Big Al Bino

by David Ellis

Y'know, the view of the sun setting in Kings Row
is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I think so, but that's
just 'cause I'm from there. Yeah, I know, hard to
believe, right? A big, handsome, chalk-white guy like
me? Well, it's true: Kings Row, born an' raised. Even
after I went an' became a superhero, I still make
regular trips there, which explains why I'm sittin' in
this tram seat, right next to you.

So you gotta be thinkin', how'd a kid from the
Row get to be guy you see before you? Turns out I have
family, puberty, an' the Skulls to thank for that.

Name's Al Bannon, by the way. Most know me as
Big Al Bino, but I don't have a problem with people
knowin' my real name -- 'cause let's face it, how'm I
gonna hide a secret ID with this body an' complexion?
I ask you.

But yeah, my parents run the Bannon Machine Shop
in the Row, and I used to be this skinny little shop
gofer. I was the younger of two -- my brother Zack was
three years old than me. I have him to thank for
gettin' me into the hero business, too.

See, I looked up to Zack. I'd've done anything
for him, anything to be just like him. Whatever fad he
got into, whatever girls he chased, I was right there,
wantin' the same thing, right? Well, when he was
sixteen, he joined the Skulls, 'cause I guess it was
the thing to do. Their turf's all over the Row, so
they recruited kids left an' right. So I naturally
wanted to join 'em too, 'cause how bad could they be,
if they're my brother's friends?

Well, not long after that, he dropped outta
school and stopped workin' at the machine shop. He
spent all his time with the Skulls, an' I'm pretty
sure drugs became his main food group. He stopped
hangin' out with me, too, an' that just made me mad.

And hey, I was becomin' a teenager right about
then, so I kinda needed him the most. I needed him to
be there for me, an' to teach me stuff Dad couldn't
teach me. But then, I don't think anyone knew what to
make of what was happenin' to my body as it hit
puberty. My hair started turning gray and white, and I
got real, real pale. Serious, they thought I was sick,
so I was bedridden a lot. My mom even had me eatin' a
bunch, 'cause I was so skinny that I must not've been
eatin' much.

Sure enough, I gained weight -- just not the way
anybody thought I would. I put on a hundred pounds,
an' almost all of it was muscle mass. I went from
Frankie Muniz to Vin Diesel in about one semester, an'
by the end of it, my skin an' hair were both
snow-white. By that time, it was pretty obvious I was
a mutant.

Once Zack figured that out, he told his friends,
an' they all wanted me to be a Skull, too. But my
parents an' school friends wanted me to play football.
An' since I was mad at my brother for blowin' me off,
I chose football. Besides, I had my eye on a
cheerleader, so there ya go.

My first big game, I did pretty well. I was
easily as strong as the biggest guys on the field. A
lot of folks didn't want me playin' -- sayin' I had an
unfair advantage -- but a year before I'd been too
tiny to be a waterboy, so Coach let me play.

But halfway through, my parents got a call. We
found out Zack had gone to Perez Park with the Skulls
to fight with the Hellions over turf, which explained
why I didn't see him at the game. Zack had the bad
luck of meeting a Fallen boss, and he an' some of his
friends were burned. Bad. He died on the way to the
hospital, just before I heard about it.

So I quit the football team. And school. And my
job at the shop. And my friends. I stayed in my room,
an' I didn't talk to Mom an' Dad. I wanted payback for
Zack's death, so my first thought was to join the
Skulls, as they wanted me to do. I gave 'em a call,
an' set up a meeting, telling 'em I was in.

The first time I left my room in two weeks, I
went to parking lot in the Gish, an' my new family
welcomed me. They even made a gray denim Skulls
jacket-vest for me, extra-large so it'd fit me. I was
about to put it on, but somethin' stopped me. I
listened to those guys talk about how this was meant
to be, an' how I could be some much-needed mutant
muscle for when they have to go up against the

Outcasts. They said I could follow in Zack's

That's what did it. "This is just like my
brother's jacket," I told 'em, "but it's missin'
something. What could it be?" Then I tossed the vest
into a burn barrel, an' I watched it light up. An' I
said, "yeah, that's what it's missing: fire. 'Cause
hangin' with you losers is what got him torched!"
Okay, so those weren't my exact words; I threw some
cusswords in there, too.

They didn't like bein' dissed, so that fight was
on, man. I learned a lot about myself that night. I
learned that my body was stronger than I ever thought
it was -- I'm talkin' superhuman, not just linebacker.
I learned it could take a lot of punishment, up to an'
including gunshots. That surprised me and the Skulls.
In fact, if I concentrate hard enough, I'm practically

But the biggest thing I learned was that takin'
on ten Skulls an' winning was a huge release. It was
just cool, and I figured I had a future as a

So I got my life back in shape. I rejoined high
school, got back on the football team, helped my
parents again, an' even dated cheerleaders. In the
meanwhile I worked out an' bulked up to Lou Ferrigno
levels, so once I graduated I was able to sign up to
be a superhero. I started callin' myself Big Al Bino,
'cause I just couldn't resist the pun.

An' here I am. A big-time superhero. An idol of
hundreds ... maybe dozens! I've teamed up with other
heroes, an' fought all kinds of baddies, not just gang
members. But I never forget my roots, because where I
came from shaped who I am today. Deep stuff, right?

So, uh, I guess this is my stop. Say, you doin'
anything later on, cutie? 'Cause I know this great
coffee shop....

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