Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Legion of Substitute Costumes: Phantom Lad

I'm off of work now, sitting nudely in my condo, with Cootie curled up on my lap, and a two-liter bottle of Sun Beam whiskey in my paw, so I can finally write about what happened yesterday morning.

*drains bottle in one swig*

Okay. So it turns out Frigid Queen was working overtime because she was avoiding going home to Phantom Lad. So of course, Phantom Lad has started hanging out at our office, pretty much all day, every day. What the hell? I know he says he has a job, but... ugh. I'd better start at the beginning.

It's 8:28 AM. Frigid Queen is at her desk, making notes from a reverse visi-phone directory. Nightmare Boy is zonked out at reception, with his long, raven hair tumbling onto the desk in an attractive fan pattern. There's a smug smile on his pallid face. Meanwhile, the com system is buzzing like mad. Then, Phantom Lad breezes in, like he owns the goddamn building. And I swear to the Luck Lords, the fucker looks skinnier and dustier and more washed-out every time I see him. And he smells all tangy and shit, like a mix of cinnamon and body odor, but at the same time he has this attitude that just makes me want to... gah! I'm getting ahead of myself again. You'll see.

So Phantom Lad sweeps past me in that dumb, tattered glow-in-the-dark cape he always wears (with matching boots!) and even though it's never done me a damn bit of good all the other times I've tried, I say "good morning" to him, and he doesn't even look at me. He plops his bony ass down on Frigid Queen's desk with his back to me, and the two of them start arguing about something. The gist of their spat is: he'd said something just hideously insulting to her while they were having sex the previous night, she'd kicked him out of their apartment, and now he was back with some cheap-ass "make-up" gift. (Her first words to him were "What's this crap?" if that gives you any idea.) But I can tell by her tone that they're headed for a messy, desk-clearing makeout session (they've always stopped at "third base"... so far) and so I mosey on over to the only other person in the office just then: Nightmare Boy.

The lazy Lothario's nap has kicked into high gear, and he's smacking his lips and mumbling things like "Oh, yeah, baby... you like that, baby? I think you do...!" And then his body starts making these humping motions, so I slap him upside the head to snap him out of it. With a snort, he jerks awake, yelping an obligatory "TERRIFYING VISIONS OF THE FUTURE!" as he does so. He rubs his eyes. "Man, that one was a doozy," he confides, his crimson eyes huge with feigned innocence. "Bad... stuff, happening... soon. So, what can I do ya for?"

I ask him if he has any messages for me. He just shrugs, and says "How should I know?"

So naturally, Phantom Lad takes this opportunity to rattle his bony frame over to the reception desk as well, and he starts bullshitting with Nightmare Boy about some hot dame Nightmare Boy had picked up that weekend. And he's still ignoring me. But I can't stop looking at him, because he's wearing my clothes! By which, I mean he was wearing pants and a top from my old menswear line, back before it tanked and forced me into a life of space piracy. But of course, he'd somehow managed to screw it up. It's simultaneously bleached all to hell and grimy. I'm pissed. The funny thing is, he still looks better than how he used to dress. Here's a before, from his "Legion of Super Rejects" phase:


Also, and I can't find a picture to back this up, but trust me, I'm pretty sure he wore his hair in one of those high-up samurai ponytails. Heh. But yeah, Phantom Lad kind-of, sort-of tried to do the "Legion of Substitute Heroes" thing, only his group was solely focused on trying to convince the Legion of Super-Heroes to admit them. (Bank being robbed? House on fire? Old Durlan needing help oozing across the street? Well, tough shit, because the Legion of Super Rejects is too busy with their letter-writing campaign.) And the group disbanded after a month, and then I never heard anything else about Phantom Lad, until I met Frigid Queen.

And here he is, now:


Don't ask me what happened to his eyebrows. They probably dried up and blew away. And boy-howdy, is his complexion scary. He looks like he's made out of wax. Which would be cool if was from Plant Lad's planet and not from Bgztl, where they all look like Earthmen. Anyway, Nightmare Boy says something douche-y like "Diggin' the threads! Vintage, am I right?"

And while I'm reeling from the idea that something I designed two years ago could be vintage, Phantom Lad proudly informs Nightmare Boy, "It's an original Blockade Boy." He glances over at me for the first time ever and adds, "Y'know, the Blockade Boy. The cool one."

Meanwhile, I'm still so horrified by the idea of this tool wearing my clothes -- albeit badly -- that all I can say is, "You're not supposed to wear those pants with that top; they match too closely, and it makes the whole ensemble look--"

And he just makes this raspy scoffing noise, without even turning his head.

And I lose it.

I grab his shoulder with one of my furry mitts and I say, "Are you brain-dead, ya dumb bony bastard? I said, you're wearing my clothes wrong!"

He goes intangible and flounces out of my grasp. "I don't talk to rats," he sneers at me. "I step on 'em."

Okay. So now I have this mammoth urge to kick his ass, but at the same time my better nature is telling me:
  1. He weighs about as much as two kindergarteners, so it's not a fair fight (even with his phasing ability).
  2. He's the boyfriend of a coworker.
  3. I really can't afford to lose this job. Yeah, yeah, so I have a big pile of space-cheddah salted away somewhere. It's all tied up right now. In real estate... I don't wanna talk about it.
Instead of whaling on him, I just grit my teeth and demand to know what his snide remark was supposed to mean.

He says, "Everybody knows the only way you even got this job is by squealing on your brother. And whaddaya mean, 'your clothes', anyway?"

Reminding myself I'm masquerading as a fictional twin brother nowadays, I hurriedly grunt, "Phyl stole a lot of my ideas."

Phantom Lad gives Nightmare Boy a look, like "Can you believe this asshole?" and then he says to me, "That's what makes him a legend! He sees something he wants? He takes it! Naturally, he was the best space pirate ever, and when the U.P. tried to reign him in, he told them where they could put it! And he's still out there, doin' his own thing. I heard he's got a raygun-running operation goin' on with the Braalian Underground, and a couple of robo-brothels out by Colu. He's a freakin' counter-culture role model, man! But you? I never even heard of you before! So, what was your biggest accomplishment up 'til now? Finishing space-trucking school on your third try?" (His skinny ghost-hand phases tauntingly through my bushy goatee.)

How I keep from knocking his stupid block off, I'll never know. Instead, I stick to verbal sparring. I give him the withering once-over and say, "And you do... what, exactly? Play in a pod bay band? In between sash-shopping and not exercising?"

For the first time, he acts all defensive. "No! I'm a journalist."

"For what?" I smirk. "The Xanthu Shopper?" (And now Nightmare Boy is watching the two of us with bemused wonderment.)

"Screw that noise! I'm a gonzo journalist, on the political beat! You've probably read my stuff in Mother J'onzz or Rolling Asteroid."

"Ah, so you're one of those dim-bulbs who couldn't make it as a fiction writer, so you spot Marte Allon on a space-platform from twenty meters away and turn it into an 'arty' six-page piece about her doing shrooms on Jupiter." (And yes, I did the air-quotes when I said "arty." I despise myself for it.)

Phantom Lad is sputtering now. His jaundiced cheeks are desperately trying to blush, but all it's doing is making his head look like a dried-up nectarine. And Frigid Queen throws her two credits in with this fascinating comment: "Oh, that's not all he writes about! Tell him, honey!"

And she's laughing, and Nightmare Boy's laughing (although I can tell he doesn't even know what he's laughing about), and Phantom Lad darkly mutters that he has to leave. Frigid Queen still won't tell me what she was alluding to. It's driving me nuts not knowing. Huh. Well, I'll pry it out of her. Eventually. I'm charming that way.

But at least I shouldn't see Phantom Lad around the office again, anytime soon.


But this whole "fake twin" nonsense... it's gonna drive me bonkers! Look at me! I've turned into Mike Murdock, for Pete's sake! After all these years of railing against the stupidities of "secret identity" plotlines, I've stumbled right into one. The talons of Karma have got me by the balls.

...No, wait. That's just Cootie. Skedaddle, girl!


Anonymous said...


The talons of Karma have got me by the balls.

...No, wait. That's just Cootie. Skedaddle, girl!

I about choked on my cola man...

Guess what the next post is my 100th post so I have invited everyone to comment and ask a question or fill in the thing (I stole from Fluke)

Anonymous said...

Oh! I thought you were still the fashion designer, and your "twin" was the pirate. I had no idea that Ethyl made you a milksop detective. I hate them talons of Karma.

And Phantom Lad does look a bit out of it, which I think is mostly responsible for the supposed flaws in the costume. A model more like Rond Vidar could probably pull it off successfully. But hey, maybe he's just dead.

Hm. I wonder if I can train myself to scream, "terrifying visions of the future!" when I wake up.

Nate said...

Dang! I thought I was the only contributor to the Big Monkey podcast dramatic readings. You blew my streak as the only guy submitting stuff for the last few months.

The competition is on BB!

Jeremy Rizza said...

hotstuff: I'm responsible for a lot of near-cola-chokings, it seems. Maybe I should have some kind of warning at the top of my blog, like "Do NOT take with food."

Anonymous: I wish I could have separated my designer and pirate personas, but I'm just too danged famous. Although "milksop" is a little harsh. At worst, I'm just a blue-collar Joe Lunchpail nobody now. No more complimentary deep-fried, gravy-filled bicycle tires at Bismoll MacMattercuddy's for me!

Gyuss: Heh. It was your professional-sounding productions that spurred me to step it up! I hope I've fixed my volume problem with the reading I just posted on this blog. (I guess Ben "Our One Microphone Is Inside My Mouth, Apparently, While The Other Four Panelists Are Seated At The Far End Of The Room" Hatton doesn't know any more about volume control than I used to. The bad people, they taunt the Blockade Boy!)

Johnathan said...

I'm afraid that you're wrong about the samurai haircut, BB. For his first appearance, anyway - I just checked and he had the standard Cosmic Boy 'do.

He did have a terrible costume, though. Plus he was basically the only super-reject (barring the lovely Calorie Queen) who didn't turn evil. I'm guessing that he was rejected from the LSV due to his lameness, frankly. And after they let his stooge Micro Lad in. Oh, the ignominity!

Jeremy Rizza said...

Jonathan: Dang. I searched the 'net high and low, and this was the only picture of Phantom Lad I could locate. And I could have sworn I'd spotted a pic of him on some site or other where he had a ponytail. Oh, well. If you, or anybody else reading this, can point me to some more Phantom Lad pics (ponytail or not) I'd really appreciate it. C'mon, do the fake twin of a fashion-designing former pirate a solid.

Dave said...

Does Cootie do that "skrunching" thing most cats do to soften up cushions or blankets or laps? Having four pair of front paws, I'll bet she can shred most upholstery in seconds!

Johnathan said...

Paul and John Review to the rescue!


We looked at the whole sorry mess a few months back. Plenty of good Phantom Lad-getting-coldcocked in there.

Jeremy Rizza said...

Dave: That's why all my furnishings are roughly hewn from blocks of pure granite. (I bring out some throw-pillows whenever I have guests.)

Jonathan. Thank you! And dang it... no ponytail! Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, because it would have nicely referenced Phantom Girl's stupid dual-ponytail thing.

Anonymous said...

"...read my stuff in Mother J'onzz"< is where the cola came out my nose.

Jeremy Rizza said...

I really need to get to work on that warning label!