Have You Heard About the Lonesome Loser?
So the weeks continue here in Bridgeton, and they continue to get weirder. I got an email simply labeled, “Help me Hump my Hubby” which seemed to be an invitation to a polyamorous situation. Not something one expects to find on a work account. I thought it was spam and was about to delete it when I noticed the sent address was from inside the company. I mention this to IT, who apparently got numerous reports about it. Someone hit several wrong buttons and instead of replying to an invitation from someone, the less I know the better, they forward it to the entire company. No one knows who it is (as it was immediately recalled) and few of us want to know, but we felt the catastrophic shift in the company hierarchy as someone in a high station vacated immediately.
Two days later what I thought was an earthquake turned out to be someone on the shop floor “dropping something.” This left me more shaken than the email.
“What did they drop?!” I had to know, “And who the hell could lift it?” I started to wonder if they had metas on the payroll. It might actually be cheaper than a forklift. Turns out we have hooks and winches large enough to hold several tanker trucks in the manufacturing plant. I still don’t know what they dropped but hey, it was a better wake up than coffee.
Then there was the plaque. I caught a little bit of it on the news in some less than 60 second sound clip mentioning it. I later found it heading to the shopping center looking for dolmas. (They come in a can now! Decent ones to boot!) Near a piece of alien tech someone had turned into a statue and placed in the shopping center’s courtyard, which doubles as an outdoor food court sort of thing, the balloons from the celebration hung from the newly minted sign:
“The Masked Martian. Anthony Piers. Native of Ducklyn. Local Boy Changes Himself and Continues to Try o Change the World.”
It had an fresco of the person in question, if you can still call him a person, standing like Flash Gordon, one foot raised on the entrance ramp to a space saucer. In one of his four hands, he held a “ray gun” which looked like it fell out of the back of a 1950’s pulp fiction. He stared out over something over his shoulder, his huge bug-eyed goggles hid his face like an alien martian, accenting the strangeness of his large pointed ears and his radar dish capped antennae. Someone actually put some effort to capture the likeness of this man, adding dramatic elements, and making the whole scene a bronze version of an Amazing Stories cover.
I nodded appreciatively before I wondered what I was nodding about. (It was probably the aesthetics. It really was a nice piece of art.) I had to ask a really important question about this and there was no mayor or any other city official who might have been around for the ceremony anywhere in sight. I wasn’t near a good wifi connection so I would have to check at home. In the meantime, I finished my errand, dolmas in hand. As I stood in the checkout line I made idle conversation.
“The Masked Martian, huh?” I chirped, halfheartedly.
“Tell me about it.” The cashier, who’s name tag read “Angus,” grumbled as he rang me up. “You know I used to go to high school with that guy?”
“Really?” I asked. Now intrigued enough to pick up several bars of sugar free chocolate to keep my place and Angus talking.
“Algebra II.” Angus said. “If you would have asked me then, total loser. Just so obessed with old B-movies, assimov, Robot Monster, and all that nerdy stuff.”
I handed over my cash, “I can believe that part.”
“I never thought he would take it to the next level. Now, look at him, a statue and everything.” Angus shook his head. “Morons.” He then thanked me for stopping in [Name redacted] and have a good night. He did everything past ‘morons,’ as if he memorized the words phonetically, and sent me on my way.
Kay loved the dolmas by the way. I’m a huge fan myself.
After dinner, I had to look up what was going on. I knew about Masked Martian and even knew that he was a local, but I couldn’t figure out why they would put a statue of him in what was essentially town square, or at least one of the town squares. This wasn’t the Role-Player, the Sensorite, the Kestral, or any of a dozen heroes I could list off the top of my head who were in the area. Granted, none of them were natives to Ducklyn specifically, the closest being Kestral and she had a memorial in Chinatown. So why this guy, this genetically manipulated, space obsessed merging of alien and human?
After all, he was a villain!
And until about a year ago, a really bad villain at that. I dug a little bit while Kay played video games. I knew about the Masked martian the way movie enthusiasts know about Plan 9 from Outer Space, Manos the Hands of Fate, or Border Guards of the Wastes. They were examples of what obsession, drive, and complete lack of talent could get you. When Masked martian first made an appearance, he was little more than a heavy-weight kid with some high tech gadgets looking like they were pulled bodily from an old serial fiction, like Flash Gordon or Undersea Kingdom. He even had that stupid helmet with massive earphones and a lightning fin on top of his head. His mask at the time, was prop from an old Lost in Space episode. It did cover his face when he went to claim Ducklyn High School as the New Mars embassy. I’m fairly sure, in his lispy voice, he was about to proclaim that “Mars needs women” before he was quickly and soundly defeated…by a metahuman 10 year old girl, Sirius.
Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that builds a reputation.
Over the next few years he attacked science fiction conventions, comic shops, game stores, tech emporiums, and once tried to hold famous comic artist, Jacob Mario hostage. Each time someone took him down pretty quick. Personally, I didn’t know Jacob Mario was ex-army grunt and a boxing enthusiast. The artist broke two of his ribs and knocked out two teeth. Not bad for a 78 year old man who still draws “Sabers.”
How MM got into the Brigands I would never know. I think they saw him as mascot, or just felt pity for the wannabe. Nevertheless, his bad tech and cheesy one-liners followed some B grade villains as they made a name for themselves around the Bridgeton area, even going off to other cities for larger meetups and greater crimes. The one thing he brought to the group that I could see is the massive target he pretty much painted on himself with his theatrics. It was very hard not to think of oneself in a comic when the guy next to you, holding cheap rapier and a Buck Rogers Zap-o-matic in each hand, points at the oncoming enemies and yells “You fools! You don’t know the greatness of my power! Behold the fury of the Masked Martian, pitiful earthlings!” The last time I heard anything like that come out of someone’s mouth, Max Von Sydow was chewing scenery. This isn’t including several roleplaying games over the years and that one player of mine, James Henry, who just kind of talked like that.
I swear the man was useless as a villain. If he had used some of his inventions for good, like setting up a tech shop or maybe applying for an engineer position at GTI or Mega-Corp, he might have had a decent living. But no, he wanted to be larger than life as far as I could tell and he would dedicate himself to his cause no matter how many superheroes’ fists might tell him differently.
That is until the Bex Invasion. Like the Dragonesti before them, and others since, the Bex were, as Masked Martian might have said, “Invaders from beyond the stars!” They did take a page out of Heinlein and whomever wrote Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and infiltrated, using their cloning technology to build replica people to pilot, giving them access to government secrets and places of power. It was a huge hassle and yes, with some sacrifice and heroic feats, the Bex were eventually pushed off the planet, leaving only Dr. Spyrox imprisoned. I don’t count Captain Mongo among those “left behind” as he was instrumental in defeating the Bex and as far as I am concerned, a hero to humanity.
Before they left however, they encountered Masked Martian and, wouldn’t you know it, they thought he was actually an ambassador from an alien world, also given the mission of subjugating humanity to the will of alien overlords. (It must be a common mission out there in the depths of space. We must be pushovers on the cosmic scheme of things.) Being neighborly to their fellow dominator, they offered to help, in accordance with the Martian/Bex treaty of 786033. (the fact that there is such a treaty, even if we don’t know how long it had been there, raises even more questions!) A little genetic engineering and resupply, and the true Masked Martian came to life. Four armed, telepathic, sporting pointed ears, a huge cranium, and antennae, his new allied asked that he be the one to defeat Captain Mongo and Cosmic Girl, as their laws forbid harming other Bex.
And he did, fighting them to a standstill and almost destroying their base ship! It wasn’t until he learned what the Bex planned for him, that he did something about it. He showed humanity where to strike back against the Bex, essentially turning the tide. I’m told the Bex destroyed that Martian treaty. I don’t need to go into all the details from here. Just look up the Bex invasion, things are pretty well documented from there. That’s what libraries and the internet is for.
And what pray tell did Masked Martian do, now that he earned the respect of humanity, and probably a medal or two from who knows how many governments? He promptly takes his new tech and declares himself the Master of Mars and is right back at his old ways. I guess people never learn, sometimes. I hear he still works with the Brigands sometimes, on various capers, but a D-list supervillain he is not. Neither is he Omega Level threat. Now he just has better toys to play to his new found biology. Honestly, I hope he is happy. He got his greatest dream and pretty much squander it. I try not to ask myself if I’m doing the same thing these days, working a job I really don’t like, not setting up a shingle for anything, or focusing on my writing. If I start asking, well, it’s not the best.
After reading up on the ceremony, the request for the plaque, everything that never shows up on the local news, I read one little detail that I mentioned previously. There were no other heroes or villains or record as coming from Ducklyn. No big deal, I’m sure. There were hundreds of towns where no-one had come before, or if they were lucky, had a handful of metas or masked men to call their own. Rarely does greatness come from the suburbs.
But Ducklyn had him, Anthony Piers, the Masked Martian. That was something, wasn’t it? Something to celebrate maybe so people will remember the town from more than just it’s chain stores, its mediocre schools, and odd levels of human trafficking. They had a meta to call their own, someone special. Even if he was a melodramatic blowhard.
I really can’t blame them.
My hometown, at least where I grew up as child (long story) is known for two things, a place where George Washington slept once and a bad movie about a zombie prostitute (I kid you not.) If I found out that Blasting Cap or just about anyone in a mask came from there, I would mention that factoid. People don’t give you the look when you say, “Yeah, my home town is where Ascencia the Blood Queen came to her power before she moved on to Las Reinas.” They do if you say, “They filmed Zombie Hooker next door to where I lived.” Like it’s somehow your fault.
I can’t blame people. What are you going to do? At least they are celebrating something that makes them more than what they are, even if it is a delusional wannabe supervillain.
So what statue did they put up in your home town?