Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.
It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.
But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR had to ask: Did the caped figures have any advice for Congress?
Sometimes a superhero is what you need when you're talking about a place with so much fighting and gridlock, where special interests try to win at the expense of the common good.
Gleaming in the sunlight stood a tall, brawny figure with long golden hair. And lots of pads for muscles. Here's what Mighty Thor, the god of thunder, had to say to Congress: "Get your act together or we're going to send the Hulk to smash."
Thor — aka Greg Elrod of Gaithersberg, Md. — noted that this was one of the least productive Congresses in history.
"Loki gets more done asleep than Congress does," Elrod added, referring to Thor's adoptive brother and archnemesis.
Elrod's comments echoed much of the sentiment around the National Mall Friday: Congress needs to start getting things done. But superhero minds differed on what to do about it.
Ken Roseman was dressed in a shiny red skirt. For the day, he was Supergirl. He pondered whether life would be different if the Capitol were filled with 535 superheroes instead of lawmakers.
"Superheroes can get together and enforce change on their own, but that would be dictatorial, so that's not any better than what we've got," Roseman decided. "But they could certainly set an example."
What kind of example? Clark Kent (Thomas Carr) had the answer.
"All superheroes at some point have to sacrifice. And sometimes you have to put the good of all above the good of the one," he said.
His wife, Carol, who was dressed as the Black Spectre, spelled out what that would mean for Congress.
"Get things passed that's good for our country — not necessarily what's good for them or what's good for a corporation," she said.
But some people had counterintuitive advice.
When posed with the question of what Congress should do a little more of, a 5-year-old Superman named Trey Galia paused for a second.
"Fight," he said.
So maybe what Congress should do is what it already does best.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today on the National Mall, hundreds of people gathered to see if they could break the Guinness world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as comic book characters. Well, it looks like they're going to fall short, but still it was a fun kickoff to AwesomeCon 2014, a pop culture and comic book convention that runs through the weekend.
With all the superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR's congressional reporter Ailsa Chang felt compelled to ask one question: Did they have any advice for Congress?
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Sometimes a superhero is what you need when you're talking about a place with so much fighting and gridlock, where special interests try to win at the expense of the common good. I canvassed high and low for answers.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm Batgirl.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm Colossus, and it's mostly duct tape.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, I'm Death from (unintelligible)...
CHANG: And then I saw him, gleaming in the sunlight, this figure with long, golden hair and lots of pads for muscles. He would know what Congress should do. So mighty Thor, the god of thunder, do you have advice for our elected leaders up on the Hill?
GREG ELROD: I would say get your act together, or we're going to send the Hulk to smash.
CHANG: Greg Elrod(ph) from Gaithersburg, Maryland, pretty much echoed a lot of the sentiment around here. No one had any patience for one of the least productive congresses in recent history. But superhero minds differed on what to do about it. I approached a man with a shiny red skirt flapping across his hairy thighs. Ken Roseman(ph) was Supergirl today.
Well then, let's think about it. Could Supergirl change the system?
KEN ROSEMAN: That is a philosophical question.
CHANG: It sure is, but what do you think?
ROSEMAN: Because superheroes could get together and enforce change on their own, but that would be dictatorial. So that's not any better than what we've got. But they could certainly set an example?
CHANG: What kind of example? I consulted Clark Kent, or Thomas Carr(ph).
THOMAS CARR: All superheroes at some point have to sacrifice, and sometimes you have to put the good of all above the good of the one.
CHANG: His wife Carol(ph), the Black Specter, spelled out what that would mean for Congress.
CAROL CARR: Get things passed that's good for our country, not necessarily what's good for them or what's good for a corporation.
CHANG: But some people had counterintuitive advice. Here's what a five-year-old Superman named Trey Gallia(ph) thinks Congress should do.
TREY GALLIA: Fight?
CHANG: Fight? So you think Congress needs to fight more?
CHANG: So maybe what Congress should do is what it already does best. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, The Capitol.
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CORNISH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.