Sunday, October 13, 2013
DELETED SCENE FROM GRAVITY COMICS MASSACRE (Blog Exclusive)
“Special edition comics are a gimmick.”
Brian looked up at Mom, wondering if the conversation between the two men was going to influence her; she might keep him from buying the Superman comic that was behind the counter. She’d promised he could have it if he saved his money from doing chores around the house. For almost a year, he saved up, dreaming of the moment he would approach the counter, beaming with a smile on his face. He couldn’t wait to tell the man behind the counter he was finally going to buy it. Finally.
The Death of Superman with the limited edition holofoil cover.
Hopefully, nobody bought it. After a year of saving, he couldn't imagine how he would feel if somebody else bought it, first.
But two guys were talking loudly, their voices carrying over the boxes that were packed with comics tucked snugly in their plastic shields, the white backboards preventing them from being bent.
"Yeah, I don't buy special editions. A ripoff. Defeats the purpose of reading comics. I buy them for the stories, you know?"
The other man nodded.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Mom said.
No. It was happening. Brian had to have the comic.
Gravity Comics was the best comic store in the state, even if the man behind the counter was an asshole. Nobody else had the Superman comic Brian wanted. Buying the rare book was an adventure; scrubbing dishes, cleaning up dog shit, taking out the trash. All he had to do was keep Mom convinced it was a good idea.
And the mean guy was behind the counter. Doodling on his sketchpad like he always did. The owner of Gravity Comics.
Mom hated him.
He had to be brave. The man was going to make fun of him, maybe try to convince him that Superman was a shitty character. For too long, he’d been dreaming about this moment. The man never thought he was going to buy the comic. Not in a million years.
Mr. Shears looked up at him, a smile touching the corners of his face. His eyebrows darted up to in pyramid configurations. Mom said he looked like a fat Jack Nicholson.
“Look who it is,” Mr. Shears dropped his pen onto the sketchpad.
“Hello,” Mom tried to be friendly.
“I’m glad you’re here today,” Mr. Shears licked his lips and mocked them with false courtesy. “You should know we’re going to stop selling Superman comics. No more Superman. I’ve also contacted DC and told them to stop making them. Or at least, they should do another fight with Batman, because Batman always wins. If they don’t make the comic…” he drew his thumb across his neck in a mock-slash.
“Did somebody already buy it?” Mom’s voice shook like a penny in a jar.
“Nobody buys Superman. Superman sucks. Everyone knows that.”
Brian had argued with some of his classmates about the same topic over and over again, and he could always convince them that Batman was inferior. If only he was brave enough to stand up to Mr. Shears…
“I don’t know why we keep coming back here,” Mom said.
“To please your pussy of a son,” Mr. Shears said. “You think I need your business? I’ve got the biggest comic store in Arizona. Nobody sells more Batman or X-Men than I do.”
Now was the time to strike. One day, he could write and draw his own comic about this moment, the day he bought The Death of Superman from Mr. Shears.
“I’ve got the money.”
Mr. Shears stared at him. He straightened to his full height, his broad shoulders blocking the display of expensive, rare comics behind him.
Brian swallowed. Mom adjusted the glasses on the bridge of her nose; she wasn’t going to be any help. She didn’t like Mr. Shears, and wasn’t about to stand up to him. She knew how much Brian loved coming to this store. She would never spoil this moment.
“I’m not selling it.”
The other customers in the store weren’t talking anymore, and Brian was afraid they could hear his heart beating. How many times had Mr. Shears been nasty to them, too? They should be on his side, standing up for him.
“I’ve got the money,” Brian said.
“I heard you the first time, you little twit,” Mr. Shears stepped back from the display behind him.
There it was. The Death of Superman, limited edition holofoil cover.
But there was something different about it this time.
It was autographed.
“In your wildest dreams,” Mr. Shears said.
“Brian, will you allow me to comment on the content of this piece?”
“I don’t think you’re qualified to judge art, but go ahead.”
“You wanted to know about my mother, so then I start talking about her and you interrupted me. That’s rude.”
“That has nothing to do with my qualifications.”
“I don’t want to talk about my mother anymore.”
“We were making progress…”
“I just want to figure out how this scene fits into the story. I was under the impression that you’ve been to Gravity Comics before, but at the end of the story, you meet Damien Shears and you act like you’ve never seen him before. He acts like he has no idea who you are. So are you adding a scene to your story, and throwing your mother in just to appease me?”
“Do you think she’s pretty?”
“She looks like Miko. An older Miko.”
“What do you mean? Miko’s Asian. My mom wasn’t Asian.”
“The style. I’m talking about the style.”
“Now you’re a critic. Did we already talk about your qualifications?”
“Well. This is issue number zero, right? A special edition?”
“Zero issues aren’t special editions. You don’t know anything about comics.”
Brian withdrew the wad of cash from his pocket.
“Do you have any idea how many people I’ve killed here?” Mr. Shears asked.
The sketchpad was lying open on the counter, and Brian could see what Mr. Shears had been working on. He felt like a part of his head was opening up and an idea was being placed inside like a corner puzzle piece that had fallen onto the floor from the table, a piece that had been sought after for hours, the perpetrator of frustration and arguments about whether or not the entire puzzle should be disassembled and returned to the store, or, at the very least, the phone number on the box should be called and the piece should be sent to them for free (but, there wasn’t a number on the box to call).
Brian wasn’t thinking about puzzles or puzzle pieces, because Mr. Shears was standing back from the counter as if inviting Brian to look upon the art.
“I don’t kill people because I want to,” Mr. Shears said. “I kill them because I’m supposed to.”
For a moment, Brian forgot about the Superman comic, and he forgot anyone else was in the store. On the sketchpad was the rough draft of a comic that featured people browsing for comic books in a comic book store. There was enough detail for Brian to recognize the characters. In one of the panels were the two men who’d been talking about limited edition books. Another panel showed Brian standing alone with money at his feet.
“You’re pretty good,” Brian said.
“I know I’m good. I’m the best, and that’s why I’ve been asked to kill people.”
“I draw too, but I like to do something more like Anime.”
“That shit’s too easy. You’re telling me you draw Superman comics with an Anime style?”
Mr. Shears chuckled. Both hands were on his shaking belly. Brian could see the sweat stains in the armpits of his shirt.
The money wasn’t in Brian’s hand anymore. Did he put it back in his pocket? He tried to peer over Mr. Shears’ shoulders for another glimpse of the Superman book. The rare holofoil cover. He’d worked so hard to buy it. He wasn’t afraid of Mr. Shears; he was just another artist who couldn’t make it and treated people like dirt. He was just another dreamer.
“Why do you like Batman so much?” Brian asked. Maybe if he sucked up enough, Mr. Shears would stop acting like a jackass. Every artist had an ego.
Mr. Shears stopped laughing and his eyebrows scrunched together. “You have no idea what you’re asking, you little shit. LOOK AROUND YOU! THIS IS REAL ART!”
All the tables and their boxes full of comics were gone. Bare floorboards replaced carpet. The windows were covered in pale, leathery drapes that looked like snakeskin.
Sunlight against the strange curtains shifted the spectrum of colors between gold and red, brown and white. The store smelled like wet cardboard.
Brian’s worst fear was coming true. Too many times, he had nightmares about his mom pulling into a parking space in the street. They would be sitting in the car and looking at the CLOSED sign in the front window.
“No,” Brian said.
“What did you expect me to do? You would do the same thing if you were me. Listen, you little brat—I’m an artist. I decorate in my spare time. My mother usually expects me to bring my work home with me, but I’m FREE to to do the art I've always wanted to do! Mother wishes she was half the artist I am. So I had her locked up in the loony bin…”
There wasn’t a single comic in the store. Nothing behind the counter.
“Not even the aliens can tell me what to do! And this is what happens to fools who don’t understand comics! These idiots didn’t understand ART!”
Mr. Shears pointed to his sketchpad at the two men who had been badmouthing special editions.
Brian’s hands searched his pockets for the money again. Maybe Mom had it in the car with her.
“You wish you could draw like me,” Mr. Shears said. “This is natural talent, like I said. If mother were here, she would suggest I include you, BUT SHE’S A LUNATIC! If she had half a brain, she would have told the aliens to kill all the dumb brats who prefer to draw Anime garbage.”
Brian looked at the drapes and wondered if his mom worried about him.
“Um, I want to buy The Death of Superman limited edition with the holofoil cover.”
“You were there when he killed those people? He let you live? That would explain why you wanted to go back with your friends.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Damien Shears was talking about his mother. You deflected my question, and you changed the story.”
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