This is the first chapter of a work in progress.
It's a grim day in the comic book world when Captain Freedom is forced into early retirement. Who is responsible? The super-villain masterminds who I've thrown into jail repeatedly? The international crime syndicate? INTERBAD? Traitors within our own government? No. It’s upper management.
I'm in New York, teaching inner city schoolchildren about the value of flossing, when I get a call from the Accounting department at Gotham Comix. I fly up to their offices right away. Entering the conference room, I'm immediately suspicious. They have a PowerPoint presentation.
First they remind me that my insurance premiums are too high. But I put a generation of criminals behind bars. Then they start hurling the fiduciary mumbo-jumbo like Zeus' lighting bolts. "Sales of your comic book are in decline." "The market favors graphic novels about losers." "We've posted losses for the last seven quarters."
"But what about the children?" I ask. I've taught so many of them valuable life lessons, like how to increase self-esteem by purchasing Captain Freedom products.
The accountants drop the bomb: "McDonalds ditched your Happy Meal toy."
I am stunned by this treason. Who's going to fight evil? I ask them.
“We've got a group in Bangalore. You don't have to speak English to fight evil.”
They offer a paltry retirement package, but I'm not going without a fight. I search my mind for an appropriate comeback. "Freedom ain't cheap." In my case it's $4.3 million a year.
A door opens, and in rushes a platoon of super attorneys. I'm surrounded, my powers useless. I remind them that a large sell-off of Gotham Comix stock could trigger a panic in the market. The attorneys back off. I don't get a gold watch, but now I have a golden parachute.
They give me forty-five minutes to leave the building. I have to clean out my corner office, and leave the laptop – there's no time to grab the Dilbert cartoons from my wall. They take away my secret decoder ring, my autographed copy of the Flash Gordon hero handbook, and the keys to the Ultimate Fighting Vehicle. When it is time to go, security – some of my best superhero friends – escort me out of the building.
I'm angry enough to toss a car across the street. But I'm not warmed up, and that's just begging for a back injury.
Being a superhero is the only job I've had since high school.
Growing up I always wanted to be a paleontologist. "What are you going to do with that?" my mother asked. "Put your shovel away and get out of the sandbox. You're twelve years old. It's time for flying practice."
Instead of college I studied with a Korean master to learn several ancient forms of combat, useless for someone with my talents. And when I turned twenty, I joined Gotham Comix. I gave them my heart and soul, and my four super powers: flying, lighting-fast reflexes, supernatural strength, and the uncanny ability to predict the weather.
People always ask, if you're so good with the weather, why didn't you become a meteorologist? It's a typical reaction, like when you ask really tall people if they play basketball. Weather is a hobby for me.
Some days I regret not becoming a paleontologist. Today I'd be at some fancy University with a real lab and government funding, and I'd travel to exotic locations to identify dinosaur bones, rather than to stop a madman from awakening an ancient evil below the Earth's crust. I'd squint at the enormous fossil, and say: don't be silly. The brontosaurus doesn't exist. This is the jawbone of a brachiosaurus. Which I've used to crack the skulls of evildoers.
I apply to work for the State Department, but they say I need to know Arabic. Then I apply at the Defense Department, and this time, I tell them I know Arabic. They deny me the job – if I know Arabic, I must be a terrorist.
After fifteen years on the side of good, maybe it's time I bat for the other team? I have plenty of contacts, and how hard can it be to become a super-villain?
But I can't go evil. It would really disappoint the kids. Plus, I would be at risk of losing my four million dollar a year deferred compensation.
I’m already to fly home, but something stops me. Evil is still out there. And sure enough, my sources tell me that my nemesis, Wayne of Mass Destruction, has engineered the Rupert Ray, a mind control device that could enslave New York.
Using Google, I quickly find Wayne’s lab. He’s surprised to see me.
“Captain Freedom,” he snarls. “I thought you retired.” He’s pointing the Rupert Ray at me.
“Surrender the weapon.” I give him the calm, trusting look of a friend who would never put him back in jail.
Wayne throws down a smoke pellet. By the time the air clears and I get Visine into my eyes, he and his weapon are gone. I rush outside to see that he's high in the air.
I will never understand why criminals are allowed to buy jetpacks.
I launch into the sky and catch up with him.
"You can’t fight me,” he sneers. “You don’t have insurance."
“I’ve got COBRA.”
He hurls his homemade explosives at me, but I dodge them with ease.
"I've got a heat-seeking missile, Freedom, straight from my friends in North Korea. You'll never escape." Little does he know!
We enter a region of high barometric pressure, which stalls his jetpack engine. WMD is jilted off balance, and CRACK, I knock him unconscious.
I pry the Rupert Ray from his clutches. Spectators cheer as we land, and for once, I’ve saved the city without destroying real estate. I may be retired, but the Captain Freedom Happy Meal will return.home | writings | publications | toys | | wish list