Askville: Cartoon life

If there’s one day you can be anyone you want to be, it’s Halloween. And perhaps its no surprise that the holiday comes easy in a place like Asheville.

Perseus (left) and Mr. Hero Boy Photo By Jon Elliston

From time to time, the city seems to serve as a kind of simulacrum, in the sense that the cultural-studies crowd uses the term: a representation or re-enactment of a place that never really was. On Halloween most of all, when Asheville is populated by real-life, flesh-and-blood cartoon characters, it’s enough to make you wonder if you’re living in an episode of South Park.

And so it was on Oct. 31, as Asheville did Halloween with a complete cast of costumed revelers. When Xpress happened upon an unlikely pair of them—an unidentified superhero (aka Swannanoa resident Tim Gallaugher) and the legendary Greek hero Perseus (aka Jake Wolf of Asheville)—chatting earnestly about costumes, culture and what’s hiding behind our collective masks, we thought it best to take notes. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

Mountain Xpress: For those who don’t know, who are you?
Perseus: I am the Medusa-slaying god/mercenary for the Greek Empire. That’s about the size of it.

And you, in the superhero outfit?
Superhero: That’s a good question, because sometimes I don’t even feel like a superhero; sometimes I feel like the everyman that’s deep inside of all of us. We all want to be a hero and are waiting for that opportunity.

Well, by the looks of it, it’s not just deep inside of you—it’s all over you, in purple spandex and orange fur.
Perseus: But he makes a good point: Deep inside every man is a longing to be a superhero—or a Perseus.

We know the epic tale, but what’s it like when it comes to the daily grind for a guy like Perseus?
Perseus: I usually wake up around 9, 9:30, have a bowl of shredded wheat, feed the cat. Then I check my e-mail, you know, to see who’s on the roster for slaughter today. Some days are good—some days I get a Medusa or a two-headed dog of war. Some days it’s like, “Go take out my husband; he’s cheating on me”—that kind of thing.

Sounds very taxing. What about you, Mr. anonymous superhero?
Superhero: Well, my name’s actually Mr. Hero Boy, so I’d appreciate it if you’d address me that way from here on out. And it’s a really good day for Mr. Hero Boy. Let me reiterate my cause: I’m here for the everyman who feels a need. Because everyone wants to be a superhero and thinks it’d be really cool to be one, but they think they couldn’t really do it. So my goal is really to lower the standards a little—to let everyone know they can be a superhero, that they just have to step forward and believe they are one.
Perseus: You’re kind of like the Dr. Phil of superheroes. Or the John Tesh.
Superhero: I like people to feel like they have a purpose—and I hate crime.

OK, enough about you and your outfits. Let’s talk about the cartoonization of Asheville—on Halloween or any other day. Are you for or against it?
Perseus: I think it’s a really good thing, because Asheville’s sort of a sanitarium for wannabe cartoon characters.
Superhero: But you know, when it comes to cartoon characters, you’ve got to look at them really close to sort out the good ones from the bad ones.

 

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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