the Shocker: Legit
by Max Landis
Chapter 1: Hello, My Name Is Herman
I slip the mask on, and take a small measure of comfort in the fact that Ive finally worked out the fabric to the point that its near to lighter than air, and the mask feels like a breathing silk web over my face. Outside, theres a roar, and I watch as a Honda goes flipping end over end past the window of my car.
My name is Herman Schultz, and I am not going to jail today.
Ive been arrested 37 times. Ive been convicted 34 times. Ive escaped from prison 37 times. Ive fought over 15 different superheroes, most notable among them, Spider-Man, who has handed me my own ass 26 times. It isnt fair, of course. Hes got superpowers, and Im just Im just a guy. Its not like Im even a very tough guy, but I still cant seem to get arrested by the normal police. No simple cuffs and the back of a wagon for me. I always get to have my jaw broken and get hung upside down in webs from a street light.
I am the Shocker, and recently numbers have become very important to me; I just turned 35. Ive held, in my entire life, two legitimate jobs, and they were both at separate Burger Kings. This was before I started safe-cracking. This was before I invented the gauntlets.
I have had ribs broken twelve times. My left arm has been broken twice, and my right arm has been broken once. I broke both legs and permanently damaged my left knee after getting kicked off a building by Daredevil. I have the honor of being able to tell other villains that Captain America himself nailed me in the chest with a straight right that cracked my sternum in half. I couldnt breathe right for the better part of two years.
Today is an important day for me. Today Im not going to jail.
Im unmarried, I havent had a girlfriend in over eight years, and the escort service no longer returns my calls. I have only one close friend, and I think he might be a little retarded.
His name is Aleksei, but everybody but me calls him Rhino.
He and I have something in common: were both what you would call second-string. The second string isnt so much a tangible thing as it is a concept. Guys like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Daredevil and Thor, theyve got whatre known as rogues galleries. Early in their careers, they bump into a criminal, usually super-powered, and that criminal, for better or worse, becomes a recurring clown in the media circuses that are their lives.
Of course everybody knows the big names, the clown acts that really stay with you: Green Goblin. Bullseye. Carnage. The Red-Fucking-Skull. These are seriously crazy dudes, and thats why people remember them. The Goblin claims to not only have killed Spider-Mans girlfriend, but also to:
Know his secret identity
have killed his clone
have buried both him and his aunt alive at two separate junctures, and
(I like this next one best of all,)
be his father
And I believe all of them but the last one. Osborn is a crazy son of a bitch.
When I first showed up, it was early in Spideys career. He had only been around a year or two. The gauntlets were still in their first stages, and I was still very much a kid myself at the dapper age of 25. I thought I was king of the world, and no insane gymnast in faggy spandex and an arm-sling was going to stop me from taking the loot that was rightfully mine.
Boy, was I fucking wrong.
But thats another story. Thats a day I went to jail. Today, I am not going to jail.
All in all, I exist in Spider-Mans world, in the world of heroes, to be a patsy.
A joke. A laughing-stock in a yellow-and-brown pineapple suit.
And I know why. Its not like its a secret. Think of the big boys, hell, just think of Spider-Mans big boys. Scorpion, Doc Ock, Hobgoblin, Carnage, Sandman, Green Goblin What do they all have in common? Come on, think about it, Ill give you a second.
Theyre all murderers. They will do anything to achieve their goals. Kill anyone. Destroy the world if it stands in their way. Now think about guys like me and Rhino and Grizzly; were crooks. Were criminals, not killers. Think of us as illegal opportunists looking to make a quick buck.
Thats my main problem with superheroes, man; they dont differentiate. If you just killed thirteen people blowing into the food court at a shopping mall, youre going to get punched in the face. And if you just stole two million but managed not to seriously harm anyone, guess what? Youre still gonna get punched in the fucking face. And then, jail.
Not today. Today, Im not going to jail.
The car shakes again as I put on the gauntlets.
Your average gamma mutant is around eight feet tall, green, and ready to destroy anything that gets in their path. I know this only because the general public knows this. Back when the Hulk first started showing up, there were specials on gamma mutants 24/7. Any Joe-Shmoe was suddenly Reed-fucking-Richards when it came to gamma radiation. Not that Ive got anything against Reed-fucking-Richards (Ive based some of my best designs on his work in vibronics), but honestly, at this point I doubt he knows more about gamma mutants than your average T.V. watching child of the Eighties.
The gamma mutant that most directly concerns me is the one I can see out the window. Hes easily ten feet tall and green, and looks almost exactly like the Hulk. But Ive seen the Hulk up close, taken a hit from him, and this aint the Hulk. Firstly, hes got a beard, and Ive never seen the hulk with a beard. Secondly, hes a different color. I seen Hulk green and gray, but never olive. This guy is olive.
RAVAGE SMASH! the Olive Hulk screams, and the sound rattles some spare change across my dashboard. So, apparently this guy is Ravage, which is a good start; I cross reference Ravage with gamma on my hacked 1994 S.H.I.E.L.D database, and get nothing. I try again, just Ravage alone this time, and still come up dry. Which means hes post-1994, which means again my modest budget has failed me. Ravage picks up a woman and bites her in half, spraying gore all over the street, and then hurls her body at a passing police helicopter.
Its only a matter of time until someone gets here: Spider-Man, Daredevil, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four New York is probably the one city in the world with more heroes than villains. Ravage clearly doesnt know this, cause with the mess hes making hes liable to get the New Avengers on his ass, and then itll be game over for him. Hell, anybody versus the New Avengers is basically a squash match.
Ravage is getting closer now, and, as a creature of habit, I check the parking meter out of the corner of my eye. Fifteen minutes left. And Ive been sitting here, putting on the costume for twelve already. Im procrastinating, and I know it; a whole chunk of my body is telling me to start the car, turn it around and motor down the street into Manhattan where Ill have Spider-Man to protect me.
Spider-Man to protect me. I cant help but gag a little when I say that out loud.
Thats the wonderful/terrible thing about New York these days; drive around the city long enough and youre bound to encounter some sort of metahuman event. And thats why today was special; I was trolling for a disaster. I was searching for a catastrophe. Ravage stomps past my car, not even noticing me, and his knee knocks off my drivers-side mirror. I guess that seals it.
I set the gauntlets up to maximum; a high-pressure vibrating air blast with a 90-ton impact. Even with all the noise Ravage is making as he tears into the school bus, the click of my seatbelt and the creak of my car door are both deafening. The boots clack on the pavement, and my throat feels dry. I raise my arms at Ravages eight-foot-wide back, and squeeze the palm-triggers.
Now close your eyes, click your heels together three times and try not to let your voice shake when you say it: Super Hero.
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