“Scorned” by Jeffrey Ricker from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

Marcus Harris aka Megawatt, is a fallen man, a former superhero who has done terrible things. For one, he made himself the judge, jury and executioner of super villain The Arrow of Armageddon. It’s not how good guys are supposed to behave. They’re supposed to play by the rules. Doing so makes their job harder, and much of the nobility of being the good guy stems from that fact. When Marcus let his emotions take over he stopped playing by the rules and became a bad guy. Now he’s in a maximum security prison.

The thing is, it’s easy to understand why he lost control. His boyfriend Alan, whose crime-fighting name is Altitude, fell in love with someone else. Ouch. Also, when he was a child Marcus was ostracized by his classmates because he was gay. Does he have issues? Heck yes. Who wouldn’t?

My favorite section of the story is when prison psychologist Dr. Emily Wheeling points out to Marcus that in his superhero days he wasn’t only looked up to by the public, he was nearly canonized by them. She makes the case that this was wrong because he was born with his abilities; they aren’t something he worked to achieve. In her opinion he should have discouraged the public’s adulation. She’s right, of course. Just as it’s wrong to hate someone for a trait they have no control over, it’s also wrong to love them for one.

There’s an interesting parallel here, obviously. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for decades. In my personal opinion a default sympathetic starting mode is acceptable, given the sum total of everything that has happened. What’s wrong with an automatic benefit of the doubt? The alternative would be starting everyone off from a level playing field, and hey, I’m all for that. Really, anytime the rest of the world wants to implement that, well, you go right on and do it.

Anyway, back to the story. It turns out that nothing is really as it seems, Marcus has been wronged even more than he knew, and he’s being granted a second chance. Why? We don’t know. This story feels like the start of something bigger. I hope it is.