So, I promised you guys… something.
Oh, you think I won’t do this?
Go ahead: dare me.
In fact: DOUBLE DARE me.
Before we go there, here’s how we got here.
I have a lot of mulch sitting my head. There are a bunch of images that pass through and occasionally there’s an image or two…
…or several hundred…
…that politely ask me to find some time to make them a thing. One of my favorite sections of mulch in the mind cave involves a standard of the Silver Age of Comics: Team-Ups. When they were around, I was that kid that picked up those books. The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-In-One, Marvel Team-Up, DC Comics Presents, World’s Finest and Super-Team Family to name more than a few. You grab at least a pair of heroes, present them a problem and set them off on a case to find an answer to said problem. One of my favorite team ups involved two pulp heroes who always struggled to take a foothold in that medium, but hit all the right notes in this instance: The Shadow and Doc Savage in “ The Conflagration Man”. The Shadow and Doc approach a case from separate avenues, cross swords and personnel, and then work the case together (sort of) to its conclusion. Good stuff.
There are others, but I recently found myself rereading that adventure which pushed one of those images from the polite asking to a demand involving Pro Se characters and Dillon that kicked in before the International Instigator hopped on board. In fact, the idea just sort of hopped in my head while I was working on a DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN and an edition of THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS, featuring Barry Reese’s creation Max Davies (among others) aka The Peregrine, that showed up in the same production cycle. I thought then “wouldn’t it be fun if…?”
Today’s free Fun Fact: Did you know if you look at the back of most REESE UNLIMITED books that Barry puts out there’s a handy dandy timeline? For readers (and I’m sure for the author) it keeps things straight and keeps Barry honest. If you don’t see it on the timeline, it hasn’t happened yet. And because Barry is obsessively updating that bad boy it’s easy to find a slot and slip in a point where you can do the fan thing and say “here’s what I think Max was doing in…”, but it also lets you say “hey, nothing happened here of note” and speculate on the possibilities. For me, I said to myself, “it’s a damn shame what went down in 1975 when so-and-so found a discarded Peregrine mask and had to stop a riot with…”
And that thought came with a visual. Unfortunately for me, I took my pretend Peregrine out of her epic Pam Grier Afro and recycled mask updated her and sent her off to find another mask belonging to some guy named Amiri under the name Coco Brown. The visual stuck though and eventually someone else stepped in from an old fan-fic idea and auditioned for the role. I told character there wasn’t a story involved, just a visual and they were cool with that. Then a bunch of other guys stepped in begging for a slot, so I gave them time and said what the hell.
I was left with a cast for a story that didn’t exist: a spaceman, a superhuman, a spy, a street crusader, and a science hero. I also had a sleuth, a scoundrel and a soldier, but ran out of real estate. But in case I was asked, I gave these guys a situation just so my rounding up a bunch of random characters to practice my skills in Adobe Illustrator and get some mulch out had a reason for being together. Plus, if you team up two guys, they need something to work on.
So while the stuff below reads like I put thought into it: I didn’t. This is off the cuff, mostly written while I was working out this morning. Any shortcomings in the passage are due to my apparent need for complicating the simple with unnecessary words to accompany what are hopefully pretty pictures.
As to the inspiration of why I did a nonexistent team up cover (okay, COVERS, I’ll give you that much freely) strictly for kicks?
Derrick Ferguson kept posting all those home brews from that guy who does all those crazy Super Team Family fantasy covers.
I mean I could do that.
And, no, this is not going to be a thing afterwards…
…unless you want to know who these guys are. In that case I’ll invite you back to see the same cover…
How’s that for leaving them asking for more?
Oh yeah, welcome to DOUBLE DARE ADVENTURES, the best adventure fiction magazine never!
And now, we join our non story, already in progress…
For a quietly typical morning in the park: it was unusual. “It” being a piece of personal mail, addressed to him, with a photograph enclosed. The sheet of paper the photo was wrapped in only had one word, typewritten, near the top of the sheet.
He said the word aloud, as if doing so would initiate… something: a memory, a remnant… a vision. He was waiting for some kind of extraordinary circumstance to come to him as he sat in on a park bench, in the middle of a quiet morning, staring at an old Polaroid showing a record of the impossible. So he did the only thing he could do barring some dramatic sign from the beyond.
He sipped his coffee and examined the clues to hand.
The photo was a thick card. Faded color showing the slight overexposure of the early instant cameras from the 1970s. Without meaning to he smiled. He remembered operating cameras in his childhood with flash powder that fired off a small explosion as a photograph was taken. His memories of sliding heavy plates around evolving to a darkroom full of chemicals evolving, in his lifetime, to the waxy plastic card he stared down at now being the pinnacle of technology.
These days, getting a physical photo sent through the post was an unusual occurrence in an age where technology speeds words, data and images across the globe practically in the moment they’re taken. The speed of life these days was blazing fast and gaining momentum with every second. He hadn’t grown up in this age despite his outward appearance, but he had managed to wrestle the way things worked to his advantage. But this image, this solid piece of hard copy, sent by “snail mail”, defied and thwarted his efforts to apply modern methods to his forensic examination. The photo had no corroborating data. Internet searches, Wikipedia, his backdoors into law enforcement databases – none of them gave him any information to prove this image was genuine. The only identification on the image itself was written in blue ink, he presumed from a ballpoint, a name: Outcast, California, and a date: 1975.
It shouldn’t be, and yet… here it was.
A woman, dressed in what appeared to be a black leather outfit, fighting her way through a mob filled sea of chaos.
And she was wearing a mask.
The mask of the Peregrine.
And what he saw going on behind her…
Max Davies took another pull from his morning coffee and turned his attention to the postmark on the envelope. It bore the mark of Outcast, California.
And when he checked for the fifth time last night no such place existed.
Armed with that knowledge this morning, he was surprised to find the state of California had somehow gained twenty miles it didn’t have yesterday.
And in that sudden expansion that no one seemed to notice was a city named Outcast.
So as the sun warmed the morning, Max stared once more at a woman who shouldn’t exist, wearing a mask she shouldn’t have had operating on the West Coast in 1975, in a city that didn’t exist until this morning, fighting…
Good God, was the rest of it even possible?
Max pulled out his phone and chartered a flight to California.
“Outcast, California?” Dillon repeated. “No, never heard of it.”
Ambrose Bannon was an agent of ECHO, the Extraordinary Crisis and Hazard Objective, an organization Dillon had encountered in an incident involving a stolen mask that came a little too close to home for him. While he was on friendly terms with one of their contractors, the lovely and talented adventurer Coco Brown, his meeting today was his first with an actual operative with the clandestine agency. Bannon was typical of the agents he had encountered from other organizations in the shadowy alphabet soup of government sponsored intelligence agencies. He was big man and obviously fit, but used to disguising the potential under a nondescript business casual pose. He smiled and easily enough; the manner being casual without being memorable enough to stick with you, but Dillon observed that the pose was just that. While he distracted you with chatter, Bannon was actually sizing a person up. His eyes were actively probing, dissecting, and analyzing every movement and expression. They took in the surrounding area as a matter of habit, leading Dillon to believe the well appointed office they were meeting in didn’t actually belong to Bannon. What was missing, or different at least, was his attitude wasn’t combative. Dillon has gotten used to a certain amount of posturing from these organization types in some hamfisted attempt to establish themselves as alpha dog even when he was being called on willingly to put his talents to work, but Bannon approached Dillon as an equal and a beneficial asset. Despite himself, he concluded that he liked the change and the man behind the desk enough to work with him.
As that realization hit him, Dillon wondered if Bannon was somehow playing his role so well that Dillon was mistaking tradecraft for sincerity. Dillon wondered, for just a second, if he were being played by Bannon.
Bannon slid a manila folder across the desk which derailed the train of thought Dillon was on.
“Well, up until last night, no one else had either because it didn’t exist yesterday.” Bannon tapped the folder in front of Dillon, who picked it up and opened it. “Now, it does. California suddenly gained twenty miles with people to populate it ready made. And in the heart of it…”
“A city called Outcast” Dillon finished, as he flipped through the contents of the folder.
“A city called Outcast”, Bannon repeated as he settled back, with slight uncertainty Dillon noted, into the leather chair that came with the office.
“So how the hell is that possible?” Dillon asked. “And all of this stuff is archival material, most of it from 1975, centered on Outcast and another place, Los Puerta?”
“The city of the gate if I blow the dust off of my high school Spanish,” Bannon replied. “It’s there too along with a bay and a thriving local economy, great arts scene, and a history that didn’t exist until this morning.” Bannon slid a large business envelope across the desk next. “Now, Dillon, take a look at these.”
Dillon exchanged the folder for the envelope which contained photographs. Dillon’s eyes grew wide at the first one and as he flipped through them, they grew wider still at what he saw.
“Is this…?” Dillon asked looking up from an image that by all rights shouldn’t exist.
Bannon nodded again.
“Wait, is this guy…?” Dillon handed Bannon the glossy oversized photo he was looking at.
“We think so, yeah.” Bannon answered.
“You realize that’s impossible.”
“The impossible is what we deal in at ECHO, but we know when we’re out of our depth,” Bannon said. “That’s why I asked to see you.”
Dillon filed through the rest of the images. “So who are these folks exactly?”
“You have what we have. Outcast exists but if you go online, it’s always been here; it’s just hard to find anything other than basic information. Strangely, no one outside of agencies like ours seems to notice this has occurred.” Bannon tapped the photo Dillon gave him earlier. “And that guy? He’s the only one of the bunch that you can find by name online anywhere because he’s an unsolved missing person’s case from the 1930s.”
Dillon frowned at that.
“As to who these folks are, the notes you’re reading identify them to a degree. But the basics are: a spaceman, a superhuman, a spy, a street crusader, and a science hero. Beyond that is a mystery with a huge secret at the heart of it,” Bannon said. “Those people and Outcast are at the center of it.”
“And you want me to drop by and bring back postcards from El Dorado.”
“That or answers; we’re not picky, Dillon.” Dillon saw the mask slip slightly and Brannon’s expression betrayed the unmistakable mark of a man who had been up a lot hours working this before Dillon was called. “We’ll meet your fee and expenses, sight unseen, and call upon whatever resources you need and bring in whoever you need for this.”
“What’s Coco Brown up to?” Dillon asked.
“She’s on a job, but aware of the situation,” Bannon replied. “She’s trying to wrap things up and wants in if you need her.”
“Then I guess I should go pack a bag and rent a car and bring you back some answers.” Dillon extended a hand, “Okay, Bannon, I’m in.”
Aaaannnnd, end scene.
If you’d like to meet our heroes beyond our heroes, I know a guy who knows a guy who has art and answers.