Tina Turner was right when she wailed that we don't need another hero back in 85. The big-screen Rambos and idiot-box A-Teams of the time showed you don't need to be bulletproof, just armed with a lot of bullets, to save the day.
Here in the heavily spandexed and pleathered present, the need for heroes, on the small screen at least, is still pretty suspect. The sour taste left by shows like Misfits Of Science and Birds Of Prey requires kryptonite-powered mouthwash to eliminate.
But there is an appetite for programs that incorporate a comic-book sensibility into their storylines. Both The X Files and Lost are steeped in the four-colour tradition of plunking ordinary folk into extraordinary situations, and vice versa, with cliffhanger results.
Smallville, about the adventures of a pre-cape-and-tights Clark Kent, continues to chug along - not quite faster than a locomotive - in its sixth season. And the Aquaman series pilot, beached before it ever aired, is one of the most downloaded TV episodes on the Internet.
Still, nobody was giving Heroes much of a chance when it first took flight last fall. Now it's the top-rated new show of the year, and it's upping the ante in the second half of season one by adding a few new mutants to its super-powered lineup.
First to be introduced is former Dr. Who Christopher Eccleston, who joins the cast as an invisible man named Claude (named after Claude Rains, star of 1933's The Invisible Man). Claude, it turns out, is part of a previous generation of heroes who also banded together to right wrongs.
The move is intended to deepen the show's mythology, just as Lost tried to do with the discovery of the Tailies in season two. It's too soon to tell if the new characters and storylines will fit into the unfolding drama or sap its energy.
And where does this energy come from? A green lantern? A radioactive spider bite? With roughly 14 million viewers a week, Heroes is attracting more than just comic book fans (of which I am one) to its sci-fi- and conspiracy-tinged super-epic.
But how did this X-Men Lite series about a United Colors of Benetton-like cast of superpowered strangers escape the axe and propel itself beyond Buffy-level cult status to become required viewing?
Yes, it taps into the standard teen fantasy about power, which every adolescent yearns for in some form. Yet it also plays more subtly with that other adolescent fantasy, the one that involves oddball outsiders and über-babes.
The show has made a cult celebrity of Masi Oka, a computer nerd and sometime actor who was digitizing lightsabres for George Lucas when he was cast as Heroes' time-tripping salaryman, Hiro.
Similarly, it's turned near-child-star Hayden Panettiere, who plays Claire, an invincible Texas cheerleader inexplicably in need of saving, into a tweener trendsetter with a pop album in the works.
Hiro's mantra, "Save the cheerleader, save the world," became the show's as well, and is perhaps the most popular TV slogan since "The truth is out there."
Oka looks like an anime kd lang, while Panettiere looks like anime My Super Sweet 16-style jailbait.
While there's been no romance between the show's Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (Hiro and Claire have so far been kept time zones apart), the archetypes these two characters represent (and in many ways subvert) form the core of this mutant Breakfast Club.
And that's something from 1985 that we do need, super-powers or not.
What to watch this week
Thursday, January 25
KELLY OSBOURNE: TURNING JAPANESE (REALITY) While Jack does jackass stunts on his reality series, sis goes geisha in the Land of the Rising Sun. 9 pm on MuchMusic
Tuesday, January 30
DAILY PLANET (SCIENE MAGAZINE) Shilling his latest movie, Billy Bob Thornton talks outer space with the Discovery sci guys. Seriously. 7 pm on Discovery