All posts by Symbifan

A Superman Will Rise (part 1 of 2)

Are heroes made, or are they born? What about superheroes? That’s the question I pondered as I read this fascinating, Elseworlds annual as a kid. I never came to a concrete conclusion truthfully. What about you? Read on, Unspokenites, and then see if you can decide. Here’s my look at “Superman: The Man of Steel” annual #3…..

Batman knelt in the circular entranceway to the secret tunnel within the aircraft carrier he now occupied. He waited a few moments for the cybernetics built into his spine to realign before continuing onward. Silently, he exited the passage and entered an office. Spying a file cabinet, he opened it, picking the lock with ease. The Dark Knight smiled to himself as he saw the paper blueprints. Paper. An invention of humans. How long since the invasion had it been since he’d seen actual paper? The Earth’s “friends from beyond the stars” only used their ultra-net for information, thus making paper illegal contraband. He tucked the document into his cape and turned to leave. That’s when the blinding lights hit him from the windows and a voice commanded him to surrender! (Man, if paper ever became contraband, I’d be sitting in the big house, sobbing as the powers-that-be burned my beloved comic collection. I hope you choke on the smoke, you invading bastards! Sorry. I may have taken that last bit too far…..inhuman monsters!)

It was Team Luthor, human servants of the planet’s alien oppressors. Once again came the mechanically amplified order to surrender. Bruce waited and smirked. He then pulled a device from within his cape and pushed the button. The aircraft carrier exploded, momentarily knocking back the armored Luthor drones upon their hovercrafts! They waited in silence. Perhaps the old man had done himself in. No such luck! Batman burst to the surface, aided by a large rocket-pack! Team Luthor had little time to react as he shot off into the sky! They recovered however and flew off themselves in hot pursuit! The cat-and-mouse, aerial chase only lasts seconds before Batman’s pack is hit by lazer fire! He drops and rolls onto a platform upon a nearby island military base and looks up only to see Lex Luthor himself, lounging in a lawn chair, drink with umbrella in hand! He raises his glass in salute. (Damn. That’s a pretty nonchalant way to greet a guy that can make you eat out of a feeding tube for months after a brief exchange of blows! Thoughts, peeps?)

Luthor gives his usual speech about how old Batman has gotten, his many physical ailments, and the large number of times that Bruce has escaped, only to have Lex capture him yet again. The Dark Knight seems to consider Luthor’s words this time. Surprisingly, he takes a glass of refreshment himself! Has he finally admitted defeat? Never! Batman smashes the glass into Lex’s faceguard and holds him hostage as Luthor’s troops rush to intercede! Lex orders them to halt, but all too late! Batman throws a grenade that splashes a freezing compound all over the soldiers’ armor, shorting them out! Batman then drags Luthor to a large drop-off and dangles his enemy! Lex merely comments how Batman has a code against killing with a sly grin. Bruce drops him! Shocked, Luthor barely has time to activate his armor’s energy net! The Dark Knight then walks away with a knowing smile. (Man! I thought Luthor was done for for sure! Okay. So the man has always has a contingency plan for everything. Ugh! Batman fans…..)

He turns as he hears the click of a readying weapon. A young Luthor trooper holds an aimed lazer rifle at Batman’s head! The hero speaks in a calm voice. He asks the soldier’s name. Shaking with obvious fear, the man answers. Batman then uses this name and states that he’s now going to leave. The young man yells for the superhero to freeze. Batman states that he needs to calm himself, especially because his weapon isn’t even loaded. Shocked, he checks his rifle. That’s when the batarang smashes into the trooper’s faceplate, shattering the glass! The Dark Knight hears Lex Luthor comment about never turning your back on an enemy. He turns and is assaulted with sound waves so intense, Bruce can almost feel his bones break! Luthor then finishes his attack by using the butt of his sonic blaster to beat Batman into unconsciousness! (Umm. The Team Luthor guy checked his lazer weapon because Batman said it wasn’t loaded…..Loaded with what? Lazers? Yeah. Ponder that one for awhile. Lol!)

Moments later, a helmeted figure swoops down into a waiting window in a structure situated within a grand metropolis. The figure seems distressed, agitated. He had tricked the room’s security system in order to fly, undetected, and follow the Batman at a distance. Why did this man fight on, so determined, against his people? The Kryptonians had occupied this planet ever since Kal-El had been born. Yet this lone man’s struggle compelled him to learn more. Kal removed his helmet, revealing a full head of dark hair. For whatever reason, he was the only Kryptonian with hair. No sooner had Kal-El donned his usual attire before his father, Jor-El’s, image appeared upon Kal’s holoscreen. The man looked displeased. (I’m thinking that the full mane of hair is concealed to quell possible Kryptonian attacks upon Kal’s person. I, as a balding man, understand this completely. Down with those with luscious locks! Revolution!)

Kal-El greeted his dad. Jor-El scolded his son for the “dad” comment. He was his elder and should be spoken to with respect. Kal let this comment slide, asking what his father wanted. And if it was so urgent, as the man’s tone suggested, why not simply visit his son’s room? Jor-El once again scolded his son. He knew the Kryptonian protocol against physical contact. He then continued that the problem with Kal’s room security was solved. The systems should be functioning again soon. The holoscreen then switched off. Kal lowered his head, sighing with obvious relief at the call’s end. It’s then that a friendly and familiar voice from behind him spoke. He’d been caught acting out once again? Kal nodded in agreement as he turned to see the Kents, the elderly human couple that had been assigned to raise him. (But his Kryptonian father seems so kind and fatherly. Weird. I must have misunderstood that part. I mean, where were the clues? Oh well.) Kal told them that Bruce Wayne had been captured again. Why did he continue this seemingly impossible fight? Pa Kent answered. Why not ask the man himself?

After he told his parents how much he loved them, Kal-El walked throughout the city. He was in deep thought. He finally made a visit to his father. After Jor-El scolded him for not only visiting in person, but calling him “dad” once again, Kal asked about the Kryptonian occupation of the Earth. He needed answers. Jor-El answered that the people of Krypton were dying, the result of a microbe used in chemical warfare during the planet’s Clone Wars. (Clone Wars. Ha! I wonder if the Jedi knew of this tactic? Lol! So I’m a nerd. It’s been well-established.) Jor-El had discovered this first and talked the Council into evacuating the planet. Earth seemed a better option as Kryptonians would become strong under this planet’s yellow sun. When they arrived, they discovered that Earth was horribly polluted, nearly always at the brink of world war, and suffered from many forms of disease. The people of Krypton soon took over and eradicated these problems. Were they not the Earth’s saviors? Kal asked why the Batman fought them so furiously then. Jor-El’s reply was that Bruce Wayne was a madman.

Kal-El expressed his desire to speak with Wayne in person. His father’s reply was that that would be out of the question. Such a thing would humiliate a man of his social standing. Furthermore, he also didn’t appreciate his son sneaking off to follow this Batman in his idiotic exploits. (Oh! Busted! I remember sneaking out in my teens. Of course, the only “madman” I was pursuing was the one in my own head! Ahh. Memories of a rebellious youth…..God, I’m old now…..sniffle…..) The conversation was over. Kal returned to his chambers only to be greeted by a holoscreen message from his mother. She stated that the Kents had been reassigned. He was an adult now afrerall. End transmission. Kal looked deeply saddened at this. He turned in his chair and discovered a book. “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. A gift from the Kents.

Having been almost completely healed through the wonders of Kryptonian science, Bruce Wayne spent his time in prison getting back into fighting shape. While he exercised, he sensed Kal-El approach. He turned cold, menacing eyes on him. Nervous, Kal cleared his throat and asked why Batman fought against the Kryptonians when the fight cost him so much. To this, Bruce gave a sly grin and answered, “You know.” That was all he said. But that was enough. Kal-El spent the rest of the night in deep contemplation. (Smooth. Batman’s too cool for school in this scene. And I know what’s smooth. Yep. I’ve seen a lot of movies.) Kal was startled from his thoughts as the holoscreen began to broadcast an emergency news report the next morning. It stated that the Batman had escaped prison once again! Kal was relieved until the report continued. As Bruce Wayne had caused acts of terrorism and violence continually, as well as escaped from prison countless times, he would now be brought in by any means necessary! Kal knew what that meant. They were going to kill him!

As the Team Luthor soldiers prepared for an all-out war upon the island military base, they were taken by surprise as a blur of motion began destroying their weapons systematically and attacking them physically! Batman wasn’t surprised to see that this “blur” was in fact Kal-El. Kal shouted at the Dark Knight in anger. Why did he keep breaking into this specific installation? Was Kal’s father right? Was Bruce Wayne a madman after all? Batman ignored this sudden angry outburst and tossed a package to Kal-El. Before he could comment, Bruce said how that his body had been through a literal hell since he began this one-man-war against the Kryptonians. He was growing too old for this too. He then looked Kal in the eyes and said that it was now his turn. Kal-El didn’t know how to respond. (Awww! Batsy got his bestie a present. I bet it’s Legos. What? That’s a genuinely cool gift amongst bros! Sheesh!) As it turned out, he wouldn’t get the time.

Lex Luthor himself turned the corner just then, energy pistol aimed at the Dark Knight’s head! Kal-El throws himself in front of Bruce, ordering Luthor to drop his weapon. Lex complies but only momentarily. He raises it again and fires a stun-ray at the Kryptonian! He then knocks Kal into a wall! He can only watch in horror as Lex Luthor opens fire on Batman at point blank range. When the smoke clears, the hero lies motionless. His body is transferred to the Kryptonians greatest city for burial. This was most likely in the hopes of halting a human uprising before it could begin. Kal-El remained in his room, staring at the red cape that came with the costume Batman had gifted him. (I’m not gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry. I’m not…..sob.)

This injustice did not go unavenged. In the next few months, several key ultra-net installations were destroyed. This saboteur was becoming such a problem, that Jor-El himself contacted Lex Luthor. He demanded that this criminal be stopped. Luthor merely replied that Jor-El knew damn well who it was. It was his son. No need to worry though. Luthor would be ready when the time was right.

To be concluded…..

Maxx-imum Speculation

I get the Maxx. He sees a world around himself that may or may not be real. Most of the time, this leaves him disoriented and confused. Yet he pushes forward heroically. I’m diagnosed as Schizoaffective. (Truth be told, I probably fall under a dozen different categories. I think my shrinks over the years just shrugged, picked the biggie, and went with it.) Essentially, I see and hear things that aren’t there and have bipolar-like mood swings. But unlike the Maxx, I need six different pills a day to feel slightly “heroic” about my condition. Yeah. It’s just lovely. I think that’s why I’ve always identified with this character. Well, enough of the personal stuff. The Maxx is a truly unique character. Fascinating and mysterious. This left the everyday people of the world open to speculation about this strange being with claws and a tooth-filled mask. Never were these theories more described in detail than in this special, “The Maxx” #1/2. Enjoy, Unspokenites!

On the stoop of an old apartment building, three people sit. Two of them are young boys. The last is a nameless bum. One boy begins talking as if he were already in mid-conversation from earlier. He states that he believes that this new super-powered being in the city is in actuality a psychotic monster. The smaller boy disagrees. His mother told him that he was surely a working-class hero that dispenses “maximum justice”. Hence the name, the Maxx. (Ah. I’m reminded of debates such as this with my younger brother when were kids. Only a few ended in the loss of innocent bystander life.)

To this, the older boy replies that this Maxx caused considerable damage to a neighborhood deli by throwing a bus through the large front window. How was that possibly heroic? The younger of the two simply retorts that he was throwing the bus at a mugger. Surely this was more important than a silly deli window. The inevitable reply was yet another hypothesis as to the Maxx’s origins. Maybe he was an alien avenger, or an artificial being with steel bones? (Wow. These kids are really reaching now. Whoever heard of an alien superhero or one experimented on in a lab with metal bones of all things? Cough…..Superman and Wolverine…..clears throat.)

Now, the bum suddenly decides that he might just add to this heated debate. He begins by saying that he believes that the Maxx is really just an average joe. A man with a go-nowhere job and a sparsely furnished, tiny apartment. Maybe this man found a mask one day by happenstance and when he tried it on, it seemed as if lightning struck his brain. He then awoke in a place similar to Australia but also with a feel like it was the dawn of time. Here he was strong. Powerful. He had on a strange costume and had gained claws by thrusting his hands into bubbling volcanic rock. (This is the point where, if these were smart kids, they’d slowly back away, go inside, and rot their brains with online gaming. Oh wait! This was the 90’s! I guess these kids would actually use their imaginations. Sick burn!)

The children disagree with this rather depressing and strange scenario. Surely the hero is rich and posesses an array of expensive gadgets and vehicles. Or perhaps he rises from the grave every night to fight crime from the safety of the sewers and consumes stolen linguine. (Wait. What? This may be the only time I will ever read a comic with the words “stolen linguine” in the dialogue for the rest of my life! I mean, hopefully not.) The bum admits that both of these are interesting ideas. But he thinks the Maxx is just another homeless bum, living in the dumpsters. He can’t hold down a job, has no real friends, and is never sure what’s real or not. He tries to do good, but mostly he just makes situations worse.

But before the boys can put up much more of a verbal defense, they’re interrupted by the approaching neighborhood scourge they’ve dubbed “Crackhead” Jerry. (Sounds like a grossly misunderstood, pillar of the community. Just because the guy has an unfortunate injury to his head. Jeez!) Jerry wanders over to them and comes to a halt. With cigarette hanging lazily out of his mouth, he asks if the children have anything for him. Knowing that Jerry means money, both boys reply that they’re broke. But suddenly, the youngest of them leaps from the step, balls up his small fists, and proclaims that they won’t be bullied any longer! The Maxx wouldn’t tolerate this! Slightly amused, Jerry hints that he may just have a knife. He knows where they sleep. But before he can utter another venomous threat, he sees the large bum rise behind the boys. The man pulls off an oversized glove, revealing a large razor-sharp claw! “Crackhead” Jerry runs off in terror!

The glove is slid back into place before the two celebrating boys turn, ecstatic at their victory. That’s when the mother of the two kids calls to them to come inside. Their dinner is ready and it’s their favorite. (Sloppy joes and peanutbutter shakes! Ewww! I know! Sloppy joes? Yuck!) Begrudgingly, they do as they are told. As they close the door behind them, the “bum” can overhear her telling them that after they eat, it’s straight upstairs to do their homework. They don’t want to end up like that homeless man, do they? The Maxx lowers his head and walks into the night.


Beacon of Hope

Hello, boys and girls! Are we all ready for storytime? You are? Good. Gather around and sit down crisscross-applesauce. I have a story that’s perfect for children. It’s about a colorful and cheery alternate dimension. It was called the “Age of Apocalypse”. Doesn’t that sound fun? Great! Well, I have your permission slips, so let’s begin……

In a reality of darkness and misery, a tyrannical mutant madman, Apocalypse, ruled all. Humanity either lived their lives in servitude to the mutant race, or in the death camps. Death was a luxury that didn’t come soon enough. Legion, the son of Professor Charles Xavier, had slain his father by mistake. Since this was done through the use of time travel, the timeline had become this living nightmare. (Sounds like a trip to your local Wal-Mart, doesn’t it?) On this particular stormy night, Nathaniel Essex, also known by the name Mr. Sinister, stands at a window, deep in thought. The setting is what appears to be your average out-of-the-way family home in Omaha, Nebraska. But appearances can be deceiving.

Sinister is one of Apocalypse’s elite, a so-called Horseman. You’d think he would revel in that fact. But even one as cold-hearted as he is knows that this madness must end. He turns and strides to a hidden elevator. He enters and rides it down countless levels until he stops at an emense, high-tech laboratory. The Horseman smiles to himself as he approaches a large tube near the lab’s end. He then punches in a numerical code known only to himself. With a hiss, a young boy emerges! Yes, Mr. Sinister has been preparing. He has collected the right DNA samples, tweaked them as he saw fit, and created Apocalypse’s downfall. The child is his greatest achievement. A living weapon. (Is anyone else relieved that the shadowing conveniently covered up the boy’s no-no bits?)

The child cautiously and nervously looks around at his surroundings. He stops in front of Sinister and peers up at the imposing man. The boy is not greeted with affection, but instead, Mr. Sinister turns to his monitors and studies the boy’s readings. Satisfied, he turns back and notices that his young creation is shivering. Sinister replicates a pair of pajamas and the child quickly dresses. Scratching his chin in contemplation, the Horseman ponders what to call this young mutant boy. After a moment, he states that he will be called Nate Grey. “Grey” as in the last name of the boy’s “mother”, and “Nate” from Mr. Sinister’s own natural first name. He is the only father this boy will ever know after all. (It could be worse. Sinister’s first name could be “Fifty-Shades-Of”. I know that doesn’t make sense! Stop judging me!!)

This moment is interrupted, however, by the large screen upon the wall flickering to life. Sinister hastily hides Nate behind him as the Beast’s image becomes clear! The furred mutant wastes little time for pleasantries. He remarks that he has detected a sudden power surge where Sinister now stands. Sinister says very little in his defense and the Beast disappears with an evil smirk. Then turning to check on Nate, he discovers that the boy is missing! Nate wanders, looking in wonder at the strange and sterile corridors. He enters a room by chance and his mind shows him that mutant children were once housed and taught here. They were captives and orphans like himself. Merely kept alive to test their future potential. Those chosen would use their abilities in order to serve Apocalypse. Those that were not chosen…..The scene disappears and Nate continues onward. (Reminds me of grade school. The parallels are uncanny! At least we had recess though, right?)

Angered and perhaps a bit frightened, Sinister tore through room after room as he called out the boy’s name. And as he did, he grew more and more frantic. Finally, energy exploded out of the Horseman’s raised arms, nearly destroying the kitchen area! (Damn! Well, someone’s not getting a “World’s Best Sort-Of-Dad” coffee mug on Father’s Day with that attitude!) Nate’s tiny voice came from behind the villain. Obviously afraid, he apologized and claimed that he had gotten lost. Later, Nathaniel Essex would show Nate Grey the horrors of this Apocalypse-ruled world from the relative safety of a lab monitor. Nate stared at the pens in particular. But before Sinister could finish his sentence, the two of them disappeared!

Mr. Sinister stood with a look of utter shock and disbelief upon his pale face! They were both now in a different place entirely! They were standing upon a catwalk above an area used to sort out humans from mutants. The strong from the weak. The pens seen earlier from the lab monitor in fact! A terrified young woman hunched near them attempts to stop armored guards from taking her aunt from her! Sinister reflexively tries to shield Nate with his own body! But shockingly, the guards run right through them as if they were no more than spirits! Nate however, grabs one of the armored goons by his belt! Anger flashes across the boy’s face as he utters one word, stop. Realization then hits the Horseman. The boy was doing all of this with his mind! Even more impressive was that he didn’t even know he was doing it! (Whoa! Talk about power! Sinister had better be careful how he disciplines Nate after this! He may just end up on the business side of a spanking instead!)

Mr. Sinister was prepared however. By concentrating, they reappeared within the lab. Nate whirled his head to his “father” then in rage! He demanded to know why he had returned them! Sinister had very little to say in response as a look that somewhat resembled fear crossed his face. (I don’t know what’s more shocking here. That Sinister was at a loss for words, or that he looks like he may have just wet his metal pants!) Nate looks back at the screen. He looks at the girl from earlier. Mr. Sinister notices how she holds a patchwork teddy bear. He fabricates it with the merest tap of computer keys. Nate looks at the bear lovingly and embraces it. Nathaniel Essex observes this scene in silence.

Mr. Sinister would return young Nate Grey to his growth chamber that night. He would explain that this was because the boy was not yet ready. Sinister whispers a goodnight to his creation. But as the metal doors seal to the pod, Nate whispers to the Horseman a sweet goodnight back. Sinister takes a moment before he realizes that the boy’s mouth didn’t move! A weapon he had created, yes. But a weapon against whom? Sinister visibly shudders as he ponders the possibilities.