The glory days when superhero du jour would nick into the nearest phone booth. It's all cell/mobiles today and most of them are smart phones. -- Knitnan
[AN: It was mostly Superman who did that, and now they just bullshit it away with changing so fast that nobody notices anything]
Nobody had seen Magnificent Man since the early eighties, when the Time Tripper had tricked him into consuming one of his Magic Mushroom Pies. Magnificent Man had vanished without a trace.
Thankfully, the Magnificent Friends had stopped the Time Tripper, and installed a memorial in the place where the hero had disappeared.
Life went on.
The Magnificent Friends broke up, died, revived, had children, lost their children, and finally went on space adventures. Leaving the Earth to pickle in its own juices.
The artistic fence around the 'on this spot' plaque memorializing Magnificent Man's presumed death had long since been ruined. A truck crashed into it in '95, and some chain link put up until funding for a replacement could be found. People sabotaged the fence, over the years, until the cost of putting up replacements outweighed the need to have it there. The last time there was a fence, it was a half-hearted plastic kettle fence, erected on a Sunday in 2001, and then torn apart by vandals on the following Monday. Kids skateboard over the place where a hero was foiled.
Lightning came out of a clear sky and struck the spot. The air filled with Kirby Dots and zip-a-tone. The skateboarders scattered, hiding behind graffito'd benches to record what they saw for YouTube.
"--ou foul fiend!" said the hero. Magnificent Man had returned to Supermegatropolis.
And since he was wearing a 1980's superhero costume, the kids immediately burst out laughing.
Magnificent Man took to the air. The skyline had changed. The Magnificent Tower was gone. Of the buildings he recognized, most of them bore an animated advertisement.
"This isn't a problem," he muttered to himself. "I'll just find a phone booth and return to my secret identity. Ask around. Or head to the library to catch up."
It was a good plan. Except that phone booths had become extinct. Even the police telephones were gone. Now there were lots and lots of places that sold coffee and... "Free whiffy?" he read one aloud.
There were no officers walking the streets. He finally found one on traffic control and made himself known.
"Your pardon, officer..."
Their response was instantaneous and confusing. They whipped out their side-arm and hollered, "Get down! Stop resisting!" a bare second before they opened fire.
And since this was a public space and full of innocent civilians(most of them were already fleeing for safety), Magnificent Man had to catch all the ricochets. He handed the spent bullets back to the confused cop. "I am not resisting, officer. I only require some information, if you please." The pleasant smile that used to work... didn't.
And the confused cop finally found one of his weaknesses when they brought out their taser.
He woke up in a featureless white room, in paper pyjamas that left his butt hanging out. There was a clear barrier between him and someone in a long, white coat who had a rectangular device in their hands.
"Good morning," she said. "I'm Doctor Whyte. I'm here for your competency test. Do you understand what that is?"
"Yes'm," he said. "That's where you try and find out if I'm too crazy to stand trial."
"Er. Yes." And the questions began. Did he know what year it was? No, he'd just arrived after suffering the trans-temporal effect of one of the Time Tripper's tricks. He was aware that this was a different year, but he didn't have the time to find anything out. Who was he, really? He was Magnificent Man, and his secret identity would remain just so, thank you ma'am. Do you have any friends or relatives who could verify your identity? There used to be the Magnificent Friends in Magnificent Tower... but those seemed to have vanished. Maybe she could check a comic book store? There used to be thousands of issues published of Magnificent Magazines.
It was long, and it was dull, and he knew he would never get anywhere by fighting his way out of it. It took two weeks before they could confirm his identity... and then they shipped him off into a secret base.
The world had weaponized Supers. Hero or villain, they had a job for you. And they carefully selected the missions based on known moral grounding.
The amoral in command of the moral and the immoral alike.
No wonder the Magnificent Friends had left.