And thus did Tuesday come, and “Interviewing Leather” came right along with it!
I’m not sure what else I have to say, other than ‘enjoy’ and ‘aside from some saltiness of language, it’s less mature rated.’ So instead, I give you the very first LEATHER FAN ART! This come to us from the Minister of Awesome herself Katie Tandler at bugalight.net (click on the thumbnail to get the full sized experience. Though even the thumbnail is cool):
This is frighteningly accurate (at least, with a “DC Animated Universe” feel, which somehow works for me) and it is amazingly cool. And thank you to Kate for providing it.
Enjoy the new episode!
*** *** *** ***
It was a sunny day, and the light was good, and Leather had declared they weren’t going to pull a job that night. “The heat’s on,” she said. “Do a job tonight and we’ll screw with the blowoff.”
So. That morning was designated for photos. Which is why I had hauled out the tripod from my dead Hyundai’s trunk. It was warm already, the sun on the back of my neck, while I made adjustments to the digital camera. Marco and one of the bagmen were nearby, keeping an eye out. This was mostly because Leather was outdoors and in full combat gear, which was at best a security risk.
We cut it down by staying on the side of the power station that overlooked the water far below, which meant we couldn’t be seen from the road. Leather was smoking a cigarette between sessions. She looked damn good, having oiled (or had one of the henches oil) the good combat suit so it fairly gleamed in the light.
I know my way around a camera because once upon a time I had pretensions of photojournalism. It was helpful as a music reporter because I could get candid shots ‘on the scene.’ A practice I wasn’t encouraged to follow on this assignment, for what should be obvious reasons. At the same time, I’m not well known for model photography because I don’t really know from shooting models. So, we’d gone outside for the light and because Leather’s lair had white painted brick facing the water, and I was erring on the side of caution by taking a few thousand pictures.
Leather was game. I had wondered, briefly, if there would be awkwardness today, but there wasn’t. Not with her, not with the guys. Leather had been right — getting the fence’s money had made all well.
Really well. Apparently, they’d hit the motherlode.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “How could you get that much money? Wouldn’t the fence’s cut knock it down?”
“The laptops did pretty well and it turned out they had a buttload of them,” Leather said, crushing the cigarette out against the brick of the wall and flicking it away in an arc that might have hit the water below, for all I could tell. “Real high end shit, too. But that wasn’t the best part. We scored a prerelease video game console.”
“Big launch event for one of the new next gen video games,” Marco said. He was grinning a lot today. “Apparently they had like five hundred of them shrinkwrapped in their warehouse, with ‘do not open before’ notes all over them. Works out we didn’t sign that release.”
“You’re saying a video game brought you more money than the laptops?”
“You have no idea,” Leather said. “There are psychos out there who’ll pay ten thousand dollars a console to get it four or five days before it’s originally released. And since they’ll sell out on opening day, there’s lots of others who’ll pay three or four thousand on eBay. The fence probably came when he saw what he had.” She grinned. “We had a good night.”
“Glad to hear it,” I said. My back hurt. So did my stomach. My lip was still puffy. And while there hadn’t been any swelling thanks to the ibuprofin and Leather’s cold gel mask, I still had black eyes. Looking in the mirror after I showered that morning, I could hear myself saying “no, officer, I walked into a door. No, officer — you just don’t know her. She loves me, but sometimes I make her do things….”
Leather set a new pose, arching, lips pouty, eyes twinkling. She knew how to exploit what the costume covered and didn’t cover, and wasn’t afraid to show it off. “Let’s do this thing,” she said, and I began snapping another few dozen pictures. I would give her suggestions and she would adjust for them. And there’s one thing I realized: glamour photography was just as boring as any other repetitive work.
“Will this cover what you need?” Leather asked. “Like, do you need shit for the inside too? Or will you use these?”
“This should cover what I need. I’m gonna assume the henchmen don’t want their pictures taken, though if I’m wrong–”
“You’re not,” Marco said. “Last thing I need is proof in a magazine I work for a supervillain. My wife’d kill me.”
I didn’t follow up about his wife. I’d learned there were questions henchmen won’t answer. “Anyway,” I said. “this is pretty much it. Although….”
“Although what? Oh wait, let me guess. Tasteful nudes, right? Maybe do nude sunbathing on the roof, and after that we can go to the back seat of your Hyundai and look at your etchings?” Leather was teasing. She was in a good mood. The ever happy, ever bubbly supervillain pixie. And her bearing, her cheer, her grin meant the Henches were in a good mood too. Everything forgotten — just another night of doing business. Even the guy she’d hoisted over her head acted like there was nothing new or different. Marco gave her shit like he always did despite being thrown against a wall the night before.
It seemed weird, but then I was acting like these guys were the same guys I’d been hanging out with and interviewing all week, instead of the thugs who’d stomped me into kibble the night before. It was just the atmosphere. That was just business. They screwed up and they paid. And me?
They’d all said they were sorry. And then they dropped the matter, and I figured out I was supposed to too, so I did. It’s how the situation worked.
But Leather was waiting for my answer. “Nothing like that,” I said. “And no bikini pictures either. Unless you want bikini pictures.”
She gave me a look.
“Hey,” I said. “You can’t tell me this isn’t an exercise in public relations for you. For all I know you want a bikini spread.”
Leather smirked. “It crossed my mind, but honestly I look better in the suit. Besides, it’d break the mystery.”
“Sure. Think about it. My birth name’s in my arrest record. My hair and style and tattoos are distinctive. I want to be recognized when I rob something. So why should I wear a mask?”
I frowned. “Wait, let me guess. Theater?”
“Got it in one.” She leaned back against the wall, one arm draped up alongside it, one leg bent at the knee, and looked sidelong at me. I took the picture, then another, then another as she shifted slightly. “Me showing up, even in a leather suit, just looks like they’re being robbed by an alt/fetish model. Put a mask on my face and it becomes something more. Something grander. There is mystery, and allure, and it makes everyone more comfortable.”
“There are both heroes and villains without masks,” I said, shifting to the side to take another four pictures. I was glad I had a lot of memory cards. And glad I had a pro grade digital camera.
“Sure, but they still have a defined look. The mask is part of my defined look,” she said. “Plus, it makes things more convenient. If I want to go out and have breakfast, it’s a lot less likely I’ll be recognized and someone will call the cops, because all the news reports have me in a mask. And there’s ways to distract the folks who’ve happened to see one of the mug shots.” She smiled a bit. “You still haven’t told me what the ‘although’ was for.”
“Hm? Oh. I was wondering if you had any pictures from your… well, former career?”
“Huh?” Marco asked.
“What?” Leather said, frowning. Then she grinned. “Oh! You want to know if I have pictures from my Dynamo Girl days!”
I blinked. “I didn’t think you’d told your henchmen about that.”
Leather snickered. “Was that your way of trying to be coy then? ‘Former career?’ The next time you try to cover for someone’s past or secret identity, try not to make it sound like they used to be in porn, okay?” She stepped away from the wall — a sign we were going on break, so I stepped back from the camera. “But yeah, I told them. It’s part of the screening procedure. You need to let the guild know if you used to play the other side of the street, so bad situations don’t come up at bad times.”
“Henchmen go to jail sometimes,” Marco said. “And get beat down sometimes. When we’re in the whole recruitment phase, we need to know if our new boss is an ex-hero. There was some bad shit went down a few years back. An ex-cowl recruited four henchmen he’d put in jail before he crossed the river. They figured out it was him, they decided to get revenge. Guild had to pay reparations to the villain and to the henchs’ families.”
“Dumbass,” one of the bagmen said. It was the one Leather had lifted over her head the night before. “Who gives a shit if your boss put you in jail last year. If you get paid today, yesterday don’t matter.”
“That’s why I love you guys,” Leather said.
“Anyway,” I said, steering things back onto track. “It’d just be a good counterpoint to the article if I could get some pictures of you in the old costume. Unless you’d rather not.”
“No,” Leather said. “No, that’s fine. I’m just trying to think if I’ve got something. I used to scrapbook and shit, so I should have some old newspaper photos. Hm.” She looked thoughtful. “Grab some more coffee. I’ll be right back.”
We watched her bound into the building. I realized I was alone with the henchmen for the first time since the beating.
“You take milk, right?” Marco asked, heading to the back door.
“What? Yeah. Yeah, thanks.”
He paused, looking back. “How you feeling?” he asked. “Want some Advil while I’m there?”
I was pretty sore, I’ll admit. Getting more codeine would have been nice, but I didn’t want to be foggy while I was on the clock. “Sure,” I said. “That’d be great.” I tried to smile gamely. “You guys are good at beatdowns.”
He shrugged. “Not so much, really. Some of the guys are what we call security specialists? Bodyguards, mooks, call ‘em whatever? They can fight. We’re just tough.”
“Heh. That much I figured out. That’s why I couldn’t be a henchman, I guess.”
Marco grinned, shaking his head. “Man, you think any one of us could go three on one and not end up tasting blood? You get down to it, you passed the only real test.”
“You’re still doing your job.” He turned and walked in. “Coffee and Advil, comin’ up.”
It was weird, but it felt good. I guess it had never occurred to me, but in a Henchman’s world, getting beat up was an occupational hazard. How you dealt with it the day after probably counted more than the day before. I nodded to the bagman nearest me. He grinned, thumbing up.
I should note that the bagmen never gave me their names. And Leather and Marco never used them around me. That’s also not unusual, I’ve come to find out. Henchmen were jobs as much as anything. The bagmen. The wheel. The Steve. Marco was Marco because he was the supervisor. It’s entirely possible that wasn’t his real name either. Earlier in the week, I’d asked one of the bagmen if that bothered him — the anonymity of it all.
He laughed at me. “Man, I get paid to haul shit. I’m like one of the teamsters. If my name never comes up, my name doesn’t end up on the cops’ lips and they don’t show up at my mother’s asking stupid questions. Let the supervillains take the spotlight.”
Back at the photo shoot, we were drinking coffee. Leather’d been inside for like fifteen minutes now, and I was a little worried about losing the morning light. And as I’d only gotten a few hundred pictures on multiple SD cards, I wasn’t sure I had enough.
“That’s far enough, boys!”
All four of us jumped, startled. One of the bagmen dropped his coffee. The voice had come from above–
She leapt from a fourth story window, a smile on her face, a blur of red as she twisted and rolled in the air. She landed smoothly, legs bending to full crouch to absorb the fall and sprung forward, doing a handspring-cartwheel combo to get on the other side of us before dropping into a fighting crouch. Her hair was brown — a wig, but a good one. Her face was covered with a blue half-mask with white accents. She wore a red leotard, more or less, short sleeved with a turtleneck top, clinging just right — a blue and white star emblem with almost military chevrons coming off it. Pale tights that showed her legs, translucently. Legwarmers and high end red and white sneakers. And the biggest shit-eating grin I’ve seen that mouth form.
She’d taken the labriet out, too.
Marco looked like he was caught between running like Hell and losing bowel control. After a half-second he burst into laughter. “Oh shit!” he shouted. “It’s Dynamo Girl!”
“Watch your language, punk!” Leather shouted, shifting to make arms akimbo. “It’s punch o’clock, and I’m late for work!”
Now all the henchmen were laughing, which I think was her point. Certainly, they didn’t feel threatened. I wasn’t, because I wasn’t sure what the rules actually were now. Did the costume mean she was on the side of the angels, even if only briefly?
Seemed unlikely, really. She was posing and joking with the henches. In the meantime, I was watching her. The lycra was, if anything more clingy than the leather she normally wore. And of course it couldn’t be shaped so easily. The effect made her seem smaller, and more human. She looked younger, too. And I’m forced to admit I understood what she had meant before, about ‘the Sidekick physique.’ I knew she was an adult and a supervillain to boot, but honest to God looking at her I wanted to see an older hero standing behind her, calling her ‘good chum.’
“Right. Let’s get these pictures underway,” she said, darting over to the same wall I had been photographing her against before. She posed again, waiting.
And I began to take pictures. “Why’d you keep the old costume?” I asked.
She giggled. “Why throw it out? I had some good times wearing this thing.” She shifted — her poses more action oriented, less seductive. She was cute, and pretty, where ‘Leather’ was smoldering and coy. Her bearing had completely changed.
“True enough,” I said, snapping a picture and then another. “So why the wig?”
“As Leather, my hair’s a big part of the whole thing,” she said. “People come to expect it. Or expect hair tricks. ‘Dynamo Girl’ had naturally colored hair, so if you want an accurate picture of the good old days….”
“No — I mean, sure, makes sense. But I meant ‘why do you happen to have a brown haired wig?’”
She giggled again. ‘Dynamo Girl’ was more of a giggler, it seemed. “Cover,” she said. “Like I said — the hair tends to be distinctive. When I’m in town just living, I don’t want to get recognized when I’m at Home Depot or having breakfast at Denny’s. So I throw on a wig. A wig, jeans, a tee shirt, flannels instead of a leather jacket — you’d be surprised how easy it is to pass as just some chick.”
I laughed. “Not that surprised. I mean, you don’t look anything like Leather right now.”
She kind of blinked. “Really?”
“He’s right, boss,” Marco said. “Total makeover. Different attitude.”
“And you don’t stand the same way, either..”
She cocked her head. “Huh,” she said. “I just figured it was dressup. Putting on the old togs for a laugh.”
“Do you feel any different?”
She considered that, stretching. “Sort of,” she said. “Old habits, I guess. I was always very careful about what I did or said in the togs.”
“You said that twice. Is that just an anachronism, or is it some kind of industry term?”
“Huh? Oh. Fighting togs. It’s what they used to call superhero suits in the old Shazam comics. So it’s what villains call hero suits.”
“But not villain suits?”
“Nah. That’s different.”
She shrugged. “It just is.” She stretched again. “Yeah,” she said. “yeah, I do feel different. And a little weird.”
“Why weird?” I kept taking pictures.
“Well, the last time I was in this was the liquor store holdup I told you about. You know? Which means the last time I wore this was the case I lost. The failure.” She shrugged. “It’s just weird. Dynamo Girl’s last hurrah involved stealing eight thousand bucks from a liquor store. It’s weird to have the togs on again, now.”
I frowned. “Why does that have to be the last hurrah?”
The silence was palpable.
I shifted where I stood. “Seriously. I mean, you’ve already said you’re not going out and stealing anything, tonight. So instead of Leather going out, why doesn’t Dynamo Girl go out instead. Spend a night fighting crime instead of causing it. Break a few muggers’ heads and leave them for the cops?”
“I… never really thought about that,” she said, frowning. “I mean, I went bad.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, but so what? I’m not saying reform or give back the money or anything. I’m saying that if you feel bad that Dynamo Girl’s last night ended in crime instead of justice, don’t let that be Dynamo Girl’s last night. Make a different last night instead.”
She looked honestly stunned, leaning back against the wall.
“Hey, now wait a minute,” Marco said. “Look, your business is your business, boss, but we don’t do Good Guy Shit. That’s not in the contract.”
“You wouldn’t have to,” she said, cocking her head. “I mean, seriously. Super heroes don’t use henchmen. You’d still have the night off, all the usual rules in effect.”
“So long as we know that.” Marco frowned a bit more. “This wouldn’t become a thing, would it? You wouldn’t go all Robin Hood on us or have a conversion and leave us high and dry? We have a deal here.”
“No,” she said. “No, nothing would change. But Todd’s right. There’s no reason I couldn’t do this. Just for a night, but still.” She grinned. “Why not? I mean, seriously — why not?”
The bagmen looked at each other. Marco kept looking at his employer.
“Oh, stop fretting. I’m not crossing back over. This is just a lark. It’s fun. Besides, we lived in this city for a year. You think I don’t want to see the streets cleaned up just a little?”
“They got two cowls already doing that,” Marco said. “Okay. What if you get caught?”
“What are you talking about? Who ‘catches’ a superhero? A villain?”
Marco shook his head. “Shit, man. You’re Leather, remember? What if someone figures it out and you get caught?”
“Oh!” She considered. “Keep an ear on the police scanner. If you hear I’ve been taken in, punch the panic button like normal. Clear out, let the service take care of things.”
Marco nodded. “Good enough.” He shook his head again. “You’re really gonna do this?”
“Well… there’s some work involved. Need to dye my hair — the wig could come off. I’ll need to grab my dermacover camouflage for the tattoos…” she smiled a bit more. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I am gonna do this. Why not? One last ride into the sunset!”
Marco snorted. “Your life, man.”
“I wish I could see it,” I said.
She paused, and peeled the mask off. “What was that?” she asked?
“I said I wish I could see it,” I said, noticing that the costume looked strange on her when she wasn’t wearing the half mask. Less like a uniform, more like a costume party.
Leather got a slightly wicked smile on her face. “Who says you can’t?” she asked.
I blinked. “Well… I… was under the impression I was a prisoner here. Why would you let me out?”
“Well now, that raises an interesting question. How badly do you want to see this part of your story?” She sat down, pulling off the wig, her bearing Leather again. Amused Leather. I found myself wishing she’d put the mask back on.
“What do you mean?”
“You said you wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe,” she said. “Well, Hunter rode with the Hell’s Angels. These guys went out and they did, Chapman. Do you really, really want to be on hand for the return of Dynamo Girl? To get that story, even if no one ever gives a shit?”
I frowned. Right then, I could feel my aches from last night again. “Well, yeah,” I said.
Leather’s smile turned predatory. “Would you bet your life on that?”