Right. So. Carly and I talked about this idea, and I sort of just went with it. We hear all about the superheroes and supervillains, but we never really hear from the henchmen, the guys who make all of the magic happen (well, for anyone who doesn’t have a superpower).
Henchman – by Mike Williams
Author’s Note & Introduction
I bet you’re wondering why anyone would write a book about henchmen. Actually, I bet you’re looking at the cover of this book again and asking yourself “who the hell is ‘Mike Williams?’. There’s all kinds of books and TV shows and movies and comics and novels and action figures and pop culture when it comes to superheroes and supervillains. But let’s be honest and admit that you know nothing about how this semi-hidden culture actually operates.
For instance, did you know that superheroes have almost no henchmen? And yes, I’m counting the fact that the good guys (I call bullshit on this, by the way, but that’s for later) don’t call their helpers “henchmen.” So let’s say that Jake Donovan, the famous superhero detective, has his bombshell secretary Lila Donovan, and his two junior detective sniffers, Kyle & Donna. To you, they’re sidekicks, but to everyone in the business, they’re henchmen. Just because they work for superheros instead of supervillains doesn’t change the fact that they’re lackeys, grunts, handlers, and any number of things that all of the henchmen that work for supervillains are.
Anyway, superheroes rarely rely on henchmen to do their jobs, yet supervillains employ armies of men and women like me. Literally, in some cases, armies. Why? See? You’re already partially hooked.
A career as a professional henchman might sound like something that only criminals and ignorant, uneducated street toughs would be interested in, but that’s so far from the truth as to be laughable to those of us in the industry. For example, my current employer, Dr. Carbon, requires a B.A. or a B.S. for all Class IV+ skilled workers at his lair, The Burning Palace. If you want to move up beyond Class VII, you’ll have to have an M.A. or better.
This isn’t to say everyone that works for Dr. Carbon is a college graduate. However, even the unskilled / non-tech work requires a brain in your skull, and requires that you know how to use it. A high school diploma or a GED will work, but most of the guys on the shop floors are either two-year degree or technical / vocational certificate holders. Of course, there are always some who are smarter than an entire army of us henchmen, and yet never graduated from high school. Those types are rare as henchmen, but surprisingly, or maybe not, they tend to make up almost three quarters of all known supervillains.
See, there’s a kind of class system when it comes to superheroes (SH) and supervillains (SV). There’s your A-List types, like Dr. Genius, the head of the Champions of Justice, the largest union of superheroes on the planet, and some of the more famous types like The Crusher (SH), Insidious (SV), Enjii (SV), Joshua & Bathsheba (SH), Arachnor (SV), etc.
Then there’s your mid-list guys, ones who are still trying to make a name for themselves, and have either trending popularity or notoriety, depending on their legal slant. Jimmy Glam (SH) and DX-79 (SV, though he/she/it is more RV, for Robovillain) are good examples of some of the B-List types. Jane Crow (SH) and Ururu (SV) are probably names you’ve never heard of unless you work for the Justice Center, or happen to remember low-rent players in the super clashes.
There’s a reason why the A-Listers like Dr. Carbon are on top of their game and actively hunted by the Supes. Their high standards for employees is easily apparent in the quality of the schemes and tech/hardware that these types put out there. If you’re going to try and take over the world with embedded mind control messages in a hot new MP3 player, you don’t want dullards and imbeciles running the production lines and coding the operating systems. You want sharp people who take pride in their work, and who have both the education and experience to give that slightest of edges that each Vil needs.
Another reason is that superheroes, they typically have one or more true superpowers, and they don’t have need of a hive of henchmen to do their work. Of course, not all Supes are supernaturally endowed, but most are, especially if you include the hybrids. The ones who somehow picked up a superpower or super skill along the way instead of being born with it. There’s varying levels of superpowers as well. Guys like Jake Donovan, they can’t fly or shoot fireballs from their eyes or anything like that.
Jake’s superpower is his ability to read, see, or uncover clues. It’s hard to describe, even after being busted by him twice in my career, but he’s like a weird mutant human bloodhound, and more importantly, he’s probably a forensic genius. He’s invented certain ways to work crime scenes and gather / analyze evidence that are light years beyond the mundane police and the Justice Center has. Some of it is so new or so advanced that U.S. law doesn’t even cover it, though there are various cases working their way up the district court chains right now.
Jake is, for all intents and purposes, on equal footing with say, The Fork. The Fork can somehow call down lightning from the sky at will, and once he’s charged, he’s got a nasty way of zapping the hell out of the other team. Back in ‘17 I took a full blast of one of his bolts while we were trying to break into Fort Knox, and when I woke up, I was paralyzed for three days. It helped that the prisons the Supes and the Feds have built to house us special types are fully staffed by young, attractive medical professionals.
Speaking of prisons, it’s kind of a job hazard. It’s not like any of us decided to become henchmen for supervillains and didn’t truly grasp the risks involved. Everyone gets the speech from the union rep when they get their card and ID badge. To be honest, the risk of prison is not even on the radar once the speech is over. The union reps love to scare the daylights out of rookie henchmen (“hanchyboys” are what we call ‘em, among others that are even more colorful) with tales of unlucky henches falling into vats of bubbling ooze that dissolved all organic materials within seconds, or being in the wrong spot at the wrong time as a city bus gets dropped on their heads.
So why do we risk it? The pay. I mean, it’s a tough economy, and has been since the housing bubble in the 00’s. Some supervillains are no longer super nor villains, unless they’re on one of the bankruptcy court or IRS most wanted lists. For the supervillains at the top, their money-making schemes are global, and well entrenched, which means the ability to hire the best workers and pay the best wage-benefit packages.
Even for the mid-listers, the smart ones at least, the henchman pay is still better than the mundane world pay scale. Smart Vils won’t hire beyond their means, which means they keep a tight circle of competent employees, and keep them loyal with steady work (and not threatening to throw them into volcanoes or other such fear-based nonsense). One of my buddies, Jamal Al-Aria, he works for Sindrellix, who just moved up to mid-list last year after her smooth hijacking of a train full of uranium.
Even before that job, Jamal took a permanent slot on her roster, and was making almost double what other henchmen were making on average. The bonus after the government paid the ransom to Sindrellix, so the uranium didn’t fall into any Vil hands, helped Jamal buy himself a vacation home up in Aspen, and another on in Jamaica. He also claims the co-pay on the insurance plan is only fifteen bucks. Fifteen bucks! Shit, I’ve just hit my fifteen year mark and I’m still somehow stuck on a forty-dollar co-pay.
The low-rent Vils, well, they usually mean well, but most don’t do so hot financially. There’s always a few trust fund babies that try their hands at supervillainry and fail miserably, but most are upstarts, fresh out of a crappy job with crappy parents and crappy social circles who have a talent, or even an honest to God supernatural power. The ones with superpowers almost always either A-List themselves, or end up finding out there was more to their superpower than they’d realized (usually blowing themselves up, melting themselves, you get the idea).
Who are henchmen? They’re me, they’re you, they’re your next door neighbor for all you know. Like I said, those of us who are doing well, we played it smart and finished school, got our degrees, even went one or two steps beyond. I got my M.A. in Sociology about eight years ago, and it was worth an instant fifty grand per year raise, and it even caught the eye of two Vils who thought I might be useful in their plans for world domination. Needless to say, they both were idiots, but I kept that to myself as I watched both of them have their plans dismantled, one by internal sabotage, the other by the Champions of Justice showing up in force with about half of Metro P.D.
These days, I make great money, and I enjoy my job. Unlike a lot of henchmen, I’ve never asked for a permanent position with a specific employer. I like variety. Getting stuck doing the same thing over and over just doesn’t sound fun, and back when I was ambitious and fresh-faced, I opted for specializing. I lasted about eight months, though to be fair, Radion and and his pals Big Mike and Colonel Blink were helpful in me deciding to stick to temp rotation. Even if The Doberman, the Vil I was working for right out of college, hadn’t been squished like a bug by the three Supes, I would have eventually turned in my transfer papers and put my name back in the rotation.
I’ve been with Dr. Carbon for almost a year now. Generally I go six months, sometimes a full year, before moving on. After fifteen years, a spotless personnel record, and a folder full of commendations and compliments from my previous Vil employers, I’ve got the seniority, the experience, and the brains to choose my assignments. It’s not like I’m all alone either.
My best friend, Dave Anderson (yes, another generic henchman name, but that’s all part of the game, right?), he’s a roamer like me. He’s off with Etemo and Explo-DAR up at the North Pole right now. He leans toward the more dangerous Vils to work for. Some of it, I think, has to do with the fact that he’s pushing forty and is still a mid-level henchman. He’s had his opportunities to shine, but like most of us, those opportunities usually get rudely interrupted by a Supe or ten just as we’re about to show our Vil bosses why we believe it’s time for us to move up the chain.
Dave has five kids, and two ex-wives. Two kids with ex #1, two with ex #2, and one with his current wife, some drop-dead gorgeous stripper that he saved from a life of sin or something. He doesn’t like to talk about how he met Princess (yes, that’s her real name… I’m not making this up), so me and the others make sure to give him hell whenever an opportunity arises. His kids, as far as he knows, are clueless about what their pops does for a living.
This is true for most of the henchmen. There’s always the loose lips sink ships aspect, but there’s also the fact that kids probably shouldn’t know mommy spent eight hours developing concentrated X-ray bursts to fry human brains from up to a mile away, and then miniaturizing it down into a pistol-sized package. The kids of this world are already pretty messed up. No reason to interrupt their innocent childhood, and definitely not something henchmen usually want when it comes to their kids following in Mom or Dad’s footsteps.
So… even though I’m not a famous superhero or supervillain, I feel like henchmen should no longer be the faceless, evil bogeymen that are disposable, expendable, and for the most part, not very dependable. This book isn’t intended in any way to make us look like heroes or even villains. We are human beings, most of us, anyway, and it’s time the world took notice of the real backbone of the Super industry.
These are some of those stories, though of course names have been changed. Not to protect them, but to protect me from their lawyers, not to mention any lawyers from those Marvel and DC guys for mentioning any of their Supes anecdotally. And I suppose it wouldn’t be good to have an insider like me write a tell-all and embarrass the union. The United Henchmen of America have lawyers that are just as nasty as the comic book guys, but more importantly, they supply the workforce for any professional supervillain. It wouldn’t be too hard to have Arachnor break into my flat one night and suck the lifeblood from my body as a form of payback, would it?