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Overheard on my local newscast: "I don't think Superman is going to want his name on this ride any longer." Oops, he did it again.

That comment was in reference to a malfunction on the brand new roller coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. An unlucky dozen riders were left stranded high on a twisted track for an hour this weekend. As you should be able to guess by now, the coaster in question is a Superman-themed coaster, the ironically-named Superman: Ultimate Flight.

Clearly, the newsreader was not a visitor. As my well-informed readers already know, you should never, ever get on a Superman-themed thrill ride in a Six Flags park. At least this time, Superman didn't maim or kill anyone. You should count yourself lucky if you're mistreated by Superman and all you get is a little dehydrated.

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Those of you with long memories (and iron stomachs) will recall that back on June 22, 2007, I blogged about a 13 year-old girl who was made a paraplegic on a Superman ride at a Six Flags amusement park in Kentucky. Now a different Superman ride in New York has stepped up to finish the job.

One week ago today, a paraplegic Army Sergeant was thrown from the Ride of Steel roller coaster in Darian Lake Theme Park in New York state. The soldier, who had lost his legs in an explosion in the ongoing Iraq War, was thrown from the coaster when the lap bar restraint -- designed to fit securely over his non-existent thighs -- surprisingly failed to restrain him. When Iraqi insurgents are unable to kill someone, it sounds like a job for Superman!

According to published reports, the soldier's sister told reporters, "that minute he was on that ride, he probably felt the happiest and most normal he's felt in three-and-a-half years...." Of course, in the seconds afterwards, when he was thrown from the ride onto the track and struck by a steel coaster moving 50 MPH, he probably wished he was back in Iraq. With all due apologies to his family, it must have been a real roller coaster of emotion.

It will come as no surprise that in 1999 when the coaster was built, Darian Lake was a Six Flags park and the Ride of Steel was originally named Superman: The Ride of Steel. The park was sold in 2006, but that only proves that you can take the park away from Six Flags, but you can't take the Six Flags out of the park.

This isn't the first time that a Superman Ride of Steel coaster has killed. There were three such coasters built for Six Flags parks in 1999/2000, one in New York, one in Massachusetts, and one in Maryland. The Ride of Steel in Massachusetts killed a man in 2004. The Ride of Steel in Maryland hasn't killed anyone. Yet. Don't let your guard down, Maryland: Superman coasters are killers, and disaster can strike faster than a speeding bullet.

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In a rather unexpected footnote to my blog entry earlier this month on June 11, it was reported late yesterday that a 13 year-old girl had her legs severed on the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom.

No, wait, don't bother scrolling down. See, here, I'll me quote myself:

"You can forget about those Superman rides in Six Flags parks across America. Six Flags is the worst theme park chain by far, and their run-down, cramped attractions that like Kryptonite sap the life from the Man of Steel can hardly be called Super-parks."

Now Six Flags has cost some poor girl her legs, and she'll never walk again. And unlike that Adventures of Superman episode "Around the World with Superman," I don't think Superman is going to be able to repair the situation by carrying the crippled girl around the world.

(Yes, I am taking the opportunity of some girl's debilitating accident to say, "I told you so." That's just how I roll.)

I tell you, by not building one great super-park, we're just dooming more children to wheelchair-bound lives. Do you really want that on your conscience, amusement park builders of America? Remember, if you don't build it, you're letting the terrorists win.

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Wait just a darn minute. How come Harry Potter gets 20-acres of theme park before Superman? Just because Potter has sold more than 325 million books in his short, six-book publishing career, making J.K. Rowling reportedly the first author-turned-billionaire, he gets the run of a Florida theme park? Why, if Superman and Action Comics are conservatively estimated to have sold a mere 40,000 copies per issue (which is not bad for a modern comic, but laughable compared to the titanic numbers of even 10 years ago), Superman has moved almost 25% of Harry's haul with two comic book titles alone. Where's his theme park?

Now THAT's a theme park!

You can forget about those Superman rides in Six Flags parks across America. Six Flags is the worst theme park chain by far, and their run-down, cramped attractions that like Kryptonite sap the life from the Man of Steel can hardly be called Super-parks.

Roller Coaster Database tells me that there are 12 active Superman themed coasters worldwide. Think about how awesome it would be to ride a dozen Superman themed rides through a single park divided into areas representing Krypton, Smallville, Metropolis, and the Fortress of Solitude. Coasters simulating flight, cyclotrons demonstrating Superman's ability to drill through solid rock, shooting ranges with heat vision, and, of course, a few carnival games testing your strength, speed, reflexes, and mental dexterity, among other comparisons to Superman's many, many powers. I can hear the barkers now: "How many people can you hear yelling for help?" "See a man blow on this cup of water until it turns to ice!" "I challenge you to hold your breath during a brief trip around the moon!" "Guess the number of people trapped inside the burning building!" Why, even the metal detectors checking guests for weapons as they come in the door could be turned into a comical demonstration of Superman's X-Ray Vision!

I understand that Metropolis, Illinois, has pursued a Superman themed attraction for years, but I'm sure it would end up more like South of the Border than Cedar Point. (No offense to South of the Border, but it's not really all that Super, unless third-world truck stops are your thing.)

Oh well. I guess I'll just have to keep wearing my Superman underoos while leaping off my roof. At least the admission price is right.

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To be continued...


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