“Rupert, Bill, why don’t you two welcome ‘the professor’ to Nutwood?”
Taking my cue despite the obscure reference, Travis and Codex stepped in to deal with The Questionable Mark — another punctuation-based villain. Related pests include the Hyphenated Horror, Backslasher, Gamma Guillemet and Interpunk.
Now, I’m not above the occasional bribe, but dressing up like the Riddler doesn’t entitle you to the lifestyle. Villainy is a lot more than a pithy nickname and gimmick; where’s the back-story? Where’s the tragic figure who was given lemons, and squirted those lemons right back in the world’s eyes? The kind of super villain whose psyche is complex enough to warrant a super hero?
This is the continental divide which separates the crème de la crème from the du jour antagonists (wheat, meet chaff).
Plus, I had to weed out the shrubs so the trees could get a better view of the mountain; there would be a very special VIP tonight.
“I love my job,” Travis smiled, wringing the ooze from his fingers with a rather expensive handkerchief. “We saw some Matrix-type guys roughing up the back of the line. Should we…?”
“Don’t get involved,” I ordered, straightening his tie. It didn’t need to be straitened, but I felt it added to the drama.
“There seem to be a lot of ‘building inspectors’ around,” cajoled Codex. Travis and I both turned around to men and women with backstage passes, civilian clothes — and identical radio-squawkboxes. All purported to be “building inspectors,” but I knew this to be subterfuge.
“Well, the Legion of Doom has always had issues with the building codes…”
“They’re all armed.”
Aha ho! Now that the cat was out of the bottle, I might as well tell them!
“Them be agents, arrrrr…” Still stuck in pirate mode! *click*
“Agents of the Apocalypse?”
“Agents of change.” They still didn’t get it. “Those are secret service agents. The VIP is…”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack Obama,” a stocky announcer declared over the woefully out-of-code stereo system. Rushing to the entrance, I was trounced back by the staff. A bouncer gets no respect, I tell you, no respect.
Travis pulled me aside. “Is this another prank?” He remembered all too well his “special birthday dinner with Richard Dean Anderson” had in fact been history’s most coordinated Rickroll.
“I kidd you knot,” I chortled, handing him a balloon twisted into a goat-like shape. “The Legion received $80 billion last year in bailout funds. Congress wants oversight—”
“Why would the government bail out the Legion of Doom?” Travis pondered, and rightly so!
“Why? WHY?!” The green screen behind me morphed into a pleasing river beside a towering forest. “Because for over fifty years, the Legion of Doom has fueled America’s unprecedented economic growth.”
I walked through a high-tech laboratory, stopping at a table where a Rhesus monkey with exposed brain tissue was strapped under a gargantuan, ominous optical device.
“The Legion of Doom (LD LTD.) innovates — the deadly engines of destruction today become the linchpins of tomorrow’s economy. Remember, the humble spoon began as a portable eye-gouger.”
Three clips lit up the screen behind me, arranged so my head occupied the fourth space in a nicely-cropped grid. The first depicted molten steel being poured into a cast, the second showed dozens of workers at sewing machines, and the last one showed a college professor calling on a student whose hand was up.
“From the ray-gun foundries to uniform manufacturers, America’s henchmen are the best in the world — thanks to their LD-funded, top-of-the-line equipment and training. Through their union, all LD henchmen have the equivalent of a GI bill. Counting the people on our payroll directly, companies we have contracts with, and excluding aliases, LD keeps over four million people employed.”
“That’s more than the auto industry,” stammered Travis. “I had no idea!”
“It’s a pretty open secret that the media is biased against businesses owned by evildoers,” I agreed. “Yet 100% of all companies owned by evil persons have weathered these tough times swimmingly. Nothing guarantees long-term growth and accountability better than a quasi-religious drive to kill Superman.”
Codex nodded in stunned silence, while Travis scratched his nose thoughtfully. I could see the wheels turning in his head: he planned to use his terrible powers of hypnosis against the new president!
“Quit that thoughtline, man!” I sneered. “Obama is immune to hypnosis—”
“I was planning no such thing!” Travis shouted, taken aback. Maybe I can’t read people all that well after all…
“Good. We can’t afford any bad press,” an anonymous wallflower chimed in. For a second I couldn’t recognize her; but as soon as I completed my diagnostic cycle, my biometric scanner registered her as my temporary boss.
“Ah, Madame X,” I smiled, taking her hand. “These are my goons, Aubert Tinklebottom and Crackerbarrel Smith. You can call them Tink and Barley.”
Madame X shook hands with Travis and Codex. “Must be thrilling to meet the president, huh?”
Travis shrugged. “I’m not a US citizen.”
“And I didn’t have time to vote,” Codex butted in. “I work for a living.”
“Well, I voted for Obama,” I started, “but I legally adopted John McCain. He’s my son. I love him.”
The four of us chatted for about ten minutes as the secret service took over our jobs as bouncers. Madame X is a hoot! She’s worked for the Legion for twenty years, so you can imagine the kind of under-the-rug scuttlebutt that crosses her desk.
“We don’t strictly need the money,” she admitted in reference to the bailout funds. “We’ve been using the last installment to finance a vast army of robot warriors.”
“Ford did that ten years ago.”
“Yeah, but the super-pets wiped out the production center. They haven’t been a problem of late.”
Suddenly the pieces slid together like an ethereal jigsaw puzzle in my mind: a global government conspiracy to use the market collapse as a cover for launching a large-scale galactic invasion, powered by the next generation of super-weaponry tested on actual animals.
“Is our hour up?” I yawned. While the prospect of meeting Barack Obama and confirming whether or not he could in fact grow facial hair was tempting, we had fulfilled our obligation to the Legion.
“But we just met Madame X,” Codex whined. I’d have to put him in the brig for the evening; there was definitely a tantrum brewing.
“I can’t stay all night. I promised John McCain I’d read him a bed time story and he can’t sleep unless it’s narrated just right,” I needled. “I bring a certain buoyancy to the table.”
We left the party then and there. Travis tried to run back, but six agents with cattle prods derailed his windmill-tilting. Privy as I was to the designs and mechanisms of good and evil, I surmised the true purpose of the ball.
“Somewhere in that building,” I confided in Codex as we hauled Travis into the trunk, “Lex Luthor is being asked to head the Commerce Department.”
The day after this article was published, Lex Luthor was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce by an 85-12 vote in the United States Senate. His pants fell down during the confirmation hearing.