BIFF! BANG! I’m not the only guy raised on a diet of Marvel and Action comics. But maybe I’m the only New Yorker who thinks it’s an awesome idea to make live shows based on serial strips and graphic novels. That would explain why I was an audience of one when I arrived for a random evening’s sampling of the homegrown Comic Book Theater Festival. The first production I saw, The Myth of Power, is a painfully unfinished multimedia piece that imagines a 1970s public television interview with a caveman robot. Channeling Joseph Campbell, the host and his guest (a transistorized troglodyte moved by aliens from the year 19-6660) discuss sphinxes, human thought as a computer virus, and metaphysical salami.
Matt Barbot’s more serious and occasionally witty El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom follows a different kind of transplant: Alex (Michael John Improta) is a 23-year-old living at home in Brooklyn who transforms daily into El Coquí, Protector of Nuyoricans. “It’s not to fight crime, just to look the part and wear the costume,” he admits sheepishly. Alex feels like a cultural outsider but wants something more satisfying — and eventually finds it at home, not on city streets. Barbott’s script is repetitive but sincere, drawing a clear picture: Superheroes aren’t real, but otherness is.