Moloch. Fritz Lang and de-evolution.
YES, THIS IS MOLOCH GEN. Because holy shit he is awesome. Who doesn't love a creepy elfin-looking ex-magician-slash-ex-criminal-mastermind in his seventies who once created a fucking SOLAR MIRROR WEAPON?!
I just don't know.
i. be amazed! by the devil with a young boy's face (unique! deadly!)
There's a film about a machine that devours people alive.
He's seven years old, at the decrepit nickelodeon on Center Avenue against his mother's wishes. The monster is truly only the afterimage of a man's face, overlaid onto a giant machine. Although the gore is left to the imagination, he spends the next four minutes with his eyes closed, having little difficulty imagining what the filmmakers are too afraid to show.
(There's a savage beauty to the way the metal jaws clamp over torsos, over arms, rhythms shuddering and mechanical.)
He comes home past dark, face stained with chocolate, yet Mother's scoldings are more abrupt than usual. He has the visiting neighbor women to thank for that.
Such unusual features, the women whisper, taking in his sharp cheekbones, the pointed tips of his ears. So oddly beautiful. Mother strokes his cheek, fondly, before smoothing back his hair and sending him up to his room with a sharp smack on the wrist.
(Although the film was silent, he still likes to imagine that he can hear their screams.)
ii. stare in awe! at the raw powers of the polynesian tiki hand torch (strange but true!)
He contorts his body beyond what the gods intended, swallows wrist-to-elbow-length nails without feeling pain, handles violent blue flames in the palm of his hand as easily as if they were old friends. Ancient inkings, burnt orange and red, trail his spine and lace his shoulders, yet it takes nothing more than an easy smirk - practiced, well-oiled charm - to remind the world that he's far more than an escaped sideshow oddity.
He's headlining his own shows by seventeen, no longer canopied under flea-bitten tents but gliding smoothly across underground stages in the country's largest cities, seedy clubs given a simple elegance by his mere presence. He soothes his temples, eyes lolling and revealing a bone white stare, and reunites tearful audience members with deceased loved ones.
Houdini's widow tries, fails, to prove his methods fraudulent. A group of costumed vigilantes will have similar trouble when he moves past grieving widows' pocketbooks and reaches into the collective savings of a decaying city.
He takes on a stage name - that of the near-cannibalistic machine.
iii. touch! the looking glass that nearly shattered a city (more! in the gallery of oddities)
The solar mirror is his own piece of savage beauty; with a single tilt, a blinding glare of light severs flesh so quickly - so cleanly - that broken limbs resemble no more than perfect, giant doll parts before tell-tale crimson spoils the illusion.
He does not miss the opportunity to test it on a group of his biggest critics. It is a mistake he pays for, deeply, when a masochistic teenager in a bright yellow boiler suit happens to stroll into the audience.
His mirror now sits harmless - impotent - in the trophy room of the Minutemen.
It is a scar to his ego that does not heal. He becomes sloppy. Careless. He trades doomsday weapons for vice clubs, drug dealing, financial fraud - all in clinging desperation to remain part of the underworld that he once owned.
The close scrapes keep piling up.
Manhattan is ultimately the one to take him down, yet that does not stop the Comedian from breaking three of his ribs before he's turned over to the authorities. (He watches how gazes dart away - as if eye contact will bring instantaneous death - when Manhattan teleports them into the mildewed prison. After he's finished vomiting, he wonders who the Keene Act's really protecting.)
He's no longer the power he once was. His contacts slowly dwindle; the lucky ones end up lining the cells beside his, others meet far messier ends. He turns to another god - partly out of hopelessness, partly because he's more than once crossed the one who put him behind bars in the first place.
iv. be thrilled! at the two-headed, four-armed beast (real! alive!)
He prefers to see it as self-initiated retirement.
He walks around town for an hour each morning; grabs black coffee and rye toast before slinking back to his building. He takes Laetrile by the hour, it seems (it does little to dull the pain, but it gives him something to do, to occupy some goddamned free time). His life has never been more bland, more useless, and yet that sharp perception that served him so well when he was still young and powerful tells him he's being watched.
Attending Blake's funeral seems only fair. After all - the man had, in a sense, come close to attending his. (He realizes now that the Comedian pities him - no, the Comedian pitied him - and Edgar Jacobi tries but he can't stop laughing.)
Rorschach reeks of decay and vengeance, caring not at all when he smashes arthritic bones against plaster walls and refrigerators.
(A smooth, mocking voice is the last thing he hears before the shot.
"'Besmeared with blood, of human sacrifice and parents' tears.'"
"Do you know Paradise Lost, Mr. Jacobi?")
Both men pale in comparison to Veidt.
v. witness! the man who can send and stop a bullet with a single hand (one night only)
The world's smartest man is the one to make him finally disappear. Windows frost over in the evening chill in the empty apartment, although it's not yet November.
The fact that none of the neighbors heard the gunshot was the greatest trick of all. But Veidt is a practical magician, as well as a swift one; it's easy to make the illusion believable if the audience has disappeared first.
His next sleight of hand will be far more impressive.