From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 14

File #: 2018Q2
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“What Super Privilege?”

I heard one of the most ridiculous things the other day. You’ve heard of “white privilege”, right? Somebody wrote an opinion piece in a major metropolitan newspaper recently claiming that superheroes have something similar, which he dubbed “super privilege”. (Of course, rather than the privilege of a light-skinned majority, this would be the privilege of a (sometimes) super-powered minority.) Apparently, those of us with superpowers or other such talents that we put to use as costumed adventurers are guilty of taking unfair advantage of this “privilege” to get fame and fortune and who-knows-what. What a load of baloney!

Look, some people who get powers are lucky, no doubt. People like myself have been able to use them to make a decent living. Others don’t get any sort of monetary compensation. Yes, we often achieve a measure of celebrity from it, too. Sometimes, it also results in special treatment at certain establishments who appreciate the attention our presence brings their business (e.g., a restaurant, nightclub, boutique store, sports arena), so we occasionally get a free meal or access to an event, for example. A few of us have been paid to promote products or businesses, and there have been a few who had opportunities to parlay their fame and/or fortune into a business of their own — anything from movie stardom to entrepreneurial ventures (see below). (Heck, I’m doing that now.) But, all of this is no different than what celebrities of all colors and creeds do in the sports and entertainment industries. (Believe me, I know firsthand.) And, as soon as you’re no longer A-list, the offers and opportunities get fewer and farther between.

However, there are those who fear, hate, or distrust us “supers” and call us a menace. (Very similar to what Spider-Man, the X-Men, and other characters experience in the comics.) So, we sometimes get treated quite poorly. I should also mention that not everyone who gets superpowers has it easy. The general public doesn’t usually hear about them, but some people’s powers end up killing them. It may take hours, days, months, or years, and sometimes it is very painful. Those of us who survive the changes usually still have problems to deal with, too. This could be anything from loss of limbs or senses, physical deformity, hypersensitivity to light (or something else), emission of radioactivity, development of cancer, or any number of other conditions that prevent one from having a “normal” life. As for me, my skin became thick and leathery, with a diminished sense of touch. Plus, there are those massive migraines that I wrote about several issues ago. In comparison to others I’ve seen and known, though, I count myself very fortunate.

Super privilege? Hah!

The cold winds of fortune don’t care if you have powers or not (or what sacrifices you might have to make), and neither do the fickle media. The thing to remember is to make wise decisions and take advantage of whatever opportunities you have, regardless of where you come from or what your abilities are.

“Super Barbecue”

Last month, Bravado and I organized an all-day barbecue for superheroes around the world and their significant others. Well, it took more than a month to put the whole thing together, but it was held last month. We rented out a 10-square-mile section of a U.S. national park with a river on one side, flew in a band, had all sorts of games and (literally) tons of food. Heck, Leviathan ate at least a couple tons just on his own! People came and went throughout the day, as some had to deal with emergency calls and previous engagements. (We had a couple people with teleporting abilities lending a hand with “transportation”.) And, naturally, a few couldn’t make it. (For example, half of Vanguard Prime was somewhere in Siberia dealing with a new threat. Olympia had to leave a bit early to give them a hand.) But, I’d guess we had close to 50 heroes show up, plus assorted spouses, children, boy/girlfriends, and we even let a handful of agents/managers join in. There was no baseball diamond, of course, but we improvised a game that spanned half our rented area. We limited use of superpowers to select ones — e.g., strength, flight, elasticity, enhanced vision, telekinesis, etc. But, superspeed had to be kept subsonic, and use of any powers that could damage the park (e.g., fire or other energy beams) were forbidden. (We had a half-dozen park rangers on hand all day to keep us in line.) BrightFire set up an energy-net to keep everything within the agreed-upon 5 square miles (and a thousand feet up), which worked surprisingly well. I’m happy to say, a good time was had by all.

“At the Superhero Retirement Home…”

An added benefit of the barbecue was seeing old friends and associates, including four who are fully retired from crimefighting. Not many of you will remember The Blue Mask, but he was a boxer back in the ’50s who became a part-time, street-level hero in New Jersey. (StormFire introduced us about 10 years ago.) He had to retire after a decade in the biz following a serious injury, but he mentored a couple heroes of the next generation, and we all hold him in high regard for what he was able to do back then — without any powers, yet! He owns a bar and a gym back in Jersey, but I haven’t been able to pop in much since I semi-retired out here. So, it was great to see him. He’s pushing 90 and is wheelchair-bound, but he’s mentally sharp as a tack. Reminds me of a cross between my grand-pops and ‘Mickey’ from the Rocky movies.

I got to hang out with my old buddy, Fazerfist, too. I enjoyed working with him back in our days in the Alliance. I always told him he was too “pretty” to be in that line of work. Then, one day, he lost his powers, and suddenly he didn’t have a choice but to find a new profession. He was pretty bummed out for a few weeks, but after a little counseling and talking with a couple pals (like me), he found his calling. He changed his name and appearance and started taking acting lessons. Now, the world knows him as the movie superstar ‘Gideon Chamberlain’! I kid you not. (I’m not betraying any secrets, either. It’s in his new book being released next week.) That’s right. I am personal friends with last year’s “World’s Sexiest Man Alive!” 🙂

Of course, you have all probably heard of TechKnight and Cyber-Witch, right? If not, TechKnight (aka Randall McCrae) was the armored hero that was popular back in the late-’80s and ’90s. When he retired from superheroing, he was replaced in that superteam (which name escapes me at the moment) by Major Tech. That guy was killed a couple years afterward and the cyborg Cyber-Witch (aka Amanda Johnson-Ruiz) took his place. Meanwhile, McCrae had used his creative engineering genius to build a successful high-tech firm, McCrae Engineering LLC, and some in the crimefighting community were/are his clients. Cyber-Witch consulted on a project a several years ago, and Randall effectively swept her off her feet. (Not easy, since she’s a lot heavier than she looks!) Long story short, they’ve been married for 7 or 8 years and became friends of mine through mutual associates. Great couple!

Time to sign off for this quarter. Stay strong, everbuddy!

‘Til next time…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.


From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 13

File #: 2018Q1
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“Keepin’ Busy”

Hmmm, what have I been up to over the past few months that you might be interested in?

Well, I’ve been involved in a few rescue operations lately. Y’know those forest fires that were raging for several days in the Northwest a couple months ago? Well, I have a friend with connections in the firefighter community, and when they were looking for volunteers from around the country to go join the effort, my friend thought I might be able to contact some superheroes that could lend a hand. Unfortunately, none of my contacts with weather- or fire-based powers were available. (One was off-world, one went missing a couple weeks earlier (and still is), one was injured and in the hospital, and the other two were occupied on other missions around the world.) But, I grabbed my buddy Bravado (who doesn’t fly but he’s almost as strong as I am) and we flew up to help. I also called my Canadian friends WinterHawk and SummerHawk, and they met us there. Part of the time I worked with Bravado digging and clearing firebreaks and doing other dangerous work where our strength and fire-resistance were advantageous. The rest of the time I joined the Hawks in the air, doing aerial searches for stranded people, etc. I also dumped a few vats of water on some spots. We couldn’t stop the fires, but we were able to save people and property before the rain finally came and put them out.

Last month, I aided in the search-and-rescue efforts after terrorists blew up that office building in Tennessee. I’m sure you heard all about it on TV or other newsmedia. Some anarchist nutjobs decided to “make a statement”, and 73 innocent people lost their lives for it. I’m just glad we were able to find the other 16 in (and under) the rubble and dig them out. (Btw, that baby the cameras caught me flying with out of the crater and over to the EMTs? She and her mother both survived with minimal medical issues. (I don’t have permission to mention names or specify their injuries.) A couple weeks after that, I heard about a pair of 5-year-old twins who had gone missing, and I volunteered to aid in the hunt for them. Turns out they’d been kidnapped by some psychopath who was preparing them to be sacrificed to Molech (or maybe it was another one of those ancient pagan gods). Anyway, the FBI Behavioral Science team worked up a profile, then the local LEOs got a hot tip, and — long story short — I joined the FBI team in an assault on the freak’s lair. It was in an old wine cellar, and I got to bust the door down and shrug off some bullets, before the rest of the team took him down. We saved the kids, too, though they’re going to need some counseling.

Beyond that, I’ve been doing my usual mix of reading, writing, working out, and helping to train young superheroes. Yep, that’s right! The ILEAD Superhero Virtual Training Program is already underway, and we have our inaugural batch of (seven) students from across the U.S. taking courses in basic forensic sciences, physics, and human physiology, to be followed by military strategy, electronics, and macroeconomics. I’m the program’s co-administrator and serve as a sort of “guidance counselor” for the students. So far, so good!

“What’s up, Doc?”

Speaking of counseling, I may need some myself. Yes, I have a therapist, though I don’t see him much anymore. He is one of a handful who specialize in helping superheroes, though they help with more mundane stuff as well. (I tried to get Major Bad@$$ to see my doctor for anger management, but he wouldn’t go.) Lots of people go to therapy for a variety of reasons, not just “serious” mental issues. Sometimes, you just need someone who can help you think through stuff, process issues, give you constructive advice, etc., without being judgemental. (And, of course, the professionals are required to keep everything confidential.) I know for a fact that several superheroes go to counseling for regular and/or superhero-type issues. Believe me, some of the evil and suffering we see can be pretty traumatic (just like for those in the military, law enforcement, medicine, etc.), and sometimes it helps to have a therapist to confide in and keep you “sane”. That guy I mentioned above who was going to kill those kids in some ritual sacrifice? He had a lot of nasty stuff in his hidey-hole, and the whole incident was quite disturbing. Maybe I’ll give the doc a Skype-call….

“Q & A”

Ready for some Q&A? Okey-doke…

Q: Have you ever been really scared or freaked out when fighting someone? (Greg T. from Washington, DC):

A: Not often but, yeah. I mentioned the injuries I got while fighting the Gargantosaur. I mean, that thing is literally Godzilla-size, and I was getting pretty banged up before the other heroes arrived. I was afraid it might kill or seriously injure me before it was over, but I lucked out. Phobius and Hysteria once used their weird drugs to make a couple colleagues and I freak out, have hallucinations, etc. When I confronted some Satanic cult a few years back, their leader was one evil, creepy dude and his black magic was so oppressive that I could actually feel a demonic presence. (Don’t know how else to describe it.) Scared the crap outta me! There have also been a couple times when I was racing to beat the clock before a bomb blew up or some poison gas was released, and I was <real> scared I wouldn’t make it in time and people would die… but I somehow stopped them with seconds to spare both times.

Most of the time, though, I have enough confidence in my own knowledge and abilities, and those of my hero colleagues, that I don’t really fear much of anything. (Sorry if that sounds cocky.)

Q: How do you feel about animals? (Thea M. from Sandusky, MI):

A: Love ’em! I grew up with dogs and cats in the house. (Well, one of each at any one time.) I had cousins that lived on a working farm, which I visited some summers, with horses, cows, pigs, and goats. I had a golden lab named “Goober” back when I wrestled, but he got sick and had to be put to sleep shortly before I quit that biz. I like reptiles, too, and used to visit the reptile exhibits at the zoo. As a full-time superhero, I couldn’t be sure I’d be able to take care of a dog, especially since they are such social animals, and we have to be ready to leave for hours or even days at a time at short notice. (The staff at A.S.H.A.’s Atlantia Compound adopted a couple stray cats, though.) Even now, I hesitate to get another dog. But,… I have a very independent cat (“Samantha”) and an iguana (“Chumlee”) that are very low maintenance and keep me company.

Q: Do you ever go off-roading? (Jason K. from Oklahoma City, OK):

A: When I was still wrestling, I used to go off-roading with friends some weekends. I had a Ford Bronco that I customized a bit, and I’d take that baby over sand dunes and creek beds and all over tarnation, as they say. Loads of fun! Then various things took up more of my “off” time, and I didn’t get out to do that much anymore. When I was superheroing full time, I only managed to go off-roading with friends a few times, but it made me realize how much I missed it. (My Bronco was long gone, but my buddies had Jeeps, Land Rovers, and a Ford F-150.) Nowadays, I have a customized Humvee that I take out once in awhile, but I’d also like to try dune buggies and ATVs some time. Those things look like a lot of fun, too!

Q: What is your favorite kind of ice cream? (A.J. from Oshkosh, WI):

A: Just about anything with chocolate, peanut butter, and/or mint, as long as there are no nuts, raisins, etc. So, right now I’m on a Chocolate Moose Tracks kick; before that was Peanut Butter Cup/Swirl. Next I’ll probably start adding some Mint Chocolate Chip into the rotation. Yumm!

Great questions, everyone!

Stay strong, y’all! (Or, should that be “all y’all”?)

Anyone reading these Mr. Zeus posts? If so, is there something you’d like to know or want me to (have him) write about? Lemmeknow below….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 12

File #: 2017Q4
Subject: new issue of quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’
Purpose: readers’ enjoyment/entertainment and (occasionally) education
Author: Mr. Zeus (aka <name unknown>; formerly known as Jacob Szymanski, aka “Hacksaw Jack”)

“Big Guy Blues”

First order of business is a shout-out to the guys-n-girls of Sensei Custom-Tech and Electronics Innovations. As you might imagine, guys my size and larger sometimes have trouble using or operating devices meant for more average-size people. I might have mentioned before that I had some furniture and a few other things custom-made for me. (Also, my personalized gym & equipment, but that was more due to the particular needs of working out with tons of resistance rather than a few hundred pounds.) I have trouble fitting into most vehicles, which is why I love big trucks. Electronics — phones, computers, coffeemakers, essentially anything with a manual interface — can also be a little trying at times, ‘cuz my fingers are so big. It’s hard hitting those small buttons! Anyway, my buddy Bravado turned me on to Sensei, and they were able to customize a computer keyboard for me that is not only ergonomically-designed, but the keys are all 33% bigger and the materials are extra-strong, too. So, they can take a “beating”, and I don’t fat-finger nearly as much as I used to! 🙂 They also made me a bigger mouse of the same material. Very cool! These are actually prototypes that Sensei is developing for a line of products for people of various special needs — whether being extra-large and/or superstrong like Bravado and me, or a “little person” who needs smaller-than-average stuff, or someone with other physical challenges. I’m sure I’ll be using Sensei again, and if you have or know anyone who has special needs, I’ll bet Sensei can help you/them out, too.

“Where’s The New Book?!”

Book Update: You may remember that I told you last year about my new book deal for the fiction market. The first project is co-writing a novel with Phil Prendergast; well, he’s doing most of the actual writing this time around, but it’s based on my concept and plot idea. It is a murder mystery involving… well, here’s the summary pitch I gave to Phil, which was also enough to interest the publisher:

“Sherlock the Autistic, Albino Detective: Twenty-year-old Nathan Sherwood is a brilliant savant with an eidetic memory and intuitive mind for higher math & physics. He is also an albino and a high-functioning autist with a mild case of OCD. Having a fascination with detective mysteries, Nathan gives himself the professional pseudonym “Sherlock” (which is Old English for “white-haired”, after all) and hires himself out as a private investigator. After a shaky start, Sherlock’s successes in a couple of high-profile cases gain him a little fame and a growing reputation as a top-notch investigator, despite his social awkwardness and, er, eccentricities. Nathan/Sherlock is assisted both personally and professionally by his caretaker/aide, Emily Baker, a former high-school teacher and EMT whom he insists on calling “Watson”. His other near-constant companion is a very smart, well-trained, pure black ferret named “Nyxie”. (Inspired by “Monk”. Could also be thought of as a cross between Rain Man and a modern-day Young Sherlock Holmes.) Serious subject matter but with doses of humor.”

Phil had some health issues earlier this year that delayed work on the final draft, but he just sent it off to the publisher a couple weeks ago. That’s why the book hasn’t come out, yet, as I had hinted at in an interview or two. (Would’ve been a nice stocking stuffer this Christmas. Alas!) As it stands now, ‘Sherlock’ Sherwood and the Phantom Killer will likely debut in Summer 2018. I’m excited! Meanwhile, I’m organizing my notes for the sequel to my autobiographical The Rise of Mr. Zeus.

“Q & A”

The Q&A section went so well last time that I decided to do a few more this time, too. Maybe I’ll make it a (semi-)regular feature?

Q: Who is your favorite superhero to work with? (Charlotte T. from Shrewsbury, PA):

A: Olympia from Vanguard Prime, of course! 😉 Seriously, even aside from the fact that we’re now dating, I’ve always liked working with her, since I admire her both personally & professionally, and we seem to “mesh” well in our battle tactics and general outlook. Doc Matrix is pretty cool, too, once you realize that he doesn’t intend to sound arrogant or act standoffish. His social awkwardness is the result of being a supergenius and on the Autism Spectrum. And, of course, I’ve worked a number of cases and fought in battles alongside Bravado, and we just seem to always have fun together beatin’ on and roundin’ up supervillains and their minions.

Q: Do you look up to any other superheroes, and did you have a mentor when you first started out? (Ryan C. from Cherry Hill, NJ):

A: While I respect many in the superhero community, the top two that come to mind are both retired (or deceased) now. First is American Ultra. He was (and still is) such an icon of American ideals and patriotism — sort of an amalgam of Superman and Captain America, for you comics fans. I never got to meet him before he retired a few years ago (supposedly to an island retreat somewhere), but from everything I’ve read, he is/was simply one of the most honorable and selfless men to put on a uniform, military or otherwise. He has also been lauded by military experts as having one of history’s most brilliant minds for both tactics and strategy. After serving the United States and the world in general for nearly 60 years, A.U. deserves our thanks a thousand times over. The other “older” hero I most look up to was indeed my quasi-mentor during my formative years as a superhero — StormFire. Apparently, he silently observed me during a few of my first outings as Mr. Zeus, assessing my skills and demeanor, until he finally approached me and gave me a few words of sage advice. He had, of course, been “in the biz” for nearly 20 years and was well respected in the international superhero community, so I listened to whatever he had to say. (He had some good “war stories”, too!) We became friends and colleagues. In fact, he was the one to later sponsor me for membership in the Alliance of SuperHuman Adventurers. When he sacrificed himself during the Pakistan Incident of 2012, I lost a close friend, colleague, and teacher. Btw, I can neither confirm nor deny the popular rumor that StormFire was an extraterrestrial. However, I can tell you that his daughter, BrightFire, is just as powerful and just as stoic and “mysterious” as her father.

Q: Why did you change your alias when you started superhero-ing, and do you ever miss wrestling? (Manesh V. from San Francisco, CA):

A: My reasons for changing my nom de guerre were twofold, Manesh. First, “Hacksaw Jack” didn’t really seem like a good superhero name. Second, it was a big life-change for me, both personally and professionally, and I wanted to make a clean break. Changing my name — along with my look, of course — was as much a marketing thing as it was to aid my own mental transition. As for missing wrestling, some parts of it I miss (e.g., good friends, good memories) and other parts I don’t (e.g., some guys (and gals) were real jerks, plus there is a “dirty” side of the business that really made me uncomfortable).

Q: What size shoes and shirt do you wear? (Kong-Lei D. from Tulsa, OK):

A: Well,… that’s an interesting question. Being a man of unusual size (as mentioned above), I often need to have my clothes custom made. My boots range from size 20DD to 24E, depending on the maker. My shirts are probablly XXXXL, or something like that, since my chest is over 60 inches (biggest it has ever been).

Stay strong, my friends!

Done already?! Whew! Another newsletter out the door for mass consumption….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 11

Here’s the latest issue of the quarterly ‘Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter’ for your (hopeful) enjoyment and entertainment. (For the first 10 installments, follow the ‘Mr. Zeus Posts’ link at the top of the page.)

“Close Call!”

I have mentioned in the past that I work out in my basement, both for exercise and as a stress-reliever. I have also mentioned that I sometimes will change things up by flying — very fast — to the middle of nowhere and letting loose — punching, pounding, digging, stomping on very large rocks, the ground, etc. I’ve even been known to carve large objects into a hillside or rock quarry. On one occasion, though, I got sidetracked and never made it out to the “badlands” for my “work out”. And I’m very glad I didn’t, ‘cuz I met my “neighbor” (though he lives a couple hundred miles away) for the first time, and he has been a good friend ever since.

I’ll call him “Joe” in order to maintain his privacy. Joe is a rancher with many acres of property out in Texas. (Montana, too, but he rents that out.) On the evening we met, he and his ranch hands were rounding up some cattle, and I hovered above (and out of sight) to watch. A thunderstorm was rolling in, and they were trying to get the animals — at least 1000 of them — back to the barns before it hit. I kept an eye on the stormclouds and realized that they were moving pretty fast. I also noticed that the cattle were being led across an old, dry creek bed at the foot of some hills with some leftover snow at their tops. I’m no outdoorsman, but something I’d read or seen made me think that the cattle were in danger of being caught in a flashflood, if they didn’t get well away from that creek bed.

I landed around the bend so as not to spook the animals or the men, then I walked up to the nearest hand and asked him who was in charge. Joe rode over and I quickly explained who I was and what I saw. I suggested that I probably had enough time to fly all the cattle — two at a time — at superspeed back to the barns. But, after two trips, I could see that the poor critters were really freaked out, and Joe agreed that we shouldn’t traumatize them if we could help it. The storm was thundering and almost on us, and I suddenly got an idea… Long story short, I managed to dig a big trench half-way around the two nearest hills, buying Joe and his men enough time to get the rest of the herd across the creek bed and around to the other side of another (large) hill before my makeshift moat overflowed and the water rushed down the creek bed. It was raining pretty hard by then, but the barns were only a half mile away, and the lightning & thunder gave everyone — including the cattle — extra incentive to move faster.

Afterward, Joe invited me inside to dry off by his fireplace. We shared a couple of beers and really hit it off. In fact, I drop by his place whenever I can, now. Weather permitting, we typically sit on his porch and admire the view, while talking about whatever’s on our minds. Sometimes it’s business (his or mine), sometimes it’s personal. We talk about sports, politics, religion & philosophy, law enforcement, current events,… whatever. Joe is about 20 years older, so he treats me sort of like a son, which is fine by me. (His son died of cancer as a child, but he has a daughter in grad school.) I love listening to his stories about ranching and serving in the Army and just life in general. He’s a common-sense kind of guy, and very sharp — streetwise, which is an odd term to apply to him, since he doesn’t care for the city. I’ve spent many evenings with Joe, just “jawin'” and listening to his wise words. (Btw, his wife Judy is an awesome cook and a smart, terrific lady, too.) When Joe’s 80-year-old father, Big Jim, joins us, that’s the best! Jim is a real trip, very funny, and also one of the wisest men I know.

“A Man of Many Words”

Someone asked me the other day about my reading tastes and habits. A bit of an odd question for someone like me, since most people assume I don’t have much brains — or intellectual curiosity — to go with the brawn. I’m no genius, but as most of my fans know, I do read on various topics. It’s a practice I started as a kid, slacked off on for a few years, then resumed when I became a superhero. In the past, I have recommended that superheroes get a foundation in various subjects to help with solving crimes, perfecting one’s abilities, dealing with tech, etc., and that involves reading.

I still do some reading along those lines, though I’m not at the moment. I’m pretty busy (see below), but I always try to set aside time to read during lunch (assuming I’m not eating with someone else) and for an hour or so before bed. I also long ago developed the habit of keeping a book with me — either hard copy or audiobook — when running errands or going to an appointment of some sort, when I might have a few minutes of waiting around. Why waste time twiddling my thumbs or flipping through magazines when I could be reading a good book, maybe even learning something? In addition, I usually listen to an audiobook or an educational lecture/podcast while working out in my gym.

What do I read? Well, on the non-fiction front I typically have at least a couple books in progress, sometimes three or four. Topics include American and world history (including biographies), politics & culture, theology, philosophy, popular science, and recently some on writing fiction. Right now, I’m reading a biography titled Churchill: A Study in Greatness by Geoffrey Best. It’s a tad dry in places, but any history buff will enjoy it. Churchill was a fascinating guy! I’m about half-way through a collection of essays by renowned economist Thomas Sowell, too. (Can’t remember the title at the moment.) It’s not as boring as it sounds. Sowell was a columnist for decades, and he wrote about all sorts of political and cultural issues. Very smart man! (His books on economics are actually pretty good, too, and geared more for the average reader.) I’m also just starting a book by Christian speaker/apologist Greg Koukl called The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. Rather bold and intriguing title, eh? Koukl has a very engaging style and conversational tone, as he explains the basics of the Christian worldview as a picture of reality. So far, I’m impressed.

As for fiction, I read a mix of crime, spy thriller, mystery, action/adventure, sci-fi and fantasy. Over the past couple years, I’ve been re-reading some classics from Isaac Asimov, Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and other science fiction legends, as well as getting into some newer stuff — at least, new to me. So, for example, I recently read Asimov’s The Naked Sun (second time) and Haldeman’s The Forever War (first time), and I started series by David Weber, Robert Sawyer, and Kevin J. Anderson. I am now reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time. (Yes, I occasionally read young-adult fiction.) I’m a bit late to the party with the whole Harry Potter craze, since I’m finally finishing the series 10 years after the last book came out. Gotta say, though, I find them highly entertaining! Meantime, I am listening to an audiobook edition of Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich. It’s my second book by Reich, and he’s a nice addition to my “collection” of favorite authors. However, my other new discovery, which I enjoy even more, is Gregg Hurwitz. The first book of his I read — well, listened to — was Orphan X, which was excellent. It spurred me on to try one of his older works: The Crime Writer. Very different plot and protagonist, but also very good. If you like the above genres, then you’ll probably like Hurwitz’s stuff, too.

“Q & A”

You might remember an earlier issue of the newsletter where I answered a few questions that people at cons and book signings had been asking me. Of course, people (like, you guys) ask me questions by mail, too. So, I figured I’d round out this issue by responding briefly to a few of those here for everyone’s benefit….

Q: What do you do in your “down time” to relax? (Peter S. from Chattanooga, TN)

A: To be honest, I don’t have much down time, lately. I’ve told you about some of the activities I’m involved with (e.g., part-time crimefighting, working on ILEAD’s Hero Training Program, writing, public appearances, etc.), and they keep me pretty darn busy. But, as I explained above, I do quite a bit of reading — both fiction and non-fiction. My gym workouts are “down time”, I suppose, but hardly relaxing. Occasionally, I find time to chill out with a movie or TV series. (Confession: I own every single Star Trek series and movie on DVD. Also, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica.) In fact, I have been known to host movie parties with friends at my place.

Q: Do you do any work for the environment? (Warren Z. from Portland, OR):

A: I assume you are talking about ecological stuff, protecting wildlife and things like that? Well, I have been involved in a number of clean-up operations following natural disasters — from hurricanes to oil spills. I am concerned about some ecological/environmental issues, but I’m not an activist, by any means. Also, my position is more conservationist than environmentalist. (See this brief explanation of the difference.)

Q: What injuries have you sustained while “adventuring”? (Kelly P. from Fort Hood, TX):

A: Several, but most mend within seconds, minutes, or hours (depending on severity), thanks to my enhanced healing ability. Also, my near-indestructibility makes is pretty darn difficult to damage me. So, for example, high-caliber bullets or explosives at close range might slightly bruise or scorch my skin, but not enough to slow me down, and that stuff heals really quickly. The more serious injuries were a few broken bones (e.g., 3 toes, left ulna, both femurs, 3 fingers, right thumb, 4 ribs) and some internal bleeding/damage from doing battle with the strongest and most powerful foes (e.g., CrimSun, Visigoth, Summerset, the Gargantosaur).

Stay strong!

Another issue hot off the presses!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 10

Guess what time it is, boys ‘n girls! Time for a new issue of your favorite super-zine, the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter. Let’s see what our semi-retired hero has been up to….

“Joy of a Child”

I did something fun the other day! Okay, okay, big deal, right? But, this was special.

You remember me mentioning last year that I was friends with an ILEAD agent and his son, Jason? Well, Jason’s 10th birthday was last week, and, super kid that he is, Jason decided he wanted to do something different this year. Instead of having a regular party and getting presents, he went to a pediatric hospital to play with and hand out presents to the kids who are patients there. (His Dad, “Agent Mike”, helped him raise money for the gifts by having a fundraiser in their neighborhood, supplemented by donations from Mike’s co-workers — a great group of guys ‘n gals!) Jason a bunch of friends dressed up as their favorite heroes — real or fiction — before showing up at the hospital. (Jason went as me, of course.) What none of the kids knew was that, when “Agent Mike” told me a couple days before what they were going to do, I decided to make a surprise visit — in full costume, of course.

I didn’t want to take away from Jason and his friends surprising the patients, so I gave them an hour to make their entrance, pass out presents, and get a couple games going. Mike and his wife caught it all on camera, which I watched later, and it was really sweet to see Jason & friends handing out toys and befriending the kids with cancer and other conditions, some quite serious. They really brought a lot of smiles! Then Mike called to give me the go-ahead, and I flew up to the big, bay windows, smiling and waving to the kids eating cake & ice cream in the 3rd-floor cafeteria. Seeing those kids’ faces light up even more when they saw me, I’m honestly not sure who was more thrilled, the kids or me. Then I went inside, where I talked to the kids, making sure to visit every one, signed autographs, and flew several around (slowly) either in my arms or riding on my back.

Seeing so many kids suffering with terrible diseases and injuries was heart-breaking. But, seeing and hearing how brave they were, listening to them talk animatedly about “regular” stuff, and being able to give them a few minutes of added joy, was also heart-warming. Sweet kids, too, and I felt really blessed by the whole experience. I’ll definitely be going back on a (semi-)regular basis.

“Big Relief”

I suppose the visit to the pediatric hospital might have been particularly meaningful for another reason, too. I haven’t said anything publicly until now, but I was recently hospitalized myself. A couple years ago, I told you all about my migraine headaches that I’ve been dealing with since getting my powers. I only have a truly bad episode two, maybe three, times a year, but they are whoppers! Neurologists couldn’t make any specific diagnosis, so I’ve just had to live with them, like 37 million other migraine-sufferers in the U.S. Of course, my extra-large body size and modified metabolism (which is at least partly to blame) mean that I have to take extra-large doses of painkillers. Other than that, I ride it out like anyone else. Until now…

You might also remember that my super-headaches started being accompanied by nausea — not unusual for other migraine-sufferers, but it was for me. Long story short, after brainstorming with Doc Matrix and a couple other big-brains, my regular neurologist (Dr. Beni Vaniswaran) came up with a new device to perform some new tests — ask him, I don’t understand it. In fact, I was visiting Dr. V’s office in the hospital, where he was going to explain their plans for the device, when I had my latest migraine attack. He was able to get me admitted, called in Doc Matrix, and the two of them worked 24 hours straight to get the prototype built. They put me through a battery of tests over the next few days — even after the migraine subsided — and figured out what was happening to me.

As it turns out, my unusual migraines are caused by sudden surges of some mutated hormone causing the blood capillaries in my brain to spasm. The nausea is a side-effect of my body’s immune system trying to neutralize the hormone, which was causing tiny cysts to form here and there in my brain. Fortunately, the cysts degraded naturally and were flushed out of my system. So,… the good news is that they now know what is going on in my head to cause these symptoms. The bad news is that they don’t think they can stop the hormone surges, because it has to do with my weird metabolism, which they don’t understand very well, yet. So, I’ll be going back for more tests, giving samples of bodily fluids, etc., every few weeks. On the other hand, the (second piece of) good news is that Dr. Vaniswaran and Doc Matrix have developed a nanite-based drug that greatly improves the effectiveness of my body’s delivery of the natural hormone-neutralizer. This should mean that the migraine episodes will be shorter, hopefully less severe, and the nauseous side-effect should be a thing of the past. Yeah!

“Spielberg Would Be Proud”

Here’s something you all might find interesting…. I met that mysterious new “hero”, Star Seraph. Not his real name, of course, but that’s what the media are calling him. (I even saw one news headline that read: “There’s A New Seraph In Town!”) For those of you who haven’t followed the sightings, his first known public appearance was when he stopped that nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine 6 months ago. Two months after that, he showed up in Italy to rescue hundreds of people during the earthquake. And, of course, last month he quite suddenly appeared in The Hague, Netherlands, where he made short work of the terrorists who were plotting to blow up the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. In each case, he just pops in, does his thing, and pops out without so much as a “Hello there. Happy to help. Bye, now!” And, since he teleports, no one has been able to track him. No one knows who he is, where he comes from, etc. We all appreciate his work so far, of course, but his deadly dispatching of the Hague terrorists has some a bit worried.

No one has gotten a clear, up close image of him on camera, either, partly due to his speed and partly due to the bright glow that always surrounds him. He did appear to be fairly humanoid in appearance, though. Since I have now met him, I can confirm that he does indeed look basically human, yet what some might call “exotic”. He is slightly shorter than I am (maybe a little over 6’6″), less bulky but still quite muscular, alabaster skin, angular face and almost non-existent ears. Not sure if he has any hair.

How did I meet him? He just showed up one evening, hovering over my backyard. For whatever reason, his glow was toned down, allowing me to see him, and I think he was wearing white, form-fitting “pants”, but no shirt or footwear. I cautiously walked up to within maybe 30 feet of him, tried talking to him, but he just watched me and listened. (Felt like I was being… assessed.) After about five minutes, he uttered one word, “Good”, before floating up and then teleporting away with a soft “Pop!” sound.

And that, my friends, was my “close encounter of the odd kind”. Probably won’t be the last….

Stay strong, amigos!


* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 9

Time for a new episode… er, I mean, issue of the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

Anyone else think Thurman looks like this guy?

“Here’s Hopin'”

What do you think of President-elect Thurman?

You may have noticed that I don’t talk about politics or my own political beliefs much in the press or in this newsletter. Ever since my wrestling days, my friends, mentors, and agents all advised me to avoid talking about politics and religion, ‘cuz people are often very passionate about those topics and comments tend to touch off discussions that can get heated very quickly. Some people will go from mega-fan to anti-fan in a heartbeat! Best just to keep my semi-informed mouth shut. (Of course, sports is the third topic you’re supposed to avoid, but since I was a wrestler, people sort of expect it and don’t mind comments on that.) Well, I’m about to violate that rule just a little bit.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of either of the big two political parties here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. Sure, my positions — those that I bother to think through, anyway — lean more one way than the other. But, I have no party affiliation and remain proudly Independent. Now, I’m not one of those who says there’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. Ideologically, at least, there are some quite obvious differences, which is why the true-believers on both sides knock heads so often. The problem is that too many politicians on both sides become more worried about prolonging their political careers than about doing much good in Washington. They make empty promises, go along to get along, and tax & spend without really solving the big problems. Same old, same old, every dang year. Aargh!

Thurman, though, seems to be enough of an outsider that he might be able to shake things up for the better. So, while I wasn’t a huge fan of his and couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s unconventional (pardon the pun and the understatement) and has some fresh ideas. I think he does have the best interests of this country at heart, and we should probably reserve judgment about his competence, etc., until he’s had some time to implement some policies and make a difference. God knows, there are enough opportunities for improvement in Washington and in the nation in general. I’m willing to put most of my doubts aside and see what happens. It’s not like we have much choice, anyway. The electorate has spoken, and President Thurman will be in the Oval Office very shortly.

Besides, he’s on record as being generally pro the superhuman community and supports ILEAD and the new educational program that I’m co-developing with them. So, that’s a good start! Maybe we’ll get more funding….

hpdseal“Hangin’ with the Local LEOs”

Speaking of law enforcement, here’s something you might find interesting. Several weeks ago, I was called in to consult on an unusual case with the Houston Police Department. Somebody was robbing wealthy citizens of jewelry and other items in their supposedly-secure home safes. After 3 months of such thefts occurring every couple of weeks, they had no helpful evidence and no suspects. Oh, they had trace evidence from most of the scenes, but it was weird and inconclusive. Plus, the perpetrator often managed to avoid or somehow neutralize electronic security measures (e.g., CCTV cameras, pressure-sensitive alarms, laser grids). In half the cases, the cops weren’t even sure how the guy(?) got in and/or out.

For example, in one instance the thief had apparently entered the house through a 3rd-story window; he tripped a motion-sensor alarm on his way out and was trapped in a storage closet. Except, when the cops got there, he had disappeared, leaving only — get this — a small pile of dead skin. (Eewww!) Another time, some cops chased him into a dark alley. They thought he was trapped, ‘cuz there was no way out but past them. Except, he vanished. The only thing the CSI guys found that was out of the ordinary was a strange, slimy substance of unknown origin along the edges of a drainage pipe.

The local LEOs realized they could use a little help but didn’t want to risk the Feds taking over the case. And, since I have a couple friends in the governor’s office, they called me. It took awhile, but eventually I remembered why the case seemed familiar. One of my last cases prior to retiring involved some guy who had recently acquired superhuman powers, but they kept changing every few days, and he had no control over those changes. He managed to figure out how to control each ability just long enough to commit some crime with it, then he’d wake up the next day with a different ability. My friends and I caught him by booby-trapping his three next most likely targets. When he showed up an one of them, he was shot with a dart containing some sort of “mutagenic neutralizer serum” that Doc Matrix cooked up. It stopped his mutations for roughly 72 hours, so we could capture him and ship him off to Stratford Supermax.

As it turned out, the same thing was happening to this guy in Houston, too. His name was Jeremy Craine, and he was a very talented cat burglar who recently relocated from Canada. Somewhere along the way, Craine had been tricked into getting injected with some mutagenic concoction that was rewriting certain parts of his DNA — those that researchers are finding connected with the emergence of superhuman abilities in many cases –, giving him a new ability every couple of weeks. The dead skin we found was a side-effect of using his teleportation power. The slime was something he secreted when he morphed into a slug-like form, so he could escape through the drainage pipe.

Anyway, since I had a hunch that our suspect was experiencing something similar to what that other dude did, I contacted Doc Matrix. Doc used the skin and slime samples to customize a neutralizer serum for Craine, which we injected him with when he fell for a trap we laid. Despite all the money and stuff he’d stolen, Craine was really freaking out about the uncontrollable mutations by then and was actually relieved when we caught him. Another crime spree stopped and another bad guy sent to prison. Doc is a consultant at the research lab at Stratford, and he agreed to make sure they have a regular supply of the serum. As long as Craine gets regular shots, his DNA should remain stable and (mostly) human.

menorahcross3d“Old-Fashioned Values”

A few days ago, I was interviewed for Action Magazine, and they asked if I was dating anyone. Fortunately, Olympia and I had discussed the fact that this would inevitably come up in the press, and we agreed to reveal our relationship to the general public when the time arose. (Of course, you guys-n-gals already knew.) So, I told the interviewer about our odd, long-distance romance. I mentioned that we went on three dates before I even kissed her, and the interviewer was really surprised. When I implied that we haven’t gotten any more intimate than that, and we even kept separate bungalows on our recent weekend getaway, the interviewer couldn’t believe it.

The fact is, Olympia and I are both what some might call “old-fashioned” when it comes to stuff like that. We believe in self-restraint, personal responsibility, and that sexual intimacy is *not* necessary for a healthy, pre-marital relationship. So, we’ve agreed to take things reeeaaal slow. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off of us, and we don’t have to be pre-occupied with wondering about that stuff on our oh-so-infrequent dates.

The reason we both feel this way is due to our somewhat religious upbringings. For my part, I was brought up nominally Christian, with both Catholic and Baptist relatives. I never fully accepted all of the theology, but the conservative, Judeo-Christian values stuck with me. As for Olympia, her immediate family and a few cousins are from the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed strains of Christianity. She spent a couple of her rebellious teen years embracing old Germanic paganism, then became agnostic, until returning — sort of — to her roots while in her 20s. Like me, she’s still trying to figure our exactly what her spiritual/metaphysical beliefs are. But, she has decided to adopt the conservative, Judeo-Christian values instilled in her during her youth.

So,… there ya go! By the way, I am told that my interview will appear in the March 2017 issue, print edition, so keep an eye out!

Look at that! I talked about politics and religion and no fights broke out! No one unsubscribed, either! (I hope….) Stay strong, dudes and dudettes!

Das Ende.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 8

The latest issue of the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

Hi, gang! (We need a name for my fans…. Zeusites? Zeusians? Thunderers? Help me out here….)

I think I’m gonna try a slightly different format this issue. Using a typical Question-n-Answer style, I’m going to address a few of the questions that people at cons and book signings have been asking me lately. See how many of them you already knew the answers to. Anyone who has heard me talk about all of these must be superfans! (Super-Zeusians?) OK, first up…

Q: What’s with the name of your newsletter? Do you think you’re brilliant or something?

The Birth of Minerva (by Rene Antoine Houasse)

The Birth of Minerva (by Rene Antoine Houasse)

A: Hah! Hardly! Growing up, I was a big fan of Greco-Roman mythology. I forget what grade I was first introduced to it, but I loved reading about gods and demigods and heroes and monsters and all that crazy stuff. Didn’t believe any of it, of course. But, that stuff is like comic books for the ancients. In fact, several heroes and villains I know or know of have been inspired by characters from those old tales. I’m one of them! You knew that, right? (A few even claim that they are those characters from the myths and legends!)

As Wikipedia will tell you, Zeus (aka Jupiter to the Romans) was “the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus.” That’s why I incorporated the thunder-n-lightning shtick into my superhero identity. Anyway, one of Zeus’ many children was Athena (aka Minerva), the goddess of wisdom, courage, law & justice, and a bunch of other stuff. But, Athena wasn’t born the normal way. After sleeping with Metis, goddess of crafty thought and wisdom, Zeus remembered a prophecy that Metis’ children would be more powerful than their father. Rather than just killing Metis, he swallowed her; but, it was too late, because she had already conceived. Zeus later got a terrible headache and one of the other gods tried to help by splitting Zeus’ skull with an axe. (Doesn’t sound like “helping” to me!) When he did, Athena jumped out, fully grown and armed, and shouting a war cry. Weird, I know. But, that was the inspiration for the title of this newsletter. Plus, it’s sort of a play on words, since I, Mr. Zeus, am putting my own thoughts down on “paper”.

Q: Where do you live? Also, do bad guys ever find you and try to fight, even though you’re retired?

A: Well, now, if I told you (and everyone reading this, which might include bad guys) where I lived, then that would be a problem, wouldn’t it? Other than mentioning the region of the U.S. where I live, I have been very careful not to give away too much. There are three reasons: 1) fans, 2) press, and 3) villains. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love all my fans, and I really appreciate their/your loving me in return. But, just like other celebrities, I sometimes get hounded by the press, and I like to have a retreat to get away from it all. I don’t have millions of dollars, so I can’t afford a big mansion with lots of security like some movie stars, singers, and athletes. But, I found a modest-sized place where I can have some privacy.

When I was wrestling as “Hacksaw Jack”, my real name — Jacob Szymanski — eventually became known to the public. (I think it was in a magazine write-up about up-n-coming wrestlers.) When I started superheroing as “Mr. Zeus”, I didn’t advertise that I used to be Hacksaw Jack, ‘cuz I wanted my new career to be a “fresh start”. I originally kept an apartment and credit card in the Szymanski name; but, once I moved into the Atlantia Compound, I had living quarters and an expense account. When I retired, I legally changed my name, and my attorney and I created a network of shell companies through which I own my home, car, etc., and get paid for conventions, signings, royalties, and those other jobs I’ve written about.

Before you ask, no, neither my new name nor my company names have any connection to my old name or Greco-Roman mythology or anything like that. That would have been cool, but then the wrong people — from stalkers to former enemies looking for vengeance — would probably figure it out too easily. I’d like to avoid any such surprises, thank you very much.

dangerous-diamond-shaped-signQ: What does your family think of your superheroing? Have they ever been in danger?

A: I don’t talk about my family much, but here’s the scoop. My father died a long time ago, when I was a little kid. My younger sister died of a rare disease when we were teenagers. (One day she seemed normal, the next she started exhibiting weird symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed and within a few months, she was gone.) I never met my stepbrother, since he was in the military and deployed overseas when my Mom married his Dad. He never visited us, and then he was declared M.I.A. shortly after I graduated high school.

My Mom and stepdad weren’t exactly thrilled with my wrestling career, what with all of the violence. So, you can imagine what they thought when I transitioned into superheroic adventuring. Of course, once I showed them my newfound abilities — especially the invulnerability and superstrength –, they were somewhat mollified. As the months and years passed, and they saw not only that I could handle myself but that I was making a difference, they grew to accept my chosen profession and not worry about me so much.

I can only think of two times when they were in danger that had anything to do with my superheroing exploits. Once, early in my career, I was walking with them at night in the city, when we were mugged. Well, almost. There were street punks — one with a gun, and the others had knives. I hesitated to do anything for fear that my parents might get hurt; but then one of the punks made a move toward my Mom. I grabbed him by the wrist and flung him into the guy with the gun. Then… well, let’s just say that it helps to have skin that is impervious to most knives and bullets, though the guy with the gun didn’t even get off a shot. They weren’t in any shape to mug anyone for a few days after that, either. (We called the cops to arrest them, of course.)

The second time happened a few years later, when my Mom was at a concert with some friends. Some wannabe terrorist decided to blow up that concert hall with over 4000 people in it. He had no idea my Mom was there, but I did. I heard the call on a police scanner and rushed over. I found his bombs and, with the help of the local LEOs, got all but one of them defused without any casualties. (The final bomb had a glitch, and I managed to toss it into the bay before it exploded.)

By the way, my Mom and stepdad have since retired and moved… somewhere I won’t mention, ‘cuz they prefer the safety of anonymity. (They use government-approved aliases, too.)

Q: What’s happening on the writing front? Any books coming out?

A: I got a book deal! “But, don’t you already have one?”, you ask. “You’ve already written two books.” True, but Capes, Masks, & Tights — Oh My! and The Rise of Mr. Zeus are non-fiction and largely autobiographical. The sequel to Rise is still in the planning stages, too. But, this new contract is for a fiction novel co-authored with Phil Prendergast. Remember how I mentioned meeting him back at last year’s Hype City Sci-Fi and Comic Convention, and we discussed working together? Well, this is that. (Did you know that, before his success with “Shadows of Eternity” graphic novels, Phil wrote a half dozen popular adventure novels under the pseudonym “Taryn Vail”? OK, you probably knew that, but I didn’t. Shame on me.)

story-by-robert-mckeeI resurrected a few story ideas I had several years ago but wasn’t able to follow up on — being an unknown quantity when it came to fiction writing, no publisher was interested — and showed them to Phil. One idea was a heroic epic that takes place in ancient times. (Not sure if it will be in a real place like ancient Greece or some imaginary land like Cimmeria.) Another was a futuristic war adventure. One was a murder mystery involving a rather unusual and somewhat eccentric character. The last one was a straight-up superhero story.

Phil liked them all but favored the murder mystery, so once I flesh out the plot some more, he’ll write a first draft, and we’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, he has agreed to be my writing coach, and now he has me reading Story by Robert McKee. (Highly recommended for all aspiring fiction writers, by the way. Peter David is another genre author who swears by it.) If the collaboration goes well and the book sells decently, there is an option for two more novels co-authored by the two of us. After that, I’m hoping for an opportunity to fly solo (no pun intended).

Q: What is your favorite color?

A: Purple, of course.

Q: What are your Top 3 favorite TV shows ever?

A: “24”, “Alias”, and the original “Star Trek”.

Q: What musical artist are you somewhat ashamed to admit that you listen to?

A: Err, Just… no, Celine Dion.

Alrighty, that’s enough of that! Stay strong, my friends!

End transmission…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 7

Trying something a little different this issue. I finally started messing around with’s online software for creating superhero/sci-fi/fantasy characters. There are a lot of options to choose from for various articles of clothing, facial features, weapons, etc. — some are great, some not so much. Of course, they can’t offer everything you can think of, so there are definite limitations. Limited number of poses, too. (Actually, 3 different male figures and 3 different female figures, but all in the same pose.) But, I can’t complain too much, since I have no artistic skill of my own. Eventually, I’ll try the 3.0 version, which is more advanced (and presumably has more options) but not as easy to use.

“Those Were the Days”

Mr Zeus - purple and yellow, beard and cape, lightningI found old promotional shots of me in a couple of my old “uniforms”, which I thought you might enjoy, so I scanned them in for this issue. The first one was, in fact, the one I wore when I first debuted publicly as a “costumed adventurer” (Is that the PC term?). So, naturally, it was inspired by my wrestling costume from back in the day. Of course, I didn’t look quite so “regal” when I was wrestling, and the beard was a bit bushier. But, I kept the longish hair, the cape (which I had to take off once I got in the ring but usually kept on when doing the hero thing), and the purple & yellow color scheme. I switched to pirate boots, which were still quite popular back then. They just seemed to fit the semi-classic look I was going for. And, of course, I added the jeweled belt.

Fun fact: The belt actually housed the small computer that controlled the circuitry in my costume, which absorbed & stored the electricity that I released in bursts from my gauntlets. *That* was the true source of my “lightning bolts”. Most villains — along with the public at large — assumed the bolts were part of my superpowers and never thought to intentionally damage or remove the belt or gauntlets.

The second superhero costume is from a few years later. I had decided to ditch the cape, cut the long locks, and go for something a little more militaristic. Changed the color scheme, too, which I thought worked really well. I never liked the placement of the lightning bolt on the chest, but I really liked it being blue. (As you probably remember, I used it again in my next couple costumes, but the bolt looked more “normal”.) Also, I switched over to “throwing” lightning from my new “power mace”, which eliminated the need for circuitry in the belt and costume/gauntlets. The computer and circuitry was self-contained within the mace, and it was programmed to operate only for me.

Mr Zeus - blue and black, scruffy wi goggles, maceThe cigar was a personal touch I added at the last second, since I was smoking it off-camera. When my agent first saw the pic, he almost had a fit, saying that the politically-correct crowd would accuse me of setting a bad example, yada yada, and that my popularity would take a hit with the general public. I insisted on keeping it, but the shots that ended up being used by magazines and such were without the cigar. So, my agent needn’t have worried. Since this particular pic was never used (to my knowledge), I guess this one is “rare” and a collector’s item of sorts.

In fact, I just decided… I’m going to have a contest. Send in one paragraph describing your favorite costume that you ever saw me wear (as wrestler or superhero or ???) and why you like it. I’ll choose my favorite three entries. Two runners-up will get a personalized, signed photo of me in that uniform. The grand-prize winner will get the same, plus a signed copy of the rare “cigar photo”. (That’s the only one you can’t write about.) I may throw a little something extra in there, too. Not sure what, yet. Be sure your entry is postmarked by July 30th.

“So Long, Soldier!”

Speaking of old memories, I recently attended the funeral of an old friend: Major Bad@$$. He wasn’t the most, uh, family-friendly hero. (Had quite a foul mouth!) Very violent, too, what with the heavy firepower and explosives. He had very little patience, even less mercy, and we fellow superheroes often had to rein him in from killing indiscriminately. If you remember him at all, you might remember that he came on the scene a couple years after I did, then disappeared a couple years after that. What you might not know is that Major was a wrestler, briefly, just like me. He went by the name “Danny Draco”, but he only wrestled professionally for one year before being thrown out of the Federation for erratic and dangerous behavior both in and out of the ring. I was the only friend he had from those days, but I could never get him to chill out or get counseling for his personal “issues”.

Another thing the public doesn’t know is that Major actually did eventually go rogue, killing a mob kingpin’s family, including women and children. He had been especially edgy in the days beforehand, but he wouldn’t talk about why. He finally just snapped. A small group of his colleagues (including me) in the superhero community had to bring him to justice. Unfortunately, Major wouldn’t come in quietly and was seriously injured in the battle, leaving him in a coma. He was still in that coma up until a week ago, when he had a serious stroke and died.

I can’t tell you Major’s real name, because his parents & siblings want to maintain their anonymity. They also requested that the news of his death not be made public, but they let me inform some in the superhero and wrestling communities. A few showed up for the funeral and/or the wake, but not many. He was not an easy guy to like, and frankly he was a pain-in-the-butt to work with. (Someone once remarked that he should rename himself “Major Headache”.) But, he did take down a lot of mobsters, drug-dealers, and various other scumballs. He even assisted in stopping an alien invasion one time. (Oops! That may still be classified. Forget I mentioned it.)

guns and grenadesOver the past few days, I’ve been thinking about those times I worked with Danny Draco / Major Bad@$$. One mission in particular stands out. Some wannabe dictator in Central America had hired a boatload of mercenaries, the worst of the worst, to be his army. He then launched a coup against the U.S.-friendly government of island nation of San Rafael. The U.S. government’s hands were tied, though I’m sure the CIA was mixed up in it, somehow. Anyway, at the request of a couple of our Central and South American colleagues, a half-dozen of us North American superheroes decided to, uh, unofficially intervene. The hostile army was headquartered at a military base they had captured, which included a massive underground bunker. Security was really tight, too. The eight of us heroes, along with a couple representatives of San Rafael’s duly-elected president, discussed and debated for a full day and a half how best to neutralize the enemy forces, while minimizing casualties and destruction of said base.

Major wanted to just storm the place from the start, but the rest of us nixed the idea. He didn’t say much after that, but I could tell he was getting *very* impatient to get on with it. When we broke for lunch on that second day, I noticed Major (and all his gear) was gone, and one of the Hum-Vees was missing. (Remember, he couldn’t fly.) By the time we realized what had happened, Major had already infiltrated the base. The rest of us arrived on the outskirts of the base and did some reconnoitering to a) see what the enemy was up to and b) try to figure out what Major was up to. Less than an hour later, we were just about to execute our plan whent there were a series of huge explosions, mostly underground, and practically the entire base imploded into the bunker.

As we found out later, Major had snuck onto the base and found his way to the armory, where he grabbed a few extra explosives and other gear to add to what he already had on him. Then, he quickly worked his way down into the bunker and strategically placed several high-energy explosives in structurally-crucial areas. Originally, he was going to wait to remotely detonate them after he got out. But, most of the army was gathered in a gigantic central hall, receiving instructions and prepping for an attack on the president’s palace that afternoon. Major saw an opportunity to take out virtually the whole army at once, even if it meant he probably wouldn’t survive. He was discovered and got caught in a firefight, but he managed to set off the explosives just as he dove into a reinforced shaft of some sort.

All that was left for the rest of us to do was mop up. We found Major alive the following day, trapped in that shaft, which was covered in some pretty heavy debris. With a combination of superstrength and telekinesis, we dug him out, along with a handful of other survivors. But, the crazy son-of-a-gun had managed to take out the wannabe dictator and several hundred brutal, bloodthirsty mercenaries at once, thereby saving untold death and grief for the people of San Rafael (and probably a lot more). And he was willing to sacrifice himself to do it. For all of his ridiculous bravado, violent tendencies, and other issues, that’s the kind of guy Major was deep down — a selfless warrior for freedom and justice. That’s the guy I choose to remember.

Sleep easy, soldier, and thank you for your service….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 6

New entry from the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

“Criminal Categories”

“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.)

Condiment King -- more of a joke than a threat

Condiment King — more of a joke than a threat

“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. 😉

Moving on…

“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.

college-textbooksILEAD’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….

Stay strong!

Thus endeth another newsletter….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 5

Ran a little behind producing the newsletter this time. I’ll let Mr. Zeus explain…

Yeah, I’m late getting this issue out, I know. Very sorry about that. Truth is, I sort of left writing it until (almost) the last minute, and then I got pulled into a rescue mission (which I’m not allowed to talk about). But, stuff happens, and that’s why this quarter’s newsletter was delayed a couple weeks past the usual release. Mea culpa!

“Contracts and Fine-Dining”

hundred dollar bill on onesYou might be wondering why I’m still going on rescue missions and such, since I’m supposed to be “retired” from the superheroing biz. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been experiencing a few bumps in my writing career. So, I’ve been trying to keep busy, looking into other options, etc. One opportunity was to make myself available as a part-time freelancer on the occasional mission or investigation where they — i.e., whomever was putting together the “mission” — needed some extra muscle and/or my particular experience would be of benefit. (For example, if I am very familiar with the location or villain involved.) So, a few months ago, I started spreading the word to the super-community, as well as certain governments and large corporations.

Yes, I (usually) get paid for it. (Gotta pay the bills!) But, it isn’t quite as mercenary as it sounds. I am *very* particular about the types of missions I do and people I work with/for. I won’t sign a contract until my attorney and I have done a little research to make sure the purpose of the “mission” or project won’t compromise my principles. So, in that respect, it is sort of like when I was full-time and took on the occasional “sponsor”. The secret mission I mentioned above was for an international concern, and it was successful, but I can’t give any more detail than that. It was my 3rd contract as a part-timer, and things have been going quite well.

My first freelance contract was working with Tetras (Tetrus?) on a subterranean expedition. Andronicus, who is normally both the team’s brawn and brains, was under the weather, so he had to remain at their HQ and advise from afar. (Man, that guy can be a pain in the tuchis!) They ended up needing some big muscle to save their experimental equipment, so it’s a good thing I was there. (I’m a lot stronger than Andronicus on his best day!) The second job was testing some multi-functional, salvage equipment from a new manufacturer in some pretty dangerous environments, both natural and manmade. Overall, it was a success. The equipment still has a few kinks to get worked out, but I helped them test under some conditions they wouldn’t normally be able to. So, while a bit gruelling, it felt good to contribute to a project that will help save many lives. The pay was pretty good, too. 😉

I also turned down an offer from a Japanese conglomerate. They flew me out to Tokyo on a private jet to meet with upper-management, take a tour, and hear their pitch, so that was nice. (Sure, I could have flown under my own power, but that’s a looooong flight, and it can get boring, even if I have my MP3 player.) Would have meant a hefty paycheck, too. But, after I got home and made a few discreet inquiries, I discovered that some of the board-members have Yakuza connections, and I couldn’t be sure that the project they wanted me on wouldn’t contribute to some nefarious agenda. So, I politely declined.

One of my research “sources” is Vanguard and, in particular, the agents of Vanguard Prime. Olympia has been my primary contact, since we already knew each other. In fact, we have developed a good friendship — “relationship”, even — despite the long distance, skyping at least once a week. But, we have managed to go on five dates in the past few months, so that’s progress. The last one, shortly before my “secret mission”, did not go as planned, that’s for sure.

fine-dining-450x299We never go out together in costume, since we are trying to be as “normal” as we can in our off-hours. Of course, the fact that we are celebrities (of a sort) and both rather tall and muscular does tend to make us stand out in a crowd. But, we try to keep it low-key and not draw attention to ourselves. In this case, we met in Paris and decided to dress up a little, do some “fine dining”. (Not too ritzy, though.) We were having a good time, talking about our families and other “ordinary” stuff. We were waiting for our dessert to be served, when a half-dozen armed gunmen stormed the place. They had no idea….

When we initially realized what was happening, we were immediately concerned for the safety of the other patrons and restaurant staff. The leader of the group was barking orders from the center of the establishment, while the other five silently spread out. We were seated along a back wall near the restrooms, so when the time was right, we made our first move. Karin (i.e., Olympia) whispered a question at the closest guy when he came to the table next to us, then I grabbed the guy in a choke hold from behind and quickly dragged him into the ladies room, where I left him unconscious in a stall before returning to our table. (Thank goodness for the dim “mood lighting” and a large pillar that partially blocked the next-closest guy’s view.) Three of the assailants were walking around with automatic weapons trained on customers, and the other two went from table to table, where people were ordered to toss their wallets, watches, purses, jewelry, etc., into satchels the well-dressed gunmen had brought with them.

It wasn’t long before they noticed one of their number was missing. Karin acted all scared and told them their man went back to the restrooms. The leader then ordered one of his men to take her at gunpoint back to check the restrooms with him. I don’t know what she did exactly, but I’m pretty sure he never saw what hit him. She stashed him in another stall in the ladies room. But, she stayed back there for the moment. This left two thieves with AK-47s raised and two more each with pistol in one hand and satchel in the other. They were really nervous by then, and we had to take them all out pretty quickly to lessen the chances of civilians getting hurt. (Or me, for that matter. Olympia’s force-field makes her pretty much invulnerable to gunfire.)

Suddenly, the fire alarm started up and the sprinkler system kicked in. (Karin’s doing, of course.) As gunmen and civilians alike started yelling in surprise, I saw Karin appear at the hall entrance. She motioned to me that she was about to charge the two on the left and I was supposed to get the two on the right. As soon as I nodded, she was off! Screaming, she clotheslined the first SOB and yanked the other guy’s AK-47 out of his hands and slammed him into a wall. He was out cold, and she kneeled on the first guy’s back. I only saw all that out of my peripheral vision, ‘cuz I had my hands full with my two. Thinking quickly, I grabbed a half-full bottle of champagne and chucked it at the furthest guy, who was distracted by Karin. The base of it hit him in the head, and he went down. The closer guy saw me coming and got off a couple shots with his pistol. Fortunately, they missed me (and everyone else), lodging in a wooden wall instead. Then he swung the satchel at me, but it was heavier than he thought, which slowed him down. I dodged, swatted his pistol out of his hand, shoved him to the ground, and knocked him out with a right to the jaw. (Don’t worry. I pulled my punch.)

And,… that was that. The whole incident probably took no more than 10 minutes, and the only injuries were minor ones to the building and a few plates and glasses. (Oh, and I’m missing a cufflink.) The champagne bottle I threw didn’t even break! Once the gendarmes (i.e., French police) got there and the adrenaline started to wear off, Karin and I were able to laugh about the whole thing. Does this sort of thing happen to other “super couples”? Those guys definitely picked the wrong place to hit that night!

OK, folks, that’s enough adventuring-by-proxy for now. Stay strong!

^What he said…^

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.