Hello, Neo York City. It's 7 pm on Halloween night. Do you know where your children are?
Well, I sure as !@#$ do. I'm watching a big gaggle of 'em, right now, as they make their way past the front of The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. to get their safety badges and some candy. I'm also watching the group that just left that's getting a little too close to that one registered sex offender's hovel, three blocks away, and wondering how hard it would be to shoot his !@#$ off from here if he tries something funny.
(The answer, in case you're curious, is "not too !@#$ hard for me.")
I'm not the only one engaged in this activity, of course. Once again, the Agents of The COMPANY are moving throughout our city, keeping an eye on the tykes as they roam in search of candy, good times, and the eventual ruination of their teeth. Little wonder there's a rumor going around that a cabal of high-paid dentists are secretly behind the popularity of Halloween!
But don't believe it. I spread it for laughs back in the 70's,along with stories about the Israeli Prime Minister getting it on with Helen Reddy. And I'm still mortified that (1) I did it, and (2) it's taken on a life of its own.
(The Halloween rumor, that is. Not the one about Menachem Bagin giving Helen a slam. Poor dear actually thinks it's funny.)
Why Halloween? Why the !@#$ not? I got Agents to spare for the night, and it's the least I can do for this city after she kindly opened her doors up to me, back when I more or less moved into The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G. She tolerates my insanity, my !@#$tastic drug and alcohol binges, the occasional bit of property damage at taxpayers' expense.
She's also learning to put up with me leaving dead would-be assassins splattered outside on the sidewalk, though it's a slow process. It helps that I haven't done it in a few weeks. I can only wonder why.
So why not help out a little on this one night, and make sure that the kids out trick-or-treating are safe and looked after? A lot of responsible parents go around with the small ones, anyway, but given the sad state of child-rearing in this nation, there are a lot who don't. In fact, it's practically criminal how many knee-high tykes are just given a bag and last year's Batman mask, and told to go score some dum-dum pops for grandpa.
Not to mention the sex offenders out on the prowl, snatch gangs, robbers, and, yes, kids genuinely up to no good. The NYPD has much better things to worry about than taking calls about someone smashing pumpkins or !@#$ing on their cat. Really.
Of course, they're not going to do that to my darling little Bee-Bee, now are they? No they aren't. Who's a good kitty? Hmm? That's a kitty. Good kitty.
Bring me another beer? No? Oh well.
See, when SPYGOD was a kid, back in the dinosaur times, we didn't have Trick-or-Treating. We'd go out on the night and play tricks on people, sure, but there wasn't this whole culture of kids dressing up and ringing the doorbell and getting enough candy to kill a small rhino. That didn't happen until the thirties, and I was no longer a kid, then...
Hold on: Agent (REDACTED), I see a slow moving panel van by your location and I'm not getting any !@#$ signal out of it. Might be a snatcher. Please be advised. Over.
Anyway, it was a new and exciting thing in the 30's, it took a bit of a break for The War due to sugar rationing, and then came back after they finally lifted it in '47, along with everything else we couldn't enjoy because of Hitler, Tojo, and inefficient postwar resource management.
After that, it was like they opened the floodgates, and you couldn't get away from it. Trick-or-treating became as much a part of the cultural landscape as Thanksgiving, car ownership, and anti-communism. And, in spite of some well-meaning idiots trying to ban it for health reasons, and hyper-moral TV preachers trying to demonize it, no one really minds.
Especially not the costume, knick-knack, and gee-gaw industry. Did you know that Halloween is the second-largest American merchandising Holliday, next to Christmas? I'm sure you probably did. It's not like people ever got rich selling useless !@#$ on Labor Day.
I think I make somewhere around 50 grand every year on SPYGOD costumes alone. How much of that is royalties and how much is actual sales, I don't know. But I take that money and stick it in a charity fund, mostly because I really don't need it, and also to give the IRS something else to chew on besides my leg come April.
And also because I feel a little funny about being the only Strategic Talent you'll usually see impersonated on Halloween night.
(Other than Mr. USA, of course, but !@#$ him.)
I mean, sure, you'll see them as part of gag costumes at adult parties and the like. But no kids are out there in an Owl costume. You don't see any American Man faces, any Dr. Steel costumes. No Mrs. Liberty, Lt. Lightning, Captain Freedom, or Stupendous Man.
Heck, you don't even get any Bouncers, which is !@#$ funny if you ask me.
And, yeah, okay, there was a brief flurry of Rockethand costumes for a couple years, there. But all we all know what happened to him, don't we? Poor kid...
I mean, sure. You see lots of superhero costumes, but they're not real ones. I see a bumper crop of Captain America and Iron Man, scores of Jokers and Batmen. The occasional Superman. Even a couple Thors, here and there, which is !@#$ funny when you consider I've met the real Thor, and he's nothing at all like that strapping, well-meaning young fellow they got to play him.
(But I guess movies about drunken goat !@#$ only sell to what they used to call "niche markets" before the internet came along.)
Why so many fake and so few real? Do we just not have the right licensing people? Did we do something wrong?
I mean, they'll make masks out of !@#$ presidents, for !@#$ sake. Who the !@#$ wants to pretend to be the President? Maybe when you're eight and you think the sun shines out of his !@#$, sure. But then you get older and learn there's no Santa, no Easter Bunny, and no chance that conning enough people to vote you into the Oval Office makes you a person worth imitating.
Then again, considering how many Jokers are in this year's deck, maybe I'm !@#$ in the wrong kitty box on that one.
I think it might have something to do with the fact that we are real. But then again, look how many SPYGODs there are out there, and how many Mr. USAs. Are we less real, then? Are we so iconic that we no longer have a real identity?
Or are we such complete !@#$ cartoons that we might as well be Elmer Fudd and Scooby !@#$ Doo, driving around the country in the back of Herbie the !@#$ Love Bug looking for spooky crimes to solve?
(And, on a related note, why the !@#$ does that idea not scare me, anymore?)
I don't know. And I know that's a rare admission for yours truly, but... hold on.
Agent (REDACTED), I see some guy's been following your group for the past three blocks. Okay, you noticed him,too? !@#$ awesome. See if you can rendezvous with Agent (REDACTED)'s group in the next block and give him the official stink eye. If he keeps following, challenge him, and if he's got no ID, taser him in the junk. Better safe than sued. Over.
Safe. Are we less safe, then, somehow? America's always had a weird relationship with its superheroes. We don't know what to do with someone who could knock over a bank just by thinking about it, but, for some weird reason, they'd rather stop someone else from doing the same thing.
It's like we can understand greed and evil, but we can't fathom how someone with all that power wouldn't use it for bad purposes. We all assume that just because we might give into temptation, there's something seriously wrong with someone who won't.
And maybe that's it. We're too real to masquerade as, but yet too unreal. Too alien. It's like letting your kid go door-to-door pretending to be Jesus Christ. Your college kid might put on the robe and drag a cross through the streets from keg party to keg party, but good luck letting little Tommy pull a Mel Gibson and freak out the neighbors...
Yeah. Agent (REDACTED), I saw that. Good work. Call the NYPD and tell them you got an offender bagged. If he isn't on the list, no big deal. He soon will be. Over.
Dog!@#$ kiddie botherers. They oughta put something in the water for that.
And you know, maybe that's the whole thing, right there. No, not child molesters on the loose at Halloween, son. Religious figures.
In a way, America's superhero community has turned into a homegrown pantheon of sorts. We're the gods, angels, and demons of a new age. I know that Scottish, hash-eating slaphead that wrote all the weird-!@#$ comics back in the 80's and 90's would probably say so.
In fact I'm sure he already has. Repeatedly.
And, like I said earlier, what don't you see at Halloween? Little Tommy and Suzy pretending to be Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. That's strictly hands-off for the kiddie market, apparently.
So what does that say about yours truly and Mr. USA? !@#$ if I know. I guess we're Superman, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Jesus !@#$ Christ all the same !@#$ time, which turns us both real and yet unreal enough to wear for trick-or-treating.
I don't know how I feel about that. I can guess how Mr. USA feels about that, but I'm not bringing that up next time we're in the same room. I've got other things to talk to him about. Yes I do...
And, speaking of Jesus !@#$ Christ, Mr. Sex Offender over there's about to meet him. Bee-Bee, be a good kitty and pass me the ammunition, would you? Yeah? Oh yeah, there's a good kitty.
Hold daddy's beer for a moment, too? Good kitty.
"Gazing at you with scorpion eyes... Halloween... Halloween..."
(SPYGOD is listening to Halloween (Siouxie and the Banshees) and having a Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin)