Retcon Punch, Episode 02: Douchebag Ascendant

Retcon Punch, Episode 02: Douchebag Ascendant

Oct 13

Catch up on Episode 01

Before I can realize the extent to which my ass truly is grass over the missing copy of Fantastic Four #1, I first panic over the missing shipment of new comics. I’m on the phone with my Diamond rep when Tara arrives for work.

Tara has three teenage kids, a husband who’s a bit of a dick, and the most obnoxious collection of seasonal T-shirts and sweaters ever assembled. She hasn’t read a comic book since the Nixon administration; she works at Superb for the pocket money. She’s a master of passive aggression.

“Hey, boss,” she says; every time she calls me “boss,” she sneers the word. “Did we sell that really old comic and I missed the party?”

Shit.

Retcon Punch, by Matt Springer - A Thrilling Tale of Sex, Betrayal and Comics

“Ha ha, no,” I reply over the hold music in my ear. Boomtown Rats, if you can believe it. “Just moved it into the back to rebag it. Hey, can you bitch out this Diamond rep when he comes on? We still haven’t gotten our books for the week.”

“Oh Christ.” Tara knows what that means—gritting through her teeth at hysterical nerds all day and a tightening in her neck that would make her head throb for the next two days.

Tara picks up the phone; I casually step into Superb’s back room, home of several thousand pounds of decaying newsprint. I close the door behind me.

I begin thinking, not overthinking or freaking out, but thinking. I Google my missing comic; I find the highest-resolution cover image I can. I print the cover, then I cut it out and slip it into a high-end Mylar sleeve. I calmly take it back out to the store and hang it in the open spot on the wall. No one notices, not even Tara, who once complained that I was “eating lunch too loud.”

My most immediate problem temporarily solved, I turn to the issue of the missing shipment. I soon notice Tara yelling into the receiver in a way that I don’t believe is designed to help create a positive working relationship with her counterpart on the other end of the line.

“I’m TELLING YOU. I’m TELLING YOU NOW. We are in HERMOSA Beach in CALIFORNIA and we do not have NEW comic BOOKS for to sell. If you can TELL ME PLEASE what might be the problem.”

I hear a tapping on the door and pray a quick silent prayer that it’s not one of the regulars hoping they can get in and out early to post a spoiler review on their message board of choice.

Miraculously, it’s the UPS guy, sheepishly pushing a cart stacked with boxes.

“Sorry, my kid had a thing at school, and I wanted to see it but I know you guys need this stuff ASAP…”

“Don’t worry, Gary. We’re just glad you made it. Right, Tara?”

“WHAT. Please tell me you are NOT blaming the WEATHER. Hold ON.”

“Tara? The books are here.”

Tara hangs up the phone without so much as a “get bent.”

**

Even the worst jobs have their moments, and at Superb, even the most horrific Wednesdays eventually hit their flow, when the tempo of the movement of the people creates a momentum that can actually convince me I’ve found a halfway decent way to earn a living.

Usually, that’s when Sid shows up.

Sidney Stone owns Superb Comics. He spent the better part of the mid-eighties and nineties as lead guitarist in a pop ska band that had five top forty hits in the UK. He poured his first major advance into opening Superb and now is one of those semi-retired former rockers who goes to shows six nights a week and records aimless bullshit in a “home studio.” As most of the customers know, I do the actual “running” of Superb Comics; Sid does the spending, the abusing of employee time and goodwill, and the conceptualizing of idiotic events that only lower the shop’s standing amongst the geek community of the Southland.

Sid always enters the shop like he’s about to be mobbed by teenybopper fangirls and paparazzi. Neither ever happens. With one arm around the latest girl, he saunters over to the main rack and walks excruciatingly slow between the paying customers and their precious comics.

We’ll get back to the girl. Promise.

“What’s the haps, Ike?”

“Not much. Just, you know, selling comic books.”

“I can see that.”

Sid’s a douchebag. I have evidence, your honor.

He is perpetually unable to conduct a true conversation, in that he never really responds to things someone else is saying. He comes sideways at every dialogue in which he is engaged because he is incapable of experiencing a world that contains anyone but himself.

To the extent that he does respond to an actual statement or question, it’s always to shut things down, like “I can see that.” Okay, asshole, you can see it; no shit. I’m trying to INTERACT WITH YOU AS A SEPARATE HUMAN BEING, not question the efficacy of your eyeballs. Jesus. I don’t know how anyone sleeps with him or even manages to spend more than ten minutes in his immediate vicinity.

And that’s the other thing that makes him forever douche: He manages to score amazing-looking women who could clearly do far better, but never do.

Take for example the girl standing idly under Sid’s arm while he prevents the paying customers from purchasing their comics. Long black hair in a ponytail, Tina Fey glasses (standard issue for his ladyfriends; he told me once he had a “librarian/whore complex,” which is so perfect he doesn’t even realize it), a slender frame but not too slender. Tight black jeans and a form-fitting Black Flag T-shirt.

Usually, the women who slither into the store under Sid’s arm are repellant simply by virtue of the company they keep, but I have to admit, this particular girl has something about her. I think it’s the expression; most of Sid’s girlfriends look like they’re disgusted by spending time in a comic book store, but this is the first one that looks disgusted by spending time with Sid himself. Her expression says, “I smell a fart.”

It makes me curious; I have always dismissed the rumors that Sid’s male appendage rivaled James Woods’ unit in scope and capacity, if only because said rumors were inevitably initiated by Sid himself. But maybe there’s something to them?

Then I follow the fart face over my shoulder and realize she’s staring blankly at the Fantastic Four fake, like she knows exactly what I’ve done, and my heart drops to my shoe.

“I’m here to pay now.”

The soft-spoken nervous college kid has been standing at the register for at least a couple minutes when he finally speaks and shatters my paranoid musings.

“Sorry. Let me ring you up.”

“Asleep at the wheel, eh, Ikester? That’s not the way to keep your job.”

Sid smirks in my general direction; I glance up to return a tight smile, just in time to catch his lady rolling her eyes so far back into her head that she can stare at her own brain.

Next week: Baby’s In Black!

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