It was a bright and fateful day in the sprawling Midwestern city of St. Louis. Amid the hustle and bustle of every day goings-on, whatnots and waddayacallits, danger lurked around every corner. One man had a mission--a mission to rescue the innocent from danger, and to look good while doing it. He upheld justice, brought the villainous scum of the city to their knees, and brought about a new age of peace and prosperity to all mankind. This man's name--the name citizens loved and criminals feared--was Batboy. But as indicated by the title, this story is not about him.

We instead start out by bringing you a portrait of the innocent bystander: A tourist in the city of St. Louis. He was running out of places to go, in his inappropriately floral-patterned shirt. The day's schedule brought him to the top of the Ferguson & Ferguson building's observation deck. He yawned in quiet disillusionment. Perhaps a three-month vacation to St. Louis was not the best of ideas.

Suddenly! From out of the mid-day shadows, a very thin mugger stepped up. He was your typical mugger, wearing a black-and-white striped prisoner's uniform, ski hat, and domino mask. He raised a gun at the bystander and made slight motions toward his large canvas bag with a dollar sign on it. "Hand over your valuables!" he said.

"I can't," The tourist pleaded, "my wife took them all after she left me for splurging on this trip!" The tourist took three steps back and bumped against the roof's cement barrier. Tiny pebbles on the side to fell--fell toward the sidewalk below.

And then, fate took hold.

"I'll save you, citizen!"

The battle cry was as shocking as it was somewhat perverse. On the sidewalk below, another, completely different innocent bystander wheeled around, only to be tackled by a young-to-middle-aged fat guy wearing pajamas--pajamas with a symbol made of felt and tape emblazoned in the center, with the letters SOS. The pebbles slammed against bare sidewalk with a mighty plink. The innocent bystander (who was definitely not the tourist mentioned earlier) was launched into a mud puddle.

Incredulous as to what just occurred, the innocent bystander could think of nothing to say. He turned red in the face, shook his fist, and opened his mouth, which was soon covered by the fat man's greasy hand.

"No need to thank me, citizen," said the fat man, "I am just doing my duty. For I am--Superman the Strange."

The fat man ran off, making wooshing noises and raising his hands as though he were flying.

"What is with these guys!" The mud-and-sport-coated bystander yelled at nobody in particular, "Every day it's a new freaking superhero! Where are they coming from!?"

Nobody knew the for sure. It was around this time many other superheroes made their appearance in the quiet city. There were so many appearing at once, if fact, it was at times difficult for people to even tell them apart. This is just how Superman the Strange wanted it.

"It is like a sneak attack," he said to nobody in a bold monologue, "With all the other fake superheroes trying to find their place in the city, nobody will suspect that I will be among them. It would be like the perfect crime, only it is more not crime than it is crime."

"Buddy," the coffee shop owner said, "could you get off the counter? You're bothering our customers."

Superman the Strange was indeed standing, one foot on a cushioned faux leather barstool and the other on the lacquer countertop. There was a line of at least seven irate people behind him. The one in front kept getting whacked in the face by Superman the Strange's billowing cape that moved about despite the lack of wind.

"Great Kaiser's Ghost," Superman the Strange continued, "I will take a large cappuccino with an extra espresso shot and a cherry danish. For Justice!"

"For here or to go?"

"For Justice!" Superman the Strange stressed again, leaning forward and grimacing.

The shop owner sighed and folded his arms. He pointed to the gigantic white sign above him right next to the menu. It read NO FREE SERVICE TO SUPERHEROES in large block lettering.

"Czar's Ghost, man," Superman the Strange said with unnecessary tension in his voice, "don't you believe in justice?"

"I believe that there's way too many people putting their underwear on the outside of their spandex pants just to get free service. For here or to go?"

Superman the Strange desperately wanted to say for justice again, but he decided against it. He racked his brain for the elements of warfare that would give him the tactical advantage in this situation.

"To . . . go."

"That'll be three dollars and seventy nine cents."

"Curse you, coffeeman! Abject poverty is my one weakness!" Superman the Strange sprang away from the counter and jumped on top of one of the empty tables, positioning himself like a squatting The Thinker. He stared out the window of the coffee shop into the wide open streets of downtown clogged with the mid-day lunch rush. "Even I," he started, "The foremost of the St. Louis Superheroes, have difficulty dealing with the villainy and wretched scum that feasts on the wicked underbelly of the city."

"I take it you're not paying," the manager said.

"I must stay vigilant as all superheroes do, and yet, I also must manage to meet the desperate criminal notion that is known as not poor. If only there were a way to keep my eye on the urban . . . al . . . istic events and become less broke at the same time!"

He pondered this for several silent moments, with the crowd pouring in and watching him stand there, and wondering how his cape kept billowing. Suddenly! He snapped to attention, as though some minute thought had finally sparked its way into his nervous system. "That's it!" he cried in triumph, "I shall become . . . a couch potato!"

Later! It turned out that couch potato, while useful enough as a temp position, was not a viable career option. But he was very practiced as a couch potato. So he called the place he formerly serviced: his suburban home in Hazelwood.

"Mom, can I pleeeeease move back in?" Superman the Strange wailed over the payphone.

"Dear, you just moved out six months ago. Your father and I thought we'd never get rid of you."

"But I don't have any place to stay, and I gotta be a superhero, mother!"

"I'm sorry, but we already rented your room out to some vagrant crackheads. So I don't know if your father and I could bear the thought of it smelling bad in the house again. And the crackheads help with the chores once in a while."

"Oh, alright mom. I love you."

"Whatever, bye sweetie."

Superman the Strange hung up the phone. He lowered his head and wandered the streets of the city. "Woosh. Whoosh," he said unenthusiastically. "Wooosh . . ." He kicked aside some old soda cans lining the sidewalk.

He lifted his head. "Sweet Qaysar's ghost, now I've gotta think of something new," he said, "How do all the other superheroes make money, anyway?"

Suddenly! In the window of an electronics store, a lavish display of televisions flashed on. After a series of seizure-inducing random patterns of color, a bright and flashy world appeared on the screens. This was the world of the television commercial.

"In the quiet city of St. Louis," the announcer stated. A cardboard cutout set the scene. It was of the city from the waterfront, focused on the Gateway Arch and the boat with the floating McDonalds in front of it. "the innocent citizens are threatened by the evil villain Super Murderman!"

"I am Super Murderman!" said Super Murderman, clearly indicated by his costume, which read 'Super Murderman'. He stood in front of the cardboard city, which made him over a hundred feet tall and standing in the Mississippi. "And I am threatening the citizens of the city with my Murder Gun! And the orphanage."

"Stop right there, Super Mudderman. Murderman." The camera panned awkwardly left, revealing the edge of the carboard city, a boom mike operator, and a fat man in spandex with a 'W' on his chest. The boom mike dropped onto the screen for a moment as the spandexed man made a heroic pose. "I am the Washed-Up Superhero! You will not murder those orphans."

"Oh--" Super Murderman paused as the camera dragged itself back to him, "Oh yeah? And how do you plan . . . to stop me?"

"With Generic Fruit Pies™!" The Washed-Up Superhero presented the paper-wrapped and microwaved fruit pie with a red label on it. The camera zoomed in on it, then back out. "Your days are numbered, Super Murderman. Of murdering!"

"No! Not Generic Fruit Pies™," the camera cut to a still frame of the fruit pie, then back. "Not with their gut-wrenchingly delicious flavor! You'll pay for this, Washed-Up Superhero!" Super Murderman ran off the side of the screen. A studio light fell over, breaking the Gateway Arch.

Two kids walked up to the Washed-Up Superhero. The boy in the cap stared into a space just below the camera and said flatly, "Thank you Wa-washed up. Superhero."

"Don't thank me, kids. Orphans." The Washed-Up Superhero said, "Thank . . . Generic Fruit Pies™!" His voice echoed with the help of a bad audio effect, "In Kiwi, Lemon, Red Flavor, Breadfruit, Genericberry™, Barbecue, Original, Extra Salty, and new Mystery flavors!"

The TVs turned off. Superman the Strange's face lifted, and he turned away from the display. "Sultan's ghost! With this knowledge, I shall go and find myself . . . a corporate patron!"

Later! Superman the Strange approached the large double-door entrance of the stately Oldies Mansion. Two vicious Doberman-Rottweilers jumped out, teeth gnashing. With a grin, Superman the Strange retrieved two leftover tofu dogs from a paper bag, and threw them at the dogs. The guard dogs gobbled up the tofu with ravenous hunger. Then they abruptly choked and died.

Superman the Strange stared. " . . . huh." He sidled around the canine corpses, then hurried up the marble stairs to the manor entrance. He looked back at the dead dogs again and shuddered, then pressed the elaborately decorated doorbell. It sounded much like church bells. After a moment, a very stately, squinty eyed and incredibly British man answered the door. "Nnnnyessah?" He slurred.

"Oh, uh," Superman the Strange looked back again nervously, "I think your dogs died."

"Nnnnthey have a tendency to do that, sah. They were the master's childhood pets, but they are incredibly stupid. The master has them cloned in the basement."

"I see." He left it at that for a moment, then remembered to continue, "Oh right! Hi, I'm TV's Superman the Strange, and I was wondering if I could speak to owner of the Oldies Radio Station."

"Nnnni'm sorry, sah, he's stepped out for a coffee."

Superman the Strange stroked his chin. "A coffee, eh? that's all I needed to know! Thank you, citizen!"

"Nnnni'm not a citizen, sah, I'm here on a work visa."

Superman the Strange's brain shorted. He stood there for several minutes with a dumb expression on his face. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"Nnnni'm not a citizen of the United States, sah."

Superman the Strange gasped. "My dad told me about people like you!" he yelled. He slapped the incredibly British man in the face and ran away as fast as his fat legs could carry him, which was to the gate, whereupon he collapsed with exhaustion.

Soon! Superman the Strange quickly donned a trenchcoat (found somewhere in a trench.) He sat down in the coffee shop's booth, straight across from a formally dressed man with a lavish head of hair.

"It took me a long time to seek you out," Superman the Strange said behind a pair of sunglasses, also from the trench, "Are you Wex Wuthor, the bamillionaire owner of the Oldies station?"

The man looked at him, with a proud and haughty, yet stern, grin on his face, and said, "No."

"Rats." Superman the Strange moved to the next booth over. "Are you Wex Wuthor?"

"Why yes, yes I am," the little bald man said, his curiosity clearly outweighing his apprehension.

"Whew! Man, I had to search all the coffee shops this side of downtown to find you, and man let me tell you there's a lot more coffee shops than you would think--"

"Butch," Wex Wuthor said to the large man standing next to him in the sunglasses and Armani suit, "get this hobo out of my sight."

"Yessir!"

"NO WAIT, LISTEN!" Superman the Strange held his hands up. Wex Wuthor gave Butch a slight nod, so Superman the Strange was released from the super deathgrip.

"Alright, peasant," Wex Wuthor said, "Humor me. What do you want that will not result in Butch here throwing you into the street in the most painful way possible?"

"Ah, ah! See, I realized recently that there are several superheroes that pay their bills by way of advertising!"

He cut off his thought there, and kept a stupid grin on his face. He looked at Wex Wuthor as though he'd just stated the most obvious question in the world.

Wuthor sighed and looked away. "And you want to advertise with the Oldies station."

"Yes! I just need all my room and board bills paid forever, plus amenities, and I'll totally wear the logo somewhere on my cape."

"Listen," Wex waved his stubby arms in annoyance, "stupid person. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. And I've heard about Butch's dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer."

Butch looked hurt. "Hey!"

"Shut up, Butch. Now, what you're saying is completely unreasonable, at the very least. I should have Butch strangle you just for approaching me with such a stupid scheme. I'm certain my IQ dropped just hearing about it. Now let's step back a second." Butch calmed and sat back in his seat, "you've never even saved anyone, am I correct?" He took a sip from his coffee.

"Sure I have!" Superman the Strange said cheerfully, "Why only last week I saved a baby from being run over by a speeding limo!"

Wuthor spit his coffee. "THAT WAS YOU?!"

"Oh, were you in that limo? Sorry about the wreck. And I should probably get around to apologizing to the owner of the shop you ran into. And that old lady."

"You rescued a DOLL."

"Now sir, I clearly remember her mother being very happy when I returned it to her."

"You mean the mannequin."

"Well she was very quiet about it, but I wouldn't call her--"

"No."

"But--"

"Stop! I should have had you killed already, but I can't bring myself to get angry at someone who is obviously retarded. So before I get mad, I am going to ask you to walk away from this table and never speak to me again." Wex Wuthor sipped the last drop of his coffee and jumped out of his side of the booth and onto the floor, revealing that he was just over knee-high to Superman the Strange.

"Wow!" Superman the Strange exclaimed, "Did you know that you're short?"

"BUTCH!" Wuthor yelled.

Superman the Strange screamed like a little girl, and scrambled over the other booths of patrons, knocking over their coffees and daily papers as he avoided Butch's gorilla-like hands. He jumped out the door, fled down the street, and ran out of breath before he got thirty feet. He looked over his shoulder and slowed his pace, seeing no one behind him. "I must have outrun them," he said.

A large black limo lurched from over the hill, with Butch at the wheel. Superman the Strange shrieked again and ran off even faster. With the large vehicle inching toward his manly buttocks, he suddenly vanished from sight.

Butch slammed on the limo's breaks, causing Wex Wuthor, sitting in the back, to slam against the dividing window. Wuthor stood up. He opened up the window and said, "Butch."

"Uh, yeah boss?" Butch answered.

"Butch, where did he go?"

"I don't know!" Butch got out of the limo and looked around. There was no trace of the fat man in the cape.

"So you're saying you lost him?"

"No sir, no!" Butch swallowed. "I just . . . wait a second." Butch got to his knees and looked under the limo. There was an open manhole just below the limo now.

"What is it, Butch!?"

"I think he fell into the sewers, sir."

"Good! That's very good." Wex Wuthor sat back down in his seat. "He's probably broken every bone in his body! Drive on, Butch! We must be back at the mansion in time for our . . . plans!"

WHAT ARE THESE PLANS THAT WEX WUTHOR SPEAKS OF? IS SUPERMAN THE STRANGE ALRIGHT? WHAT DANGERS AWAIT IN THE SEWERS? WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT INNOCENT BYSTANDER? WHY ARE SO MANY SCENES TAKING PLACE INSIDE OF COFFEE SHOPS? THESE QUESTIONS (AND MORE!) MAY OR MAY NOT BE ANSWERED . . . RIGHT NOW!

Superman the Strange lifted himself off the squishy ground. He muttered some words relating to his state of pain, and looked up. Light spilled in from the open manhole--more when the limo parked over it pulled away. Superman the Strange shook his fist, "That's it, Wex Wuthor, from now on, you and I are mortal enemies! You hear me? We're ARCH NEMESIS . . . es. Nemeses?"

He was distracted from his grammatical conundrum when he turned and looked into the depths of the sewer. A light flashed in his eyes, as though the slightest spark of competence was making itself manifest. "Aha!" He cried, shattering his dignity once more as he launched into another monologue, "A sanctuary of my own making! I can be alone and meditate in this place, cut off from the rest of the world! And that Wex Wuthor," he spat, "For surely, this shall be my fortress . . . a Fortress . . . of Privacy!"

Working quickly, Superman the Strange gathered together a bunch of filth and gobbed it into a large pile in the middle of the room. He sat on top of it with an air of stinky royalty. "And I am the king of my Fortress of Privacy," he said, squealing a little bit at his own genius.

A noise emanated from one of the halls leading into the room. Superman the Strange held up his hand, declaring in a loud voice, "Halt! Who goes there in my . . . Fortress of Privacy?"

Another voice answered, "You mean my living room?"

Superman the Strange turned his head and, indeed, the place he was sitting in was much like a living room. It was brightly lit with a thick, ornately patterned rug covering the floor, and there was a widescreen television hanging on one wall in front of the leather couch. A marble statue in one corner poured water out of a pitcher into a small goldfish pond that reflected the classical fresco above it.

"Where did you even get that pile filth?" The voice asked.

"It is my throne! Who dares question Superman the Strange as he sits on his royal throne of privateness?"

A breeze blew through the tunnels--a somewhat stinky breeze--indicating clearly and without a doubt that the person standing in the decisively-placed shadows was about to have a monologue of his own.

"Some reject and fear me. I did not ask to be subjected to the toxic radiation that our factories pump out every day into the Mississippi, but perhaps it was fate. Perhaps it was destiny that I would rise up to defend those that fear me from those that created me. I am--" He stepped out of the shadows, revealing his disfigured but oddly appealing sharply-cornered body, dressed in a green jumpsuit with a 'T' stitched into the chest, "--The Toxic Revenger! Now get out of my living room."

"The Toxic Upender, eh?" Superman the Strange pondered, stroking his chin with enough subtlety to vaporize a camel.

"Revenger. Toxic Revenger. Superhero and vice chairman of the Rather Pointy Individuals Society. What did you say your name was? Superman the Strange?"

"The one and only!"

"The idiot they keep making fun of on the channel five news."

"You must be thinking of some other Superman the Strange. I uphold truth, justice, and the . . . uh, Saint . . . Louisian . . . way!"

The Toxic Revenger nearly broke out in laughter, "You? You couldn't fight crime if all the criminals were suddenly lobotomized."

"That actually happened once," Superman the Strange started, "You see I was battling the evil--"

"Get out of my living room."

"No wait! I've got it!" Superman the Strange jumped off his throne of filth and landed awkwardly on the carpeted floor, "Toxic Pretender,"

"Revenger."

"Right, Toxic Car Fender, it has long been known that many superheroes have sidekicks, to you know, act as decoys, think up new puns, be humiliated by their mentor and get captured repeatedly."

The Toxic Revenger blacked off, appalled. "I don't need a sidekick!"

"No, of course not, no no no no. No. You're going to be my sidekick!"

"What?"

"Toxic Suspender, there is an injustice in this city that must be righted! Even as we speak, the evil Wex Wuthor plots his dastardly schemes against the good superheroes of this city!"

Toxic Revenger sighed. It was clear that there would be no way to get rid of this man easily. "Alright, what's he doing?"

"He refused to let me advertise for his company for obscene amounts of money!"

"Alright, OUT!" The Toxic Revenger actively pushed on Superman the Strange toward one of the many large open passages surrounding his living room. But with each push his feet only slid back along the carpet and squished into the throne of filth. The Toxic Revenger didn't have enough muscle mass to move such a large man.

"You're right!" Superman the Strange yelled to the cement ceiling. He grabbed the Toxic Revenger's wrist. "We must be off, for every moment spent idling is a moment where Wex Wuthor continues his devil's workshop!"

"Wait a--ACK!" The Toxic Revenger was yanked along as Superman the Strange bounded out of the sewer house. He made wooshing noises as his cape billowed behind him.

Elsewhere!

"Welcome, gentlemen!" Wex Wuthor announced to the collection of well-to-do immigrants, who wore black-on-black suits with white ties.

Note from editor: due to the prevalence of anti-defamation leagues and their repeated nasty reports about the superhero industry "stereotyping", all references to the ethnicity of the gangsters has been removed from the following sections.

They all stood around a large machine. Its purpose was unclear, but certainly of computer origin.

"This had better be it, Wuthor," said the ethnicity removed man, "We've all been waiting a long time!"

"Yeah, it's like seven o'clock," said another. The first slapped him on the back of his head.

"You stupid ethnic slur removed!"

"Well at least I'm not a worse ethnic slur removed!"

"Gentlemen!" Wuthor held up his hands, and everyone instantly forgot their differences. He hopped onto the adjustable scaffold in front of the machine. When it didn't put him above eye level with his guests, he coughed. Butch stared into one corner. Wuthor coughed again.

"Oh right!" Butch pulled a lever, and Wuthor was raised up several more feet until he reached the console.

"This machine!" Wuthor continued, "of my design will hypnotize the listeners of the Oldies radio station into buying whatever products I desire, all subliminally. I just need to type it into this poorly developed data entry form, and presto! Instant business.

"For instance, let's take you, ethnic name removed. You own the ethnic restaurant chain removed down at location of ethnic restaurant removed. You want to sell more ethnic food removed, so all I would have to do is type it in this box here.

"Now let's see, I never really learned how to type, so . . . first it's first letter of ethnic food removed. . . where is the second letter of ethnic food removed? Oh it's right here. And then we have a 'third letter of ethnic food removed' followed by a--"

"We get the point," said one of the men, "Let's just poorly-inserted ethnic idiom removed."

"The point is!" Wuthor spun back around and clasped his hands together, "this is guaranteed to increase business for your cover operations. I've perfected it myself: now eighty percent of the population of St. Louis listens to the Oldies station!"

"You know," one of the men said, "I always wondered why you had such a big house."

"And now I am offering a limited time trial to the highest bidder!" Wuthor said. "The bidding will start at five hundred thousand dollars, a full shipment of the illegal drug of your choice, or three full shipments of the legal drug of your choice.

"But first, hors deourves!"

The British butler appeared and uncovered a table filled up with tiny, frilly sandwiches. The men all looked delighted.

The Toxic Revenger and Superman the Strange watched it all occur from behind a large collection of crates labeled 'science stuff'.

"I can't believe this!" The Toxic Revenger whispered at the top of his lungs, "Your bumbling actually caused us to stumble onto a criminal outfit!"

"Great Császár's Ghost, I always knew that Wuthor was a bad egg!" Superman the Strange said.

"Nobody says bad egg anymore. And I don't see how this possibly could have happened! The odds of this actually occurring are like . . . are like . . . something . . . that's really rare!"

"You think so?" Superman the Strange said, "that's odd. that's precisely what Dr. Beerenstein said when I discovered his moon destroying machine."

"You fought Dr. Beerenstein!?"

"Oh sure, he's my other arch nemesis. In fact, that was the first thing that happened when I left home."

And so our brave heroes enter a flashback, narrated by none other than Superman the Strange!

Okay, so it was like last month? I was sitting in front of the TV--this is my mom's place by the way, all their stuff smells of old people--and I was watching my favorite cartoon.

Then my mom comes in and she's all like, "Sweetie, lift your feet, I need to vacuum under you."

And I was all like, "Wait till there's a commercial!"

And she was all like, "Son you'd better do it this very instant!"

And I was all like, "Nuh-uh!"

And she was all like, "Yuh-huh!"

And I was all like, "Nuh-uh!"

And she was all like, "You know, if you're just going to sit around and obsess about superheroes, then why don't you just go out and become one!"

And then I was totally like, "Then I will!" So I did!

So I put on a cape and wrote down my list of superpowers that I totally have. I was still wearing my pajamas at the time, didn't change out of those, ("Eww," commented the Toxic Revenger) But the first thing I noticed when I arrived in St. Louis were all these tall brown poles sticking up everywhere, connected all around by mysterious wires! And the strange thing was nobody seemed to notice!

"Hold on," The Toxic Revenger interrupted, "You mean telephone poles?"

"Tss. Yeah. Now I know," Superman the Strange rolled his eyes. "I mean it, some people are so uppity cause they know so much. You know that's how evil scientists get their start! They know a lot of things!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Toxic Revenger waved his hand, "Just, keep going."

At first, I thought it may have been some new fangled security device for keeping the populace safe! But when I attempted to begin my first sentry of the streets, I banged into one of them. And it hurt! I ignored it and went on, but there was another one! Now it was getting annoying. I decided that these evil devices must be stopped at all costs!

So I followed the power lines. They went a lot of places and I got lost and hungry and tired, but eventually I found that one of the wires ran straight into the ground! A large metal platform was there with control that seemed to let it--

"Alright!" The Toxic Revenger said, making a cutting motion with his hand, "I think I know where this story is going."

"But I didn't get to the part where I discovered the secret lair! And then we exchanged witty banter! And then the lab blew up for some reason!"

"Also, the gangsters are finishing their sandwiches, so we're going to need to wrap this up. Do you have any special abilities that can help us here?"

"Of course I do!" Superman the Strange almost looked hurt at the notion, "You can't be a proper superhero without powers!"

"What about Batboy? He doesn't--"

"NEVER MENTION THAT NAME IN MY PRESENCE." Superman the Strange had leaned in and nearly thrust his accusing finger straight up The Toxic Revenger's nose.

Toxic Revenger glanced through the crates. The gangsters hadn't noticed Superman the Strange's sudden outburst, and they continued eating their dainty sandwiches. The butler brought out a bottle of champagne and they each took turns sniffing the cork.

"Super envy." The Toxic Revenger nodded. "Great list so far."

"But of course, people with my kind of mysterious origins have a great many powers even we ourselves don't know about!"

"You told me you came from the suburbs."

"Mysterious suburbs! Look, I can fly!" Superman the Strange jutted his arms into the air, and a strong breeze came out of nowhere, sending his cape into a dramatic billow (but it did not stop Superman the Strange from making wooshing noises.)

"I'm sure we're still filing that under the first item, super delusions . . . "

"Is that Batboy faster than a speeding ticket?"

The Toxic Revenger nodded slowly. When Superman the Strange took no notice, he sighed and flatly stated, "Yes."

"Is he more powerful than my odorous funk?"

"That doesn't really count as a power either."

"Can he leap somewhat knee-high chairs in a single bound?"

"You can't even do that. I was watching when you tried it half an hour ago on the way here. Look, if you don't actually have any real skills, I'm going to have to do this by myself."

"Well what do you have, 'Toxic Bartender'?" Superman the Strange sneered. "Can you poke out their eyes with your pointy elbows? Maybe with your pointier nose? I know, you scare them with super freakiness."

"No," The Toxic Revenger said, "I can shoot beams of highly charged plasma from my hands. And eyes. And pretty much anywhere really."

"I see!" Superman the Strange stood up oddly gracefully, "I have a similar power--X-ray vision!" With a tiny 'wah-ching!' he glared intently between the crates directly at the bottle of champagne that sat on the table by the gangsters.

The Toxic Revenger tapped his foot idly. "I don't see how this proves you have X-ray vision, unless you mean heat vis--"

The bottle melted. The Toxic Revenger stared with his jaw open, which had to be shut manually with Superman the Strange's hand. The Toxic Revenger turned to him with look of disbelief. "HOW, in the history of the universe, did you do that?"

"Nnnnoh dear me, sah," the butler said as he noticed the mess, "I seem to have accidentally placed this glass bottle over the nuclear-powered Bunsen burner."

"It happens to the best of us, butler," Wex Wuthor said, finishing his tiny sandwich and wiping his hands with a napkin, "we were done with that bottle anyway. Now get this molten glass off the floor."

The Toxic Revenger stared at Superman the Strange.

"What?" Superman the Strange asked. "Didn't you see me do it?"

"That was a fluke!"

"Fine! I'll do it again!" Superman the Strange turned and stared at the napkin in Wex Wuthor's hands.

"No! Stop!" The Toxic Revenger insisted. He tried tugging him away from the viewing hole, but Superman the Strange's mass was still much more than the Toxic Revenger could move.

Then the napkin burst into flames.

"Oh, look at that!" Wuthor said, dropping the char from his hands, "I was standing precisely in the spot where my convex skylights converge the helicopter's chase light that just passed overhead to create a focal point of heat!"

"Wow, what are the odds of that happening, boss?" Butch asked.

"I dunno!" Wuthor said, "It's like something . . . really rare."

"I told you,"Superman the Strange whispered.

"Alright, alright," The Toxic Revenger said, "Let's say for the moment, for the sake of argument, you actually do have some kind of superpower. Here's our plan. I will take on the mafia guys and Butch over there, and you break apart the machine by whatever means at your disposal."

"But I wanna beat up the bad guys, not some stupid machine!"

"Look, those guys?" The Toxic Revenger pointed a pointy finger in their direction, "No, it's different with mafia-type people. They use guns."

"Guns?!" Superman the Strange looked amazed.

"The evil scientist types, supervillains, and generic criminal overlords don't use guns, but the mafia types do," The Toxic Revenger said, "I've taken an oath to do all I can to protect life--and that's including yours--so you need to blow up that dangerously overpowered machine there while I beat the everloving snot out of the gangsters."

"Oh, okay!" Superman the Strange said.

"On three, we jump out from these crates," The Toxic Revenger said, "Ready? One--"

"TWOTHREE!" Superman the Strange yelled, and the crates fell over and shattered into generic pieces of broken wood and random machine parts. He leaped onto the highest point he created and posed bravely. "You won't get away with it this time, Wex Wuthor!"

"YOU!" Wex yelled, pointing a stubby finger in his direction.

Superman the Strange sighed. "No, it's 'That's what you think, Superman the Strange!' You have to say it right or it doesn't count!"

"Everyone shoot him!"

The gangsters all pulled out firearms from various places on their person and cocked them. Superman the Strange stared during the uncomfortable pause the followed. "Uh . . . Toxic Alabaster? Anytime?"

"What are you waiting for!" Wuthor yelled, "Fire now!"

"But he's one of those Superheroes," one of the gangsters said, "What if he's bulletproof?"

"He's not!" Wuthor yelled, "I saw him get beat up myself!"

"Yeah, maybe not fist proof, maybe his power is selective against bullets?"

"Or lead," another chimed in, "There was that one guy, Jax, I think his name was? He's immune to steel."

"Are you talking about that guy in the armor?"

"No, that's Leadman, his armor is made out of lead."

"HE DOESN'T HAVE ANY POWERS!" Wuthor yelled.

"Well if he doesn't, then how is his cape billowing like that without a breeze?" One of the gangsters pointed to the large billow behind Superman the Strange, "That seems like a power to me."

"Yeah, you can never tell. Sometimes? They fake not having any powers, and then they want you to shoot them, but then it turns out like they can reflect bullets or--AAIGH!"

Everyone immediately fell to the floor as they were paralyzed by an intense green glow that emanated from the ground. The Toxic Revenger stepped out from behind the rubble.

"That was even more effective than getting the villain to monologue," The Toxic Revenger said, "gave me more than enough time to charge my Stasis Ray."

"Then why didn't you do that earlier?" Superman the Strange asked.

"It's strange, I can only charge it up when the villains are talking." He turned and looked up at the large computer console. "So, this doesn't seem like it'll take very long. Do you want to get coffee later?"

Later!

"So tell me," The Toxic Revenger idly stirred the lumps in his coffee (it was not very good coffee,) "Superman the Strange. Since you're obviously not going to leave me alone anytime soon, let's get a few things clear. For one, what is the deal with the the Strange part of your name?"

Superman the Strange leaned forward intently, with passion written across his face. "It's actually very carefully crafted to strike fear into the hearts of my enemies."

The Toxic Revenger's expression stayed the same. "Do tell."

"Let's say I was battling the evil Dr. Ebildoc--"

"He's dead," The Toxic Revenger interjected.

"--then let's say I was battling his zombie corpse--"

"His body was incinerated."

"--then let's say I was battling his vengeful ghost--"

"A priest laid his spirit to rest."

"Hypothetically speaking, let's say I was battling the evil Dr. Ebildoc. He's got me locked in his trap, involving, death rays, let's say. I say, 'You'll never get away with this, Dr. Ebildoc!' and then he says . . . " he motioned for Toxic Revenger to finish.

"Oh--uh, he says, 'That's what you think, Super . . .' um. What would he say?"

"Exactly."

"I don't see how that would strike fear into their hearts, but . . . "

"Well if he goes and tries to call me Superfool the Strange, he has to stop and ask himself, 'Isn't that saying too much?' and if he calls me Superman the Stupid, he has to stop and ask himself, 'is this really that much worse than what's already there?'"

"Truly you've thought this through," The Toxic Revenger said. "Now tell me, the SOS on your chest . . . "

"I was sewing it on myself and then noticed that I misspelled my own acronym."

The Toxic Revenger nodded slowly.

"So," Superman the Strange continued, "since you helped me stop Wex Wuthor's evil plot, this would mean I get to stay with you?"

"Well . . . "

"Hooray!" Superman the Strange gleefully leaped into the air, "You'll not regret becoming my sidekick, Toxic Offender."

"Revenger."

"We'll be walking down the street, and all the people will say, 'who's that with Superman the Strange?' And then the librarian will say, 'that's the Toxic Yodeler'"

"Revenger. Look, I'm starting to have second thoughts--"

"HARK!" Superman the Strange lifted a hand to his ear, "I do believe I hear the cry of an innocent bystander. First catch of the day! I'm totally on a roll. Come, Toxic Discount Diaper!" He pranced out the door of the coffee shop, lifted his arms into the air and ran down the sidewalk.

The Toxic Revenger buried his face in his hands. He placed three dollars on the table and followed Superman the Strange out the door of the coffee shop, with all the coffee shop patrons staring after him.

"Who was that masked man?" One of them asked.

"The freak, or the idiot?" A librarian asked.

Everyone laughed.

"Wait the idiot didn't wear a mask."