June 6, 2011
The world was shaken today by the tragic passing of Alex Thomas. The news is still breaking, and at first there was some uncertainty over whether or not the rumors were true, but it has now been confirmed that Alex Thomas was found dead in his home this morning. Police have not yet released details of the death, but foul play is believed to be involved.
For someone so important to the world to die so young is a monumental loss. The Standard has changed so many lives and helped so many people, it already feels like there is a void, an emptiness where he used to be. Who can hope to fill it?
Of course, more news will be shared as it becomes available, but for now we all need to just try and process this unbelievable tragedy. I’m still in shock myself. If any of you wish to share your thoughts at this dark and difficult time, feel free to do so in the comments section. This blog was made to celebrate the history and legacy of The Standard. I had no idea I would be documenting that history’s darkest hour.
April 4, 2011
April 1, 2011
I’m sure it will come as little surprise to inform you that, in the wake of The Standard’s public unmasking (as documented yesterday), Alex Thomas found himself the owner of the most famous face in the world. Up until this point, he had successfully maintained an alter ego, much like Gilbert Graham before him. He’d gone through high school and college, and worked part time at a grocery store. He had a normal life to balance with his life as The Standard, to keep him grounded. But in one moment, that normality was gone, and Alex had committed himself to being seen – at all times and forever – as The Standard.
First came a vast string of newspaper and magazine interviews and talk show appearances. Here, Alex played coy with his early life, but talked a lot about his time as Fabu-Lad and what becoming The Standard meant to him. What was immediately clear was that he would be a very different Standard to Gilbert Graham. Of course, the concept of a publicly-known identity wasn’t new for superheroes. But it was new for The Standard, and being that he was the first, whatever path The Standard takes has always seemed to dictate the dominant trend of superheroes as a whole. Here, we were seeing the transformation of The Standard from masked crime-fighter to celebrity, and the effect this had on superheroes as a whole will be discussed in more depth in the weeks to come.
The Standard was soon asked to lend his likeness to a multitude of advertisements, and a whole new wave of Standard-mania was underway. Suddenly, it seemed Alex Thomas’s grinning face was everywhere you looked: in the newspaper, on the TV, on giant billboards all over every city. Sponsorship deals were worked out with various companies – most prominently, in an ironic turn, international technology conglomerate Zarthos Industries – and their logos soon adorned The Standard’s costume, turning him into a moving, flying advertisement himself. With the backing of Zena Zarthos’s powerhouse legal team, Alex also got a hefty cut of profits on all officially licensed Standard merchandise: T-shirts, action figures, calendars, and other assorted memorabilia. Before long, Alex found himself a very rich man, and this was just the beginning.
This continued on for a few years, with The Standard balancing his crime-fighting duties with public appearances and new advertising and merchandising deals. But the true seismic shift came at the turn of the 21st century, with the launch of The Standard on the Hawks Network. The Standard, along with the likes of Survivor and Big Brother, marked the dawn of the boom in reality television as the new network ratings giant. The hour-long weekly show features a camera crew following The Standard around as he fights crime and does his hero duties. Due to their aforementioned decline, supervillains showing up to do battle with The Standard was a comparatively rare occurrence, and in notable occasions where they did – such as the season-long Season 3 storyline where Alex engaged in a romantic relationship with hairdresser Stacey Farrell, only for her to be exposed as man-killing villainess the Penis Flytrap – it was at one point rumored that the villains were paid for their participation by the network. More recent seasons have increasingly drifted away from crime-fighting altogether, focusing more on The Standard’s personal life and charity work.
This was a massive hit for many years and, now in its 12th season, remains popular to this day. But a few years later The Standard spearheaded another reality TV concept that could stand as his biggest money-maker yet. Hero Watch plays like an American Idol or America’s Next Top Model for superheroes, with thousands of hopefuls being whittled down to a selection of 12 finalists, personally mentored by The Standard, with the public voting each week to narrow the group down until just one remains. That winner gets to join The Standard’s superhero team The Trailblazers, with luxury accommodation and a base of operation in the famous Treehouse of Heroes. As far as I can tell, none of the competition winners seem to engage in any major crime-fighting, and winning seems to just pave the way for merchandising and sponsorship deals, public appearances, and a spot in The Trailblazers, who have their own high-profile reality TV show.
With the Hero Watch brand being shopped out and adapted to countries all over the world, as well as the American original being a huge international hit, The Standard is now often dubbed “The Simon Cowell of superheroes”. He is the face at the centre of a media empire, with two massively successful television brands under his belt. He’s gone from a millionaire to a billionaire, but interestingly, while he does own a country mansion, he spends most of his time in his apartment in the heart of Sky City. “The city’s in my blood now,” he explained when once asked about this in an interview, “I just can’t sleep anywhere else.”
Alex Thomas is now the most famous man on the planet. And his fame seems set to continue to grow. His recently released autobiography, My Life in Tights, is an international number-one bestseller, and is said to be the basis for the upcoming film biopic about The Standard’s life, with Alex Thomas playing himself in the movie.
So, life has been good to Alex Thomas, and he is enjoying success. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit sad. With all these business ventures and projects in the entertainment industry – and admittedly numerous charity endeavours, which is highly commendable – it seems like these days The Standard doesn’t have much time to actually fight crime and save lives anymore. Today, The Standard still inspires people, but does he do so the way Gilbert Graham originally intended?
March 31, 2011
Within a month of Gilbert Graham’s farewell at the unveiling of his statue, Alex Thomas made a decision that would forever change not only his and Gilbert’s life, but the very meaning of The Standard. A public press conference was called and, with the whole world watching, The Standard took off his mask, and announced to the world that he was Alex Thomas.
As you can imagine, this was one of the biggest news stories in history. Here is one small example of the media hysteria generated, from the front page of the Sky City Gazette:
March 25, 2011
This should be a shorter piece today, a little epilogue to what we’ve been talking about over the course of this week. We’re approaching 40 years since the Vietnam War ended, but now America is once more at war, this time in Iraq and Afghanistan. A different time, a different war, and as it turns out, a different Standard. How does this Standard’s response compare to Gilbert Graham’s all those decades ago?
Like Gilbert Graham, Alex Thomas has taken no direct involvement in the War on Terror. But unlike Gilbert, this decision has been faced with little controversy. What has changed? Vietnam changed a lot of things, not least how the US Army and its foreign campaigns are perceived by the American public. As mentioned before, Gilbert Graham was vindicated for his decision to keep The Standard separate from the conflict, and so now more people can appreciate the thinking behind today’s Standard taking the same stance. This is a deeply unpopular war, and many would say they don’t even want the soldiers over there, never mind additional superheroes.
But there could be another factor at play, in the differing response. Back in the 1960s, The Standard was revered. He almost instantly became an icon, ingrained into the very fabric of American culture. He was one of its leading citizens, operating on a level distinct from any public servant or politician. As such, his stance for or against a war carried weight, it meant something. But now? The Standard remains popular, certainly, with Alex Thomas just as beloved as Gilbert Graham, if not more so. But it is different. His actions would be more likely to be compared with those of a famous actor or musician, with us not expecting him to actively engage in events on the world stage anymore than we would expect Lady Gaga or Tom Cruise to go to war.
We look at our superheroes differently now. Getting to why that is the case will be a long process, but it begins with Alex Thomas. So starting from next week, we’ll be taking a look at his path to replacing Gilbert Graham as The Standard, beginning with the story of Fabu-Lad.