Welcome to another PHB Special! “Villain Origin Stories” is a work of fiction based on certain Poptropica villains, and it was sent in by reader Persephone2117. Enjoy!
One October twentieth, in the dead of night, there was a young Poptropican girl born. The island? Art Island. You say there isn’t an Art Island? There was, and there still is, but you know it as Counterfeit. The reason? The girl.
The girl’s name was Penelope Anansi Webster, and she was, well… different. She didn’t like to play with dolls, or dance, or any of the nice things little girls usually like. Instead, she would sit and draw pictures on whatever she could reach. This habit aggravated her parents to no end, even though Penelope was quite good. Eventually, they got so fed up with her that when she was six, they just left her outside one day and didn’t let her back in. Penelope was not in the least bothered by this, since she knew exactly where she wanted to go.
The museum guard didn’t even notice the skinny little kid sneaking in through the window.
Penelope had never been to the museum, though she had constantly begged her parents to take her. When her feet hit the ground, she was astounded by the sheer beauty of the place. All the paintings were perfectly sorted, labeled, and just the right distance off the ground. Penelope spent hours staring at them, and when it was time for the museum to close, she hid under a bench and waited for all the guards to leave so she could look some more. Finally, she drifted off to sleep behind a statue. When Penelope woke up, nobody had seen her, so she just went back to the paintings and kept looking. This was how she spent seven years of her life, with occasional snacks swiped from the nearby Jazz Café. On her twelfth birthday, however, things changed.
Penelope was sitting on a bench in the museum twirling a red paintbrush in her fingers. She had saved up enough money to buy it by helping out at every store on the island. Well, except for Bobo’s. Clowns freaked her out. Penelope was considering what color paint she should get first when she felt a familiar tickle over her hand. She held it up to see a little black spider with a little red hourglass on its back.
“I’ve never seen one of you before,” Penelope said calmly. “A black widow, am I right?”
The spider continued to crawl, ignoring her completely.
“You know, you and I have a lot in common. We both make art- you, webs; me, drawings, but nobody appreciates it.”
The spider looked into Penelope’s deep brown eyes and showed its small teeth.
Penelope looked back at it, still holding the red paintbrush.
The spider bit her.
Penelope screamed in pain and sprang to her feet. The sensation that overcame her next is very hard to describe. She and the black widow spider had had a sort of mental bond, since they were so alike. Therefore, Penelope did not die. Instead, she and the spider became one and the same. The spider melted into her skin and she felt her front teeth sharpening into fangs. She felt her skin grow steadily paler and her lips grow steadily redder. Penelope’s usually straight black hair began to grow up and out and curl, so that it looked like the legs of a spider. She blinked her eyes, which now had dark circles under them, and noticed the paintbrush was missing. A mysterious feeling sprang up in her mind. A sort of madness flowed through Penelope’s body and she began to laugh in the most disconcerting of ways. A security guard heard it and ran to the spot to see if she was okay.
Penelope karate kicked him in the stomach, grabbed the nearest painting, and ran away.
By now all the guards were chasing her, so she ran downtown, ducked inside the clown store, and grabbed as many balloons as she could hold. Penelope kicked the door open and began to float away from harm. She only hoped the balloons would carry her far enough away. They did. Penelope soared over the islands until she found a promising one with a huge building on one island and a row of shops on the other. Then, she let go of the balloons and plummeted onto the building. She was now on Super Hero Island, or rather, as you know it, Super Power Island. The building Penelope had landed on was not the jail as of yet. For now, it was an orphanage.
“I wish somebody would hurry up and adopt that kid,” the head of the orphanage said. “We have plans to tear this place down and put up a jail instead.”
The co-head nodded. There was only one girl left now, and nobody wanted her. She was an extremely pale, skinny thing with a mole on one cheek and dramatic mood swings, and she was sitting glumly on her bed when…
There was a HEAD in her window, and it was a WEIRD one.
“What…who are you?” The girl asked, rising and coming over to the window.
The head appeared to be thinking, and in a moment it said, “Just call me the Black Widow, okay? I’m going to get you outta here.”
“Thanks, uh, Black Widow. I’m Katrina Von Feline. What can I do?”
“Just open the window.”
Katrina unlatched the window and climbed out, so she and the unexpected visitor were sitting on the sill.
“So, I’m guessing that isn’t really your name, is it?” Katrina asked.
“No, it’s actually Penelope. But you better not tell anybody.”
“I won’t. Where’d you get that painting?”
“I took it.”
“Isn’t that against the law?” Katrina said warily.
“Not if I make another so they don’t know it’s gone,” Penelope shrugged. “You’re too worried about rules.”
Katrina blushed. “I know, I know…”
Penelope’s newly wicked brain had an idea. “Let’s set this place on fire and you can run away.”
“Uh, okay,” Katrina consented, but she wasn’t quite sure. She found a match in her pocket, struck it, and handed it to Penelope, who held it to the curtain inside.
“Come on!” Penelope shouted.
“You aren’t going to jump!” Katrina exclaimed in disbelief.
“I’m not going back through there. You can, but I won’t.”
“Fine. Meet you at the door?” Katrina offered.
The girls nodded to each other and went their separate ways.
Penelope jumped into a nearby tree, shimmied down it, and waited by the door. Katrina didn’t come.
Penelope watched the entire building go up in flames and the people inside it escape safely through the windows, but she didn’t see Katrina.
“Oh, boy,” she thought, rolling her eyes. Then she took a deep breath, pulled her shirt over her mouth, and ran inside. It took her a second to find Katrina in all the smoke, but she did. Penelope saw the girl unconscious and tangled in a couple of wires, so she ripped out all the cords and grabbed Katrina by her collar. Penelope made a mad dash for the door and reached it, throwing herself and Katrina out the door. They rolled in the grass for a bit, but Penelope soon got up and began trying to revive her friend. Katrina woke up, coughing. She coughed for what seemed like forever, and then she looked at her hands. Her skin was turning gray. Katrina blinked a couple times, and then resumed coughing.
“Uh, Katrina, are you okay?” Penelope asked, watching the metamorphosis.
All the color faded out of Katrina’s lips and clothes, leaving them dull and gray like her skin. She stopped coughing, smiled, looked into Penelope’s eyes, and began to laugh.
The two new villains laughed and laughed, like there were no tomorrow, no yesterday, and no present.
“Want to help me copy this painting and hang it back up?” Penelope offered.
Katrina snuck into a nearby store and stole a large sheet of paper and some art supplies.
“Paint away, my friend,” she said, dropping them in front of Penelope.
“Take some of this stuff and I’ll get the rest. I want to go to my island before anyone sees us.”
“This thing floats!” Penelope replied gleefully, setting the painting on the water and sitting on it.
Katrina carefully stepped onto the makeshift raft and they pushed off the shore.
They landed back on Art Island and began to replicate the painting.
“Say, you’re good at this,” Penelope commented. “You’re like, a regular copy cat.”
“I like that,” Katrina said slowly. “Copy Cat…hmmm.”
They sat in silence. Over the years, the two best friends copied and counterfeited together. Penelope always stuck to paintings, but Katrina moved on to copy music and games. Eventually, Penelope heard the news: Katrina had been caught and sent to the jail on Super Hero Island. Penelope put on a disguise and went to visit her friend.
“Penelope, it’s not going to be long before they catch you, too. You need to be careful, and-” Katrina stopped speaking and let out a squeak of fright. A glowing green meteor was hurtling straight for the county jail!
“Katrina! Watch out!” Penelope watched in terror as her friend and the five other prisoners fell back in shock.
Katrina sat up slowly. Katrina sat up slowly. Katrina sat up slowly. Katrina sat up slowly. Katrina sat up slowly.
“Okay! Why are there FIVE of me?” The first Katrina asked.
“Ask her,” said one of the other four, pointing to another one.
“Wait…” Four Katrinas disappeared and the real one was left alone. “I think I can-”
The room was full of herself. The clones disappeared.
“You really ARE Copy Cat now, aren’t you?” Penelope asked.
Copy Cat nodded and swallowed.
“There’s an opening where the meteorite hit. You can crawl through. Looks like your cellmates have already,” Penelope noted.
Copy Cat smiled at her and waved. “Promise me you’ll be careful. You are the Black Widow! Don’t be afraid to bite!”
Black Widow turned away from the jail, just as a male voice was calling, “HEREAFTER THIS IS SUPER POWER ISLAND!”
Black Widow had returned to Art Island, now Counterfeit Island, dressed as a police officer. A bizarre-looking tourist walked up to her and started talking to her. Black Widow ad-libbed something about protecting the Scream and managed to sneak off. She framed the tourist, betrayed her henchman, and did everything she could to protect herself.
A day or so later, she was in JAIL.
“You are SO fired!” she hissed at her henchman, a guy named Pat.
Pat shrugged. “I’d rather pursue a career in unicorns! Bye, Pinnaloap!”
Black Widow watched as he skipped away singing about pink fluffy unicorns.
“You’re not gonna be in there for long, of course,” the guard said. “We’re transferring you to Erewhon Prison for Super Villains.”
Black Widow hoped she would see Copy Cat there, and then realized she didn’t. If she did, that meant she was caught.
Black Widow found out soon enough.
“Yo,” said Copy Cat, waving awkwardly. “I can’t copy anymore, cuz this tourist kid put these magic glowing handcuff things on me. I don’t even think I’m evil anymore. I have the urge to hug a kitten.”
“Pull yourself together, Copy Cat! You’re strong!”
“Call me Katrina,” Katrina whispered. She sounded exhausted, even though she was young.
“What’s happened to you?” Black Widow started to ask, but she was suddenly grabbed by a guy wearing glasses and a lab coat.
“I am Dr. Jupiter. Please step into the elevator, we have an interesting experiment all set up for you.”
Black Widow tried to squirm away, but he had her tight by the shoulders. He led her through the elevator and eventually into a huge room. Black Widow noticed three weird looking guys. One looked like a pirate, one looked like a robotic jester, and one appeared to be wearing…a bunny suit. Besides the freaks, the room contained four huge tanks hooked up to a helmet-like machine.
“What IS this?” Black Widow protested.
“Get in that tank.”
“WHAT. IS. THIS.”
“GET IN THE TANK!” Dr. Jupiter threw Black Widow forcefully into the tank and locked it. The tank slowly filled with a greenish substance.
“Are you trying to drown me? Well I can break this glass if I have to. Hey! HEY!”
She watched Dr. Jupiter put the pirate, the jester, and the bunny into tanks like her own. The liquid covered her head.
The world went away.
Black Widow had lost all consciousness, except for the dreams. The dreams were horrible.
She was screaming in her sleep.
There was a sound of shattering glass.
She felt a jolt and fell forward as the tank exploded. Penelope, because that’s who she was again, became aware with no little disgust that she was dripping green stuff and had broken glass sticking out of her skin.
She was interrupted by loud explosions and a loud laugh, and was flung abruptly in the air, along with the three freaks and… the kid. The same kid who had caught her and Katrina. The kid from her nightmare.
“You,” she said through gritted teeth.
Penelope was about to tear the kid to shreds when she, and the others, fell into the water with a splash.
“Freedom!” shouted the robot thing.
“I’m outta here,” the bunny guy declared.
The pirate and the bunny swam one way, and Penelope followed the robot the other way.
“Where in Poptropica are we going?” Penelope asked.
“I haven’t the faintest idea.”
Penelope suddenly felt a jolt of pain as the last of her evil was destroyed.
“Let’s just get outta here, weirdo,” she said. She hoped Katrina was okay.
They swam on in silence.
“Hi,” the robot dude said finally. “My name is Binary Bard. Or Mordred. But you can call me Tom.”
“Why would I call you Tom?”
The robot thought for a second. “I don’t know.”
They kept going until Tom said,
“I like your hair.”
There was a pause.
“I like your clothes.”
“You’re creeping me out.”
After about two hours of quiet swimming, Tom started singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”
“CUT THAT OUT!” Penelope hollered.
Fifteen minutes later, he was singing again.
“You remind me of someone I know,” Penelope said.
“Is that a compliment?”
After a couple days of this sort of thing, they reached land.
“What island is this?” Penelope asked, stepping up onto it.
“I don’t think this is technically an island at all. I believe it is a sort of residential area that no players can access. I think we villains are supposed to live here.”
“There is no WE, clown boy. There is simply a you and there is simply a me, and we are living on opposite sides of this place. Got it?”
The island was far from empty. It was packed with mostly houses, with some conveniently located stores and hospitals. There were police stations and hotels, and generally everything necessary for a pleasant, moderately populated city. Penelope wondered where she would live, and immediately saw the answer. It was a large brick house with black netted curtains in the windows. The key was in the lock already, so Penelope walked right in. She observed a big refrigerator and expansive bedroom with twin beds. The living room was comfy, but best of all was the hatch on the floor under the coffee table that led to a private art studio bursting with supplies.
Penelope wanted to stay at her new house forever, but she figured there’d be time for that after she did some more exploring.
She went outside and looked up, and for the first time saw a big purple blimp for traveling. Penelope climbed into the basket and looked out over the sea. She saw the tower of Erewhon Prison over the horizon and guessed it was maybe an hour by blimp away.
“We should call it something,” said a voice behind her.
Penelope yelped and whirled around.
“Reeeelax, it’s just me,” said Tom.
“We should call it something,” Penelope agreed, getting over the shock. “Ideas?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Actually…no. I think since it’s so close to Super Villain Island and more ex villains may move here, we should call it the Residential Area of Super Villain Island.”
“Not bad,” Tom mused. “I like that.”
“Good. Now get out of here.”
The next day Penelope threw some resources in a suitcase she found and climbed into the blimp. She wanted to go see Katrina, just to check on her. An hour or so later, the purple blimp wafted over to the prison, and Penelope tied it to the security camera. She stared impudently into the camera for a few seconds before the secret door opened and she was allowed inside.
“Hold it!” a guard shouted. “Are you rehabilitated?”
“I think I am, but why would you believe me?”
“Good point.” The guard held up a picture of the Scream and a lie detector. “What would you do with this painting?”
“I would look at it.”
The lie detector was silent. The guard looked at it and finally nodded.
“Proceed to the security check.”
Penelope walked on and was X-rayed, scanned (painfully), disinfected (thoroughly), blow-dried (powerfully), and had her picture taken. Then she climbed into the elevator and ignored incredulous glances from the security officers.
The elevator stopped at floor one, where Katrina was sitting sadly on her bed. When she heard the elevator stop, she said, “What I would give for a decent wardrobe. Or whatever. I’m tired of saying the same thing. I’m sick of it in fact. I don’t care what the police want me to say, the truth is I don’t care about my clothes if it means I could just make sure Penelope is okay.”
“Is that true?” Penelope asked.
“Of course it is-” Katrina stopped with a gasp and snapped her head around. “YOU’RE BACK! But how did the experiment go?”
“Apparently it worked,” Penelope said. “Even though Dr. Jupiter was some sort of god of thunder and blew up a bunch of islands and stuff.”
“Um, and this worked how?” Katrina wondered nervously, stepping backwards.
“I’m not sure but it did. I promise.”
“I’ll take your word for it. And now I have some good news for you. They’re going to let me out next week if I promise never to break the law again,” Katrina explained.
“That’s great! And I know exactly where you can live.”
Penelope told Katrina about the experiment, about the dream, about Tom the robot guy, about Pat, and about the island.
“Wow! My only concern is, where’s Pat now?”
The next week Katrina had hardly set foot on Super Villain Residential Area when a leg tripped her and she heard an obnoxious voice bellow, “IT’S THE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL SHOW WITH PAT AND HIS FRIEND-what’s your name?”
“Katrina,” Katrina told the guy in sunglasses, struggling to get up.
“PAT! What the cheese puff are you DOING?” Penelope shouted at him.
“I got a show, Pinnaloap!”
“Good, that’s great, now will you stop filming Katrina?” Penelope said sarcastically.
“But I don’t want to! I like her faaaace,” Pat giggled creepily.
“Uh, Pat, what is wrong with you exactly?” Penelope wondered.
“Oh sorry, are you jealous? I like your face too.” Pat zoomed the camera in on Penelope.
“STOP FILMING ME!!!”
“Well that’s all on the Up Close and Personal Show!!! BYE!!!” Pat made a disturbing face at the camera and ended the video.
Meanwhile millions of viewers across the world watched sadly as their new favorite show ended.
“GO AWAY!!!” Penelope screamed.
Pat stared at her for a second and smiled. “Aha! Genius idea for the next episode!”
He took a can of green paint out of his pocket and dumped it on Penelope’s head.
“WELCOME TO THE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL SHOW WITH PINNALOAP AND HER AMAZING GREEN PAINT!!!”
“Whoaaaa,” millions of people around the world said, enthralled.
“I AM GOING TO FOLD YOU INTO AN ORIGAMI CRANE AND STUFF YOU INTO A—” Penelope started to say, advancing towards Pat.
“THAT’S ALL BYE!” Katrina ended the video.
“Why did you end it? Things were going to get real personal there!” Pat complained, completely unfazed.
Katrina ignored him and looked at Penelope. “Were you having a relapse?” she asked nervously.
“Sorry to scare you, that boy brings out the worst in me,” Penelope explained, glaring at Pat.
“Well, glad to hear you’re fine. Now let’s go inside and wash the green paint off.”
“All right. And PAT!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!”
More ex villains moved in, one after the other. Betty Jetty, Gretchen Grimlock, Captain Crawfish, Dr Hare, all of them eventually ended up on the residential island. They got to know each other, and Katrina was dismayed to find that most of them, Tom especially, found her attractive. Pat did something weird to either her or Penelope every day and videoed it, and eventually that developed into a game show, which led to the creation of another show, the Happy Rainbow Show, which is quite indescribable if you have never seen it.
The best friends managed to pull through every one of Pat’s stunts, every desperate attempt at romance, and every semi-relapse, and the rest, as they say, is history being made as I speak.