Perhaps the largest and most destructive groups to arise in the wreckage of the Con are the Jokers. They are not a unified clan, instead splintering based on ideologies. One of the two major divisions is the Ledgers, generally chaotic and terrifying vandals who carved swathes of destruction through the Sailor Senshis to prove their might and took extreme advantage of the ill-conceived promotional Daily Bugle pencils. The other crowd to emerge was the Hamills, flamboyant pranksters who concocted elaborate death traps but usually ended up distracted by their contingent of Harleys before making any real inroads into enemy territories. Smaller crowds popped up intermittently, like the Nicholsons (non-functional Tommy Guns did them no good) and the Romeros (nobody really likes to talk about what happened to the Romeros, but it involved attack dogs in shark costumes). Jokers seldom clash, but when they have it historically becomes a weeks-long ordeal that eclipses every other occurrence in the vast halls. The three most notable clashes have been:
- The Jokerz Rebellion, in which the Hamills were usurped by those cosplaying “Jokerz” from Batman Beyond and attempted to go on a “recruitment drive” among nearby camps. It was quashed by a particularly zealous Batman who had somehow fashioned crude bombs (he was later discovered to be a chemist before the disaster, earning him the folk moniker of “Exploding Bat”)
- The Robin Purge. Self-explanatory, in which the Ledgers attacked Robins for continuity’s sake and the Hamills did to attempt to re-enact events of Batman Beyond once again.
- and The Purple Harvest, in which all Jokers simultaneously formed a pact to lay waste to any and all camps in search of purple fabric with which to make new suits, focusing their ire especially on Star Sapphires and Prince’s followers. It was a terrible year for Prince to introduce his own comic.
The Jokers are still formidable, but rogue Batmen often quell them, taking after the mythical Exploding Bat or simply putting to use their countless hours spent watching Bruce Lee films in Screening Room K. When confronted with one or more Joker, attempt to divert them by “playing hyena,” laughing and falling on the floor. They will think you’ve been hit by “Joker gas,” though no such substance has yet been concocted. Failing that, attempt to find the latest Bat, no matter how low in the rankings, and flee in the ensuing fracas.
Seatkeepers: a cult comprised mainly of those whose minds broke soon after the establishment of the new order. They scavenge San Diego buildings and the convention center’s floors with their Half Life promotional crowbars, prying up floor panels and taking them to their barricaded headquarters. They will kill each other to ascend to a chair closer to the front of the room where the stolen tiles are stacked, each golem-like assemblage of flooring placed in a chair at a dais behind a microphone. Ritually, one will come forward to ask a garbled question of the stacks, going into a berserker rage when no answer is rendered. Their vacated seats are soon filled.
I don’t know who is recieving this. I don’t know if anyone is left. But I am Gambit #17. And I am writing from the end of the world.
There are other Gambits left. The Elder Father tries to protect us as best he can, but mostly he sits in the middle of an empty room, built out of PVC piping and Verotik billboards, on a ramshackle throne. He dyed his long filthy hair white and wears only rags, muttering under his breath about “Continuity” and “The One Who Betrayed Them All”. I think at one time I knew what he was talking about, but that time is long gone.
I don’t spend much time in our camp anymore. We have little protection left and staying in one place for too long is the best way to get yourself marauded by Scoots, the roving packs of entertainment reporters and cartoonists, whittled down through years of starvation to around 300 pounds each. They ride their mobility scooters, long ago adapted to run off self-conducting generators. Fuel is a nearly forgotten fairy tale here in the Convention Center. They stalk camps for flesh, but those who have survived this long hardly provide much of a meal. The Scoots are hungry, and they angry. By the time you hear the buzzing of their scooter batteries, it is too late.
And so I wander, from Sails Pavillion to the Small Press Graveyards, scratching what I see on the decks and decks of promotional Red Dead Redemption playing cards I have gathered over the years, keeping my writings in the multitude of pockets in my tattered brown trenchcoat, the taped together remains of my bo staff bending with every gingerly step. I see grotesque recreations of the laws of nature as a man in a bear costume feeds on the corpse of a man in Chevy Chase’s shark costume from Saturday Night Live. I see the animosity festering between the two armies of Jokers; the Haumills and the Heathes. I see the darkness that radiates out from whatever is growing underneath the concrete floor of Hall H.
I see it all. I only hope I can live long enough to show it to you.