New entry from the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” — Obi-Wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, looking down on the city of Mos Eisley
The other day at an event I made some comment — only semi-serious, I assure you — about enjoying beating up on villains and scum. Someone asked me in passing afterward, “How do you tell the difference between villains and scum?” Figuring the person was being a wiseguy, I cracked some joke and left it at that. But, I was thinking later that we — or, at least, I — really do categorize bad guys differently, even if only subconsciously. So, having now given the matter a bit more thought, here is a more serious(?) attempt at answering the question:
It’s usually easy to tell the difference. But, sometimes a villain will temporarily pretend to be mere scum in order to minimize the attention drawn to them. Also, scum sometimes think they are a bigger deal, bigger threat, than they really are. (Of course, I guess you could say it’s all relative.)
“Scum” are typically the low-life, common criminal or thug — pimps, street-level drug dealers, petty crooks, mob soldiers, thieves, rapists, etc. They generally have rather limited “vision”, limited resources, and limited intelligence, all of which works to the benefit of the cops, costumed crimefighters, and (sometimes) the scum’s potential victims. They may or may not wear a costume or have a special weapon or ability.
Your average “villain” is higher up the food-chain, if you will. These are often the guys (and gals) who run criminal organizations and, therefore, are one of — if not *the* — major target(s) in a big case. These typically include mob bosses, big-time gang leaders, violent cult leaders, serial killers, assassins, shady CEOs, dirty politicians, drug cartel honchos, terrorists, slave-traders, mercenaries, arms dealers, etc. Some of them are the ones with illegal (and unethical) agendas, making the plans, pulling the strings, wielding influence, gaining money & power, etc. Others might be called “operatives” or even vendors & consultants for the first group. Still others are sick individuals with motivations all their own. But, they don’t typically have any unusual psychopathy or affinity for costumes or strange weapons.
“Supervillains”, on the other hand, kick it up a notch in their villainy. They have something special about them that makes them “super”. It usually involves some type of superhuman abilities, armor, weaponry, etc., though there are exceptions. Like many “superheroes”/crimefighters, they typically wear a distinctive costume of some sort, though not necessarily tights-and-a-cape. These guys-n-gals come in a variety of flavors and threat-levels. There are a handful that are just goofy and not much of a threat, and some can be somewhat of a challenge to most law-enforcement but not for a trained crimefighter or team with superpowers or techy gadgets. The more powerful and/or crazy ones can be very dangerous, especially if they are known to have little regard for human life. I say “crazy”, and some of them are certifiably insane. (Of course, some of the regular villains are, too, I suppose.) This brings me to what I call “mega-threats”. These are supervillains — arguably suffering from megalomania or some other extreme psychopathy — who try to take over or destroy entire cities, nations, the planet, or even all of reality. Sometimes, they come waaaaaaaay too close to achieving their goals, too. And that scares the crap out of me!
Something tells me I’ve put way too much thought into this…. Anyway, it was kind of fun to do, and I thought you might like it. However, I reserve the right to revise it at any time. 😉
“Training the Next Generation”
Have you heard of the Independent Law-Enforcement Administration Division (ILEAD)? (The acronym is pronounced ill-ee-ad, like Homer’s epic poem (“The Iliad”), and not eye-leed.) It is pretty low-key, but sometimes it gets mentioned in articles, papers, and reports about federal law enforcement in the U.S., especially where the caped-and-masked set are involved. ILEAD is sort of an odd duck. It began as a temporary, joint task force between the Dept. of Justice and the Dept. of Defense. As most government programs do, though, it grew much bigger and more expensive than planned and its charter is (almost) automatically renewed by Congress every three years.
ILEAD’s primary function is to liaise with superhuman/costumed/etc. heroes and vigilantes and the occasional paramilitary group — call ’em all “heroes” for short –, trying to establish and maintain friendly (or, at least, cooperative) relationships with local, state, and federal authorities. When said heroes have defeated a villain that they are unable to personally deliver to the authorities, they can call ILEAD to arrange pickup. When a hero comes across information of impending criminal activity that is too much for them and they think it best to hand it off or get assistance from the proper authorities (e.g., FBI, CIA, military), they call the ILEAD hotline. If a hero gets into trouble with local LEOs, sometimes a call to ILEAD can help get them out of it or at least ensure better treatment. On the other hand, if a hero gets out of line, ILEAD may assist in his/her arrest and then take custody. Finally, not long ago ILEAD took responsibility for arranging new identities for retired superheroes (and, sometimes, villains), particularly if their real name is publicly known (at least to villains) — what you might call WITSEC for “supers”.
I have worked with ILEAD and even got to be friends with one of the agents. His kid is a big fan of mine and gets this newsletter (Hi, Jason M.!), which the agent confessed that he reads, too. (As you all probably know, I have fans of *all* ages!) As it turns out, he really liked what I had to say a few months ago about aspiring superheroes needing to make sure they train not only their bodies but their minds, learning about many different topics that will help in their missions. He brought it up with his superiors, and — long story short — ILEAD now wants to be involved in helping to make sure young heroes get that training. And they want me to help create the program from the ground up!
Crazy, right? I’m no dummy, but I’m no professor, either. Physics, biology and anatomy, mechanical and electrical engineering, world history, etc. I can’t exactly teach any of this stuff. But, they want me to lead a team of heroes and educators to design a curriculum covering several topics. The courses won’t be full-length college courses, and they won’t be transferable for credit. (Though, we encourage students to take relevant college courses on their own, too.) They will cover certain basics and, when applicable, give particular attention to situations likely to be encountered in crimefighting and similar adventures. There will be pre-recorded lectures online, with instructors interacting online. Only registered heroes and heroes-in-training will be allowed to sign up. (Sorry, guys!) The end goal, of course, is to save lives — heroes, civilians, even villains.
Pretty cool, huh? It’s a great project, and I look forward to working with ILEAD and the team of experts that I (hope to) recruit. If all goes well, who knows what other opportunities this might lead to….
Thus endeth another newsletter….
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.