The following was an entry for the Hampshire Writers’ Society’s December 2016 competition – “introduce a new comics character” – in which it took 3rd place. You’ll find the judge’s response at the end of the post.
Mild mannered jobseeker John Johnson by day, by night Capt. Captain “Redundancy” Redundancy is a superhero whose superpower is redundancy! Wherever there is crime and somebody is already dealing with it, Captain Redundancy will be there, his sidekick Tautology Boy by his side.
A dark and brooding figurehead of justice, Captain Redundancy spends his nights staring out over the city he is sworn to stare out over. As a symbol of his calling as a hero, he wears a pair of underpants over his tights in addition to the usual pair worn underneath. The outer pair are redunderpants. They are red. Captain Redundancy wears red redunderpants.
John Johnson gained his powers after a bite from a radioactive mosquito caused him to stumble into the path of a chemical truck full of vacuum cleaner cleaner. Following this workplace accident—which granted him the incredible powers of redundancy—he was made redundant. Having accepted Tautology Boy as his sidekick, Captain Redundancy’s sidekick became Tautology Boy. Tautology Boy’s powers of tautology are a natural and direct consequence of being Tautology Boy, whose power is tautology.
Villains across the city fear Captain Redundancy, for by the time they see him it is already too late: the arrival of his dreaded carmobile guarantees that some other superhero has doubtless foiled their plans already. Captain Redundancy will never respond to a crime unless his presence is completely redundant, and thus—in doing pretty much nothing of any consequence himself—he is a beacon of hope in dark times: not the hero the city needs, but the hero it doesn’t.
Also Tautology Boy is there too.
Catherine Wild: It has not gone unnoticed that this submission seeks to parody the comic hero concept and indeed this competition itself, which I found to be quite refreshing. That said, the character is effective, as is his side kick Tautology Boy. The submission itself is very dry and errs on the side of metafiction.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 17
“Uh-oh! Uh-oh!! Uh-oh!!!”
“What? What is it?” Mullins came running. The sound of the food tray clattering on the floor had been a bad sign. The “Uh-oh!”s might as well have been written in neon tubing with bells on.
“It’s Count Erfitter,” said Harris. “Or…I mean…it’s not.”
Mullins took a look through the bars of the cell. “Oh geez.” He breathed in through his teeth. “Oh geez. Oh man. We are so fired.”
“Hey, hey, let’s not go nuts. We’ve let plenty of supervillains escape before and Warden Burt’s always been remarkably understanding about it.”
“Yeah, but they had psychic powers or robot tentacles or acid pee! This guy had…he had…” Mullins gestured to the thing standing in the cell. “What even is this?”
“I think it’s pizza boxes, mostly?” Harris squinted at it. “There’s some toilet paper in there too. And I think the eyes are blue M&Ms and toothpaste.”
Mullins put his head in his hands. “We are so fired.”
“To be fair, I don’t think anybody could have anticipated he’d be able to stockpile that much cinnamon chewing gum. And he was known for his cardboard cutouts.”
“Yeah! When he had a full set of paints and hours to use them! But I wouldn’t have thought you’d be so easily fooled by something he cobbled together with bits from the guards’ lounge bin!”
“In my defence, it’s pretty convincing at a glance.”
“No it isn’t!”
“Yes it is. Look, it even talks!”
“That’s a speech bubble, Harris! When was the last time you said something and the words came out of your mouth scrawled in ketchup on the back of a cereal box?”
“Well, there was last year’s Christmas Party.”
“I thought we’d agreed to never speak of that again.”
For a moment, the two of them simply stood there in silence, watching Count Erfitter’s left eye slide down his cheek.
Mullins said nothing.
Harris said nothing.
Count Erfitter said “Salut, mon ami!” but technically he hadn’t stopped saying that since it’d been stuck on the oval-shaped bit of card next to his suspiciously square and corrugated face.
“Okay, serious talk: would it look better or worse if we’d just found the cell empty?”
“What, like he didn’t bother with a decoy and just did a runner?”
“Better. Definitely better.”
“Okay.” Mullins shook out a black bin bag. “I’ll chuck this thing in the dumpster, you…punch yourself in the face or something. Just tell the warden he got the drop on you when you went in to give him his food.”
“Hey! Why do I have to be the one to punch myself in the face!”
“Because you were the one who was supposed to go in the cell and if you don’t punch yourself I’ll do it for you!”
Mullins stepped inside the cell and took one last look at the hastily-constructed junk effigy of Count Erfitter before sweeping it into the black bag. He tutted. “Seriously, man, this is just embarrassing.”
Mullins carried the bag down the stairs, out the back, and heaved it into the dumpster by the prison wall. It was a thankless job at the best of times—dangerous, poorly paid, and with nowhere near enough support from city hall—but sometimes, every once in a while, he wondered if he and Harris were to blame with the steady stream of supervillains escaping their custody. Well, Harris anyway. Basically just Harris.
He turned to walk back to the cell block, and as he did so he spotted Warden Burt running towards him waving his arms. That too was a bad sign. That was the sort of bad sign that couldn’t be any clearer if it was written in blood, set on fire, and Godzilla was spinning it around with its tiny dinosaur arms.
“That was Count Erfitter!” yelled Warden Burt. “You just binned Count Erfitter!”
Mullins turned around to discover that the pizza box, toilet roll and chewing gum dummy had torn free of the binbag and was now climbing the prison wall.
“Au revoir!” he called, as he vanished over the other side.
“Oh…” said Mullins, as Burt finally reached the dumpster. “That’s not good.”
“Captain Caulk is coming to check on the prisoner in ten minutes,” said Burt, still catching his breath. “We’re all so fired.”
“Not necessarily.” Mullins reached into the dumpster and picked out a distressingly squashy watermelon.
Warden Burt stared at it.
“So we draw a face on this and stick it in the bed…”
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 10
“Once upon a time there lived a little boy who liked to walk along the beach. One day he found a bottle washed up on the sand, and opened it in the hopes that there was a message inside. But there was no message. There was only an evil genie who popped out and said:
“‘Aha! Now that you have set me free, I shall wreak havoc all across the world! I shall be a terror like none that has ever been seen before!’
“But the boy was clever, and so he said: ‘I don’t know about that. I’ve heard tales of things much more terrifying than you.’
“‘Oh?’ said the genie, and it sat down right on the edge of the mouth of the bottle. ‘I should very much like to hear about that.’
“And so the boy began his tale: ‘Once upon a time there lived a dragon with teeth as big as oars and scales as big as rowboats, and it flew all around the Outer Hebrides frightening any it found upon the islands. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 7
There was a gentle click as the safe-cracker found the last digit of the combination. It was followed by a loud crash as the massive steel door swung violently outwards, catching him in the ribs.
“Oof!” said the safe-cracker, lying winded on the floor. He would have said something significantly less family-friendly, but his bones hurt too much to really manage anything but “Oof.”
“Eeeyeah!” shouted a man in an ostentatious red robot suit as he emerged from the suddenly-open safe. “You were trying to crack this safe, but instead the safe cracked you!”
“W-what?” the safe-cracker managed to wheeze.
“Also you wanted to get what was in the safe, but what was in the safe got you.”
There was a pause.
“What?” the safe-cracker managed to wheeze again.
“Tony Snark.” The guy in the robot suit held out his high-tech hand for the criminal to shake. “A.k.a. Irony Man.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 2
Captain Caulk stared in amazement at the cache of treasures tucked away in the basement of the Château d’Erfitter. Just like that, the missing Sisley was the least of his concerns. Here were The Scream, The Thinker, The Mona Lisa! The theft of any one of these works could be considered the crime of the century, and yet these acts had gone completely undetected. What mastermind could have executed such a scheme? And what villain would resist taking credit for such a success?
There came a slow clap from the shadows. “Félicitations, Captain.” A man in an opera cape and a domino mask stepped forth to rest a hand on the buttocks of Michaelangelo’s David. “Vraiment, you are the real McCoy. Few others could have uncovered my little enterprise.”
“Who are you?” demanded Captain Caulk, falling for none of this flattery, “and what have you done with the Count?”
“Ohhh.” The villain tutted. “And just like that you ruin it. For you see, in truth…” he removed his mask and shook out his silver curls, “the Count d’Erfitter and the soon to be notorious Count Erfitter are one and the same!”
“That’s a pretty poor secret identity,” observed Captain Caulk, who could at a moment’s notice don his heroic Glasses of Obfuscation to become mild mannered reporter Clint Cark.
“Is it?” asked Count Erfitter, passing behind a pillar. When he emerged, he was wearing the mask once more. “Or is it a very convincing copy?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 7
Captain Redundancy stood atop of the building he was on top of, staring out across the city that occupied his field of vision, and so much of his time. There was a light on the horizon. A light that grew ever brighter, ever closer, as destiny approached.
“Is there no other way?” came the question from his side.
Captain Redundancy watched the approaching light with steely eyes of steel. “No, my heroic friend. There can be no more talk. The time for diplomacy has long since passed.”
“Right-o. I’ll be off, then.” Doctor Diplomacy tipped his cap at the other superheroes assembled on the rooftop. “Best of luck, chaps.”
“And I also wish you the best of luck to you too.” Captain Redundancy’s gaze did not waver from the light. The sound of helicopter blades cut through the night air. The heroes watched and listened. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 17
“Uh-oh!” wheezed the criminal, glancing behind him at the superhero hot on his heels. “Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”
He turned a corner and found himself staring down a narrow alleyway that ended in a tall brick wall.
“Okay,” he said, turning around and holding out his big bag with a dollar sign on it. “If I give up the money now, can we skip all the slapping and just head straight to the police station? Please?”
The Astounding Welt hefted his ruler of justice menacingly.
Suddenly, the robber found himself ensnared in a net dropped from a first floor window.
“Aha!” cried the masked hero above. “Take that, you naughty ne’er-do-well!”
“Seriously?” The robber stared at him. “I was more or less already caught before you even got here.”
“Then all is well!” The hero flourished his cape. “For I am Captain Redundancy, the vengeful masked avenger!” Continue reading
The following stories were produced for Flash Fiction Day 2015. I’ll be updating this post with new stories throughout the day.
At a glance, the Human Fly wasn’t the most obvious choice of accomplice for a bank job. But X-Ray Ted wasn’t one to make decisions based on a mere glance. The Fly might not have the strength to heave a sack of gold bricks, or the mind-reading powers to get the guards’ security codes, he possessed one trait that no other supervillain had. Or wanted.
Super-corrosive bug vomit.
X-Ray Ted’s incredible X-ray vision had long ago revealed an odd quirk of this particular bank vault. The bulktanium mega-alloy of the door was capable of withstanding lasers, saws, and 99.9% of superhero eye beams, but for some reason had pretty much no resistance to being melted by acid. A can of supermarket own brand orangeade could probably strip the finish off. The Human Fly’s gastric juices could eat right through the hinges.
And so they did.
As the door of the vault crashed to the ground, the bank’s alarm began to blare. They would have only forty seconds until the cops arrived, but that was thirty-one more seconds than they needed. X-Ray Ted’s surveillance had been comprehensive. He ducked inside, gathered up a few choice—priceless—items, and let the Fly take his share.
The Human Fly hesitated, torn between a big bag with a dollar sign on it and a guard’s half-eaten bagel.
“Come on!” shouted X-Ray Ted, “We’ve got to go!”
The Fly took the bagel and stuffed it in the bag, which he heaved over his shoulder. He wasn’t smart, thought X-Ray Ted, but he wasn’t stupid either.
There were sirens in the distance. X-Ray Ted made a dash for the nearest window, the Human Fly buzzing noisily behind him. Ted jumped head first through the glass, did a flip, and landed on his feet in the alley outside. A standard superhero/villain move—banal, really—but it got the job done. He checked behind him.
The Human Fly was still inside, hovering just in front of the window.
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! He took another shot at getting through the window, but brained himself on the wall next to it. BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
“It’s right there!” shouted X-Ray Ted, from seven feet away. “It’s right in front of you!”
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! The Human Fly caught the top of the windowframe this time. BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
The sirens grew louder.
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
Finally, the Human Fly found the window and made his way outside. Then straight back in. X-Ray Ted considered running off and leaving him, but that would seriously affect his bragging rights down at the supervillain local. He hopped back inside the bank and tried to shoo the Human Fly out through the window, but it just freaked him out.
BZZZzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! The Human Fly made a lazy lap around the foyer.
The cops burst through the door.
X-Ray Ted gave up. This was no longer the perfect crime he’d had his eye on, and bragging rights were the least of his worries. He dove back out through the window, and was immediately tackled to the ground.
“Should have used the door,” remarked Commissioner Hindsight, as he slapped the cuffs on him.
10:41 Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 21
The shatterproof ruler caught the mugger across the face with a sound like a pigeon smacking into a recently cleaned windowpane.
“Ow, man!” the criminal did a little hopping dance, hand pressed firmly to his cheek. “Aah. That’s going to puff up like crazy.”
“That’s right!” The Astounding Welt pointed a chubby pink finger. “Crazy like you’d have to be to snatch purses when I’m on the job.” The point was a little laboured, but it got the job done.
“When are you not on the job? It seems like you’ve been slapping me with that ruler every day this week.”
“Which would suggest you’ve been out mugging people every day this week.” The Astounding Welt hefted his ruler menacingly.
“My criminal activities are the result of a system of government that forces the individual to shoulder unreasonable burdens on the grounds of personal accountability while simultaneously using public money to prop up large financial institutions when they inevitably collapse due to reckless business practices. Also a penal system that frequently leaves prisoners less able to support themselves through legitimate means than when they went in.”
“Wow.” The masked hero tucked the ruler back into his famous utility welt. “Now I just feel like a jerk.”
“Eh.” The mugger shrugged. “Everybody’s got problems.” He sat down on the curb. “You sound pretty tense. Everything okay?”
“Ahhhh.” The Astounding Welt sat down too. “Honestly? No. I used to patrol these streets with the Amazing Spiderguy, but it turns out he’s privately been struggling with chloephobia for a while now…”
“Chloephobia: fear of newspapers. I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but a lot of us superheroes have jobs in the media. Partly it gives us a reason to suddenly shoot off from our jobs when there’s supervillainy afoot, partly…I don’t know…I guess we’ve just got a thing for it. I know loads of guys—and girls—that have dated reporters. But Spiderguy…”
The mugger nodded. “I guess the news really wasn’t his thing.”
“It’s just so weird.” The Astounding Welt made his hands into fists, grappling with this new insight into his friend’s psyche. “He’d been working at the Daily Bungle for years! Now all of a sudden he just asks me to take over all his superhero duties. Won’t tell me when he’ll be back on his feet. All those years at the paper…you’d think he’d have got used to it!”
“Or maybe it was just steadily getting too much for him.” The mugger put a hand on the hero’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard to imagine how something as harmless as a newspaper could bring a superhero down, but that’s all the more reason to be a little understanding. You just don’t know what he’s dealing with.”
The Astounding Welt sighed. “You’re right. As soon as I’m finished this patrol, I’ll go and talk to him.”
“Maybe wait for him to talk to you. You don’t want him to think you’re just trying to drag him back out on patrol.”
“Yeah, I guess. And besides—there’s always online journalism. I’m sure he’ll find something.” He stood.
“I really shouldn’t be saying this,” said the mugger, “but I hope your friend’s back on his feet and fighting crime soon.”
“Thanks.” The Astounding Welt turned to leave, paused, then rummaged for something in his utility welt. “By the way, if you ever want to be more than just ‘the mugger,’ maybe this could get you started.” He held out a simple black superhero eye-mask.
The mugger took the mask and stared at it in disbelief. “But…I don’t have any superpowers.”
“You have compassion,” the hero smiled, “and that’s a kind of superpower.”
Meanwhile, in Spiderguy’s apartment…
“Hello? Helloooooooo? If anyone can hear me, I’m in the bathtub. I drained the water out because I was getting wrinkly, but now I’m cold. Hellooooooo…”
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 2
“Sorry,” the robber adjusted the tights he had pulled over his head as a disguise, “who are you supposed to be?”
“I’m Captain Redundancy!” boomed the hero. “The vengeful masked avenger!”
“And this is my sidekick, Tautology Boy!”
“We already know who you are,” added Tautology Boy, pointing a gloved hand at the criminal.
“Yes! You are a bank robber, because you are robbing a bank!”
The robber glanced nervously up at a security camera. “But you don’t know my identity, right?”
“No,” admitted Tautology Boy. “Your identity is disguised due to your disguise.”
The robber breathed a provisional sigh of relief. There were two kinds of superheroes. Genuine superheroes, like The Astounding Welt and Captain Caulk, and joke superheroes like Broccoli Man and Ensign Here. For any criminal—be they a low-life street thug or the diabolical Doctor Baby—the former meant trouble, the latter generally no worse than minor inconvenience. The trouble was telling which was which.
“So uh,” the robber scratched his head with the barrel of his pistol, “I notice you’re wearing your underpants on the outside. I’ve always wondered why you superhero guys do that.”
“Well, evildoer,” Captain Redundancy stretched out his waistline, allowing it to snap back with a “smack!” that made the robber’s eyes water, “I’ve never exactly asked anyone else, but I wear a pair inside my costume too. The outer ones are redunderpants.”
“I see.” The robber was now fairly positive that attempting to escape from Captain Redundancy and Tautology Boy would not have any ill effects. “Well, it was nice talking to you. I’m just going to take my bag with a dollar sign on it and head…off…”
That was strange. The robber was trying to walk away, but his feet just wouldn’t move. He looked down. They both seemed to be encased in a large blob of hard foam material.
“What a putty,” said Captain Caulk, blowing on the barrel of his sealant shooter. “It looks like you’ll just have to stick around.”
“You were unaware that Captain Caulk arrived without you knowing,” explained Tautology Boy.
“Yes,” added Captain Redundancy, “but naturally I would not have attempted to apprehend you unless my presence was completely redundant.”
“My thanks to you, noble heroes.” Captain Caulk flashed a smile. “I’ll take it from here.”
“To the car-mobile, Tautology Boy!” cried Captain Redundancy. “Onwards to somewhere else that is not here!”
“Nice guys,” said Captain Caulk, heaving the robber over his shoulder and carrying him to the waiting police van. “Still, it’s not hard to see why they were made redundant.”