Unmasked

The Cast: Erich (victim), Jason (puller of prank), Myself (bystander).

Failure. Depending upon what it is you’re failing at, usually, people don’t like it.
Funny how that goes.

I saw it coming. I was hoping it wouldn’t. It did. Oh, well.

Okay, so, forgive me if I take a couple tangent paths to get to the point here. I just think that they will help when the actual story comes ‘round. Alright, first, if you are unfamiliar with HISHE (How it Should Have Ended) that is just sad. Those people are funny. They do such a great job with what they do. Plus, they are spot on. Spot. On. Now, the reason I bring HISHE up is because they have these great sequences in them where Batman is trying to tell someone his secret identity—he does it twice in this video. It’s supposed to be a secret, yet he’s always telling people.

Next, if you are new to this blog, maybe go here and here for a quick warm-up, then come back to this story. It’s okay, I can wait. I’m not even really here so-o…

And C, there is a series of comics that takes existing characters and puts them into new storylines, as in Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #2 (1994). In this story line Bruce Wayne is raised by Dr. Jonathan Crane (a.k.a. Scarecrow in other stories) and within the first few pages you see this:

Batman, on live television, unveils himself as Bruce Wayne.

Later in the issue you get the backstory that tells of Batman’s first night out and how he gets unmasked. Oof. I knew exactly how that felt.

Dr. Crane recalls details of Batman’s first patrol.

Now, finally, the story…

When Erich and I had first made the choice to become superheroes we knew we had to have costumes—there are pictures of the concept and actual costume designs here. Regardless, we gathered the materials, I sewed, we died (fabric, not us, duh—who would write this if we died. Unless we came back to life, which has happened to people… sorry if I offended anyone who has died and came back, or knows someone who has, that was not my intent. and, zombies don’t count.), redesigned, and prepared. Our first night of patrol was going to be awesome!

It wasn’t.

It really wasn’t.

I promise.

We had a plan. Knowing the town’s ins and outs, pockets of shadow, and secret spots like we did, we didn’t get seen at all. And, right about now, some of you may be thinking, “Did you want to get seen?” The answer is, “Yes!” and “No!” Both for the same reasons. You know in the movies where at first nobody sees the vigilante *ahem* superhero, and of course the bad guys? Also, only one of the good guys thinks they’re real, but all of their buddies say they’re crazy? Then, at the end of the movie, everyone finds out there is a superhero protecting them? We needed that. In one night. That night. We were impatient and not thinking clearly.

For some reason, we expected crime to just fall into our lap. Almost as if we thought our quiet little town, in the middle of Utah, would be like the fictitious Metropolis or Gotham City. As if crime would just appear before us like it was scripted to or something. But it wasn’t! Go figure. So, we came up with a plan. I honestly don’t recall how it got started, but fully recall how it ended.

We eventually decided that if we could make an appearance before one or two people, we could build a subtle reputation that could then be built upon. We just needed people. There weren’t any. Anywhere. A Friday night and nobody was out. Nobody! It was as if the entire town just went to bed—or was eaten alive by non-evidence-leaving-behind space aliens. Either way… We still needed someone.

In To Be Fair… I went over our battle plan of how we had made a secret passageway inside Erich’s barn that was located on the back part of his property. Well, a few years later he would move out of that home and some relatives would move in. An uncle, aunt, and their six children. They didn’t know about the secret passage—that’s what makes it a secret. We decided to use that to our advantage. Now, I tell you this because of what I mentioned earlier. Our first patrol was not awesome. At all. I mean it.

“My cousins!” Came Erich’s epiphany.

“What about them?”

“Sometimes they stay out late playing on their trampoline. If they’re out, we can sneak up from the barn, and try and scare them. Then, we run off. They’ll never catch us. And then, we change clothes, and then just happen to go walking past their house, and see if they say anything.”

“Yeah… Perfect!” I was far too excited that I needed anything to occur—even this. I didn’t care that we didn’t review the plan, fix its many potential failings, find the massive flaws, or develop a backup strategy. Now, in all fairness, we were new at this. It was our first patrol.

So, we did just as we had talked about. We crept up to the barn, opened the secret panel, and were about to creep into the dark encased backyard only to discover that the new owners had put a working light bulb on the back of the house. The backyard was no longer a field of darkness for superheroes to delve into for security. No, now we only had the tall weeds that still existed. So, we just crouched low and followed the dirt path that ran through the thicket of brush that composed most of the backyard.

Fortunately for us, the four sons were all outside playing WWF (World Wrestling Federation, see here for more details) on their trampoline. If you’ve never played WWF—now, WWE—on your trampoline, you’ve missed out. Basically, you do all the showy stuff. You pretend there are ropes—and that the circular trampoline is a square wrestling ring—and then body slam each other. Or ‘clothesline’ them—but you don’t really hit the other person on the neck, you pretend to (it’s all fake, all of it. but you didn’t hear it from me). You do all the things the wrestlers do (again, it’s fake. all fake. all of it. and you didn’t hear it from me), plus announce your moves. By announcing the move, the one who is laying on the ‘mat’ can recover and come back for more action.

With enough people you can have announcers, and tag-team matches. Few things are more exciting than watching your ‘opponent’ roll away seconds before you’re about to ‘jump off the ropes’ and bodyslam them, leaving you to eat mat. Ahhh, childhood…

Anyways, Tiger and I were deftly creeping upon our targets. The four boys were all younger than us (we were about 14 at the time), the oldest was a couple years younger than us and rest just kept getting so. There were also some friends. Ooo… a larger audience…

“What’s the plan?”

“How about we just go out there and see what they do?”

“Sounds good.” No, not good. Not. Good. Bad plan. Bad. Plan.

It was Tiger’s idea—and Erich’s cousins, and his plan—so, he stepped out first. And, at first, iIt was pretty cool. The first boy that saw him and kinda freaked. You could see the kid visibly shudder and jump slightly. “Who’s that?”

Our first costumes. Not really impressive. But, they weren’t bad.

Then I stepped out.

“He’s not that big. Nothing to worry about there.”

WHAT?!?! I’m nothing…?!?! Ouch.

With that, I just stepped off to the side and let Tiger maintain the lead. The idea being if we accidentally took it too far, it would be on him, not me. It would stay a family thing, if you will. Fair.

One of the cousins, Jason, moved forward to challenge the intruders. He only came up to Tiger’s stomach. Tiger just kept slowly walking forward while whispers of our intentions drifted about the group. Childish ignorance and foolish bravado made their snotty comments and wild ideas interesting, and as I write this now, as an adult, looking back… Erich and I had the worst childish ignorance and foolish bravado of them all that night. Is that irony or just stupid? Or both?

As challenges of all sorts came at us, we subtly hinted at our weapons. I—at the time—had a long, thin bo staff (there was no Shadow at this time). Erich—also at that time—had wooden-dowel-swords (remember, it was our first night out, and not everything was perfect. hey, Christian Bale, in Batman Begins, used a stapler as a gun, so just hush, okay). As Tiger advanced, Jason was kinda walked over—for lack of a better term—and while on the ground, kicked Tiger in his left thigh, clearly attempting to land the blow higher and more centered. This was our beginning of the end.

Tiger drew his swords, leaned over, and while still maintaining a standing stride above Jason, let out a deep snarling growl that surprised even me. One of the other boys was about to head inside to get an adult when Jason surprised us both.

Our mask designs were not much different from each other in cut or fit. Both hung over the face with only eye holes cut out. Both secured behind the head with an over the ear strap—like a Rambo style headband. Mine was open-topped so my hair was visible. Tiger’s had a red cloth piece that draped down over the top of his head and onto his neck. With a small stitch I had closed the bottom of mine under my chin. This allowed me to flip the mask up—like a helmet visor—easily. Tiger’s hung so as to give him a whisker-esque appearance. This was the Death-Star-exhaust-port-flaw we missed.

Jason grabbed the lower part of Tiger’s mask and flipped it up. “It’s Erich!” “That means the other one is…” Yeah, no need to finish that sentence.

Man! First night out! Arrgh! My mind was not happy and trying desperately to develop time traveling powers to undo the last fifteen seconds! And, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t, and still haven’t. We were undone before we even started.

Word spread, albeit slowly. All we could do was claim it was a lie and play it off. We were just like the cinematic Batman: Everyone knew who we were.

Over the years, it was never really talked about in front of us, so I always did wonder, when was the information shared? Or were our attempts to disguise ourselves really just that bad? Nah, couldn’t be that second one. Nope.

Now, on Friday nights, Erich, myself, and Jason put on our avatars and go on patrol for zombies in Call of Duty. So, really, no harm, no foul. Right?

From left to right: Jason as Rambo because it’s Rambo, Erich as Samantha Maxis because he accidentally overpaid by buying her twice so…, me as a 1980’s fitness instructor because it annoys my friends.

Author’s Note: The banner image is of my Praying Mantis mask. It’s one of the few things left of those days.

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