In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature. In art, the term refers to the treatment of any subject (a figure, group, locale, motif, convention or melody) in a particularly grand or exalted manner.
My name is Mark Marris and I used to be a comic writer. Until I met my creation, Redeemer, face to face.
No, I don’t do drugs. Not anymore. But this wasn’t a bad trip. Not in the classic sense. I’m rambling, let me explain. Hand me my crutches.
I was producing to a deadline, my sixteenth issue of Redeemer, for a small comic company, Galactic Press. Redeemer was their star product and we were producing fifty thousand copies a month. For a small press, this was looking like our breakthrough product. Redeemer sold more issues than our four series combined, so we were working on it with a vengeance. My partner, Will, was the colorist and letterer while I did the script, pencils and inks. An uneven distribution of labor, certainly, but it worked and we were happy to finally be receiving some notice.
My latest issues had Redeemer, who was a watered-down Superman, think John Byrne’s Man of Steel and you have Redeemer, going through a series of changes to reach what we thought was going to be the desired state. Currently he was tough enough to get into fights, with a heart big enough to get out of them. But his real appeal was his cast of characters both super and civilian. In our last arc, we were trying to make him into a character of the modern era, so we thought he needed a loss so great, he would be turned into a hero driven by a need for vengeance. The days of the perfect good guy hero were done. We wanted to have a hero people could relate to. Edgy, walking the line between hero and anti-hero and looking good doing it.
Redeemer’s Metro City was a mess. Supervillains were a regular occurrence and even with the help of the Metro PD and the Freedom Force, it was anyone’s guess who would be in charge of the city by the end of the issue. We played fast and loose with the story, keeping people guessing what would happen next. When we killed Silver Mao in issue six, the fans went wild, but they came back for issue seven. Mao was Redeemer’s best friend and we began seeding the story for the ultimate loss of Redeemer’s closest friends by blowing up the Metro PD Super Agent headquarters in the sixteenth issue.
In issue fifteen, he faced off against a technological villain, Portal, who used doorways to and from other dimensions to misdirect and harm our hero. I loved writing and drawing Portal, because we could show any number of things in a single issue. Dangerous insects, giant lizards, deadly environments were all part and parcel of Portal. She was brilliant, so I always had to work to make her plans make sense and still give Redeemer a chance to stop them.
I was on schedule when a fast moving thunderstorm swept over Chicago one summer afternoon a couple of months ago. The storm inspired me so I had Portal and Redeemer tearing up Metro City in their own thunderstorm. Portal was opening a gateway to a nearby red star hoping to reduce Redeemers powers, when a lightning bolt struck his gateway. I was planning on using this to give Redeemer a chance to recover since Portal had begun augmenting his tools with killer robots capable of giving Redeemer serious injuries.
Redeemer got up after dispatching the last killbot only to see Portal creating a new gateway to a red sun! Redeemer falls to the ground, his quantum field temporarily disrupted, his injuries stopped healing, and without his powers he screamed out in incredibly pain. Portal walks her gateway to where the writhing Redeemer is moaning in agony.
“Don’t worry Redeemer, I have improved my gateways, I can now send you across time and space. In this case, to a nice red giant about fifty light years from here. You’ll only last about three minutes without your powers. Then Metro City will be mine. Don’t worry, I’ll enjoy plundering it while you die.”
Three panels, two side by side with one major one showing the gateway’s light spilling over Redeemer. In the last frame, I show a lightning bolt striking the gateway as it covers Redeemer and he vanishes from sight.
My apartment exploded. Not an exaggeration, an honest to god explosion from outside my window into my house. A lightning bolt came in from outside and blew my windows right out of the frame. My living room was on fire and my computer on which I had just saved my best work ever just shut down. Not that I noticed because I was picking myself up from the floor while blood ran down my face and arms from numerous cuts and bruises.
None of this prepared me for the body on the floor of my apartment. But first I had to put out the fires. I grabbed an extinguisher from my kitchen and tried to take on one of the fires burning up my curtains. It was a losing battle. The fire spread faster than I could put it out. The wind from outside the apartment was only feeding the fire and my sofa next to the window caught on fire next.
Not knowing what to do next, I grabbed my hard drive and looked at the body on the floor. I didn’t know what to do and with smoke everywhere and with only the fire lighting the room, I could barely see. I bent down to try and drag him. It was a him. My god, he was massive. I had to get down on my knees just to put his arm over my shoulder. I tried to stand up but it was like moving a tree limb.
“Come on, big fella, you’re gonna have to help.” That’s when I saw it. He was wearing tattered rags but they were rags I just remembered seeing. They were the remnants of Redeemer’s costume. Then the smoke was everywhere and I couldn’t stop choking on it. Redeemer slumped unconsciously over my shoulder and pinned me to the floor. I was sure I was dead.
I have to admit I was surprised to find myself on the ground floor of my apartment building with a gorgeous fireman, firewoman, fireperson giving me oxygen and mumbling something comforting. I pushed the mask away because I had to know what happened. “How did I get here?”
“A big fellow dropped you off here and said he would be right back. Then he went back upstairs.” She had the strangest look on her face. “He handed me this and said you would want it.”
My hard drive. All of my work to date. My life’s work. He saved it. “Where is he? I want to thank him.”
“Don’t try to get up, your leg likely has a hairline fracture in two places.” When I looked down, I realized I was splinted and lying on a gurney. Going nowhere fast. “That is the strange part. Our fire crews got here only about five minutes after the fire was reported. We got upstairs, moved people and closed in on what we now know is your apartment. When we got inside, the fire was out. Things were still smoking, but nothing was actively burning. The neighbors said they heard a sound like thunder coming out of your apartment and then a plume of fire shot out the window. When we got the door open, there was no one in your apartment.”
As she was handing me off to the EMT, she kept talking almost as if she was still processing the thoughts herself, “The only thing we found which we couldn’t explain was a large eight foot circular burn mark on your floor, burned through your carpet, through the wood and half an inch into the concrete. Glass blown into your apartment, fire started in multiple locations at the same time. You sir, will have some explaining to do when you get settled in the hospital.”
She turned away from me and whispered to a police officer before walking away. She shouted “Good luck, kid.” Judging from the look the officer was giving me, I was going to need it.
I got to the hospital and they explained the extent of my injuries, multiple contusions from being a flying object in an explosion, hairline fracture in my right thigh bone and hip, a couple of broken ribs and bruises everywhere. I had some mild first degree burns but nothing serious. They gave me some morphine and settled me into my room. The morphine settled me down and I tried to organize my thoughts but nothing seemed to stick to the inside of my skull.
I started to fade into a semi-sleeping state, watching TV between long blinks. Every time I closed my eyes, something different was on the screen. On my third wakeful moment, he was there.
“I don’t know where I am, or how I got here, but you will be sending me back. I went back to your apartment and repaired your computer. What I found was disturbing, but from my perspective, completely acceptable. I have you to thank for my condition, Mr. Marris. It appears you are my creator. In your world I am nothing more than a fictional construct.” His voice was calm, almost clinically detached as he described his condition.
Then he turned toward me and I saw a glint of madness. The same look he gave the Annihilator after the death of Silver Mao. I spent days on that picture, trying to get the look just right. It was every bit as scary in real life. “I have also seen your notes for future issues.” He squeezed the frame of my bed and it crumpled like tissue in his hands. “You want to see dark? I looked out on your world and I haven’t seen a single superhero or villain. If you can’t send me home, I will conquer your planet in an afternoon.”
I blinked again and he was gone. Only the crumpled bed frame told me this wasn’t a nightmare. Yet.
End of Part 1.
Apotheosis © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved