A Brief Tale Of Superheroism

 

People have peculiar ideas about the challenges of robbing a bank as a superhero.

It’s not that they dispute one’s ability to go through fiduciary security precautions like a particularly overheated sword through an exceptionally soft lump of butter. We may not have superpowers such as those featured in the popular media, but speed, strength, specialized gear, and an audience of people who’ve seen us punching out small armies of the opposition will generally lead to an extraordinary level of peaceful cooperation from bank staff, security guards, police, and the collateral-damage-in-waiting which is your typical semi-innocent bystander.

No, the difficulty is in not being labeled a supervillian, which would not only increase your likelihood of dining repeatedly on knuckle sandwiches, but also interfere with the larger plan, and that would be vexxing.

But, fortunately, people are easily trained to fear impossibilities as likelihoods, so long as the circumstances in question are horrible and bode ill for all civilized life. It is a matter of but a few adventures to convince people that if you’re purloining the safe deposit boxes of some podunk place of commerce, you’ve been hypnotized, or it’s a robot dummy, or you have some critical motive which will prove, in the fullness of time, to have been deeply necessary and utterly justified.

Sure, any qualified hypnotist will tell you that one can’t be induced to do something so deeply against one’s ingrained values; we obviously do not have robots which can duplicate superheroes, because if we did, our enemies would deploy them, in massive armies, y against us; and those who think you must have some necessary-but-invisible-reason are most likely simply addicted to a lifelong struggle against Occam’s Razor.

Speaking of:

If ghosts were both real, and capable of troubling someone who lives in a mansion covered in so many wards and magical sigils that at least one of them is probably effective, the ghost of Jack Kirby would haunt me so damn hard it isn’t even mildly humorous. Nevertheless, comic books are fiction, but anyone who reads between the lines will note, as is fashionable in modern circles, that one seldom sees the existence of supervillains in any world unless there are superheroes to oppose them.

One might theorize that the appearance of supervillains is so traumatic that it spurs something in the psyche of latent heroes to turn themselves to the masked, weirdling, offbeat, inventive, and peculiarly specialized task of defeating the sort of villain who thinks you’re not really committing a crime unless you leave an appropriate set of riddles, clues, wacky calling cards, and other strangeness.

One might, if one were anything other than a manipulative bastard with a lot of dough and a love of tights.

I don’t really need to rob banks anymore; at first, I wanted to make sure I didn’t erode too much of my trust fund in my weird desire to try to help the world; I may be generous, but I’m not entirely sure that the hypothetical-but-unproven good of the many outweighs my personal need to have Beluga caviar and Gosset champagne on the daily.

But now I run a very profitable, if very, very underground string of Superhero/Supervillain supply stores and training academies. The Heroes think they’re keeping an eye on the Villain cadets, and the Villains think they’re putting one over on the heroes; and they’re both idiots, if you ask me; but you oughtn’t ask me; I think everyone’s an idiot.

But I don’t really see any need to duke it out with the Villains these days; eventually, one of ’em might get lucky, and feeding the engines of Antichance is not my prime motive here. So I rob the bank; I cash-infuse whichever of my supposedly-secret-and-not-connected chain of Hero/Villain preperatory facilities is running behind, and then I go to the media and explain why this was all necessary as part of some convoluted plot to Save The Human Race, or whatever it is we feel like saving right now.

And still, none of them have figured it out. Or if they have, they’re keeping shtum; because they know a good thing when they see it.

Nobody needs superheroes.

Nobody needs supervillains.

But…

As has been noted (but, weirdly, only in fiction)–once you have yourself caped crusadin’ idjits running around, foiling simple robberies and beating up people who pretend they’re in the Mob

(the real Mafia has run the stock market since 1981, and gives not a hang nor a whit of sympathy for the idea of shaking down shopkeepers for petty change; but it hasn’t stopped people from claiming that they’re connected to powerful New Jersey mob figures, most of whom are more mythical than I am, and that’s saying a lot, since I’ve faked my own death eleven times)–

once you have weird, OCD, aneurotypical, steroidal Heroes with their unbearable picadillos and their weird little allergies to bits of space rock or assorted colors, you can be sure that Villains will follow. And that’s what’s great here.

Because, sure, comic book Villains are often megalomaniacs, are often determined to take over everything, with couple of extra Moons on the side.

But it’s expensive and difficult, and it just doesn’t leave you much time for the banality which marks the worst of our crime. Crime of passion? Ordinary person gets angry in love, commits an atrocity, nobody wins. Crime of pure greed? There goes the pension fund. Crime relating to the general bans on various dangerous weapons, technologies, pharmaceuticals? That’s human misery right there.

And it’s damned hard to do any of that when you’re busy washing your cape, making sure you have a clean mask, saving up for a getaway rocket, trying to drill into the molten core of the Earth.

Yes. I invented Superheroes so that they’d breed Supervillains so we’d have an outlet into which to channel our ugliest and most everyday criminal thoughts, forcing us to perform for the cameras like superhumans, making ordinary crime seem terribly clumsy and uninteresting in comparison.

The crime rate is up 15,000%, and the actual harm done by that crime is down by something like 86% and dropping.

It’s ridiculous; but who ever said that the game of Heroes and Villains was anything but?

Now please hand over everything in the vault; I need to have some gold-embossed riddles for The Perplexer to drop off at Wombatman’s secret lair by tomorrow, and I really need time to get the kerning right.

Thanks for your cooperation, citizen.

Jeff Mach Written by:

Jeff Mach is an author, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. You can always pick up his bestselling first novel, "There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN"—or, indeed, his increasingly large selection of other peculiar books. If you'd like to talk more to Jeff, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, stop by @darklordjournal on Twitter, or The Dark Lord Journal on Facebook.

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