Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Down the Drain

Down the Drain
Mark A Davis

"I don't care, Jay," said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  He was pacing back and forth in the Anarchy cave and talking into a cellphone.  "I know you're low on recruits at the moment, but  there must be someone you can send over.  I'm working an important case and I need a sidekick."

Grandpa was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.   In the background on a giant computer screen, the Anarchy Computer A.I. known as Annie Two -- who appeared as a young 19th-century librarian with wire-rim glasses and her hair tightly wound in a bun -- watched placidly.   The air was musty and cool.  In the far end of the cavernous warehouse, strange objects covered in cloth were gathering dust.

"Look, Jay," said Grandpa, "I've worked with Whole Grain Kid.  You remember him, don't you?  I worked with Boy Waitress, f'gosh sakes!  That was just a boy in a waitress uniform, remember?  Oh yeah, that's right -- he is our secretary now.

"I worked with the Erlenmeyer Flash, and she was a speedster in a costume that she could barely walk in.  I'm certain you remember that, and let's not forget Low Blood Sugar Boy, or his replacement, Lifesaver Louie -- with the suit that doubles as a flotation device.  Oh, and then there was Maple Bar Boy -- a kid dressed up like a giant donut.

"I could go on, you know.  The point, Jay, is that my standards are about as low as they can get.  Anyone you send over will be fine, but I need someone.  Got it?  I'll take anyone.  Anyone."

Grandpa put the phone away.  "I don't know why he's so reluctant," he complained.  "This is the guy who sent over Frayed Knot and Dyslexic Girl!"

"Having perused a list of names of those sidekicks currently available at Temporary Superfriends," said Annie Two, "I can verify that none of them sound in the least bit promising..."

"Low Blood Sugar Boy!" Grandpa repeated.  "I worked with Low Blood Sugar Boy!"

An hour later the doorbell rang.  Grandpa Anarchy stepped into the entryway and opened the door.  On the porch was a young lad dressed in what could charitably be described as ceramic armor -- not, mind you, form-fitted armor made out of ceramic alloys, but what looked like  the parts of a toilet, adapted as best the boy could manage to be worn in place of actual armor.   The toilet tank was the chest piece, and parts of several toilet bowls formed the lower half of the costume.  Round sections of carefully cut ceramic armor were strapped to his arms and legs.  The toilet seat itself was around his neck, and rolls of toilet paper were strapped to his belt on each side.  He wielded a toilet brush and plunger.  On his chest was a large image of a happy turd emoticon.

"Greetings, Grandpa Anarchy!" the boy exclaimed.  "My name is Toilet Humor Boy!"  This was followed by a loud farting noise.

"Yeeeaaaah," Grandpa said slowly, "I don't think so," and slammed the door.


Monday, May 22, 2017

By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name
Mark A Davis

"Now, let's get one thing straight," said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  "I am not a Fascist!"  His fist slammed into the face of a jack-booted thug in a black military uniform.  "I fight Fascists, so that much should be blindingly obvious."

Grandpa wore his usual rumpled gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver thread over the left breast.  Today he also wore black leather gloves, a gray fedora, and a black diamond mask.  His sidekick was a young dark-skinned girl with black hair in cornrow braids, who dressed in a scooped-neck leotard with a mirrored surface, knee-high boots with the same polished surface, and wraparound mirror shades.  She went by the name of the Glass Cannon.

The air was chill.  Marching music with Fascist slogans echoed throughout the massive cavern.  The actual words were nearly unintelligible, but there was no mistaking the Nazi  flags hung from the ceiling, nor the rows of tanks and military vehicles lined up on the cavern floor, ready to roll out.

"Grandpa, every hero is a Fascist by definition," the Glass Cannon said.  She blasted a gun-wielding Nazi with a force bolt; the man screamed and tumbled from the steel railing to the floor  thirty feet below.  "We all believe in Might Equals Right."

"No I don't!" Grandpa insisted, as his  fist slammed into another Nazi.

"Grandpa, when anyone disagrees with you, you punch them in the face."

Blood spewed from the nose of the soldier in front of them as Grandpa's fist rebounded from it.  Grandpa and his sidekick charged down steel stairs.  On the next landing Grandpa plowed into a soldier with a gun, knocking him over the rail.

"Not everyone," Grandpa said.  "I haven't punched my neighbor Ninugtus the Unspeakable yet, and he's been really annoying.  Mind you, I've wanted to punch him in the face -- his Glugian Slime Worm pets keep oozing under the fence and leaving mucus all over my lawn...."

"But you know that Ninugtus is an alien bent on world conquest," said the sidekick patiently.  "And when he finally makes his move...?"

"I'll punch him in the face!" Grandpa exclaimed.

By now the two were only ten feet above the cavern floor.  The Glass Cannon unleashed a barrage of force bolts, knocking down a dozen soldiers below them.  Both she and Grandpa leaped from the steel stairs just before a missile from a rocket launcher obliterated it.

"There.  See?" she said, as they landed before a group of twenty armed soldiers.  "That's how you solve all your problems!"  She fired several force bolts, knocking down six soldiers.  Grandpa charged the rest.

"You're overgeneralizing," Grandpa said, swinging and punching.  "If I tried to solve all my problems with Mayor Doomhollow by punching him in the face, I'd spend most of my time in jail.  You've got to pick and choose your battles."

"The point," said the sidekick, "is that superhero stories are by definition tales of meta-humans -- members of a super race, in other words -- who exert their power to win battles because they can.  And another thing -- they're almost always straight white males -- all things I'm not!"

"You're not straight?" Grandpa asked, one eyebrow raised.  He grabbed a soldier and swung him into two of his companions like a battering ram.  "But you went on a Valentine's date with Electrofrog!"

"I'm bi, okay?"  the young woman said.  She fired a half-dozen force bolts into a line of soldiers.  "I like both guys and girls, but that's totally not the point.  What I'm saying is,  the only thing that separates you from a Nazi is the uniform."

"Hey, I've fought Nazis all my life, thank you very much!" Grandpa growled.  He lowered his shoulder, grasping and flipping a charging Nazi over and onto his back.  "I think I know a Nazi when I see one!"  He stared at the soldier on the ground.  "For one, they wear black or gray military uniforms with lots of silver skulls...."  His voice trailed off.  The Glass Cannon raised an eyebrow, and Grandpa frowned deeply.  "You're trying to  trick me with words into saying things, but  the plain truth is that I'm good and Nazi's are bad, and that's just the way it is!"  He punched the  soldier in the face, knocking him out cold.

"Look," said Grandpa, "I know where you're going with this.  It's been a running theme in the superhero world for forever, so I've dealt with the issue time and time again.  The important thing to remember is that I'm fighting for the side of good!  I only fight criminals and villains and people that get in my way.  Also, there's that whole thing about great power and great responsibility -- all that crap's important.

"Being a hero means more than defeating the bad guy," said Grandpa as he plowed through a half-dozen more soldiers.  "It means handling power responsibly.  It means working to ensure the freedom of others.  It means that while I work with the government on occasion, it's on my terms.  I'm not simply the superpowered enforcement wing of any governmental power or agency.  When I defeat a villain, I don't take their power for myself.  I let the wheels of justice step in and handle things from that point, and I return to my life as an ordinary citizen.  That's why I'm not a Fascist."

Grandpa Anarchy slammed the heads of two soldiers together.  Bullets whizzed past his ears.  He spun one unconscious soldier about and used the body as a shield as he charged three more.  "Let me add one more thing," he exclaimed. "Many heroes wear masks precisely because they don't want to take credit for their victories.  Everyone knows who I am, but consider Guy Shadow:  he's just a guy in a mask, cape and fancy hat.  He could be anyone -- and that's the whole point.  He's not seeking power or glory, he just wants to make the world safe for normal folks."

"Sure," said the Glass Cannon.  "And because of that he's handed nearly unlimited freedom to act outside the law in whatever manner he deems necessary, do whatever he feels is required to capture the criminal and solve the crime.  Our society hands absolute power to anyone wearing a costume.  But if he were to decide tomorrow that he's not actually an incorruptible paragon of virtue and justice, who's he accountable to?  No one.

"In other words, the only thing that keeps us all from a superpowered Fascist dictatorship is that the straight white men with all the power just happen to be super nice.  So we all have nothing to fear."  She rolled her eyes.

"You know," said Grandpa, "those force blasts of yours sure look like they hurt a lot more than one of my punches."

"Yes?" she replied.  "I didn't say I was against the use of power on bad guys -- only that it's a concept that lends itself to Fascism, and that's exacerbated by the kind of heroes we put on a pedestal."

They were quickly running out of Nazis to punch.  But in the distance, at the back of the cavern, the head villain and her toughest henchman waited on a raised dais.

"Okay," said Grandpa.  "But look -- we're up against Nazi Sorceress Fraulein Hatra and her Hatra Organization.  They are trying to bomb the Pentagon and the White House, with an extended goal of the conquest of all of North America.  There's no negotiating with these extremists, so how do you suggest I stop them?"


Grandpa carefully cleaned under his fingernails with a small pen knife.  Nearby, a stunningly beautiful woman with a cruel face was being blasted across the room by a force bolt.  She wore a form-fitting suit of scaled armor which looked remarkably like snake skin.  Over this was a short skirt, a cropped coat, and thigh-high leather boots, all designed to suggest a Nazi SS uniform while hiding as little of her curves as possible.

The Nazi Sorceress staggered to her feet, but before she could so much as think to cast a spell, another force bolt struck her in the stomach, knocking her back fifteen feet.

"Grandpa Anarchy!"  the sorceress exclaimed, "I surrender already!  Reign in your sidekick!  She is out of control!

"Well, of course I'd love to help you out, Fraulein Hatra," Grandpa said, inspecting his nails carefully.  "But I'm afraid that would perpetuate the myth of -- what was it again?  Oh, right -- the myth of supremacy of the straight white male.  So I'm going to sit this one out and let the Glass Cannon handle it.  Turns out she's part Roma, so when it comes to Nazis she's kind of a hothead, but don't worry, I'm gonna step in and show that I can solve problems without resorting to violence...."

"When I'm good and ready," the Glass Cannon exclaimed.

"Right," said Grandpa.  "When she's good and ready!"


Monday, May 15, 2017


Mark A Davis

A sleek, futuristic jet dropped out of an overcast sky and hovered over a scene of devastation.  Several city blocks of Tokyo had been leveled.  Buildings lay in rubble -- and in the center of it all lay the corpse of a giant two-headed lizard with blue scales.

The jet was painted blue and black.  On the underside of each wedge-shaped wing was a logo in yellow and blue -- A large, stylized AE in a triangle of white ringed with black, recognized worldwide as the symbol of the world's most powerful super group -- the Archons of Excellence.

The jet settled on an open patch of roadway.  Five famous figures emerged.  There was Popeye Khan, the leader of the group, who most often dressed like a Las Vegas Elvis.  There was the Bronze Beach Bum, who looked like a living, breathing statue of a California surfer dude.   There was Dread to Rights, a powerfully-muscled Rastafarian mystic with long dreadlocks.  There was Old Boy's Club -- the buxom alien woman known as Atlacoya, who dressed like a Betty Page-era pinup girl and wielded a massive crystal club that pulsed green and white.  Last was Sun Wukong the Monkey King -- a muscular man with the fur and face of a monkey.  He was dressed in loose silks of blue and gold, and balanced his famous staff Ruyi Jingu Bang on his shoulder.

Popeye Khan took in the entire scene -- streets littered with rubble, dead lizard monster more massive than the largest whale, emergency crews tending to the wounded and policemen directing traffic and taking statements from witnesses.  Red and blue lights flashed everywhere.  The air was filled with the scent of putrid, salty fish.

Despite the scene of carnage, people paused to stare at the heroes -- in particular Sun Wukong, who was a legend throughout Asia.

Popeye Khan approached a police officer.  "Son," he said, "I'm a bit corn-fused.  We were told a massive kaiju was attacking Tokyo, but when we get here, it's already dead.  What gives?"

It took a few minutes for Sun Wukong to translate -- his Japanese was rusty -- but then he turned to Popeye and the other Archons.  "They say the New League of Two-Fisted Justice took care of it -- team one, with Dark Dr. Dark, Daisy Warrior Princess, Geothermal Jenny and Girlbot 9000.  They left in their Justice Saucer One just a minute before we arrived."  He paused and added, "They -- uh -- asked if we could help with the cleanup...."

Popeye Khan's wrist watch flashed.  He glanced at it.  "Tell them we'd love to help, but we've got a madman threatening San Francisco, so we gotta run...."  He turned and raced for the jet while Sun Wukong quickly relayed the message.


The Archon's jet flew in over San Francisco bay.  Up ahead they saw a silver saucer hovering over Alcatraz.  The remains of some sort of 19th-century armored zeppelin were on the parade grounds at the NE end of the island.  There was a line of shadowy black creatures, who appeared to be made of soot.  They had their hands in the air, and were guarded by two small figures with odd weapons.

"Again, mon?" asked Dread to Rights.

"TANJ!" the Bronze Beach Bum exclaimed.  "That's zaradann!"

Popeye tuned in to a local radio station.  As they listened to a news report of a very recent battle over the bay, the jet's video screen  flickered, and an image of Popeye's old friend Grandpa Anarchy appeared.  "Popeye Khan!  How're you doing?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Hey, if you're here to do battle with Baron Climate Change, we've already taken him down.  But you can stay and help us clean up...."

Popeye Khan frowned.  "Thanks for the offer, friend, but if we're not needed here, I'm sure there's somewhere else that needs our help.  What was the Baron up to, anyway?  Trying to drill a hole into the earth again?"

"That's right," Grandpa said.  "He tries that about twice a year.  Don't know if he really knows what he's doing, but we always stop him just to be sure.  Can't have madmen drilling holes into the San Francisco bay!"

The screen flashed.  Popeye pulled up another window.  "Well, my friend, we gotta jet," he said.  "Got ourselves a situation in...."  He paused, then added, "Well, you just never mind where.  We'll take care of this one, thanks."

"As you wish," said Grandpa.   The screen winked out.

"Setting a course for the Timbuktu, Mali, on the southern edge of the Sahara..." Popeye Khan began, when Sun Wukong interrupted him.

"I advise you to belay that order, Captain," the Monkey King said.  Popeye's eyebrow raised.  Sun Wukong added, "The New League of Two-Fisted Justice team one is on the scene and dealing with the terrorists...."

In  the background, the news reporter said, "And speaking of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, in this weekend's box office, the New League of Two-Fisted Justice movie has smashed all previous records -- a far cry from last fall's rather disappointing would-be blockbuster Dawn of the Archons...."

Popeye Khan drummed his fingers on the arm of his seat.

Boys," he said, "it's starting to feel like we're not actually the best and most powerful supergroup on the planet -- and that just ain't possible!"

"The New League of Two-Fisted Justice have some very smart and very powerful members these days," said Sun Wukong.  "Circuit Girl and Geothermal Jenny are two of the brightest engineering minds in the world.  Those saucers of theirs are twice as fast as our jet.   They can be anywhere in the world in just a few hours, and with two divisions they can take on two threats simultaneously.   They aren't the old, dowdy, stuck-in-the-mud supergroup of the past.  Plus that new A.I. computer system of theirs that was designed by F8Wasp and Grandpa's Annie Two almost allows them to anticipate crimes before they happen."

"Yeah," said Popeye Khan.  "Two teams -- we can't compete with that.  Faster vehicles -- well, we've got just about the best money can buy.  What we don't have is a Circuit Girl or a Geothermal Jenny, so that's beyond us too.  But the biggest problem here is that computer A.I. -- that gives them a decisive edge over us that we can't counter.  We need a system like that.

"And I know just where to get it."


"One billion dollars."

Popeye Khan and Sun Wukong stared across the table at a young girl in a sleek form-fitted suit of black and silver.  She had long black hair and wore a mask.  Beside her was an older woman in a dark purple dress whom Popeye had never met, but he gathered she was the reincarnation of Miss Bloodraven, a companion that Kid Anarchy had worked with in the early 1920's, long before Popeye was even born.

They were in a narrow, dimly lit tavern.  Behind an old wooden bar were rows of liquor bottles and a tall woman with long, blonde braids and an eyepatch.  The far wall of the room was dominated by a dimensional gateway -- a giant circle of carved metal, with strange symbols around the perimeter and a center that was a deep blue liquid surface, like a wishing well on its side.

Nearby on a stool sat a very old friend -- a man with long, gray hair and a rugged, stubble-covered face, who wore a purple beret, purple cape, red scarf and yellow johdphurs with black leather boots.  A black silk shirt like that of a pirate and a leather belt with two pistols and a sword slung from it completed the look.  This was John Haggard, known as Happy Jack or Hacker Jack. and this was his bar The Drunken Well II in the interdimensional city of Intersect.

"What?" Popeye exclaimed.  "One billion... for a computer system developed by a girl who ain't even twenty yet, and shouldn't even be allowed in a bar like this?  Girl you must be out of your mind if you think we're gonna pay that kind of money!"

F8Wasp shrugged.  "Then find someone else," she said.  "End of story."

"Now, hold on a cotton pickin' minute," Popeye exclaimed.  "We tracked you down all the way from earth to Intersect...."

"Exactly," said F8Wasp.  "Nobody else can give you what you want.  Can they?  Maybe you could work with Annie Two herself, like the League and at least one other unnamed supergroup have done...."

"Not a chance," said Popeye.  "We want our own system, independent of that Anarchy-centric computer.  More than that -- I want something better than what Grandpa and his New League have.  I want the next generation computer A.I.  We're the Archons after all."

"Right," said F8Wasp.  "You're the foremost supergroup in the world, and the most powerful, although perhaps still only the second-most marketable after the New League, and only the second-richest after the Black Moon Maidens...."

"We are richer and more marketable than both of them!" insisted Popeye Khan.  "We're the Archons -- we're the best there is.  Okay, maybe the movie wasn't so hot...."

"That movie was a disaster," said F8Wasp.

"Well, I didn't think it was that bad..." said Popeye.  He glanced at Sun Wukong, who shook his head.  "Anyway, that aside -- we don't play second fiddle to no one."

"Indeed," said F8Wasp, "and I don't want to go back to earth, so:  One.  Billion.  Dollars.  Take it or leave it.  I know you can afford it...."


Popeye Khan glowered at the cards on the table.  He downed the rest of his drink.  "How did it come to this, Monkey King?" he asked.  "We're the alpha males of the superhero world.  Used to be famous for it.  Now we're being bossed around by a slip of a girl who ain't even twenty yet...."

Popeye, Sun Wukong, the Bronze Beach Bum and Dread to Rights were playing poker at a table in their Archons of Excellence base.  Nearby, F8Wasp and two technicians from her father's computer company was installing their new system.

"She's a very smart girl, though," said Sun Wukong.  "Take it from someone who's lived thousands of years -- you have to move with the times."

"Don't be biting stars all cycle, Black Hole," said the Bronze Beach Bum.  "Once Alice is purring, everything be derisann and dossy, grok what I'm blastin'?"

Popeye frowned.  He'd never learned the space surfer slang that the Bronze Beach Bum spoke.  "Alice... purring?" he asked.

"The insumatt A.I., my Hoopy Frood!" exclaimed the Bronze Beach Bum.

"That reminds me," said Popeye.  He stood and yelled across the room, "Remember!  I want an A.I. that's both smart and sexy!  For one billion dollars, I want the smartest, sexiest A.I. on the planet!"

"Don't worry," F8Wasp replied, "I got it covered.  I know just what the Archons of Misogyny want:  the brains of Albert Einstein with the body of Marilyn Monroe."

"Dang straight!" Popeye exclaimed.  After a moment he added, "And she better talk Marilyn, not Albert!  You hear me?"


Monday, May 8, 2017


Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, strode into the office building.  He wore his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol over the left breast.  He rode the elevator to the top floor.  A large painting hung on the wall of the short hallway leading to the rooftop.  Grandpa paused to study it, as he always did.  it depicted a muscular man in a spandex outfit of orange and black with yellow trim, holding up a section of a crumbling bridge as a train sailed over it.  On his chest was a stylized symbol, difficult to make out, depicting a mountain goat.

"Who's that?"  Grandpa glanced down and saw a young boy wearing a wooly, full-body outfit of an off-white color.  He looked like some sort of Doctor Moreau human-sheep hybrid.

"Oh, hello there, Kid Lllama," said Grandpa.  "This is the Great Northern Man in action.  Most people don't remember him, but he was a hero who kept the railroads safe in the forties and early fifties.  I worked with him once, real swell guy.  When he retired, he simply went by Mr. Grumble, the son of a railroad executive who made his own fortune in business.  He built this place, the Justice Tower, in 1957.  To most it's just a thirty-story Manhatten office building, but to some it's the site of the Memorial to Fallen Superheroes.

"I come here a few times a year," Grandpa added.  "Lots of heroes do.  But in particular I come here on the anniversary of the death of the Gentleman Brawler, my mentor.  I do a vigil, once a year, in honor of him.  You know what a vigil is, don't you?"

"When you stay up all night keeping watch?" the boy asked.

"That's it exactly," Grandpa said.

Grandpa walked through glass doors at the end of the hallway and out into a cool even breeze.  The sun was setting in the west, turning the sky brilliant shades of red and orange.  The distant drone of traffic and of honking horns drifted up from far below.  Here were marble statues of angels, set at four corners of a stone gazebo or perhaps an open mausoleum.  The place was filled with the scent of smoke.  A fire burned in a central pit, with a hole in the ceiling above it.  Curved stone benches encircled the flame.  Grandpa took a seat.  He set a small basket and a Stanley thermos beside him.

"Did you want to hold vigil with me?" asked Grandpa.

"Yes, please," said Kid Llama, who'd followed him to the memorial.  "We get to sit down?"

"Well," said Grandpa, "what else are you going to do?  You could maybe stand up and hold a torch or something, but it's a long night and that gets tiring fast."  He  retrieved a box from his breast pocket.  "Look, I brought some cards!"  He pulled them out and began to shuffle.

"You play cards?  On a vigil?" asked the boy.

"Sure," Grandpa replied.  "The point is, we're here.  All night.  That's the vigil part.  You can maybe pray or meditate on the life of a hero if you want, but I'm gonna play some cards."

The boy sat down.  He stared past the flames in the center and exclaimed, "Oh!  Someone's already here!"

Grandpa's eyes widened.  Seated across from them was a woman in a short dress of lavender.  She wore sandals held on by thin straps that wound from ankle to knee.  She had long red-gold hair, and some unusual markings on her forehead and cheeks.  Twin swords of silver were strapped to a darker purple belt.  She had transparent wings, like those of an insect, which were difficult to see in the flickering firelight.

There was a basket beside her as well.

She smiled at them warmly.  "Why, it's Grandpa Anarchy!" she said.  "And your sidekick...?"

"Wow," the boy said.  "You look so pretty!  Almost like a fairy."

"Well, I am part fairly," the woman replied.  "My name's Noctiluna.  What's yours?"

"I'm Kid Llama," the boy replied.  "I can spit really far!"

The woman laughed.  Grandpa said, "Don't let her looks fool ya, Kid.  Noctiluna may look delicate, but she's incredibly tough.  She has remarkable healing abilities, and is frighteningly dangerous with those dual blades of hers."

"Now, Grandpa," said Noctiluna, "you know I only use my weapons on bad guys...."

"What does your name mean?" asked the boy.

"Noctiluna means Night-Shiner," the heroine said.  "It was another name for Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon.  My mother was a night fairy.  Not that I don't love sunlight, but my powers are most strong at night."

"Knock, knock!"  The voice was strong and deep.  "I gather there's already people here?"

The man who stepped inside the gazebo was clearly a hero's hero.  Clean-shaven, square-jawed, blond-haired, eyes of a blue-grey, tall and muscular, with a form-fitting suit of blue and white and yellow, with a bit of red.  There was a star design on his chest, with the letter R in the center.

"Why, it's Grandpa Anarchy!"  the hero exclaimed.  "And Noctiluna!"

"Regnant!" Grandpa exclaimed, extending his hand.  He winced as the hero crushed it with an extremely firm super-handshake.  "You here for a vigil, too?"

"Absolutely I am!" Regnant replied.  "I come here at least twice a year to pay my respects.  I've known several heroes who have unfortunately left us, and it's a hero's duty to remember them -- at least I think so!  You know, as long as we speak their names, as long as we keep them in our hearts, they are never truly gone.  I really believe that!  Plus I find a little quite contemplation really helps focus the mind on the job of doing good in the world!  Don't you?"

"Uh... yeah, something like that," Grandpa  replied.  "This here is Kid Llama.  He's a sidekick.  He can spit with accuracy up to a hundred yards."

Regnant's eyes widened and he shook the sidekick's hand.  "That's a real talent you've got there, Son.  I hope you use it to spit in the face of evil!"

"Thank you, Mr. Regnant," the boy replied.  "What does your name mean?"

"Oh -- it means the same thing as supreme or ascendant," the hero replied.  "At least, that's according to my agent Sal Lowenstein.  To be honest I wanted another name, but Sal said all the good ones were taken, and he got a special deal on this name Regnant.  So that's the name I've been going with for the last three years.  You've never heard of me?"

"No, sorry," said the boy.

"Really?" the hero replied, stroking his chin.  "I'd have thought my cereal alone was famous enough to spread my name everywhere, or at least in New York City.  Or infamous enough, as the case may be -- you know, that story was in all the papers...."

"What story?" the sidekick asked.

There was a long pause.  "Oh, it's not important," Regnant finally said.  "The important part is this:  if you plan on making a career as a hero, pick your agent carefully.  Got it?"

Regnant sat down on the bench.  "Now," he said, "did I hear someone mention cards?"


It was dark.  It was late at night -- or perhaps by now it was early morning.  Grandpa Anarchy explained the monument to his sidekick.

"It's an eternal flame," Grandpa said, staring into the fire.  "There's a lot like it.  There's one at the 9/11 site, for example.  This one I lit it in 1921, one year after the Gentleman Brawler's death.

"The original monument was in Frosthaven NJ of course.  Not as fancy as this one, mind you.  When Mr. Grumble build his tower, he proposed moving the memorial here where more people could see it.  But it's still the same flame I lit in 1921.  It's never gone out."

Kid Llama stared at the flickering fire for a long time.

"Never?" he finally asked.

"Never," Grandpa Anarchy replied.

"But, surely..." the kid began.  "I mean, if it had gone out, even if only for a few moments, you know, people would understand...."

"Never happened," Grandpa stated.

"I heard that once, in 1966 when there was a big wind storm...." Regnant began.

"It.  Never.  Happened."  Grandpa glared at the muscular hero.  "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!"

Regnant changed the subject.

"Say, Grandpa," he said.  "You're a pretty famous hero.  You've got action figures and cartoons and movies and such."

"I do," Grandpa said.  In point of fact, the most recent Grandpa Anarchy movie had been a huge box office success.

"Who do you use for an agent?" asked Regnant.

"I've never really used an agent," Grandpa said.  "What I have instead is my lawyer, Malevolent P. Brimstone.  He works as my agent."

"Pretty good, is he?" asked  Regnant.

"He'd better be, for what I pay him," Grandpa said.  "He's a demon, by the way."

Regnant looked startled.  "A... demon?  You mean...."

"I mean from hell, yes," Grandpa said.  "Red skin, horns, the whole works.  Works for a demonic law firm.  Pretty nice guy all around though, once you get to know him."

"But... a demon?"  Regnant considered this.

"Why?" asked Grandpa.  "Thinking of changing agents?"

"Well, I was...." said Regnant.

"Problems with your current agent?" asked Noctiluna.

"You could say that," Regnant replied.  "I'd tell you about it but it'd take hours, trust me.  How much time have you got?"  He paused, looked around, then said, "Oh yeah.  Right.  Vigil.  Well, I don't really want to tell you the whole story.  Let's just say potentially lethal toys that set themselves on fire is just the tip of the iceberg."

"That sounds terrible!" Noctiluna replied.  "Was that your agent's fault?  I'm sure he meant well...."

"He's... not been very careful, I suppose I'd say," Regnant replied.  "That's just one incident, remember.  But... a demon?  If it comes to that, I think I'll stick with Sal."

"Good choice," Grandpa said.  "You've got a certain image to uphold."

Regnant flashed his twenty-four-karat heroic smile.  "Rather the devil you know than... well, an actual devil, I guess."

"Like I said, Mal's not that bad."

"He's a lawyer, Grandpa," said Noctiluna.

"Well, granted," said Grandpa.  "But at least he's on my side."

For a while the four stared into the fire.

"Grandpa," said the sidekick, "who are some of the other heroes you remember here?"

"Well," said Grandpa Anarchy, "there's really too many to mention, but two big ones are Slay Belle and Monkey's Uncle, heroes that I worked with back in the 1920's.  There's Adjective Man, one of the original members of the League of Two-Fisted Justice, who died in 1972.  This year is the first where I'm honoring Deep Fat Fryer, also a longtime League of Two-Fisted Justice member.  In the past I honored my old partner Guy Shadow and my longtime sidekick Circuit Girl, but both of them are alive again."

"Heroes sometimes come back to life don't they?" the sidekick asked.

"Sometimes they do," Grandpa replied, "if they're really famous.  But it's best not to plan your career as if that's a certainty.  Lots of heroes die and never come back."

"I'm here for my original sidekick, Regnant Lad," said Regnant.  "He was a good sidekick.  Not very smart, but he had a good heart.  I told him to not touch that jade skull...."

"I'm here for my parents," said Noctiluna.  "Mother was a full-blooded fairy who chose to live in the human world as a hero.  Father was just an ordinary human, who decided to don a costume and fight crime.  They both perished while fighting Doctor Totengräber in 1972."

"I remember," said Grandpa.  "They were both very brave."

The heroes stared into the fire, each lost in his or her own thoughts.


The sky in the east grew steadily lighter, and soon the sun peaked over the horizon.  Grandpa nudged Kid Llama, who had fallen asleep on a pillow provided by Noctiluna.  "It's daybreak," he said.  "We made it.  Our vigil is over."

Regnant stood.  "Only this night's vigil," he replied.  "We must of course always remain vigilant in the fight against evil, and always keep  the memory of those who have passed in our hearts."  He bowed to each of them in turn.  "Gentlemen and lady, I bid you a good day!  Thank you very much for the company on this night!"

The hero turned and left.  Noctiluna gathered her things.

"I'm very grateful for the company as well," she said.  "And thanks to you, Grandpa Anarchy, for erecting this monument in the first place.  It's a wonderful place to visit and remember those we've loved and lost."

"Well," said Grandpa, "the idea was mine, but it was Mr. Grumble that built it.  His grandson owns the building now."

Noctiluna smiled.  She hugged both of them, and then was also gone.

"They seemed like nice people," said Kid Llama.  He and Grandpa emerged from the gazebo and stood on the building roof.

"Yes," Grandpa replied.  "I always liked them both."

"Did you ever work with either of them?" asked the sidekick.

"Well, I did in the past," Grandpa said.  "Teamed up with each of them once or twice."

Kid Llama stared at Grandpa for a long moment.

"You say that," the sidekick finally said, "as if you can't do so again.  As if... they're already dead.  As if you just spent an evening in vigil with their ghosts."

"Well," said Grandpa, "I have spent vigils with ghosts before.  But Noctiluna and Regnant?  They're as alive as you and... well, as alive as me, anyway."

Kid Llama stared into the morning sun.  "People aren't dead so long as they live on in your memories," he said.  "You'll remember me, won't you, Grandpa?"

"Of course I'll remember you," Grandpa said.  "I always remember my sidekicks, especially  the ones that...."  His voice trailed off.

"And this monument is for all fallen heroes," the boy said.  "Even the sidekicks."

"That's right," said Grandpa.  "Even the sidekicks."

"That makes me happy," the boy in the wooly llama outfit said.  Slowly he faded from view.  Grandpa Anarchy stood on the rooftop, watching the rising sun.


(in memory of Luna and Ascendant)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Classic Anarchy for May: Villain of the Weak

Villain of the Weak
Mark A Davis

On the floor of a rusting foundry, Grandpa Anarchy fought a giant purple larva.  The size of a horse, the creature was fat with short clawed appendages below its head.  It dripped ichor.  Grandpa, dressed in his usual gray suit and fedora, kept the creature at bey with a steel rod.

"Grandpa!" his sidekick called out.  The boy, known as Kid Tuesday and dressed in a generic blue spandex outfit, wielded another steel bar.

Light drifted down from windows high overhead.  The ceiling of the massive building was a latticework of steel.  Hovering in midair was a young man in a form-fitting suit of dark blue.  Glowing silver mathematical symbols and formulae drifted over the surface of the outfit.  A holographic computer keyboard floated nearby.

"Careful, Grandpa," said Kid Calculus conversationally.  "That's an Aefrgiri Demon Grub that I found it on Frueliv in the Earth-1037 dimension.  Its ichor is quite corrosive."

Grandpa swung the steel bar into the creature's side.  It was like punching jello.  He dodged as the creature lunged.  He turned and  tossed his bar like a spear.  It buried itself in the creature's side.

The grub burbled in pain.

"Where's your buddies, Kid Calculus?" Grandpa snarled.

"Who, the League of Former Sidekicks?"  The hovering villain shrugged.  "Who knows?  I've left those losers behind.  They'll never amount to anything, I see that now.  I'm on to bigger and better things.  I am your new breakout villain, Grandpa -- your new arch nemesis!"

"You?"  Grandpa lifted a much longer steel rod and  charged, impaling the grub again.  It screamed and writhed in pain.  With his own bar, Kid Tuesday delivered a final blow.  "You ain't my nemesis, that's....."

"Carnival Act?" interrupted Kid Calculus.  "He's dead, I hear.  That means there's an opening."

Kid Calculus tapped the floating keypad.  A dimensional doorway appeared, from which erupted a giant black bird with a silver beak.  It stood over a meter tall.  It spotted Grandpa, screeched and charged.

"Grandpa!" yelled Kid Tuesday.

"Yes, I see it!" Grandpa replied.

"The Razor-Beaked Streogantu Bird," Kid Calculus said as Grandpa desperately ducked behind rusting machinery.  "Mind the claws, they're as sharp as knives."

"Kid," Grandpa yelled, "no former sidekick of mine will ever be my nemesis!"  He produced a gun and fired several shots, striking the bird in the head.  The creature stumbled and collapsed on the foundry floor.  Black feathers flew everywhere.

"I was fighting crime when your granddad was in diapers!" Grandpa added.  "You're eighty years too young to be my arch!"

"You don't get to choose!" Kid Calculus exclaimed.  "I am your arch villain because nobody hates you more than me!  You are my obsession, Grandpa Anarchy!  I will be the one to destroy you!"

He tapped the holographic keyboard again.  Another dimensional door opened.

Grandpa sighed as another creature emerged.  This one was a a mobile plant, with tentacle-like vines that slithered across the floor like snakes.

"Grandpa!" yelled Kid Tuesday.

"Carnivorous Iuscara Weed of Bluoatune," said Kid Calculus.  "Semi-sentient, though there's no brain or organs for you to shoot or impale.  Good luck with this one."

"Jumping Jehosephat!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "How many of these things have you got?"

"Oh," said the villain, "you have no idea.  I've waited a long time for this, Grandpa.  I've been preparing for years for this day.  I've even been working out lately -- notice the muscles?  I've studied judo and taekwando.  I'm a much better fighter than I once was."

Grandpa ran across the warehouse floor.  He paused to gather wood.  "Why don't you come down here and fight if you're so good at it?" he yelled.  "Let me see what you've got!"

"There's no need," Kid Calculus replied.  "In any battle with you, my greatest asset is my brain."

"Well, I hate to break it to you," said Grandpa Anarchy, "but a lot of people want to destroy me.  That don't make you original, and it don't make you my arch."

Kid Tuesday produced a lighter.  In moments he had a flame going.  Grandpa shoved a makeshift torch into the flames.

"All right, Kid," Grandpa said.  "Let's smoke some weed."

As the two set the plant on fire, Kid Calculus yelled, "I'm different, Grandpa!  I'm your most persistent threat!"

"No, Kid, you're not.  You really aren't," said Grandpa.  The plant was on fire now, twisting in silent pain.  "For instance, did you know that Death Medal has kidnapped me five  times in the last month?  He's trying to destroy the world, never mind that he's so bad at it.  The point is, he's really good at beating me in a fight.  But is he my arch-nemesis?"

"I've never even heard of the man," said Kid Calculus.

"My point exactly!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Though you'd know if you'd met him  -- he's got a flaming skull for a head.  But he's not my arch, not by a long shot.

"What about Baron Climate Change?  I fight him all the time.  He's a very tough customer, got those soot monsters as henchmen.  Let me tell you punching smoke and particle-filled air ain't easy.  But my arch?  For all that he claims to be bringing about the end of the earth, he's really not even a major threat.

"Sgt. Payback?  The man has been trying to kill me for seventy years, all over a few pancakes.  How does your obsession compare to that?  He thinks I ruined his life.  I think he's annoying.  Hard to consider him my arch when he's never done anything to me.

"See, arching is a two-way street.  With Carnival Act, it was personal -- he hated me, and I hated him.  He killed thousands of people.  He killed my sidekick.  But I wasn't allowed to kill him.  I fought him for some sixty years.  You got a long way to go before you come close to that."

The carnivorous plant was now nothing but ash.  Kid Calculus stared down at the hero and his sidekick.  "Very well," he said.  "Shall I kill your sidekick then?"

Grandpa glanced at Kid Tuesday.  He shrugged.  "He's been on the job five hours," said Grandpa.  "Hard to get very attached in that short of time."

"Grandpa," said the sidekick in a disappointed tone.

"But keep trying, Kid," Grandpa continued.  "Maybe you'll get there one day."

Kid Calculus tapped his holographic keypad.  Another dimensional doorway opened up -- but this time, it opened beneath the feet of Grandpa Anarchy and Kid Tuesday.

They fell into it.  They landed on hot sand, beneath a red sky.

Kid Calculus floated down to peer through the doorway, which hovered in the sky twenty feet above them.  "I think," he said, "that I'm going to leave you here, on an alien world in an alien dimension.  This, by the way, is the Freaanope desert, on a world known as Uiploria.  Those hairy insects on the horizon?  Those are Freaanope Arachnids, and they're quite venomous.  You'll be lucky to survive an hour here, let alone find your way back to Earth.

"Tell me, Grandpa," said Kid Calculus, "can any of your other foes do this?"

The dimensional doorway winked out of existence.

"Grandpa!" Kid Tuesday exclaimed.  Giant arachnids scurried towards them.

"Well, crap," said Grandpa.  He glanced up at the sky and yelled, "Don't think I haven't been abandoned on Uiploria before, neither!  I ain't impressed!  You wanna be my arch, try being more original, you hear me?"


Monday, May 1, 2017

New League of Two-Fisted Justice

New League of  Two-Fisted Justice
Mark A Davis

The camera panned over a studio crowd and then zoomed in on the host, seated behind a desk.  This was a perky woman with blonde hair who smiled brightly and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Cupcake Corner!  I'm your host Cathy Cupcake, and today we're talking about the movie New League of Two-Fisted Justice, which finally hits theaters this weekend!"  She turned to her guest -- a young woman in black slacks and a white blouse with long brown hair woven into a braid.  "My guest today is the head of three fanclubs -- the Grandpa Anarchy fanclub, the New League of Two-Fisted Justice fanclub, and the Girls of Two-Fisted Justice fanclub.  She runs websites for all three and is considered the world's foremost expert on Grandpa Anarchy and his companions in the league!  Sarah Mickens, known to many as former Grandpa Anarchy sidekick Kid Continuity!"

After the applause died down, the young woman smiled and said, "I call myself Continuitae now."

"Yes!" exclaimed Cathy.  "And later you're going to demonstrate your transformation sequence for us!  People, you won't believe your eyes!  But right now Sarah, let's talk about the movie.  We've already heard your thoughts on seeing the movie premier last night...."

"I was desperately hoping they'd get this one right," said Sarah, "and let me say again that they nailed it.  It's amazing."

"Well, let's talk about how this movie came together," said Cathy.  "This was a much-anticipated sequel to 2013's very successful Anarchy Is Forever and 2010's Anarchy Rising, and the studio certainly did not expect the sequel to take four years to reach the screen...."

"That's right," said Sarah Mickens.  "But you have to remember, they wanted Cairo Strauss to play the part of Unpossible Man, and he was tied up for more than a year in that Knights Templar movie...."

"Yes, I remember!" Cathy exclaimed.  "There were also rumors of other scheduling conflicts and of fights and problems on the set, and of many reshoots and rewrites.  But I think what amazes people is that not only is the result a surprisingly strong and cohesive movie, but somehow they managed to include all of the new members of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice.  How did the director Hal Lundquist pull this off?  It was only last summer that the League of Two-Fisted Justice got such a dramatic facelift, with no less than six new members...."

"Five," said Sarah.

"Only five?" Cathy replied.  "Well, let's count.  Longtime member Deep Fat Fryer was killed, and was replaced by  his niece Sister Fryer.  Unpossible Man was replaced by his great grandniece, Unpossible Girl, who gained her powers in an accident with an electric potato masher...."

"Noooo," said Kid Continuity quickly.  "Unpossible Girl is Unpossible Man.  He was transformed into a girl by the cosmic alien entity known as the Reality Bender, who comes from beyond the stars...."

Cathy frowned.  "Are you certain?  Because I find the potato masher story more believable and compelling...."

She shrugged and flashed another bright smile.  "Then that would be five.  There's also Circuit Girl, Geothermal Jenny, Girlbot 9000, and Guy Shadow."

"Exactly," said Sarah.  "They split into two teams headed up by Grandpa Anarchy and Dark Dr. Dark, renamed themselves the New League of  Two-Fisted Justice, and began construction on their new, massive headquarters in downtown New York...."

"Yes!  But I think the question on everyone's minds is this:  how did Hal Lundquist know?  By then the movie was already in post-production.  They say he began casting these new parts nine months before the people were even members of  the League!  Plus the way he worked those changes into the plot of the movie, while making this Reality Bender creature the main villain -- well, that's not something you manage overnight.  It's really quite amazing what he's accomplished.  Now, in a moment we'll get to ask the director himself, but first I'll ask you:  how do you think he managed it?"

Sarah Mickens shrugged.  "Maybe a little bird told him?" she suggested.


Hal Lundquist stared at his computer screen.  He sighed.  It had been three years since Anarchy Is Forever, and despite multiple screenplays, treatments,  rewrites, and far too many meetings with studio executives, he still wasn't happy with the current script.  He'd finally committed to a date, but he was still struggling to find an approach to the story that justified the big budget he'd been given.  This would be the first movie of its kind -- a superhero ensemble movie,  the world's first movie about a team of superheroes.  The rival studio was scrambling to assemble an Archons of Excellence movie as well.  Hal wanted to get his own movie just right.

Soft classical music played in the background.  He looked across his New York studio -- a vast open space in an older building, which was mostly empty, with posters on the walls, books piled in stacks next to a full shelf, and a large multi-piece couch set where he'd slept the last four nights.

He blinked.  Seated on the couch were two young girls -- no, women, but dressed in very girlish outfits.  They looked like extras from a Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon cartoon.  The one on the right had a skirt of dark purple with a stardust pattern, and wielded a staff with a strange symbol on one end -- a kind of squared-off Celtic knot.  There were amethysts set in a tiara, in bracelets, a necklace, and there were ribbons, bows, and ruffles.  The second girl was similarly dressed in a white leotard with a skirt of brown.  There were similar ruffles, bows, and jewelry set with chocolate diamonds, and the director noticed immediately that there was a time theme -- clock faces worked into the tiara and necklace, an hourglass design at the end of her staff, and now that he looked closer, the skirt was encircled with numbers, so that, if viewed from above, it would resemble a clock.

"Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my apartment?" he demanded.  "How did you get past security?"

"Hal Lundquiest," said the one on the right, "My name is Continuitae, Avatar of Continuity, and this is my companion Saturnae, Avatar of Time.  In two months you begin shooting on the most important movie of your career.  We're from the future, and we need to talk...."

There was a brilliant flash of light, and a creature that looked like an oversized baby in a toga appeared.  He extended his hand.  "I AM THE REALITY BENDER!" he exclaimed.  "I COME HERE FROM BEYOND THE STARS TO oh dang, I see you've already got this...."