David Bussell is the author of the Normalized quartet, the four part journal of a superhero who is stripped of his powers and has to learn to fight evil as a normal man. What follows is an extract from the first book in the Normalized series; Part One: Superfluous…
Normalized: Part One
The Journal of Captain Might
Written by Captain Might
Annotations after the fact by Captain Might
November 6th — January 18th
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time there were no such thing as superheroes, let alone an epidemic of them. That ‘95 Macy’s Parade – when the Bart Simpson balloon got loose and a fourteen-year-old me knifed through the sky like a buttered bullet to rescue it – that was the first time the world got to see a real life superhero. Can you imagine? A whole wide world with one superhero in it? Everything I did was front page news…
Captain Might Plugs Erupting Volcano with Iceberg!
Captain Might Drives Away Tsunami with Super Breath!
Captain Might Shouts Comet Back to Where it Came From!
And folks hadn’t even seen a fraction of what I was capable of yet. How I could hammer a mountain flat with the back of my hand, or run on water like a late-for-an-appointment Jesus, or fire beams from my eyes so pinpoint deadly they could knock the prick off a Martian. The list goes on and on. Honestly, I could spend the next four hundred pages listing just half of my incredible feats. Cheap way to fill a book though.*
*It should go without saying that a publisher paid me a heap of money to write this journal. What, you think I pecked out all these words for the hell of it? I’m the guy that yelled “Suck my slipstream!” and threaded the Lincoln Tunnel at Mach 20. Does that sound like the behavior of a man of letters to you?
Likewise, I won’t be padding out these pages with the details of my origin story. What’s the use? It’s already out there in movies, rebooted movies, reimagined reboots of movies and enough comic books to choke Humungo the Devourer. Seriously, just try reading everything that’s been written on my superhero genesis, you might as well try printing off the internet. If you absolutely must have it again, here it is for you in one sentence: I visited the Statue of Liberty with my ninth grade History class, stood on her torch and got bitten by a radioactive bald eagle.*
*Possibly the most American thing to have ever happened.
Not long after that the whole game changed. Suddenly everyone and their uncle was hoisting a cape up the flagpole. Newspapers the world over were bursting with stories about gamma rays and mysterious meteors and toxic spills and mystical birthrights and vigilante orphans. Out of that soup came heroes and monsters of all stripes – speedsters, deep-sea princes, mind-readers, warlocks and witches – you name it. I heard one guy’s mole fell off, tied on a mask, and started calling itself The Cyst.
You want to know how bad it’s gotten? Just this morning I was gliding over the streets of Manhattan when down on the ground I spotted a huddle of superheroes stood outside a Dunkin’ Donuts. There they were for the world to see – Dynamo, Impervious, Cascade, Kilowatt and Switchback – totally oblivious to the fact they were spelling out ‘D.I.C.K.S’ with their chest insignias. Clowns like those, they’re a slap in the face for this profession.
The world’s become lousy with superheroes, and no place has it worse than NYC. Just like wannabe movie stars flocking to LA, the capes came here in their hundreds, then thousands. A state census a few years back showed we were harboring a population that was roughly 20 percent superpowered. Then thirty. Who knows where we are now? It’s like someone crossed out ‘huddled masses’ on that plaque at Ellis Island and wrote ‘walking A-Bombs in full body Spandex.’ Welcome to New York City: the safest and most dangerous place on Earth.
C.H.A.M.P is my place of business. It stands for the Corporation of Heroes Against Menacing Persons. What it doesn’t stand for is crime.
C.H.A.M.P is the City’s first and last line of defense against civil disorder, superpowered or otherwise. We’re a private firm contracted by the government to enforce the law according to a strict contract known as the Heroes’ Code; a set of rules all registered capes are duty-bound to swear by. Some of the rules are good rules: Protect and Serve the Innocent, Maintain the Virtue of Rectitude, Ensure the Rights to Liberty and Justice. Those rules are your nice hot shower. Then there are the other rules: Set Expectations for Behavior and Conduct, Punctually and Promptly Perform all Appointed Duties, Dedicate Yourself before God. Those are the rules that flush the toilet on your nice hot shower. The real prick-shrinkers
Another rule C.H.A.M.P is forced to abide by is this one: Maintain Fair Employment Practice. That might sound dandy on the surface of things, except one of the burdens of maintaining fair employment practice is the promise to recruit from the outside as well as promoting from within. This, sadly, means we’re required throw open our doors to the great unwashed, and the worst part is that yours truly – C.H.A.M.P’s Chief Officer – is personally obliged to interview every Tomcat, Dictum or Harrier with the nous to fill in an application form. The whole thing is a monumental waste of my time and talent. I mean, would you force Spielberg to direct gonzo porn?
Having arrived at the station I watched from the lobby mezzanine as the latest round of hopefuls flooded into the foyer. I caught something on the news the other night about a batch of mutated E Numbers giving rise to a fresh rash of superpowers and it looked as though these were the sorry spoils. A real bunch of no-hopers they were – the absolute worst table at the wedding. As for the names they’d given themselves, don’t even get me started…
The Caped Crouton,
Hot Flash: America’s Only Menopausal Superhero,
Polterguy: The World’s Strongest Ghost,
The Human Spork
As usual, the day played out like the saddest episode of America’s Got Talent you ever saw; an endless procession of wannabes and thrill-seekers, each more eager to please than the last, each more pathetic. Honestly, what a pack of duds. I don’t know who turned down the flow on the superpowers spigot, but some of those jokers barely qualified as super, let alone as heroes. Take the umpteenth interviewee of the day – a perky chick in a spray-on costume calling herself ‘Miss Transit.’
“Says here on your résumé you can teleport from your point of origin to anywhere in your eyeline.”
“That’s right,” she said.
“Then how about a demo?”
“Well… I would, except it’s a one-shot power and it takes twenty-four hours to recharge…”
Jesus, even my iPhone powers up faster than that, and that thing bleeds like an open vein after ten minutes swiping Snapchat.
“Well, can I see your one-shot at least?”
“No can do,” she told me, “I need it to cut traffic later if I’m going to make my sister’s baby shower on time.”
Give me strength. Was this really her best shot at convincing me she was C.H.A.M.P material?
“Pop a squat and listen up, kiddo,” I told her. “If I wanted to throw money at some chick in a skimpy outfit with low prospects in life I’d go to a titty bar. Dressing up like a jackass and insisting everyone calls you by a dumb name doesn’t make you something special. Just look at P Diddy.”
Tears sprang up in her big dairy heifer eyes. Don’t blame me, I was only doing the girl a favor. C.H.A.M.P ain’t your grandma’s superhuman crime-fighting corporation – it’s a dangerous world out there and I can’t afford to throw someone into that mix who isn’t up to the task. I’m not saying she needed to be another me (she might as well try being a unicorn) but she had to have something going on.
Take my twin brother and partner, Birdy. The guy’s 125 lbs soaking wet and not exactly blessed in the ‘super’ department, but what he lacks in strength and speed he more than makes up for with quips and wisecracks. Believe me, in this business, that’s a power all of its own. I still get a kick when I remember the time we caught Mimix using his shape-shifting power to hoodwink us into thinking he was George W and I dropped him into a vat of wet concrete. Quick as a flash Birdy chimed in with, “That sets a bad president.” I’m telling you, when that kid’s on form he’s verbal Viagra. I really couldn’t have asked for a better sidekick partner.*
*Close shave. Use the ‘S’ word around Birdy and he’ll come at you with every single one of those 125.
Anyhoo, Miss Transit left blubbing and I did feel kind of bad about that, so how about I save us all some future heartache by listing a selection of talents that definitely won’t get you invited to the jock end of the superhero lunch room:
* Good at hiding: Not the same as invisibility.
* Radar sense: Sorry, we at C.H.A.M.P don’t count blindness as a proficiency.
* The ability to wake up just as the alarm clock is about to go off: Doesn’t count as ESP.
* Born in a swamp: You say you’re a “plant elemental,” I say you could only win a fight against someone with an extremely severe pollen allergy.
* Immovable: You’re fat.
* Unstoppable: You’re fat and you have sh*tty balance.
If these “powers” or any like them are your claim to fame, finish your sippy cup, strap on your Heelies and roll on home to your momma. And do me a favor and stay there. Don’t act like you know better, cobble together an outfit and call yourself a freelancer. Us pros have enough on our plate without having to mop up your mess. Goddamned freelancers. How about you free this lance? (you can’t see, but I’m pointing at my crotch right now).
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