Stupor HeroesOkay, where to begin this story? Probably with me nursing an incredible hangover in the office. That’s how most stories involving me start out, anyway. I was in my office pouring over my endless paperwork when my boss, Mr. Bishop, came in. “Campbell! You still haven’t changed out the toilet paper in the restrooms. Put down that comic book and get to work! And for God’s sake, man, put some pants on!” I don’t really mind the yelling, even though I’m hung over, but it’s the way he speaks to me. Like I’m a child. Telling me to put pants on. Telling me “this supply closet looks like a hobo jungle.” I mean, it’s my office, right? The mop bucket doesn’t care if I’m not wearing pants. The hot water boiler doesn’t care that it’s over shadowed by stacks of empty pizza boxes. The asbestos doesn’t give two shits that I’ve been pissing in an old milk jug. Anyway, it’s looked like that for as long as I can remember, which is really only about 4 or 5 days. Besides, I’ve worked here forever (which again, as far as I know may only be 4 or 5 days) so I feel my sense of importance and entitlement is not completely unwarranted. That’s precisely why every night when its time to punch out I steal a box of individually sealed coffee creamers. If you mix in one packet of sugar, it tastes just like a shot of vanilla milk shake. Couple of those mixed with the pruno I learned how to make in jail, and you’ve got yourself a pretty fun night! Anyway, my name is Campbell, and I’m a janitor at the Los Angeles Employment Development Office. I never actually applied for this job. I just showed up one day to collect unemployment benefits and they showed me to the supply closet and told me to get started. I think it’s because I was carrying a bottle of Windex. Really it was just filled with a Blue Hawaiian (I like finding new ways to drink in public. It’s a little game I play with myself). Anyway, back to the story at hand. I was in the men’s room changing out the urinal pucks. I used to place them in each urinal in stacks of 3, but the boss said that was wasteful. I explained to him that it looked like a little snowman and you could pretend you were the sun trying to melt it with your warm golden rays. It’s a little game you can play with yourself (again, I really like little games you can play with yourself.) But did he go for it? No! Of course not! He never likes any of my ideas. Just because he keeps his pants up with a fancy belt and I keep mine up with duct tape. Pfft. He thinks he’s so big. I mean, there he was, with 2 of his big shot friends, discussing the new budget proposals to help the record high unemployment in LA while washed his hands (Seriously! Who does that?!). Just because he knows where he is at all times he thinks he’s superior and more capable. Wait a minute...”superior”...”CAPE-able”...that’s it! That was the answer! Super heroes! With Capes! Unemployment was at an all time high and subsequently, so was crime. So, why not kill birds with one stone? We can give the unemployed jobs as super heroes to fight crime. Fully licensed and bonded by the city. Complete with uniforms. Just like garbage men! And since super heroes in comic books refer to fighting crime as “taking out the trash”, we can actually merge those 2 jobs together. So, there’s another bird killed with the same stone. Take that, you fuckin’ birds! This idea is solid. This idea is great! This idea will work and finally prove to all those belt wearing, hand washing jerks that I’m better than this lousy job that I didn’t even ask for in the first place. Okay, first things first. I have to write up my project proposal and get it approved. I know Mr. Bishop won’t go for it, so I was going to have to get crafty (more little games!). A little later in the afternoon I came by Mr. Bishop’s office and told him that his car was on fire in the parking lot. Before I could tell him I saw a suspicious gang of kids outside with gas cans that I think may have been the gang that the papers and police are referring to as “The Gas Can Kid Gang”, he was out of his chair and out the door. Now the parking lot isn’t all very far away from Mr. Bishop’s office. It would only take him about 2 minutes tops to check his car and come back. So to buy myself some time, I actually set his car on fire. The Gas Can Kid Gang could take the heat for it (heh! “heat”! get it?). Now I didn’t really know what Mr. Bishop’s car looks like, I wasn’t even sure if he even drove. I didn’t want to leave too much to chance, so I just set every car in the lot on fire and hoped for the best. Turns out that bought me plenty of time since pretty much everyone in the building had cleared out into the parking lot in a mater of minutes and where there for most of the day. I sat down at Mr. Bishop’s desk to kick my feet up and see what it felt like to be the boss. Turn’s out there wasn’t too much boss-like stuff for me to do. There were no cigars for me to smoke with a look of smug satisfaction. All of the secretaries were in the parking lot, so there was no one for me to sexually harass. I tried calling one of the fish in the tank “sweet cheeks” and giving it a playful slap on the tail, but that didn’t do too much for me. Out of boredom, I spent the rest of the afternoon throwing pencils in the ceiling and case files out the window. Towards the end of the day, just about the time I was forgetting what I was even doing there in the first place, a man came by looking for the boss. “You’re Mr. Bishop?” he asked incredulously? I just raised my eyebrows and pointed at my belt (turns out Mr. Big Shot had a whole drawer full of them). Looking even more confused than before, he asked for the new budget proposal. Oh, the proposal! I was so swamped with the duties of being the boss that I didn’t have time to finish it. Or even start it! Luckily, I’m quick thinking on my feet. That’s why they made me the boss, apparently. I took out my copy of the latest issue of “Action Asshole and the Bastard Brigade” and tore out a page that showed Action Asshole at his toughest, beating the bad guys with their own dogs! “Man’s best friend, eh?” Action Asshole would say. I handed the page over and explained that this is what we would do for the unemployed. Get them some super hero licenses and cool costumes, but nothing too showy. This is a serious government business after all, not a Vegas floor show, unfortunately (damn bureaucrats!). I showed the man the door and told him to get cracking. I dusted my hands, sat down, and kicked my feet up. If ever there was a time to smoke a cigar with a look of smug satisfaction, now was the time! The rest of the week was pretty slow. Much of the staff had to ride bikes or take the bus to work, so everything started a little later. I didn’t mind. Even a dynamo like me needs a little break once in a while. The parking lot was empty, so I suggested we fill it with sand to make it look like the beach since that’s where so many of the unemployed hang out, they might feel more comfortable there. Once again, my great ideas fell on deaf ears. Next time I’ll mention it to someone who isn’t wearing a hearing aid. Or who doesn't keep averting their eyes and trying to hold their breath. So it looked like I was just riding out the clock till the weekend. The next day though, which was Monday and I have no idea how that happened, a mandatory staff meeting was called. There they announced their new initiative for the year to begin assigning the unemployed certified positions as officials in the field of costumed public protection. I asked the girl sitting next to me what the hell that meant. After I had finished showing my identification to security and proving that I wasn’t “another transient that got in and slept in the conference room again” I was allowed back into the meeting and they explained to me that the unemployed were to be given jobs as official super heroes. Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I had completely forgotten about the plan. In fact, I didn’t even remember it was my idea until I sat down to start writing this. When I heard the announcement, I was confused. When it was explained to me I was impressed. I was actually jealous of whoever thought of it. Things were gonna be great! Just like an issue of “Action Asshole”! After the meeting and back on the floor, the unemployed were already having crummy pictures taken for their official super hero licenses and being issued their super hero costumes. The costumes were rather uninspired. Nothing like the reference picture from the comic book. I remember now that I said nothing too showy, but these were just downright drab. They were plain brown jump suits with a large white circular patch on the chest for each new hero to write his or her name on with a marker. They did at least include a mimeograph of samples of cool fonts they could try when writing their names. The capes weren’t much better either. They were made of terrycloth and I’m pretty sure I saw “Hampton Inn” embroidered on a few of them. Things didn’t pick up too much after all were issued their costumes. All of the new heroes stood around the streets looking confused and unsure of what to do next. As comprehensive and thorough as my proposal was, I had apparently neglected to mention any sort of job training. After everyone was issued their capes they were just shuffled out the door and told to get started. A few of the new heroes tried to climb to the roof tops of the buildings to start their unending vigil against the forces of evil, but the building’s landlords just told them to get off the fire escape or they’d call the cops. Others still tried to see if their new positions carried with it new abilities. Some tried to fly but instead looked silly hopping up and down. Others tried to lift up cars over their heads and looked even sillier rolling around on the ground with dislocated spines and screaming in agony. This went on for about a week. Things were not off to a very good start. If there’s one thing city taxpayers hate, it’s supporting out of work bums. But now they learned that what they really hate is paying to support a government service that consists of confused people with capes that don’t really do anything other that hop up and down and dislocate their own spines. They really, really hated that! Someone was gonna have to pay for this mistake. Who ever was behind this bright idea was really in for it. I hoped they would give that bastard what he had coming to him. I knew it was a lousy idea the moment I heard it, and I had told everyone in the room so! Well, it turns out this whole mess was the handiwork of none other than Mr. “I think I’m so big because my home has running water” Bishop. 2 weeks after the super hero program was initiated, he lost his job. I saw security escorting him out of the building while he kept screaming, “It wasn’t me, I tells ya!”. I waved goodbye and as soon as he and security were around the corner, I ran as fast as I could to his office. I wanted to get first dibs on his stuff before the rest of the vultures. I was about to start stuffing my pockets with family photos that I could pretend were mine, when I caught the eye of one of the fish I had harassed earlier. There was a real tension in the air and I decided it was best if I just left before things got anymore awkward. One night after work, I decided to head to the bar. I saw a lot of super heroes on the street on my way there, but I saw even more inside the bar, and dear God, were they drinking a lot! I guess being a super hero gives you a super thirst. I did see one of the heroes behind the bar drying glasses with his cape. I guess he was one of the lucky ones that found his super power. I set my wallet down on the bar and started into a heartiest stein of the shittiest beer they had. Right then, some punk kid snatches my wallet and makes a break for it. Up until a few days ago, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I used to keep a venomous snake in my wallet as a precautionary measure, but it turned out to be impractical. See, it’s actually very difficult to fold a snake up into thirds. Plus it really makes the wallet budge and look odd in your pants pocket. And also he would start biting me when I opened the wallet, not just would-be thieves. So, I jumped off my stool, ran after the punk, and beat the hell out of him. As he lay unconscious on the floor, I told him to “Keep the change”. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from comics, is that it’s always good to say something witty after a display of brute force. I turned around to see if my beer was still there or if I’d have to kick some more ass. It turned out the entire group of super heroes were watching me. For the first time they didn’t look like confused derelicts in second hand factory irregular army surplus fatigues. They looked inspired. They looked confident. They looked like super heroes! Now they knew what they needed to do. They needed to get drunk and beat the shit out of no good punk kids. As I watched them excitedly pour into the streets with a look of smug satisfaction, I realized that I really needed to start carrying some cigars around with me. Things were really different now. Crime was at an all time low, and no good punk kids were even lower. Their bruised and mangled bodies were laying face down all over the streets. You couldn’t walk 3 feet without tripping over one. I knew the super heroes would be taking out the trash, but I didn’t think they’d take it to the middle of the street and just leave it there. I guess they should have specified where they were to take it. Perhaps have the heroes say “Time to take out the trash to the old chalk mine”, but one thing at a time. The important thing was that the super heroes were doing their job. Not only were they doing their job, but they were also enjoying it! It was refreshing to finally see people take pride and joy in their work. They must have learned it from me. The only problem was that the collateral damage from their over zealous approach to work was higher than the damage being done by the criminals. For example, one of the super heroes on watch at the museum had crushed a pickpocket arms with the Venus DiMilo on loan from the Louvre. “Farewell to arms!” he said as he stood over the pile of cracked bone and marble. At least he remembered to say something witty! The city’s old timers that remembered “the good old days” were actually quite enjoying this, but the rest of the city’s residents whose opinions actually mattered were beginning to get a bit worried by all this wholesale destruction. This didn’t turn out to be much of a problem though. After only a week, virtually all of the city’s no-good punk kids had the shit beaten out of them. Their unconscious bodies were piled up high on the sides of the streets. The younger, pretty good non-punk kids were sledding down them. At this rate we were going to have to hire some more no good punk kids. But all of the unemployed were now super heroes. Maybe some of the super heroes could be reassigned as no good punk kids, or maybe we could have some bussed in from neighboring cities. None of this would matter though, because once the super heroes finally had a break from their nonstop citywide tour of brutal beatings, they realized that they hadn’t been paid that week. Shortly after that, they made an even more startling realization. They hadn’t been paid ever! It turns out things like salary and benefits weren’t covered in the proposal plan. It turns out that The Department of Costumed Civilian Protection and Peace Keeping was never officially formed and the super heroes weren’t government-sanctioned officials at all. The ID cards they were issued were just old Captain Video’s Video Ranger membership cards from the ‘50s! The employment development office’s entire budget for the year was spent on the costumes and greasing the palms of the cops to look the other way when the super heroes began hurling 3 Card Monte dealers through windows of the children’s hospital. The only one who could straighten this out was Mr. Bishop, and he was nowhere to be found. After he was fired, he lost his home, his wife left him, his hair and teeth fell out, and his dog left with the last of his beer. The city was in worse shape then ever. Before we just had lazy unemployed bums. Now we had boozed up super heroes on an adrenaline high that hadn’t slept in 2 and a half weeks. And now, with out a paycheck for their services, they were angry! The super heroes decided to strike. “Pay up or no more beatings!” said some of the picket signs. After a week or a few hours (I can’t remember which), the super heroes finally gave up and dispersed. Everything was actually pretty great for a while after that. We hadn’t seen or heard from the super heroes, the comatose no good punk kids were still on the side of the street or being used as mannequins by some of the more upscale fashion boutiques. Yup, it looked like everything had wrapped up nicely. Somehow, thanks to me, there were no more criminals, no more unemployed, and with out Mr. Bishop around, I was free to strut around the office without pants like I owned the place. I had somehow convinced myself that I had planned this all along, rather than me just acting on impulse before being distracted by something else. It was just about time to light up that much-deserved cigar while I looked over the city with the smug look of satisfaction. Just as I was asking if anybody had a light, a huge explosion ripped right through the office!
I ran outside to see if it was the Gas Can Kid Gang trying to set the parking lot on fire again. What I saw isn’t what I’d expected. Explosions were ripping through the rest of the buildings on the street and scores of people dressed in what looked like the government issued super hero suits. It couldn’t have been the super heroes though. While they looked similar, there were differences. See, I’m incredibly observant, which is why many say I’m the smartest person they know. These costumes had a big red X drawn in marker crossing out the names on the chests, and they were wearing little black bandit masks that covered their eyes. They were jumping out of the buildings and running down the street carrying sacks with dollar signs on them as twenty dollar bills blew out the top. Others were throwing little black spherical bombs with tiny fuses through windows and laughing in a very theatrical manner. The whole thing was pretty theatrical actually. I wanted to sit down and watch how the rest of this would play out. I ran back inside to the break room to grab some popcorn. Fortunately the explosion had already popped it, so that was good. Saved me some time, and I didn’t want to miss a minute of this. When I got back out side, there was a procession of these strange masked maniacs. They were all joined together to make a walking parade float in what I think was the shape of a skull. Or it may have been a turtle. I couldn’t rally be sure. They weren’t very good at human parade floats. They should have just stuck with bombs and maniacal laughter. That was their strong suit. In a business like that, whatever it was, you need to know your limitations are. Standing at the top and yelling through a bullhorn was what appeared to be the leader and it appeared to be none other than Mr. Bishop. Mr. Bishop looked a little different. He had a silver bear trap for teeth and a rather impressive fight wig. He also had a new dog. This one didn’t drink beer, only vodka. Mr. Bishop was yelling through the bullhorn at anyone who would listen. He was going on about he was wrongly accused, ridiculed, and persecuted. How he lost everything, and now he would make everyone pay and now was the time for his reign of terror to begin. He also went on to explain that he recruited the super heroes as his minions, since he could offer them and actual paycheck in his new super villain criminal syndicate. He promised them all the fun of pummeling others unconscious, plus the thrill of grand larceny. I have to admit, it did sound like a pretty sweet deal. Maybe I should put in my 2 weeks notice here and apply to work with Mr. Bishop. I’m pretty sure he would take me in. We already worked together once, so he’d probably offer me a job as vice-president of henchmen personnel or something important like that. As the skull/turtle thing passed by, I yelled up to Mr. Bishop to ask about openings in the exciting field of masked villainy. Mr. Bishop looked down at me and said “Campbell...” “Hi” I said. “I see you’ve been doing well for yourself since leaving. Good for you!” He narrowed his eyes “Where did you get that belt?” “From your office. You weren’t going to need it any more.” “Give it back!” “No! It’s mine now!” “Seize him!” Now the entire massive human parade float of super villains was after me! I was running for my life. I would have just given him the belt, I don’t even really want it. But Mr. Bishop is an asshole. It’s the principle of the thing, you know? And if a man doesn’t have principles, what does he have? Just a crummy belt I suppose. Fortunately, I was able to run faster that the human parade float. A bunch of people stacked on top of each other in the shape of a skull/turtle moves pretty awkwardly. Actually the thing could barely move to begin with. I decided to stop running and just walk for my life instead. That was much nicer. It gave me time to really appreciate the architecture of the city. Most of it was on fire now, but it still looked nice. It also gave me a chance to think how I was going to get out of this mess. It seemed to me that the only way to stop super villains was with super heroes. But now all of the super heroes were super villains. Where could I find super heroes in LA? Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd! Lots of super heroes hang out there in front of the cement handprints and walk of fame stars! They take pictures with the tourists, so surely they would help. I started for Hollywood Blvd, but had gotten too far ahead of Mr. Bishop and the human float. I ducked into a movie theater to watch a horror picture while I waited for them to catch up. When the movie was over and I went back outsode, I saw them on the horizon, so I kept heading toward the Chinese Theater. When I got there, every super hero you can imagine was there. From mighty men, to mutants, to robots. They weren’t as impressive as I’d imagined though. For people with limitless strength, they sure had some robust beer guts. And I didn’t think sophisticated crime fighting androids were plated in corrugated cardboard that had been spray-painted silver. But, hey, who am I to judge? I’m usually blacked out when I’m driving, but as long as you can get the job done, right? Right! I explained to them that a horde of super villains was heading this way, and it was their duty as heroes to foil them. That was probably the first time, and hopefully the last, I’ve ever had to use the word “foil” in that context. They said that unless the villains wanted to take their pictures with them, they weren’t interested. “Well, yeah.” I said. “This will be their first encounter as super villains with real, big league super heroes. So I’m sure they’ll want to remember the occasion. They’ve probably all set up new face book accounts under their new names and will need new profile pictures. As Mr. Bishop and the human float approached, the super heroes ran up to the villains and striking fake fight poses next to them. The villains laughed and shrugged and took out their cameras and started taking pictures and getting into the playful spirit of things and struck more fake fight poses with the super heroes. Those fake fight poses quickly turned into real fight poses when the super heroes started demanding tips for having their pictures taken. The super villains would have probably paid the super heroes, but they were unable to reach their wallets. They all only had one hand free, and those were holding their cameras. Their other hands were being used to hold the whole parade float together. As the super heroes and super villains began to trade blows, the entire human float fell apart and Mr. Bishop came tumbling to the ground. Once again, I was convinced that this was my master plan all along. The fight among the super heroes and super villains escalated into a street wide rumble leaving just me and Mr. Bishop. “Give me that belt, Campbell!” “Make me!” Mr. Bishop charged towards me. I just threw a right cross and knocked his ass out. I mean, what was he gonna do to me? He was just some dick I used to work with. Just then, the police showed up with paddy wagons. Apparently they had to do something about the situation since the original agreement in the bribe was to turn a blind eye to the unemployed when they were super heroes. Now they were legitimately employed as super villains, so they had to get off their asses and handle the situation. As they were loading the super villains into the paddy wagons, the most Irish of the cops called out “Alright, alright, lads. Who’s in charge o’ this show, now?” All of the villains pointed to Mr. Bishop who was just regaining consciousness. “Stoli!” He yelled. “Attack!” Mr. Bishop’s dog looked up from his vodka bottle and started to stumble forward. I was really getting bored of this shit now. I wanted to see what else was on TV. I decided the best thing to do would be to take a page from Action Asshole’s book. I picked up the drunken dog and power bombed him right into Mr. Bishop knocking them both unconscious. The drunk dog then puked. “Now that’s what I call a booze hound.” I said as I stood triumphantly over passed out pair. Everyone went silent and just stared at me. Apparently I had executed the perfect display of brute force and perfectly timed wit that would certify me as a genuine super hero. The next day, I was given a costume and bona fide license as the city’s first and only certified and licensed super hero. Everything went exactly has I had planned it from the very beginning, and that is precisely why I am now smoking a cigar with a look of smug satisfaction.