A COMIC SHOP. THE SHOP IS LITTLE MORE THAN A NEWSSTAND LOCATED IN THE CLAUSTROPHOBIC LOBBY OF A BUILDING OTHERWISE OCCUPIED BY ALL SORTS OF VERY REAL, VIABLE BUSINESSES IN IT.
A SINGLE, WHOLLY APATHETIC CLERK SITS BEHIND THE COUNTER, HARDLY PRETENDING TO WORK.
CUSTOMER: Hi. I called about the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).
CLERK: Got it right here… (PULLS OUT A SMALL BOX) Feel free to take a look before you pay.
CUSTOMER CONSIDERS THIS FOR A MOMENT, OPENS THE BOX, THEN SCREAMS A LITTLE SCREAM.
CLERK: Something wrong?
CUSTOMER: Is this what I think it is?
CLERK: If not, I suppose we’ve both committed a felony for nothing.
CUSTOMER: What, a felony? I didn’t come here for this!
CLERK: You didn’t?
CUSTOMER: No, of course not.
CLERK: I’m sorry. What did you come here for?
CUSTOMER: I called about an hour ago about the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).
CLERK: Oh, yes, the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).
CUSTOMER: Yes, that’s right.
CLERK RETRIEVES A SIMILAR, YET WHOLLY DIFFERENT BOX FROM BENEATH THE COUNTER AND SETS IT DOWN BESIDE THE FIRST.
CLERK: Anything else?
CUSTOMER: No. No, I don’t think so.
CLERK: Would you maybe like what’s in the first–
CLERK: No judgment.
CUSTOMER: No, thank you.
CLERK: (SHRUGS) Suit yourself. (MINDLESSLY RINGS UP A SALE) Can’t believe anyone would want something this stupid.
CUSTOMER: Wasting money is a guilty pleasure of mine.
CLERK: And mine to take it.
CUSTOMER: Yes. Right. Well. I was admittedly a bit upset when I heard they were going to adapt this into a live-action movie after all these years.
CLERK: Is that right?
CUSTOMER: I mean, how do you even begin to translate something like this to a movie, ya know?
CLERK: I certainly do not.
CUSTOMER: And you know they’re going to mess it all up.
CLERK: I do?
CUSTOMER: Of course. The studio is probably handing over the whole thing to some incompetent, visionless parasite who will suck the fun and color out of everything.
CLERK: The son of a bitch.
CUSTOMER: What can you do, right?
CLERK: (CONSIDERS THIS) Follow me.
CUSTOMER: Excuse me?
CLERK WALKS OVER TO A SMALL DOOR JUST A FEW FEET AWAY, PULLING OUT A SMALL RING OF KEYS.
CLERK: I think you might be interested in our premium membership.
CUSTOMER: I’m afraid I don’t live in the area, and I really only came out all this way for that. Kinda surprised anybody–
CLERK IGNORES THIS AND UNLOCKS THE DOOR ANYWAY.
CLERK: Follow me.
CUSTOMER: What? No, I just want the…
CLERK DISAPPEARS THROUGH THE DOOR WITHOUT ANOTHER WORD.
CUSTOMER EVENTUALLY FOLLOWS, BUT PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVELY COMPLAINS ABOUT IT UNDER THEIR BREATH WHILE DOING SO.
A BASEMENT BENEATH THE SHOP.
A SWEATY LARGE MAN IN A TATTERED SCREENPRINT TEE AND MATCHING BLAZER IS PREOCCUPIED WITH THE VIOLENT BEATING OF AN EQUALLY SWEATY, YET MUCH SMALLER MAN IN SOME SORT OF COSTUME.
CLERK AND CUSTOMER ENTER.
CUSTOMER: What the hell is this?!
LARGE MAN STOPS WITH THE BEATING.
LARGE MAN: (TO CLERK) Hey, I’ve still got… (CHECKS HIS WATCH) …ten minutes.
CLERK: (SHAKES HEAD, GESTURES TO CUSTOMER) Potential member.
LARGE MAN: Is that right? (TO CUSTOMER) Honest opinion? The premium membership is totally worth the extra money.
SMALLER MAN: (SPITS OUT TOOTH) I’m sorry. Was this beating canceled like some hack comedian with shit opinions masquerading as attempts at humor? (SPITS OUT SEVERAL MORE TEETH…) Or are we simply out of gas, like Lucas Stevensberg after the original Celestial Border Dispute trilogy?
LARGE MAN EAGERLY RESUMES THE BEATING.
A BEAT. THEN…
CUSTOMER: (TO CLERK) Okay. We have to call the police, or something. Right?
CLERK: Nah. (GESTURES TO SMALLER MAN) He does this for a living.
CUSTOMER: You’re pulling my leg.
CLERK: No, really. Poor guy’s some kind of unemployed actor. It’s a shame, too. He’s actually very talented. Really stirs our Premium Members into a frothy rage.
SMALLER MAN: (SERIOUSLY HURT) Children’s programming isn’t for you! Superheroes have always been political! You can joke about anything so long as it’s actually funny!
CUSTOMER: Oh, he is good. But couldn’t he just get a real job – slow-roasting children, building bears, recycling blood? Anything but this…
CLERK: (SHRUGS) Seems he prefers getting the shit kicked out of him for money.
CUSTOMER: (NODS) This can’t possibly be legal, though… (PUZZLES THIS) Can it?
CLERK: While we do like to keep our premium services on the down low, I assure you everything is on the up and up. In fact, every comic shop is legally required to be built over a basement for this exact purpose.
CUSTOMER: What? No. No, I’ve been to plenty of shops that weren’t…
CLERK GESTURES TO A FRAMED CERTIFICATE ON THE WALL.
CLERK: See for yourself.
CUSTOMER: (READS) “This certificate of authenticity hereby, thereby, and whereby certificates the authenticity of this comic shop, video rental store, and/or slot-car racing facility…” (TO CLERK) This has to be some sort of joke.
CLERK: A joke, is it? And I suppose the First Great Fanboy War of 1945 is a big bowl of laughter with a side of toasted hilariousness and a refreshing glass of freshly-squeezed silly.
CUSTOMER: No, I didn’t–
CLERK: No, of course you didn’t. (SCOFFS) It never even occurs to people like you that such a bloody rampage – scores dead, hundreds emotionally wounded, countless more in dire need of a shower and antiperspirant – might demand some degree of government intervention and oversight.
LARGE MAN STOPS WITH THE BEATING…
LARGE MAN: Uh-oh… (INSPECTS SMALLER MAN’S POSSIBLY LIFELESS CORPSE. He’s gone all limp…
CLERK: No refunds!