voice can shatter planets, “teaches us the value of silence.”
  • Ignores steal-from-the-rich superhero Green Arrow’s Marxism and instead uses him to illustrate the business cliche about the difference between hedgehogs and foxes.
  • Compares the story of Hellboy — “a half demon who was brought to earth by the Nazis in order to usher in Ragnarock (the destruction of the world)” — to the time Wise himself took an eight-week European vacation after his internship ended.
  • Calls Jack Welch the “Iron man of the Real World” and Richard Branson the Green Lantern, meaning Branson presumably reports to the blue-hued Guardians of the Universe.
  • Insists that “as the Joker illustrates, one person’s out-of-the-box thinking can be just plain crazy from another person’s perspective.” Yeah, just like that time Vic from IT suggested shooting the commissioner’s daughter in the spine!

Shocking Detail:
Wise’s “Golden Rules” for Business Superheroes include “Be Ready For Team-Ups,” “Patrol Often” and “Establish a Hideout,” in which Wise honest-to-God compares hanging around Starbucks to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

My favorite is “Swear an Oath.” Wise suggests you craft a powerful, purposeful oath like the ones Green Lantern and the Phantom have held to. Here’s Batman’s, sworn to his murdered parents:

“I swear to dedicate my life and my inheritance to bringing your murderer, and all criminals, to justice. I swear it.”

And here’s Wise’s:


To become Captain marvel, young Billy Batson must shout the magic word “SHAZAM,” an acronym that summons for him the greatest traits of the greatest heroes: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, and so on.

Wise proposes you coin your own magic word, one whose letters correspond to the greatest heroes of our time. His example:


Yes, GLEW. Say it out loud – it crackles with mystic power. And you might want to modify that “creativity of George Lucas” bit with “before 1983.”

Your Crap Archivist had to give this exercise a go. Maybe you should, to!

C . . . The scent of Bill Clinton!
R . . . The enunciation of Rambo!
A . . . The sensitivity of Alan Alda!
P . . . The silent P of Michelle Pfeiffer!

Finally, no hero inspired me more in my years of temping than Fletcher Hanks’ Stardust, the master of the absurd ironic punishment:

Hanks’ primitive, beautiful 1940’s comics have recently been collected in two volumes from Fantagraphics. Not only will these terrifying stories teach you more about superheroes than Wise ever possibly could, they also offer just as much fresh insight into business.

[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]