Tonight, Matthew Atherton — who grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated from Palmer High — finds out if he will join the immortal ranks of Spider-Man, the X-Men and The Hulk in comic-book lore.
Atherton, aka Feedback, is in the final two of Sci Fi’s reality show “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” In the show, 11 budding superheroes competed in feats of derring-do while Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee judged who was fit to move on and who had to turn in their costumes. Will Feedback’s video-game powers be enough to overcome the insatiable appetite of Fat Momma, the other finalist? We’ll find out at 7 p.m. That’s when Atherton will find out, too, according to his mom, Kathy Paradise. She still lives in Colorado Springs, although she’s been in Los Angeles during the show as the stage manager for a play. “They filmed a variety of endings, so nobody knows what’s happening,” Paradise said. “Only Stan Lee knows what’s going to happen. “I’m nervous as the devil,” she said. Because of the play, Paradise hasn’t been able to watch the show live. Instead, she rushes home every Thursday to see it on a neighbor’s TiVo. Tonight, Atherton and Fat Momma plan to watch the show together at a Hollywood eatery called Big Wang’s Wings (it has a 50-foot TV screen). The contestants “are still close,” Paradise said. “He’s still in touch with every one of them.” The show was filmed over two weeks in May. Atherton was originally an alternate — he quit his job just so he’d be free to do the show if he was called — and told his mom the night before shooting was supposed to begin that if she didn’t hear from him in the morning, it meant he was in. “It was 100 percent commitment,” she said. “He had to make that commitment, so that’s what he did.” Atherton’s dedication has been obvious in the show, although his love for comic books goes back much further. Paradise said she made his first Spider-Man costume for Halloween when Atherton was 5. During college, he’d dress up in costume on his own and visit children’s hospitals, and after college, he worked for a time as one of Marvel Comic’s “official” Spider-Men, appearing in parades and the like. “He used to do 2,000 sit-ups a day — that’s what he told me — to keep his six-pack” for the costume, Paradise said. Even being a superhero in training has been a big task for her son, Paradise said. He’s been returning every e-mail from fans personally and posting on the Sci Fi Channel’s Internet message boards to answer questions. If he’s successful tonight, Paradise said it will be the perfect ending. “It’s truly who he is,” she said. “It’s who he wants to be. I think he would probably use it to benefit others.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0275 or firstname.lastname@example.org TO VIEW “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” 7 p.m. today on Sci Fi.