Literature: Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
"Being a supervillain means never having to say you're sorry... Unless it's to the judge or the parole board. Even then, you don't really have to. It's not like it's going to change the outcome or anything."
Those are the words of Calvin Matthew Stringel, better known as Mechani-Cal. He's a sarcastic, down on his luck armored villain. Follow his exploits as he gets swept up in a world domination scheme gone wrong and ends up working for the weak willed, mercy loving heroes. Immerse yourself in his epic battles and see what it's like to be an outsider looking in at a world that few have ever experienced.Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
is an independent superhero fiction novel by Jim Bernheimer. It chronicles the efforts of a minor armored supervillain in his efforts to save the world from mind-controlling bugs lest he join the ranks of the Evil Overlord's many slaves. At the end of the day, we have to ask, what is heroism?
It now has a prequel, Origins of a D-List Supervillain
, which explains most of the backstory hinted at in the original novel.
A third book in the series has been released, Secrets of a D-List Supervillain
, which mostly fills in a lot of things glossed over in the first book and clear up the hard work that went into the climax of the book. Unlike the other two, it is not a stand-alone book. It does provide some hints to the conflict that will be present in the fourth book in the series, Rise of a D-List Supervillain
, which is not out as of January 2015.
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The entire series
The entire series contains the following tropes:
- Anti-Hero: Ultraweapon. The Olympians as a whole, it's soon obvious.
- Cal, officially, becomes one along with Hillbilly Bobby, Andydroid, Whirl-Wendy, and Extraordinary Larry in Secrets of a D-List Supervillain.
- Anti-Villain: Mechani-Cal is a disgruntled engineer and uninterested in hurting people other than Ultraweapon.
- Badass Gay: Chain-Charmer is one of these. He and his husband used to be Happily Married.
- Big Bad: General Devious, the Evil Overlord, and Ultraweapon.
- Brains and Brawn: How Cal and Hillbilly Bobby's partnership usually works out. Though depending on what armor he has, Cal can provide a lot of brawn sometimes, and once in a while Bobby points out common sense solutions to problems that stump Cal.
- Cape Punk: One of the best examples thereof.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Most supervillains actively identify themselves as such, simply because it's what they're called anyway, perhaps as an attempt to "own it." They don't take it very seriously, though. None of them really think they're evil, though, just pragmatic.
- Half-Human Hybrids: "Manglermals" are the result of a failed Super Soldier project (and later, black-market creations) of Doc Mangler. Several appear throughout the series, each with a different set of apparently animal-based powers.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: A theme of super names. Amydillo, Mechani-Cal (or Mani-Cals), Whirl-Wendy, and Andy-Droid.
- Lethal Joke Character: This is a theme of the series as not only is Mechani-Cal one of the most dangerous supervillains/heroes in the world once he gets around his problems but a lot of seemingly harmless villains and heroes are actually quite dangerous.
- The Bilouxi Bugler is the Good Counterpart to Cal being a D-List superhero who is probably the closest they have to Captain America in morals and basic decency amongst a sea of anti-heroes.
- Magitek: Aside from the prequel, Cal incorporates magic dinosaur teleportation crystals into his armor.
- Odd Friendship: Cal and Andy-Droid. Cal treats Andy the same way he treats... Well, everyone. Andy is ridiculously polite and helpful to everyone.
- Not so odd when you remember Andy-Droid is the only one who remembers clearly Cal saved the world and the heroes in particular. Everyone else had their memories erased and only knows about it second hand.
- Posthumous Character: Vicky plays an extraordinary role in Cal's life even if she's introduced as his Lost Lenore.
- Reality Warper: Imaginary Larry has the ability to create psychic constructs every bit as real as the rest of the world. He uses this to live out cheesy high school dramas perpetually.
- Superpower Lottery: Superpowers shown range from all the power of a Greek god to... phlegm that dries really hard.
- Superpower Russian Roulette: Doc Mangler's process for producing his Manglermals leaves most candidates dead.
- Super Soldier: General Devious, Maxine Velocity, and all of the Manglermals are the results of failed super soldier projects. The Government has also raised five children unknowingly fathered by Imaginary Larry, presumably as part of another one.
- Those Two Guys: Rodentia and Gunk have an amazing ability to be just about everywhere important despite both being Harmless Villain types.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Aphrodite, unsurprisingly, is this.
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain provides examples of the following tropes:
- After the End: A typical supervillain mind-control plot goes horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. It gets better.
- Aliens Made Them Do It: Wendy and Cal have sex under the influence of a psychic. This torpedoes any developing attraction between them.
- Apocalypse How: Class-1. A lot of humans die but civilization seems to survive intact.
- Asshole Victim: Virtually everyone Cal hurts is this to one extent or another.
- Badass Grandpa: The Bugler, though not exactly a grandpa, is still one of the older characters in the book.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Stacy looks like complete crap after a week of withdrawal symptoms.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Deconstructed with Stacy and Cal at the start. She isn't flirting. She genuinely hates him. Due to the fact she's in withdrawal from the bugs.
- Betty and Veronica: Aphrodite and Wendy. Aphrodite is the Veronica and Wendy is the Betty. Played with as Wendy is a great deal more forceful than Aphrodite and Aphrodite is a good deal more sweet.
- Big Bad: Ultraweapon.
- Captain Ersatz: Ultraweapon is one of the 'Iron Dick' versions of Tony Stark.
- Mechani-Cal has some similarity to the Spider-man villain, the Beetle. Who, coincidentally or not, became a hero in the Thunderbolts.
- The Olympians are in-universe ones for the actual Green Gods, possessing powers and personalities very similar to them.
- The Chick: Aphrodite has this role in the Olympians (along with being The Empath) and HATES IT.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Cal tortures Stacy with six hours of Biz Markie's "Just A Friend."
- Deal with the Devil: Subverted. Cal's deal with the Evil Overlord turns out to have no consequences whatsoever.
- Despair Event Horizon: Cal has a brief one where he plans to kill himself after being unable to free Stacy after seventeen days. Subverted as it's just a way to guilt her into redemption.
- Destructo-Nookie: When Wendy and Cal are mind-controlled into having sex. Cal has bleeding scratches on his back and a black eye. Wendy has a broken nose. Mather intended to change it from a sex tape to a snuff film before he was stopped.
- Epic Fail: The accidental release of the mind-control bugs by Ultraweapon.
- Cal's first going as a supervillain.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. Ultraweapon doesn't love Stacy because he can only view her as a possession. Likewise, the same for Wendy's stalker.
- First Girl Wins: Aphrodite and Mechani-Cal are together at the end of the book.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Mechani-Cal seemingly gives his life to save the world from Ultraweapon.
- Fantastic Drug: The bugs have staggeringly effective addictive properties.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Deconstructed. The sex is better when Cal and his lovers genuinely care about one another.
- Happiness in Slavery: Those under the control of Bugs are mindlessly loyal to the regime like they're in love and on heavy drugs.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: When Cal puts on a necklace that gives people superpowers, it allows him to understand any language he hears or reads. His initial reaction to this is disappointment, but it ends up coming in handy.
- It's All About Me: What it turns out Lazarus Patterson believes superheroism is all about.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Lazarus Patterson was, at best, a Corrupt Corporate Executive with a heart of jerk to begin with, but his money and good publicity allowed him to remain one of the world's premier superheroes, with widespread popularity, influence, and a pretty freaking luxurious life. Since we only ever see him for quick Kick the Dog moments through Cal's eyes, we don't see what was going on with his character beyond his feud with Cal. So we don't know what was going through his head when he decided to build his giant, illegal atomic robots. By the time he escapes from custody after his sentencing in the climax, he's apparently decided to go full supervillain. But we never find out at what point he made that decision, or if that was his plan for the atomic robots all along. Even the other superheroes comment in-story that he's changed to go so completely off the deep end.
- Kick the Dog: Ultraweapon gets one when he brainwipes Aphrodite of her romance with Cal.
- Jerkass: Athena, Ultraweapon.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Cal and Wendy conceive a kid during their mind-control.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: Most of the first book is presented as Cal's memoir, released "posthumously.". Secrets of a D-List Supervillain goes into more detail about how he arranged its publication.
- More Than Mind Control: A central premise of the book. The problem isn't the bugs which mind control people. It's the fact that the mind-control is more addictive than crack and heroin put together with great sex.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Only in a superhero universe does Cal's execution of Wendy's stalker end up evil after the man used his superpowers to force Cal and her to have sex.
- Ditto executing Lazarus Peterson in the middle of his terrorist attack.
- Pet the Dog: Mechani-Cal gets probably his single greatest moment of sympathy when he gives a starving mother some of his rations.
- Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: Tyrannosorcerer Rex claims to have caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event in order to stop an uprising by his subjects. Cal has doubts about this; although Rex was a powerful sorcerer, he was killed before he could get a chance to show off his Apocalypse-spell chops, and there's no record of that spell in his spellbooks.
- Physical God: Played with. The Olympians are essentially mortals empowered with the personality and powers of the deities they represent.
- Rich Bitch: Subverted by Wendy. Despite being richer than God, she's the sweetest character in the book.
- Oddly, this seems to have been Aphrodite's old personality.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Ultraweapon is apparently this. He made part of his original armor but has since used a core of engineers to make the rest of it. He now coasts on the profits and prestige from 'his' work.
- Southern-Fried Genius: It's difficult to take the Bilouxi Bugler seriously until you realize he invented the Sonic Bugle which creates solid sound.
- Took a Level in Badass: Aphrodite gets a haircut, a suit of armor, and toughens up considerably. Which Ultraweapon reverses with a memory eraser gun. She regains them at the end of the book.
- Villainous Breakdown: Cal risks one when Ultraweapon is given credit for saving the world instead of him. Then Ultraweapon has one of his own soon after.
- Villain Ball: Lazarus Patterson was incredibly rich and well-connected, which allowed him to remain one of the world's leading superheroes despite his incredible Jerkass-ness. His power from within the system even put him in a perfect position to deal with Cal, what with the ability to launch assassination attempts pretty much with impunity like he did with the C-Class Bots, ruin Cal's business ventures as he did by destroying the robots Cal had leased to Florida, and ruin his personal life as he did by egging on Mind Over Mather's Mind Rape Snuff Film plan. As things stood just before the fight in Los Angeles, Paterson could have continued to strike at Cal pretty much with impunity, while living the life of a Rich Idiot with No Day Job and a new beautiful woman every week... if he hadn't built gigantic, advanced, super-illegal atomic-powered warbots. It's never really explained what he originally planned to do with them, since he couldn't possibly sell them to the government or any other legitimate buyer, and the only two supervillains who seem to have the resources to buy them are also mortal enemies of Patterson. In any case, the mere existence of these robots is enough to turn the government, Superheroes, and many of his own employees against him, leading to his downfall.
Origins of a D-List Supervillain
Origins of a D-List Supervillain provides examples of the following tropes:
- Asshole Victim: Barton, the guy who deliberately ruins Cal's career just to scare other engineers into compliance.
- Also, Maxine Velocity. Ultraweapon is an asshole and Cal obsesses over what a dick he is, so the narration is more-or-less sympathetic to the death of someone who tried to kill him, but she was still a murderous, serial-rapist whackjob.
- Bad Boss: The Evil Overlord Kills a staggering number of his henchmen when he activates the self-destruct mechanism inside his home base while they're still inside.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Patterson/Davros family. Lazarus Patterson's Father is involved with a super-soldier project experimenting on the Davros sisters, who also happen to be Air Force pilots. He proceeds to have an affair with and possibly knock one up, puts her through the experiment anyway. Afterwards, one of the sisters develops psychic powers, while the other shows no evidence of powers. She does, however suddenly go through an entire pregnancy in a month before dying while giving birth to the fifth fastest woman in the world. Patterson Senior lies to the surviving Davros, telling her that the child died as well. Lying to a psychic proves ineffective. Davros starts calling herself General Devious, murders old man Patterson, and becomes one of the world's leading supervillains, taking young Maxine Velocity along for the ride. Lazarus Patterson, meanwhile, grows up to be the Jerkass that everyone knows and hates, with an ongoing enmity with Devious and her niece.
- Blessed with Suck: This is a common feature of superpowers, it turns out.
- Bury Your Gays: Velocity dies fighting Ultraweapon.
- Cain and Abel: Lazarus Patterson and Maxine Velocity.
- Call Forward: Almost too many to list. Cal saying he'd never date a girl like Aphrodite is frequently lampshaded.
- Cape Busters: Or Armor Busters anyway, when Patterson decides to test out his Armored Suit Hunters on Cal.
- Continuity Nod: The book is made of them, referencing events both great and small from Confessions.
- Cool Old Guy: The Biloxi Bugler turns out to be one of these.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: A series of them throughout the book. The Bugler delivers one to Cal, Cal returns the favor, and Ultraweapon stomps Cal in the end.
- Despair Event Horizon: Cal suffers one after Vicky dies and when Ultraweapon effortlessly defeats him.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Barton ruins Cal's career, destroys any possibility of his getting another job elsewhere, and otherwise destroys his life due to Cal resigning for wanting credit for his work on Ultraweapon's armor. He doesn't even let Cal withdraw his resignation.
- Evil Twin: Joseph Ducie, a.k.a. the Merchant of Death, manages to serve as this for both Promethia engineer Joe Ducie and Cal, in a way. A clone of Joe Ducie, he serves as the Evil Overlord's head engineer, he designs weapons to combat the original Ducie's employer, and occasionally impersonates the original to steal information from his team. And when Joseph is left dying after the destruction of the Overlord's Omega Base, he convinces a drunk Cal to sign over his suit for a forty-eight hour bucket list run, during which the clone murders numerous people, blows up the original Ducie's house, and kidnaps his mother, among other drunken shenanigans. All of which gets blamed on Cal.
- Evil Versus Evil: The Maxine Velocity/Ultraweapon fight. Both are supremely self-centered jerkasses who care nothing about the collateral damage of their fight, with Maxine taking hostages to lure Ultraweapon into a fight, while Patterson kills them when he detonates the explosive charges around them along with the ones Maxine is holding by spamming radio detonator transmissions when she was about to kill him. Ultraweapon is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who never lets morals get in the way of personal gratification, while Maxine is a murderous serial rapist. The fact that they may be half-siblings just makes it more messed up.
- Face Death with Dignity: The Biloxi Bugler has one, though he was never in danger of execution. It ruins Cal's moment.
- Freudian Excuse: It turns out a LOT of supervillains had their lives ruined by Ultraweapon.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: In-universe, many supervillains are fascinated by Velocity's provocative sex life.
- Hero Antagonist: Ultraweapon appears to be this. The Biloxi Bugler is a more straightforward example.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Literally, when Maxine Velocity's plan to kill Lazarus Patterson with lots and lots of C-4 backfires. Also literally.
- High Dive Escape: One of Cal's preferred methods for evading pursuit after a crime is to seal up his suit and dive into a river to swim away unseen.
- The Lost Lenore: Vicky becomes this for Cal after she's killed in the destruction of the Overlord's base.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Cal delivers one of these to the Biloxi Bugler in revenge for his earlier defeat. It makes him feel unclean.
- Petting Zoo People: Amy-Dillo is described as, "Looking like a cross between a pin-up and an armadillo. Kind of hot and kind of weird."
- Pragmatic Villainy: Vicky exemplifies this. She is a normal ambitious young corporate executive, except for the fact she works for the equivalent of Hydra.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: The Biloxi Bugler is an extremely mild version. He's been in the hero business for decades (he retires during the course of the story), based out of Biloxi, Mississippi. So of course his original cape was a Confederate Flag while his motorcycle's paint job was the design of the Mississippi State Flag. By the time of the story, he's ditched the Confederate Cape, but stubbornly holds onto the State Flag paint job.
- Psycho Lesbian: Maxine Velocity: speedster, villainess, lesbian. Her dilated perception of time means she needs multiple partners and/or high-performance "aids" to get off, which she apparently deals with by kidnapping groups of women off Florida beaches (if Cal's offhand comment is accurate). She's also obsessed with killing Lazarus Patterson who may or may not be her half-brother.
- Small Name, Big Ego: A psychologist, correctly, points out that while Cal's situation sucks—he's not the center of the world and it would be best to get over himself.
- Sophisticated as Hell: General Devious' general personality.
- Start of Darkness: This is more or less what this story is all about.
- Villainous Breakdown: Occurs for the Merchant of Death who roofies Cal, has him sign a rental agreement written up in a drunken haze, and steals Cal's armor to go on bucket list bender through Vegas that includes challenging an animatronic dragon to a fight, destroying a famous sign, and having sex with a building, all of which winds up online with people thinking Cal did it. Also, a couple murders. In the end, Cal has to fetch him from the Grand Canyon, but he also requests clothes, burritos, and more scotch.
- Cal has one himself after the one-two punch of Vicky's death and his causal defeat at the hands of Ultraweapon.
Secrets of a D-List Supervillain
Secrets of a D-List Supervillain contains the following tropes:
- Better as Friends: Hillbilly Bobby asks why Cal and Whirl-Wendy never hooked up except through mind-control and Cal more or less gives this as his answer.
- Brain Bleach: Mentioned in the title of the chapter expanding on the aftermath of the Tyrannosorcerer Rex fight, all the former dinosaur transformees were changed back and left naked.
- Broken Pedestal: Cal's tell-all book has this effect on the Olympians and numerous other superhero teams as it exposes their very human flaws.
- Characterization Marches On: Cal says that he "wrote" Whirl-Wendy far nicer in the first book than she actually is in life. In actuality, she's a Hot-Blooded Drill Sergeant Nasty who busts Cal's balls constantly.
- Child by Rape: Implied with Imaginary Larry, courtesy of government agents playing his high school girlfriend in order to breed powerful psychics. That's one of the reasons he doesn't want to submit to government supervision.
- Continuity Nod: Maxine Velocity and Amydillo get name-dropped once or twice.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Cal's recruitment of Larry for his team boiled down to beating him up twice, then offering to kill him.
- Did Not Think This Through: Cal claims to be an alien to disguise his Megasuit identity. Unfortunately, this makes the government able to bring charges of alien collaboration to persecute his teammates.
- Dumbass Has a Point: As usual, Hillbilly Bob stumbles over obvious solutions for Cal's problems.
- Evil Is Petty: Lazarus Patterson attends inter-team updates, which other heroes consider one of their worst duties, solely for the purposes of taunting Cal.
- Fate Worse Than Death: The Evil Overlord finds himself treated not like a supervillain and more like Hitler x50 after his capture due to accidentally (for a definition of the word) causing the crisis of the first book. To be fair, given a billion people died, this is understandable.
- Framing Device: About half of the story is an Interquel filling in the gaps between Cal's faked death and the ending of the first book, framed as Cal recounting those events to Aphrodite. The rest of the story takes place after the end of Confessions, but its more of a long Sequel Hook leading up to the confrontation with The Evil Overlord that will presumably make up the plot of the fourth book.
- Game Mod: Cal and Stacy discover that their copy of a superhero fighting game has had some rather...interesting mods made to it.
- Gay Moment: It's speculated that Cal would have slept with Chain Charmer so he could borrow his power-granting necklace. Andydroid helpfully does the math and comes up with a 63% chance Cal would have if it came to it.
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The arrival of Tyranosorcerer Rex. He's a godlike dinosaur wizard from 65 million years ago. Justified by the fact, even though this is insane, it is a comic book superhero universe.
- Graceful Loser: Though Cal has reason to like Grand Vizier less than his protege, he seems to respect that the Vizier handled failure far more gracefully than Mystigal.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Cal is horrified by the discovery that Hillbilly Bobby has about a dozen times or more magical potential than himself despite the months he devotes to it. Subverted, in the end, when his mastery of even a small amount makes him the most powerful battlesuit hero on Earth.
- Hypocrite: The same politicians and supers that want to arrest Wendy for Child Endangerment because she's working with an unlicensed team had no problem sending her out into the middle of a hurricane while seven months pregnant.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Reconstructed with Cal and the New Renegades. They're more brutal and ruthless than normal heroes.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Not that Cal thinks he's a real hero, but his attempt to augment his magical abilities comes to this when he suspects the Voodoo priestess he's paying to help him will use an enchanted item for her own gain. He's right, and she nearly defeated Swamp Lord in his own element because of it, making her one of the strongest mages on the planet.
- Noodle Incident: Amydillo, a Manglermal who was mentioned in Origins but never appeared, apparently died fighting a sea monster at some point between that book and this one.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Cal, despite the fact he started as one of these himself, accidentally creates one who nearly kills him.
- Official Couple: Very-very clearly spelled out it is Cal and Aphrodite since they spend the entire book having kinky sex while telling each other how much they love each other. See, also, Ship Sinking.
- Omniscient Morality License: Used with the mystery of the post-cards. It turns out a dead psychic hero has been using them to affect the future years after his death.
- Robot Master: One idea Cal has for how to stay effective as a hero without his suit.
- Self-Made Orphan: Imaginary Larry turns out to have been one of these.
- Ship Sinking: Jim Bernheimer, several times in the book, says Cal and Whirl-Wendy have no romantic feelings for one another and would be terrible as a couple.
- Super Registration Act: Due to events depicted in Cal's memoirs, Whirl-Wendy's father is now attempting to greatly increase the scrutiny and supervision placed on supers, to the extent that he has Federal Marshals issue a warrant for his own daughter being involved with unsupervised vigilantism.
- Take Up My Sword: The Biloxi Bugler sincerely suggests Cal following in his footsteps as the next Biloxi Bugler.
- Unscrupulous Hero: Cal is a Downplayed Trope version of this as well as a Pragmatic Hero. We discover he's willing to overlook Hillbilly Bobby's criminal activity even while a hero, deal weapons to supervillains, make deals with the Evil Overlord, and plot to kill Lazarus Patterson in a premeditated fashion before faking his death while he's a hero.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Cal and... all his friends. Though it's one-sided with Andy Droid, who never openly mocks anyone.
- Whole Episode Flashback: This book consists on explaining what Cal was doing during the period leading up to and following his faked death. This was glossed over in the original book. The framing device is his reconciliation with Aphrodite.