#Conundrum : Diary of a BAD Man; 1000 words on how comics changed

Diary of a BAD Man
I’m Conundrum.
No not the wet uncommunicative super zero you’ve been paging through up to now. All those panels, little windows into a different universe. More than one universe in fact, if you’ve been paying close attention.
I’m Conundrum.
Or at least, I was Conundrum from 1 July 1947 to 26 November 1963.
I could have stuck around until the early seventies- that’s the rough lifespan of a superhero in our world. But after the Bay of Pigs thing in Dallas… Well that will get told some day. I reported to his brother Bobby and asked his advice, and that was that.
But that isn’t the point. The point is, what happens to people like me when we wrap it up?
All over the planet, there are vile vortices. Each vortex is a big whirlpool that folds over different elements of the Superspectrum that would never normally come so close. And you get ghosts, heroes, demons, gods, strange inventions. They make no sense, they succeed other earlier editions and eventually elide into newer ones. But they’re as real as anything else whilst they’re around.
Then there’s the HAs – Hysteretic Acausalities. Pocket dimensions that have a clock that runs differently. A little patch of London is one- Sherlock Holmes’ very own corner of London where people still dress like it’s 1890 mixed with 1940 and the streets are mostly cobbled, the fog still rolls in.
Likewise San Francisco of all places. And of course New Mexico. There’s lots of HAs around about the place.
Anyway forget that crap for now. I’m mad, so the Doctors say, which means I can cross the Fox Spirit Barrier much easier than normal people. For all the good that does you.
But I want you to know stuff and I want you to pay attention. You’re part of this too now. All of us are. The Superspectrum can feel you looking at any part of it. It’s an Abreactive Monomythic Gestalt, according to Scarlet Sword. Big whoop. What you need to know is- you look at it, it knows you’re looking at it and it looks back.
I started my gig in 1947. It was a big year. A HUGE year. Spooks had been stealing secrets from us stage magicians for going on 500 years by then but 1947 was the first year of their era. When they went live with their own big public illusions. I wasn’t any part of that. I was a kid, who’d sent away from a comic for the Conundrum Complete Conjuring Kit. I got the very last one, and a letter from the Golden Age guy, the first modern Conundrum, telling me how’s he was packing it all in so he’d loaded up my kit with more stuff and he wished me well.
No one had even remembered him by 1947. I mean the comics had changed, the war had wiped out all the 1930s stuff pretty good. And he’d never been popular really, couple of serials, a tour. His assistant the Lovely Camilla had become a USO star and gone round the Far East, caught some sort of terrible disease and dropped out of view- maybe died, who knows.
I was a kid, just too young to fight. The age of the vaudeville magicians was over. And the intelligence boys, they ran magic a whole different way. But to a kid like I was, none of that was real. What was real was a hero had sent me his mask, cape, book of tricks, card with Magician’s Oath on it, the works.
To start with, it was actually easy. Robbers, rioters, small time spies, none of them had the good on me in my padded costume and belt full of smoke bombs, flypaper flowers, kerchiefs and knockout juice.
G Men tracked me down and talked to me, told me that as long as I chased communists and supported Mr. Hoover in public I was free to carry on. Not many people got treated like that. But they figured it was good to have an apparently immortal hero on the premises.

Course, some heroes actually do outlive normal people, on account of them living or having their HQ in a HA- the different passage of time means they age way slower than normals. Not me though. At least, not then.
But why am I here, trussed up? Why am in this asylum?
Because it’s a new guy’s turn now. I am supernumerary, if you like the five dollar words.
I didn’t go in voluntarily. It was an Axis Shift. That’s where a previous incarnation of the same guy, like me and the new Conundrum, clash or battle. The new guy will inevitably win, and the last bit of magic the old guy has will pass to the new guy. I knew it going in. The hell of it is, I didn’t even get to go up against the guy you’ve been reading about. I was outed for one last terrible deconstructive “adventure”. Deconstruction is the worst of the worst when it comes to an Axis Shift. You can literally feel yourself getting turned inside out, thinking all these sick things you’d have never thought of on your own, weeping and swearing and all like some drunk Irishman and carrying on.

And then, darkness.
After the darkness, I was here. In an asylum they call the Forgettery.
The Doctors watch me all of the time. Any last little bit of meaning I have, they wait to get off of you if they can. Until you’re just blank, demolished, deconstructed completely. The final act of Psychic Driving by the staff of the Forgettery. I don’t know what happens after that. The few inmates here who can still talk to me think it all goes round again, we end up lobotimised and sent back to Central Casting. But then they still think the Central Intelligence – God if you like – they still think It’s sane.
I don’t.


Conumdrum (c) and R TM Jonathan Nolan 2014 and following all rights reserved worldwide.

This script (c) Jonathan Nolan 2014.

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