Buns of Steel: The Look Of Heroes
by Derek Paterson
-An Ordinary Evening in Mean City-
Climbing seven flights of stairs was sure as hell no fun, but somehow Willis made it to the building’s rooftop without collapsing. Maybe he should be thinking about cutting down on the cigars. And hitting the gym more often. Yeah right, as if that was ever going to happen.
The door wasn’t locked. He opened it and stepped out onto the rooftop. This was one of several empty apartment blocks adjoining Mean City’s warehouse district. Once upon a time they’d been occupied by dock workers and their families, before the new port opened downriver and everyone moved there. Now they lay vacant. Rumor had it they were scheduled for demolition, to make way for new luxury apartments that would sell for millions apiece. That was progress for you.
The sky was clear and stars were sparkling because there was so little light contamination from surrounding buildings. Willis identified several familiar constellations.
“The stars sure look beautiful tonight,” he said to himself, perhaps because it felt so empty up here. “I wonder which one he comes from?”
Never in his life would Willis have imagined himself thinking such a crazy thought. Now things had changed. By a stroke of amazing luck he had met and befriended a man who was undoubtedly from another planet. Which planet, orbiting which star, was a long-running mystery. On the way here he’d checked his phone again, scrolling through the news feeds. Everyone wanted to know who the new hero was and where he’d come from. The fact was, his friend didn’t know himself.
A dull thumping noise made Willis turn around. The man the world was coming to know as Generic Superhero Guy stood watching him. It never ceased to amaze Willis how anyone could have the power of flight. That was the stuff of superhero comics and movies. For someone to actually be able to fly was nothing short of astounding. The hero could do this, and a whole lot of other stuff besides.
“So, how did I do?” the man of the hour asked.
Willis had been expecting the question. Today’s confrontation with the nutjob who called himself Doctor Drillbit had come as a total surprise. Willis’s informant, The Rat, had told him the voices in his head said an armored car was getting knocked over in the warehouse district today. Willis had expected to find a bunch of crooks with masks and guns, equipped with explosives or an oxy-acetylene torch. Instead they’d stumbled onto something 100 times as spectacular. Or crazy, depending on your viewpoint.
“I’d have to say not bad, for your first public outing,” he said. “We might have missed you punching out the Drillspider of Doom—man, I couldn’t have made that corny name up if I tried—but we caught the armored car guard saying you saved them, and Doctor Drillbit being led away in cuffs. And your taking off like a rocket, of course.”
Willis tried to think of a subtle way to broach the next subject, but just couldn’t think of one. “You really have to work on the underwear problem.” He delicately indicated the offending area. “We had to pixelate some of the more... risqué angles.” The hero’s choice of apparel had surprised Willis, who’d expected him to show up in something less revealing. And perhaps... considering his strengths... more manly... than what was essentially a mini-dress.
“Finding material that’s fireproof and comfortable isn’t easy,” the hero said. “You’re the expert, how did the public react to finding out about me?”
Willis didn’t have to look at his phone again, he had the information in his head, he’d always been good with numbers. “Several media outlets conducted polls. Sixty-seven percent think you’re pretty useful and cool to have around. Twenty-two percent think you’re a menace to society who should be locked up. Though how and where is open to debate. The remaining eleven percent want to have your babies but aren’t sure if having sex with you might kill them.”
The hero smiled broadly. “Eleven percent, eh? That’s a lot of lonely ladies.”
“Who said all of them were ladies?” Willis chuckled when he saw the hero’s puzzled expression. “But you stopped a bad guy and most people liked that, they liked that a lot. Nobody got shot or hurt, bonus. A couple more outings like today, the twenty-two percent who want to lock you up and throw away the key might change their minds. Emphasis on ‘might’. It’s not easy for people to accept someone else might have super powers that make them look puny. Jealousy is only natural. So is being scared. But the plain fact is, this city needs a hero. It’s been without one too long. Villains have crawled out of the woodwork and evil has flourished. Being popular, sure, that’s good. We’ll work on that. But what really matters? People being safe, that’s what. People being able to leave their homes and not be afraid.”
Anything else he’d been about to say took a back seat as a glowing star detached itself from the others and came closer, swelling noticeably until the other end of the rooftop was bathed in golden light. It hurt Willis’s eyes to look directly at the source—which was, he realized with some surprise, a man. A man who looked as if he was made of sunlight. Willis pulled out his phone and thumbed the camera app, switching to video recording mode as the glowing man floated down and landed on the rooftop. Heavy black boots covered his feet and matching gauntlets covered his hands. He towered head and shoulders over the hero. The swollen outline of his glowing body suggested he possessed overdeveloped muscles. Even if he didn’t have super powers, he would be a formidable opponent physically.
“You sure as hell are not an easy man to track down,” the new arrival said, sounding annoyed.
The hero turned to face him, as if his appearance was nothing remarkable. “Goodness, how glowy. Are you my first challenger?”
End of sample
Buns of Steel: The Look Of Heroes
Based on the Buns of Steel superhero parody webcomic
which kicked off in May 2015, and is still running.
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Copyright © 2019 by the Author. All Rights Reserved.