John Binder lived an ordinary life, until Loki scoops him up and dumps him in Gotham with the power of libriomancy. At first he tries to survive by mugging criminals, then magically duplicating the money, which gets Batman to beat him up and throw him in prison for counterfeiting. Which leads him to decide to allow himself to be possessed by the shade of Professor James Moriarty and become a magical gangster when he leaves prison, infiltrating and subverting a substantial mob and utterly annihilating another.
This is just the backstory though.
The story actually begins with Binder, or Bookworm as he is now called, being released from Arkham for the umpteenth time and declaring his intention to run for mayor. He wins, just in time for the Cataclsym and NML.
Can be read on Spacebattles Here.
A Better Class of Criminal contains examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The "Libriomancy 101" chapter outlines the basics of what Bookworm's magic can and cannot do.
- There's usually a bit at the end of each chapter where every magic item is explained, along with where it's from.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe, Bookworm's lieutenants have two very different, diametrically opposed ideas of what lurks within his innermost thoughts. One regards him as a Don Corleone-type with a few quirks, the other thinks he's a madman behind an elaborate Mask of Sanity.
- Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Bookworm appears to have nigh inexhaustible financial resources, far more than he could ever personally oversee. Justified, in that he can conjure, duplicate or with the tinderbox summon arbitrarily large amounts of precious metals and gems, and got a start buying a lottery ticket while using a luck potion.
- Arch-Enemy: The Joker, and possibly Capricorn, a clone the Bookworm made that went rogue.
- Author Appeal: Shortly after mentioning James Michael Curley for the first time, the author dedicates a lengthy post to praising the man.
- Awesome, but Impractical:
- At one point Bookworm muses on the many, many weapons of mass destruction available to a libriomancer, before pointing out demonstrating this power would move him a great deal up the priority list of the JLA and U.S. government, and he hasn't yet encountered a problem a pocket nuke could solve without creating far greater problems.
- Libriomancy itself is this. While the act of pulling objects straight from books sounds cool, Bookworm notes that hes a third or fourth rate sorcerer compared to more conventional magic users. Libriomancy cant be used instantly and has a large number of rules to follow, with Bookworm stating that Felix Faust, the joke villain of the supernatural world, could beat him in a straight fight.
- Badass Bookworm: But of course. Bookworm's exhaustive knowledge of science fiction and fantasy make him much more dangerous, since he knows where to find the good stuff.
- Bizarre Human Biology: The Devil Face Guys who have undergone genetic manipulation to give them super-strength, and to make their faces naturally look like rubbery devil masks.
- Calling Your Attacks: Bookworm sometimes pretends to be casting a more traditional spell, when he's really activating a magic item.
- Cheap Costume: Prior to the story, Bookworm's traditional costume was a long coat over a mocking or magic-related T-shirt. When running for mayor, he gets an upgrade to reflect his new status.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: How libriomancy works: Libriomancy 101:I am technically a third or fourth rate sorcerer, who can achieve certain spell-like effects by utilizing shared belief/imagination in a fictional artifact.
If I wanted to fly, I'd go for a classic, J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I'd pull out the book, flip to the appropriate page and read. I'd start a bit ahead of the moment I wanted and immerse myself in the story, I need to really be able to picture the scene, then I reach into the book, into the temporary space created by my imagination and pull out the fairy dust, apply and think happy thoughts. Nevermind in the book Peter admits the happy thoughts part was a joke, most people know the story from the stage or film and the dust will work off pure belief energy. The concentrated belief of everyone who knows the story is what's mostly fueling the magic, with my own magic letting me create that space and pin that belief into shape.
fanon can trump canon if it's widely believed enough, hence why I need to think happy thoughts when using my favorite flight magic.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Discussed in-universe, most supervillains have motives beyond the merely financial, even those who say they're in it for the money usually want to get it their way in a manner that suits their ego and maintains their personal power.
- A Day in the Limelight: The character interludes between story arcs, in much the same manner as Worm.
- Death Trap: Bookworm has to escape a hastily-built one, steel doors locking him in a room filling with poison gas. Of course, the walls are still relatively flimsy drywall...
- Didn't Think This Through: Bookworm has a pronounced tendency to magic away his immediate problems and worry about the consequences later. This has, and may still, set up major explosions like whatever is due him for having Constantine call upon the powers of Hell to enhance the miasma of dark magic around Gotham.
- Disaster Democracy: Bookworm was elected prior to the crisis, but says he's willing to submit to another vote if that's what it takes to keep the city together. He does regard it as a waste of time, however.
- Divided States of America: As in canon, Gotham is unceremoniously ejected from the U.S.
- The Dragon: Freddy is this to Bookworm, being far more physically powerful after being enhanced with various magics.
- Forced Transformation: One background event has Bookworm transform many of Gotham's wealthy elite into goats and ransoming the cure. This led to some priceless imagery, but also his humiliating defeat at the hooves of Batgoat.
- HeelFace Turn: Possibly? Going strictly by what Bookworm has done since leaving Arkham at the story beginning, he's been mostly only helping people.
- Hidden Weapons: As a holdout, Bookworm has a glove which is both nearly indestructible, and contains a sonic weapon.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: It's clear to see that without Vinny and Freddy, Bookworm wouldn't be half as effective. Especially Freddy.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: As mayoral candidate and mayor, Bookworm's "uniform" is a suit and long coat bleached impossibly pearly white with a rainbow effect by magic. At one point, he wears a magic cloak over this, passing it off as an opera cape.
- Insufferable Genius: Bookworm quite frequently slides into this, and occasionally further into outright evil monologues.
- Intimidation Demonstration: Bookworm at one point vaporizes much of a building, before daring it's owner to do something about it. For context, the tower had fallen and was blocking a street, and the wealthy owner was threatening to sue anyone who dared demolish it to clear the road.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Does anybody really feel all that sorry for the Ventriloquist? Or the Inzerillos?
- Mad Scientist: Bookworm once invented one out of whole cloth, rather than answer awkward questions about precisely who is responsible for the interdimensional portal and the invading army of vampires.
- Aside from using magic in place of science, Bookworm fits the trope almost perfectly.
- Mob War: A few snippets are seen in a flashback as a younger Bookworm and Freddy brutally dismantle the Inzerillo crime family in a single night.
- Mugging the Monster: Three thugs attempt to hold Bookworm up in his own office. Bad idea.
- Mundane Utility: Bookworm can casually destroy buildings with his magic, but he can also multiply food stores, duplicate rare materials, and turns out to be pretty good at search and rescue and disaster relief.
- Mutually Exclusive Magic: Discussed. Bookworms libriomancy comes from a setting with a strict rule that you can either do magic or be magic, meaning permanent enchantments like turning into a vampire would rob him of it. DC doesnt have this rule, and his powers seem to be a local variant of libriomancy rather than a truly foreign power, but Bookworm is still too afraid of losing his magic to risk using his Super Empowering abilities on himself, aside from the Holy Grail, a known exception to the rule.
- No FEMA Response: Averted, to an extent. Disaster relief does come to Gotham, but takes several days to organize and dries up when the actual costs of rebuilding the city are realized.
- Noodle Incident: The time Bookworm held the city hostage with a Giant Death Ray.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Outnumber the onscreen moments at this point, but the kicker is probably the time James Moriarty, with the One Ring soloed the Justice League.
- Or the time Bookworm and Batman both went back in time to kill/protect Sherlock Holmes.
- Older than They Look: Bookworm should logically be approximately fifty, but makes an offhand mention of being able to obtain Apples of Youth whenever he wants.
- Only Sane Man: Vinny certainly feels this way, give his interlude.
- Pet the Dog: Bookworm gets a few chances to do this, though usually with a disclaimer that he's getting some pragmatic benefit from it.
- Red Herring: The author claims to be following the "J.K. Rowling School of throwing so much stuff at you, you can't distinguish whimsy from foreshadowing."
- Shout-Out: Many, in particular to James Michael Curley and Book of Swords. Redwall and even Watership Down get mentions.
- Stable Time Loop: Mentioned in Error 3: "Rowling's Time-Turner, though, is a special case. Not only is there a ton of belief invested in it, it operates on very limited rules. Six hours back, and not a second longer. No visiting the future. Finally, everything operates as a closed time loop.
- Super Empowering: Bookworm doesnt use libriomancy to give himself inherent powers, only magic items, for fear of losing said libromancy in the process. However, there's nothing stopping him from empowering his lieutenants, which he does liberally. Eventually he makes an exception to his rule and drinks from the Holy Grail to give himself immortality and a Healing Factor.
- Swiss-Army Superpower: Having libriomancy means almost never being without the perfect tools for the job at hand. Provided one has access to a lot of books and knows exactly where to find what they want.
- Tempting Fate: Bookworm seems to do a lot of this.So I finally pulled the gem off my forehead in the dream, deactivating it in the real world and settled in to sleep, content that I had the beginnings of the plan, that I was being responsible and had done all I reasonably could, and that increasing the infernal powers surrounding Gotham couldn't possibly have terrible unintended repercussions or bite me in the ass later.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Almost Bookworm's exact reaction to realizing No Man's Land is about to happen.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Averted particularly hard when Farslayer (a Sword that always flies to it's target's heart) failed to kill Capricorn, and came right back a short time later.
- Time Travel:
- Villain Protagonist: Very much so. He may be trying to do better, or it may all be a cover for the Revenge Plot.
- Whatever Mancy: Libriomancy, the magic of pulling fictional items from books.