There’s this very cool online comp I just found out about, called the Creating a Female Superhero Challenge. Not only are they asking people to develop their own women-in-tights unbeholden to rescue by the men-in-snug-unionsuits running the four-colour show, but proceeds from any anthology (digital/print) put together will go straight to a worthy charity. Sounds precisely my cuppa tea.
The person behind the contest, Becky Fyfe, says “I have daughters, five of them. And I want them to feel like they can achieve anything in life that they put their minds to. I want them to know that they are strong.” Having a seven-year-old daughter myself, I thoroughly agree — and given that my daughter is half-Japanese, we live in Tokyo, and watch PreCure together every Sunday, I’ve given the hero(ine) a manga/anime slant.
Major league thanks must go to artist Juan Saavedra, who captured her in visual spirit right here.
So, without further ado, here’s my yarn.
Anyway, the competition has this standard format I have to follow, so let’s get the stats down pat before we kick off with the story:
Author: Andrez Bergen.
Word count: 892 for the story, excluding stats/bio.
Charity: Any of the ones mentioned, since they all sound good.
The traction lift was one of those antique art deco jobs with teak paneling and bulbous globes; these announced each floor as it passed in sluggish fashion. After a month of Sundays and the piped-in, mind-numbing instrumental sounds of ‘A Walk in the Black Forest’, the cubicle reached the Penthouse Suite. This had its own private globe with a ‘P’ marked on it.
There was a lovely leviathan awaiting Jack.
Shoving aside the metal concertina door like a shower curtain, she smiled down with something Jack would have called benevolence, if he knew what it looked like. He took in a face composed of strong cheekbones; enormous eyes with purple irises, long lashes, and tiny, swollen lips that in most cases would infer a mild food allergy.
A full twelve inches higher than Jack, this particular giant was gift-wrapped in frills and ribbons, most in plum, with a big periwinkle bowknot on her bosom, a pair of long white satin gloves and one very short, voluminous miniskirt.
She also had a headband holding in check lavender hair spiraling down to her ankles — a touch of Wonder Woman interbred with far too much Sailor Moon, making her resemble someone dragged out of a manga comic and stuck on a pair of towering legs.
“I’m Pretty Amazonia,” the woman announced with a tight smile that nullified the sultry effect of her mouth. “And a quick warning — before you conjure up any unwisecracks, I could break both your arms in quite the jiffy.”
“Nothing comes to mind.”
“Oh, dandy. You must be Southern Cross. We’ve been expecting you.” Pretty Amazonia gave him the once over. “To be honest, I thought you’d be taller.”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“I’ll live. Well, come on now.”
He followed the woman down a brightly lit passage along which were framed monochrome and primary colour pictures of heroes in action and/or hamming it up for the artist. There were dozens of these; no photos, but drawings in black and white or red, yellow, green and blue — heavily outlined in black— with names attached like Lord Evolve-A-Lot, Slam-Dunk Ninja, Babe Boon, Big Game Hunter, Mister Sniffer, Ace Harlem, Cowboy Sahib, Flasher Lightning and Kid Squall, Sans Sheriff, Trick-Or-Teet, and Yarko the Utterly Greatest.
Some of the monikers fitted the costumes, while others looked like they were sorely mismatched and the designers colour-blind. Most made Jack want to chuckle.
Tucked in amidst the visual mayhem was a portrait of his newfound hostess, a classier rendering in black ink, pencil and minimal watercolour that accentuated her traits, including the nonplussed demeanour.
“Our rogue’s gallery,” said Pretty Amazonia as she sauntered ahead.
“That was you,” Jack mused, in hot pursuit. “Huh.”
Having passed a metal door with ‘G.M.R.’ initialled across it and the Equalizers’ logo beneath that, Jack thought twice, doubled back, and was about to take a peek.
“Don’t go in there,” the woman warned.
“Why, is it dangerous?”
“No, just a white elephant — the Giant Map Room. Has a layer of dust as thick as my heels. C’mon — this way.”
They came to a set of double doors that the woman pushed open, revealing a huge inner sanctum, mostly white.
A Spartan, unadorned milky ceiling was far above them, along with a second-floor balcony that steered close by the walls and gave a view from up there to the room proper, where they stood.
Hanging from a picture rail that did a circuit of this space were a series of replica white, life-size plaster of Paris faces, cowls, visors and helmets, likely lifted from those jokers in the passageway. They looked like death masks. The way in which the decorations stared down at them made Jack lose count after a quick tot-up to twenty.
There was also a capacious, round white table with a carbon copy of the Equalizers’ symbol in the centre. From this angle he made out the ‘Z’.
Two-dozen chairs wrapped around the table, and next to that sat a couple of comfy ivory-coloured couches beside a glass-topped coffee table. On the table was a collection of cardboard cup- placemats with the same lightning bolt logo.
“Home, sweet home.” She scrutinized Jack again. “You certainly travel light. No luggage. Just that mask in your hands you flaunt so nervously. Relax — I won’t bite. Not yet.”
“Who are you people?” he decided to ask. “Haven’t you heard? Thought Stan would’ve filled you in. We’re the Equalizers — sworn protectors of Heropa City, guardians of the peace, et cetera, et cetera, blah, blah.”
She laughed — making him decide straight away he liked her. Sure she was formidable, but she also had a solid sense of humour.
“This place is impressive,” Jack said, as he wistfully struggled for more meaningful dialogue.
“What, Heropa? You’ll get over it.” The woman looked him over once again. “You know, you remind me of someone.”
“I do?” Jack’s tone was edgy. “Who?”
“The actor George Peppard, when he was younger — circa Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If he’d excessively worked out, I mean.”
“You have no idea who I’m talking about, do you?”
“Sad. So, take a seat. The others will be here shortly.”
“The other Equalizers.”
“Okay.” Jack eyed one of the couches and went on over.