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The Parable of the Unmerciful Supervillain

by on January 25, 2011

It was a dreary Monday morning, and Edison City was in chaos, even more so than usual. Copies of classic literature such as War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings were spontaneously morphing into Twilight. Thousands of newspapers had hurled themselves out of their paper bins and boxes and merged together to form a gigantic paper Tyrannosaurus Rex,  which then rampaged down Main Street, emitting a terrible roar as it went.  Thirty cars on Grapefruit Avenue had all at once reared up on their tires and launched into a conga, to the consternation of their drivers trapped inside. In the center of it all, the nigh-omnipotent supervillain Exclamation Point was laughing hysterically. Being nigh-omnipotent was so fun.

“Bam! You’re a penguin!” he shouted, waving at a nearby soccer mom who hadn’t yet had time to scramble out of the way. A burst of violet energy sprang from his hand and struck the soccer mom, and with a squawk of fright, she duly transformed into a penguin. Exclamation Point doubled over in peals of laughter. This was a mistake. Exclamation Point had either forgotten, or had never understood in the first place that being nearly all-powerful did not automatically make one nearly all-knowing. He was almost impossible to beat if his attention was focused on you. But if it wasn’t…

KAPOW. A sudden blast of flame slammed into the street where he was standing, sending him hurtling end over end through the air. He didn’t stop until his face impacted against the black sole of a Starfleet-style boot. Exclamation Point was unconscious before he had time to say “Ow.”

Gaseous Girl, defender of Edison City and recently returned from her vacation in the Bahamas, stood triumphantly over his prone form, striking a dramatic pose for the cameras. It was more show than even they knew; Gaseous Girl was perfectly aware that Exclamation Point wouldn’t stay knocked out for long. Once he was awake and aware of her, she wouldn’t have any chance whatsoever. The last time they’d fought, he’d turned her into a polliwog and threatened to squish her. Fortunately, she’d managed to call for help before she got squished. Now, she used the few precious seconds before Exclamation Point regained consciousness to call on that help again. Clearing her throat, Gaseous Girl declaimed aloud, “Gone, gone, the form of woman; arise, the stupendous Semicolon!”

In a swirl of rainbow light, a nearby ceramic figurine abruptly transformed into a blonde woman with intense green eyes who wore a pair of neon pink bunny slippers. “Hiya,” she said. “What’s the problem now?”

“Your brother,” Gaseous Girl explained. “He’s violated Section 42, Paragraph B, line 12 of the Edict of the Punctuation Continuum Regarding Treatment of Non-P.C. Species.” (Gaseous Girl, in her secret identity, was studying to become a lawyer).

“Has he really?” Semicolon queried, yawning and brushing a speck of dirt off her bunny slippers. “Oh bother. Are you quite positive?”

Gaseous Girl didn’t need to reply. A sudden clanging roar split in the air, as the Giant Newspapersaurus Rex lurched into view further down the street.

“Ah.” Semicolon seemed convinced. She waved her hand, and the paper dinosaur vanished. Across the city, the effects of Exclamation Point’s random powers instantly reversed themselves. The cars stopped dancing, the soccer mom changed back into her normal self, and all the copies of Twilight switched back into the great works of literature they had been before the day’s events.

“Well, that was easy.  So…I suppose you’ll be wanting me to punish him then? I don’t imagine you and your fellow, er, Edisonians could give him another chance, could you?”

“Another chance?” Gaseous Girl repeated, aghast. “Okay, let’s say I do. Let’s say I let your brother get off scot-free, as long as he promises to be good and not turn anyone into penguins. Now, let’s say two days later he goes right back to penguinifying people; what am I supposed to do then? Suppose you’re in another dimension this time? What if we can’t stop him again?”

“Ooh, yeah, that’s a problem; however, I’ve got a spiffy solution,” Semicolon said, snapping her fingers. “There. You’re now immune to his powers. Better yet, he can’t do anything to anyone so long as you’re within line of sight of him. So if he starts making trouble, all you do is show up, look at him, and bam, problem solved. And, one more thing, if he does mess up and you have to take care of him, I’ll give you the ability to send him into the Wacky Phantom Void of Phantomness, where he’ll be tormented by the worst punishment of all: having to watch Batman and Robin, on an IMAX screen, over and over again for all eternity. Just click your heels once and sing the chorus to Camptown Ladies. Will that work?”

Gaseous Girl hesitated. It was right about then that Exclamation Point woke up. He saw Gaseous Girl glaring down at him, and his sister (whom he knew all too well was just as powerful as he was) standing nearby, and quickly assessed the situation. Exclamation Point immediately launched into a tearful performance worthy of an Oscar, promising that he would never, ever, ever even think about penguinifying anyone, or turning newspapers into dinosaurs, or anything even remotely mischievous. He looked so penitent and sincere that Gaseous Girl finally relented. “Alright, alright, you’ve got one more chance. One. So don’t push it.” Flame trailing in her wake, Gaseous Girl lifted off from the ground and soared dramatically into the sky, wondering as she flew whether she was doing the right thing.

Exclamation Point’s bout of good behavior lasted for precisely two days. Then, on Wednesday, he decided to go for lunch. Knowing that the citizens of Edison City were likely still wary of the supposedly reformed supervillain, Exclamation Point disguised himself as an ordinary person. He thought it might be an interesting experience; he had spent so long living as a nigh-omnipotent being that he’d forgotten how exactly ordinary humans went about their mundane existence. He figured lunch would be a good chance to observe these strange creatures. He probably should have ordered pizza.

Casually he strolled into the Fried Egg, Edison City’s most popular greasy-spoon diner, sat down in one of its many vinyl booths, and asked the waitress for a Coke and a grilled cheese sandwich. He asked her to leave off the pickle, as Exclamation Point had recently discovered that he didn’t much care for pickles. Unfortunately, the waitress was tired and overworked, and moreover was worried about her fiance who had not returned her last five texts. Worse, at that very moment another waitress dropped a stack of plates, and her already wandering mind was even more distracted. It was a perfectly understandable sort of thing, really, could’ve happened to anyone, but the sad fact was that she neglected to write down Exclamation Point’s no-pickle request. Thus, ten minutes later, Exclamation Point found himself staring in shock and growing fury at a grilled cheese sandwich topped by a lone, inoffensive green pickle slice. His eyes glowed with violet energy. The waitress didn’t even have time to squawk before her penguinification. For good measure, Exclamation Point snapped his fingers and penguinified everyone else in the Fried Egg, and then changed the restaurant itself into an Arctic ice floe. Even that didn’t quench his wrath, and so he began firing off scorching energy beams at everything around him: waitresses, streetlamps, skyscrapers, cars, utility poles, fliers, sidewalk benches, candy wrappers, and the same hapless soccer mom that he had  already penguinified once (she had extraordinarily bad luck). His mad laughter rang out once again in the city streets. Gaseous Girl couldn’t stop him now, or so he thought; he knew for a fact that Semicolon had gone on sabbatical in the eighth dimension, and wouldn’t be available until next Saturday. By then, he fully intended to turn Edison City into a recreation of Antarctica. Exclamation Point was already mentally drafting the monologue that he planned to give to Gaseous Girl to tell her all this. Unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t get the chance to deliver it (which was a pity, really, because it had some rather unique phrases and neatly averted cliches, and even included a wonderfully witty haiku).

Gaseous Girl had been across town, foiling a relatively minor bank robbery. As she stepped outside to hand the perp over to the police, one of the officers ran up and told her that Exclamation Point had started up again. Without a word she rocketed into the sky. Two minutes later, she dropped down right into the path of one of Exclamation Point’s violet rays. It bounced harmlessly off the sleeve of her dark purple uniform. As she advanced upon Exclamation Point, a cold look in her grey eyes, the effects of his powers rapidly undid themselves around him (the soccer mom resolving, as she de-penguinified for the second time that week, that she was going to move to Wisconsin. The worst supervillain Wisconsin had was a mutated badger named Stanley, and he had no ambitions beyond defeating his mortal enemy, a hyper-intelligent snowy owl that lived in Duluth, Minnesota).

Exclamation Point would’ve gladly fled to Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or anywhere other than where he was right then. Gaseous Girl burped fiercely at him, and the blast sent him hurtling into the air, again. This time he flew five blocks westward and landed ignominiously in a Dumpster. Gaseous Girl flew up quickly beside the Dumpster, careful not to let him out of her line of sight. She clicked her heels together, wishing that there wasn’t such a crowd nearby, and began singing through gritted teeth, “Camptown Ladies, sing your song…”

Exclamation Point might’ve temporarily lost his powers, but he still had a fairly wide knowledge of martial arts techniques. He clambered angrily out of the Dumpster and launched himself in a flying kick at Gaseous Girl. His kick landed on her stomach, and she fell backward in her turn, colliding unpleasantly with the side of a parked garbage truck. She fell face-forward onto the ground, and Exclamation Point quickly slammed his boot into her back, pinning her down with her face scrunched against the asphalt of the road. His fists clenched as he felt his power returning. “Loophole!” he shouted triumphantly as he penguinified the anonymous soccer mom for the third time  that week (she really did have the most awful luck). “You can’t see me, you can’t stop me!”

“Wanna bet,” Gaseous Girl retorted, though, given her position face-down on the road, it came out as “Muffle wirp?” Then, with a last desperate effort, she shoved herself up on her elbow. Exclamation Point wobbled, momentarily losing his balance. “Hey, what’re you-”

“Doo da,” Gaseous Girl said, clearly and distinctly as she could. “Doo. Da.”

Lightning cracked through the air, and Exclamation Point vanished in a scream of fright. He wouldn’t be seen again in Edison City for a very, very long time. And so the city was saved once again.

Note: this story is based, extremely loosely, on Matthew 18:21-35.

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