HERO OR HOODLUM?

The North Las Vegas superhero is faster than a speeding soccer ball, more powerful than a healthy snack and able to inspire kids to get in shape with a single toss of one of his magical energy spheres.

But to Richard Cherchio, fresh from an unsuccessful bid for a City Council seat, the spiky-haired cartoon is no Superman. In fact, he might be downright devious.

“To me, it looks like he’s running from the police after graffiti-ing someone’s backyard,” Cherchio said of MaXaction, a masked cartoon figure the city’s Parks and Recreation Department plans to use to promote active lifestyles among kids. “It makes it look like it’s OK to be flipping people off, answering back and throwing stuff out of the window just to be obnoxious.”

Cherchio objects to MaXaction’s disheveled hair, mask and the “nasty look on his face.” He’s also not terribly happy about the cartoon boy’s “purse.”

“I guess I’d feel better if he didn’t have a purse,” Cherchio said. “I’d really feel better if he didn’t have a mask on.”

But North Las Vegas Recreation Manager Jim Stritchko said it’s hoped MaXaction — so named because “‘X’ words seem to be catchy with some of the kids” — will inspire youngsters to get involved with city sports and recreation programs and educate them about wellness and health.

“With the kids having a lot of TV and video games, we want to get them a little more active,” he said.

Stritchko said the city logo-emblazoned bag MaXaction carries is full of magical energy spheres that can be used for “a multitude of different things” such as creating an impromptu soccer field.

“Kids are walking around looking for a place to play soccer, and — boom! — he throws out a soccer field,” he said.

North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon said he thinks MaXaction is a wonderful idea, but the cartoon presented in preliminary drawings could use a little refinement.

“We’ll definitely eliminate the one with the scowl on his face,” the mayor said. “We had some where he (MaXaction) was a little too muscular, some where he was a little too anorexic. We’ll probably come in between those two.”

The City Council held a special meeting last week to discuss the MaXaction images. The meeting got a little silly, Montandon said. He and Cherchio said Councilman William Robinson was the first to refer to MaXaction’s “purse.”

A city staffer objected to calling the bag a purse.

“It’s officially a satchel,” Montandon said. “One of the (city) staffers said it’s a man-bag.”

Montandon, who is a father of five, said kids need something that inspires their imagination.

“They love it when their imaginations go wild,” he said, adding that MaXaction’s Japanese-style animation “is very popular among kids right now.”

Montandon also had no problem with MaXaction’s spiky do.

“I think spiky hair is kinda cool,” he said. “It looks like my son when he wakes up.”

Bob Borgersen, a North Las Vegas community activist and frequent speaker at public meetings, said he hopes a MaXaction compromise can be reached.

“In a lot of people’s minds, that (MaXaction’s current look) may be a punk rock thing,” he said. “A lot of people aren’t terribly thrilled with that. Why not just use something that everyone thinks is good and not have the controversy?”

Stritchko said the superhero idea came from a city recreational staffer. The city paid an artist a couple hundred dollars for the preliminary drawings, he said. The city plans to gather more public input on the cartoon at next month’s Tastes and Tunes festival, then pay the artist a negotiated fee to complete final versions.

MaXaction will be used on brochures and T-shirts, and his image will be wrapped around a city “Rec N Roll” van that travels to low-income areas to provide recreational activities to kids.

“We are serious about this,” Stritchko said. “We think it’s going to send a positive message to kids out there.”

Cherchio, who this month lost his bid to unseat North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Shari Buck, said he didn’t know how MaXaction would inspire kids to be more active.

“I don’t understand the connection between that figure and family values and exercise and parks and recreation,” he said. “Maybe if they had a figure that was a little toned down, with their parents next to them, something that connects doing things with a family. It looks like Mad Max instead of MaXaction.”

Cherchio, a 60-year-old retired letter carrier, admitted his distaste for MaXaction may be a generational thing.

“There may be a generational gap over here between myself and the young kids, but the fact is he (MaXaction) looks pretty scary,” he said.

Stritchko said MaXaction’s spiky hair is a sign of the times.

“Generations change,” he said. “We’ve got to keep current with that. As recreation professionals, we try to get kids interested in things they want to be interested in.”

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