Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life." - Bertolt Brecht

To whom it may concern -

Those of you who have been reading this journal since its inception will by now be used to receiving an update from the esteemed Mr Dibny sometime between the hours of Friday noontime and Sunday tiffin, and perhaps will be wondering at my own humble prose taking its place. I'm afraid that, in the event that you are reading this standing up, perhaps using a public telephonic device wired to the global computer network - oh, the marvels of the new age! - I must ask you to seat yourself, preferably with a hot mug of a particularly fortifying tea, made with honey as a bulwark against the terrible shock with which I am about to confound your senses.

This is what I believe is known in vulgar circles as 'a spoiler', as it is likely to spoil your entire day, so if you believe, like Thomas Gray, that where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise, read no further, lest you find yourself also spoiling the fine carpeting beneath your chair with an unstemmable tide of lachrimation, as I did. Who would have thought my own tears could stain a 200-year old persian rug? Yet these are the tiny sorrows which often form upon the heels of great calamities.

Ralph Dibny is dead.

Oh! I promised myself I would not cry again, but as Voltaire so memorably put it, tears are the silent language of grief. My patient is dead, and I grieve! Would that I could cure the cold embrace of the grave as easily as I could cure the tempestuous demons that dwelled within the man's heart and mind! Although on the latter score I must admit to failing dismally, as the man evidently remained a raging, paranoid psychopath until the very instant of his passing. Still, it's the thought that counts, and I would like to believe that he died as he lived, punching people in the face and yelling incoherently.

I was not there to witness his passing, gentle reader. My position is more akin to Watson standing on the Reichenbach Falls and reading a letter contained within a slim cigarette case. Perhaps Mr Dibny is even now climbing up some metaphorical cliff, to spend the next three years dressed as a washerwoman or a hapless stable-boy in a desperate attempt to confound an imaginary gunman. Would that fate were so kind.

This Friday - after two days in which the suspicious absence of ranting phone calls and death treats from my ex-patient had begun to prey on my mind - I received a letter from Mr Dibny reading as follows:

Dear Dr Willis,

I've had a shave. But never mind that.

By the time you read this, I, Ralph Dibny, will be dead.

Dr Fate has informed me that the last hour has finally come, and we'll be firing a chunk of hot lead through my illustrious brainpan in the subtle surroundings of the Tower Of Fate. Apparently the Feng Shui there is really good - we're going to do it up a little with a few floating masks that I'll be blu-tacking pictures of Sue to, and also locking the door so nobody can come in and gawp while I'm trying to do the decent thing. There'll be some wine and cheese too.

The programme so far involves Dr Fate making the pictures of Sue come to life and sort of warble my name, while I have a good cry and a last swig of meths. Then I'm going to put him on my head. I only hope he's washed himself out - I don't want my last smell to be my own crusted flith, but knowing him I'm sure that's exactly what's going to happen.

At that point we're going to have 'Smooth Criminal' by Michael Jackson playing, and I might just bust a quick move as a final homage to his brilliant dance style.

Anyway, after that it's time to pull the trigger and send that bullet tearing into the greatest brain the world has ever known, and after
that it's daquiris with Sue beyond the grave, maybe a little light dancing, some mussels, we'll just take it slowly and see what happens.

I understand that Ollie's had that doorway to the afterlife bricked up, so I'll never be seeing you again. This would probably be a good opportunity to tell you that, while I have admittedly always despised you, I have a great deal of respect for your abilities as a psychiatrist.

Yes, it probably would be. But unfortunately I can't tell you that as you're a massive quack and you suck completely at psychiatry and everything else.

You suck, Dr Willis.

Anyway, I do have some slight misgivings about this whole shooting-myself-in-the-head thing - one, my stretch powers are completely back, to the extent that my head is so rubbery the bullet is likely to pass safely all the way through without doing any damage at all. Which means I'm going to have to trick someone into killing my ass in an incredibly ironic magical fashion. Which is going to be a
total chore.

Two, I'm pret-ty sure that the guy I'm with is just
a Dr Fate, instead of the Dr Fate, if you see what I mean. For one thing he uses the bathroom when he comes over, which disembodied floating helmets don't generally do. Also, I've heard him say things like "HA HA HA soon my evil plans will bear the sweetest fruit of all!" and then catch himself and pretend that he was just coughing, and when he coughs it sounds like the words 'evil plans'. And helmets don't cough either. No throats.

So - worst case scenario - I pull the trigger, the bullet tears the helmet right off mewithout damaging my head in the slightest, leaving it wobbling like a plate of jelly while a big mass of deformed gold smacks into the wall. And then Despero falls out and says it was him all along. It's going to be Despero in disguise, I just know it.

How embarrassing is that going to be? Jesus.

The only thing I can think of to do in that situation is what I usually do, which is lie and pretend I totally meant that to happen all along. Like, instead of a real gun, it's a magic crime-solving gun, and how I always knew Despero's secret plan was to take over the universe. I might even mention a few proper detective phrases, like 'dusting for prints' or 'checking the carpet for hairs'. Once I get started, I can keep it up for hours. That's why I, Ralph Dibny - I've said it before, and I'll say it again - am, or was, the World's Greatest Detective!
In your face, Batman, you truth-telling beeeyotch.

Actually I suppose Batman can have that one back now if he wants to put his pina colada down for five seconds and solve a crime.

Anyway, from then on, I'll probably wing it and hope somebody turns up who can suicide me despite the whole rubber-body thing. Like maybe Despero has a space ray or something, or an Independance Day style flying saucer will turn up and blow the whole tower to pieces - something like that. The most important thing is to pretend it was my idea all along and that I am totally the puppet master who controls the strings of everyone's lives with my awesome brain. The world must remember me as The Greatest Human Being Ever To Stalk The Earth, and I figure defeating Despero and his alien hordes will do it.

So for Christ's sake don't go putting this letter on the internet. Okay? Good.

If I don't come barging in later today to punch you with my new extending arms, then I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and am dead as a doornail. So you can forget about ever getting any fees out of me - in fact, I've arranged for the $1,800 plus tax I still owe you for treatment to be burned in front of your face, while a crowd of small children point and laugh. You grotesque charlatan.

Yours sincerely,
I sincerely despise you with every fibre of my being,
Ralph William Dibny

P.S. Get Wonder Woman to cry over my gravestone. If they won't build me a gravestone without a body, use my wife's. If you can't get Wonder Woman, try Mary Marvel. If you can't get her... I don't know, Bea or someone. But I want a Dibny tomb and beautiful women weeping going together in some kind of formation. Make it happen.
P.S.S. You're not getting paid for that so don't ask.

And there you have it. The world is a poorer place now, though there is one more star in the heavens to shine the light of true heroism upon us. Ralph may have had certain flaws in his character, especially if the Time Magazine 'Top Ten Greatest Monsters Of History' poll is to be believed, but, as Jesus of Nazareth so eloquently put it, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. In fact, I believe Mr Dibny lived his life by that very doctrine, given that he threw a number of rocks at me on one occasion whilst screaming that his soul was as white as a lamb.

He will be missed.

As a mark of respect for the passing of a valued patient and treasured friend, I will be continuing this journal for the next ten weeks - the traditional period of bereavement as detailed in Joseph Campbell's lesser work, The Baboon With A Thousand Snouts - and will endeavour to keep to the schedule of weekly updates on various matters that he laid down, as well as dealing with any comments you might have. Please treat the "comments section" of this very "post", as I believe the young people have it, as your own Book Of Condolences, the better to record your emotions on the falling of this extraordinary man under the whirling blades of Death's ignoble thresher.

Yours lost in a black mist of grief,

Dr Robert Amersham Willis, Phd.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm Fat-Packed With Decency, Mr Bitch

So anyway, Dr Willis called and reminded me that the folks at the Haven have been waiting for me to solve a mystery there for... about six months now. You'd have thought they'd have found somebody else, but apparently when they finally managed to contact Batman in some resort somewhere he said that - and I quote - "that's merely the most, fellows, but way-out mysteries aren't my bag of jive anymore! From now on, this groovy Bat-baby is just going to swing - swing - swing!"

Apparently he also claimed that the pretty girls were blossoming like flowers, it was delicious, and that he dug this day. So evidently Batman is out of the race for a while.

On the one hand, it was a golden opportunity to show the world the power of Dibny. On the other hand, I'm a man in a hurry. I need to blow my own head off sometime soon - I've got it scheduled for next week, maybe Wednesday - and before then I need to do that scavenger hunt quest pilgramage magic doodad thing with Dr Fate, so I can sucker him into getting on my head before I ram a bullet through it. Oh yes, Dr Fate is going down with me, make no mistake about that! Cunning, thy name is Dibny.

Anyway, I was in a hurry to do things like get my affairs in order and send a box of my own fecal matter to Time Magazine, so I may... and I stress the word may... I may have done a rush job. Or a semi-rush job. Perhaps.

Let us purely hypothetically say that you can fool anybody into believing anything if you're wearing a trenchcoat.

Scratches on a camera lens? Teleportation microcircuitry, baby. A stain on the floor? Hardly. A puddle of nano-disassemblers designed to reduce a man to his component atoms and ferry him between the molecules of the walls to sweet freedom. What's that you say? Your guy vanished out of a locked, sterilised room with nothing in it but him, not even a door? Boom Tube. You never heard a sound? Shhh Tube. It's new. "Shove it under a microscope!" I scream at them. Of course, even under a microscope they don't know teleportation microcircuitry from their own anus, but they nod and pay me a thousand bucks anyway. That's why I'm the World's Greatest Detective, my friend, fancy jet car or no fancy jet car.

What can I say? I was on a roll, and I felt like grabbing me a silver wheel of Nyorlath - Dr Fate had been badgering me about it for days - so I figured it would be the work of a single second to divine its exact whereabouts with my incredible cerebral skills.

Now, what has wheels? Ambulances. All ambulances have wheels, it's a fact. Show me one that doesn't. And where do ambulances drive to and from all day? Hospitals, where people recover from debilitating accidents and injuries - often with the use of wheelchairs! WHEELS! Do you see? Ambulances also visit asylums - asylums much like the one I was in! Coincidence? I think not.

"Who have you got in a chair?" I bellowed. The Doctor seemed stunned - stunned by the breadth of my intellect.

"W-what do you mean?"

"Bring me your most unfortunate chair-guy! This instant! Come on, these people work with giant killer robots, are you telling me there isn't a crushed spine in the bunch? Not even a dislocated hip? Guy in a chair! Now! Do it!" And then I sprung the scratched-lens trick on him so he'd have no doubt that I was a mind far, far beyond his ken.

So ten seconds later I was in Professor Milo's Prisoner-style two-up-two-down. He didn't know me from Adam - Adam Strange, that is - and frankly, I had no idea who he was so I made something up. If you drop Batman's name, any crap you spout has instant validity, although now that he's digging this day I may have to switch to Superman or J'onn J'onnz or somebody to work that particular trick.

Anyway, I figure he's in a home for science-crooks and he's all magicked up with the wheel of Zardoz or whatever, so it's time to break out 'technomancer' and take it for a spin. That's part of what I call my 'Dibny Dialect' - words that mean absolutely nothing but have the absolute air of convincingness that a detective needs when he's trying to con the marks out of their hard-earned cash. And then, while he was reeling with the feeling of having his technomantric crimes exposed to the world, I tore the wheel right off his chair! In the name of justice!

Oh, he played a good game, the big faker. He even lost control of his bowels, as though that was going to convince anyone. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing there and then. And then the guy running the place - Mr Dewhurst, although he might as well call himself Mr I Have A Severe Mental Problem And Can't See A Fake Cripple When One Is Lying In Front Of Me With His Pants Filled With His Own Wretched Feces - went and ran to help him up like the rube he was. He even asked me if I had any decency at all!

I think we all know the answer to that question by now, Mr Dewhurst.

Anyway, I nearly pissed myself laughing. I had to get out of there or I was going to collapse into a fit of the giggles. Only Dr Fate rained on my parade as usual - "the final hour is at last upon us", he smirked, like he couldn't wait until I was pulling the trigger. Well, screw you, Dr Fate. You can wait until next week like everybody else.

Also, it turned out Dr Fate had already picked up the silver wheel of thingy at a jumble sale. Turns out Professor Milo's wheelchair was just made in Greece. So that was kind of a blow.

Oh well. It was still funny.

Oh yeah, and my nose seems to be twitching again. Hopefully I'll actually be able to shoot myself next week, because if my superpowers come back and the bullet bounces out of my head and into a pram or something I am going to be p-i-s-s-e-d.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dr Irons Needs To Get Off My Television Right Now

Seriously, let's assume you'd almost single-handedly brought down one of the largest and most deadly cases of corporate corruption in modern history, while wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants, and in the process you'd won a fearsome battle with a ruthless business leader with Superman's powers, despite getting a hole the size of an axe handle right through one kidney. What is the first thing you'd do in that situation? Is it, by any chance, call for a god-damned ambulance?

Or would you in fact - ignoring the fact that your spleen was even at that moment attempting a break for freedom through the ragged hole in your gut - stand on a ledge, look out over an adoring crowd and shill your new weight-loss manual "I'll Diet With A Hammer In My Hand"? Hmmm? I wonder.

He's not even a Doctor of Nutrition. He got his Phd building superguns and 'accidentally' selling them to crack fiends. That doesn't make him an expert on weight loss, even if he did run a hospital for about five seconds back in the nineties. The myth-copying tard. Also, Dr Irons, there's no point telling the cameras how you shed the pounds and got your fantastically ripped torso if the cameras are pointing at the immense hole in said torso the whole time. I paid $4.99 for a burrito that I was then unable to eat because I'd stared for too long at your bloody insides. Is that part of your diet plan? Or do I get to sue you for mental distress?

Anyway, it seems like you can't go two days without flicking on the TV and seeing that guy propped up in his hospital bed saying that YOU - yes, YOU - can take just ten short minutes out of your day to 'Hammercise' the flab away, while chowing down on a precise mix of pure fruit sugars and wholegrains that will leave YOU feeling as if YOU could out-pound a steam-driven hammering machine from before civil rights were invented. And then die. Of heroism!

"And the best place to get that precise mix is in a tasty Steelworks Brand Captain Tommy's Hominy Crunch Bar. You can trust the Captain! I understand he loved John Henry like a son or something. I don't know, I'm a weapons designer, I don't have time to listen to folk music, I'm too busy 'accidentally' dropping a gigantic energy rifle capable of destroying Milwaukee next to a skeevy-looking guy in a beanie hat with an immense gold chain and a ghetto blaster. And then coincidentally picking up a briefcase full of money. With no connection between the two events. Did I mention my girlfriend's in jail for aiding and abetting a known killer?"

"When the trains roll past YOUR grave, will they say 'there lies a steel-drivin' man?' Or will they say 'there lies an obese bitch?' IT'S UP TO YOU. I'm Dr John Irons and I approve this message!"

Those weren't his exact words, but I can read between the lines. Needless to say, Time Magazine absolutely adores the man.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who Could Have Dreamed That A Green Plastic Ring I Found At The Bottom Of An Ancient Box Of Cracker Jack Could Possibly Snap So Easily?

I'll have you know that Dr Fate - who knows a thing or two about Fate - thought that that ring could withstand the crushing neck pressure of a hundred insane rearing sea beasts, never mind just the one! Unless he was being sarcastic. But it's still on him! All of those deaths! The disrupted shipping! Pitcairn Island digested - Japan all but wiped from the face of the Earth by a rampaging undersea horror's vengeance-crazed wrath - none of it can be pinned on me, so in your face, Time Magazine! I'm not the 'New Osama' by any stretch! Nor am I a 'serial killer to rival the Joker, if he used criminal negligence instead of an acid-squirting flower'! This libel - this unfounded, slanderous libel - it will not stand in a court of law or anywhere else, particularly not under the sea where I'm justly feared as the bringer of destruction! Not with any cause, mind you, but still. Just watch yourself, Time Magazine. That's all I'm saying. I mean, sure, maybe I did swap a magically unbreakable chain with a plastic doodad that was made in Taiwan sometime during the late seventies. And maybe - and I'm just going to run this one up the flagpole - maybe I could find another magically unbreakable chain somewhere. With a monster on the other end. Somewhere. Somewhere close to your offices. Hypothetically. If, say, you don't collectively shut your fat face. In a hypothetical manner. There are a lot of old boxes of Cracker Jack in the world, Time Magazine. An awful lot. Just... just thought I'd mention that. Nobody wants another Tokyo, Time Magazine. Well, the Japanese do, the one they originally had was eaten, but you know what I'm saying.

Don't go printing that. That was off the record.

Like you will be.

Time Magazine.

Anyway! I digress. Dr Fate dropped by early in the week to continue the pilgrimage. Apparently he's been in therapy for a few weeks, and whatever ridiculous overstuffed quack is currently funnelling money out of the poor sap decided that the best way to heal is to build bridges with friend and enemy alike. That will feed some much-needed chicken soup to his soul bird or something ridiculous.

Frankly, I thought I was done with tooling around one mystic realm after another with him acting like a decapitated tourist guide, but whatever. It wasn't like I had anything better to do, and the computer in the Ralphcave doesn't have any games on it unless you count that weird computer simulation where you play a six-year-old boy and you have to input tactical strategies to prevent the deaths of a random-looking rich couple in an alley somewhere. That one kind of creeps me out a little.

Anyhow, I figured I could always shoot myself later. A mystical scavenger hunt in the forgotten ruins of Fair Atlantis was just what I needed to perk myself up a little, and Dr Fate was in a remarkably chatty mood.

I've got to admit, though, I had a chill run down my spine myself when I thought for one horrible second that Aquaman had become a zombie. That would have been a really hard thing for me to deal with, especially since fire doesn't work so well underwater, but that thankfully wasn't the case - he was just half out of his mind on LSD and sitting on a rock in his dressing gown dribbling like the unfortunate lunatic he's evidently become. Dr Fate even got away with calling him 'magician' and I know for a fact he hates any mention of that Donovan song. Tough break, but better than being a tragic corpse refashioned into a cruel parody of human life - am I right, Ollie? Hmmm?

Anyway, he managed to help us out and it looked like our undersea antiquing was going to come to a successful conclusion, thanks to a little assistance from Sailor Jack and a plastic ring he happened to leave in a box of peanut and popcorn candy. Or so we thought.

Yes. So we thought.

It's not my fault what happened to Italy. Dr Fate said with his own lack of a mouth that it was a 'well chosen' plastic trinket. If he's going to make deadpan cracks like that instead of shouting 'Jesus Christ Ralph what are you doing it's plastic!!?!' then frankly, he should take the blame.

Anyway, that's what I screamed at him after all the carnage was finally over and they'd managed to fire the beast into the Sun. To which he replied that he wished he'd never laid eyes on me and he wished he'd never laid eyes on his therapist either and we should both just shut up shut up shut up shut up!!!

So I guess the soul bird is going hungry today.