Syfy’s Reality TV Series That Was Too FUN to Die: Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” Lives on in the Hearts & Minds of Fans & Competitors

In this promo photo, Stan Lee (center) poses with the contestants from the second season of his "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" competition reality show. (Photo: Syfy)

In this promo photo, Stan Lee (center) poses with the contestants from the second season of his “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” competition-reality show. (Photo: Syfy)

Comics legend, Stan Lee, appears omnipotent and able to “rule the world” in this screenshot from the opening sequence of Syfy’s, Who Wants to be a Superhero? In the show, Lee did indeed make the final contestant elimination decisions, essentially controlling the “destinies” of all on the show.

A Great Idea For a Show
—That Ended Much Too Soon

For superhero aficionados, comic book geeks, and action figure fans, the Syfy Channel’s inspired and family-friendly, competition-reality show, “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” (WWTBASH) was like a little slice of Heaven. Each episode was “entertainment-light,” to be sure, but it could also be an intriguing, emotional, and suspenseful, mini morality play, played out each and every week. Challenging the wannabe “heroes” with a series of contests, the show ultimately attempted to uncover what was (or was NOT) inside of each contestant’s heart and soul (i.e. empathy, selflessness, determination, heroism, etc.). And while fans may not have always agreed with the show’s “elimination” decisions, the audience was all too happy to be along for the ride—on what was proclaimed as—”The Adventure of a Lifetime!”

While even mentioning "merchandising" could get you booted from the show (just ask "Levity," who was axed before even entering the lair). the potential for POST-show products is HUGE. Clearly, each of these ladies from Season 1 would've made GREAT action figures for fans and collectors of superheroes. Unfortunately, Stan Lee and Syfy chose not to pursue such lucrative ideas. (Photo: Syfy)

While even the mention of “merchandising” could get you booted off the show (just ask “Levity,” who was cut BEFORE he entered the lair). the potential for POST-show profits from products based on popular characters was HUGE. Clearly, each of these lady heroines from Season 1 would’ve made GREAT action figures for fans and collectors. (How about a face-off between Monkey Woman and Creature? Mmm) Unfortunately, Stan Lee and Syfy chose not to pursue such lucrative (and lovely) tie-ins. (Photo: Syfy)

Phillip Allen, aka "Mindset," describes his characters acute mental powers of telekinises, and that his armor is "from the future" in an episode of Who Wants to be a Superhero? (Photo: Variety)

Phillip Allen, aka “Mindset,” describes his character’s acute mental powers of telekinesis, and that his armor is “from the future” in an episode of Who Wants to be a Superhero? His unique appearance (bald head, arched eyebrows) and elaborate handmade costume (complete with a working chest-light) made him an early fan-favorite. Sadly, during filming of the show, his original costume was ruined when barrels of corn syrup were poured on it during a showdown with the evil, “Bee-Sting.” It was quickly replaced by the show’s costumers, but (unfortunately) he was eliminated immediately afterwards. His character would’ve made a FAN-tastic 1:6 scale action figure! (Photo: Variety)

An “American Idol” for Fans and Creators of Superheroes

Despite high ratings for the Syfy Channel and repeated pleas from its legions of fans, the show’s creator and Oz-like host, comics legend Stan Lee (now 90), replied that his schedule no longer permitted him to do the show, and that a third season would not be produced (even with a substitute host). In hindsight, his decision appears to have been very short-sighted and ill-advised.

It’s been 6 years since Lee’s brainchild last aired on television. At the time of its cancellation, the show was extremely popular and nowhere near running out of steam. Its format was simple: hold nationwide tryouts for comic book and superhero fans (and cosplayers) who believed they had created the “next great superhero,” bring the Top-10 finalists to Stan’s super-secret superhero “lair” (a warehouse in Los Angeles), put them through a series of creative competitions to test their mental acuity, athletic mettle, and strength of personality (or “grit”) before “eliminating” them one by one, until a final winner was found. Today, it’s still a tried and true formula for programming success (see American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Big Brother, Survivor, etc.). Nevertheless, Lee was adamant about calling it quits, and any plans for future episodes (or merchandising) have clearly been shelved as well.

These prototype comic book covers showed GREAT merchandising potential for both Season 1's "Lemuria" and Season 2's "Basura" characters. Imagine the action figures! (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

These prototype comic book covers showed GREAT merchandising potential for both Season 1’s “Lemuria” and Season 2’s “Basura” characters. Imagine the action figures! (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Clearly the show had the potential to be a "cash cow" for all concerned, and the power to turn "ordinary citizens" into overnight celebrities. Here, 2nd Season finalist, John Stork, aka "Hyper-Strike" (l) and 1st Season winner, Matthew Atherton, aka "Feedback," sign autographs for fans at a comic con held soon after the show went off the air. As the winner, Atherton appeared in a comic book of his own, but unfortunately, other cast members had little to no merchandise they could offer fans. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Clearly the show had the potential to be a real “cash cow” for all concerned, and the power to turn “ordinary citizens” into overnight celebrities. Here, 2nd Season finalist, John Stork, aka “Hyper-Strike” (l) and 1st Season winner, Matthew Atherton, aka “Feedback” (r), sign autographs for rabid fans at a comic con held soon after the show went off the air. As a winner, Atherton appeared in a comic book of his own, but due to short-sightedness by Stan Lee and Syfy, the other cast members had little to no merchandise they could offer to fans. (Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

WWTBASH’s Vast Untapped Merchandising Potential

Such simple and embraceable shows are the stuff TV producer’s dreams are made of, and they are rarely executed as well as Who Wants to Be a Superhero? Over time, the show’s inexpensive, (i.e. profitable) format, could easily have been updated, refined and reworked, keeping it fresh and interesting for years to come (How about an all-girl version? An International version? A teenaged sidekick version? An all-Japanese version?). The possibilities are endless. Sadly, after only two seasons, it was all over. And now, all that remains of the show are a few comic books for sale on ebay and two seasons worth of DVDs available on a “made-to-order” basis over on Amazon. There are no other toys, action figures, or video games based on the show. NOTHING at all for fans, past, present or future to enjoy—or spend their money on. The amount of lost revenue to Stan Lee and Syfy is literally staggering. 6 YEARS worth!

Famed custom action figure company, Herobuilder.com, produced these custom figures based on characters from Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, and offers to create similar "one-of-a-kinds" for collectors, but currently there are no plans to mass-produce such a line. (Photo: Herobuilders.com)

Famed custom action figure company, Herobuilders.com, produced these figures based on characters from the second season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? and offers similar “one-of-a-kinds” to collectors (even the relative heights are correct!). But currently, there are no plans to mass-produce a WWTBASH line of toys. (Photo: Herobuilders.com)

Will The Show Ever Return?

After Lee pulled the plug on Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, a collective groan of disappointment could be heard from fans all around the world. Perhaps if and when the Syfy Channel and Stan Lee realize what a mistake they’ve made, fans will finally see a Season 3. Regardless, the staff here at The Joe Report are all big fans of the show, and we felt this would be a good time to check back in with the 20 wannabe heroes—one at a time—to find out what they’re all up to now.

To begin, we purchased the DVD sets of the show HERE, and watched all of the episodes over again, jotting down questions for each of the contestants as we went. Next, we set our intrepid staff to the difficult task of tracking down all the contestants, and interviewing them one by one. Despite the daunting mission before us, we took inspiration from Season 1’s winner, “Feedback,” whose catch-phrase was: “GAME ON!”

E. Quincy Sloan, aka "Ty'Veculus," was a clear standout in Season 1. His costume, muscular physique and superb backstory (he's a real-life firefighter), made him a HUGE fan favorite and a shoe-in for merchandising. That helmet and leather armor ROCKS! (Photo: Syfy)

E. Quincy Sloan, aka “Ty’Veculus,” was a clear standout in Season 1. His costume, muscular physique and superb backstory (he’s a real-life firefighter), made him a HUGE fan favorite and a shoe-in for merchandising. That helmet and leather armor ROCKED. What a concept! (Photo: Syfy)

Bottom Line: The premature cancellation of Who Wants to be a Superhero? marked a huge missed opportunity for many people, all the way from Stan Lee himself, to everyone at Syfy, to comic book and toy collectors, and countless wannabe superheroes all around the globe. Here at The Joe Report, we’ve adopted a “wait and see” attitude, and our hopes for a return of the show (in any form) remain undiminished. Meanwhile, Interview #1 is now in the can, and as we wait for the boys in the composing room to set the type and prepare the press plates, we thought you’d like to know that our faithful sponsor, Patches of Pride, is currently hosting a Who Wants to Be a Superhero? contest on their Facebook page found HERE. The prize is everybody’s favorite wannabe superhero, Captain Action (seems like an appropriate choice) and the contest is open to the general public. So…Enjoy! (PS: Who will be our first WWTBASH Interviewee? Stay tuned, HE’s coming SOON!)

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9 thoughts on “Syfy’s Reality TV Series That Was Too FUN to Die: Stan Lee’s “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” Lives on in the Hearts & Minds of Fans & Competitors

  1. imatoy1 says:

    This is a pretty genius article, my friends. 🙂 What a missed opportunity indeed. And did you know they did a version on UK TV with kids?? Kinda amazing (and ended up, from what I can tell, being more like what I thought WWTBAS was going to be initially).

    Keep up the good work! 🙂
    tobias

  2. Archive says:

    The hardcore fans of WWTBASH became two groups of fandoms. The first group calls themselves “Tech Support” based on season one’s winner (Feedback) being a technological based superhero. The second came about during the auditions for season two and are called “Skiffytown” (might be a misspelling) due to them posting to the Sci-Fi message boards during and after season two. There is some crossover, and there is zero animosity between the groups as far as I can tell. Both are about positivity and a love of superheroes that has forged friendships that continue even after several years have passed since the original series have been aired.

    There was a recent reunion of some of the series participants earlier this year at the Comikaze Expo, but I have yet to see any footage of the panel held there.

  3. melodymooney says:

    Thanks for this great article. We had a WWTBAS reunion panel at this year’s Comikaze Expo. A convention headed up by Stan Lee in LA. It the first time in a few years we all got together to talk about the show. Stan made an appearance on stage with us too. I would love to see the show return to Syfy and love all the devoted fans.

    Stay Sparkly.
    Hygena / Melody Mooney

  4. It’s a real shame this show ended when it did. It was so refreshing to see a reality show that encouraged its contestants to act in a POSITIVE way. And I was all ready and rearing to go to try out for season 3 after my failed season 2 attempt.

    Ah, but it lives on in the hearts of the fans.

  5. Ben Campbell says:

    Hello, I would like to represent one of the previously named factions that came from the TV show. My name is Ben, or as my fellow Skiffytown League of Heroes know me, Eclipse. Although this show has ended, and I agree there was much love for it at that time, the beliefs and morals that go along with it have held strong. Like I said, we have grown from Skiffytown members on a forum to a group of active members of society. We have sub-groups that are staggered around the United States.

    For example, we have the “Maryland Defenders,” “The Great Lakes Guardians” and “FLASH” (Florida League of Adventures and Super Heroes). We all have our own original heroes using either what we auditioned with in Season 2, or what we have created via that template.

    Charity work is done under the Skiffytown banner, but our major event that most members try to go to is Megacon down in Florida. It is here we work with the convention to have a booth set among the floor where we have kids come in and we assist them in becoming superheroes as well. They get to create a hero by picking a shirt color and placing on it whatever they like. They get to work alongside the Skiffytown heroes who will sit on the floor with them and work one on one. As long as the crowd doesn’t get too big, then perhaps it’s one hero to every 2 or 3 kids. But at the end, the children get to take home their shirt and the other accessories they picked out, either a cape or mask or both.

    What we do is completely free to the people who come out, and most of the money used to buy supplies comes from out of the member’s own pockets. During that weekend, we also run small events such as a duck pond for kids to get small prizes, an old time radio show for the kids (usually something to do with an old fairy tale that has the Skiffytown heroes in it) and recently a scavenger hunt where they must find items to stop a new “Super Villain.”

    With all this being said, although the show has come to a end, the morals of the show and love has not died. We are still out there. (prepare for shameless plug) If the people reading this article still believe in this show and want to be more active with their own heroes, please do not hesitate to find us on FB at https://www.facebook.com/SkiffyTownLeagueOfHeroes

    Also, anyone with interest may message me personally on FB with questions or requests. You can reach me here… https://www.facebook.com/Benjaminscottcampbell

    Thank you for your great article and I hope everyone remembers this show may be gone, but we can carry on in its place. Sincerely, Eclipse / Ben Campbell

  6. Thanks for that trip down Recent Memory Lane. Season 2 was one of the only three reality shows I’ve ever liked, but I missed out on S.1 and didn’t even know it was released on DVD. Time for some Amazon shopping for me, then!

  7. I am so grateful for this article. I loved being on Season 1. The reunion at Comikaze earlier this month was really lovely. Hanging out with everyone was cool. And seeing Stan was well worth it. I really liked create ting my superhero Lemuria. So much so that when I heard that people were still interested. I let my imagination go and came up with something new. I created a new Superhero: Lumin . I wanted to make a girl Superhero Movie so I started a Kickstarter campaign to get the financing to shoot a feature film trailer to shop at the American Film Market next year. Please have a look

    Is you have any questions please contact me at

    Facebook.com/Tonatzin.mondragon

    Thank you

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