Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.
It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.
But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR had to ask: Did the caped figures have any advice for Congress?
Sometimes a superhero is what you need when you're talking about a place with so much fighting and gridlock, where special interests try to win at the expense of the common good.
Gleaming in the sunlight stood a tall, brawny figure with long golden hair. And lots of pads for muscles. Here's what Mighty Thor, the god of thunder, had to say to Congress: "Get your act together or we're going to send the Hulk to smash."
Thor — aka Greg Elrod of Gaithersberg, Md. — noted that this was one of the least productive Congresses in history.
"Loki gets more done asleep than Congress does," Elrod added, referring to Thor's adoptive brother and archnemesis.
Elrod's comments echoed much of the sentiment around the National Mall Friday: Congress needs to start getting things done. But superhero minds differed on what to do about it.
Ken Roseman was dressed in a shiny red skirt. For the day, he was Supergirl. He pondered whether life would be different if the Capitol were filled with 535 superheroes instead of lawmakers.
"Superheroes can get together and enforce change on their own, but that would be dictatorial, so that's not any better than what we've got," Roseman decided. "But they could certainly set an example."
What kind of example? Clark Kent (Thomas Carr) had the answer.
"All superheroes at some point have to sacrifice. And sometimes you have to put the good of all above the good of the one," he said.
His wife, Carol, who was dressed as the Black Spectre, spelled out what that would mean for Congress.
"Get things passed that's good for our country — not necessarily what's good for them or what's good for a corporation," she said.
But some people had counterintuitive advice.
When posed with the question of what Congress should do a little more of, a 5-year-old Superman named Trey Galia paused for a second.
"Fight," he said.
So maybe what Congress should do is what it already does best.