Chad’s logo appears this week with little fanfare, the logo quickly dissipating as Chad sits at a diner booth across from the camera. His leg bounces nervously as he presses his hands to his face. Chad’s outfit consists of Yeezy flip flops, floral shorts, and a pastel button up shirt. His flowing blonde hair is tied back in a headband of his most recent ex-girlfriend. If you didn’t know him, you’d assume the worst about him and his character. Most people do.
Today, Chad was having lunch with his brother; someone who thinks Chad is a disgrace to journalism. Chad is a bit rough around the edges as the audiences fully understand by this point but it is clear he means well. Dexter’s biggest concern is that Chad has had to work for nothing, he just lucks into things without the burden of fully understanding the impact his position can bring.
Chad: Hey everyone, sorry this might get a little awkward. My brother is meeting me for lunch. I’m excited to tell him some of the things I learned about Spider-Man through REAL research. This might be a BIG story that’s about to break and Chad has the big scoop. My brother has hit a rough patch and I want to help him out.
Dexter: A rough patch? This isn’t a bump in the road. The system is working as designed, CHADWICK, the system for which you manufacture consent!!
Dexter enters the video as he sits across from Chad, they are stark parallels in stature and vibes. You’ve seen his type before if you’ve ever entered an MFA program, or accidentally locked eyes with a man sitting alone in the corner of the hip new bookstore/bar co-op, then glanced away hoping he hadn’t noticed, but oh no, oh god, he’s coming over, oh god he’s asking if you’ve ever read Bukowski—
Dexter looks like a David Foster Wallace cosplayer who had never seen a photo of the man. He looks like someone who just stumbled off of a CBS backlot after working as an extra in a new multi-cam comedy about vagabond American Studies professors. His jacket says “I own several Bob Dylan albums on vinyl, and I could not name a single song of his outside of, uhhhh, The Watchtower? And…… Mr. Jones. That one about a guy named Mr. Jones?” In fact, the more you look at him, the more he comes to resemble the eponymous character of Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man.” His eyes dart around the room like he expects, at any moment, for someone to jump out and declare that the past hour, day, or maybe even year of his life has been a practical joke for some obscure hidden camera show. If you look closely enough, you can see that his thumb is twitching. No, not twitching, just moving, habitually moving as if it were eternally scrolling a doom-filled feed. He hasn’t shaved, and he very much has the patchy kind of facial hair that really, really needs to be shaved. If these men were made by a video game’s robust character creation system, Dexter would have been created by moving all of Chad’s slider’s to the opposite extreme. No middle sliders for either brother. Dexter’s glasses appear to just be, well, ordinary glass. No real lenses there. Etc etc.
The viewers can see a big smile paint Chad’s face as Dexter scoots into the booth, trying to not be affected by the comment.
Chad: Glad you could make it brother! Did you want to hear about Spider-Man? Or the Spider-MEN!
Dexter: That’s what we’re going to talk about? Elon and Tony Stark just cofounded FeCoin and we’re talking about irresponsible and icky insect men? I mean, ok, if that’s what it takes to have a conversation with my brother, yeah, I guess I’d love to hear about the Spider-MEN.
Viewers who have seen Chad’s boisterous and often belligerent attitude can clearly see his spirit being drained as the excitement he had for this big break quickly begins to diminish.
Chad: Do you know who Bushwacker is? Dude can turn his arm into a gun. He’s sorta like the T2 from T2 if you remember watching that when we were kids…
Dexter: Oh. Wow. Yeah. We loved that tape. We watched it so many times we wore it out….
Dexter pauses for a long time. Lost in a memory, before he remembers that he’s not just in public, but on camera.
Dexter: But I mean, whatever man, Bushwacker? Sounds like a gardening tool. So he has gun arms? Ok. Good for him.
Chad: So that guy was hired to kill some Oil execs, I mean good riddance right?
He puts his hand up for Dexter to high five him, knowing full well that it would hang there. That won’t ever stop him from trying.
Chad: Yeah, anyway, Spider-Man shows up and shows him the business. One of the execs posted the fight to his instagram story. Spidey’s new suit is made with impact-thickening foam-based polymer. I don’t know what that really means but I am glad Spider-Man felt comfortable telling everyone he was polymer.
Dexter: Ok… so Spider-Man saved the lives of the people destroying the planet and then attempted to distract from his villainous behavior by talking about… polymer. That sounds right for him.
Chad: Hold on, you can say whatever mean stuff to me that you want but Spider-Man is a good dude. He saved people’s lives when he stuck his own hands in Bushwackers guns. They sorta exploded and it was really sick to watch.
Dexter: HE PERMANENTLY MAIMED THE GUN GUY? HE BLEW UP THE DUDE’S HANDS?! FOR OIL EXECUTIVES? Chadwick–
Chad: I don’t care if their jobs are shitty, no one deserves to die. No one. Spider-Man puts his life on the line to save people so have a little respect, dude. Please, you know how much I care about Spidey…
Dexter raises his hand to interject— he wants to argue— but he sees something in his brother’s eye. It’s not anger, but a kind of pain. Pain that he isn’t sure if he can still talk about the things he loves with his brother, who has changed so much, who has grown so bitter, at times even, Chad thinks, (or would think if he knew the word), malevolent.
Chad: and besides… it wasn’t even the normal dude. That dude is dealing with the human centipede stuff. Check this out!
Chad pulls his phone out to show Dexter the footage he was sent by someone off the books.
Chad: It’s that other one who wore the hoodie! He got a new costume and it sounds like Spider-Man is his job which is cool. Speaking of jobs…
Dexter: The machine that binds us all in this capitalist hell, yes, go on….
Chad’s childlike smile and glee returns as he reaches into his gym bag to grab a manilla folder before handing it to Dexter. Inside is an offer of employment from GC616. Their budget has grown from the massive surge of viewers that Chad brings from his youtube fame.
Chad: I talked to my boss, Reagan, and she thought you may be a fit to follow up on what happened with that Venom dude after the whole city was taken over in goo. She said that the station is doing really well and that we can afford to bring someone else on. When I heard that, I almost kicked in her office door to get your name on her desk.
With his full heart, Chad wanted to see Dexter succeed. There was not an inkling of holding this over his head or even being owed a favor. He wanted to see Dexter do what made him happy. He knew he would be great at the job. Chad knew how much smarter Dexter was and how he would be a much better journalist. Plus a chance to see his recluse brother much more often would be really nice. They didn’t get to spend as much time together these days.
As Dexter takes the envelope, as he tries to respond, a number of emotions cross his face.
Dexter: I don’t need hel—
Shame, intense shame.
Dexter: I mean, I mean, the blog is about to really take o—
Performative arrogance, or maybe performative hope.
Dexter: I mean, I mean—
He looks into his brother’s eyes and sees, again, something there that makes him turn away. He takes his glasses off, turns away slightly as he begins to polish them. Chad recognizes this; it’s what Dexter does when he doesn’t want someone to notice that he might cry.
Dexter: I mean, thank you. Thank you so much. GC 616…. I honestly can’t believe it. Wow. This is. This is real. We’re gonna be coworkers?
Most people would respond in a normal manner, a simple yes or a nod. Chad is not most people. The audience can see as Chad nearly flips the table as he leaps across it to hug Dexter in his muscular arms as he brings him close to his chest. The table’s contents spill off and roll onto the floor as Chad holds his brother tightly before sitting back.
Chad: Sorry! I will clean that up!
Chad speaks directly to their waiter before looking back to Dexter.
Chad: Fuck yeah we are, dude!
Chad interrupts himself as he notices the time on the clock in the diner.
Chad:I hate to do this but I need to run. I gotta make a meeting with Monster Energy who wants me to slam one of their drinks in my next report. Call me later tonight!
Chad pushes himself out of the booth with his gym bag strapped over his shoulder but he has clearly forgotten his camera as the footage keeps rolling.
Dexter: Ok! I’ll call you!! I need to get the details on this Goo Beat— oh, he’s, he’s gone.
Dexter looks to his right, to an empty seat.
Dexter: Yeah, given the circumstances, a good place to end up. I guess I’ll tell them all about— the new Venom, that kid? And about how Brock is going through space now, saving pirates and things, having portentous visions. I don’t know what they all mean, but it seems bad. Seems like bad things are coming his way. Loss, flame. No, no, I’m not getting sentimental. No, I’m taking this seriously! I’m not sentimental. I love my brother, but that won’t influence things. It won’t. I’ll be… I’ll be the voice, the kind of voice we talked about. The kind of voice you say people need. I mean, I mean, the kind of voice people do need. Yeah.
And just before the camera cuts out, it looks like— something, something… gooey begins to emerge from Dexter’s glasses. And it almost sounds like another voice, a harsher voice, speaks out, just as the feed cuts.
Malevolence: Yeah, it’s what they need alright. You and me, kid. That’s what they need. You and me.
Spider-Man/Venom Free Comic Book Day Special by Zeb Wells, Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Al Ewing, Ram V., Cody Ziglar, Bryan Hitch, Patrick Gleason, Andrew Currie, Alex Sinclair