The next day the internets exploded.
My morning coffee was already waiting for me, a service apparently provided gratis via the concierge or the maitre d, or some other latin or french word I didn’t know the meaning of. It was in the sitting room, but the smell led me to it and I realized that I had not had a proper cup of coffee in months.
I grabbed the french press pot and the shmancy mug that was sitting there, and strolled into the luxuriously-appointed den with an electric fireplace (which I switched on, because I was cold, as per usual of late), opened up my laptop, and did what I normally did on Sunday mornings verging into afternoon: I surfed the web. It did not take me long to discover that there had been an incident, because it was all over social media in that it was all that anyone would talk about.
Apparently that Sunday morning, while I’d been sleeping the sleep of the Lance in a bed fit for a president, there was an armed robbery going on somewhere down in Bucktooth, Arkansas. (Go ahead and snicker. I don’t remember the actual name of the town, and I don’t feel like looking it up, so we’re going with Bucktooth.)
I can relay the events as I remember reading them thus:
At way-too-early-for-Lance-a.m. a couple of mean hombres stroll into the Bucktooth Savings and Loan carrying shotguns, and ask to make a withdrawal. Despite what you see in movies, the instant two men with guns arrive, the alarm is already tripped, and the local Bucktooth Sheriff’s Department starts to mosey on over to see if Hank has accidentally pressed the button while cleaning again.
The clerks follow the role they know they are supposed to play, and start shoveling money into bags, so that the armed robbers, both wearing ski masks and speaking almost incomprehensible southern dialects, can take their ill-obtained loot to some undisclosed location and get roaring drunk on moonshine to celebrate.
But before they can make off with the goods, they are suddenly confronted in the bank by a man with a garish yellow and black mask, a yellow muscle shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, and a backwards baseball cap. He’s carrying a steel baseball bat engraved with “Slugger” on it. He rushes into the room, and as the bad guys raise their weapons, he smashes his bat on the ground. Cracks appear in the floor, and there’s a loud shockwave of an explosion that knocks the two men back. They try to raise their weapons, but he is rushing like a bull towards them, draws back, swings with all of his might…
And one of the assailants buckles right in the middle as he is caught by the blow, and it instantly ruptures several internal organs from the impact, and snaps his spine, and he’s sent back sailing, crashing through the bank’s glass doors, out into the street beyond, and lands like a meaty baseball.
The other robber screams and raises his weapon but the bat returns for another swing, catches the gun and smashes the barrel into the robber’s face, and the gun goes off, harmlessly blasting the ceiling. Dazed, the robber lowers the weapon, staggering, but the Slugger’s swing catches him right in the side of his head, and he is hit with such force by the steel bat that his head is pulverized on impact, exploding like a watermelon hit by a shotgun at close range.
The mess, as you can imagine, is horrific. Our hero, the Slugger, emerges out of the bank to get help and flag down the authorities, who just a moment before saw a man crash through the bank doors out into the street. He is met, to his initial relief, by the Sheriff and his deputies. With the alarm flashing at the bank, a man shot from the building like a cannon, hearing a shotgun blast, and seeing the masked man covered in blood, gore dripping from the baseball bat in his hands, and moving towards them, they do not ask him to stop and put his hands up. They do not ask him to freeze, or pass go, and he certainly does not collect two hundred dollars.
Those hayseed cops empty clips into him like he’s the devil himself, and some of them even shoot his twitching corpse.
The reaction of the internet overall was pretty cynical, which is the general temper of the internets, because we’ve seen everything by now, and all of it is ultimately disappointing.
Soon as there were people with superpowers, we all knew someone was going to do it eventually. There was speculation about it, nerds everywhere following those who had “come out” as superpowered begging them to start a superhero team, and some of them even did cosplay in their own personal superhero costumes, and milk the fame for all it was worth, and become darlings of social media.
But we never considered them real superheroes. We all secretly hoped that one day, someone would do it for real. Come out of nowhere in a mask and cape, beat up some bad guys, and make the world a better place.
I think it all depended on him, on the Slugger. He was the first superhero. He was the one that took our hopes and dreams and did it for real.
And what happened when he did? Let’s take stock: In the real world, the first superhero, with actual super-strength, did not peacefully subdue the bad guys while issuing clever repartee, he killed them in grim silence. Then he got shot by the cops as the suspicious masked figure he really was. I couldn’t have fucked up a debut like that any better myself.
I guess we all came back to reality a little bit after that. In the end, we sadly realized, this wasn’t going to look anything like it did in the comic books.