Comic Superhero Episode 10: The Fortress of Solitude

Previously in Comic Superhero…

Andrew and Jackson began a recon mission to find out about Emily’s past.  Armed with little information and a few surmises, Andrew went on the attack in the Library.  Emily countered with a sob story about the loss of her father.  Her tears turned to laughter as she humiliated Andrew again, revealing the sob story to be a lie.  Andrew is devastated and takes time to think…

The library doors swung shut behind Andrew, but he couldn’t stop the sound of Emily’s laughter in his ears.  Shame and embarrassment burnt his ears and turned his stomach to lumpy custard.  Refuge was found at the group’s regular table and bench.

Andrew sat down, pulled out his ipod and hit ‘shuffle’ to find something else to think about.  The social death of a thousand humiliations begins with a single text he thought.  He imagined Emily texting Bianca and Catherine and Joshua, replaying step by step the humiliation she had visited on him.  Embarrassment by facebook would surely follow as it went viral, mentioned on wall posts and in the whispers behind hands and fits of giggles at school.  Joshua would probably sketch up a cartoon of the event and post it for all to see.

Andrew opened his Biology homework and set about completing it.  After ten minutes he gave up and pulled a Phantom comic from his folder.  He spent the remainder of the lesson absorbed in his favourite pastime before dragging himself to Modern History.

At recess, Jackson noticed the morose face.

“I’m a bit of a lost cause now,” said Andrew.

“Come on, what you need is some time to chill.  Let’s go hang at Phat Albert’s.  We haven’t done that in ages,” said Jackson.

“I’ve got some comics to catch up on.  Sounds like a plan.”

That afternoon, Andrew and Jackson set up camp in the back corner of Phat Albert’s comic store.  The couches, bean bags and low tables had taken on the nickname “The Fortress of Solitude.”  They came to read and share comics with similarly geeky souls.  A small sign declared, “Once you’ve bought it, you can read it.  This is not a public library.”  Food was frowned upon lest greasy fingers or spilled soft drink despoil pristine ink work.  The regulars imprinted the rules on newcomers like old school librarians.

They had been there for half an hour when Andrew knocked Jackson’s shoulder and pointed towards the counter.

“Look, a padawan.”

A young boy had his fingers over the top edge of the glass display cases like Spiderman while he looked at the treasures underneath.  He pulled himself up to ask a question.

“Hey Phat Albert, why do you call these glass cases ‘The Texas Book Depository’?” asked the kid whose clothes still suggested his mother had sway over inventory.

Phat Albert rested his forearms on the glass top and leaned down to the young boy’s line of sight.

“I want you to go home tonight and look up a name: Lee Harvey Oswald.  When you have found out what he’s famous for, come back and tell me.  If you give me a good answer, I’ll give you a comic.”

The young lad’s eyes widened.

“That’s a promise,” said Phat Albert.  “Run along now.  I’ll be waiting for your answer.”

“That brings back memories,” said Andrew.  “Phat Albert gave me a Captain America comic.”

“He gave me The Incredible Hulk,” said Jackson.  “Started me on the path to collecting.”

Andrew had meditated on recent events, chewing them over in his mind.  He had found no solution and any attempt to understand Emily only left him frustrated.  She had bested him at every turn and despite him defeating her challenge, he felt empty.

“Jackson, I just don’t get Emily.”

“In the paraphrased words of the wise Nelson Muntz, ‘Girls hit, they scratch, they pinch. And sometimes we fall in love.’ ”

“Come on.  We’ve been adversaries since she came to the school, but lately it has gone completely out there and I can’t work out why,” said Andrew.

“It began because you made her look foolish,” said Jackson.  “Her response was one of revenge.  She put all the pressure on you.  She initiated and all you had to do was respond and you were under her power.  Once that started, she always had you on the back foot.  She wasn’t out to beat you as such.  She wanted to see how you were going to respond.”

“But I beat her.”

“Yes, true,” said Jackson.  “But every time you’ve gone in for the attack, she’s known you’re on the defensive and can counterattack.  It’s funny, but from the outside the two of you look like you’re flirting.”

“You’re joking.  What the hell do you mean?”

“Hear me out.  The two of you can’t keep your eyes off each other, watching to see what the other is doing, trying to second guess the next move.  All your waking time is spent thinking about Emily.  How you can stop her, how she makes you feel, what you can do to defeat her.”

“But I can’t defeat her, it’s impossible,” said Andrew.  “Every time I think I can, I end up humiliated and weaker than before.”

“Has reading comics not taught you anything about heroes and villains?  The villain can’t keep on being evil without revealing their weakness at some point.  You’re going to have let her self-destruct.”

“She is going to get so much mileage out of this morning’s incident.  Can’t believe I fell for it,” Andrew said.

“Anybody would have.”

“But there is something that she is hiding, I’m sure of it.”

“Don’t strike when you think you can.  Strike when you know you can.”

Jackson’s phone beeped on the table in front of him.  “Hey, Mike’s having an end of term party this weekend at his house and it seems like most of the grade is invited.  Some time to relax before the holiday onslaught of study.”

“It’ll be good to get out and have a break before becoming study hermits for two weeks.  Wonder if Emily’s going to be there?”

“See, there you go, still thinking about Emily.”

Andrew admitted defeat; his thinking was consumed by thoughts of Emily.  In a way he didn’t mind.  He wondered what it would be like to see Emily in a different context, out of the uniform regimen of school, replacing the school mask with a social mask.

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8 responses to “Comic Superhero Episode 10: The Fortress of Solitude

  1. I loved that Jackson totally brought up the “flirting” perspective. It makes me wonder if someone deep down they actually do admire each other in that way in the same way a boy will pull a girl’s pigtails because he likes her. 🙂

  2. That “love/hate/love/hate” scenario – how true is that of teenage relationships!!!

  3. I’m with Jackson, no villain ever manages to perpetuate their spell in control. They just have more fun while they’re there!

  4. Delightful! I’m loving these characters. And the little boy at the counter was a wonderful scene. I’m getting hooked!

  5. Jackson is full of wisdom. I liked the padawan scene! How cute! Here’s hoping Andrew doesn’t get humilated at the party.

  6. Good as usual, though one line threw me off. “The social death of a thousand humiliations begins with a single text he thought. ” I’m not sure you got what you wanted out of that line, maybe “A thousand humiliations begin with a single text, he thought,” or “A thousand social deaths begin with a single text, he thought”?

    • I’ll take Incorrect Punctuation for $400 please. Spent a while on that line and still couldn’t get it right. Thanks for offering a far better version, John.

  7. Phat Albert is a consummate business man (case in point Andrew and Jackson). Get them hooked at an early age and they’re yours. A comic shop proprietor’s a bit like a drug dealer that way!

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