Painting: Umbrella Man

When I was a kid, my family and I would go stay with my grandparents every September school holidays. Nan and Pop lived in the city. Aunty Ruby would visit us there; she lived nearby. She wasn’t our real aunty; she was a family friend; she and Nan had known each other since they were children. Aunty Ruby would take us kids to the park with the giant fig trees, and we would play there all afternoon. When the sun went down, we’d all cross the street to the fish and chip shop and Aunty Ruby would buy us chips and potato scallops for dinner, and she would get me a pineapple fritter (they were my favourite). Then we’d take the bus back to Nan and Pop’s.

I loved riding the bus. I loved the big seats and the roar of the engine and the way passengers would say hello to the driver as they boarded. I loved the big windows that let me look out and watch the city lights twinkling like stars in the twilight. And I loved playing Cheeky Ride. Cheeky Ride was a secret game Aunty Ruby taught us. She was the only grownup who knew it. First, she would get on the bus, and then she distracted the driver by talking and fumbling with her purse and dropping coins on the floor. While that was happening, us kids would have to see how many of us could slip by and take our seats without the driver noticing. It was so exciting. Aunty Ruby knew lots of secret things like that. She taught me that when she bought me a pack of bubble gum I got to have another pack for free, but I had to hide the extra pack in my pocket until we left the shop, because only kids got to do it and then grownups might get jealous. She taught me that you could take money from someone’s wallet if they were related to you, but you had to do it when no one was looking, and you could take no more than twenty dollars at a time.

Obviously, Aunty Ruby was dishonest. It turned out she had massive gambling debts. I understand she wanted to save money any way she could, but it still hurt to learn that Cheeky Ride wasn’t a real game bus drivers played with their passengers.

Aunty Ruby died many years ago. I still remember her fondly. A few weeks ago, I was out in the evening and saw a bus coming along the street, with the lights of cars all about. It reminded me of our outings with Aunty Ruby, and I wanted to capture the moment. As I took out my phone to take a picture, a guy walked in front of me, carrying a big red umbrella. I asked him politely if he would mind moving aside so I could get a photograph of the approaching bus, but he just sneered and told me it was a free country and he could stand wherever he pleased. What could I do?

Inspired by the events of that night, I came up with an idea for a supervillain; I named him Umbrella Man. I sent my idea to a few production companies, with a character description, some costume options, and some basic plot ideas for a six-part movie series. I added some sketches of Umbrella Man looking like a big fat jerk with a pointy nose and an umbrella he shoved in front of people. I said he had a stupid voice too. As far as powers go, I suggested he could use his umbrella as a weapon, maybe have knives in it, and that he could control ducks with his mind or something. Also, and most importantly, he would have so little kindness in his heart that he would even refuse to move aside so someone could take a photograph of a bus.

What little feedback I received was negative, and all said my villain was essentially The Penguin, from Batman. Also, apparently the part about the bus photo was confusing. He wouldn’t move. What’s confusing about that?


umbrella painting 1



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