Once upon a time (back before these stupid cards were such a huge franchise that I could get by with fewer than six entertainment lawyers), there was a teaming metropolis called Metropolis. It was a thriving, energized city that was home to the Justice league of America, where all the would-be super heroes would come to test their mettle and either be given lucrative comic book contacts by DC or Marvel, or fall into an alcoholic abyss after having their powers exploited by TV shows like Jackass or get caught up by the enticements of the super hero fetish porn industry. There were easily five super heroes per capita, and all the police force had to do was throw any one of thousands of super hero logo gobos into the departmental searchlight and any would-be criminal would have the bejesus beaten out of him by magic lassoes, power rings, and x-ray vision.

Everyone who lived there hated the dump. Because all of the super heroes had struck movie deals for summer blockbusters, they were out of town filming for the last half of the year in order to have movies in the theatre by Memorial Day. And with the city averaging 10 super villains per super hero, the crime in Metropolis was totally out of control. And since all the super heroes scheduled their biggest action scenes to shoot on days when people were off the streets and not at work, the city was at its most vulnerable on Christmas.

"We’re in serious trouble!" screamed Mayor Giuliani as he signed legislation outlawing the sale of gay porn within a hundred yards of any Catholic school, a move that pundits predicted would cripple the industry. "I looked at the shooting schedules of all the super heroes on Christmas Day, and it’s not pretty. Spider-Man is shooting a sequel in Tunisia, Superman is doing retakes in Paris, Batman is doing looping in Canada, and Wonder Woman is shooting a Leggs commercial in LA. If one of the super villain elite comes up with a plot on Christmas, we’re hosed!"

"What should we do, chief?" asked one of Giuliani’s legion of yes men. "Cancel Christmas? The last time we tried to do that, the Daily Planet crucified us. And the wounds on my hands and feet still haven’t healed!"

"No," responded Giuliani as he denied the appeal of a prisoner on Death Row who had been convicted on six counts of trying to get money from tourists for squeegeeing their windshields without their consent. "The problem is that all of our super heroes are so bulked up and attractive that they’re snapped up by the movies before we can get a handle on the super villain problem. What we want is a super hero who’s so repellant that no movie studio would be interested in him. But once we get him under contract, he’s going to be facing every criminal with a flamboyant fashion sense within the walls of the city. The odds against him will be insurmountable. Who could we possibly get who would be so stupid that they would take that job?"

"We are in serious trouble," said the mayor.

At about this time, a young muse named Jonny M. was being fired from his job as an extra on The Anna Nicole Smith Show. The producers were taken with the noble muse’s seemingly endless supply of dead baby jokes, but they had concluded that his bizarre behavior was starting to make Anna Nicole Smith look normal by comparison. Sadly, Jonny opened the want ad section of Backstage West, and his eye was caught by an ad reading "Earn good money while you practice your craft. Super hero wanted in Metropolis. Nudity and simulated anal sex required."

The muse high-tailed it to Metropolis for an audition, but when he got to City Hall the line of applicants was so long that Jonny despaired. Getting in the queue behind a bodybuilder in spandex who said that his super power was talking meter maids out of giving him parking tickets, the muse got out a bottle of Wild Turkey in anticipation for the patronizing verbal abuse that he always got at these auditions. By the time he finally reached the head of the line, Jonny had polished off four bottles of whiskey and some perfume that he had licked off of an Amazon warrior from the planet Sav-on. As he entered the mayor’s office for the interview, he was so smashed that all he wanted to do was vomit enough to be a featured article in the "Only in Metropolis" column of the Daily Planet and be violently dragged to the drunk tank.

Jonny waited in line to be interviewed.

The mayor was depressed as Jonny staggered in. The only hero who had seemed even remotely qualified already had a development deal with UPN. When Giuliani looked up to behold Jonny’s geeklike frame come floundering through the door, he just wanted to reel off the necessary questions to get Jonny out of the office and into the hall with the trapdoor where all the other homeless people were sent.

"Name and super power?" asked the mayor by rote, not even bothering to lift his pencil to his notepad.

But the muse hadn’t heard the question. He had reached the state in his drunkenness where he was filled with devotion for his fellow man, just before the stage where invisible scorpions started crawling all over him and telling him to take a swing at the guy in the uniform with the badge standing next to him. Jonny stared benevolently at the mayor for a moment, then cradled Giuliani’s face in his hands and slurred the only words he could summon:

"I love you, man!"

Things did not seem promising when Jonny staggered in.

The force of Jonny’s breath knocked the mayor out of the window and down a hundred and seven stories into a reflection pool conveniently placed in the courtyard before. The last thing Jonny remembered was a battalion of policemen pouncing on him with batons before he finally passed out in an alcoholic stupor.

Jonny was unsure what the date was when he finally woke up, but his surroundings made him think that he had died and gone to heaven. Instead of the drunk tank or hospital for the criminally insane that he had expected to wake up in, he found himself lying in a plush feather bed in a luxury hotel suite. When he looked around, he was astonished even further; for sitting at the foot of his bed, patiently waiting for him to awake, was the smiling visage of Mayor Giuliani.

"Would you like some waffles?" asked the mayor, his voice sounding like a kettledrum in Jonny’s hung over cranium.

"Uh, no thanks," replied the muse, cognizant of the mayor’s head being heavily bandaged from his fall out the window. "So what happens now? You tell me about all the pressures that power entails and that a man in politics has needs the public doesn’t understand? Go ahead and do what you have to; just be careful of my hemorrhoid."

"You misunderstand," replied the mayor, deciding not to tell the muse about the little role-playing game he played while Jonny slept. "The demonstration of super powers you gave in my office made it obvious that no villain could stand up to you."

"What?" asked Jonny, his attention diverted by the realization that the mesh thong with the mayor’s crest he was now wearing was not the underwear he had on at the interview.

"Your breath," replied the mayor. "It knocked me out the window, and ever since September 11 I wear a miniature gas mask. An unsuspecting super villain could never stand a chance against you, Iloveyou Man."

Jonny raised his eyebrows suspiciously, expecting the mayor to finally jump into bed and invade his anal cavity with a summer sausage.

"I know what you’re thinking," said the mayor, trying to ignore the hallucination of Ed Harris telling him to do experiments for the government brought on by his head injury. "We’re not going to ask you to change your super hero name into something jazzier like Dr. Death or Chemotherapy Man. With a stupid name like Iloveyou Man, the movie studios wouldn’t want you for an action flick if you David Geffen’s rent boy."

Jonny tried to protest, but Giuliani silenced him by shoving a huge wad of bills into his hands.

"Here’s some seed money for your costume," said the mayor. "I suggest you talk to the costume designers at the WWF. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to the lighting guys at Angstrom about putting your logo on a gobo for our searchlight. Ciao."

Jonny was confused until he noticed that Giuliani’s goons had gone through the muse’s meager luggage and found his old "I NY" tee-shirt Jonny had purchased just before being mugged outside the Disney Store in Times Square. Infuriated by the attack, Jonny scratched out the "I" and "NY," leaving only the heart to save on expensive x-raying fees if confused emergency room surgeons ever needed to know where his internal organs were located. Suddenly excited by his new gig, the muse threw on the tee-shirt, wrapped a hotel towel around his shoulders to use as a cape, and added the Halloween mask he had worn at an anonymous BDSM function he had recently attended. The noble muse beheld himself in the mirror, and was pleased by the result: Iloveyou Man was on the job.

Jonny became Iloveyou Man

The muse found that he enjoyed the work. As with all comic book-centered cities, crime only occurred in Metropolis in the middle of the night, leaving Jonny free to take part in his favorite daytime activities of binge drinking and falling asleep in a pool of his own vomit. After waking, the noble muse would get into costume, clock in, and wait for his logo to appear against the clouds that inhabited the Metropolis night sky. At about 11:30 he would get the call, high-tail it to Metropolis’ crime district (5th Street and Martin Luther King Blvd.), and breathe on the likes of Lex Luthor or Mr. Freeze until the paddy wagon showed up. They would always make bail by sun-up, and the cycle would repeat itself.

Jonny talked about the job with The Tick at the neighborhood bar.

"This is a great gig," said Jonny when he got together with The Tick to console the latter over the cancellation of his god-awful TV series on Fox. "I had no idea that my horrendous breath was such a valuable commodity. And to think that all these years I tried to mask it with thing like Listerine or kamikazes."

"Don’t get cocky," replied The Tick as he scoured the want ads. "Remember that we’re in the off-season for super villainy. Things don’t really heat up until Christmas Day."

"What?" asked an astounded Jonny, grateful to be reminded that the Christmas connection of these stupid cards was where his bread and butter was. "These super fiends attempt to besmirch our most sacred of days with their lawless ways? Don’t they realize that Christmas is a time of sharing, a time of putting aside our differences and living together in harmony as part of the human family?"

"Hey, don’t shoot your wad," cautioned The Tick. "You’ve got to save that speech for the climax when it seems like Christmas isn’t going to happen."

"Oh, sorry," apologized Jonny. "I’ve been drinking even more than usual in order to keep my breath extra foul. I’ll keep my eyes open for any yuletide wrongdoing!"

Christmas was always a nervous time in Metropolis, with the populace aware that a new super plot could be hatched at any second. Jonny was on high alert, but as cautious as he was, he couldn’t help but feel his spirits lifted by the lights and the music and the overall good feelings that come over us at this very special time of year. Also, since it was part of his job description to have breath that smelled like an elephant’s cornhole, he was up to at least three bottles of Jack Daniels a day.

But his high spirits were dashed on Christmas Eve, when he looked up into the Metropolis sky and saw the sign he dreaded most: the trademarked heart-shaped logo of Iloveyou Man glimmering in the Christmas Sky. Jonny got his ass over to the crime district to check things out, but nothing seemed amiss. The noble muse was ready to chalk it up to the chief of police using the searchlight while making his home porn video tapes, when he noticed a shadowy figure rummaging through the Metropolis K-Mart store, which had closed to shoppers hours before.

Using the skeleton key that was issued to all city-employed super heroes, Jonny cautiously entered the retail outlet to see what was amiss. As the handsome muse strained to see in the dim light, what he finally did behold shocked him in breathlessness. It was the greatest super villain of all, attempting to destroy the most treasured of yuletide traditions the After Christmas Sale!

"Stop!" screamed Jonny as he snapped on the lights. The foul creature froze like a dear caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. There was no mistaking the treacherous fiend who was standing before him. Iloveyou Man was about to receive his greatest test, for he was about to go head-to-head with that most diabolical villain, Winona Ryder!

"I see what you’re up to, you fiend!" the pompous muse intoned as the evil Ryder went back to loading merchandise into her Gucci bag. "You’re trying to shoplift from all of the local retail outlets so that they’ll be out of merchandise for the After Christmas Sales. Then, people will be unable to carry the Christmas spirit beyond December 26, and there will be violence in the street and general peril. Stop, I say stop!"

Winona Ryder was plundering the store.

"How are you going to stop me?" laughed the doe-eyed actress as she stuffed top from the Jacqueline Smith collection into her bag. "I’m a Hollywood celebrity. They don’t convict us for spouse murder! Do you really think you can bring me to justice on a shoplifting wrap?"

The super muse was momentarily silenced. He thought for a moment that perhaps he had met his match. Then, something caught his eye in the video section.

"You’re right, Winona," chimed the muse as he began loading tapes in his arms. "In fact, let me help you. Here’s a video of that god-awful movie you did with Richard Gere, Autumn in New York. And here’s Mr. Deeds; how anyone could manage to make a bomb with Adam Sandler, I don’t know. And what about Alien Insurrection and Celebrity?"

The actress was caught off-guard by her nemesis’s quickness. "How did you get all those tapes so quickly?" "It was easy," smirked the muse. "They were all piled together in the half-off rack!"

Jonny had found Winona’s Achilles heel. The former star grabbed her stomach in pain and let out an anguished scream. "It’s over, Winona," taunted the muse as he carefully approached his rival. "Stars don’t get prosecuted, but has-beens do time constantly. Ever hear of a little show called Diff’rent Strokes? It’s over!"

Jonny calmly got out the handcuffs he always carried for when he managed to get a date on the Internet. Ryder looked desperately into the sexy muse’s eyes in surrender.

"I’m sorry," said the actress. "It’s just that"

Winona pleaded for Jonny's help.

Before she could finish the sentence, the store was suddenly overrun with passersby.

"We saw the light on," said one man, "and when we recognized Winona Ryder, we knew exactly what was going on. I was waiting for the After Christmas Store to load up on women’s underwear for my transvestite lifestyle. How dare she rob me of that cherished Christmas tradition!"

"Let’s get her!" screamed another.

The crowd was about to pounce on Ryder, when they were halted into submission by a desperate scream from Jonny M. "Stoooooooopp!" screamed the muse, now fully aroused as the ample bosomed actress pressed up against him to shield herself from the mob. "Don’t you realize that it’s Christmas Day. Christmas Day! A time of forgiveness and tolerance. And just as this remorseful creature was about to admit the errors of her ways and perhaps give me my first taste of any poon tang since Jonny, the King and the Gaseous Dragon, you want to tear her limb-from-limb. For shame, I say. For shame!"

The crowd stared at their feet in disgrace. Winona gazed at Jonny in awe, and looked like she was about to reward him with some oral when the silence was broken by a guy in the Seasonal aisle. "Hey, look! Christmas decorations are half off! Let’s load up for next year!"

So all was happiness in Metropolis. Winona Ryder got off with community service which she never fulfilled and had an affair with New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, Mayor Giuliani was elected in a landslide after visiting a strip club, deciding they weren’t so bad after all and starting a city-financed nudie bar in the City Hall lobby. K-Mart had their most successful After Christmas Sale ever after pricing their merchandise at a 500% mark-up instead of the usual 600% and saying that they were offering massive savings. And Iron Man had the most successful film of the summer because of an advertising campaign that centered on the fact that the movie would finally reveal what kind of underwear he wore under that iron suit. And everyone in Metropolis: young and old, rich or poor, super or semi-super, had the best Christmas ever.

But happiest of all was Jonny M. As he looked around and saw his new friends celebrating the birth of Christ by pillaging the K-Mart, he felt a special surge of pride in knowing that he had contributed to it. And with a wink of an eye, he grabbed a Glamour magazine and retreated into the men’s room to try and relieve the blue balls he had gotten from Winona Ryder.

And Happy Holidays to you, my friend. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or Jonny’s birthday on December 15 by sending the traditional gifts of alcohol, I hope you have the best holiday season ever and a new year that is filled with love and happiness and all your dreams coming true. And here’s reminding you that you always have a loving friend in Jonny M.  

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