What happens when the most flexible man in the world, Daniel Browning Smith, meets Stan Lee – the most famous comic book creator in the world? It produces superhuman entertainment of course. On History Channel’s new TV show Stan Lee’s Superhumans, a contortionist (Smith) joins forces with a comic book mastermind. The results entertain as a true TV marvel.
Watching ads for this show, I was skeptical, despite loving comic books, and owning several thousand issues. We comic fans greatly admire Stan Lee. He’s been a tireless creator, fan cheerleader and comic book world defender for decades. He’s really one of a kind, but I still had doubts. However, the more I watch his History Channel TV series, the more I see how it connects with him. It’s also one of a kind.
Host Daniel Browing Smith, a contortionist, is billed as the world’s most flexible man. In the opening, he folds himself neatly into a cube about the size of an X-Box. Smith is likable enough. He conducts himself like many a television host, but for him, it’s personal. The show’s mission statement is straight forward. Smith combs the world for superhumans like himself – people who exhibit marvelous abilities – like straight out of Lee’s own pulp tales.
So far we’ve met Electro Man, Rajmohan Nair of India, who’s impervious to electrocution. He hooks himself up to wires – from lamps and household appliances – and basically cooks himself in front of the cameras. Smith comments that he smells burning flesh. Creepy stuff, but nonetheless pretty darned cool. In NYC, Smith meets a genuine Shaolin Monk from China, now residing in America. His name is Shi Yan Ming, and punches fly out so swiftly, it’s like watching a digital creation from a martial arts cartoon like Samurai Jack. When an expert measures Ming’s punch, it’s found he delivers a whopping 772lbs of force. His one-inch punch – a technique pioneered by legendary Bruce Lee – measures more destructive force than a 30mph car crash.
A most exciting aspect is when scientists explain – or try to explain as sometimes even they’re not sure – why these super people do these superhuman things. The process not only engages the audience, but educates us. During a segment on Scott Flansburg, a ‘human calculator’, it was found through an MRI scan, that his brain actually works less hard to solve complex mathematical calculations. Evidently, his brain is so wired, so naturally inclined to do math, that it doesn’t work as hard as the average person’s brain.
Stan Lee’s Superhumans delivers on the promise of the best kind of TV. It takes us to far off places, to meet interesting people with truly impressive abilities. It’s the kind of ‘reality’ that so many run of the mill reality shows should emulate. If so, viewers would be more engaged, educated, and even fascinated, and not bored to tears watching the Kardashians buy more new bling.