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Literature / Interviewing Leather

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Interviewing Leather is a Web Original short story by Eric Burns-White about a music journalist named Todd Chapman sent to interview the supervillainess Leather for a rock and roll magazine. Deconstruction of Comic Book Tropes ensues.

The fourteen-part story is finished and can be found here. The sequel, Interviewing Trey, began updating weekly on May 31st, 2013 — and stopped mid-story on August 30th of the same year as the author battled medical issues — can be found here. It started back up on May 24, 2017.


  • A-Cup Angst: In the published version, Leather is openly angry about the Most Common Superpower.
  • A Lesson in Defeat: Played with. Leather claims that her beating up superheroes helps them because it forces them to shape up and work harder and clears out the weak. It's not convincing.
  • Affably Evil: Leather is generally pretty friendly.
  • Badass Normal: The superhero Darkhood is an amalgamation of Batman and Green Arrow.
  • Beneath Notice: This is a specialised Mook role, known as a "Steve". Leather has one to act as a scout and to call in legal assistance if she's captured.
  • Being Good Sucks: Dynamo Girl was living below the poverty line with no respect, in or out of costume.
  • Better Living Through Evil: One of Leather's two main motivations.
  • Big Eater: Leather has a very high metabolism and eats a lot.
  • Boring, but Practical: Robbing Jewelry stores gets attention, but quietly stealing laptops and game consoles is a lot more profitable.
  • The Cape: Leather refer to these as "old school" heroes, and has nothing but respect for them.
  • Captain Ersatz: Many people are mentioned who are very close to "real" comic book characters.
  • The Cowl: The Nightwatch and Darkhood.
  • C-List Fodder: In the grand scheme of things, both Leather and Darkhood are this.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Mocked. Leather considers being a costumed criminal a lifestyle choice. If Leonardo Lucas wants to play with giant robots, so what?
  • Dark Action Girl: The eponymous Leather. She used to be a heroic Action Girl before her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Dark Messiah: The Jack O'Knaves. Trey, and apparently the other Hearts, are true believers who regard him as a great visionary.
  • Dating Catwoman: Leather can't sleep with normal humans because she Does Not Know Her Own Strength and finds that supervillains make poor boyfriends. If it wasn't for this trope...
  • Deconstruction: Leather has a lot of things to say about Comic Book Tropes, especially those concerning Superheroes. Inverted in the last two chapters when the Super Hero Darkhood refutes pretty much everything she says, making the story a Deconstruction of supervillain motivations.
    Darkhood: We don't need villains to be heroes... but some villains? like her? They need us to need them.
    • Some of the parts that don't relate to those motivations still make for a good deconstruction of the rest of the genre.
      • In Interviewing Trey the Buzzard asserts a number of inverted motivations, in particular the idea that heroes attract villains and danger — using himself as the primary example.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Leather threatens this if crossed and would almost certain follow through, if only to keep her rep. However on screen, she's generally fairly reasonable.
    "My wrath will be as extensive as it will be disproportionate, because I have no. Fucking. Sense. Of perspective."
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Leather reveals that Super-Strength is a Blessed with Suck superpower since you constantly have to be careful not to break stuff.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?/Dude, Where's My Reward?: Leather seems disgusted that, while villains constantly make the Front Page of every newspaper around, heroes are lucky to get onto page four of the local press and struggle to pay off the bills.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Jack O'Knaves has a number of Dispater's Pit casinos worldwide — including literal inverted skyscraper-sized hotels that go down twenty floors or more.
    • A few of the bottom-tier villains such as Rook and Bandolier have not-so-elaborate versions, operating out of an abandoned underground parking garage (Rook) and a space beneath the maintenance bay of a used-car dealership (Bandolier).
  • Elite Mooks: Used by most Villains at the third tier and above.
    • Leather has two trained bagmen (specializing in collecting the loot from a theft), a Steve and a wheelman (who specializes in driving).
    • The Jack O'Knaves has a number of these organized by playing card suit (from 2 to 10 — the Jack doesn't use Aces or Face Cards unless he's working an angle).
      • The Hearts (including Trey) are highly trained assistants and performers. They're also recruited to be fanatics, often with the Jack having a specific plan to kill them right from the start.
      • The Clubs (including Cater) are thugs and cannon fodder, though more highly trained and better equipped than the Jack's average henches.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Invoked by Leather in her Evil Costume Switch.
    • Also invoked by Beguile and Lady Violet.
  • Explosive Leash:
    • Leather attaches one of these to Todd's neck on a couple occasions to keep him from running to the police. It is later revealed that it's actually a fake, with Silly Putty instead of explosives.
    • In Trey, Mr. River mentions that Jack O'Knaves will implant explosives in people like himself who would otherwise want to escape Jack's service. Shortly thereafter, Todd discovers that he himself has been given one.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Leather in the Back Story. Included an Evil Costume Switch.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jack O'Knaves can be charming when he wants to be, but that just accentuates his murderous insanity.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Downplayed. It's pointed out that while Leather had a good reason for her Face–Heel Turn, her chosen job still involves stealing kid's birthday presents and beating up and humiliating good people.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Quite possibly. Dynamo Girl's penultimate fight had given her serious respect from the people she rescued and the setting's Superman Substitute wanted to personally thank her for it.
  • Good Needs Evil: Asserted by Leather. Denied by Darkhood. Inverted by the Buzzard.
  • Healing Factor: Part of Leather's power set.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Goes without saying. She doesn't wear this apart from her costume though.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Leather mentions "like making love to a hydraulic vise" and "broken pelvis" when talking about her inability to date ordinary men.
  • Most Common Super Power: Mocked. Leather, a B-cup, claims that anything below a C-cup is referred to as "Side Kick physique" in Super Hero circles.
    • In Interviewing Trey, a number of henches applying to work for the Jack O'Knaves are rejected on this basis — of course, they're looking to replace a Las Vegas style magician's assistant after the Jack O'Knaves killed the last one for stepping on his lines.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Beguile is the paranormally beautiful daughter of the evil Doctor Guile.
  • Nerves of Steel: Todd pretty much never stops asking interview questions, even in situations so frightening as to demand a change of underpants afterwards.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Leather explains that sometimes she gives a target "the full business" of supervillain ranting and destruction, and sometimes she does quiet and efficient thefts. The former maintains her notoriety, the latter pays the bills.
  • Personal Mook: Certain specialized henches are used by various criminals.
    • Leather employs a Steve — a professional hench whose job is to stand off to the side of a job, watching for police or superheroes. If she or her other henches get caught, the Steve's job is to leave the area without being noticed, and then call a specialized service who will arrange for legal assistance, empty out Leather's lair, destroy any evidence they can, and so forth.
    • The Jack O'Knave designates high level personal assistants (such as his butler Mister River, his accountant Madam Bank, and his chauffeur Nickel) as the Diamonds suit (from 2-10). Diamonds run his infrastructure. Many of them are coerced into service, often through an Explosive Leash.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Todd's conversation with Kyle in Part 14.
  • Redemption Equals Sex: Mocked. Leather regards this trope as sexist and insulting and has nasty things to say about wielders of redemptive genitalia.
  • Rogues Gallery: Discussed as a concept. Leather is very much a roving professional, very much a lifestyle for the hell of it. (Neatly matching up with her name, as it happens.) But there are also villains who fixate on one hero. Worse yet, they're regarded as a good deal less sane, and a LOT more dangerous. Interviewing Trey establishes that such villains are also sometimes seen as more pathetic, especially in the lower tiers.
  • Running Gag: In Interviewing Trey, Jack O'Knaves has two:
    • Cracking jokes about Chapman's environmental consciousness.
    • Misstating Leather's name.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: Mild version. Leather thinks of herself as Leather and has discarded her old civilian identity.
  • Soaperizing
  • Start of Darkness: Leather explains hers in detail.
  • Super-Reflexes: Leather has this ability.
  • Super Registration Act: The distinction between superheroes who work with the police and vigilante freelancers is noted
    "Some heroes have sanction — they work with the police, they follow procedures, they file reports. Freelancers were vigilantes. Depending on the city, the cops might turn a blind eye to them, but technically they were breaking the law."
  • Superpowered Mooks: The Jack O'Knaves arranges for a number of his henches to gain powers — organized (from 2-10) as Spades from playing cards. This includes Sawbuck.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Jack O'Knaves pulls this after talking with Todd. As a stage magician, he naturally has a good disappearing act.
  • Taking the Bullet: Leather in the Back Story.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Leather makes it clear that she is a thief, not a killer.
  • Trick Arrow: Badass Normal Darkhood have a lot of these, including net arrows, electric arrows and gas-bomb arrows. Partially subverted, since he also use pointy arrows. Y'know, the kind that makes people bleed. He still doesn't use them to kill people, though.
  • Villain Cred: Leather's other main motivation. Her desire for publicity is what started the story and her original Face–Heel Turn.
  • Weird Trade Union: Leather's henchmen are unionized. So are the outlaw teamsters who pack up, transport, and unpack all that cumbersome equipment you find in those constantly-being-relocated supervillain lairs. Yes. The supervillains have their own moving company. As well as their corporate affiliate, a temp agency for forensic technicians who specialize in removing evidence from crime scenes.
    • The union makes certain its members are well compensated. That isn't the same as protecting them. They don't care if the Jack O'Knaves kidnaps an accountant or butler and implants a bomb in their head so long as he pays them their contracted rates.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When she stopped one robber, Leather thought for a few moments, then took the money, paid off her bills, and decided on a life of villainy rather than virtue.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: Both Leather and Dynamo Girl crack wise while out on the job.