Justice Wing, Serial, Superhero

Interviewing Leather, Part Two

It’s another random day, and so here’s part two of the faux-Rolling Stone article “Interviewing Leather. You can also read part one if you like.

I make reference in this one to a “henching union.” There’s a degree to which that name checks Brad Guigar’s Evil, Inc. That’s okay with me because Guigar’s fantastic, and I’m not stealing anything by name.

One area where this is different, though, is that “Interviewing Leather” isn’t really satire. It’s light, mind. But it’s not sending up the superheroic conventions. That’s something I sometimes thing today’s comic book writers need to understand. You don’t have to be dark, or morbid, or ultra serious to write a comic book that’s not satire, and you don’t have to be denigrating the form, satirizing the form or parodying the form to write a “light” comic.


He’s right, of course. Supervillains are pretty rock and roll. But that doesn’t mean I knew what to listen to on my way up. So instead, I looked at the pictures we had. Leather bustier and panties — or maybe a leather leotard with boning. I couldn’t tell. Some tattoos. Stay up stockings that don’t look like they suck, which is actually pretty rare for stay up stockings. Hair that starts blue black but varies in streak colors depending on her mood. Black batwinged domino mask thing — also leather, but I have no idea how it clings to her face. Glue, I guess, which has to suck taking it off. Asskicker boots.

The thing that struck me was she was slender. Graceful, almost. Kyle said she looked like a Suicidegirl and that’s about right. She didn’t look pneumatic like the big deal Superheroines. Labriet piercing in one picture. That probably wasn’t her only one, either.

So I started loading up on Liz Phair and Punk Rock Girl and the Dropkick Murphys and hit the road, and wondered what you asked a girl who robs banks and ties super heroes to bombs for a living. I wondered if she’d go psycho on me.

I wondered if I should have left a will before I drove out there. Of course, then it occurred to me I don’t have anybody to leave my stuff to, so maybe it wasn’t a priority.

#

Quite honestly, the building was cool. It was an old brick power station along the coastline. It had a foghorn mounted to it but with Beacon Lighthouse just a couple of miles away this one had been abandoned for a couple of decades. So, it had distressed brick going on. I parked my crappy little car and walked up the hill. I wondered briefly if someone’d take a shot at me or scream “state your business” at me.

Instead, when I got to within twenty yards of the door, Leather came out of to meet me.

It was maybe ten thirty in the morning, and in the harsh morning sun she looked like she’d just gotten up. Her clothes bore that out — white tee shirt, plaid flannel pants. No shoes. Hair still wet from the shower. It was that same blue-accented black, and the forward streaks were a dirty yellow right now. I could see a devil’s tail tattoo extending down below her left short sleeve. I counted five rings in her left ear, six in her right, and she had a labret under her mouth.

Which was smiling. “Hey,” she said. “Find the place all right?”

“Yeah. Sure. Almost too easily, really. Won’t the cops find it too?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t send the cops directions. Besides, we’re moving at the end of the week. That’s why I wanted to do this now. You’ll see.” She sipped some coffee out of a Far Side mug. “Gifted Children,” if you know Far Side mugs. “You want coffee?”

“Sure. Sure thing.”

“Cool.” She turned on her heel and strode inside. Well, strode is the wrong word. Every time she moves, there’s this grace to it. I’d read up on her before I came up. I knew she was inhumanly fast and strong, and had an incredible agility going for her. Good traits in a supervillain. She was also cute, and that seemed weird to me.

She had a Keurig. A home model — the kind you have to put the coffee tubs into. But higher end than a Senso coffee pod machine, any way you look at it. “Rainforest Nut, Hazelnut, Lake and Lodge or French Roast?” she asked. “I don’t have decaf.”

“Hazelnut’s great,” I said. “Pricey machine.”

She looked over her shoulder, pushing the button to dispense my coffee. “I wouldn’t know,” she said, grinning a saucy grin. A naughty grin.

“You steal your kitchen appliances?” I was grinning too. It seemed so out of place — a supervillain staging a daring raid on Bed, Bath & Beyond.

“Only the good ones. Unless I get pissed off. There was this one time I was trying to buy shower curtains at fucking Wal-Mart, and I got nothing but attitude through the whole fucking store. I mean, it’s Wal-Mart. You don’t expect attitude from Wal-Mart.” She handed me my coffee, in a chipped enamel mug. “Milk’s in the fridge. I think we got Splenda if you want. I don’t have sugar. Anyway. I was so angry I went out to the car, changed in the Parking Lot, went back in and gave them the full on business.”

“Full on business?” I asked, opening the fridge for the milk. I prefer cream, but you don’t say things like that to a supervillain. Lots of fats and carbs in her fridge, I noticed. Cream cheese, American cheese, summer sausage, three kinds of bread, plastic tubs of leftover pasta.

“Industry term,” she said, and hopped up onto her table. Just like that, really. She gave a little hop that cleared four feet and landed, crouching, on her table. She didn’t even spill her coffee. “When you’re making a splash, you’re giving the target ‘the business.’ Monologues, needless destruction, terrorizing the mundanes. The whole nine yards. Loud instead of quiet. You usually give the business when you want a hero to show up, or to send a message. It’s kinda unprofessional to give it just because you’re pissed off at a Wal-Mart assistant manager.”

“But you did it anyway?”

“Oh yeah.” She grinned at the memory, shaking her head and tossing her hair out of her face. “I scooped up one of the cash registers and threw it through intimates — I must have taken out ten racks with one throw. Kicking over shelves, barreling through housewares. Raining down destruction, cleaning out their active registers, scooping the most worthless shit up into a couple of laundry bags I stole. No rhyme or reason. Just breaking shit and stealing shit.” She laughed. “I forgot the shower curtain.”

She drained the rest of her coffee and hopped back to the floor, just as fluidly. “I’m gonna grab another cup and we can go talk. Where’s your stuff, anyway?”

I lifted my backpack. It had my computer in it, my tape recorder — the whole nine yards. “All set,” I said.

“You have your clothes in there?”

“My clothes?” I asked, with a pretty dumb expression on my face.

“Well, you’re not wearing the same clothes all week are you?”

I blinked at her. “No,” I said. “I’m just here for this afternoon. If we need to do followup, we can do it on the phone or I can drive–”

“No,” she said. “I talked to a guy named Kyle Elias and told him I’d need someone up here for a week if we were going to do this. I can’t have you leave before we’re done. Jesus, you might call the cops!”

“I’m not going to call the cops. Why would I call the police?”

“Well, because if you don’t it might be considered aiding and abetting, for one. You’re supposed to stay with us until we move out. And you’re here now….”

I shrugged. “Sorry,” I said.

She paused for a moment, and then nodded. “Whatever. Want I should show you around the place?”

“Sure.”

The tour was concise. She was… bubbly, almost. She didn’t seem very evil — she just seemed young and cheerful. And while the building was clearly abandoned and just as clearly falling apart in places, it had a kind of bomb shelter chic to it. Certainly, she had taken the time and effort to make it ‘homey.’

“How long have you been up here?” I asked her.

“A year,” she said. “Though you have to be careful. Mostly, you have to make sure you don’t give people the sense you live in one place or another. So you do touring.”

“Touring?”

She nodded. “I do two or three weeks in different towns and cities around the country. Put in my time, make a few heists, stay in hotels. Usually I’ll go quiet for most of the jobs, and then give one or two the business. That keeps me in the public eye and makes it hard for the police to figure out where I actually live.”

“So why are you moving?” I asked. “I mean, it looks like you have all the amenities of home here, plus no one knows you’re here.”

She shrugged. “You get sick of a place after a while. Besides, this place sucks in the winter, and sooner or later someone’s going to notice I’ve stolen power and come looking. Or else someone’s going to want to use the land or the building.” She walked into what looked like the main building plant. It smelled of metal and oil and something burning, with an old wooden stair mounted to one wall that went up to a trap door in the ceiling. There was gear and equipment all over the place in the main section — exercise equipment and the tools of a professional malcontent’s trade. “Hey Marco!” she shouted.

Marco, as it turned out, was a six foot two Hispanic man, who had been welding plates onto what looked like a Humvee. “Yo?!” he shouted back up.

“This is — hey, who the Hell are you?” Leather said, looking back at me.

“Todd Chapman,” I called over. The name didn’t seem to impress Marco.

“Right,” Leather said. “He’s cool until I say otherwise, right?”

“Right,” Marco said. “I’m gonna need to put this thing up so I can work on the underbody. Fucking transport services fucked up the alignment!”

“Transport services,” I asked Leather quietly.

“Do it!” she called to Marco, then turned back to me. “There’s a bunch of supervillain support agencies out there,” she said. “Transport services are kind of the Black Market side of the Teamsters. That way, I can get my gear out to tours and then get it back so we can fix it.”

“What’s Marco’s story?” I asked. I didn’t ask if he was her boyfriend, though it’d crossed my mind. It’s kind of amazing. She’s a super powered criminal who I’d been scared to meet, but I still wanted to know if she was available.

“He henches for me. Same as the other guys.”

“Henches for you?”

“Yeah, they have a guild. C’mon. I wanna show you the roof.”

The wooden stairs were bolted to the wall, and didn’t seem in great shape. She bounded up them with abandon, but then if she fell a couple of flights to the concrete floor she’d probably land on her feet and walk it off. Still, they didn’t creak much as we went up, so I figured it was probably okay. And once through a blast door at the top, we were out on a roof with a low brick wall on all sides. There were a couple of standing pools of water where the tar paper had bubbled, but otherwise it was nice enough. I saw she had some plants potted on one side, next to some lawn chairs, and nearby there was a pile of what looked like rims for trucks.

“What’s that for?” I asked, pointing at the rims. “Storage for your auto body shop?”

“Nah,” she said. “Defense. Lemme show you.” She walked over, and lifted one up. I’d think she wouldn’t weigh enough to easily flip it up the way she did, no matter how strong she was, but either she weighs more than I think or she’s really good at counterbalancing. She flipped it into one hand like it was a trash can lid.

She paused, peering out. “Is that piece of shit Hyundai your car?

I shrugged. “Such as it is.”

“Cool. I don’t feel so bad then.”

“Huh?”

She spun around three times, the truck wheel out like she were throwing the discus. On the third she let go, and I was amazed to see it soar out, spinning like a frisbee almost. Clearly she’d practiced throwing — that’s what she meant by defense. If the cops showed up, she could rain down flying metal on them. I watched arc and angle down…

Straight for my car.

I sputtered as the rim slammed down onto the hood, staving it in and tearing through glass and metal into the body of the car itself. “My car!

“Yeah,” Leather said, grinning. “You’re probably going to want to call Triple-A. You do have Triple-A, don’t you?”

“You’re insane!” I shouted. “You just wrecked my car!

“What? You thought the whole supervillain thing was hype?” She was still grinning, perching. “You probably want to get it towed quickly. And if it’s registered in this state there’s a mandatory Powered Nemesis rider on your insurance, so no harm done.”

I pulled out my phone and wallet. Get Triple-A to come tow me and ride back with them, getting the Hell away from the psycho–

Leather bounded past me, almost a blur, doing a pirouette as she passed by me and plucking the cell phone out of my hand so delicately I hardly noticed she had done it.

I blinked. “Give me that–” I started to say, following her.

Leather giggled, closing her hand over my phone. Metal and plastic splintered, and she let the shattered remains of my phone fall to the roof.

“You bitch,” I snarled, and I admit I tried to slap her. Look, at that point I was pretty upset.

And yeah, you’re thinking that was pretty stupid. I mean, the girl hoisted a truck rim a good two hundred yards with pinpoint accuracy. But I wasn’t thinking clearly and I was pissed.

She ducked under my slap and rolled me lightly over her shoulder. I went sprawling, but before I could land on the roof she’d rolled over me, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me into her roll, kicking up with her feet at the top of it. I was catapulted fifteen feet into the air, sprawling, and realized as I was coming down that I was going over the edge of the roof, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

I was pointed down, screaming my head off and looking at the ground a good fifty feet below me when her hand clamped on my ankle, stopping my fall and letting me dangle. The shock was nasty enough, and even though she was careful when she grabbed my ankle, I knew I’d be limping for a couple of hours.

“You want to be careful,” she said brightly. “Remember, you didn’t bring a spare pair of pants with you, so you’re going to want to retain bladder control.”

I didn’t answer coherently. I probably screamed, though I don’t clearly remember.

“Now,” she said. “Let’s go over what you did wrong, shall we?”

I distinctly remember whimpering at this point.

“When a supervillain — one who’s been polite enough to let you come up for an interview, and given you fucking coffee — tells you you’re staying for a week, you don’t argue. You adjust your plans. Is that clear?”

Whatever I said in response was hardly coherent.

“Is that clear?” she asked. “If you don’t answer me, I’ll get bored and boredom means my grip will slip.”

“It’s clear! It’s clear!”

“Okay then. You’re going to stay for the week. Do you understand?”

“Yes!”

“You have no phone. Your computer won’t be able to access my wireless network. You’re cut off. If you find some way to get out a cry for help, I’ll break every bone in your body. Is that clear?”

Yes!

“You’re sure?”

“Yes! God, yes!

She giggled. “Okay!” And she hauled me back on the roof.

I threw up, but was careful not to get any on my shirt.


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19 thoughts on “Interviewing Leather, Part Two”

  1. This gentleman is obviously not successfully experienced with women. He acted like he was afraid of her on the drive up, but if he really was, then he wouldn’t have argued with her about staying. And if a chick’s unstable enough to give the full-on business to a Wal-mart (it’s a waste of time), and he had any experience with women or brains in his head, he really wouldn’t have argued with her.

    I look forward to seeing if he learns anything in the next installment 😉

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  2. It’s one thing to be afraid of a concept, it’s another to be afraid of someone who looks slender and perky and short. Sometimes our eyes short circuit our brains 😉

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  3. In retrospect, the guy to be angry at is our reporter’s editor. He sent the reporter in without the full facts (assuming, and I think it’s a fair assumption, that he knew about the one-week thing and Leather wasn’t making that up).

    I’m also getting a bit of a Narbonic vibe. The “making a lair look homey” bit, for example.

    Not altogether a surprise, or a problem–they’re all stories with a similar theme, in a way.

    Like

  4. Hee. This continues to be great. And it fits well with what you explained in the intro about being light without being parody. It’s funny, and entertaining, but I also fully believe that this cute supervillain would break every bone in his body if he doesn’t cooperate.

    Also, the image of a supervillain doing the whole monologue business in a Walmart is priceless.

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  5. The whole bit about trashing the Walmart was really giving me flashbacks to a Supers game that I play in sporadically. Recently I got to smash up an RV convention while masquerading as a supervillain named Mr. KaBoom. Some of the monologuing I managed to improvise still cracks me up when I remember it.

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  6. Oh, Todd. You are so hosed. A week with a supervillain? You’re going to spend the rest of your career interviewing supers. At least until the Editor in Chief of your comic universe decides to kill you off.

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  7. This stuff is all so damned intriguing it has turned my tiny mind inside out.

    I like the tone you’ve hit here–I myself dabble in the superhero genre of literary excursions myself, and enjoy a similar tone.

    Anyhow, this is pretty damned amazing. FOR SERIOUS.

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  8. I love how quickly she turned from sweet, cute girl in her pyjamas to dominating, spiteful supervillain. Todd has a rough week in store for him.

    Also, her name makes it seem like this is going to turn into a bdsm fetish story. When I first saw it I was like “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Is Eric writing erotica these days?” but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.

    Like

  9. Questions occur. Something about the execution seems a little unsatisfactory, like you’re checking your swing.

    Is what we are reading the interview story, as submitted to the editor? As published? As written but neither submitted nor published?

    Is this intended to be an RS-style interview (1000 or so words of introduction followed by a lengthy, meticulously-edited Q&A) or a celebrity profile in the mode of that Tom Junod Esquire cover article about Angelina Jolie that Ron Rosenbaum hated so much over at Slate? There’s another article at Slate, of a few years ago, about the celebrity profile business, that might be useful. One of the classics of the genre is Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” in which the article builds gently upon the small fact that when Frank Sinatra had a cold, his hangers-on, servants and entourage all manifested similar symptoms, like courtiers imitating Louis XIV’s clothes.

    The point being, there might be more sinister things about a supervillainess and her milieu than her coffee machine for even a reluctant reporter to apprehend. If he has never seen a superhuman, good or bad, in person, he might experience something other than anger or fear when he sees a manifestation of power: I think there’s a book by Tim Parks in which his protagonist suffers disgust and revulsion when supernatural things make themselves visible. That might make an interesting thread in a light-tempered superpeople-world parody of celebrity journalism.

    (And I mean no disrespect to the author when I note that it is not exactly innovative to use coffee and tough-girl threats to reveal character. Warren Ellis and his cigarette-smoking hard men would be proud.)

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  10. I’m going to gazard a huess that the editor most certainly knew the details, but also knew that there was no way in hell Todd would go (even for a buck ninety a word) if he’d known. But now Todd’s there, and Kyle (I hope I got that name right ’cause I’m too much in a hurry to go back and check) doesn’t have have to deal with him until the thing is done.

    Awesome start. It’s not quite a total deconstruction (except maybe where the car’s concerned. Nyuck, nyuck.), but it’s also not quite playing the tropes of the genre relentlessly straight. Like Astro City, with a slightly more obvious sense of humor.

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  11. The full story may end up being a bit long, but this sort of light story is the sort of thing the broadcast over at EscapePod. When it’s finished, submit it. They pay.

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  12. Is what we are reading the interview story, as submitted to the editor? As published? As written but neither submitted nor published?

    This is supposed to be the article that Todd wrote and published.

    In the end, it owes more to Hunter S. Thompson riding with the Hells Angels — Gonzo Journalism, where the journalist becomes the centerpiece of the story — with a hearty dose of Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism and a dash of Truman Capote for good measure. While he was sent to do an afternoon’s interview, he’s been essentially kidnapped and had an almost unprecedented opportunity to see the inside of a supervillain’s operation, and the story he’s actually writing is that, instead of a celebrity profile.

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  13. First time reading this, and I’d be giggling if chuckling didn’t sound more masculine, so I’m chuckling. Heartily.

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