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 I’ve finally worked out the fabric to the point that it’s near to lighter than air, and the mask feels like a breathing silk web over my face. Outside, there’s 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.

I’ve been arrested 37 times. I’ve been convicted 34 times. I’ve escaped from prison 37 times. I’ve fought over 15 different superheroes, most notable among them, Spider-Man, who has handed me my own ass 26 times. It isn’t fair, of course. He’s got superpowers, and I’m just … I’m just a guy. It’s not like I’m even a very tough guy, but I still can’t 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. I’ve 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 couldn’t breathe right for the better part of two years.

Today is an important day for me. Today I’m not going to jail.

I’m unmarried, I haven’t 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: we’re both what you would call “second-string.” The second string isn’t so much a tangible thing as it is a concept. Guys like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Daredevil and Thor, they’ve got what’re known as “rogue’s 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 that’s why people remember them. The Goblin claims to not only have killed Spider-Man’s 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 Spidey’s 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 that’s another story. That’s a day I went to jail. Today, I am not going to jail.

All in all, I exist in Spider-Man’s 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. It’s not like it’s a secret. Think of the big boys, hell, just think of Spider-Man’s big boys. Scorpion, Doc Ock, Hobgoblin, Carnage, Sandman, Green Goblin … What do they all have in common? Come on, think about it, I’ll give you a second.


They’re 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; we’re crooks. We’re criminals, not killers. Think of us as illegal opportunists looking to make a quick buck.

That’s my main problem with superheroes, man; they don’t differentiate. If you just killed thirteen people blowing into the food court at a shopping mall, you’re going to get punched in the face. And if you just stole two million but managed not to seriously harm anyone, guess what? You’re still gonna get punched in the fucking face. And then, jail.

Not today. Today, I’m 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 I’ve got anything against Reed-fucking-Richards (I’ve 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. He’s easily ten feet tall and green, and looks almost exactly like the Hulk. But I’ve seen the Hulk up close, taken a hit from him, and this ain’t the Hulk. Firstly, he’s got a beard, and I’ve never seen the hulk with a beard. Secondly, he’s 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 he’s 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.

It’s 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 doesn’t know this, ’cause with the mess he’s making he’s liable to get the New Avengers on his ass, and then it’ll 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 I’ve been sitting here, putting on the costume for twelve already. I’m 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 I’ll have Spider-Man to protect me.

“Spider-Man to protect me.” I can’t help but gag a little when I say that out loud.

That’s the wonderful/terrible thing about New York these days; drive around the city long enough and you’re bound to encounter some sort of metahuman event. And that’s 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 driver’s-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 Ravage’s 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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