December 11, 1973 – Drydock doesn’t sound great either when you think about it

“What is this place?”  

Blue continued with his “visual scans” which is what normal people call looking around “It’s a drydock.”

I pointed “But there’s water right there.”

“A drydock is where you take a ship out of the water to work on it, you still need a channel of water to get the ship to the place, how else are you going to move a ship?  A wetdock is where the ship is still in the water while you do maintenance.”  

“Wetdock, I hate that word.  Sounds gross.  Where is everyone?”

“It’s shut down right now because the workers are on strike.”

“Workers have rights in Madripoor?”

“No, that’s why they’re on strike.  Well that’s not exactly true, some of them do.  Or at least they try to have them.  I know for a fact that there’s a union of exotic entertainers.”

I shook my head “Of course there is.” I looked around for the fiftieth time “Why did you choose this place?”

“This way Martialla can be lurking in the water.  She’s our ace in the hole.”

“She’s an acehole alright.”

I tensed up when a man came walking into the place wearing a ridiculous duster and a cowboy hat – what year does he think this is – but Blue met him with a handshake and they exchanged words in some language I didn’t understand.  Mr. Longcoat looked at me with mild curiosity and then took up a position at me side across from Blue.  

“Who’s this guy?”  

“This is that bulletproof man I was telling you about.”

“I thought he only did stuff like this for money.”

“He does.”

“But we don’t have any money.”

Blue’s tongue flicked out guilty “We have a little money.”

I gave him a sidelong look “Why is he dressed like that?  Is he a cowboy?”

“He’s from down south, I guess they dress like that down there.”

I turned to out new friend “¿Dónde está tu caballo vaquero?”

He look at me uncomprehendingly and then said something to Blue again, who turned to me “He doesn’t speak Spanish.”  

“I thought you said . . .”

My train of thought was interrupted when three more fellows sauntered into the place – they weren’t dressed like cowboys but they walked like they were.  I didn’t notice it at first, but I’ve come to realize that there’s definitely a preference for long hair amongst the criminals of Madripoor – the local ones anyway.  I think it’s a status symbol some kind.  One guy had a double pistol holster rig thing set up inside his suitcoat, it’s rare to see a bad guy with a holster – they seem to like the gun in the pants method.  I guess this guy didn’t want to shoot his dick off.  One of his friends had a shotgun and the other guy had a god damned sword.  A sword!  Who does that?  What they didn’t have with them was Maggie.

I noticed that shotgun was smoking an Embassy Gold “Hey, can I have one of those?”

Holsters responded in English “He doesn’t speak French.”

“Would you mind asking him if I can bum a smoke?” He stared at me, stone-faced “Okay, straight to business then, I don’t see Maggie so is she around the corner in a van or something?  How is this going to work?” 

He sneered “How it works is you give us the formula and once we know it works we release our prisoner.”

Blue glared down at him “That wasn’t what we agreed on.”

I sighed and grabbed holsters by the front of his suit and tossed him into the water.  The cowboy stepped in front of me as shotgun tried to give me both barrels – and as promised the cowboy proved to  indeed be bulletproof.  The wandering swordsman came forward with a vicious slash that Blue caught on his forearm, drawing a tiny line of blood across his scales, and then hammered the attacker to the ground with a fist – which drew all kinds of blood.  I stepped around the cowboy and hurled the now discarded shotgun at the rapidly fleeing third man – clocking him in the back of the head and sending him hurtling ass over teakettle.  A moment later Martialla dragged the leader out of the water and across the floor by us.  It looked like something had taken a bite out of his face.

“What happened?”

She waved vaguely “Barnacle, they’re really sharp.”

“Ouch.” I knelt down by the sopping went man “Do we have to do the whole thing where we threaten you and then you say you’ll never talk and then we break your foot and you say if you tell us you’ll die and then we say if you don’t tell us you’re going to die or can we skip all that?”

A new voice responded “I think we can skip that.” 

I turned to see my old friend Mr. Smiles walking towards us.  Instead of a tan leisure suit he was wearing some kind of cornflower blue number that I think was a Kareeba suit, wasn’t quite like anything I had seen before.  

“Long time no see, you never call, you never write.  Makes a girl feel unappreciated.”

He smiled his punchable smile “We were always nearby, I’m sure you could feel us watching over you.”

“That must be why things always go so well for me.  So what?  These dorks were just your stalking horse and the Shadow Lords actually have Maggie?  Is that the game?”

He nodded “An oversimplification but correct for this negotiation.”

“What are we negotiating?  Haven’t you guys given up on me by now?  I can’t be worth all this trouble to you.”

“Indeed you are not.  It seems we were sold a bill of sale for goods that didn’t live up to what we were promised.  You’re very strong but there’s no chance if you winning the tournament.”

“Jesus, that’s what this has all been about?  That fucking tournament?  Why do you care so much about it?”

“That doesn’t concern you.  The fact is that we paid for a champion and you’re what we got.  You owe us someone capable of winning.  Give us someone who can do that and we shall return Margaret to you.”

“Why didn’t you give me that choice with Elvis?  Why did you have to kill him?”  

“He was warned.  He chose his fate.”

Top Marvel characters of the 70s

One of my staples in a blog I had 7 blogs ago was making fun of listicles.  It wasn’t very creative but hey, what do you want from me.  Anyway, I saw a listicle this morning of the best superhero to debut in each year of the 1970’s and figured I’d write about it for old times’ sake.  Since this blog is currently sort of about 70’s superhero stuff I thought I’d post it here too.  

1970 – Valkyrie – No

Correct Answer – Conan the Barbarian

According to the writer of the article Valkyrie is a break-out star from the MCU.  She was neat in Ragnarök but I felt to me like that character barely did anything.  Seemed like a tacked-on third wheel to me rather than a break-out star.  But either way Conan is way more of a thing than Valkyrie.  

1971 – Man-Thing – No

Correct Answer – Doc Sampson

No one even knows who Man-Thing is.  Granted probably not a lot of people know who Doc Sampson is either, but I think MORE people know about him at least.  I was tempted to say Mockingbird because she’s one of my favorites but I admit she’s not that well known.  She could be though because the Black Widow character in the MCU is really just re-skinned Mockingbird than Black Window as I remember her from the comics.  So the Black Widow you know and love really is Mockingbird.  I wondered why Mockingbird didn’t show up in the MCU but they already had one woman so obviously they didn’t want to double up.  

Doc Sampson has technically been introduced in the MCU, the dude from Modern Family played him in the Incredible Hulk and then all those scenes were cut from the movie.  What’s going on with the Hulk?  Is that still going to be a thing in the MCU?  If so I hope Doc Sampson gets in the mix.  Maybe in She-Hulk?  I hear they’re going to use She-Hulk to bring the Incredible Hulk movie more actively into the MCU.  Without the guy from Fight Club of course.

1972 – Luke Cage – Yes  

They nailed this one, although I would like to see Tigra in the Avengers line-up.  I suppose after the Cats movie made everyone go blind they’re gunshy about cat people.  

1973 – Howard the Duck – No  

Fucking Thanos was introduced in 1973 (and is the correct answer).  I assume this is a joke.  Blade and Shang-Chi also debuted in ‘73 who are also far more important than a duck that tried to nail Lea Thompson.  Not that I blame him.  Also in ‘73, Killmonger.

1974 – Wolverine – Yes  

As Wolverine has slowly taken over 80% of the comics in the Marvel library I’ve grown to hate him.  But this is correct, I can’t say he’s not the biggest deal from 1974.  Poor Punisher.  Although if you wanted to, you could argue that for a couple years in the general public perception Punisher was probably more well-known than Wolverine.  When the Punisher movie came out a dude I game with was super pissed that he was played by Tom Jayne because he was a big Punisher fan and hated Tom Jayne.  That guy from Walking Dead is a much better Punisher.  

1975 – Storm – Yes

I’ve never much cared for Storm myself, but she’s got the pedigree to be number one here over some of my favorites, Jamie Maddrox, Moon Knight, and freaking Nightcrawler!  What a year ‘75 was. 

1976 – Rocket Raccoon – Maybe

This is a tough one because no one in the world knew who Rocket was until Guardians of the Galaxy came out.  Now everyone loves him, but can such an obscure character be the best from ‘76?  The thing is there’s not a lot of competition.  Black Tom Cassidy is an X-people staple but even with a small funny bit in Deadpool I doubt anyone knows him.  For me it’s Captain Britian but I don’t know if anyone else in the world liked Excalibur but me.  I guess it is Rocket by default?

1977 – Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) – No

Correct Answer – Sabertooth 

I may be biased on this because all I remember about Jessica Drew from the comics is that it seemed like she was Spider-Woman for like half a second and then was de-powered and was a normal person just hanging around.  I’m not a fan of the Jimmy Olsen types.  But in any case Sabertooth is much more recognizable if for no other reason than being Wolverine’s archenemy slash best friend slash brother slash father slash whatever.  Those Wolverine movies were pretty terrible but I really liked Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth.  I hoped I might see that again but I saw an interview were Liev said that playing Sabertooth was lame and he wasn’t going to do it again.  

I would further argue that Jessica Drew isn’t even the most well-known lady spider person – which is obviously Gwen Stacy.  Even May Parker is ahead of Jessica Drew.  Also when that Netflix show came out Jessica Jones I was confused because I got it mixed up with Jessica Drew.  They violated the two Jessica rule.

  

1978- Mystique – Yes

Not much to say her, you can’t really compete with a nude Rebecca Romajin followed by a nude Jennifer Lawrence.  I actually think the way Mystique has been portrayed in the movies is really crappy but whatever, she’s clearly more well-known than Arcade.  Speaking of Arcade, I just read Avenger’s Arena.  I liked that they just said flat out that it was a rip off of the Hunger games.  

1979 – Northstar – No

Correct answer – ???

To me it’s the Shadow King, but even with that Legion show I don’t know if everyone else knows or cares about the Shadow King.  Ant-Man and War Machine both came around in ‘79.  War Machine feels like a bigger presence in the MCU as Tony’s buddy, but Ant-Man gets his own movies so it seems like something of a toss-up.  

Is Ela ever going to leave Madripoor?!

Getting back to some world-building.  Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands (note to self, invent new salad dressing called 17 thousand island) let’s look at one (that’s fake).   

Like many of the island in the archipelago Malimgum has not historically been home to sustained human habitation.  The southern side of the island is steep with cliffs and the water carries a heavy current and swells that make approaching from the island by water difficult.   

There is some evidence that the island may have been visited and served as a fishing camp in prehistory but it has been little studied to date.  Recorded human habitation began in the 18th century when the island was used as a pirate base until the late 1730s.  Presumably this is when the island’s many wild goats and sheep were introduced.   

After the decline of piracy in the area, Malimgum was undisturbed by man again until an emergency airstrip was constructed on the island by the Dutch in the 1930s.  The airstrip was to be expanded during the conflict with the Empire of Japan but was bombed before the worked could be completed, then captured by the Japanese navy and rebuilt, and then bombed again by the RAF before ultimately being abandoned by both sides in the conflict. 

The airstrip was partially repaired and expanded in the 60s as a stop on the network of a smuggling ring run by a group that was either under the control of the Kenran-kai or had  a working relationship with them.  This group was the project by an NBH known by a variety of monikers but mostly generally called Silbaco.  Silbaco was a former member of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional before its destruction at the hands of the Warmasters and a joint CS-US expeditionary force.  Abandoning dreams of a communist utopia Silbaco settled instead for growing wealthy off heroin trafficking.   

Silbaco is presumed dead after his plane was shot down by a Japanese pilot in ’69, an assumption supported by the fact that there is no evidence of the smuggling operation was abandoned after this incident, leaving Mulimgum uninhabited once again. Or so people think, dun-dun-dun! 

Also it occurs to me that I mentioned the Kenran-kai before without going back and saying who they are.   

The Kenran-kai is a clan at the bottom of the Yakuza hierarchy.  Formed out of the remnants of the traitorous faction whose lives were spared by virtue of their loyalty to the Shotozumi-rengo they are given the worst jobs possible as penance for their sin of having disloyal friends. They are put in charge the most unproductive and dangerous Yakuza territories (like Madripoor). Their main actives are smuggling and providing “protection” to the neighborhoods in their domains.  They have had some success in bringing the small gangs under their control, anything more ambitious than this is currently outside of their reach.   

Whether it’s because they are more enlightened than the other Yakuza clans or because of necessity, the Kenran-kai have been accused of recruiting non-Japanese into the clan which only serves to lower their esteem in the eyes of those they are trying to impress.  

December 9, 1973 – Even more boring than the Andromeda Strain

This morning I saw two guys fight because they both called themselves Glacier.  There was a big blocky white dude with a blonde crew cut and a scrawny local dude.  They both had cold/ice/whatever powers but Blondie didn’t seem to be immune to cold himself, unlike his competitor.  Ergo it wasn’t much of a fight.  Seeing a man frozen solid in the middle of the street is a great way to start your day.  Bloody frozen chunks of human flesh look a lot like some of the fish dishes they serve around here.  Even that couldn’t make me lose my appetite.  

I have to assume this kind of bullshit happens all the time.  I don’t really understand why some people feel like they need to have a codename and a stupid stretchy suit once they have superpowers, but they do.  And many of those people probably chose the same name unless their power is super-creativity.  I bet these two aren’t the only Glaciers out there.  Anyone who ends up with cold powers is probably going to call themselves Mr. Freeze or Snowman or something like that.  People aren’t that imaginative, I bet fifty percent of the time people think of a name that’s already in use.  I bet there’s at least a dozen Captain Fantastics and Major Victory’s and Guardians and Defenders out there.  Maybe Mr. X should change his stupid tournament to people fighting over naming rights.

I figured the best way to find Maggie was to go straight to the source.  And by source, I mean her husband.  Asking around with my charming charm, I found out that Mr. Maggie has been flying into and out of Madripoor frantically since she disappeared.  By all accounts, he’s looking pretty haggard.  Seemed to me like he was worth a conversation.  Since his movements were erratic and didn’t seem to be part of a schedule (at least not one I could divine), I staked out the airport for a couple days.  

That alternated between being boring and awful.  Boring because airports aren’t all that interesting.  Awful because on a shockingly regular basis, women who were clearly not happy with what was happening were taken off and put on airplanes.  Would I have done something if heavily-armed gangsters hadn’t been eyeballing me the entire time?  Should I have done something anyway?  I think Blue is a good person but routinely ignores horrible things going on around here.  I guess that’s just what happens when you’re in a place like this.  If you want to stay alive, you learn to keep your head down and pick your battles.  I’ve heard that New York is the same way.  

Eventually Mr. Maggie showed up without any luggage, I wouldn’t say that he looked haggard but certainly worried and harried both.  He all but ran through the airport to a waiting ugly yellow Lincoln Continental.  I got in the backseat right after he got in the passenger side, just like they do in the movies.  It was pretty cool.  The driver, who I swear looked like Oddjob from Goldfinger even though that probably sounds racist, pulled out a gun but Mr. Maggie put a restraining hand on him and looked back at me.

“I’m working on it, I just need more time.”

I shook my head with a slight smile “Wrong side.”  

He frowned “What?”

“Wrong side.  I’m not one their side, I’m on your side.  Tell me who has Maggie and I’ll run and fetch her.  Well not literally, I hate running, it’s like an expression.  You know what I mean.”

We went to an oddly constructed hotel that seemed to be styled after the Tower of Pisa.  If I was building a hotel I wouldn’t choose to model it on something that’s renowned for being about to fall over, but what do I know about architecture?  Mr. Maggie told me that Maggie had been taken by the Thousand Thunders who were holding her hostage to extort him into handing over “The Formula”.  Some employee of his boring company had been turned into a super-person accidentally during the production of something or other and they wanted the secret recipe.  

I asked him how an industrial cooling or piping or whatever company could accidentally make a superbeing, I made a pretty good joke about “Pipe-man”, a guy with pipes for arms but he didn’t laugh.  Probably because he’s worried about his wife being chained to a radiator and getting cornholed regularly by her captors.  Otherwise he would have been laughing his ass off.  Trust me on that.  

He proceeded to lay out to me the most boring conspiracy that could ever possibly exist.  As we all know, the nations of the world (except the ones that are jerks) have all agreed to murder any aliens they find and destroy their technology.  It’s a balance of power thing.  Well it turns out they’re pretty faithful about the first part and more philandrist when it comes to the second part – everyone is trying to get their hands on alien tech so they can reverse engineer it and leap ahead scientifically and not have a balance of power.

This sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  The CEO of boring industries spent what seemed like forever telling me about some compound the government alien murder teams gave his company that allowed them to make some alloy that makes their evaporative, forced draft open-loop cooling towers reject heat from the condenser water loops of industrial chiller units 30% more efficiently.  When you think alien tech you think about flying belts and rayguns, not this bullshit.  

Anyway, one of their chemical engineers was messing with the alien goo and it blew up in her face and now she’s super and the Thousand Thunders want to know how to do it.  Which is a problem because the woman who got a faceful of super goo (phrasing) has disappeared and took all her notes with her – they think, there may not even be any notes since the whole thing was an accident.  So Mr. Maggie has been bankrupting the company trying to find his runaway scientist and alternately flying back here to beg for more time from the kidnappers.  

He told me all this without much prodding.  I guess that shows how desperate he is.  He threw back the last of his fourth highball (to calm his nerves) and looked at me desperately.  

“You can help me find her?”

I nodded “Well we know who has her so just tell them you have the formula and you’re ready to make the trade, then we just take her.”

His eyes darted around desperately “What?  No, we need to find . . .”

I waved off his concerns “No. Forget about your scientist, that’s a no-go, your problem was that you didn’t have the muscle to force the issue with these assholes, now you do.  Tell them to bring Maggie wherever to make the trade and then we just take her.  Simple as peach pie.”

He looked at me dubiously “You’re the muscle?”

I flexed my arm and kissed my bicep “I sure am.  You want me to arm wrestle Oddjob to prove it?  Or throw the bed out the window?  Plus it’s not just me, I have some friends that will be helping as well.  One guy is like eight feet tall and has blue scales, it’s really something.”

“Why are you doing this?’

“Because we’re good people.  Although, since you mention it, a monetary reward of some kind wouldn’t be off the table, would it?  Nobody tells you that superheroing has shit pay.”

December 6, 1973 – Let’s take a tangent from that tangent to tangent this tangent over here

Dan and Xu eventually did show up back at their armored RV or whatever that monster is.  Dan immediately freaked out because he thought I was following him.  That guy needs to lay off the coke or whatever he’s on that makes him so paranoid.  Once Xu and I peeled off and hit a couple bars, she gave me the information I was after regarding Baron Orlock’s Island.  I wrote it all down so Martialla and Blue wouldn’t get on my ass for not having “complete” information, it was boring so I knew I would have forgotten most of it. 

I assumed that Maggie had just returned to the CS after the hotel incident or moved to another hotel at the least, but Xu told me that no one has seen her since that day when I “destroyed” the Goodwhatever Hotel, which for the record was more than a month ago.  I’m starting to feel like the protagonist of a mystery novel series – does everyone I meet end up getting kidnapped or murdered?  Maggie had said that her husband had been up to some underhanded dealings, but what kind of criminal dealings that result in a kidnapping could you have when you’re in the business of making pipes for industrial cooling?  Or was it coolant for industrial pipes?  It definitely had something to do with pipes or cooling or coolant.  Or engineering? 

I was eating ribs out of a garbage bag (not BBQ ribs, some kind of vinegary rib dish they make around here, I don’t even know what animal of ribs they’re made of) while Blue and Martialla passed my scribbled notes back and forth and made various astonished and disgusted noises. 

Blue waved one of the cocktail napkins at me like a flag “Are you serious?  Gun emplacements?  How are we supposed to attack this place?”

When I just shrugged, Martialla cast a suspicious fish eye on me “Why are you being so quiet?”

I sighed “A friend of mine has gone missing, I think I need to look for her.”

She made a gross fish-face “What friend?  You don’t have any friends other than us, and we’re not really your friends either.  More importantly, NO!  Bad Ela.  We just talked about this!  You do this every time, we just start down one path and then you flutter away.  You’re like a butterfly!”

“I think you mean I’m like a kid chasing after a butterfly if you’re implying that I have a short attention span.  Saying someone is like a butterfly means they’re beautiful and fragile, which I guess is also correct.”

“Whatever, the point is . . .”

“She’s rich.”

Blue leaned in “What’s that now?”

“Her husband is the owner or CEO or something of Kruger-Donovan-Miter Industrial something or other.  He was here doing some business stuff with Derecktor and she tagged along.  They’re loaded.  Now, doesn’t that sound like the kind of person we want to have on our side if we’re going to attack an island fortress?  You’re always crying about how we don’t have any resources.  How much do you think saving a wife is worth?  And keep in mind she’s a good looking one and I bet she really tries in bed, too.  That has to be a million at least right?  Then you can buy all the guns you want.  This is Madirpoor, you can probably buy a god damn attack helicopter.”

Martialla continued to scowl “A helicopter costs more than a million dollars, Ela.”

“Yeah, that’s the important thing to focus on.  I’m suggesting that if we find Maggie we’ll be rewarded handsomely and that money could be put to good use in rescuing your niece.”

Blue sat back and flicked his tongue thoughtfully “How long has she been missing?”

“About a month.”

His tail twitched in surprise “A month?!  Ela, she’s dead.  You’ve got seventy-two hours to find someone at the outside.  No one would hold a person for that long, it just doesn’t . . .” His head swiveled to look at Martialla “I mean I’m sure . . . your niece is fine . . . sometimes . . . uh . . .

Martialla rolled her eyes “Nice recovery, Lucien.  The good news is you don’t know what you’re talking about.  This isn’t a serial killer we’re dealing with, I was held captive for six months by Pecos terrorists, it all depends on what they want.  When was the last time she was seen?”

“Well, remember that last time Mr. X sent his merry band of murder girls after me?  The second time I mean, not the first or third time.”

Zero tips for overcoming writer’s block (and one for overcoming tennis elbow)

My elbow hurts. I haven’t played tennis in years. I wish I still did. Use an elbow strap to protect the injured tendon from further strain.

I haven’t been very motivated to write recently so I have nothing today. I look down my nose when people post about how they have nothing to post about but I’m nothing if not a hypocrite. I could force myself to write something but since I’m just doing this for fun there’s no reason. WP is 33% posts about what to do about writer’s block, but when you’re just writing as a hobby why not lean into it?

Speaking of WP the other day I logged into something with my e-mail and it said “welcome sopantooth!” It enrages me. Quit connecting all my shit to other shit without my permission, internet.

One time no one asked me about the origin of the name sopantooth. For reasons unknown, I had Spanish toothpaste written down on my “ideas” pad and when I had to create a user name I mangled that into sopantooth. Why didn’t I use my real name? Because I am old.

You see when the internet first became a thing it was all about whacky fake names, no one used their real name on the internet, that would be crazy! You didn’t want people on the internet knowing who you were. You’d be killed for sure! Nowadays the internet is all about detailing every aspect of your real life to people so they can like and subscribe and give you five stars and follow all your social media. But I am slow to adapt.

I started reading The Poppy War, it’s pretty good.

Apples are the only fruit I like that are consistent. I like pears and peaches but they’re too unpredictable – it’s hard to get a good one all the time. At this point in my life I’ve undoubtedly eaten thousands of apples, maybe tens of thousands. And I realized in all that time I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one upside down. I don’t know why, but that really bugs me. It literally makes no difference which way you hold an apple – why do I always put the stem up?

I wondered how monkeys and apes eat apples. Most monkeys don’t have hands big enough to hold an apple so that doesn’t count. From what I saw apes mostly do it like we do, but not always.

Did you know that you can’t fool birds with sleight of hand? I didn’t. Human brains fill in the gaps, which is what stage magic relies on – you didn’t actually see whatever move in the magicians hand but you assume that it happened. Birds only act on what they actually see. So keep that in mind if you ever want to trick a bird.

And yet you can fool dogs by pretending to throw a thing. I suppose because dogs are smarter than birds and paradoxically smartness makes you vulnerable to foolingness.

I read this week that due to new technology, Death Valley is no longer known to be the hottest place on earth. The high temperature there is merely 134 degrees and thanks to new satellite shenanigans they now know that it gets up to 177 in the Sonora desert. Death Valley is therefore now lame. Please adjust accordingly.

December 6, 1973 – Old Glory superhero insurance, are you covered?

Finding New Dan and the News Dan News Van was harder than I thought.  I didn’t realize how fast that guy zips all over the city.  It took a few days but eventually I found whatever that beast of a vehicle is parked down by the docks.  I think it might be an old Ford Gorgonzola or maybe a Chevy Jabroni.  It doesn’t really have windows so I stood on one of the huge wheels and peeped in one of the slit-holes and knocked.  A hatch on top opened up and a dude that wasn’t Dan popped out like a gopher.  Or maybe a prairie dog.  Some kind of rodent anyhow.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Hunter, I’m the new intern.”

“What happened to Xu?  I need to talk to her.”

He looked around like someone was going to tell him what to say “I don’t think I’m supposed to say, she and Dan are working on a big story.”

“What are you afraid of?  That I’ll scoop New Dan and print whatever insane story he’s working on my own poorly Xeroxed and misspelled newsletter that no one wants?”

“Uh . . . yes?”

“Jesus Christ kid, since you’re here I assume they have to be nearby as well, are they going to be back soon?” He just shrugged and I sat down on the hood of their armored duck boat and lit up a cigarette “How’d you end up here?  You look like you should be flunking out Nebraska University right now.”

He frowned “Nebraska?  I’m American.”

I snorted “You must be from the US then, no one else thinks their country encompasses the entire continent of North America.  There’s like five other countries in ‘America’ champ.  Hey, did you just get here?  Do you have any cigarettes?  The cigarettes here suck, I would kill for a pack of Reds right now.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Figures.  So are you going to tell me what you’re doing here or what?  We’ve got some time to kill so we might as well talk.”

“Why do you want to talk to Dan?”

“I don’t, I want to talk to Xu.  Dan is worthless, he won’t give out information about anything.  Xu on the other hand gets pretty loose once she gets a couple vodka stingers in her.” I gestured with my cigarette “You should keep that in mind if you want to get in her pants.  Be careful though because I think she has some kind of super strength, don’t get her too worked up with your lovemaking or she might accidentally squeeze you to death.”

He turned beet red “I have a girlfriend!”

I dropped him a sassy wink “We’re a long way from Tallahassee, Jimmy Olsen, it doesn’t count when you’re sixteen thousand miles away.”

He shook his head insistently “No, she’s here, in Madripoor, that’s why I’m here, I came to find her.”

 I raised an eyebrow “Oh yeah?  That sounds like quite a tale.  Lay it on me.”

He started off by talking about said girlfriend for an inordinate amount of time rather than telling me what had happened.  It didn’t click for me until he said she had been staying at the Goodwood Hotel that he was talking about Maggie.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, are you saying that you came here to find Margaret Cortland?  And that she’s your girlfriend?  The married super rich lady that looks like Angela Dorian?  Is that what you’re telling me?” He nodded slowly “Why would she cheat on her husband with you?  You look like an upturned mop kid.”

He looked unreasonably hurt “We’re in love.”

“Jesus Christ, you came all the way to this hole following after her like a puppy dog?  You’ve got to get the hell out of here before someone kills you.  I’m not just talking about her husband, I’m talking about everyone here!  I’m surprised you lasted this long.”

“No, no, she’s in trouble, I have to save her.  I saw on the news that the hotel she was staying at was destroyed!”

I snorted “Destroyed?  We barely even wrecked one floor.  The hotel management probably exaggerated the damages as part of an insurance scam.  Although I have to assume there’s an exclusion in most policies for super-brawls.  You’d be a fool not to include that when you’re writing a policy, a fool I say!”

Okay so I’m not exactly Audrey Hepburn – How to steal a thousand

In the early days, I mentioned that I had never hurt anyone before with one exception.  I wasn’t trying to be mysterious and intriguing, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would talk about.  But it’s time to talk about it.  You can’t say you robbed banks and then just let that lay there.  Ela is no tease, ya dig?   

As you know, when I was a teenager I wandered away from my parents’ house for a summer that turned into two years.  And when I came back, it was clear that no one was happy with me being there so I split again.  I had this “kind of” boyfriend at the time that I was hanging around with.  I spent a couple months driving cross country in his VW van going to concerts with a bunch of his pals.  One night we’re sitting around the campfire and I asked how they live like this without jobs.  And he tells me he does have a job, he tells me that he and his pals do stick ups.  At the time I thought he was trying to impress me, but looking back on it now I think he was tired of me and thought that telling me that would scare me off.  Which is kind of stupid because if it had worked, then what’s to stop me from going to the cops? 

For a while, I traveled around with him and his buddies in the Denver area because it turns out that that little slip of Canada between Arkansas, Pecos, and Taiping is a where you want to be when you’re into armed robbery.  Dip across the border, steal some shit, and then pop back to Canada and hide out in the hills. A lot of their jobs were in Taiping, partially because they were racist assholes and partially because there’s a lot of border towns there.  I’m not sure why exactly.  It’s probably because they want to keep the white people on this side of the Rockies.   

The guy I was with, I’ll call him Chris, was technically the leader but there was this other guy I’ll call Ernie.  Ernie was an ex-military guy and he was the one that did all the planning.  He was pretty weird.  I thought it was because he had been in the fighting in Africa, but Chris said he was always like that, even when they were kids.  As long as they were flush with cash, everything was fine.  When they weren’t, Ernie’s partner Bert was always stirring up shit about how Ernie should be the one calling the shots.  Bert wasn’t pumped about me tagging along with them either.  He thought I was too conspicuous. 

I was young and stupid and thought it was cool to be hanging around with “outlaws”.  In my defense, at that time the area around Denver was like the wild west – what we were doing didn’t even seem illegal, not really.  No one seemed to care.  They’d pull a job and we’d party our way from town to town.  Lots of good music festivals out there.  Things took a turn when one of the crew got drunk and fell off a bridge and broke his neck.  They had a job coming up in a little town in Pecos and they were a man short.  Chris said it would be fine without him, Ernie said they had to scrub the job.  I did something really stupid and volunteered to take the place of the dead man.  No one really liked that idea except Ernie, and no one was going to cross Ernie. 

So I robbed a bank.  By which I mean I sat in the back of a van with a gun and waited.  Even though I didn’t really do anything, it was terrifying.  I barely even knew how to shoot a gun.  At that point I didn’t know if I could shoot someone.  That question would be answered shortly.  After that, Chris got distant and weird, but for some reason Ernie really had taken a shine to me, I guess because I had “proven” myself.  In whatever case, Bert did not care for it.   

After the second job I did, I decided I should pursue a career in music instead of armed robbery, but I wasn’t sure how to go about making that jump.  A third job came and went while I was still trying to figure it out.  Bert was getting more vocal about his displeasure in me being there.  That last time, I went into the bank with them and his opinion was that having a woman would make them too easy to identify.  Which is probably a fair point.  Bunch of dudes wearing masks?  Could be anybody.  Get a woman in the mix and things get easier to iron out for anyone looking into it.

At this point I was spending more time with another guy in the crew than Chris, and one night we’re laying in our sleeping bag and Bert rolls up on us.  He’s got a gun.  There’s a lot of shouting and cursing and Not Chris slinks away into the night, but Chris turns up.  Not sure what sense of loyalty he still had to me.  Things escalate and Bert shoots Chris like in the hip or upper thigh on the side.  I had this little revolver that I had started carrying and I shot Bert.  He had his arm bent and the bullet went through his forearm and into his bicep.   Ernie shows up and grabs my gun and takes off in the car with both Chris and Bert bleeding all over the place.  He said he was taking them to a doctor, but I wonder now if he killed them. 

At this point, I’m there at the campsite with the only guy left and his lady of the night.  He grabs up all the cash the crew had, gives us each a hundred-dollar bill and says “see you in the funny papers” and splits.  A few hours later, I’m sitting in a diner with Roci, the aforementioned prostitute, and her pimp Ringo.  He was such a stoner doofus I didn’t even realize he was trying to turn me out. He had to be the worst pimp in the world.  But he did introduce me to the booker at a club that got me my first gig as a singer. 

Sometimes when I think about that time of my life, it doesn’t seem real.  How could I have robbed a bank?  Seems impossible.  I wonder sometimes if it was all a dream.  But it happened.  I was drunk or high a lot of the time, so I may have some details mixed up but it happened.  Looking back on it, it’s a miracle that I came out of that situation alive.  A nineteen-year-old girl mixed up with armed robbers?  That’s not a story that’s going to have a happy ending most of the time.   

So anyway, that’s the story.  I robbed banks.  And I shot a guy once.  And that’s the time that I hurt someone.  You know, before.  When things were “normal”.  If I hadn’t been punch drunk at the time, I wouldn’t have said anything about it to Martialla.  But since I did, I figure it deserved an explanation. 

If violence isn’t the answer, you misunderstood the question – Madripoor the City (part 1)

• A nosy, meddling reporter for a local newspaper

I’ve already introduced News Dan and the News Dan New Van, but he’s more of the underground conspiracy nut, so let’s have another character on the reporting scene.  If you’re going to have a super-world why not Superman it up?  Let’s say that Lim Boon Keng is a reporter in his civilian identity.  Some people say that having an existing character fill a new role is lazy.  Others say that’s character development.

• A special police division that deals with ‘supercrime’

I haven’t thought much about the Madripoor police other than they don’t care about the poor areas down the hill.  I figured that meant it didn’t matter, but that does mean they do care about the business downtown and the rich people zones.  Rich people have their own goons, but they probably want other people to yell at, too.  I’ll say that there’s not enough need for a full time “supercrime” division, instead the best (most murdery) cops are tagged for being brought together into a task force as needed and they’re totally badass like in the Raid.  The ace of this squad is surely a superperson, I’ll think on that.

• The detective who leads the ‘special task force’ that deals with ‘supercrime’

There has to be someone who keeps tabs on things and pulls the taskforce together when needed.  That will be Captain Raden Wijaya, a former counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist agent with the Indonesian government.  In order to do his job he maintains connections with the various criminal syndicates in Madripoor.  He’s not corrupt though, not really.

• A government agency with a sinister agenda

What manner of sinister agenda could exist in what is already a wretched hive of scum and villainy?  I suppose what it would be is a group that wants Madripoor to lose its independence.  Not a government agency but a secret conspiracy of government officials who want to see Madripoor annexed to the Empire of Japan.  Quislings – is that what you call people like that?  I don’t know but it’s a cool word.

• The premier superteam in The City and their roster

Much like the police, I never thought about Madripoor having a superteam.  But, it doesn’t have to be a superhero team right?  The idea is that there are too many factions and too much money being thrown around for one person or group to take over, but there would still be someone at the top of the super-evil heap even if they’re not in control.  I imagine they would be somewhat reclusive, an alliance of older villains in semi-retirement who came to Madripoor to live out their days in wealth and safety. 

I’ll have to think more about that as well.  One character idea I’ve wanted to work in but couldn’t find a place was a Coalition States communist who thought that robbing banks would help bring down capitalism in the CS but eventually realized they were just wasting their time and gave up.  Seems like a good candidate for this group.

• One ‘independent’ superhero who works the City

I’ve introduced several superpeople of various stripes but not many true blue heroes.  Another half-idea I’ve had is for a super team of aliens ripping off the X-men (how they used to be anyway, I don’t know what they are now) doing the “protecting a world that hates us” thing.  Another kernel to follow up on and flesh out.

• Two Villains who work in The City

Several of these are already in the mix.  But there’s always room for more.  I’ve mentioned a minotaur guy walking around, let’s say he’s one of these two extra villains.  In the Marvel universe there’s a thing called the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation which is a fighting deal for superpowered people.  It’s never been taken all that seriously aside from giving the Power Broker a reason to give people powers once in a while, but as a wrestling person I find it amusing. 

The “man” calling himself Jefray Kurnia Arwadi actually is THE minotaur of legend, awoken in the modern age (the 70s) from some manner of stasis.  How did they explain Heracles in the Marvel universe?  Was he just supposed to be out and about doing Heracles stuff for a thousand years?  Surely he was asleep in a cave or something.  I’ll have to look into that. 

Anyway minotaur-Jef wakes up and gets involved in a short lived superpowered boxing league and then UCWF before finally making his way to Madripoor to fight other super-people for money.  He’s likes fighting, you see.  How about this, the Minotaur survived to Roman times and got into the gladiator scene and the rich folks got tired of him winning all the time so they had a sorceress put him to sleep for a thousand years and chucked him down a mine shaft.  They had mines.  But did they have shafts?  There’s so much about Ancient Roman mining I don’t know

A while ago someone asked me why there are not many African superheroes and my idea was that the colonial powers employed a super-squad of hitmen to kill any African people with powers to help prevent them from becoming symbols for the African people and fomenting revolution.  In recent times, this group has been destroyed and one of the survivors is our second guy here – coming to Madripoor to hide from the many people that want him dead.  He’s not a white supremacist himself but just an amoral mercenary.  I shall name him Steelwing.

• A rival evil organization with an unknown agenda

Ela isn’t really an “organization” but I have thought it would be amusing for her to run into a super-powered singer who’s rich and famous to really torque her off.  I’ll flesh that out some more.  She shall be called Songbird.  Which is a little on the nose, but hey, comic books right?