September 16, 2016 by David.Groveman
The following sample is the opening chapter of Sidekick, a super hero novella set in a Golden-Age 1950s universe with a cast of over-the-top 1950s super heroes and villains. Sidekick is the sequel to Henchman and continues the tale of Roy Thompson, our unlikely hero.
Crime Doesn’t Pay
Roy waited in the alley that ran behind the shops of New York’s diamond district. He hadn’t been to this spot since he’d worked surveillance for Mickey the Moose a few years back. He’d never had much of a reason to come around this neighborhood. He couldn’t afford a store-bought ring for Alice back when they were married, and he’d never had been that successful in employment, not with the substantial medical bills that piled up in the line of action.
Roy Thompson had been a professional henchman, a goon, a thug and flunky. He’d once worked for whichever low-life criminal had been in town looking for muscle and had been currently hiring. He had all the qualifications, he was a big man, he followed orders and he didn’t ask questions. For years it’s how he paid the bills, accepting checks from the likes of: Professor Von Death, Brock the Rock and Mickey the Moose but, times had changed ever since he’d killed Guy Turbo.
He wasn’t a henchman anymore and most of the men he used to work for were retired or behind bars because of him. It made Roy proud to think of how he and Catman had cleaned up New York City and how these days they’d spent most of their time dealing with wannabe gangsters and desperate kids. Although he admitted that being a superhero was a lot less glamorous than he’d anticipated.
Even when Roy had been a lowly henchman, he’d always read comic books. He loved comics and even owned a shop of his own, as part of his secret identity. Back when he worked on the other side of the law he’d had to wait outside factories, lurk in back allies and rough people up. These days were remarkably similar, only the headlines hailed him as a hero and he got to wear a mask and tights.
An alarm went off inside one of the stores and Roy waited by the back entrance poised to strike. If the crook went out the front, he’d find Catman waiting and if he tried the back, here was Catman’s trusty sidekick, Ping Pong. The comic’s, Roy had discovered, never really understood the massive amounts of time that heroes spent standing around and waiting, or just how uncomfortable tights could be on a cold November night in 1953.
He spent the next few seconds readjusting his black and white costume, which proved to be inauspicious timing. For just as Roy looked down to the bunching of fabric, the back door opened and a small weasley man in a ski-mask darted out with a half filled bag and a small handgun.
“What in the world?” The smaller man exclaimed as he tried to change direction and flee. Roy couldn’t even respond, he looked up from his pants and charged.
*BANG BANG!* *BANG!* three bullets rang out as the burglar shot over his shoulder at the large man in tights. The bullets themselves bounced harmlessly off of Ping Pong’s reverbium vest making ringing echoes as the vest reflected sharp sound waves back.
Thankfully, for Roy, the burglar had run himself into a dead end alley and was rapidly running out of real estate. “Give it up!” Roy shouted in his best heroic voice, “Don’t you know that crime doesn’t pay?”
“Are you for real?” The weasel man kept running, jumping for a fire escape and scrambling up with surprising athleticism. “You’re a real swell guy, but I think it’ll pay just fine.”
Roy scowled at the smaller man but never gave up. He grabbed at the fire escape and shook it violently. With a shudder, the rusty structure lurched and several railings shook free. Roy thanked God that all New York City landlords were so delinquent with their fire escape repairs as his had been in Queens. The weasel man slipped and braced himself but didn’t fall. His bag of jewelry, on the other hand, tumbled to the ground cascading in a starry constellation of diamonds, pearls and sapphires.
“Guess the pay isn’t as good as you were hoping.” Roy wasn’t triumphant but getting the jewels back was better than nothing. The weasel man hadn’t hurt anyone, after all. If he just ran away, Roy and Irving would simply catch him next time.
The weasel man didn’t run away though. With the same surprising dexterity, he swung down the broken fire escape to land nimbly on the ground. Roy was a little flabbergasted that the man, who was less than half his size, meant to face off against him one on one. Remembering his training, Roy entered Tiger Stance and waited for his opponent to attack.
Attack wasn’t exactly what came next either. The small man feinted an attack and as Roy blocked, he scooped up the velour bag that had held the precious stones. He tumbled around a heavy swipe and weaved through a series of kicks, chops and punches that Irving had taught Roy with ease. Every few seconds, ducking to scoop up one or another diamond or sapphire.
Roy felt foolish. Not only were the months of practice in the Cat Cave lookin useless but this weasel man was going to get away with the loot. Roy cycled through the various styles of combat he’d been taught. Crane, mantis, scorpion, monkey, but all his moves seemed too slow and clumsy to connect.
He felt his face getting red with frustration and heard Irving’s careful advice in the back of his mind, “Keep calm and focused and find your hole in his defense. Don’t go charging off like a distempered baby rhinoceros.”
Roy gauged his opponent and just how many of the precious stones still lay on the ground at their feet. He didn’t have much time left and it seemed that the weasel man had a feint to throw off every one of Roy’s attack.
As all the styles of animalistic combat had failed him, Roy chose to abandon them and employ his own, distempered baby rhino technique.
He lowered his head and charged. The weasel man aiming a punch squarely for Roy’s face. Roy knew he could block the attack but chose to ignore it. His nose met the fist squarely as shock filled the smaller man’s face. He hadn’t meant to land the blow and, while it likely re-broke Roy’s misshapen lump of a nose, it also broke the weasel man’s hand.
On top of this, Roy had closed the distance and didn’t pause as he drove his forehead down onto the smaller man’s. Roy saw stars but the weasel man crumpled like a paper bag.
“Come on Roy!” A sardonic voice with a New Jersey accent called from over his shoulder. “I taught you better than that.”
Roy yanked his broken nose back into position with a sickening squish crunch. “Yeah, but all of them animals you know are small and quick. Don’t you know something like, the lazy hippo technique?”
Catman sighed as he front flipped down from an unbroken fire escape. “At least you found the hole in his defense.”
“Yeah, he didn’t mean to hit you. He was fast but he was never gonna be able to do a lick of damage.” Catman, better known to Roy as Irving Spellman, helped to scoop up the remaining gems.
“Who is this guy, anyway?”
“Minkas S. Weaselman. He’s a burglar and bagman for Mickey the Moose, but with Mick in Sing Sing, I guess he’s working solo.”
“I’ll get him in cuffs and drop him off for the cops. You coming over for dinner tomorrow?”
“Is Alice making her famous meatloaf?”
“I’ll pass, I had to see a dentist the last time. You have to have teeth of steel, Roy.”
Roy grimaced as Irving slunk away to lock down the jewelry shop. He loved his wife’s cooking even if it wasn’t always particularly moist and flavorful. She could do no wrong in his eyes and good probably serve him actual granite and he’d not mind. So long as she was serving it to him, it’d be just swell.
Roy hefted Weaselman onto his back. The small jewel thief weighed only slightly more than Irving’s eldest son, Patrick and Roy wondered if the thief could have lived a happier life outside of the crime world. That was the type of thinking that would put Catman and Ping Pong out of work but that didn’t stop his train of thought.
He’d once been a criminal and he’d reformed. Why not Weaselman and others? Professor Von Death had left crime to begin a new career in the newfangled field of television repair. There was reason to hope that the world was gonna make a change for the better and with the Man Upstairs was behind bars maybe it could stay that way.
The apprehension of The Man Upstairs was credited to Catman from Kathmandu and, the late, Guy Turbo. According to the official reports, Guy Turbo and Catman had battled Renegade Roy Thompson (also known to the media as The Man Upstairs) in the lobby of the Chrysler building last fall. The heroes allegedly won, although Turbo was fatally wounded, and Thompson was behind bars. The truth was obviously different.
It was Roy and Catman who stopped Guy Turbo from blowing up Manhattan a year ago, it had been Guy Turbo pulling the strings as The Man Upstairs and it had been Pumpkin (a synthetic android super teen) who actually managed to beat Guy Turbo in the end. Some of the tabloids published stories that drove close to the truth but nobody believed it.
From that day on, Roy had trained with Catman and the two were now a crime fighting team. Roy had a secret identity now and lived in New Jersey. Things hadn’t been half bad for Roy all things considered.
He placed Weaselman gingerly into a trashcan and handcuffed him to the anchored metal frame. The police would be by in a few minutes to take Mr. Weaselman to lockup and Roy took the moment to look through the jewel thief’s wallet. There were pictures of a woman and three children, the children looking more like a rat, a guinea pig and a vole. He took down Weaselman’s address and made a mental note to be sure his family was looked after. Then he placed their calling card.
Prior to Ping Pong being a flesh and blood character, Catman had left paw prints on the men he left for the police. Now that they were a duo in reality Irving’s friend Stuart (the author of the comic book franchise) came up with something new. It was a white and black yin-yang symbol but the black dot was replaced with the signature paw print. Roy pulled the card out from his utility belt and slid it into Minkas’ shirt pocket.
The sound of sirens was his cue to leave and he made a break for his high-powered sports car. The car, a gift from the Man Upstairs himself, was the highest tech weapon in their arsenal. It had a bevy of gadgets and gizmos that they’d used to take down the tougher villains to plague New York. Roy mostly enjoyed it because it was really fast and looked really really cool. Much cooler than the government issued Ford Mainline that he and Alice drove around.
He put the key into the ignition and grinned as the engine roared to life. The evildoer was brought to justice and it was time for Catman and Ping Pong to make their escape. The tires squealed loudly and Roy sped off, back to suburban New Jersey and the cosy confines of the Cat Cave.
TELLS THE FACTS AND THE NAMES, November ¢25
The Missus Getting Hitched
It was a star studded affair as Los Angeles’ newest Superheroine tied the knot this past Friday with famed comic book author Stuart Cohen. Catman from Kathmandu and his sidekick Ping Pong served as best man and usher as a vertiable cavalcade of Super Celebrites looked on.
Everyone from Veronica Nicely to the esteemed, multi-lingual Senor Zap-Zap were in attendance at the luxurious celebration. Even Judy Jetstream and Boy Britain took some time off from their busy world tour to fly by for a cocktail though her former husband, Enhui, did not look too pleased. It was a beautiful ceremony and a fabulous party and Confidential was granted an interview with the groom to be.
Mr. Cohen, are you at all nervous to be marrying a woman who has a destructive force superior to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined?
Nervous? I’m terrified, but exhilarated at the same time. Talk about spicing up your love life by adding a little danger into the equation. You know, not every man can be literally torn limb from limb if he’s late from work. The important thing to remeber is that my sweet little lady is in control of herself and wouldn’t harm a fly unless it deserved it.
Has she talked about taking your name?
Actually that’s a funny story. We first met at a marketing meeting to discuss possible name changes as it’s hard to be a Missus without a Mister in the equation. This marriage will save the comic bundles in re-branding.
What about the kids, how have they taken all of this?
Let me tell you, those kids are dynamite, the dog too! They did make me promise not to make them call me “Daddy”, but that’s understandable. To them, I’m “Stu” and we’ve gotten along great. I even got Sport a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Spring.
Not to change the topic but is it true that your label plans to cease publshing Guy Turbo comics? Even after his death, they are among the top selling publications in the country.
We decided that, considering Guy’s death, it was a little tasteless to continue to publish stories. If you start publishing tales about Turbo coming back from the dead, the American public will expect to see him saving the day and that’s not going to happen. Anyway, I have a synthetic bride waiting for me and really need to run.