Back in 2003, Mark Hamill created “Commander Courage,” a beloved but non-existent superhero for his mockumentary Comic Book the Movie. When the production company asked me to edit their promotional site Once Upon a Dime, Hamill and I sat down and he gave me some of the history in his head. One of the inciting incidents for the movie is that Commander Courage had been rebooted in a post-9/11 world as “Codename: Courage,” a very reactionary, violent, grim and gritty rethinking of a noble golden age character.
Of course, Hamill meant to satirize the concept of dark reimaginings. Well-known comics writer Peter David agreed to appear in the film as the writer of that book. I took a further step and created this “fan-fiction” based on my ideas of what David would likely have done with the book if it actually existed. Because of course, David never had written such a book. Confused yet? We were going over the top, and I couldn’t know in 2003 that years later books like this would actually exist. This was meant to be satire; I’m not sure those others are.
Chapter 1: The Mystic Mullah of Menace
(This story takes place after the events of Codename: Courage #6, but, obviously, before #11.)
Under his black face mask’s extra lower shield, Courage smiled thinly. Safely hidden from passersby in an oak tree perch, the anonymous hero tensed, ready to spring down like a bolt of dark catharsis for an anguished nation. He had been lucky that young Tim Turner had grown suspicious of the “couple” that had moved in to the house down the street.
Luckier still that even though Tim’s parents had laughed him off as paranoid, the boy had believed the rumors at school about CourageNet. To all appearances an inspirational patriotic website, it had a hidden section for tipsters to alert the coal-black avenger to evil stalking the land.
The irony of it appealed to the mysterious tall warrior. If his enemies could use websites to send coded messages to each other, he, too, would conduct his covert business in plain sight – if one knew where to look.
Within minutes of Tim logging in his concerns, the man some called Courage (others knew and feared him as righteous vengeance) had packed the necessary weaponry and mobilized for the city of Dimmsdale.
Only Samara, his IT manager, knew of this, an unavoidable consequence of her monitoring CourageNet for him.
But his trust of the pretty Middle Eastern data genius was unshakeable; had he not rescued her from crushing oppression at the hands of the murderous gang known as The Tally Band?
Courage shook his head slightly, not even the slightest glint of moonlight reflecting from the dark ruby goggles that made him appear almost otherworldly. He had no time for this reverie, not if what Tim suspected was true.
And Courage had no doubt that it was. From Tim’s description, the young couple down the street calling themselves the “Orffits” could be none other than the ebony sword of justice’s most dangerous living foe.
Tim had asked around the neighborhood. Though many people had met both Gene Orffit and his wife Janine, nobody had ever seen them at the same time. The husband had told Mr. Shankel next door that he and his wife just had busy and unfortunately opposite work schedules.
But the plucky all-American kid didn’t buy it. Neither did Courage.
When Samara first read the message, she immediately agreed with Tim’s conclusions, except for the part about his babysitter, and knew that the man to whom she owed her life and more importantly her freedom would also agree.
Gene and Janine Orffit were not an insurance salesman and a night nurse at all, but a deadly melding of two terrorist operatives, the result of Haddam Mubein’s twisted experiments in both science and sorcery. The man had once been a librarian; she had been a young woman with futile dreams of a career in medicine. Forced through the crucible of a magical fire, the once ordinary humans forged a desperate alliance with an otherworldly spirit just to survive. What was left of the two remembered little of its former lives.
Instead, the mystically powerful transgendered being knew mostly loyalty to the nightmares of the mad genius that had birthed it. Courage had brought an end to Mubein’s icy grip on the throat of his people – let’s just say that he’s not a problem anymore – but the madman’s spawn lived on. Though it had once had other names, it now called itself Djinn-Djinnie, a creature that alternated between approximations of male and female.
And Courage could not allow it to live unmolested in this quiet town, likely plotting another turn in its roadmap to destroying freedom.
“No,” Courage almost hissed, his steel-corded fingers flexing inside padded Kevlar gloves. “This ends tonight. For Tim, and all the other kids just like him, all across this country, who deserve to grow up free from terror!”
Down the street, Tim slept, blissfully unaware of the good work he was partially responsible for. But then, that was only fitting. Courage had no idea what Tim actually looked like, either, seeing him as another uniquely anonymous son of liberty.
In the front room of the otherwise unassuming ranch style home, something moved. Something that flickered between masculine and feminine. Courage knew that when both forms oscillated through this dimensions, Djinn-Djinnie was summoning its power for something big.
Launching himself from the tree, the night fist of America’s pride drove like a bullet through the picture window in the Orffits’ living room, glass shattering like the American Dream would if Djinn-Djinnie were allowed to live.
With perfect but practiced technique, Courage rolled back up into a fighting stance. His cold eyes confirmed the assumption that had caused him to leave the tree.
Bathed in an unholy glow that obscured its momentary gender, the master and mistress of eldritch energies pulled its lips back in a terrifying rictus. If not for Courage’s utter calm in the heat of battle, its two-toned harmonious voice would have sent a chill down his spine.
“Courage.” It took its time with the word. “How nice of you to come. It would be appropriate to offer you a drink of something alcoholic, wouldn’t it? Is that not how you…” It struggled with a sneer for an instant, then gave way to it. “…Americans …entertain?”
With an arched brow, Djinn-Djinnie let its gaze wander all over the perfectly fit hero. The entire time, its hands twitched ominously.
For his part, Courage refused to dignify the encounter with inane banter. He had a job to do, and though it wouldn’t be pleasant, it would be necessary.
As Courage slightly flexed his right arm in order to activate his stun glove, the sometime harridan of hatred stepped to its right. With a flourish, it gestured toward a glowing blob that floated in the air.
“No doubt you noticed that I’m having a difficult time deciding what kind of man I am tonight,” it cackled.
“Please, don’t bother pretending.” Even as it spoke, its features shifted into a softer, more feminine appearance before snapping back to masculinity. “We both know you understand the nature of my power. As if it could do you any good.”
The twitching of its hands had grown more frantic, and Courage noticed that there was a definite rhythm to it, one that matched the pulsing of the blob. Somewhat spherical, the manifestation slid along the spectrum of visible color and, Courage noted through his special lenses, a few that would not be visible to the naked human eye.
He knew he could not take down Djinn-Djinnie until he understood that this conjured anomaly would not pose a greater threat to the neighborhood. But to the great patriot’s horror (yes, he had to admit it), the thing had grown visibly larger in less than a minute.
Unable to contain itself any longer, his foe clapped its hands in something approximating delight. “Oh, my darling Courage,” it sighed, and thankfully it had become a woman as it said so, “you long for a simpler time.”
“A time without fear,” Courage spat in a steely baritone. “A time when decent Americans could sleep at night, secure that if evil stalked the earth, at least these shores were safe.”
“Hmph.” Djinn-Djinnie simpered. “I do believe that’s the most you’ve ever said to me at one time. Well, my dear,” and here it was in a male form, “your wish is my command.”
With that, both mortal enemies whipped their hands toward the other. Courage meant to send an arc of paralyzing electricity, but was just a fraction of a second too late.
As the magical menace had moved, so went its pulsating energy creation …toward Courage.
In less than a second, the towering titan of triumph had been engulfed by every color of the rainbow.
Then it winked out. When it disappeared, so did Courage.
Djinn-Djinnie clapped its hands again, then hugged itself. Its mad spinning between sexes slowed, until it finally settled on femininity. “Time to go out,” it said to no one.
Even with his lenses, the sunlight hurt Courage’s eyes. How long had he been unconscious? His chronometer had malfunctioned, which did not help his overwhelming disorientation.
“Leaping Liberty Bells, Commander!” a high-pitched but strong voice yelled. “What’s that?”
The voice had grown closer. Courage tried to scramble to an upright position, at least, but the spinning in his head wouldn’t let him. Whatever Djinn-Djinnie had done to him, it was a doozy.
Doozy? Where had that word come from?
More importantly, who was that blue-clad blond boy bounding toward him, strangely familiar and yet not. For a second he reminded Courage of the mysterious blonde woman he had glimpsed when rousting that terrorist cell in New Jersey…but that was impossible.
TO BE CONTINUED…
(Once Upon a Dime was a website created in 2003 to tie-in with Mark Hamill’s directorial debut, Comic Book the Movie. This piece, like several others, was meant to show glimpses of a non-existent fanzine that Hamill’s character had run for decades.)