Friday, November 30, 2007

All Bending Low with Folded Wings

I gotta be honest, here: I did not want to work with Gadfly Lad on this undercover "Mall Santa" deal. Why? 'Cause the dude's annoying, plain-and-simple. Besides his raging hard-on for rules and regulations, he's an eavesdropper, which bugs the shit out of me. I'll be telling Frigid Queen some anecdote from my kick-ass life (only slightly altered, to omit all references to space piracy) and then Gadfly Lad -- who is across the room --will holler corrections at me about the coordinates of some planetoid, or about how long it takes to travel from Braal to Throon, or some other piddling nonsense that has nothing to do with the point I'm even trying to make! I'd jack his shit up, but I don't want to lose my job. Also, he's like five-foot-one, tops. And how would that look?

So. The assignment. Gadfly Lad and I are practically living at the damn Mall of Lallor, working in overlapping 36-hour shifts. That means that both of us are there every day while it's open, and then we alternate evenings, patroling it while it's closed. It takes me about an hour-and-a-half to get into my Santa costume. (The majority of that time is consumed by beard grooming.) Then I help Gadfly Lad get into his costume. It's an interesting look for him, I have to admit. The costume itself might even be sexy, if it weren't being worn by a wiry li'l bugger with grotesquely-oversized hands and feet. Plus, he has a pretty big noggin.


That's a Lallorian's idea of a Christmas elf, for you: raven wings and lederhosen (in this case, a modified version of Gadfly Lad's flying harness) worn without a shirt; a beaky mask straight out of a Venetian carnival; leather gloves and boots. All in black. It seems like the good people of Lallor have confused Santa with Odin, and Santa's elves with Odin's ravens... and ravens with people who go to raves. Do you like the hair? That was my idea. I thought it would look better with the outfit if it was all spiked up. Gadfly Lad didn't want to do it. I tried to reason with him, and when that didn't work, I thought I had just better show him how he'd look. But when I tried to touch his hair, he freaked out on me. So then, of course, I had to put him in a headlock to keep him from fidgeting. And then he shrunk down and tried to fly away. I finally managed to trap him in an old mayonnaise jar, and I jabbed at the goopy, product-drowned mess on his head with a toothbrush, until his coif had achieved the effect I wanted. Once Gadfly Lad calmed down and saw himself in a mirror, he understood how right I was! So now, he'll just stand in front of me, all serious-like, while I do his hair for him. It reminds me of how Mom would tie my ties for me. Until I was three, and I learned how to do it myself. And then I discovered ascots... er, but I digress.

Gadfly Lad's official character name is "Munin", after the mythological raven, whose name means "memory." But I like to call him "Brainfart." Just to piss him off.

And oh, how the little fucker deserves it! Just yesterday, I was holding court as Santa, just "chilling" (as the young Tharrians like to say) in my sweet Santa throne, which is located about three stories up in the highest part of the mall, so I can see everybody. Have I mentioned, the throne is accessible only by a narrow flight of steps, sans a railing? (And before you ask, movie buffs, there's no slide, either. Know-it-alls.) Anyway, I noticed that the crowd looked a little more disorganized than usual. Then I spotted Gadfly Lad, stomping purposefully around, and looking very important. He was talking into his visi-phone, like bodyguards and bouncers usually do. So I wondered what was up, and I made whichever douche-nozzle who was sitting on my lap and crying into my beard at the time get the hell off me for a minute. I figured something big must've been going down. I called mall security on my own visi-phone, to see why Gadfly Lad was calling them. Turned out, he wasn't. A few more quick calls told me he wasn't calling the agency, or the local emergency dispatch. I got pissed.

"SILENCE!" I bellowed. "SANTA DEMANDS SILENCE!" I rapped my barbed candy hook weapon on the platform several times, for emphasis. The throng gasped, and dutifully parted for me as I descended the long staircase and headed for Gadfly Lad. As I approached him, I could hear Gadfly Lad's congested haute-contre voice: "Jena... Jena, baby... I do say 'I'm sorry.' I do! I've apologized to you a total of thirty-two times over the course of our relationship! Thirty-four-and-a-half, if you count the times you've interrupted me before I could finish... Well, that's because you're wrong... No! Jena... honey, listen...!"

He was so wrapped up in his call, he didn't even notice me... until I snatched the visi-phone out of his hand. I leaned in, and snarled in his ear, "Conference. Throne. NOW." Drawing back, I motioned broadly toward the throne, and with a jovial, booming voice, I roared, "COME, BRAINFART! SANTA CLAUS HAS NEED OF YOUR WISE COUNSEL!" Gadfly Lad shrunk himself down to bird-size and perched on my shoulder. I gently booted my last client off the platform and into the crowd below (they caught 'im; he's fine) so I could rip Gadfly Lad a new one in private.

And he apologized! Then I felt like a jackass, so I apologized for snapping at him, while still explaining about the need to keep one's job and one's love life private. (I learned that one the hard way!) I firmly-yet-politely told him that the little stunt he had just pulled could never happen again. He seemed to take me seriously. But a couple of hours later, I caught him doing it again. I finally decided to confiscate his visi-phone until the end of the day. He objected, rattling off some spiel about how the agency's contract with the mall specifically stated that I was his "associate" and not his "superior."

"STILL THY TONGUE, THRALL!" I thundered back at him. As a symbolic gesture, I deposited the visi-phone inside my codpiece. (It was a snug fit.) When I gave it back to him, he complained that it smelled funny. Maybe I should have rinsed it off, or dusted it with Gold Boy Medicated Powder, or something.

I don't know what Gadfly Lad's deal is. Maybe his problem is that he's just young, is all. He's nineteen, but emotionally, he's more like fourteen. I get the feeling he hasn't had much interaction with other people, outside of visi-phones and omnicoms. He might not be such a bad little dude. At any rate, I'm stuck with him for the foreseeable future. So I guess I'll find out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Duo Dumbass


The pudgy, baby-headed loser up there is the Split-Man: a recurring hero in the DC stable.

No, seriously.

Explorer/helicopter pilot Cliff Battles first used an ancient artifact called "Zantac's Golden Belt" to twin himself, way back in "Strange Adventures" #166. I don't know if I would have worn it. With my body type, it would make me resemble a humongous "D" battery. Besides, I've already "twinned" myself, by creating this preposterous Mike Murdock-styled identity of mine.

In "Strange Adventures" #203, the Split-Man fights "El Grando", an offensively-drawn "bandido" who sports a "legendary headband" that grants him fantastic powers. It's the Battle of the Accessories! (Note to editor: have a nice, long talk with your artist about what a "headband" looks like.) I'll delve further into the story next week, interspersed with more commentary on that Detective Comics tale.

Now, as holiday time draws near, might I suggest the perfect gift for the li'l future mafia thug (or terrorist) on your shopping list:


I haven't visited your era for a while, so refresh my memory: do M-16 rifles make fart noises?


That's a fantastic selling point! For the kids. For the parents? Not so much.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beloved Local Stripper-Gram Service Falls On Hard Times


Excerpted from the article in "Invisible, Inc.: The Business Journal of the Gotham Underworld", Vol. 29, Issue 7 (July 1978):
...sliced from the man's groin, and turned into a coin purse.

Marconi's remaining employees have fled for greener pastures. With the current vogue for sexy henchmen, many of them now work for high-profile entrepreneurs, including Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nigma, and Selina Kyle. The rest have assumed new identities, in hopes of escaping the Caraldo Family's wrath. (See sidebar for an identity conversion chart -- including the names of their spouses, children, and pets -- and a complete list of their new addresses.) Marconi's Old-Fashioned Stripper-Grams is now a one-man operation.

"Time ta go ta woik," sighs Marconi. With trademark Marconi shamelessness, the 72-year-old yanks his polyester trousers and adult diaper off, right in front of me. He does this in a single movement. Despite his palsied hands and arthritic arms, the movement is flowing, explosive, with the grace of a toreador. He fetches a black-sequined ensemble (with matching diaper) from the wall. On a rack, next to his famous mink, is a rain slicker. He pulls the modest coat over his bent, spangled frame, camouflaging his showy ensemble. He ducks into his prop room, and emerges with a large, flat box, made of cardboard. He offers the box to me. With a wink, he asks, "Who ordered da pizza?"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007



I can't wait to see Tub's face when Mister Angst explains how he can pay him back for the ice cream. (The Esquire Magazine mascot is out cruising! I'll be damned!)

But honestly... "Ivan Angst"?! Who came up with that ham-fisted moniker? Steve Ditko? ...Naw, with Ditko it would've been something even more goofy and even less probable, like "Iv Nast" or "Vag Naiv". (For some reason, the typical Ditko character's name always seems more appropriate for a pixie, a caveman, or a Martian.)

Live, From Lincoln Center, an All-Star Tribute to "the Tub's" Calculator


If I didn't know better, I'd almost think he did that on purpose.

Check out the shoes! That heel! That buckle! ...In between panels, the balding hipster douchebag who grabbed Tub's calculator must have handed it to a metrosexual Pilgrim/Luddite. With height issues.


It was awfully nice of the Thirty-Something Gang to spread themselves out behind Tub, so widely and evenly. (Although, they could have used two more members, for Stripey Tank Top Guy's side.) This panel would have made a good George Perez cover. Crisis on Infinite Calculators!

...Aw, jeebus. This is going to turn into a musical number, isn't it? Before we know it, the gang is going to start swaying back-and-forth, and slowly raise their arms in the air, as Tub hoarsely brays an elegiac "power ballad" to his busted toy. And more and more background characters are going to join in, with people doing somersaults, and flipping themselves off of lamp posts, and doing the Charleston atop moving cars... and then the Gotham P.D. swoops in with their helicopters, thinking it's a riot, and tear-gasses the whole lot of 'em.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Telling You Why

I woke up Friday morning -- alone, consarn it! -- to find a white patch in my beard, just on the upper part of my chin. I wasn't all that surprised. It happens to a lot of Amadan men, when they hit their mid-twenties. No big deal.

I didn't think it went that well with the "Boy" part of my codename, though. I decided to call in sick, and see if I could "fix" it. Normally, I'd get a professional, to-the-DNA-strand dye-job from Color Kid. However. His services cost a fortune, nowadays. He's hit the big time! As for me, I have only the smallest crumble of space-cheddah to my name. So I had to spring for a box of "Just For Male Humanoids" facial hair dye, down at Lallorgreens. Guess what? It didn't work. On the contrary, upon contact with my beard, the dye itself blanched a pure white. In fact -- if the Lallorgreens clerk who keeps angrily visi-phoning me is to be believed -- the boxes of dye on either side of the one I purchased were remotely affected, somehow, and rendered every hair on their purchasers' bodies permanently, indelibly, snowy-white! My manliness, it is metaphysical!

I realized that until I afford to see Color Kid, I'd just have to tough it out. Begrudgingly, I phoned the detective agency, and reported a miraculous recovery. On the way to work, I picked up two entire racks of barbecued kanga-bronc ribs for lunch. Seeing my beard, the dude at the drive-up window offered me the "senior discount". Bastard. Not that I was too proud to accept it, mind you. The restaurant even gave me a complimentary wheelbarrow, filled with sauce, to carry the ribs in.

When I got to the office, Nightmare Boy blinked wonderingly at me. He took a break from reapplying his mascara, to make a wiping motion in front of his chin. With a smirk, he informed me that I had "a little something, right there."

I flicked a dollop of barbecue sauce into his perfect hair. "So do you," I replied.

The only other person I saw in the office right then was Gadfly Lad, who noted that I looked "twenty-two years and eight months older." I sat down at my desk, fired up my computer, and started in on my ribs. A minute later, Gadfly Lad peered over my shoulder (as is his wont -- he has a thing about not talking to people face-to-face) and pestered me with questions about the white patch. "Did you have a scary dream?" he asked. "Did somebody throw bleach on you? Is it a virus? Will I catch it? Have you tried Just For Humanoid Males dye yet? Because I read some studies that say it may be toxic..." Etc, etc.

I raised a sauce-covered paw and growled, "So help me, I will stick this hand where the dainty little sun of Imsk don't shine if you don't get out of my face." He retreated.

The door to Eyeful Ethel's office slid open. The Boss Lady Herself peered out into the "bullpen." "Blockade Boy!" she cried. "There you are! Listen, I have a new assignment for--!" Her eyebrows shot up as she took stock of the white in my beard. Her lips parted in a huge smile. "Oh, that's perfect! Come in, come in...!" She gestured anxiously for me to join her.

Plopping down on her comfiest couch -- with my legs splayed wide apart, natch -- I wiped the sauce from my lips with the back of a hairy hand. "'Sup?" I queried.

"I just got a call from the owners of the planet's largest shopping complex, the Mall of Lallor. They have a huge shoplifting problem."

"Huh. No offense, Ethel, but it sounds like a pretty run-of-the-space-mill problem. Do they really need to call a detective agency of our magnitude for something so minor?"

"Give me a chance to explain, wiseapple. When I say 'shoplifting,' I mean that entire stores are disappearing, floors and windows and inertron siding and all. So far, they've managed to hush this up, by replacing the empty spaces with tents, and erecting "Under Construction" and "Pardon Our Mess while We Remodel to Bring You a More Exciting Shopping Experience" signs. Eventually, of course, folks are going to catch on."

I was suitably impressed -- actually, I was stunned, to be honest -- but I managed to restrain my reaction to a murmured "Ah!" and a curt nod.

"The owners suspect that the theft is an inside job," said Ethel. "That's why they want a detective working undercover there, as an employee. Since it's the Solstice Season, you could take a job as their mall Santa Claus, and nobody would suspect a thing! Now, I don't know if you're familiar with the concept of Santa Claus. It's an old Earth custom that the Lallorians have adopted."

"Sure!" I said. "I know all about Santa. In fact, I wore a Santa Claus-inspired costume for a while when I was stranded in the 21st century."

"Good. So you know that a mall Santa wears a red, fur-trimmed..."


"Well, a cloak, anyway. With no shirt. So everybody can see your abs and your massive guns? Remember? And then there's the silver codpiece and the matching belt with the polar bear on it, and the bear-themed boots? With the spurs?"

"Er. Yeah. Of course. And a big, floppy hat with a pom-pom."

"No...! It's just a holly crown! And you'll make your entrance every morning in a chariot, pulled by dark beasts -- y'know, those huge, wingless, bat-like creatures -- while you brandish Santa's traditional weapon, the barbed candy hook."

"Holy cats! Won't that scare the kids?"

"What kids?"

"The ones who line up, to sit on my lap."

"Ew, no! Santa Claus is strictly Adults-Only! No children allowed! I mean, it wouldn't do to have children sitting on your lap and telling you all of their darkest, filthiest secrets, and then asking you to punish them accordingly! I mean, that'd just be grotesque."


"Exactly. I mean, really, Blockade Boy, I thought you said you knew all about Santa Claus!"

"...I was just trying to impress you."

"Aw! That's cute. So, what do you think about the assignment?"

I pretended to mull it over. Finally, I said, "Well, I think I can throw myself on that grenade...!"

"Terrific. The role usually goes to an older man, with some white in his beard. I was afraid we'd have to resort to bleaching to get you to look right, but look at you! You're way ahead of me! It's just that Santa beards are usually longer and fuller than that. I know that Amadan beards grow pretty quickly. Do you think you can grow it out another decimeter or so by, say, next week?"

"I suppose," I said, coolly. "Or, I could do it right now! BEHOLD!" I tensed up my entire body, and closed my eyes in concentration. With a grunt, my beard flowed down to the middle of my chest. I opened my eyes and grinned up at Ethel, whose mouth was agape.

"How did--?!"

It's a trick most Amadan guys have to learn," I explained. "The older we get, the faster our beards grow. A few years ago, I could grow a nice, full beard in a few days. The hair on my upper lip grew even faster than that. Nowadays, the whole shebang grows out at four times that rate. An Amadan man's only options at this age are to stop shaving altogether and let it grow out to its terminal length -- which is usually past his feet -- or to master the ancient art of Suspended Follicular Animation. Some planets have holy men who can slow down their heart rates by an incredible amount. Amadans like myself can do the same thing with their beard growth. That way, I can wear my beard in all sorts of styles without having to constantly trim it back. I'd been holding this beard in for a couple of weeks."

"It's amazing!" Ethel gasped. "With the squinting and grunting and everything, it's like you pooped it out of your face!"

"Hey! You don't have to put it like that."

"Sorry. You're the only Amadan I know. I guess I should be more sensitive to your culture."

"It's okay. Just think for a second before you say something about my facial hair... er, boss."

"Certainly. Oh, and you'll need an 'elf' to keep the crowd in line. So you'll be working alongside Gadfly Lad."

"Who?! Wait a minute--!" But she was already shoving me out the door.

"Too late!" she laughed. "You already agreed. Get back to work, 'Santa', while I make the rest of the arrangements."

Back at my desk, I wound up brooding so intently on our conversation that I dribbled about a liter of barbecue sauce all over my huge beard. The white hairs had a Teflon-like quality that made the sauce bead up and roll right off of them, but the brown hairs were a sticky mess. I set about dabbing up the sauce with the puny, one-ply napkin the barbecue joint had provided me.

Storm Boy strolled in, late again, and glowing with what I took to be the satisfaction of another round of lovemaking with his never-seen, so-called "boyfriend", Ox. His entire body looked to be coated in shellac, he was so shiny. His teeth were not merely white; they appeared to have been lit from within. He was drenched in cologne -- the vapors made the air around him shimmer, like a mirage. He made a beeline for my desk. I presume he wanted to brag. He stopped short when he saw me with my sauce-covered beard. His smile vanished.

"I hope you gave 'Ox' my regards," I offered.

He stared at me in mute disgust. Then, with a bitter edge in his sing-song voice, he said, "I swear, Blockade Boy, sometimes you can be perfectly appalling." He spun around on the heels of his shiny new boots.

As he walked away, I called after him, "Don't pretend you don't want some of this!" He stumbled, as though he'd been hit with a phaser rifle. Then he shook his head, and continued on his way.

Gosh, I hope he realizes I was referring to the barbecue sauce.

And here I am, now:



(And don't worry, I'll get around to showing you Gadfly Lad's get-up sometime this week.)