Isn't that the superhero code? 'Help everyone, including the douchebags'?
Hobart Mann didn't ask for the superhero life, but after his trolley is stolen, he is spurred on by his Japanese conscience to adopt the guise of Hoboman in an attempt to protect the citizens of Uptown from ever having to suffer the same injustice.
Along the way he encounters villains such as Wiener Munch and the man on the mobility scooter, but with allies such as the Irishman, Justin Bubba and (reluctantly) Jean the talking potato, what could possibly go wrong?
On his quest, Hoboman learns some valuable lessons, such as his origin story and the true meaning of genderqueer, on a journey that takes our hero to Heaven itself. Is he dead? Meh. Context.
The two men entered the room, almost reverently. Cigar smoke swirled up and hung lazily in the air. Obviously, the source of said smoke was a lit cigar, because the only real way cigar smoke doesn’t come from a cigar is if you captured the smoke in like a box and saved it for later. But if we’re being pedantic, the source still is the cigar. Nevertheless, the source was a cigar and the cigar in question was being held by a man sitting in a chair facing the window. Despite the curtains being drawn apart, the figure was steeped in shadow, because that is just how dramatic lighting works and I will have no challenges on the topic. “Sit,” was all that the shadowy figure said as he heard the two men approach.
The pair took their places obediently in the seats arranged for them and waited. The shadowy figure puffed on his cigar and continued to look out the window because he had seen a dog catch itself in the reflection of a building and was going off at itself, and you saw that sort of stuff on the internet, but seeing it in real life was something else. When the dog finally ran at the building and knocked itself out, the humour was no longer there, so the man revolved in his chair.
“Mario. Luigi.” he wheezed, addressing the two in front of him, sounding as though his cheeks were filled with cotton balls. “What is this? What’re you doin’, comin’ in here, lookin’ like that, jus’ forget about it.”
Mario, dressed in green skivvies and overalls, was immediately defensive. “It’s not our fault, Godfadda, it’s not. Casual Friday isn’t for another three days.”
Luigi, dressed in red skivvies and overalls, added, “We went to the dry cleaners to pick up our suits and this is what they gave us. Like the Mario and Luigi costumes from the video games.”
“Didn’t even get the colours right,” grumbled Mario, spitting on the floor.
The Godfather stared at Mario and then at the spit on his lacquered wooden floors without changing expression. “Clean that up. Spittin’ is a disgustin’ habit.”
As Mario went about cleaning his spit up, Luigi continued. “I think the dry cleaners are real mad on accoun’ of we whacked their cousins last week. They’re tryin’ to get back at us by makin’ us look like a couple a mooks.”
“Makin’ you look like a mook, more like,” Mario said, sitting back in his chair with a sleeve smelling like lacquer.
“Why I oughta ...” Luigi raised a hand to slap Mario across the back of the head.
“Clam it chowderheads,” the Godfather interrupted, before any other fluids (namely blood) ended up on his floor. He’d just paid a professional to do the whole floor and he’d hate to have to fix up just a bit of the floor himself because everyone would notice and he just didn’t want to have to put up with that kind of scrutiny. “Are you tellin’ me? That the dry cleaners? Dressed you two up like video game characters?”
“That’s right boss! Should we whack ‘em?” Mario and Luigi asked in unison.
The Godfather’s face was impassive as he sat there interpreting the conversation. Then he began to laugh: slowly at first, but then it gradually quickened. The whole time he laughed, the same blank expression stayed on his face. “How amusing. And they got you two mixed up. They got the wrong characters. Now that’s funny.”
Mario and Luigi looked at each other uncertainly, taken aback by the Godfather’s behaviour, and then started to join in. Because as we all know, regardless of how funny a situation is, always laugh at what the boss laughs at; unless the jokes are racist and/or sexist, because then your boss is probably breaking several ethical guidelines and should be reported to their superiors. So Mario and Luigi laughed with the Godfather. “We aren’t whackin’ ‘em then?” Luigi asked.
The Godfather wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and flicked it away (but made sure not to flick it onto the floor, because he didn’t want to have to re-lacquer it). “Ah … funny. But no. Whack the dry cleaners.”
“Sure thing boss,” Mario and Luigi said together. They both stood up and left the room, leaving the Godfather to attend to further business.
In the moments of silence that followed, the Godfather reflected upon what had happened in the past few days that had required him to interview all the members of the family. Stubbing the cigar out, the Godfather turned in his chair to once more look out the window, but there was too much haze to actually see so he did it more for the effect.
“They are clean,” a voice said from the shadows (and the haze).
“Of course they are Stavros: they just got back from the dry cleaners.”
Stavros, a bespectacled Greek man with a clipboard, pirouetted his way out of the drapes from which he had been hiding. He coughed delicately into a handkerchief before examining the notes he had made. “I mean that I don’t believe the threat came from any of the family, Godfather. Think: do you have any enemies?” (Even though Stavros was Greek and not technically part of the Giovanni crime family, the Godfather was of the impression that family was not strictly related to blood. Plus, he also did not want to look like he was discriminating against anyone; he didn’t want the mafia to have a bad image.)
The Godfather made the motion to bring his cigar to his mouth and then remembered he had crushed it out already. “There is … one man,” he said as he stepped out of his chair and approached the window. (Maybe if he got as close as he could without actually pressing his face against the glass, he might see something as funny as that dog.)
Stavros waited patiently, but it soon became apparent that he would have to prompt the Godfather to get any further information from him. “But sir, who have you offended so badly that they would leave such a gruesome thing in your bed? I am not a squeamish man but …” Stavros could not go on. He raised his handkerchief to his mouth and had to resist the urge to vomit, mainly because it would ruin the lacquer on the floor.
“Do you have it with you?” the Godfather asked, his expression remaining as neutral as ever.
Stavros pulled from his pocket a transparent clip-lock bag but did his best not to look at the contents as he placed it on the Godfather’s desk. The Godfather turned and examined the bag, every movement precise and methodical. “There is only one man who I believe would send me this. It is a message, I know.”
Memories of dancing fire flickered in his mind’s eye. The Godfather looked at the severed head of the potato and sighed deeply. “The Irishman!”
Hobart awkwardly stuck his hand down the neck of his shirt and scratched his back, his face scrunching up with distaste as he did so. “I dunno, mate. I don’t wanna be that guy, but I’m not sure I believe you are God. I always believed in Santa Claus, sure, but God is a bit of a stretch. Plus, religion sort of divides people fifty-fifty, so I’d rather keep my allegiances to myself to please as many people as I can. You know, like you could keep your religion to yourself and everyone is your friend and then one day you might reveal you are a Muslim: bam! Instant shunning, even though you are the exact same person as you were the day before.”
“But how can you deny what is right in front of you?” asked the man who looked mysteriously like God, because He allegedly was.
“I want proof,” Hobart said simply, folding his arms adamantly.
“You can’t just test God!”
“Yes I can.”
“No you can’t!”
“Yes I can.”
Realising that arguing with Hobart was futile, God balled His fists and sighed. “Alright, fine! I don’t know why I’m giving in like this but I haven’t much time. Try this on for size.”
God raised both His hands, like a madman in one of those castles at that moment when the lightning strikes, although the person is usually cackling evilly, and God wasn’t cackling evilly, He just did the hand gesture. As God raised His hands, a hobo who had previously been sleeping peacefully in the alley burst into flames. God allowed this to sink in before lowering His hands, causing the flames to disappear. The hobo remained sleeping although the shoulders of his coat were smouldering.
Hobart raised a singular eyebrow, unconvinced, and then was unable to stop the other eyebrow from rising because he was so surprised that he had done the single eyebrow raise as he had never done it before. Once he calmed down, Hobart explained, “That’s nothing. He catches fire all the time; in fact, we call him Flaming Eddie. I mean, how do you think we light the bonfire?” Hobart gestured towards the forty-four gallon drum that was crackling merrily. “I don’t have matches, so we just shove Flaming Eddie in there for a bit and let him work his magic. Legend says that Flaming Eddie is the Santa Claus of hobos and jumps from drum to drum lighting fires, though we have no proof to confirm this theory.” (On a side note, Flaming Eddie was renowned for dousing himself in whiskey and setting himself on fire. He claimed he was a Christmas pudding. It goes without saying that Eddie was not all there.)
“Well how am I supposed to prove I am God? Send a flood?” He asked exasperatedly.
Hobart did not reply. A voice called to him, seemingly from the heavens, and he was transfixed. “Hobart,” the Japanese voice called.
“Are … are you my conscience?” Hobart asked aloud, more for the benefit of the readers than his own.
“Sure, let’s go with that,” the Japanese voice replied. “Look, listen to me Hobart: your trolley going missing was a sign.”
“Yes, yes,” Hobart exclaimed, falling to his knees with his mouth agape. “It’s a sign!”
“The catalyst for your transformation!”
“Yeah, that thing, transformation and stuff,” Hobart echoed while God rolled His eyes. The voice wasn’t in Hobart’s head, so it wasn’t like the conversation was private.
“You must become something more than a mere human to ensure that what has happened to you never happens to anyone else again!”
“More than a human? I have to become a mutant?” asked Hobart, a tad uncertain.
“No. You must become … a superhero!”
“Yeah, I have to become a superhero that stops other people from having their trolleys stolen.”
The Japanese voice faltered slightly. “More of a superhero in general. Like, you should go around and stop people from being hurt by, you know … supervillains, natural disasters … that sort of stuff.”
“But there aren’t any supervillains in town,” Hobart reasoned. “Plus, I can’t stop natural disasters.”
“I can. Just saying,” God interrupted.
“I didn’t ask you,” Hobart scowled. “Seriously though, think about it. A cyclone comes; I can’t beat up a cyclone.”
“Will you let me finish?” asked Hobart’s conscience.
“Thank you. Now, to bring justice to this city, you must go by a name that strikes terror into the hearts of the evildoers. And that name … is Hoboman!”
(Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh? Hobart Mann becomes Hoboman? Ooh, I sure done tricked you. Oh, and FYI, to make things easier, from now on, Hobart will be referred to as Hoboman.)
“That makes perfect sense,” Hoboman replied enthusiastically, nodding his head vigorously. "I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. But then again, you are my conscience, so I guess I did see it but it was just never at the front of my mind. Gosh I’m smart.”
God, who at this point had gotten bored, warmed His hands by the bonfire and raised a hand to interject. “Uh, Hobart, I have one question: why is your conscience Japanese?”
Hoboman turned around, scandalised. “I’ll have you know that we live in Australia, the land of opportunity! My conscience can be whatever ethnicity it chooses to be. My conscience can choose whatever gender it relates to the best. Hell, my conscience should have the right to marry whoever it wants.”
“I don’t actually think same-sex marriage is a thing,” God pointed out. “Like, legally, I mean.”
“You’re just being racist. You can’t be the real God. The real God wouldn’t be racist.”
“I am not a racist!” God shouted defensively. “Oh, and I am the real God,” He added. “All I’m saying is that you are getting your knickers in a twist, thinking that your conscience is making you become a superhero, when I can see the man responsible for giving you the idea in the window up there. How does that make me racist?”
God pointed to the window which just so happened to be directly above Tim’s office. The Japanese man quickly pulled his head inside the window and slammed it shut. By the time Hoboman turned around to look, his conscience had gone. “I think someone is just making stuff up now.”
“Hobart, listen: I need your help. The forces of darkness are gathering and I need your help to stop them.”
“Look, God, if that is your real name … I’m a superhero now.” Hoboman rummaged through his possessions until he found his beanie. As he put it on, he shrugged. “I just don’t have time to mess around with the forces of darkness, you get me? I’m sure you understand.”
Frowning, God rolled His eyes. “Okay, I get it; I’m not going to get through to you right now. But I’m going to call on you again, when you have grown tired of playing the hero, and when I do, I pray that you will be ready.”
God gave Hoboman one last grave look and exited the alley, yelling at a driver who nearly wiped Him out. Hoboman merely shrugged, the significance of the meeting having no effect on him, and set about finishing his costume. He stuck his hands into his pair of fingerless gloves and then scratched the stubble on his chin. Something was missing. At last, it came to him. He saw the red and white checked tablecloth sheltering his fort, picked it up, dusted it off and tied it around his neck, striking a mighty pose.
And that, my friends, is how our hero was born.
(I am, of course, being figurative here. He was born as a baby in a hospital. He didn’t magically get born as an adult. I just thought it would be a good way to end the chapter. Now, let’s try that again, shall we?)
And that, my friends, is how our hero was born.
The aeroplane touched down at the Uptown City Airport and one of the only two passengers vomited harshly into a brown paper bag (there were the vomit bags on the plane, but the man doing all the vomiting was very suspicious about things that were foreign to him. That included foreigners). The other passenger, a grizzly bear, batted the vomiting man’s back in a helpful gesture (I use the term ‘batting’ here as it is similar to patting but lacked the dexterity).
“Jus’ wait til we get out, Trout,” said the vomiting man (who was no longer vomiting, otherwise it would have sounded like he said “Jusbleargherarghohgodgitout”). His Southern American drawl complemented his long blonde mullet. “We’re gonna be swamped by all the fans comin’ out to see me.”
The bear, Trout, hollered in what seemed like agreement, because the Southern man couldn’t speak bear and could only assume that was what Trout meant. Trout kept pawing at his seatbelt buckle with agitation. He turned to the Southern man and growled something that could quite possibly have meant, “I say, I can’t wait for this trip to end so I can unbuckle this restraining mechanism.” He also could have been saying, “I’m a bear. What am I doing on board a plane?” Then again, he may have just been growling.
“Ease up, pardner,” consoled the Southern man, before vomiting heavily into a separate bag. “Flight’s over.”
Trout growled once more, seemingly expressing: “I am quite aware of this fact but it does not do much in alleviating the stress I am under.” He could also have been saying, “What did you say? I’m a bear and don’t speak human.” Then again, he may have just been growling.
The Southern man leaned over and unbuckled Trout, who moved the clips and stood up, brushing his fur with an unexpected finesse. The man then unbuckled himself and stretched once on his feet. Quickly peeking out the plane window, he saw a crowd of hundreds, maybe even as much as a thousand, eagerly anticipating his arrival on the tarmac. “Justin! Justin! Justin!” The chanting was loud enough to be heard even on the plane.
“This is it,” the man called Justin said, combing back his mullet and heading for the exit. (Usually the air steward would outline the safety procedures, but the huge grizzly bear was a little too intimidating and they were hiding in one of the coffee trolleys.) Justin exhaled, shook his hands about to try and calm his nerves, smiled his most endearing smile and stepped out.
“OhmyGodJustinIloveyou!” screamed someone in the crowd and that started the rest of them up. Random phrases like, “I love your music” and “He looks different” were being shouted. When the crowd began paying attention to what the others were saying, their enthusiasm dwindled somewhat.
“You’re not Justin,” someone shouted and a small child burst into tears.
“Yeah I am,” Justin replied. “Justin Bubba.”
The crowd was silent. This was a huge mistake indeed. One by one, the members of the crowd realised they had gotten their hopes up and that their favourite singer was, in fact, not on this plane. Teenagers had to be escorted off the tarmac, some by police for wanting to start brawls over this outrage, the rest by ambulances as they fainted due to the shock.
Eventually, only one man stood in the crowd, clutching a CD. “Are you Justin Bubba? Formerly of ‘Bubba and the Jugettes’ until you decided to go solo?”
“Why yes, I certainly am,” Bubba said with pride.
“Your first solo album was ‘Gator Ate Ma Baby’?”
“It certainly was.”
The man looked up to where Bubba stood. “I hate you.” He then threw his copy of ‘Gator Ate Ma Baby’ to the ground and stomped on it for good measure until the disc was in as many pieces as Bubba’s heart. The man then flipped Bubba off and walked away after the rest of the crowd (he would have joined/started a brawl but no one was around).
Trout awkwardly patted Bubba’s back, nearly knocking him down the plane’s stairs. He grumbled something that may have been, “Every rose has its thorn, Justin. Things will be looking up from here on in.” He could also have been saying, “Out of my way, as I am a bear and need to amble in wide open spaces.” Then again, he may just have been growling.
When they finally stepped off the plane, a camera flashed brightly (like a proper one, not just a phone or anything) which caused Bubba to flinch and Trout to shield his eyes and probably swear in bear talk. After his eyes had readjusted, Bubba scoped out the scene and saw the owner of the camera, a news reporter, standing next to a red-faced jowly man in a suit.
“Justin Bubba?” the jowly man asked, although Bubba had a fair idea this man already knew the answer. Bubba nodded in the affirmative and the jowly man straightened the lapels of his suit. “Mister Bubba, I am the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. You are a gentleman by the name of Justin Quentin Bubba, uh, thirty-six years old, and you have decided to bring into our nation one bear without actually getting proper certification and the public permits required. Basically it looks like you snuck him in. We found out you snuck him in because we saw you taking him to a grizzly groomer.”
Bubba and Trout looked at each other and shrugged but the Minister kept going. “Now, Mister Bubba, you are going to have to take your bear back to Alabama, or we’re going to have to euthanize him. You’ve now got about fifty hours left to remove the bear. You can put him on the same charter jet you flew out on and fly him back out of our nation.”
While Bubba thought this was slightly extreme, he was about to agree with the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources when the very plane he had arrived on closed the door and flew away. “There is a process if you want to bring animals in. You get the permits, he goes into quarantine and then you can have him. But if we start letting pop stars, even though they’ve won the award for the sexiest mullet twice, to come into our nation, then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody? So it’s time that Trout buggered off back to the United States … and after that, I don’t expect to be invited to the opening concert of your tour.”
From out of nowhere, the Uptown Police Department showed up and an unnecessary amount of officers grabbed Trout, putting him in a headlock, a half Nelson, a full Nelson, a two-third Stephanie, a three-quarter Jill, and then they kicked his knee for no good reason. Bubba screamed for Trout and then at the Minister to show mercy but the Minister just stood there, as red-faced and as jowly as ever.
“What the hell is this?” one of the Uptown officers asked, reaching into one of Trout’s pockets and pulling out a clear bag of Maple leaf clippings.
Trout roared loudly, as if he was saying, “Gentlemen. This … is … democracy … manifest.” He could also have been saying, “It’s for my glaucoma!” Then again, he may have just been growling.
“What are ya doin’ with Trout?” Bubba screamed.
“He is being arrested for possession of illicit substances,” declared one Sergeant Bolbusta. “Anything he says can and will be used in a court of law, and —”
“How’n the hell am I meant to get him outta the country?”
The Minister for Agriculture stared at Bubba impassively with his hands held behind his back. “That, Mister Bubba, is something you should have thought of before bringing an uncertified animal into this fine country. Good day.”
Prevented from chasing after the police by a wall of officers, Bubba sank to his knees, powerless to help his friend Trout. After Trout had been stowed in the back of a paddy wagon and the police high-tailed their hostage out of the airport, then the police departed. Bubba sat on the tarmac, defeated, in as many pieces as the amount of cop’s teeth he would eventually shatter.