A Pre-Kidder Story
(Fall 1985)

"Call me Jimmy," said the young boy. "All my friends do." And at this, he permitted himself a wry grin. "All three of them."

"But those other kids called you-"

"Yes, they did. That's my first name. Real lack of forethought on my parents' part, eh? Still, I could easily like the name. My few friends do, though they call me Jimmy at my request, since all the others long ago took to using my first name derisively, for some reason. They just think it's weird, I guess. Anyway, I suppose I probably am the only person in the world with that name. ...James is my middle name."

"What's your last name?"

He sighed. "Oh, who cares? It's not important. ...Okay, ******, but please just call me Jimmy, okay?"

"Okay. So... any reason they were picking on you other than your name?"

"Yeah. I guess I can be kinda weird sometimes. Different." He grinned again. "I just don't clique with them, I guess." But of course, the new boy didn't hear Jimmy's spelling of the word, so he didn't get the pun.

"Me too," said the new boy. "I mean, things were pretty much the same for me in my old school. Oh... I didn't tell you my name yet. I'm Jason. Jason Costello. But my old friends used to call me Jay... all three of them," he said, with his own smile. "Anyway, my folks just moved here from Metropolis. I probably shouldn't say this, but I get the feeling you're alright, and won't care. Dad lost his job. Which really isn't so bad, as it was tying us down. Mom's a scientist, used to work at the Metropolis STAR Labs, but she was always getting offers from various places. But she wanted to keep the family together, and didn't want to commute so far. She wanted to take a job offer from WayneTech Industries, and when Dad lost his job, there was nothing keeping us in Metropolis anymore. So... here we are. I hoped maybe things would be better for me here, though I know I'll miss my friends. But the things you hear about Gotham... I thought I might stand a better chance of fitting in here."

"Well, sorry to dash your hopes, Jay m'boy, but kids is kids, no matter where you go. Still, always good to have one more wolf for my own little pack... not that I'm the leader, or anything..."

"Is there a leader among your friends, then?"

"Oh, not really, no. But I tend to feel I'm the lowest. The others might not say the same. They might say we're all equally low-" grin "-but... I dunno, I guess I just have an inferiority complex. Or an exclusionary complex, or something. I don't actually think I'm worthless... Hell, I prob'ly get the best grades at Gotham Elementary P.S. 101, maybe even the whole district. Not that I pay any attention to such things. Still, I know I'm pretty damned bright, and artistic, and more ethical than most folks, and I like to think I have my moments of coolness... So, really, I think I should deserve to be BMOP, eh? But-"

"What's that? BMOP?"

"Oh. Big Man On Playground. I just made it up just now."

"I see. Do go on."

"Where was I? Oh- But, I'm not. Well, in a few years perhaps I'll get somewhere where intelligence and artistic talents and such things are appreciated."

"What sort of art do you do?"

"Oh, this and that. I like to dabble in things. Writing, sculpting, whatever. Mostly I paint. I like my paintings. Usually big- I like to do murals whenever I can, but generally I can't. I paint my own bedroom walls. If I like it, I'll keep it like that for awhile, and then take photos. Then eventually I paint over them. Oh, my ceiling sometimes, too, but it's such a lot of trouble to cover all the stuff in my room and bring in the little scaffolding..." He grinned, and Jay did, too. "...But, I paint smaller things, too. Canvases I can keep. And I just doodle on notebook covers in class with various-color pens. I like to just use color to represent places on other worlds. Start with a few dots here and there, for the beginning of civilizations, and have them expand, and eventually make contact with each other. They form alliances and have wars and whole planetary histories until eventually the notebook is completely covered in ink, and I'm always digging grooves in the cover with the pen to draw and redraw borders... I've done this sort of thing over and over on so many notebooks. Dozens of worlds have come and gone, and I don't even remember them anymore. My teachers get annoyed at this sometimes. They might address me in class, ask me to repeat what they've been talking about. And I do, and they're still upset, but as long as I'm absorbing what they're saying... and I continue to get the best grades in class... well, they leave me alone. Boring, that's what it all is. So I have to split my attention between their lectures and my worlds of ink... I was thinking it'd be nice to have a computer at home, so I could do this sort of thing in a paint program. That'd be really cool, and it'd save on buying pens... cause I do this at home sometimes when I'm done my homework... And redrawing borders would be so much neater and easier, and I could use so many more colors and do all sorts of things... But I'm boring you, I imagine."

"No, not at all. Although I have to pay attention in class to get halfway decent grades... But after my homework, I usually just watch TV until bedtime..."

"I watch TV alot myself. Actually, my parents let me watch TV as soon as I get home, and do my homework when I feel like it, 'cause they know I'll do well... not to brag or anything... Of course, they're not often at home when I get there. I guess I'm what you'd call a latchkey kid, to use the fashionable expression of the moment. But we don't get alot of channels. We don't have cable. My folks can't afford it right now, they say. And anyway, alot of the shows on the channels we do get bore me."

"Well, if there's ever anything you wanna see on cable, maybe you can come over, or I can tape something for you... You have a VCR?"

"Yes, but it's not very good... It was used when Dad bought it... and people are always tripping over the remote control cord..."

"Hmmm... you do anything else for fun around here?"

"Hang out with my friends sometimes. We go to the movies once in awhile. Just run around town doing stupid stuff sometimes. Hmmm... there's always the Atari... it's a 2600, got a few games. And as I say, my art... listen to tapes and the radio and sometimes some of my parents' old records.... I read alot. Mostly science fiction, and some reality-based stuff like comic books... I like the ones where Batman loses, but they don't write many of those... 'cause he so rarely does, you know... Say! Would you look at that, you move from one city with a big-time superhero and villains, to another similarly afflicted, um, I mean blessed, city. And both of them among the three biggest cities in the world."

"Yeah... just my luck."

"Well, at least it's interesting around town sometimes. You ever see Supes or any of the folks they write comix about?"

"Oh, once in a while, from a distance. Mom says she saw him in the halls at STAR Labs once. How about you?"

"Yeah, sometimes my friends and I go out Bat-hunting. We like to root for the bad guys sometimes, though. Not too seriously, of course, because even if they seem cool, they do kill people and stuff. But we each picked one of our favorites to pretend to be. We researched them thoroughly and got their personalities down tight, and had costumes made... not very good ones, 'cause we can't afford it... and it'll be nice when we stop growing so we can stop replacing them, but by that time I suppose we'll probably have grown out of this kinda thing, and be off to different places, anyway. I imagine some of us will go to Gotham U., but others might wanna get away from home. None of us have any serious plans at this point. We are only ten, after all, and high school's still a few years off. Anyway, we've spotted Batman a few times. It gets kinda boring after a while, but with you new in town, maybe we'll take you with us sometime."

"That'd be neat... So, what villain are you?"

Jimmy was about to answer, when the bell rang ending recess. The other kids outside started heading towards the school building, and those still in the cafeteria started getting up, too. Jimmy and Jay stayed seated where they were by a tree. They'd have to get up and go to class in a minute, but they would wait for the others to get inside first.

"The Joker," he said. "I suppose if you join us, you'll wanna choose one, too."

"How can you be the Joker and not be the leader of the pack?" asked Jay with a grin. Jimmy grinned too. "Well, anyway, who's taken?"

"Oh... Riddler, Penguin, and Poison Ivy."

"You have a girl in your club?"

"Well... we don't exactly think of ourselves as a club, but I guess you could call us that. Sort of. Sometimes. But yeah, we do have a girl. You got a problem with that?"

"No... a couple of my friends in Metropolis were girls. Actually I had a few more than three friends... Still, some people think of girls as... I don't know..."

"Neither do I. Anyway, people in our age group will very shortly be moving beyond thinking in such terms..."

Jay grinned, "Yeah, I guess they will... Anyway, better get to class."

And so they did.

part 2