Mystery Men Issue 41
Crime in Stereo!
ALL-STARS OF EVIL ANNOUNCE LINEUP
The Toweler, Talks with Plants, Tim O'Hara, Anthony Nelson (Darrin Stephens distracted by the sudden appearance of Samantha’s magical third half-cousin on her mother’s side, Scrappy)
"We are number One!" says leader, the Green Flashlight. "All others are number two or worse."
Commissioner Talleyrand calls for calm as supervillains Tacitus, Mean Mr. Mustard, The Plierer, The Yellow Fog and Ricethower team up!
Tim O'Hara posts a plea in his newspaper column begging some real superheroes to show up and help the masked adventurer 'Newspaperman' and the other Perfectly Ordinaries. The paper has an easily-recognizable photo of Tim O'Hara wearing his normal clothes with his press-pass stuck in his hatband. The press pass has his real name on it. He is wearing a domino mask, two loops of frabric around his eyes that would not fool a blind wombat. Below, is the caption "Who is this masked man?"
Tim in obviously hoping that the supervillains will discover his secret identity and go to his apartment to threaten his loved ones (such as, for example, the super-intelligent martian who can read minds, turn invisible, paralyze people, levitate, and talk to animals). This will not only take care of the bad guys, but compromise Tim's effectiveness as a crimefighter, so that he is taken off this suicidal assignement.
"Ah-HA!" shouts the Green Flashlight, examining the Daily Planet through a powerful hand lens. "Note that the face of the man shown above the "Chatting on the Back Fence" column, Tim O’Hara, is identical to that of this masked superhero, Newspaperman! And may I remind you, gentlemen, that the Daily Planet is … a NEWSPAPER!"
"He doesn’t look a thing like him, Flashlight," objects Mean Mr. Mustard.
With a flourish, the Green Flashlight produces a tiny scrap of black cloth, and manipulating it with tweezers, places it over Tim O’Hara’s photograph to simulate a domino mask held on with string.
"Whoa!" "Wow!" "Ahh!" crow the All-Stars of Evil, completely astonished.
"He was right under our noses the whole time!" exclaims the Yellow Fog.
"Right there in the newspaper!" chimes in Ricethrower.
"DIE, Newspaperman!" shouts Tacitus, thrusting the iron head of his pilum through the outspread newsprint and the table beneath.
The Green Flashlight stares coldly at Tacitus as the table collapses.
"New plan, boys," he confides. "Instead of Tacitus talking his way into Tim O’Hara’s house to gain his confidence while the rest of us sneak around back, Tacitus will kick the door in and kill everybody."
"While the rest of you sneak around back!" Tacitus exclaims.
"Yeah, sure," says the Green Flashlight. "Whatever."
The Toweler and Talks with Plants meet up with Tim O'Hara and Major Nelson somewhere in the Seedy Brownstone District downtown, spying Sam wandering by looking for crime. He’s looking right at it, but indecent exposure isn’t a crime in Hobbiton, so he wanders on unalerted to crime’s unembarassable menace.
"Look, Captain Astronaut!" says one normally-dressed fellow to the other. "It’s the Toweller, and Flowerpot!"
"My Indian name is Talks with Plants," says Talks With Plants, "but in deference to the aromatic serenity of Miss Gardenia, I won’t rebuke you physically."
"Well, good," improvises Tim, "because I’d hate to have to use my vast journalistic powers in self-defense."
"We heard the All-Stars of Evil meet around here," says Captain Astronaut. "They put up flyers advertising for new members."
"INDEED WE DID, SUPER-SAPS!" crows the Green Flashlight, shining his green beam of greenness from a fire escape high above. "Our cunning scheme may not have trapped my arch-enemy, the so-called SuperStrategist, but Newspaperman will be a fitting foe to feel the far-flung fury of the Fall-Stars of Evil! All-Stars."
Swaggering into view come the All-Stars. As Green Flashlight starts introducing tonight’s starting lineup, there’s a flash of white light, which turns Mean Mr. Mustard into a conical plastic dispenser of bright yellow spicy sauce.
"What-the-what-the-hey?" bellows the Plierer. "There’s sorcery afoot, brothers! Time to get medieval on these heroes."
Tacitus vs. Newspaperman: Tacitus leads off with a thrown javelin which hangs in mid-air, reverses course, and impales Tacitus’ own shield, pinning Tacitus to a brick wall. "An amazing coincidence!" shouts Tim out loud, and "Uncle Martin, shh!" quietly to himself. "That was pretty obvious."
"All right, Tim," says his Uncle Martin, whom no one else can see. "I’ll try it your way."
Then the Green Flashlight blinds Tim with his green beam and, while Tim’s not looking, puts a green twist-tie on his wrists, immobilizing him. Uncle Martin remains invisible, and No One Suspects A Thing.
The Plierer vs. Captain Astronaut: The Plierer plies his pliers against Major Nelson, removing several of his medals. Worried for his safety, Jeannie shrinks him down into her bottle, so that he appears to vanish. The Plierer looks at his pliers, which never before have been able to disintegrate people completely, and puts them carefully into a paper bag held at arm’s length.
The Yellow Fog vs. Talks with Plants: "At them, my pretties!" commands Talks with Plants, and as though mesmerized by her will, the plants fly in exactly the direction in which she hurls their flowerpots. Had that direction intersected the space occupied by the Yellow Fog’s body, the plant’s robotic obedience might have had some tactical effect, beyond the merely impressive.
Ricethower vs. the Toweller: Did you ever soak a towel in water and twist it up into a whip? It hurts much, much worse than being slapped (fanned, really) by a dry towel, and it stings for minutes afterward. With a plentiful supply of after-shower water available, you’d think the Toweller would have it all over Ricethrower, rice being light and softish. And it is. Securely confined within a 100-pound bag of bristly burlap, however, rice can become a cereal grain to be reckoned with. Superior speed and indifference to public morals grant the Toweller several stinging whips before he gets a hundredweight of rice to the kisser and dreams of steaming jungle paddies with bars of soap floating in them.
The All-Stars of Evil immediately gain two recruits: Garlic-Press and the Human Windshield Wiper. They lock up their captives and hurry away to extract vital information from them, such as the location of Justice Inc.’s secret headquarters! Muah-hah-hah-hah! And the Plierer finds this cool lamp, which he brings along, the unsuspected Major Nelson and Jeannie inside.
LOONICORN BRINGS MADNESS TO MIDTOWN!
Belle, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White
The Loonicorn's helmet beams pulsating lunar rays directly into the human brain, causing insanity! This may not bother fairy tale characters as much as normal folk. Indeed, out of the Loonicorn’s focusing lens pours blue smoke, which congeals into a cheerful genie with a forked black beard and a huge cartoon-style mallet. Unfortunately, the Loonicorn’s beam then touches the genie’s head, causing him to go berserk and attack his teammates with locomotives!
Yes, locomotives. A whole handful of them. He’s a genie, he can do anything.
Reasoning that if the Loonicorn’s power is interrupted, the genie will revert to sanity, Snow White gives the Loonicorn a chaste kiss on the cheek. Reasoning that if he hits the Loonicorn real hard and chews off his head, the Loonicorn will lose the ability to plan his next move, the Beast pounces. Reasoning that a prick from an enchanted spinning wheel’s spindle brings enchanted sleep, Sleeping Beauty waves a cloth in the Loonicorn’s field of vision, causing him to turn suddenly and prick himself with his own madness-producing horned helmet.
This helps, but an insane Loonicorn doesn’t behave much differently from the sane version; he snorts, stomps and sweeps his madness-ray all around the neighborhood. Belle is felled by a tiny piece of crumbling debris, so the Beast halts in mid-lunge to see to her safety.
Snow White and Sleeping Beauty try distracting the Beast so Prince Charming and the other Prince Charming can get in close with their duelling sabers, but it’s no use. They can’t distract him. Prince Charming gets in close with his duelling saber anyway, severing the Loonicorn’s chin strap and causing his helmet to fall free. The Loonicorn, out of his head, charges a lamppost with a furious head-butt and knocks himself silly. Sillier.
Snow White: 2 xp
Belle: 2 xp
Sleeping Beauty: 2 xp
Jasmine: 1 xp
+4 municipal for the Fairy Tale Four
BARON VON CHAOS STRIKES!
Sir Quacksalot, Sister Mary, Strider, Legolas, Frodo, Agent Beta of the Bureau of Department Management, and Gilderoy Lockheart
"The reign of order is over!" crows the armored supervillain.
"Isn't he dead about three times over?" asks Mayor Frank MacHinery. "Heard he got the chair."
The deadly Baron von Chaos is indeed back from the dead, again, and deadlier than ever! With Team Biohazard mysteriously absent, a group of alert citizens must improvise in the face of skull-armored, hell-breathing, goat-riding terror!
The goat doesn’t carry him very fast, so Baron von Chaos has time to explain his entire plan.
"Bwah-hah-hah! Back from the dead, with powers you cannot imagine, I will break stuff and hurt people!"
He even has time to say it twice.
Baron von Chaos swings his long-chained censer of bitter herbs at Sir Quacks-a-lot and Strider. Strider is knocked silly by the brazen bell, while Sir Quacks-a-lot ducks under it. Groans and screams accompany the dreadful pun.
But the Mallard of Martial Majesty is undeterred, and gets in close to whack the revenant Baron right on the snoot! Ow!
Legolas bounces an arrow off the grille between the Baron’s eyes, stunning him and demonstrating how completely Legolas holds his life in his hands. The Baron pales, faltering a step, allowing Frodo and Gilderoy Lockhart to act. Frodo holds aloft Sting, which Gilderoy enchants with a Blue Blazes Benison, and its blue glow in the presence of arcane evil brightens to a morning star, blinding the Baron and banishing him back to bedlam.
"It’s a side effect of the Benison to alliterate all authoritative announcements in the area," explains Lockhart. "It should stop soon."
"So it seems," says Frodo.
"Sagely said," says Lockhart, smiling suavely.
Sir Quacksalot 2 xp
Sister Mary 1 xp
Strider 1 xp
Legolas 1 xp
Frodo 2 xp
Agent Beta 1 xp
Gilderoy Lockhart 2xp
Fellowship, Justice Inc: +2 Federal
KID BOT AND THE RAPSTAS OF METAL!
Mad Scientists, Mom’s Club
Robot rappers threaten Tintown! The Mom’s Club goes after them because they’re rappers. The Mad Scientists go after them because they’re robots. For one terrible moment, it looks as though the two hero groups will fight each other, mistaking one another for villains, until Stacey remembers seeing Dr. Kitsune’s picture on the Nature Channel.
Dr. Revenge and Dr. Nimbus vs. Kid Bot: Kid Bot tries making up an impromptu rap against the Mad Scientists:
"Your white coat ain’t no boat – it won’t float when I chuck you in the river with it tied around your throat!"
The scientists, in turn, make up an impromptu Mad Science Device against Kid Bot. It’s a rotating magnetic wheel covered in flanges with a caged thunderstorm as a dynamo. Kid Bot is yanked into it and held fast, unable to rap. Whew!
Dr. Chronos vs. Ice Machine: Ice Machine sprays Dr. Chronos with a fan of stinging ice particles, freezing his clothes, his face and the street beneath him. Dr. Chronos drops back two seconds and dodges left, slipping on the ice and knocking himself out.
Dr. Kitsune and Jennifer vs. MC Chuck 3/16": MC Chuck and Jennifer dance a deadly duet, with his whirring drill bit clashing repeatedly with her fencing foil. Neither can harm the other, although the foil is getting pretty bent up. Suddenly a mob of foxes slither up MC Chuck’s frame and nibble on every exposed wire and hose, rendering him helpless.
Michelle and Stacey vs. Steam Hammer: He can punch you sixty times a second with force sufficient to tear up asphalt! So it’s best not to be punched by him, if you can help it. Stacey explains this to Michelle, who figured it out on her own anyway.
"I’manna TEAR YOU UP like a STREET, Lycra!" snorts Steam Hammer steamily. He doesn’t have a sultry tone or anything – more like the sound of rocks tearing – but he actually emits steam with every syllable.
"Not now," says Stacey. "Later."
"Why? Whadda we gotta do first?"
"There are some nice things you’ll really enjoy that we can do later this afternoon, but you have to take care of one or two itsy bits first," she says plausibly. "Won’t that be fun?"
"Well, sure, I guess …" says Steam Hammer. "What are the fun things?"
"We could chop up all that lumpy sidewalk so it can be made smooth," says Stacey. "But first we have to chop it up! Won’t that be fun?"
Michelle, lunging as though at Tae-Bo, pushes Steam Hammer over, where he just lies there, unable to get back up. He tries pushing himself up with his arms, but they’re triphammers, and they only dig him in deeper.
"Well done, Stacey!"
"Never say ‘no"," says Stacey confidently. "Say ‘later.’ Works every time!"
Dr. Nimbus, Dr. Revenge, Dr. Kitsune, Stacey, Jennifer and Michelle vs. Ice Machine:
"You’re kidding, right? No way am I taking on six superheroes, yo!"
He does attack Dr. Revenge with a snowball scooped from the inside of his frosty freezer-cabinet, though. The snowball splats harmlessly against a nearby lamppost.
"Thanks, Ice Machine," says Dr. Revenge. "You just attacked me. And the only way to deal with an attack is … REVENGE!"
"Oh Dear God," says Dr. Nimbus, putting his hand over Dr. Kitsune’s eyes. "Look away, Doctor. It isn’t pretty."
Dr. Nimbus: 1 xp
Dr. Revenge: 2 xp
Dr. Chronos: 1 xp
Dr. Kitsune: 1 xp
Stacey: 2 xp
Jennifer: 1 xp
Michelle: 2 xp
Mad Scientists: +2 public
Moms’ Club: +3 public
("How come the public likes them better? Why, this calls for a heaping scoop of revenge!"
"Let’s consider two words, Revenge: "MAD" and "MOM." Hardly surprising one appeals more than the other."
"So we should just call ourselves the Cute Fluffy Bunnies, then?" demands Dr. Chronos."
"Dear GOD, No!" exclaim the other three in unison.)
TASTY TUCKER AND HIS CROCODILE KNIFE!
Cosmo Beauty goes after Tasty Tucker and His Crocodile Knife. She does not cooperate with any other heroes, and if any others show up, she not only tries to beat them out for the prize but also mocks them horribly. But none do … be careful what you ask for.
"Got me a croc, sharpened it, wrapped its tail in leather, and bonzer! I got meself a knife."
"I’d hate to think how you’d go about getting a date," sneers Cosmo Beauty. She shakes a pad of pompoms soaked in pancake powder into Tasty Tucker’s face, blinding him, then spin-kicks a spot to the right of his head. Tasty Tucker, annoyed, clobbers her with the flat of his crocodile. An’ takes her prisoner, too!
Cosmo Beauty DEFEATED!
A crystalline drug that gives criminals superspeed causes larceny to increase 9,000 percent in one night! The Metropolitan Minutemen (even the Off-Duty Guys) tackle the Super-Speeders. The egotistical Super-Strategist does_not_ cooperate with other groups, but will attempt to garner glory for himself and his eager but delusional cohorts*. No doubt adversity will teach him humility.
Fortunately, the issue of cooperation with other groups does not arise, as no other groups show the slightest interest in the Super-Speedfreaks. Perhaps that isn’t so fortunate after all.
"Hmm … outnumbered two to one, we might take a tip from what the Spartans did at Themopylae," muses the Super-Strategist. "Or the Alamo, of course."
"The Alamo?" demands the Pincher. "Isn’t that where they all died?"
"But their defeat bought time for Texas to organize its army, and the rallying force of their heroic martyrdom galvanized the Texans to defeat Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836," replied Super-Strategist.
"Damn, Super-Strategist," says Reverse Psychologist, "you sure know what you’re doing!"
"Listen!" says Gruesome Spectacles, squinting through the spring-mounted phosphorescent horror that are his eyeglasses. "That high-pitched buzzing … almost like some kind of super-accelerated laughter!"
"I wasn’t even supposed to be on tonight …" complains Unicycle Courier.
"Face front, Wheel-Rider!" shouts Stiltman. "Get up on top of it – the game’s afoot!"
Stiltman gets up on his stilts just in time, for a blur of blue streaks through where he used to be, wrapping his stilts in duct tape.
"If not for my trusted Battle Stilts, that would have been ME!" exclaims Stiltman, falling over backwards. "Ow."
Blue blurs gather around the Minutemen, taunting and whirring. Their taunts all sound like "BZZbzzBZZbzzRRR! EEP!" so they don’t provoke anger, just nervous laughter. But nobody moves to put their hands into the whirling blades of the Speedfreaks’ metaphorical ceiling fan.
"At them, Minutemen!" commands Super-Strategist. "Remember the plan, and victory is assured!"
"What plan?" demands Phat Chick. "What the Spartans did at the Alamo? What kinda plan is that?"
"A perfect one," replies Super-Strategist deadpan. "But it’s Themopylae, not the Alamo."
"No, I mean, what DID the Spartans do at Thermopylae?" Phat Chick insists.
"Oh," says Super-Strategist, taken aback that she hasn’t heard of the Hot Gates. "Well, first of all, the great Xerxes of Persia led his Immortals into Thrace …"
He takes note of Phat Chick’s blank expression.
"… which is the part of Greece just across the Dardanelles … the Turkish Straits … near Turkey … which is still a country today … hello?"
His reconnaissance into the wasteland of a high-school graduate’s grasp of the world she inhabits finds no landmarks. Meanwhile, Yankee Zulu and Tango Foxtrot drop back from the parking lot into a narrow brick alley, where the super-speeders will have to come at them two at a time, and be unable to maneuver.
One of the blurs comes to a sudden, wobbling stop.
"I’mtheBlueBlur!" he spits in a single syllable. "TheseherearetheBlueBlazes!Wegotsuperpowersandstuffandyou’redoomedandallthatbutdammitthisistakingtoodamnlong! GETTUM!"
The Blue Blur rushes against The Pincher, knocking him sprawling into a parked car. The Pickler leaps into action, filling the air with briny gherkins, none of which hit the Blue Blur, but one of which does make Globalman slip and fall. Mr. Pups and the Mailman try coralling the Blue Blur with a barrier of puppies, whom he kicks yelping in all directions, the heartless fiend.
"ThistownbelongstotheSpeeders!" declares the Blur incomprehensibly. "ThistownbelongstoFalseface!"
Then he stuffs pickles into every single chain-link of the Mailman’s costume, making him look like a green, warty porcupine. The Mailman can’t even move, much less fight, until he chomps his way out. And only the Pickler could eat so heavy a load of pickles … alas, for the Pickler is being spun like a briny top by the Blue Blur!
Meanwhile, Super-Strategist draws a diagram of the Persian army’s march into Greece, flanked by its inferior navy, which will become important later when the free city-states lead their own fleet into battle at Salamis ...
Leadership and strategy are not the same thing.
The Blue Blazes pummel, kick and bullyrag Gruesome Spectacles until Unicycle Courier rushes into their midst on his Unicycle! Having rushed into their midst, he’s at a loss what to do to them, except maybe hand them an important message. They all turn and kick him senseless, sparing his innocent steed.
"That’s it! Kick him some more! Don’t bother with the Pickler – he’s already unconscious!" shouts the Reverse Psychologist. The Blue Blazes go over and beat on the Pickler some more, sparing Unicycle Courier any more abuse.
Gruesome Spectacles screws a pair of magnifying lenses onto his spectacles and unleashes the full force of his Evil Eye on the Blazes! Horrified, they blanch and cringe, looking away from the horrific spectacle unfolding before their eyes. Which is where spectacles are supposed to go, of course.
"Yes, YES!" Gruesome Spectacles exults. "STARE, you whimpering sheep! It’s horrid, unholy, terrible beyond description! It sickens, shames and frightens you. But you JUST CAN’T LOOK AWAY, CAN YOU?"
Green shadows twist and ripple along the brick walls, strange wails pierce the deserted gloom, flickering tendrils brush quivering faces, and an unholy stench of burnt bitter herbs assails the senses. When it fades, several of the Blue Blazes have been shocked into insensibility (and, more tactically relevantly, motionlessness), several more have passed the state line and are still running in blind panic, and the rest are ostentatiously fighting other Minutemen as far from Gruesome Spectacles as possible.
Of the Objectionable Optometrist himself, no trace is ever found …
"… but they went down fighting," concludes Super-Strategist. "The casualties and disorder they inflicted on the Persians were severe enough, but more importantly, their example rallied the Greeks together, because the myth of Persian invincibility had been shattered."
"THEY’RE SLAUGHTERING US!" screams the Reverse Psychologist, somewhat hollowly as he’s stuffed into a trash can. "FOR GOD’S SAKE, SUPER-STRATEGIST, QUIT TALKING AND DO SOMETHING!"
Super-Strategist and Phat Chick look up, startled, then both look down again with fierce concentration.
"He’s right," says Phat Chick. "If we don’t get this plan just right, we haven’t a chance!"
Unicycle Courier, summoning the last reserves of his fading strength, pedals over to seize Super-Strategist and Phat Chick by the ears and deliver them to the alley where Tango Foxtrot and Yankee Zulu wait for the villains. One of the Blue Blazes runs up and snatches Unicycle Courier’s cycle out from under him in mid-air, causing him to sit comically for a moment suspended in space and then fall down hard, skidding under a pickup truck with an oily thunk of finality.
The four Minutemen face the Blue Blazes, who rush in one by one, get punched, run out, shake their heads to clear them, and rush in again. This goes on for a while.
Finally the wail of sirens interrupts the punchery and kickery.
"We’re saved!" shouts Yankee Zulu.
"I’m not so sure," says Super-Strategist. "Our foes seem to have been waiting for this, too."
"Let them! I’d like to see them try to lead when John Law’s calling the tune," says Tango Foxtrot, deftly spinning a Blue Blazer into a wall with a dip-and-spin.
The police then arrive, pushing aside the Blue Blazers and slapping cuffs on Tango Foxtrot and Yankee Zulu.
"That’s them, officers! They’re the ones who attacked us, when we were peacefully, y’know, smoking rock," says the Blue Blur triumphantly. "Man, I’m hungry."
Super-Strategist thinks fast. He whips off his cape and bicorne hat, revealing a plain blue uniform-like outfit, and places a firm hand on Phat Chick’s shoulder.
"Come along with us, miss," he says in a flat Irish brogue. "It’ll go easier for you if you cooperate."
He winks, quickly, but Phat Chick catches the sign.
"Oh, oh, yeah," she says, "Okay, officer. I know when I’m pinched."
"Do you?" leers one of the policemen. "How? Somebody tell you?"
Phat Chick wallops him, getting herself arrested for real. Super-Strategist slips away in the confusion.
And unobserved, he sees from the alley the cops shake hands with Blue Blur, hand him an envelope and some pill bottles, and take his comrades away in the paddy wagon. Clearly something untoward is going on here … and it’s just made its first mistake, by leaving the Super-Strategist on the loose!
Entire Minuteman roster arrested, except Super-Strategist.
Gimli and Sam patrol Downtown. Gimli is distracted by a promising vein of ore along the side of Mt. Kirby. Sam finds two separate criminals, both of whom beat him up. 2 xp.
Dr. Teeth patrols Astro City. He spies three crimes, two of which he breaks up with his dazzling dentistry, and one of which runs away, then turns around cocking a shotgun. Dr. Teeth closes his mouth and instantly vanishes. +1 public, +1 municipal. 4 xp
The Fencer patrols Mt. Kirby. Um .. crime? What’s that? But check out these smooth slopes – a double-walled interrupted picket fence would be a good idea!
L33t MA5t3r patrols the Federal Center. Or the one very small corner of it he wanders into before the release of Cryptozoic 5.0, which he rushes home to hack before anyone else busts the new copy protection algorithm. He does it, too, even ahead of those Hong Kong triads. L33t MA5t3r R00LZ!
Shojo Shaman patrols the Airport. She detects no crimes at all, but unfortunately, crime detects her! Three goons loom out of the shadows, bent on mayhem. Shojo Shaman is all "Love Pinwheel Eyeshadow Attack!" and "I Choose Looming Gargoyle Fuzzy Bunny Ninja Surprise!" and stuff, and one of the goons succumbs with exclamation points of outrage dancing on his head. The other two rip off her gossamer wings and take her magic wand away. Shojo Shaman flees, shedding huge white tears. +1 municipal for trying. 2 xp