"Ultron is a bad villain." He says when he approaches the counter. As no one has asked him his opinion on Ultron or, in fact, anything, I am nervous about our impending interaction. "Have you ever read anything about Ultron?"
"Uh, yes." I admit.
"He’s just a robot who doesn’t do anything. He wants to kill people. that’s stupid. What’s his endgame? In the Avengers Next series, he’s killed most of the humans on Earth but he hasn’t replaced them with robots or anything he’s just killed them. It’s like Gorilla Grod. What’s his endgame? People are monkeys now? Is he lonely? He doesn’t have to wipe out the human race. He can just make a sign that says ‘Who wants to be a hyper-intelligent gorilla? Sign up here.’ and he’ll get people volunteering. Am I right?"
No. Nothing about this conversation is going to go right. I remember you, now. You like to trap comic book employees behind counters and assault them with your opinions for no reason. What’s YOUR endgame? If it’s me wanting to punch you in the face, I’m already approaching the destination.
"But Ultron. I mean—"
"I’m sorry, sir?" I say to one of the bazillion people behind him. People who are here, not to wear me down their moronic theories and negative opinion of every book that’s ever been published or filmed, but people who are here to buy things from me. Things they plan on enjoying. "Let me help you."
My coworker is buying a collection from a man I know from another store. The man selling the collection is on my list of the ten nicest, most patient people I’ve interacted with in the comics world. My coworker is #2 on that same list.
"Are these comics yours?" Annoying Loiterer asks.
"Yes." says Mr. Nice Guy.
"They’re reprints. Worthless."
I sigh. “They are not reprints. They’re comics from the sixties and seventies.”
"How do you know?" AL asks. "They look like reprints to me."
"Because I sold them to him."
My Patient Coworker looks up at me and rolls his eyes. I have never seen him roll his eyes before.
Al casts them a glance.”Well, they’re in perfect shape. They must be worth thousands of dollars. Maybe millions.”
MPC casts him a flammable look. “No, they’re not.” He takes one out of the bag. “See the creases near the spines? The dings on the corner? The circle imprint where someone put their drink down? They are not in perfect shape.”
The man selling them giggles. He did not crease, ding, or rest his drink on these books. They were like that when he bought them, five or six years ago.
AL says “So they’re only worth a couple of hundred dollars.”
"NO." MPC says. "Some aren’t even worth ten dollars."
AL looks at them again. “They must be worth at least a few thousand. You know what I hate? Marvel keeps numbering and renumbering their comics. If they would have just kept their original numberings they’d be in the millions right now.”
I can not let this stand. “No.” I say. “Action comics was the longest running comic. When it stopped a little over a year ago, it was at 904.”
"Right." AL says. "If they hadn’t renumbered them, they’d be in the millions."
"No." I say. "They’d be at 921."
He shakes his head. “They’d be in the millions if they didn’t renumber them.”
"No. Comics come out once a month. That means twelve issues a year. For a comic to reach the million mark it would have to go for over 83,000 years." (I’ve had to do this math for someone before.)
"I want to get my hands on an issue one million. If DC and Marvel would stop renumbering them, I’d have it."
"That’s not true." I say, digging my fingers into my palms. "The first of what are now DC comics came out in 1938. It will be 84,938 before the millionth issue would come out. You will be long dead." And not just because I’m going to kill you in about five minutes.
"But if they hadn’t renum—"
"Renumbering has nothing to do with it." I say. "You will not live until the millionth issue of anything. No one has ever lived a million months. Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that you are going to be the first person who does."
"But if they didn’t renu—"
"NO. You’re wrong." I walk to the other side of the room.
He, of course, follows.
Mr. Nice Guy starts asking me questions about the Young Justice cartoon. A series we both very much enjoy.
"What do you think of the second season?" He asks me. Me.
AL answers. “The animation is fine, but the story arc is stupid. I mean what’s the aliens’ endgame?”
"I like it." I say to Mr. Nice Guy. I am just not going to acknowledge AL for the rest of the day. "I’m sad that it’s almost over."
"Well, they messed up the Martian Manhunter thing." AL says. "He’s the last martian. So why does he have a family? And why are there so many other martians? And what’s with Beast Boy being streamlined into the story? He’s supposed to be from Doom Patrol. They haven’t shown Doom Patrol at all in the series. That’s stupid. They’re telling the story wrong."
My Patient Coworker is standing behind him about to have a seizure.
"Well…" Mr Nice Guy says. To Me. Me. "I don’t know what I’m going to watch when it’s over. They’re ending Green Lantern, too."
"I haven’t seen it." I say, cutting off AL. "How is it?" I ask Mr. Nice Guy. Mr. Nice Guy.
AL says. “It’s stupid. The art is dumb. And Green Lantern spends too much time on Earth. It’s like the movie. Green Lantern on Earth is stupid. he needs space.”
"I liked the movie." Mr. Nice Guy says.
"It’s stupid." AL says, though, no one has asked for his opinion. "Everybody hates it."
I smile. Though I don’t mean it. “Well, he likes it. And he’s the person I asked.”
"And The Watchmen Movie," which absolutely no one has mentioned "was awful, too. It’s a faithful adaptation, but so what. The thing is…"
"What did you like about it?" I ask Mr. Nice Guy.
"It was fun." He says. "It wasn’t great cinema or anything, but it wasn’t horrible."
"It was really bad." AL says.
"I didn’t ask you." I say. I think my tongue is bleeding.
"Okay." My Patient Coworker says to Mr. Nice Guy."I’ve priced up the comics you brought in."
"And it’s in the thousands, right?" AL asks.
"NO." MPC exhales so loud, a seismologist in San Andreas gets nervous. "Let’s go outside." He says to Mr. Nice Guy.
I sneak out from behind the counter to help another customer. Any customer. I am willing to carry their purchase home for them. To walk it home for them, even if they live in Checnya.
"And you know the problem with Wolverine, right?" AL asks.
"Yes." I snap. "I know all about everyone’s problems."
"Well, in the next movie—"
Five minutes later, I come to, in line for a sandwich. I am unsure exactly how I got there. I remember My PatientCoworker coming back into the store at one point, and mentioning the word ‘dinner’.
On my way back to the store, a bus parks at the crosswalk, blocking anyone from crossing across this section of Harvard Square. I fall in the snow, trying to get around it. The woman behind me kicks the bus. An elderly man is shouting at the driver through the closed window.
When I get back to the store it is empty of everyone but My Patient Coworker. “Everyone followed you out.” He says.
I ask only, “Did you kill him?”
And My Patient Coworker smiles in a way I have never seen him smile before. And the music stops. And our store is blissfully, blissfully silent.