Ex Machina (comics)
The series details the life of Mitchell Hundred (also known as The Great Machine), the world's first and only superhero, who, in the wake of his actions on 9/11, is elected Mayor of New York City. The story is set during Hundred's term in office, and interwoven with flashbacks to his past as the Great Machine. Through this, the series explores both the political situations Hundred finds himself in, and the mysteries surrounding his superpowers.
Issue 1: "The Pilot"
- Mitchell Hundred: People blame me for Bush in his flight suit and Arnold getting elected governor, but truth is…those things would have happened with or without me.
Everyone was scared back then, and when folks get scared, they want to be surrounded by heroes. But real heroes are just a fiction we create. They don’t exist outside of comic books.
You know, Mayor La Guardia once read comics over the radio to New Yorkers?
It’s true, happened during a newspaper delivery strike back in ’45. Fiorello didn’t want kids to go without their Dick Tracy because of a few squabbling grown ups, so he…
Sorry I’m rambling, aren’t I. I do that these days.
- Mitchell Hundred: When I grow up, I wanna work for DC comics, but mom says if I’m gonna draw for a living, I have to learn to be an architect.
Kremlin: Here your mother is correct. We do not always get to be what we want to be in life…not even in America.
- Mitchell Hundred: I’m not a professional wrestler, sir. My name is Mitchell Hundred. I’m a retired civil servant who’s dedicated his life to this city. I want to parlay my celebrity, for lack of a better word, into a meaningful political career.
Dave Wylie: Listen man, you’d have to reveal your identity before you ran, and the second you did, a dozen different agencies would put out warrants for your arrest.
Mitchell Hundred: And so they should. But I highly doubt the town that found Bernard Goetz innocent will send me to prison for my brief misguided career as a vigilante.
- Mitchell Hundred: My dream was to make a difference in people’s lives.
Kremlin: And you did. Now you are just another cog.
Mitchell Hundred: I’ve done more good in one hour at city hall than The Great Machine did in a month.
Kremlin: You’re mad! How many more lives would have been lost if you had no put this on one last time that day in September? You were a hero!
Mitchell Hundred: No, I was a failure. If I were a real hero…
I would have been there in time to stop the first plane.
Issue 2: "State of Emergency Part 1"
- Commissioner Angotti: Listen to me you arrogant ass hole, do yo remember a high speed pursuit on the west side highway last month?
The Great Machine: The bank robbers I caught.
Commissioner Angotti: When you disabled the engine on their van, you caused a ten car pile up! You put one of my best officers in the hospital!
The Great Machine: I...I did?
Commissioner Angotti: With a broken leg, but it could have easily been her neck.
The Great Machine: Her?
Commissioner Angotti: Yeah women are cops, too, you fucking fruitcake.
The Great Machine: I didn't mean--
Commissioner Angotti: I don't care that the slow kids at PS 188 think you're an angel, all right? You are terrorizing New York City, and you're going to get someone killed!
The Great Machine: Um...
Commissioner Angotti: Take off your mask and turn yourself in or I will start arming my people with fucking bows and arrows...
....and order them to shoot on sight!
- Curator Rima Barry: The work is untitled it's meaning is open to interpretation.
However, through juxtaposing an image of the "great emancipator" with the word some whites still use to keep american blacks shackled to the past, I believe the artist is reminding us that no one can deliver this country from our legacy of bigotry.
Mitchell Hundred: What the hell is she talking about? This thing is absurd, it's not even shocking, it's just...ridiculous.
Dave Wylie: You're not going to be laughing when you hear who paid for it.
- Mitchell Hundred: Forget who footed the bill for a second, why is this in the same building as Homer and... and Rodin? I'm as open minded as any politician alive, but this is just puerile.
Curator Rima Barry: Really? I think Trista Bravings work is quite extra-ordinary.
She dares to confront ideologues, those with an aversion to the harsh reality of life.
Mitchell Hundred: The artist is she...?
Curator Rima Barry: Is she what Mr. Mayor?
Mitchell Hundred: Is she, you know...
Dave Wylie: Is she black?
Curator Rima Barry: I don't see how that's relevant.
Dave Wylie: It's relevant because of that word, Rima. That word is all about context, context like the race of the person behind it.
Curator Rima Barry: So you have to be part of a select group to use a certain noun? Doesn't that just fetishize it? Doesn't it make it more powerful?
I think creators of all colors have a responsibility to appropriate "taboo" phrases form hatemongers. After all, Mark Twain used the N-word dozens of times in Huckleberry Finn, and it's considered the greatest novel in American literature.
Mitchell Hundred: Oh fuck, that means she is white.
Dave Wylie: Rima, what about our responsibility to the community? The museum's a few blocks from crown heights, for Gods sake! It's been ten years since the riots, and this neighborhood still hasn't finished healing. You didn't think people could be hurt over this? A "Nigger Lincoln?"
Mitchell Hundred: Well at least African Americans and Republicans are going to have something they can unite against. How long before the media gets wind?
Curator Rima Barry: We sent out press kits an hour ago.
Mitchell Hundred: This week is gonna suck, isn't it?
Dave Wylie: Like an airplane toilet, sir.
Issue 3: "State of Emergency Part 2"
- Mitchell Hundred: I've got 30,000 homeless people sleeping in municipal shelters, at least another five freezing to death out there... and people care about this?
Candy Watson: Well , the flip answer is that this is sexy, statistic ain't. But if we play our cards right, we might be able to make some friends on the right. Store up some political capital to send on, you know...reversing cut backs to housing assistance.
Dave Wylie: Play our cards right how? By withholding funding to the second oldest museum in the country?
- Dave Wylie: Sir I know a man is dead, but we can't ignore this exhibit. Koch always said that being mayor is about balancing the seemingly mundane with--
Mitchell Hundred: Relax, I'll review the museums charter. I'm just going to do it down stairs. Too much noise up here, not enough signal.
- Mitchell Hundred: I asked journal to speak with our Lincoln artist, she's going to visit the girl's studio first thing tomorrow morning.
Dave Wylie: Why?
Mitchell Hundred: If we financially pressure the Brooklyn museum into taking down Miss Braving's painting, it's censorship...but the museums guidelines say that a work of art can be removed at an artist's request.
I figured it wouldn't hurt to send someone on a diplomatic mission, just to get inside this girl's head. Maybe she'll voluntarily withdraw after she realizes how much pain her work is causing.
Dave Wylie: But we're dealing with a world-famous artist! You don't think she'll be insulted that city hall sent an intern to talk with her?
Mitchell Hundred: If I had sent you or another senior staff member it might have looked like we were trying to strong-arm her into pulling out of the exhibit.
- Mitchell Hundred: I don't know what you want, but you're a cunt hair away from being disintegrated.
Kremlin: You forget that I help you construct your old raygun, boy.
I know how to protect myself from your trigger finger.
Mitchell Hundred: Kremlin? Jesus, you can't just break into Gracie Mansion, you nutjob!
Kremlin: Yes, when I come here from Russia as child, this whole place was filled with nothing but filthy restrooms for the park-goers.
Mitchell Hundred: Funny, somebody just told me my office downtown was once a jail. Everything good in New York used to be something awful, I guess.
Kremlin: And everything awful used to be something good.
Issue 4: "State of Emergency Part 3"
- Commissioner Angotti: Oh, what the fuck, Bradbury? You're his head of security and you let him come to an active bomb squad investigation?
Bradbury: He wouldn't listen to me, commish! I even tried putting him in irons, but apparently hizzoner can talk to handcuffs too.
Mitchell Hundred: I needed to see this for myself Amy. Before I addressed the city.
Commissioner Angotti: Not much to see. FDNY just put out the blaze, and the coroner already hauled off the driver…what they could find of him , anyway.
Mitchell Hundred: Who would stand to gain anything from killing these poor bastards?
Bradbury: Well, no offense, but my girls will be pigs in crap this morning. You say “snow day” dto a kid, and it’s like yelling “free beer” at—
Mitchell Hundred: Go shoo away reporters or something, would you? Please?
- Mitchell Hundred: Three Musketeers? Is that supposed to be some kind of calling card, or did the bomber just get sloppy and, I don't know...drop it?
Commissioner Angotti: Why don't you let detective Bando and me figure that out, while you make sure the rest of New York stays inside today.
Mitchell Hundred: I'd say mother nature has taken care of that for me, wouldn't you?
Commissioner Angotti: Tell that to the sixty-odd people protesting that "Nigger Lincoln" painting down the street this morning.
Mitchell Hundred: What? You said the roads--
Commissioner Angotti: Yeah, they're undriveable, but a few subway lines are still open, including the 2 and the 3...
Mitchell Hundred:...which drop you off right in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Fucking Art. Jesus, what's wrong with people? It's freezing out here!
Commissioner Angotti: Hey, the weather was shittier than this at that ridiculous "Battle In Seattle" a few years ago. Folks are willing to brave the elements when they're pissed off enough and/or looking to meet liberal coeds.
Anyway, I don't want to tell you how to run your circus, but I'd do whatever it takes to make those protesters happy enough to go the fuck home. Both of these plow drivers were killed within a few miles of the BMA If we are dealing with you-know-what, our bomber might see that crowd as a target.
- Journal: Sorry I’m late Ms. Braving!
I live in Queens, and with the blizzard, the only way I could get to Soho was--
Trista Braving: Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my studio?
Journal: Oh, uh, my name is Journal Moore, someone from the mayor’s office was supposed to call you? I’m the new special adviser on youth affairs and--
Trista Braving: You know who else destroyed paintings they didn’t like? The Taliban.
Journal: Trista, no one is going to destroy your artwork. But the taxpayers are partially funding its display, and if mayor hundred is going to convince them that it’s a worthwhile use of their money, he could use your help.
Can you tell me what your intention was with the piece? What you were trying to say?
Trista Braving: It’s not my job to explain my paintings. They speak for themselves. Our generation’s been ruined by cliffs notes and director’s commentaries, people should learn to make their own goddamn conclusions about art.
I mean, I know you’re just some glorified intern, but if your parents were fruity enough to name you Journal, they probably taught you something about culture, right?
What do you think when you look at this?
Journal: Honestly I think it’s a joke.
I saw your first installation when I was a freshman at Columbia. This stuff you did with an old Gameboy camera? Sweet.
Really cool commentary on modern society’s sexualization of young women. You totally deserved the Coyle Medal that year.
Your next exhibit was standard sophomore slump though, a little too precious…and it looked like you knew it. Br> But the reviews were still amazing, huh? Like no critic wanted to be the first to say you might not be everything they hyped you to be last time.
Your next show lashed out at them for evaluating you and not your art …but they totally missed the point, and the notices were even more glowing than ever.
So when it came tim for “30 under 30” you submitted the most inane hateful piece of clichéd taboo you could imagine, just so you wouldn’t have to endure their empty praise again.
But instead of catching on to your little prank, they fell for it, and hung it in a fucking museum, where it’s currently delighting pretentious critics and alienating the real people you set out to reach when you started.
But I’m just a glorified intern…what do I know?
It’s not too late for you to voluntarily remove Lincoln, replace him with something else, a painting you really care about.
Trista Braving: If I…
If I do that now, do you have any idea what the art world will say about me?
Journal: Maybe it’s time you stop giving a shit about what the “art world” thinks about anything.
Trista Braving: Get out of here, would you? I’ve got to finish this piece before kickboxing. Take your overpriced B.F.A. and cheap shoes back to whoever you had to blow to get your little ambassadorship.
- Mitchell Hundreds: Trip, the city is drowning, we can’t afford to lose another day of commerce, but my plow drivers are refusing to do their job…even 'with police escorts.
You have to convince the governor to call the national guard.
Trip: Sorry, hundred. Those men and women are too busy fighting a war on terror to shovel your walkway for you.
Issue 5: "State of Emergency Part 4"
- Journal: Evening Trista.
Trista Braving: What, you come to gloat? My evil art-work’s gone the way of lady justice’s tits…concealed from the delicate public’s view. You win, Journal.
Journal: Trista if you’d like your painting to go back up, my bosses want you to know that off-duty police officer could be arranged to protect—
Trista Braving: Why bother? You heard what they did to it right? The critics have spoken.
- Journal: Oh my god
You actually figured out a way to withdraw a piece you were secretly ashamed of…without looking like you were caving to the establishment. You assaulted some innocent guard just to—
Trista Braving: I’d hardly call a little tae-bo assault.
Journal: So you did do this?
Trista Braving: You can’t prove anything. And even if you could all I’d be guilty of is giving my own painting a second coat.
- Mitchell Hundreds: Kremlin, we found the copy of Three Musketeers at the crime scene.
Kremlin: I know. I hear you and police commissioner Angotti discuss your discovery already.
Mitchell Hundred: What?
Kremlin: The tie pin I give Mitchell at his inauguration. It is listening bug, reverse engineered by me from circuity in this gizmo, so it would not interfere with his thoughts and—
Mitchell Hundred: You’ve been eavesdropping on me?
Kremlin: No, I have been looking out for you. Your pin told me when you were in trouble, like signal watch Superman gave to his young friend.
You remember the character of Superman yes? The one who taught me to read your language? The one who taught you about truth and justice and—
Mitchel Hundred: You son of a bitch!
Bradbury: Mitch easy!
- Kremlin: When I hear Bradbury tell you how happy his girls would be with snow days I realize who stood to gain from plowmen’s death.
Mitchel Hundred: Start making sense and start making it now.
Kremlin: I used computer to look for all schools in Brooklyn with three musketeers on reading list. Only two.
From here I check for student who win big awards in chemistry…because of exploding plow no? There are few dozen. But any girls and girls do not make bombs.
Mitchel Hundred: You think a kid did this?
Kremlin: I am left with list of four or five boys. If one had record for getting into trouble I believe he is killer…but only police have access to such files.
Mitchel Hundred: Bullshit. You’re just stalling for time.
Bradbury: What if he’s not, boss? Everyone’s been chasing mobsters and…terrorists here, but Krem could be onto something, we should at least call the cops.
Kremlin: No need. I phone in anonymous tip two hours ago.
- Kremlin: No thank you? No apology for falsely accusing me of murder?
Mitchel Hundred: You’re lucky I don’t bring you in on federal wiretapping charges, Ivan…
Bradbury: Let him go Krem!
Kremlin: "Ivan?" Do not speak to me like I am some stranger, boy! I am the man who helped your mother slay dragon that nearly took me! I am the man who cared for you as if you were—
Bradbury: You did good today old man. You just did it in a bad way.
Kremlin: You too Bradbury? When Mitchell was reluctant to bring his first criminal to justice as Great Machine you were the one who said, “There is no wrong way to do right.”
Bradbury: Yeah, well, I was wrong…
About Ex Machina (comics)
- Brian K. Vaughan: After 9/11, I knew I wanted to write about power and identity and the way Americans on all sides of the political spectrum often mythologize our leaders, which are themes that the superhero genre has always handled really well. Whether it was Bush putting on that flightsuit or John Kerry running largely on his war record or an action star getting elected governor of California, it felt like American politics and mythical hero worship were starting to converge in fascinating ways. I had way more questions than answers, and whenever that happens, I type. What came out was Ex Machina, a story about a retired superhero turned mayor who hopes to do more good inside New York’s City Hall than he ever did in costume.
- Ex Machina : An Interview With Brian K. Vaughan by Bryan Young, Huffington Post, 11/30/2010