Transparent Comics - Mr. Transparent #5: "Gone"

Frumpy jmturner at
Fri Nov 2 05:30:05 PDT 2007

	Vincent Solomon got quite a surprise when he answered the knock at
his door.  His jaw dropped in disbelief.
	"Is something wrong?," asked a rough-looking man with two scars on
his face.
	Vincent had seen this man before, but the man had never seen
Vincent.  Vincent had been invisible at the time as Mr. Transparent--
although Vincent hadn't technically adopted that superhero name yet.
This man was Skitch, and he had led the kidnappers responsible for
abducting Vincent's friend Dr. Carlton Curtis so many months ago.
Vincent had saved Carlton from Skitch and company in his very first
invisible adventure, but why in the world was Skitch standing just
outside his door now?  Vincent made a quick excuse for his expression.
	"I'm sorry," Vincent said.  "It's just those ugly scars of yours.  I
guess they startled me."
	"If you think they look bad, you should have seen how I got them,"
Skitch told him.  "Are you Vincent Solomon?"
	Vincent nodded.
	"I heard you're friends with Carlton Curtis," Skitch continued.  "Is
that right?"
	Vincent nodded a second time.
	"I'm a private detective, and I've been hired to find him," Skitch
said.  "Nobody seems to know where he is, and my client is worried
about him.  You wouldn't happen to have seen him recently?"
	"No," Vincent said, and it wasn't a lie.  Vincent hadn't actually
seen Carlton since the day he rescued him from Skitch.  He had heard
from him, though, but there was no way he was going to let Skitch know
	"Well, if you happen to hear anything about where he might be, give
me a call," Skitch said while handing Vincent a small piece of paper
with a phone number on it.  "Ask for Harry.  That's me.  I hope I can
find him soon.  I'm real worried about him."
	"So am I," Vincent said softly.  "So am I."
	Skitch left.  Vincent quickly grabbed some invisibility capsules and
tried to secretly follow Skitch.  Unfortunately, he wasn't fast
enough.  By the time he got out to the parking lot, Skitch was already
gone.  Frustrated, Vincent returned to his apartment and became
visible again.  Skitch wouldn't be answering for his crimes today, but
he wouldn't be getting Carlton Curtis today either.  Vincent could at
least take comfort in the fact that Carlton was living on the other
side of the country under a new name.  Skitch wasn't going to find him
by poking around here.
	After a light dinner, Vincent checked his e-mail.  There he got
another surprise.  By a strange coincidence, there was an e-mail from
Carlton.  Maybe Carlton wasn't safe after all because he was in town!
The e-mail told Vincent to meet him at a certain coffeehouse at nine
o'clock.  Vincent intended to do just that as he immediately deleted
the e-mail from his computer.

	"I think this is a waste of time, Skitch," a mysterious man said into
his cell phone.
	"I'm the one who does the thinking for us, Tre," Skitch's voice came
from the earpiece.  "Keep watching this Vincent Solomon guy.  If he
goes anywhere, follow him.  He's the only possible lead we've got to
Carlton Curtis.  Curtis' family are all dead, and Solomon's the only
one we know who was ever close to him.  It might be nothing, but it's
all we've got."
	"Why don't we just drop the Curtis job?," asked Tre.  "There are
plenty of other jobs out there for people like us."
	"We could, but we ain't," Skitch said firmly.  "We've got a
reputation to keep.  We're the number one mercenaries in the crime
world, Tre, and we're not going to lose our spot--especially not to
the Thorpes."
	"A lot of people in the crime world already rank the Thorpes ahead of
us," Tre said.
	"A lot of people are stupid," Skitch said angrily.  "Keep watching
	"Well, speak of the devil," Tre smiled.  "Solomon's finally come out
of the building.  He might not lead us to Curtis, but it breaks up the
monotony of sitting here in this same spot."
	"Keep me posted," ordered Skitch.
	Tre followed Vincent to a coffeehouse.  He waited outside for about
15 minutes before going in himself.

	It was dimly lit inside the coffeehouse.  Vincent found Carlton at a
small table near the back.  Carlton smiled at Vincent.
	"I must say it's good to see you, old friend."
	"It's great to see you, too," Vincent answered.  "You may have picked
a bad time to return.  The man with the scars is still after you."
	"Is he really?," Carlton said in astonishment.  "I would have thought
the poor fellow had moved on by now!  How do you know?"
	"He's actually been asking around about you," Vincent said.  "He's
claiming to be a private detective named Harry instead of a kidnapper
named Skitch."
	"Someone certainly is interested in me," commented Carlton.  "After
you read this, my friend, you might understand why."
	Carlton handed Vincent a file folder.  Inside, Vincent finally found
out what Carlton had been working on for the government.  Carlton had
developed a machine capable of opening gateways to other realities.
By going through the gateways, a person would still be on planet
Earth, but they would be in a totally different dimension than our own
reality.  Vincent was in awe.  He had heard theories about this, but
he had never really believed it was true or possible.
	"I've got a million questions, Carlton," Vincent said excitedly.
	"Well, don't ask them here," Carlton said.  "Let's go back to the
hotel where I'm staying.  We can discuss everything openly there."
	Tre had entered the coffeehouse while Vincent was reading Carlton's
files.  When he saw Vincent with Carlton, he went into the men's
bathroom.  He pulled out his cell phone to call Skitch.
	"Boss, you won't believe how lucky we are," Tre grinned.  "Solomon
actually did lead us right to Curtis.  They're sitting here in this
coffeehouse together."
	"Great," Skitch said.  "Keep tailing them until you can capture
Curtis without witnesses.  Keep me posted on things, and I'll be ready
if you need any help."
	Tre got a cup of coffee to go and waited for Vincent and Carlton
outside.  The two friends soon came out.  There were several other
people around in the parking lot, so Tre would have to wait to make a
move.  As Vincent and Carlton drove away in Vincent's car, Tre
followed them from a distance.  Inside the car, Vincent and Carlton
discussed Carlton's machine.
	"You're sure it works?," asked Vincent.
	"I certainly am," Carlton said.  "I've been through it."
	"You've been to alternate Earths?!?!?!?"
	"A few," Carlton confirmed.  "Some are quite nice.  Others are
positively abysmal.  I visited five of them during my studies for the
government.  Then I saw the ugly writing on the wall."
	"What do you mean?," inquired Vincent.
	"I met with several government officials to report on what I'd seen
on my excursions through different realities," explained Carlton.  "I
mentioned a few things I felt would be useful to us in this world that
I had seen in the five other worlds, but I didn't get any strong
reactions from any of those gentlemen until I mentioned the dinosaur
	"One of the realities had living dinosaurs?!?!?"
	"Indeed it did, my friend," Carlton confirmed.  "There were large
creatures all about.  It was rather like Monster Island in some of
those dreadful Godzilla films.  I didn't see any human life whatsoever
while I was there.  Of course, I didn't stay there very long either.
I didn't want to end up a snack for one of those gargantuan beasts.
To get back to my point, all the eyes of my audience lit up upon
hearing about these fantastic animals.  They began asking me if it
would be possible to bring any back to this world with my machine.
When I assured them it was, they made some comments that I found quite
disturbing.  Their agenda was clear.  They wanted to capture and train
these large creatures to become living weapons for the military!  It
became completely obvious why they had wanted me to create my
machine.  I had hoped to help better mankind with it, but our
government only wants to use it for destructive purposes.  Vincent, I
can't be responsible for that.  I absolutely refuse to take part in
it.  That's why I'm using my machine to get away from here."
	Vincent almost ran off the road in astonishment.
	"I just came here to say farewell," Carlton went on.  "You have been
a splendid friend, Vincent, so I couldn't leave without seeing you
just one last time.  After tonight, the government will never find me,
my machine, or any of my research data."
	Tre was still trailing behind them as they pulled into the parking
lot of Carlton's hotel.  Taking his cell phone back out, Tre let
Skitch know where they were.  Skitch told Tre to wait for his arrival.
	In the hotel room, Vincent got to see Carlton's machine for himself.
It was fairly small.  Since it could do something so amazing, Vincent
had expected it to be much larger.  Carlton offered to let Vincent
visit an "alternate Earth" for a few minutes.  Vincent thought about
it for a moment, but his thoughts were interrupted before he could
reach a decision.  Skitch and three other men kicked the door in, and
they all pointed guns at Vincent and Carlton.  Vincent and Carlton
didn't know Tre, of course, but they recognized Skitch's other two
thugs Knox and Lamar.
	"I thought you didn't know where Curtis was, Solomon," Skitch said
bitterly.  "I don't like being lied to, but I guess I can overlook it
since you led us right to the tubby doc.  Now come away from that
machine, and let's all go for a ride."
	"No thank you," Carlton responded.  "I took a trip with you gentlemen
once before, and I didn't care for the accommodations."
	"I don't need your smart mouth, fats," Skitch warned.  "I won't kill
you because my job is to deliver you, but I've got no problem with
dropping your buddy Vincent.  I'd rather not attract the attention,
but I will if you don't start being cooperative.  Like I said before,
come away from that machine, and let's all go for a ride."
	With unwavering quickness, Carlton surprised everyone by pointing his
machine at Skitch's group and pushing a button.  A beam of some kind
came from the machine.  Not knowing what it was, Skitch and his men
scattered.  The beam stopped where they had been, and a large circle
of light appeared.  Carlton grabbed Vincent's armed and tugged him
toward the light.
	"We've got to go!," Carlton insisted.  Vincent didn't like this at
all, but he knew there was no time to argue.  Vincent, Carlton, and
Carlton's machine moved into the circle of light.  Skitch didn't know
what to do at this point, but he had to do something.  He opened fire
on them.  Without thinking, Carlton blocked Skitch's bullet with his
machine.  Then Vincent, Carlton, and the now damaged machine vanished
into the glowing circle.  A second later, the circle itself vanished.
Skitch could only scream curses as Dr. Carlton Curtis somehow escaped
him yet again.

	After a long day at the candy factory, Vincent was glad to get back
to the crowded little apartment where he and Carlton were staying.  He
felt like taking a nap, but Carlton had both the beds covered with his
disassembled invention.
	"Welcome back, old friend," Carlton greeted him.  "Tell me, did
anyone mistake you for this world's version of you today?"
	"No," Vincent told him.  "That still hasn't happened to me."
	"That's odd," commented Carlton.  "It constantly happens to me.
People think they know me, and they can't understand why I act like I
don't know them.  It is rather annoying at times.  You've certainly
been lucky not having to deal with that."
	"How are things going with the machine?," Vincent asked.
	"I've done all I can for now," Carlton told him.  "Until we get some
more money to buy parts, I can do no more."
	"I don't get paid until Thursday, and it's only Monday," said
	"I know, and I don't get paid until Friday," Carlton sighed.
"Speaking of which, I have to be at McBurger in half an hour.  I'm
afraid you'll have to clear your own bed off, my friend.  I have to be
going.  I still find it quite amusing that a successful scientist from
one dimension takes orders for large fries and shakes in another."
	"At least you don't find it degrading," Vincent said.
	"No," Carlton confirmed.  "It's not glamorous, but it's honest.
There's nothing degrading in that.  Besides, with no job references at
all in this particular version of Earth, we're lucky we found any
employment at all.  I doubt making taffy all day was a desirable
career move for you either."
	"It was when I was a child," Vincent laughed.
	"Then you've achieved two of your childhood dreams," Carlton smiled
as he pinned on his McBurger name tag.  "You've been a superhero, and
you've made candy.  I appreciate your patience with me these past four
weeks.  If all goes well, I should be able to return you home in just
two more weeks.  I'll see you later, old friend."
	Vincent piled everything on his bed on top of everything that was on
Carlton's.  He stretched out but found he couldn't sleep.  That was
strange since he'd felt so tired a minute ago.  Vincent flipped on the
radio by his bed to help him relax.  The radio worked fine, but the
cassette player portion of it didn't work at all.  That's why their
neighbors had put it out with the trash where Vincent had claimed it.
If Vincent hadn't found it, they wouldn't have a radio.  All the money
they earned went into paying their rent and fixing Carlton's machine.
They didn't even buy food because Carlton was able to bring home
leftover or burned food from McBurger every night to sustain them.
	The swing and big band era had never died in this reality, so that
was usually about all Vincent could find on the radio.  He didn't
mind.  It seemed to soothe him, but the music was interrupted by a
news report.  Vincent turned up the volume.
	"The criminal known only as Dr. Black pulled another major robbery
today," the radio announcer said.  "Five policemen's careers may have
been ended as a result of Dr. Black's actions just as three were in
his last crime.  The police chief has admitted not knowing how to deal
with Black.  We'll have more on this story as it develops.  In other
news, former President Clinton Williams was in town today."
	Clinton Williams?  Vincent figured that backwards name must be this
world's version of Bill Clinton.  He turned the radio down.  He
wondered about this Dr. Black and just what he was capable of.  There
were two invisibility capsules in Vincent's pocket.  Maybe he could be
helpful to the authorities here.  He had been so absorbed by his own
problems for the past four weeks that doing anything as Mr.
Transparent hadn't even crossed his mind, but would it be right for
him to interfere in the affairs of another world?  Maybe his presence
in this new world was fate.  Perhaps he was destined to stop Dr.
Black.  He couldn't know for sure, and he wound up falling asleep as
he mulled it all over in his mind.
	Three hours later, Vincent woke up.  He decided to take a walk around
the city.  Maybe he could find out something about this whole Dr.
Black situation on the street.  Vincent roamed around for about four
hours, but he didn't come across anything that might require Mr.
Transparent's abilities.  He decided to head over to McBurger.
Carlton would be getting off work soon, and Vincent could walk his
friend home.  When he got there, he sat down in one of the booths to
wait.  Things weren't very busy.  The manager of the place walked over
to where he was sitting.  She had seen Vincent there many times
	"So what happened to your friend Carlton?," she asked.  "He never
showed up for work today, and he didn't call in or anything.  I'd
expect that from one of these teenagers but not Carlton."
	"He's not here?"
	"You don't know where he is either?," she gasped.  "Now I'm really
worried.  I hope nothing bad has happened to him."
	Vincent was worried, too.  Carlton had mentioned being mistaken for
this world's version of him quite a bit.  What if this world's version
had enemies like Carlton had in Skitch's group?  Vincent glanced at
the woman's name tag.
	"Janice, do you have a phone book?," inquired Vincent.  "Maybe I can
make a few calls to track Carlton down."
	She brought Vincent the book.  Then she left him alone to look
through it.  There was no Carlton Curtis listed.  Then Vincent
remembered the name Clinton Williams.  If Carlton Curtis wasn't
listed, maybe Curtis Carlton was.  There was indeed a Curtis Carlton
in the phone book.  His address was 21 Keen Street.  Vincent knew that
street, and it wasn't very far from McBurger.  He got there as fast as
he could and knocked on the front door.  The man who answered looked
exactly like Carlton.  It had to be this world's Curtis Carlton.
	"I'm very sorry to bother you, sir, but I need to ask you some
questions," Vincent explained.  "These questions may seem strange to
you, but they are very important."
	Before Vincent could continue, he heard something.
	That cry from inside the house was Carlton's voice.  Vincent didn't
hesitate a second.  Curtis Carlton tried to shut the door, but Vincent
got a foot in it.  Vincent forced his way in.  He put his hands on
Curtis Carlton's shoulders and drove his knee hard into the man's
stomach.  Curtis Carlton grabbed Vincent's neck to choke him, but
Vincent put a stop to that with several forearm blows to the man's
head.  Vincent kicked the stunned Curtis Carlton in the stomach, and
the man fell to the floor.  Vincent got on top of him.
	"Tell me where to find Carlton!," Vincent demanded.
	Curtis Carlton didn't want to answer at first, but a few punches to
the face from Vincent convinced him.
	"He's tied up in the guest room," Curtis Carlton said weakly.  "It's
the first door on the left."
	"What is he tied with?," Vincent asked.
	"Rope," the man told him.
	"Where do you keep it?"
	"In that closet behind you," answered Curtis Carlton.
	Vincent pulled Curtis Carlton up and forced his arms behind his
back.  Vincent held his arms there as they walked over to the closet.
Vincent tied him up and put him in the closet.  Then Vincent found and
freed his friend Carlton Curtis.
	As they waited for the authorities, they kept an eye on the closet
door to make sure Curtis Carlton didn't escape.
	"Congratulations, Vincent," Carlton smiled.  "You just put a stop to
Public Enemy #1.  That man in the closet is not only this world's
version of me, but he is also the criminal called Dr. Black."
	"That explains the black outfit hanging in the closet," Vincent
said.  "He didn't seem very tough when I fought with him.  I wonder
why he's considered so dangerous."
	"Without his costume and equipment, he's just as fat and out of shape
as I am," stated Carlton.
	"Oh, it's diabolical," Carlton explained.  "He shoots some sort of
acid spray in people's eyes.  I suppose you could say he's somewhat of
a twisted version of Mr. Transparent--becoming invisible to his foes
by blinding them.  He had heard somewhere about me and how I resemble
him.  He jumped me on my way to work and brought me here.  He was
going to kill me but make it look like a suicide.  He was going to put
the Dr. Black costume next to my corpse along with a suicide note that
claimed I could no longer stand the guilt of my crimes.  While
everyone here would think Dr. Black and Curtis Carlton were dead, he'd
be spending his ill-gotten wealth somewhere in Europe under another
	The police soon showed up to take Dr. Black into custody.  There was
a cash reward for aiding in his arrest, so Carlton was able to buy all
the things he needed to repair his machine.  Vincent got to go home
two weeks earlier than expected.
	"Well, it's been wonderful knowing you, Vincent," Carlton said.  "Now
that you're back where you belong, it's time for my machine and I to
	"Do you have a new world picked out, or are you just going to wander
until you find one?"
	"Believe it or not, I believe I shall return to the world we just
came from to live out my days there," Carlton said.  "I've grown
rather fond of Janice at McBurger.  Perhaps I can court her once I've
found a better job."
	"That's great," Vincent smiled.  "She seems like a good woman, but
I'm going to miss you, Carlton.  You're the best friend I've ever
	"I echo those sentiments to you, my friend.  Take care of yourself,
and don't ever stop the good work you do as Mr. Transparent.
Farewell, Vincent."
	Carlton activated his machine, and he was gone just seconds later.
His friend had gotten him home.  Now he was going to need the help of
another friend to explain where he had been the last four weeks.  He
made a telephone call to Captain Canine.
	"How soon can you get here?," Vincent asked.
	"I can be there tomorrow morning, Vince, but I didn't think you
believed in superheroes telling lies," the Captain said.
	"I don't under normal circumstances, but things haven't been quite
normal lately," Vincent told him.
	"You can say that again," Captain Canine agreed.  "You don't have any
idea what's been going on while you were gone, do you?"
	"You better get yourself a newspaper, slick," suggested the Captain.
"I guarantee you'll be surprised.  See you in the morning."
	Vincent did buy a newspaper.  After that, he checked himself into a
cheap motel for the night.  In his room there, he sat back to relax
and read the paper.  Captain Canine was right.  He got a big
surprise.  Vincent Solomon had been missing for four weeks, but
somehow Mr. Transparent hadn't!

UNSEEN VOICES (The Letters Page)
Neat, a letters column! It fits in perfectly. :)
I have a question: you switched from first-person narration to third-
person narration between issues one and two. Was there a reason for
I do similar things myself sometimes, but I usually feel obliged to
keep everything consistent... Well, as consistent as I ever am. J--
Jamie Rosen
Hello again, Jamie.  Glad you like the letters page.  I think it's the
most organized way for me to respond to things.
As for the narration, it may vary from issue to issue.  It all depends
on what I think works better for the story at the time.  I'd like to
write one from a villain's point of view someday, but I haven't come
up with the right story idea for that just yet.  I think it would be
fun, though.
I hope you'll keep reading.--Frumpy
     There's so much administrivia to deal with because of this series
before I can even get to reviewing the stories themselves that I
barely know where to start...
     Okay then.  First up: a welcome to Frumpy.  It looks like this is
another year where we'll actually have competition in the category of
the 'Best New Writer' award at the RACCies.  Yay, new participants!
(Long time RACContuers will probably be at least vaguely aware that
over the years we have had a slow, on average steady, but in specifics
erratic flow of new participants on our newsgroup.  A quick browse of
the RACCies ballots back to 2002 for the vote of Best New Writer
indicates that this will be the first time that we've had an actual
contest in that category for two years running.)  Now, a google search
under both 'Frumpy' and variations on 'J.M. Turner' can't find any
instances of him/her posting on RACC before, so unless the author
indicates otherwise I'll assume that s/he is indeed a newcomer.
     Secondly, about the labeling.  The story title indicate that they
are coming from 'Transparent Comics' -but also have a [Misc] label.
Now, while there is nothing wrong with this per se, I would like to
ask Frumpy for confirmation as to whether 'Transparent Comics'
represents the *publisher* of the comics as distinct from *universe*
that the stories are set in.  Just curious.
     The first issue contains Mr. Transparent's origin as a university
professor who's been working on a weight reduction formula that
instead grants temporary invisibility.  After rescuing a fellow
scientist who had been kidnapped he adopted the identity of Mr.
Transparent.  By the second issue he's established himself as a
superhero and indeed thinks of the task as a duty.  While
investigating a protest against a housing development he confronts a
mutant porcupine who had been taking hostages in order to preserve
some woodlands against the development.
     One thing that struck me about the first issue was an impression
of archaism.  This was actually a false impression (the presence of
internet usage in the second issue puts to rest any doubts about it
being set in the present day).  Upon reflection I think that
impression comes from two things.  Firstly, Frumpy has worked to give
his characters distinction speech patterns.  Vincent Solomon - the
titular Mr. Transparent -has a formal pattern as stereotypically
befits a university professor.  This is even more marked in his fellow
academic and scientist Carlton Curtis, who even in great danger came
across as being rather restrained, perhaps even fuddy-duddy-ish.
Secondly, the first issue is narrated by Mr. Transparent, whereas the
second is narrated in third person omniscient.  This gave the first
issue an air of formality that made me briefly wonder if this was
being repeated in a club story format or was perhaps even being set
sometime in the early twentieth century.  This minor distraction
vanished with the change in narrative style in the second issue.
     Another thing I noticed was that Frumpy has a clear and concise
writing style.  There is little of the elaborate sentence structures
that appear (and sometimes clutter) my own writing.  Tom Russell likes
to compare my writing style to Proust; me, I tend to think of it as a
holdover from growing up reading comics written by Chris Claremont.
Whatever the case, _Mr. Transparent_ is a good contrast, since its
style is direct and eminently readable.--Saxon Brenton
Thank you for the welcome.  I hope I can clear up some of the things
that are confusing to you.
First off, I am a him, and I'm a new writer to RACC.  As for the MISC
label, I never put it there.  The moderators must have done it, but it
hasn't been present on my latest stories.  Transparent Comics is my
line of comics, and I guess you could say they're set in the
Transparent Comics universe.
It's interesting that you thought issue #1 was set in the past.  I'm
not sure if that's good or bad, but you definitely got a good grasp on
Carlton Curtis' personality from it.
I completely agree that my writing is pretty simple and not too
I hope that clears some things up for you.  I enjoyed reading your
review, and I look forward to more of them.--Frumpy

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