Story. "Hammer Man" The Comic Book Commando has never fought anything so strange. If only he could get some rest.
"Look at this, Cartoon!"
Johnnie's fairy tale princess, made of luminous light and glowing flesh, walked into the living room, her feet hammering the floor with waves of light as she crossed the wooden floor and its single large rug that hugged the furniture in the center. She was dressed to the hilt, glowing necklace, earrings of dazzling diamond moons, sparkling rings that made her hands light up and a smile that would make any teenage boy's genes go from double helix to triple in the blink of an eye.
She sat next to him on the arm of his chair, pushing her golden hair back from her eyes so she could look at what he was reading. Her golden eyes smiled. "Hammer Man. Never heard of him."
For a brief moment he hadn't either as the touch of her skin on his arm caused his neuron receptors to begin working overtime hollering, "What are you waiting for you, dolt? She loves you, you love her. What more do you need?"
"Me either." He admitted, ignoring the pleading of his body. After all he wasn't a jerk, and he didn't believe that sex solved everything. Usually it just complicated things, not made them better. His blonde hair was dropping limply across his shoulders from the shower he had gotten out of about fifteen minutes ago. A cold shower. All the way cold. And during winter time that was skin turning blue cold. "He was doing a lot of those kinds of showers lately." He sighed inwardly.
His blue eyes caught hers for a moment and the obvious love between them flamed for a moment.
He caught his breath and shifted his six foot frame slightly to accommodate the waves of hormones that threatened to overwhelm him. Again! He loved her. She lived in his apartment. Mostly. But he had never...you know. It wasn't honorable. And she would probably have turned him into a toad if he had tried. He wanted to think. Sometimes he didn't know if he was just in denial, or truly wanted the best for her, or both, or...the thoughts were too confusing, like most of those kinds of thoughts are to the young and as yet unwise in the matters of love, so he killed them. Gently.
Sometimes when he woke up before her, he would lie on his side, just watching her breath, her eyelids fluttering as she visited whatever world cartoons went to in their sleep. He would see her chest rising and falling gently like soft surf on a sunny beach. His heart would stop sometimes during those moments and he would catch his breath and then he would feel his eyes starting to water. Usually, she didn't wake up when he felt like that. She must have known he was watching her, she was pretty sensitive to that, but she gave him his moments of introspection and pride and kept him closer to her by doing so. Easier to catch a honey bee with honey than with sour grapes.
Yeah. They bundled. Slept side by side, arms wrapped around each other at night. Sometimes. When they weren't battling zombies, werewolves, vampires, mad doctors, aliens and other assorted human and inhuman beasties, but they did sleep...mostly on the go. Him on a bus to school or work, and her...he wasn't really sure if she ever really slept. He would open his eyes up at night sometimes to check if she was really asleep or not and she would either be gone, or if she was still next to him, her eyes would be closed. But he knew her well enough by now to know she could also be doing something else.
You see, Cartoon, was a Princess from the universe of cartoons. It was a strip of infinite land that bordered our own universe. It had few contact points. One of them had been the burning high rise where Johnnie had rescued her when she was pretending to be a small child so she could test his courage. He had passed the test and he had been granted enormous comic book powers. One day she had sat up beside him in bed, taken his trembling hands...because he still had to fight those hormones, remember?
She told him. "Johnnie, you're now the Comic Book Commando. Fighting for good against evil."
He had almost died on that bed, because he had burst into laughter. Not a good thing when you're seated next to a woman who can turn you into a froggie, or even just slice your head off with her magical sword which she could pull out of the air anytime she needed it. Nice trick he had thought at the time, until she looked ready to use it on him.
Then she had calmed down. After he had promised to cook breakfast for her the next morning and make her favorite waffles and fries. For some reason she loved fries and waffles. Don't ask him where she got that from, but he suspected it was from reading comic books about his world. And yeah, right her people wrote stories about this world and the heroes here. He didn't think such existed much anymore, but evidently her world had a sliding scale of values when it came to heroes that accommodate the earth's sometimes sparse treasury of such.
"Okay! Okay!" He had hollered, clamoring to get her temper down into the more arctic regions, so he could survive the night. "I'm sorry. Look, let me make it up to you. Waffles and fries for breakfast!"
Her sword had wavered over her head, from which it would have descended and struck his head off. (Though she swore afterwards she had only been pretending; he didn't believe it for a minute. No one's that perfect an actor! ) "Really?"
She let the sword slide back into her dimension and slid closer to him. "I'm just being honest with you, Johnnie. You know I can't lie." She told him sweetly.
He looked into her eyes and smiled. But inside he was thinking, right and I'm a horse in sheep's clothing. Everyone lies about something! He had thought.
Immediately the sword reappeared.
"You read his thoughts!" He snapped at her. "That's so...so..."
The sword wavered over his head.
"Scary." He finally said.
She burst into laughter and the sword vanished again. She threw her arms around his shoulders and hugged him close. He was reluctant at first. The hormone thing you know, but it's not good to say no to a Princess, especially one with a magical sword that could appear and take your head off at any given moment.
But getting back to the Hammer Man. He was really cool. A great red suit with blue and white stars on the shoulders, shoes that were solid blue with white stars on their tips, and a great big hammer, even bigger than Thor's. As a matter of fact the hammer could be any size you wanted. He was on page twenty and he had already clobbered a skyscraper with it to get at aliens who had taken it over and killed everyone inside. Just like that! BOOM! The building was history and a cloud of dust dirtying the skies of Chicago.
Did he mention that he was a Chicagoan? That's right. And an ex-policeman who had tried to stop corruption in his department and been framed for the very thing he was exposing. How's that for turnaround. Then one night he went camping out in the woods and a nuclear tipped missile accidentally strayed from an overflying Air Force jet. It had been struck by lightning. Yeah. Big storm. So he wasn't having much fun anyway, except for the display of lightning in the sky. So when he saw the incredibly huge object coming down from the sky at him, he had this hammer in his hands. It was made of a new alloy and he was testing it on the firewood to see if he could split logs with it. Didn't work, but as luck would have it, a lightning bolt struck the nuclear missile. It detonated. But not in the usual way. Instead of exploding outwards, it exploded inwards, but even though he wasn't smashed to smithereens and turned radioactive at least, the energies released from the inversion...for some crazy kind of comic book logic...the energies lanced into his hammer.
Of course he was holding tight to the hammer, and voila, Hammer Man was born.
Cartoon looked at him and shook her head. "Johnnie, you and your comic books."
"Yeah. And don't forget you wouldn't be here if I didn't love them, light bulb!"
It was a term of endearment He had for her. She frowned. She didn't like the implications of being a light bulb, because they can be switched off. "And He would be missing out on the most beautiful, smart Princess in this or any other universe...not to mention He would not be a..." He raised his voice in an imitation of the way TV announces heroes..."THE COMIC BOOK COMMANDO!"
He leaped to his feet and held his hand up, the Hammer of the comic book appearing in it.
Cartoon almost burst her gut with laughter.
He set the Hammer down and gave her a hug. She leaned into me. "Someday."
"Yeah." He sighed.
Guess I didn't tell you either that if we were to have...you know...her connection to our world would be broken. Then kaboom, no more Princess. Gone. Forever. And me, a lonely Comic Book Commando. Very lonely.
He felt a tear wetting his eyes.
She pressed it away gently with her finger. "What's wrong?"
"This is going to sound stupid and silly."
"And everything else doesn't?" She laughed.
He smiled. And just like that she forgot about what he might have told her and he forgot about what was causing his eyes to get moist.
The front door flung open and Laurie burst inside. She's his brunette friend he hangs with sometimes and plays music with. She's got one of me for a boyfriend too, a clone of me. I made two extras of me for her and Koomay. Aren't I nice? She finally discovered it, but she didn't care. He was me, even if cloned. And that was enough. Or at least that's what I hoped when she and Cartoon hung out together without me. God only knows what they said behind his back, which might explain why his ears burned sometimes when they were together and turned red hot when they were with Koomay as well.
Koomay is the other woman in his life at work.
"Johnnie! Come quickly!" She urged in alarm.
"You're about to die!"
He gave Cartoon a blank look, grabbed the Hammer that stay was manifested on his chair and ran after her, Cartoon on his heels, manifesting her sword as she flew along behind me. The Landlord managed to come out of an apartment at that moment, a bottle of Jim Bean in his right hand. He was swigging on it, when we rushed by.
Had he taken the time to look back he would have seen the Landlord empty the bottle, and go back into the room and slam the door. No doubt to sleep off what he thought was hallucinations. He took a moment to worry about the guy, and maybe even pity him, but not much longer. The man was a snoop and a Lech, and if he wasn't also nice in other ways, he would've sent him packing into another dimension or something the way he treated the women sometimes.
Laurie threw open her front door and he ran inside. My clone double was on the floor and a very odd creature was about to swallow him. He was almost all the way inside its throat, when he dashed in. The monster rolled several eyestalks around to look at me, sprouted a mouth with lots of teeth and said. "You're inside me!"
"Not really." He said with a smile, then grew his hammer to the size of a small horse and smashed its tail. My duplicate shot from its mouth and collided into the wall. Laurie ran to him as the creature rolled over to give me its full attention.
"Regards from hell." It bubbled in a strange, wet voice to me.
"Regards from heaven." He shot back at it, then increased the density of his hammer, made it with sharp, wicked little points on its head, then smashed it in the face.
The face sank inwards, but then popped out again.
Cartoon raced in front of me and sliced the head with her sword. The sword passed through it, and then exited the other side. The head squirted some green ichors several moments, but didn't tumble.
"Nice try, chickie!" The monster told Cartoon then slammed her with one its tentacle eyeballs. She flew against the wall, stunned.
He looked at his hammer and thought for a moment, what if...?
The creature leaped at me.
He shoved the hammer down its throat and told it what to do.
The creature's eyes shone with triumph for a moment, thinking it was going to swallow me and the hammer, and then the hammer did its thing. It began doubling in size, over and over and over.
He grabbed his duplicate from the floor where he lay and Cartoon and Laurie helped me carry him outside as the hammer did its job. Laurie shut the door.
The Landlord chose that moment to come out of his door again.
He saw the second Johnnie between him, Laurie and Cartoon...Cartoon's glowing skin, which was bright enough to light the entire complex, now that she was emotionally supercharged...and the sword in her hand.
He looked at the second bottle of Jim Bean in his hands, shook his head, and then went back inside. Several moments later we heard a bottle smash against the door of the apartment.
We paused to see if he would come out again. He didn't.
There was a WHOOMPH sound from inside Laurie's apartment and she opened the door to look inside. There was monster all over the floor, ceiling and walls. She groaned. "It'll take me days to clean the place up!"
The Johnnie in our arms stirred, and we helped him stand up. He gave me a quick glance, winked, and then took Laurie by the hand and inside. "Don't worry, honey baby, I'll clean it up for you. He blinked at his hands and they became mop heads gleaming with soap.
Cartoon shut their door and turned to me, after her flaming sword vanished.
She gave him a big kiss and a hug, and all their differences dissolved once more into the heap of memories none of us really want to reinvestigate when it comes to people we truly love with our heart and soul. He could feel her energies melding with his own and while maybe not exactly human as we understand it, it was something he loved and cared deeply about. Something he lived for and would....die for if necessary.
The Comic Book Commando was once more just a normal teen, walking beside the best looking girl this side of the universe. Now wasn't he just the luckiest of guys!
Glow! A Cartoon Story by John Pirillo. She's the light of his life and he's the light of hers. But monsters don't like that!
A Cartoon Story
By John Pirillo
"Take that!" He said, tossing the huge garbage bag into the dumpster behind Al's Diner, the place where he made his living while he worked his way through college. His name was Johnnie and he was a Comic Book Commando. Some months back he rushed to the rescue of a young girl in a burning high rise building. She would've died without his help. He saved her, but a strange thing happened during the rescue. One of his arms had stretched like plastic to grab a railing to save him and the girl from a fatal plunge.
Ever since that day he'd been working with the girl of his dreams...a forever young looking Princess from the land of Cartoon. And her name was, appropriately enough, Cartoon. Everyone in her world looked like cartoons. She did too at night. Her body gave off a golden glow. During the day, not so much, barely visible. Most people wrote it off to t he sunlight in their eyes. She wasn't just a Princess, but a damned good warrior as well. This to her credit saved his bacon from the fire many a time.
But today was Mister Normal day, not super comic book hero guy. Behind the dumpster and to the right was the old warehouse where all kinds of fruit and veggies were packed and stored. A very small wood and wire cage held a guard dog in there during the day. He roamed the warehouse at night to protect it from intruders. He was a terribly mean and nasty guard dog accordingly to Al, but Johnnie hadn't had any problem with it.
The first day he'd seen the dog, he'd fallen in love with it. He'd found some scraps left over from a meal, and shoveled them into the dog's cage. It had run up with teeth bared at first, but Johnnie just smiled. It lost its grimace and shoved its nose and mouth to the wire and began licking at him through it. He had put his face closer and felt the wet tongue roll across his cheek, and then he had pulled back and carefully put his hand inside and stroked the dog's neck while it ate hungrily at the steak and eggs he had provided.
Some trucker had been in a rush and just eaten his Danish and bacon and left the rest. Bad luck for him. Good luck for the dog.
"Good boy." He told the dog, who looked up a minute, licked its chops, wriggled its tail happily, and then returned to eating.
Johnnie went back inside, where he caught Koomay watching him. She hurriedly put her hands back into the sink where she was cleaning bacon for the next rush of customers on the morrow. "You're pretty good with animals." She told him, not asked. Told him.
He shrugged. "Do unto."
She giggled. "Well you do unto pretty good, Johnnie boy."
Without another word she returned to her cleaning and he to his.
At the end of the day he hung up his gloves, apron and dragged the ribbed rubber mat back inside where he laid it down behind the counter. It accumulated all kinds of dropped food and dirt from the constant back and forth of Koomay and Al while they worked. It was a small diner. Al did the cooking and she did the serving and waitressing mostly.
Johnnie was the go to man. What they couldn't do. He did.
He rushed to the front door after he'd finished cleaning the windows, then waved at Al, who grunted with a smile, and Koomay who gave him a lovely dimpled smile, then exited.
He was in a rush to get to the comic book store. There was a new comic book hero coming out and he wanted to grab the first edition copy. His apartment had a whole closet filled with first run copies. He figured someday they'd be worth a fortune.
Cartoon looked into it one day and made a face, until she saw the look on his face and he said very patiently. "You wouldn't be here today if I didn't collect these...and now...he looked at a hand that suddenly sprouted a rose. He offered it to her.
Her eyes widened. "I can actually smell it!"
"Yeah. I've been working on my skills." He answered, and then walked away part of his hand missing. But in a few seconds the rose sprouted wings and a face, then flew after him and rejoined his hand. Cartoon giggled. She loved it.
He had promised to take her on a walk along the levy that night. The one that ran parallel to the Sacramento University. And he intended to keep his promise.
He probably could have used his Plastic Man comic book and changed into a car and driven her there inside his body, but that would be revealing a bit too much. He'd been spending a lot of time saving lives lately and only the simple face mask that he sprouted now every time kept his identity secret.
Most of the time people didn't even know they were in danger when he saved them. From giant insects, zombies, vampires, werewolves, psychotic robots from Mars, twisting globs of gooey monster that sucked you dry and other adverse and not so chummy things. So he was able to work the little miracles of his comic book commando life without them even realizing he had a hand in it. But like that Mall Incident last Christmas where there was a zombie invasion, that time he couldn't hide. People got all kinds of photos of him on their cells. Fortunately for him, he never stayed still long enough and it was dark enough no one got good clear shots.
That's when he and Cartoon decided they needed disguises. She could change into anyone she wanted to look like, but for him, he had to have a comic book handy. Like in his hand or pocket. But sometimes, he and Cartoon couldn't figure out why, sometimes he was able to transform or initiate a change without a comic book nearby.
And that's what they were discussing when they got off the transit and walked up the sidewalk into the school grounds. Students were still streaming from the Library and cafeteria where late snacks were available. A couple guys were playing guitars in front of the Library and a team of Cheerleaders were practicing on the grass quad as the sun descended from view.
The veered away from the busier parts of the campus and found the footbridge that crossed over the American River. They reached the other side and began walking the levy, still in a contemplative conversation about the changes.
"I don't see how it's possible, Johnnie." She told him in exasperation, letting go of his right hand for a moment to smooth her golden hair back behind her shoulder again. She had been letting it grow longer and longer. Even though in public when working with him she looked kind of like a Japanese power ninja girl, in private and at times like this she reverted to her normal look. Which was tall like him, narrow hipped, long flowing golden hair and eyes, and skin that was bronze and glowed a soft white or yellow depending on her mood. When she was angry in battle her glow would turn a violent red or a disturbing black color. When she was sad her colors would fall back into a kind of dull olive green.
Tonight it was golden, just like the golden girl she was.
"Maybe someone out there likes me." He kidded.
She rolled her eyes. "Please. Don't go pulling one of those Norse god legends on me."
"No, I was thinking more along the lines of a President Bush, or Clinton."
She laughed and then punched him on his arm. "You're terrible, Johnnie!"
"Yeah. But you love it."
"No. I love you." She promptly pointed out. "And that's a whale of a different color."
My turn to laugh. "Where in the world did you pick up that old term?"
She blushed. I got it. "You read my grandfather's yearbook."
He smiled. "He was something else." Then he saddened. Felt his eyes moistening. "I loved him so much."
She stopped and threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. "Oh Johnnie! You big baby!"
She gave him a sweet kiss, and then pulled back. "Don't ever stop!"
"Fat chance." He quipped, and then burst into a run.
"Johnnie!" She cried after him.
"Catch me if you can!" He hollered over his shoulder.
She screeched angrily, and then cut out after him. In a few seconds she had caught up. He stopped, grabbed her by the waist and tossed her round and round like you might do a child in play. She laughed and laughed, her sweet voice warming the chill night air.
Then he froze. Rising from the river next to them was something large and glowing. It had two huge eyes, four tusks and eight ears up and down its body. It was segmented and had a face like a human and a tail like a fish.
"What the..." He gasped.
He set her down and she turned to look. She gasped too, took his hand. "We must leave. Now!"
"Why? I've got just the thing on me for a creature like that." He reached back into his pocket for his Superman comic. He had picked it up at the comic book store when he couldn't get a copy of the new super hero one. It had sold out when the store opened, much to his dismay.
He reached for the comic, and then went pale as a ghost.
"Oh crap!" He swore.
"I must have dumped it on the path when I ran."
They looked back. There was the comic book about fifty yard back, lying on the asphalt pathway, its pages fluttering in the breeze.
From the river came a horrendous sound. They turned to face it. Cartoon summoned a wicked looking sword into being and eyed the creature as it reached the bank and began to crawl up it. "Behind me! Now!"
He didn't argue. He was defenseless. He didn't have anything to fight with. He looked around as Cartoon tensed for battle. Nothing. Not even any large rocks to toss. He turned back in frustration.
The monster came closer. Its human eyes and mouth crinkled in a wicked smile. "I am for the Comic Book Commando, not you Princess."
"Over my dead body." She shouted, raising her sword.
The creature's tail lashed out and caught the sword, wrenching it from her hand. It tossed it into the river. She summoned a second one and a second time its tail lashed out, taking the new sword away as well.
Johnnie was thinking as hard as he could of something, anything he could do to help, as she summoned an even larger sword and rushed the creature.
"Die then!" It admonished her, opening its mouth wider and wider.
Johnnie's body suddenly grew as bright as the sun.
Cartoon's glow was washed away in the harshness of the glow.
The giant centipede like creature recoiled from the light and began sliding back into the water, its eyes sightless, its skin beginning to smoke. It cried out like a small child in pain, and then slipped out of sight into the depths of the fast rolling waters of the river.
Cartoon spun around, the sword vanishing from her hands as he turned to look at him.
The incredibly bright glow vanished, but not entirely. Now his skin glows a soft golden color like hers.
"What's happening to me?" He asked. "I'm starting to glow like you."
She came up and wrapped her arms around him. "I was so frightened for you."
"But it was going to eat you." He protested, not her arms about him, but her sense of sacrifice.
"No. I cannot die in your world from such as that."
"What was it?"
She didn't answer at first, and then she said. "I need to prepare you better. Next time it may not be so simple to scare it off."
"Hell, Cartoon, I didn't just scare it off. If it had been a human with pants, it would've dropped its pants and had a dump right there and then!"
She laughed, and shook her head. She gently caressed his cheeks. "This is why I love you so much. You're such a hopeless romantic."
She gave him a really great kiss and that was all folks that night as far as he was concerned.
"I think we need to go home." He told her, his blood boiling.
She smiled. "Not really."
That night the moon's glow was bright, but not nearly as bright as that of the couple beneath it at the water's edge, lost in the glow of love and friendship.
Battling a Genie is one thing, but a horde of demons...well, that could be a bit tough. The Magic Lamp. A Cartoon Story by John Pirillo
The Magic Lamp
"A Cartoon Story"
by John Pirillo
"Stuff it!" Johnnie told the Genie hovering over Aladdin's lamp. "I am not going to build you a duplex inside that ugly thing."
The Genie waxed his long mustaches with wet fingers he had just dipped in wax and gave Johnnie a loathsome smile. "It's the deal. Either you build me the duplex, or I vanish your girlfriends for the next thousand years!"
"You can't do that!" He screamed at the ugly being who pretended to be a nice man. "You're friggin' crazy!"
"No. I am just...me."
The Genie vanished into his ugly lamp and it shook around a bit.
Cartoon glanced at Johnnie, where he stood in the antiquities store, still stunned by what had happened. "You can't let him do that to Koomay and Laurie."
"I won't, but I just don't get it. I never touched any comic book with a genie in it. Never. Not in this life or any other!" He exclaimed angrily, his face flushed with anger.
"Maybe." Cartoon said soothingly. "But are you absolutely certain?"
Johnnie gave her a scrutinizing look. "You're up to something."
"Always." She said with the glint of a smile on her lips.
"From the day you tricked me in to rescuing you as a young girl in that high rise fire, you've been manipulating me."
He started to explode again, and then caught himself. "Okay. Mostly for the better, but you've never once....once explained the rules of this power I've been given."
Cartoon picked up the lamp.
"Ouch! Don't be so rough!" The Genie cried out from inside.
The Shop Owner glanced over at the two arguing, and then came over. "Is there a problem?"
He said it to Cartoon, thinking that Johnnie was abusing her. He hated abusive people. His father had been abusive to his mother and he was ready to knock anyone down if they even hinted at such. He stood over Johnnie by a good foot. He was an extremely tall man, and there was something oddly familiar about him, though he couldn't place it at the time.
"No problem. We'll take this lamp. Just a bit of a disagreement as to...how." She said with an amused look on her face.
Johnnie was stewing with anger at the way he was being manipulated, but inside of himself he knew it wasn't what it appeared to be. It never was. He just hated always being on the wrong end of the eight ball.
"Yeah. How much?"
The Shop Owner gave him a blank look.
"I said we'd take it." Johnnie said again, starting to lose his temper. He really needed to learn how to meditate. The stress was starting to really scramble his brain and his temperament.
"Take what, sir?"
Johnnie gestured to the lamp in Cartoon's hand. The Shop Owner looked that way. "She does have lovely hands, but you don't need my permission to take them."
He laughed, thinking his joke was quite amusing.
Johnnie slouched on the sofa, his brains scrambling to figure out what had just happened in that old store. He could clearly see the lamp. It would shake every once in awhile on the coffee table and he could even hear the Genie taking a shower. Taking a shower! Of all the ungodly things to do inside a lamp.
"I can't build a duplex." Johnnie muttered angrily to himself.
He felt a pair of arms slip around his neck, and Cartoon nuzzles his right ear. "Sure you can."
She came around and sat next to him, sliding against his right shoulder with the warmth of her glowing body. She usually dimmed the glow in public, otherwise people would wise up, or be extremely frightened, but sometimes she'd let it all hang out, like when they were battling zombies, werewolves and vampires.
"What's really eating you?" She asked finally, after giving him a chance to say it for himself.
He slowly turned to look into her eyes. "Rules."
"You're stubborn, Johnnie. You know that, don't you?"
She smiled. "When I need to be."
"Rules!" He asked again, more firmly.
She got up and began pacing the small living room. "When you saved me, you allowed your genetics to blend with my own, with my universe. All the laws that is true there are now latent within you."
"You mean you can turn into any cartoon character you want?" He asked, a bit surprised at her answer.
"No." She answered sadly. "For some reason it only works one direction. You can become us, but we can never become you."
"Why do you think that is?"
"Our ancestors when they first slipped into that universe were like yours. Desperate and hunted by creatures from your worst nightmares."
"Very." She answered. "We figured out a way to open a doorway between the universes. At first we were frightened when our bodies became light bodies, but then we got used to it. And as we did, we learned to blend with the other cartoon beings that dwelled within the realms."
"Superman, Batman, Daffy Duck...?"
She laughed. "No, silly. Those are your creations. Not ours. The cartoon world has rules just like your own and those who lived there before us were a kind and loving race. They never knew violence or despair. They welcomed us with open arms and hearts."
Johnnie held a hand up. "So how come every time I draw upon your world's energies everything gets so..."
"Screwed up?" She answered with a giggle.
"Yeah that too."
She gave him a somber look, her eyes piercing his own with a stare he hadn't seen before. For a moment he felt like he stood on the precipice of Eternity, everything gone around him, but the vastness of the Universe, and then that strange feeling vanished, replaced by the warmth and security of her closeness and her voice.
"We don't control Creation, anymore than you here of Earth can. Its rules align with a Higher Source."
Johnnie rolled his eyes, but accepted her words for the moment, until he could consider the better. "Well, time to get to work, I guess."
He stood up and headed for the front door.
He turned back. His face lit up. "Oh, my God! I know why I recognized that Shop Owner. He's the same man who I met as a child when my parents went shopping in his store. At the time I didn't think anything of the illustrated book he pressed into my hands. When my parents weren't listening he said. I can still hear them as clear as day, someday this will be important to you. Remember that."
At that given moment the magic lamp began to shake and smoke. Cartoon stood up and hurriedly backed away from it. Johnnie put an arm around her shoulders.
"I remember now, Cartoon. I remember."
The Genie hissed out of the lantern in a huge cloud of magical dust, each fist clenching a gigantic scimitar. "Prepare for battle!"
Johnnie turned to Cartoon. "Ain't it always the same? Teen finds cartoon, cartoon finds boy, everything becomes all crazy and there's battles and cries of despair and the hero has to save the day."
Cartoon laughed. "Come on, Hero. Afraid of a little adventure?"
"Not this time." Johnnie said, waving a hand. A gigantic scimitar shone in his left fist. His clothing turned into silk garments with a bow over his right shoulder and a loop of rope at his waist, caught in a red sash.
"Lead on, Genie!"
The Genie gave Johnnie a fierce look. "You will build my duplex!"
"Okay. Okay. If you say so. So what's the problem?"
At that same moment the front door vanished and they were staring into another world where giant demons were storming a palace. Civilians were screaming and running for their lives.
"Gotcha!" Johnnie said, and then he and Cartoon ran through the door opening and vanished into the world of the Genie.
The Genie roared behind them, and charged through like a gigantic diesel engine truck blasting its horn. It soared past Johnnie and lit into the first swarm of giant demons. "For Baghdad and the Nile! It cried.
"Ah, that's so corny!" Johnnie sighed as he and Cartoon rushed the same swarm.
Cartoon didn't have time to answer, because Johnnie had to hack at a giant demon that was about to clobber them with a mace the size of a small SUV.
Such was the life of a Comic Book Commando!
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Johnnie rescues a young girl from a burning building and is granted the power to access super powers of all comic book characters. He has to learn how to cope with fighting villains and monsters, and dealing with three girls who all love him.
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The Second Life
"A Lovelight Story"
By John Pirillo
Her first glimmer of the Other Side happened at the most peculiar of times. It was a bit before noon and she was at the local Wal-Mart, shopping for a birthday card with her mother. Her mom had drifted off into the sympathy cards, for a friend who just lost their father, and she was intent on finding a card, the right card, for her best friend, Andy, whose birthday was three days from then. He was a very peculiar person himself. Always quiet, never outspoken. Polite and kind. But never one to venture out into anything on his own.
She had forged a friendship with him, much like what one does with a pet sometimes, which was not to say he was seen that way, he was just comfortable. Nonthreatening. Most of the boys seemed to be preoccupied with either games or things about the opposite sex...which meant she had to always be looking over her shoulder, because she always got a lot of attention, and unfortunately not always the best.
Some of the boys were from a different country and evidently girls were second class citizens there, because that was how they viewed and acted towards her. Her teacher had caught a couple of them writing on her desk some bad words. Very bad words. It had sent her into tears. She wasn't like that. Why couldn't they see that?
Andy, though, he had seen through the stupidity of it right away. It was the one time in her early life that he had stood up for her. He had waited until after school and confronted the two boys. They laughed in his face. Not a good idea when the other guy is about a foot taller, and fifty pounds heavier. He stomped them into the ground, making them eat soap to wash out their mouths and dirty minds.
When she heard about it, at first she thought he was kidding, but when the Principal called him in and he was suspended, she didn't think it was funny or a joke.
She had caught up with him just as he was boarding the bus they rode together. She hopped on, and they sat down in the back as they usually did and chatted and chatted. But today, he seemed to be chatting about stuff that didn't really matter. As if his mind was not really there with her. He suddenly stopped and gave her a forlorn look.
"Lovelight. Do you believe in life after death?"
She had laughed.
"I'm sorry, Andy. I wasn't laughing at you, just how serious you are. You're too young to be thinking about things like that."
"Yeah." He said, then slumped back in the chair, folded his arms and proceed to ignore me for the next ten minutes of the ride.
Finally, he let go. He turned to her. "I'm going to miss you the most."
She gave him a startled look. He laughed. "Just kidding."
But he wasn't. She could see it in his eyes. But he wouldn't say anything more and she didn't want to pressure him. He'd talk when he felt like it.
That was the day before; today she had gotten up and felt this really strange feeling, as if she was going to fall out of her body. It wouldn't be the first time she'd felt that way. She had fallen out of her body once at a friend's house. An overnight and floated up to the ceiling. She had screamed a long time, but no one heard her. She kept on screaming until she saw her body laying there between Jennifer and Dawn, her eyes closed.
That had shut her up. Then she rotated. She didn't remember how, but she turned and as she did she saw this very bright point of light that expanded into a very beautiful man, standing in the air. He had smiled at her. "We'll meet again." He had promised, and then vanished.
She had then jerked away, feeling as if she had fallen a thousand miles an hour into her body. She sat up, rubbing her face. She was sweating. Maybe she was coming down with something. But she wasn't. And she didn't.
This day was like that. She felt sweaty and light-headed, like she was going to float away into the sky. She hurriedly sat down in the middle of the aisle.
"Lovelight!" Her mother had immediately called to her. She came over and stooped over her. "You all right?"
"No, I feel like I'm going to float away and away and away." She had answered, though she had no recollection of why she had spoken that way at this point in time.
Her mother had reacted quickly, helping her back to her feet and bringing her out quickly to the car. She had driven home quickly, even running a couple stop signs when there was no traffic. She brought Lovelight into the house and upstairs to her bedroom. She helped her get undressed, then into a nightgown. While Lovelight was getting into bed, she hurriedly went downstairs and returned with a steaming bowl of soup and goldfish crackers.
Lovelight had eaten them and felt immediately better. The soup soothed her ravaged nerves. She began to feel less and less giddy.
Her mom kissed her forehead. "Get some rest. I'm come and wake you for dinner, Hun."
Her mom had turned to leave, then turned back again and said. "Whatever happens in life, you know there's always a good reason for it, right?"
"Yes. You've told me about karma a lot."
"Not just karma. But everything. The way the world really is."
"Sometimes things change for the better..."
"Sometimes for the worse." She completed.
Her mother rushed back and hugged her. "You're such a wonderful person, my little soul."
That's when she knew something was going on. Her mother that morning had had a long phone call with someone, and come away from it frowning, her eyes misty. She had looked at Lovelight, but said nothing. Instead she'd gone into the kitchen to prepare breakfast, while Lovelight worked on her math and science homework.
Lovelight gave her mom an extra warm hug. "I love you."
"I love you too, you little rascal." Her mom teased.
She waved back at Lovelight as she left and turned out the light.
Lovelight shut her eyes, but something startled her, causing her to wake up again. Finally, she felt like she might all into sleep when she began hearing this loud buzzing sound in her ears. It grew louder and louder and even through her eyelids it seemed like a light snapped on in the room and became brighter and brighter.
Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore. She sat up. Opened her eyes.
Then wished she hadn't. He was standing there in the light, smiling, and surrounded by a group of his friends. She knew they were friends because they were smiling too, at him and at her. One of them looked familiar, but she couldn't think of who it was at the time.
Andy stood there in a beautiful white garment, kind of like a tux, but with a softer, warmer texture. He waved. "Told you." He said.
She laughed. "Andy, why are you in my bedroom?"
She immediately knew why and it scared the hell out of her. She grabbed the covers and threw them over her head.
"Peek-a-boo." Andy whispered in her ear, and she could see his face peering through the bedclothes.
She threw them off and shrieked.
Andy laughed, but not at her, more like sharing a warm joke with her.
Her friends laid hands on him and he turned away from her to go with them. Into the light that now filled the room.
He stopped and looked back. "It's not so bad. But I'll miss you."
She didn't know why, but suddenly she burst into tears and jumped from bed and ran to try and stop him from leaving. He only smiled and the white light and his body vanished. She slammed into her bedroom closet door and knocked herself onto the floor. She landed hard.
Her mom came running up the stairs and found her weeping into her hands.
"Oh baby." She said, sitting down next to her and cradling her in her arms. "You saw, didn't you?"
"Andy's gone." She managed to finally stutter.
"Yes. He's gone."
She looked into her mother's face. "You knew already."
"But why didn't you tell me?"
"Andy had told her mom not to tell you. That you would find out another way. A better way."
Lovelight threw her arms around her mother and cried more. "I'm going to miss him so much."
"I know. I know. I know."
They stayed like that for a long time.
Finally, her mom helped her to get back onto her feet and into bed. This time she closed her eyes and went to sleep.
As she slept Andy appeared in her dream, wearing the same white outfit. He stood next to a tall man. Finally, Lovelight recognized the man. "You're Andy's grandfather. But you don't look over twenty five."
He just smiled.
Andy came to her and gave her a long, warm hug, then let her go.
"We'll meet again. I promise."
Then she woke up to the smell of fried chicken.
She threw on her robe, ran down the stairs and landed in the kitchen chair by the window she always sat at. Outside the window the sparrow mom who had built a nest in the tree there looked in at her and then began to sing.
Lovelight didn't know why, but she felt like singing too.
That was when she'd realized that life had a deeper meaning. Not one she'd learned from her mom, or from books, but from her own insight and experience. There was no end to life. Only beginnings. She knew that now because she had seen Andy's Second life, and she knew that everyone had at least that much more. So why not an endless number of lives. Why not?
Then she dug into her mashed potatoes and ate a drumstick, and she and her mom had a nice talk about the latest Star Wars movie.
The Man with the Empty Face
"A Cartoon Story"
By John Pirillo
Johnnie went into the comic book store, his eyes hungry for the first edition of X-Ray Man, an old golden but oldies comic book written by Jacob Bentley, an unknown artist and writer, who funded the book on his own. He was the forefather of modern comic book graphic artists, who own and do it all. But back then in the thirties, such types didn't always end up on top, but sometimes on the bottom, especially if it was the Great Depression.
X-Ray Man was a very strange hombre. He could see through walls and also walk through them. He could transport himself at the speed of light from one point to the other. The only problem was that sometimes he would exit inside a wall or bridge, or car, or whatever. Being an X-Ray Man, it wasn't devastating, but it was always funny...to others anyway...when he'd materialize in a toilet bowl basin, with only his had poking out of it. Made for some frightened people, as well as jokers who thought it funny to get stuck inside a toilet.
Johnnie had no illusions that he could pull off such a stunt, nor would he want to. Toilets just weren't his thing.
"And they better never be." Cartoon said into his right ear, whispering so softly she made every hair on his body stand up. She never failed to get him excited at her touch, or voice. She was a comic book queen...literally...who glowed in the dark, could see in the dark...and had magical powers, many of which she wouldn't tell him about, such as reading his mind.
"Hey!" He complained, gently pushing her back from him. She made a pouting look with her lips, and then giggled like a little girl and went to search comic books in the Wonder Woman section of DC Comics.
"See you in ten." He told her.
She nodded, already lost in the fifteenth edition of Wonder Woman and her exploits with her invisible jet.
Johnnie surveyed the comic shop's interior, looking for the Oldies, But Goodies section he'd seen advertised on the Internet, then spied a tall man with a hood over his head, thumbing through a stack in the corner. Above him it read. "Oldies, But Goodies."
Johnnie went over there, ignoring the man's rudeness at blocking most of the stacks. Instead, he reached around him and began sorting through stacks too.
The man bumped into him roughly, almost knocking him down.
"Hey, cut that out!" Johnnie shouted at him.
The man turned around. Beneath the hood was a pair of glowing red eyes, but nothing else. "Mortal!' Was all the face, if you could call it that, said.
Johnnie wasn't about to get into a fight in a comic book store, instead he backed away, the red eyes following him as he did so. He had forgotten he had a comic book in his hand as he did. Suddenly, he felt the shelving behind him, but instead of stopping there, he found himself looking out from inside the shelving, part of him immersed in the stacks of comics, and part looking out.
Several female customers and one man turned to look at him, thinking it was some kind of stunt. They giggled, laughed and pointed. "That's really emo!" One said, and then they went to the cash register to check out.
The man with the empty face stared at Johnnie. "You're the one."
"Maybe." Johnnie said, as he stepped back out of the shelving.
"You're the one." The man with the empty face insisted.
"Cartoon!" He said loudly. "I think it's time to check out."
"I'm still reading about Princess Diana and the Amazons." Cartoon said, ignoring his pleas.
"You're the one and you must come with me." The man with the empty face said in such a tone that it made his blood freeze.
Johnnie side stepped the stranger and headed for the front. He slapped down a twenty. The man at the checkout eyed the bill. "You'll need eighty more."
Johnnie slapped down a hundred. "Keep the change."
"Thanks! " The employee said. "I will."
The man with the empty face came up and grabbed the employee. "You will come with me too."
The employee grabbed the arms to break free, thinking it was some kind of nerd joke, but when he looked up into the empty face, he screamed and then his entire body turned to a ruby red smoke and was sucked into the man with the empty face.
"Johnnie!" Cartoon shrieked from behind him.
He turned and saw a second man with an empty face gripping her. She was kneeing him in the crotch, but he didn't budge. His grip held her like a vise.
Johnnie stuck the comic book he had just paid for in his back pocket and rushed the second man with an empty face. As he was about to strike into him, his body shivered with a weird energy and he actually passed through the creature. It shuddered violently a moment, then its entire body deflated like a balloon, allowing a glowing red dust like substance to flow into the shop.
Cartoon hurriedly backed away and Johnnie rushed to her, but when he tried to touch her, his hand passed through her. She gave him a surprised look. "I'm X Ray Man." He told her grinning, and then turned to face the first man without a face. "You got two choices."
Johnnie held up one finger. "Actually, only one."
He rushed the man without a face and passed through it. The man without a face roared like a dying lion, a fine red mist exploding from its body and vanished as it deflated, leaving just a smoldering pile of red ashes on the hardwood floor of the shop.
"You all right?" He asked Cartoon, as he turned.
She nodded. "What manner of creatures are these?"
He pulled out his comic book, flicked through some pages, and then stopped, pointing a finger at a drawn figure there. She leaned over and took a look. "It's the man without a face."
"Afraid so." He uttered, glancing nervously about them.
"Let's get out of here while we can." He suggested, concerned for her safety.
"But what if there's more. We can't just let them loose in the world!"
"You're right." He answered, making a hard decision as he spoke.
He ripped out the page from his comic book with the man without a face, and then several more, until no more pages of the creatures existed. As he did so, the back of the shop made a loud sound, like small cannon shots, then a horde of men without faces erupted into the shop.
Johnnie glanced around, not sure if he could handle all of them, and then spotted a Bic on the employee's counter. He grabbed it, flicked it, and then lit the ripped pages. The men without faces closed in on them from all directions. "You're the one. You will come with us!" They all spoke in unison as they closed in.
"Not likely." Johnnie said.
She took the burning pages and tossed them into the horde. They all screamed horribly as they caught fire, burning as furiously as the comic book pages.
In moments there was nothing left, but piles of smoking red ash.
Then the fire alarm blasted and water began pouring from above.
Later as he and Cartoon walked home to his apartment, she stopped him, alarmed at his silence. "You were hurt, weren't you?"
He looked at her and wiped a tear from one of his eyes. "Yeah. Big time."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Only if you can replace the Number One copy of Batman, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and a ton of other oldies but goodies that got washed into oblivion by the sprinklers.
They continued towards his apartment, she in amazement at how such trivial things could wound him, and he trying to figure out why he was cursed with bringing pain and suffering to all comic book lovers and death and dying to real people at the same time, while he transformed into various Comic Book heroes or with their powers. It didn't make any sense, and then he relaxed as Cartoon pulled him around and leaned into him, fixing a bright kiss on his lips. "Cheer up, Johnnie, its only paper."
"So were you once." He said.
She smiled. "Was I?" She asked and got in the last word, leaving him stunned and amused at his good fortune to be in love with such a cool girl.
Bound to the One You Love
"A Cartoon Story"
by John Pirillo
She first realized she was bound to the one she loved when she had to come to his rescue against the Sea Gnats. They were an obscure life form found only in the lowest dimensions of her world. They obscured people's view of them, much like the legendary Sirens of Johnnie's world. They lured them into their hives, and then ate them.
In their less fettered forms, they resembled giant gnats, with multiple eyes, legs and legs. They had no hands, except as illusions. They were mainly eating machine and cutting machine. Mouths to eat their victims and legs to slash them to pieces.
Johnnie had made the mistake of using his newfound powers to touch one of the older Golden Age Magazine covers in the antique book store they had been looking through for information about zombies. Why zombies? Because that was one of the few creatures that didn't need an invite to enter Johnnie's world. Too many people believed in them and thus a portal was always open for them to charge onto Earth and deal their kind of death and destruction.
The newspapers always reported them as members of cults, or serial killers. Cults reported them as demons that had been summoned by them. But the average person just got attacked and assimilated into their hordes, which had been growing by leaps and bounds since she had entered Johnnie's world.
"Hey Glow!" Johnnie slung at her.
She looked up from the book in her lap. She sat in the dark. She didn't need the light next to her, because her body threw off enough light for a hundred light bulbs when she allowed it. She squinted at him. Her eyes were tired.
"Penny for your thoughts." He told her with a smile, slipping next to her on the couch, and putting an arm around her shoulders. She snuggled into him and told him what she was thinking.
"I can't always come to your rescue."
He turned around, letting go. She felt immediately abandoned, but said nothing.
He looked at her face. "Why would you have to? I can take care of myself."
"But what if one day you don't have a comic book on you, or one that doesn't allow you to become what's needed."
"Don't you believe in fate?"
"Yes. I do. The one we make for ourselves through our freewill."
He sighed, and then slipped further away from her.
"Okay. So I don't. Then I deal with it like I always do."
He got up. She could tell he was disgusted with the turn of her conversation. But she wouldn't let go of it. She was too worried. "You could die." She blurted out.
He stopped and looked at her sadly. "Everyone dies."
"But not the way you might."
He nodded, but went outside anyway, shutting the door behind him.
She shut her eyes, thinking why she had allowed herself to become so drawn to this human. He was still a child in so many ways. He didn't even pick up his socks when he threw them on the floor. Then she grinned. Neither did she, but then, she never wore them.
The front door banged open and Johnnie ran inside. "Get ready!"
She jumped up in alarm.
He grabbed her and swung her up into the air, laughing. "Dinner!"
They took the metro downtown to the Denny's he loved. Chicken sandwiches, thick shakes and curly fries.
"Fries. They're called fries. Curly fries."
"They taste sooooo good."
"It's the salt."
"Yeah. They bury them in salt."
She frowned. He laughed and squeezed her right hand.
"Not literally, it's just that these guys have got the French fry thing down. Give the people whatever they want, but make sure it's got lots of salt or sugar, or both on it, then they'll eat anything and love it."
"That's dishonest." She said, putting her curly fry down.
"But doesn't it make you mad?"
"Sure it does, but it sure tastes good." He said, shoving a handful of fries into his mouth.
She slapped him across his left arm with her handbag.
"Okay." He set down his next handful of fries and faced her. "It's like this. I can't change the world. I'm only one person."
"You can change it one fry at a time."
"Don't eat them."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"I'm not. Stop eating them. At least one of you won't be contributing to the lies."
"But then I'd be lying to myself."
"Because I do like them...salt and sugar and all."
With those words he shoved the rest of the curly fries into his mouth.
Across from them at the counter a tall man turned around. It had a handful of fingers in its clasp and shoved them into its mouth. "You should listen to him." The zombie said with a foul grin. "They do taste good. Salt and sugar and all."
Cartoon slammed from her booth and began hammering the man with her handbag.
Johnnie rushed over and stopped her.
The man rubbed his head and got up from his stool as an alarmed waitress grabbed a phone and began to dial.
"Hey! It's Halloween. Can't you take a joke, lady?"
He marched out of Denny's, his face red with anger.
She turned to face Johnnie. He was laughing.
Then she began hitting him with her handbag.
What was a Cartoon to do with such a rascally human being like him? She hit him again.
Johnnie touched the comic book in his back pocket and his form changed into that of an angel. She gasped and fell back. He gave her an angelic look. The waitress gasped and dropped her phone. The other customers began crossing themselves.
"I'm such an angel." He said. "You really hurt my feelings."
"Ohhhh. I hate you, Johnnie!" Cartoon spouted, and then ran into his arms and they kissed.
And that's what it's like to be bound to the one you love, she thought again as she held him close, savoring his breath and his touch. You just love them no matter what...and...her thoughts grew wicked for a moment...gets ready to clobber them when they get off the train tracks.
But she didn't tell him what she was thinking as he lifted her into his arms, stepped out of Denny's, and then flapped into the air and flew her home. After all, he was her Johnnie Angel. For a time.
Preview is coming to a theater near you in front of the new Avengers movie!
Enjoy it. I know I will.
Hi, my name's Johnny, or Johnnie. I don't care which you use. It's still me. The old rose by any other thing. I'm a teenager. I've always been a teenager. I probably won't live long enough to become an adult, and if I should be so lucky, then I'll probably still be a teenager until the day I die. I've never thought much of adults; they always seem to look for ways to complicate their lives, as opposed to making them easier and simpler.
Oh yeah, they'll make them easy in the sense of finding ways to screw their fellow man out of cash or sex as a way of making themselves feel good or superior. That happens all the time. But actually taking the trappings of life that they wear every day and making it something they can live with and accept? Nope. Complication time.
I'm a positive man. Kid. I look on the bright side of things, at least until I'm battling zombies or slimy monsters that have crawled out of one of my or your comic books. Then I get really nasty, mean, crazy destroy kind of guy. I have to, or I'll be kicking up tulips in a quiet stretch of lawn somewhere off Tulie Lane where they lay out all the so-called dearly departed.
I hate that phrase, because I don't think anyone departs dearly. They usually do so fighting tooth and nail to hang onto one last breath. Even if it means taking you down with them. Hence, the recent news of billionaires looking for the fountain of youth in drugs to extend their lives. Surely, they could do something better with their money, like creating jobs, helping to heal the sick, feed the poor. But I guess when push comes to shove; most people with money have a bigger burden on their shoulders than us poor folk, they can't accept that one day the world will go on without them, as it always has.
Now back to the bright side again.
I'm special. Or at least that's what Cartoon and Laurie tell me. Cartoon's my best girlfriend. She comes from a parallel universe where cartoons are alive and every single cartoon that humanity's every imagined and created exists. Yeah. I know. That could be pretty creepy, considering a lot of the cartoons we draw aren't so pretty and nice.
But Cartoon's very nice. Especially when she gives off her golden glow, which is most of the time, and especially when she's excited or emotionally wrapped up in something.
Like today, she and Laurie are going at it. And their usual topic of discussion, me, is sitting in the middle of "The Battle," to see who is more right about me. No matter which of them wins, I lose, because I don't have any say in it. It's a woman's thing I guess. Their way of keeping us in line so our heads don't explode.
"But Johnnie's taking too many risks!" Laurie scalded Cartoon, wagging her piano finger at her vigorously. That lovely finger that picks out the most beautiful melodies on her electric piano, which she brings over to play often, since she lives only a couple doors down from me in the second hand apartment complex we live in.
Cartoon is not daunted. She flips back her golden hair, fixes her glowing eyes on Laurie and sternly admonishes her. "He doesn't do enough. The world's in great danger. The Zombie King is on the loose still and the Hordes of Darkness are threatening to overwhelm this world."
"Let them threaten all they want." Laurie countered. "We'll nuke them into oblivion!"
Cartoon slumped back on her chair and shook her head. "You humans, you always resort to extreme violence rather than just solving the problem."
"What!" Laurie exclaims. "By transforming into some two bit comic bit hero who can be killed just like any other teenager?"
"Johnnie's special." Cartoon said. She turned her lovely eyes on me, and melting away all the negatives she'd just plied my weary soul with.
"Listen to the cartoon." I told Laurie. "You could learn a thing or two." I dared to add.
Laurie exploded and turned on me. "Johnnie, you're hopeless!" She jumped to her feet and stormed out of my apartment, slamming the door behind her.
I started to relax, when the door slammed open and she stood there wagging a finger at me. "You deserve it if you get your blood sucked out by a vampire, or eaten by Godzilla..."
"No Godzilla." I interrupted. "Yes." I gulped on the fierce look she fixed on me.
"Oh, but there will be. There will be." She said in a creepy Yoda voice, and then slammed the door shut again.
Cartoon shook her head and headed for the kitchen. "Sometimes I think I'd rather fight a monster than argue with that girl."
"Oh, make no mistake, Cartoon. Laurie is quite capable of being a monster and a girl at the same time."
Cartoon spun around and fixed me with a stare. "Is that what you say about me behind my back?"
I stuttered. "Uh."
"Exactly." She said with a tone of finality like an atom bomb going off in my heart, then slammed the door to the kitchen.
I stood up and stretched. All in a day's work. Fight monsters. Fight girlfriends. All the same. You win. You lose. But mostly you lose when it's "The Battle."
I smiled, then opened the front door and went to the balcony railing and leaned on it. It was a sunny day and my favorite birds were in the tree to my right, twittering away. At least some of the people I knew could be happy, even if they were just birds.
I felt, rather than saw, this strange shadow cross towards me. Ever alert, I dropped back into the safety of my apartment and slammed the door shut, locking its deadbolt.
"I know you're in there, Johnnie!" Came the voice of terror.
"Who's there?" I demanded, pretending to be ignorant.
"Koomay and you darn well know it!" She hollered through the door.
I sighed. Hell hath no fury worse than a guy having three girlfriends, one a Cartoon, one a musician and one a waitress, all of them bent on one thing and one thing alone, making his life miserable, or marrying him worse yet.
I grinned. Could be worse. I opened the door to face the music. After all, I'm a comic book hero and I ain't afraid of no ghosts.
Besides, anyone lucky enough to have three girls who cared for him as much as I did could afford a little scalding downtime if it made them happy. Keep telling yourself that, I warned me as I gave Koomay my best morning smile.
"Am I late for work again?"
And then Cartoon walked into the living room. Koomay pushed past me and lit into Cartoon and the "Big Battle" began again.
I sighed and closed the door, slumping against it. If only it were just a bad hair day.
Then I saw the comic book on the stand next to my door, where I kept my keys. The Invisible Man by H.G.Wells comic book was laying there. My mouth made a wicked grin as I touched the comic book, then turned to look at the women battling for my soul.
They didn't notice when I slowly became invisible and vanished from view. Seemed appropriate at the time.
I looked at her as she slept on my couch, all snuggled beneath the comforter I had given her. It was still blowing hard rain outside. I could hear it pelting the window panes and the door of my living room. Didn't seem to bother her one bit, even though it had awakened me. Something was odd about the rain. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I sat down in my easy chair and pulled up a comic book. Yeah. That's what I do when I'm worried. I read. Comic books. So?
It was Batman, the Caped Crusader. I loved his stories. Here was a mortal man facing off adversaries that many times were larger than life, and even terribly powerful. No complains, no I'd rathers, just grab the cape and go punch someone out, or head them off with a trick or two up his sleeves.
I grinned. Amazing how many gadgets he had. Not only was he clever, but brilliant as well. In the movies they had him getting his hardware from Alfred, but in the editions I had bought, the earlier ones, he didn't rely on anyone, but his own cleverness and quick moves.
I closed the book and laid it on my lap. The dim lamp I was reading by was killing my eyes. I was tired, so it didn't take much.
We had a terrible weekend fighting off that Zombie King at the shopping mall, and there's been hell to pay the night after, trying to explain to the police why we were killing people. The only thing that saved us from being accused of murder was they couldn't find any murder weapons and no one would testify against us, even though a reporter had caught some shots of us tearing into the zombies.
The reporter very kindly, later on, had admitted he never saw us killing a living person, which is the solid truth. Cartoon and I never kill the living, only the dead, near dead and the ghoulish, wicked and sinful demonic types. Which means everything that, basically, wasn't human and had been written about in comic books at one time or another?
I just prayed we didn't get any of those gigantic robots, the Sentinels that the X-Men faced off against. I hadn't a clue how to defeat things like that.
That was loud enough to not only shock me from my musings, but hurl me from my chair, reaching for the sword that had vanished when I put away my Thor comic book. I hadn't been able to get a handle on the hammer thing. Too heavy, so I had settled for a sword, which somehow I was able to manage. Maybe later a hammer or something similar. This comic book hero magic was very unpredictable, except that it usually provided me with the tools to defeat my enemies, but not always at once, and not always without a few lost ounces of blood or skin to boot.
That did it. I ran into the kitchen and came out with my butcher knife. No hero now, just cautious. Cartoon laid there on the couch, her skin giving off a golden comic book glow, her physical form partially in her world and mostly in mine for now. Didn't stir. Now that's what I call...tired.
Nothing else happened, so I was about to put my wickedly long and deadly butcher knife down...actually it was just a butter knife...but I have a great imagination...when the front door flung open and my brother stood there, dripping wet. He flung his hair back to shake off some of the rain, and managed quite well to wet my nice rug...well, second hand...but clean.
"Brother." He greeted.
"You could have knocked." I answered.
"I did. Thud. Thud." He grinned mischievously.
"I could have stabbed you with my butcher knife." I protested, waving my butter knife at him.
He broke into laughter. "You can't even make a real peanut butter sandwich with that thing and you're worried about killing me? Get real!"
I shrugged, then remembered that Cartoon was on the other side of the couch, he was facing.
"Look, it's the middle of the night. Why are you here?"
He shut the door, then placed his umbrella against my nice new...well third hand...coat rack. He sighed. "I have a little problem."
He grinned. "Louisa. Spanish doll. About five five."
He suddenly looked dangerous and defeated at the same time. Dangerous to him and defeated because for once he had a situation he couldn't talk himself out of.
"Look, bro, I don't do marriages."
He snapped out of it and snarled at me. "I'm not asking you too. I just want some moral support is all."
He took a deep breath, his temper on the edge of exploding. We were like that to each other, perfect mirrors. Me with my don't take prisoners attitude and his with take everyone prisoner.
He slumped to the rug and put his head in his hands. "I just don't know how to handle this anymore. At first..."
He began to sob.
I grew weary then. He never sobs. Suddenly, that knife felt like a weapon again.
"I was hoping you would give me a chance..."
He looked up and his eyes were blood red and horns sprouted from his forehead. "To eat you!" He screamed, then leaped from the floor, like a giant frog and grasped for my throat.
I sidestepped him and slammed the knife into the back of his skull, butt first.
He slammed to the floor, rolled over, and sprouted ten pairs of wicked looking claws that would give a butcher a nightmare.
"So you want to play before you die, wise guy?"
I shrugged. "Is that what they call it in hell? Play?"
He began to rise and slowly he grew taller and taller, until his head was knocking against the ceiling.
"Be careful of the paint job. I just finished it yesterday." I warned him.
He snarled angrily and rushed m e.
I backed up and my hand brushed the Batman comic book.
Suddenly I felt t his gray cape in my hand. I swung it in front of me, and sidestepped, letting him charge the cape instead. He passed through it into the kitchen, where I heard the smashing of glass.
I groaned. "I just bought those plates and glasses." I screamed.
I rushed into the kitchen and he was getting up from my fourth hand kitchen table which had been on its last legs, and now had no legs at all to stand on.
He grabbed a leg and rushed me with it.
I threw the cape at him and it wrapped around him.
He tried to unwrap it and stumbled, knocking a piece of my kitchen doorway into shatters, then went into the living room, like a dancing mannikin, blinded, but furious.
I went to the front door, opened it quickly, and then kicked him in the behind, so that he hurtled towards the balcony. As he struck it. Iron. He flamed on like one of the Fantastic Four, screamed, then tumbled from view, a holocaust of fire and smoke.
I stepped to the balcony railing and looked down. He was dissolving in the swimming pool several feet away, smoke and no flames now. The rain continued to pelt. The gray cape became a soft gray mist, and then drifted away, followed several moments later by the demon impersonating my brother. The pool had some ashes in it, but otherwise looked normal. Dirty.
I shut the front door and Cartoon sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Is it time to get up yet, Johnnie?"
I grinned at her, and then yawned. "Nah. Get some more shut eye."
I tucked her in again and she smiled up at me.
"I feel so safe with you." She said softly, her eyes growing heavy with sleep.
"Yeah. I do that to girls."
She laughed lightly, then her head rolled to the side and she began to snore lightly.
I tucked her in better, and then headed for my bedroom.
It's tough being the man with the gray cape. But its tougher still going all night without sleep. I jumped onto my bed, clothes and all, and went fast asleep.
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