“Hard Target” — Page Fifteen
In Cricket’s neighborhood, a few well-timed, well-placed parlor tricks probably keep the hostiles at a safe distance. As Bruce Wayne famously put it, “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.” Being the Witch Woman of West Side has intimidation points. It would certainly work on me, but then I’m a superstitious lot myself. Our hero, however, has his own reasons for not being impressed, and is frankly not about to put up with this kind of carnival side-show juju.
By the way, I hope it is clear that her cough is caused by the effects of her own homegrown pepper-gas and not because he’s strangling her or anything. The two of them may be pushing to see who dominates but our hero is still as gentlemanly as we can allow him to be under the circumstances.
And more below!
Yes, I was seriously tempted to whip up some pepper gas grenades of my own just to test things out. I’m sure no one is surprised. Ultimately, however, I decided against it. It wasn’t actually needed for the comic – ordinary smoke and fire effects work just as well – and frankly, I’ve had a few recent mishaps with capsicum-containing products that make me wish to avoid having any more. Anyone who has accidentally sneezed while holding an open container of cayenne pepper probably has stories of their own.
My wife and I like to make our own microwave popcorn for movie nights using popcorn in a glassine bag along with a bit of ghee or olive oil – it works really well. One cold night I had the bright idea of dosing the bag with a potent brand chili oil from the Asian market – I thought it would make for spicy popcorn. Well, it did – but the bag also burst open, venting a cloud of superheated steam and atomized chili oil that sent us both fleeing outdoors with eyes streaming. I think we can safely assume that just about any simple dispersal method for throwing cayenne pepper or chili powder into a person’s face would be fairly effective.
Most colored smokes are nothing more than potassium chlorate and lactose (milk sugar – powdered sugar will also work) along with a quantity of powdered dye to turn the white smoke into the desired color. Chlorate mixes are generally preferred because they work well and burn relatively “cool” so that the dye color is not destroyed in the process. I was reasonably certain I could substitute finely ground chili powder for the dye and get myself in all sorts of pain, but as stated I decided against the experiment. Mainly because it was raining and I’d have to do most of the experiment indoors. Sometimes you just have to listen to those little nagging doubts.
Besides, I’ve been driven to coughing fits just opening a packet of spicy ramen flavoring. So I was pretty sure Cricket could have pulled an adequate effect with something a simple as a pile of shaved match heads under some Madras curry powder. It’s all in the presentation, after all.
Unless the person she’s trying to impress has witnessed a ghost who can stop bullets in flight. Cricket’s up against the very personification of a “tough audience” here.
— Bob out
Bonus! As always, Max-The-Artist gave plenty of extra art along the edges as “bleed” and sometimes I’m hard-pressed to know where to crop it. Have to, because otherwise at the size it needs to be for the page, the uncropped version’s text is too small to read easily. (Patreon’s version is double-size at 1200 x 1800 so no problem there.) Nonetheless, I thought the page was so pretty I’ve included the uncropped version below.