Sunday, August 7, 2016

Raven Nevermore Solo Story

When the people of New Eden celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks I feel their excitement grow with each explosion of color and light; when a son or daughter dies on a battlefield half a world away I feel the weight of the city’s heart; and when the New Eden Gladiators are in line to represent the NFC at the Superbowl and the fans swell with pride, I feel that, too.

Right now, long after midnight and blocks and blocks away from my regular stomping grounds, all I feel is fear.

I’m here investigating rumors that Castletown, once a thriving neighborhood of restaurants and family-owned shops but long ago shunned by police, has gained a protector… And I’m always on the hunt for new talent. You might think of me as New Eden’s caped, blindfolded, and shepherd’s crook-carrying welcoming committee.

“Nevermore!” squawks the raven perched on my shoulder. He unfolds great black wings and gives them a tentative flap to rid himself of invisible dust but settles again, his loyalty to me overcoming the psychic discomfort.

The raven’s smaller brother darts ahead to the alley’s entrance, and lights atop a street sign. I see what he sees, and what he sees is a blasted urban wasteland: garbage piled high enough to hide behind, stripped and fire-blackened cars, and not much else. Even the worst of New Eden’s streets team with some sort of life and activity after dark, even if it’s only a bunch of teenagers hanging out on a stoop, passing around a 40oz. or a joint, laughing and playing their music too loud.

I reach out with my mind and sense… there is still life in this neighborhood, hidden behind bolted doors and caged windows: cryptozoic, safe.

Emerging from the alley, I unglove a hand, touch the side of the building nearest me. It has a tale to tell. Long after police wrote Castletown off as ‘unfixable,’ limiting patrols to a minimum and only in daylight, the worst of the worst drug gangs New Eden has to offer moved in, seized the area as a base of operations. Their supremacy lasted long enough for them to graffiti the walls with their tags:

Mark-13.

Hard-Boiled Angels.

Switchblade Honeys.

And then they vanished. Someone — or someones — sent them fleeing; he (or they) had left behind his tag, too, letting future would-be invaders know that Castletown would never belong to them.

I don’t recognize the tag. “Who uses a pair of bloody shears as a logo?” I ask no one in particular. I touch the logo; it comes away from the wall on my fingers.

“Nevermore!” Squawks Heckle, the great black-winged raven on my shoulder. It’s all he ever says. Jeckle, his smaller brother, only squawks, looks back over his shoulder at me, and squawks again. Warning me that someone — or something — is coming.

A high-pitched scream tears up the walls. And with the scream a voice filled with laughter:

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go! Out cries the suck-a-thumb: No! No! No!

Followed by a crack! loud as a gunshot.

Snip! Snap! Snip! It goes so fast! Now the first thumb’s off at last!

I move in the direction of the voice and the screams; in a nearby vacant lot I find the source of both.

A boy, couldn’t be more than thirteen years, kneels bleeding onto ancient newspapers, hugging a bleeding hand tight to his chest, a can of spray-paint in the dirt before him. Towering above him: a slender, maniacally grinning figure in top hat, tails, and aristocratic knee-breeches the exact color of the boy’s blood.

Mind, young squire, what We say: Castletown is no place for you to play!

The boy responds with ragged sobs.

Ho! Ho! Ho! We mean only to disarm, to take from you your ability to do greater harm! Be now on your way for we spy another — is she friend or is she foe? As of yet We cannot say!

The boy stumbles to his feet and runs, fist jammed into his armpit. I reach for him, to touch his shoulder, but he shrugs off my hand as he passes. Only after he’s staggered completely out of sight does the tall, impossibly slender man focus all of his considerable attention on me.

We stand our ground staring at one another, a pair of samurai warriors out of a Kurosawa film, contemplating the literally thousands of ways the next few seconds could play out before either of us commits to the first move.

The slender man at last makes the first move: snapping bloodied shears as big as machetes, sheathing them into oiled holsters on either hip, his actions quick, smooth, well-practiced. Never once does the grin leave his face. Is it a mask? Is it painted on? From where I stand I can’t tell. It could be his real face or, at least, his true one: a nightmare visage to strike terror in the cowardly hearts of wrongdoers.

You are Raven Nevermore, if We may be so bold! A fellow punisher of naughty suck-a-thumbs – or so We are told!

“You have me at a disadvantage,” I say. At my sides I ball up my hands into fists until they hurt.  “What are you called? Answer quickly now, while still you can manage!”

Damn. He’s got me doing it.

It’s to be a fight? A contest of champions, a test of skill and might?

“It is a time-honored tradition,” I admit. I unball my fists, try to relax. Whatever happens, I  won’t be winning a fight with this creature on strength alone. “But no, I don’t want to fight you. I want to know your name.”

He claps his hands together with glee, unfolds himself to his full height until he occults the light of a guttering streetlamp. I stand in his shadow, my ravens straining their necks to stare him in the eye.

Sorceress Supreme Raven Nevermore wishes to know our name? Life henceforth will ne’er be the same!” In one sweeping motion he snatches off his top hat and bows deeply. “We are the terrible tall tailor the suck-a-thumbs fear to a man: We are the great, long, red-legged Scissor-man!

And this child’s drawing of a Regency-era gentleman come to terrifying life takes my hand by the fingertips and busses the back of it gently with cold lips, and I sense not a single mind behind those bright, glassy eyes, but many.

He leaps onto the roof of a flamed-out Buick and performs a perfect pirouette.

Our fame has travelled near and wide and at last I can speak without false pride! Once these homes were cowed by foul dread, but now the children sleep sound in their beds! For once upon a time men came here with guns… but ran away shrieking and missing their thumbs!

“And the child you just maimed?” I demand. “What was his crime?”

To teach him a lesson I cut off just the one thumb,” and he scratches his chin, “but I left the other which surely is better than none…

“You’re not answering my question. I’ll tell you what he was doing: to the world he was announcing that the Great, Long, Red-Legged Scissor-Man is as bad as the criminals he punishes! Worse! He was marking your turf with your logo!”

The Scissor-man dropped to the dirt before me, bent himself in half so he was staring into my face where my eyes were hidden behind my blindfold. Heckle and Jeckle, both settled on either of my shoulders, squawk their protest to this invasion of my personal space.

And now I know why you cover your eyes.” The corner of his mouth curls up in a snarl. He’s beginning to understand now, and it’s making him angry. “You hide them from the truth so you can tell yourself lies.

“What drives you, Scissor-man? Do you thirst for justice? Or the quiet of the grave? Who are you protecting? People too poor to escape your reign of terror — or merely yourself?”

The air turns electric, with a negative charge: I know the instant my words pass my lips that they are killing words. Heckle and Jeckle leap from my shoulders and into the air, leaving a swirl of coal-black feathers in their wake. The Scissor-man has unsheathes his weapons and strikes the ground at my feet as I leap

All talking is done!” he howls. “You clearly pity the suck-a-thumbs! To thee I say ‘Nay!’ Now get out! Go home! Go away!

He thrusts again, catching my shepherd’s crook in his bloody shears, squeezes until the wooden shaft shatters under the pressure. I let it go and retreat. He is displeased and his frustration manifests itself physically: in the seconds since his first attack he has doubled in size.

Why do you question our technique,” the Scissor-man roars, “when We’ve proven its efficacy beyond critique?” He stomps down one foot onto the chassis of a hollowed-out Gremlin hatchback, crushing it flat.

I slam myself against the door of the nearest tenement building with force enough to burst the ancient lock; it gives way and I tumble inside. Heckle and Jeckle dive and swoop in through the door before I kick it shut.

A massive fist punches through the door, reaching for me as I crab-walk up the first flight of steps before flipping myself over and dog-paddle my way towards the roof. The tenants have suddenly come awake, realizing a sudden need to be outside and away from the monster smashing fists the size of Volvos through the front of their homes. I press myself against the walls to avoid being carried away by them.

Up a rusted ladder bolted to the wall and through a trap door and I’m standing on the roof. The Scissor-man’s head heaves up and up, blocking out the moon.

Heckle, Jeckle: eyes!

Without regard for their own safety my ravens throw themselves at eyes as big as searchlights. The Scissor-man’s next rhyming couplet curdles into a scream.

I climb the retaining wall that surrounds the roof and leap into space, aiming myself for the gaping black maw in the center of the Scissor-man’s face. I won’t be discovering the terrible tall tailor’s secret by dodging his shears; to know what I need to know I need to get inside him, and find out what really makes him tick.

I’m falling, plummeting through ink-thick blackness. I whisper to myself: “I wish I had thought this through a little more,” and — BAM! — I am floating gently as a leaf on a breeze. As I touch down on what constitutes a floor in this place I am overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity (I know this place) the way a bus rider knows she is close to home the moment she recognizes that first landmark.

Dream-space.

Every living, self-aware mind — human, dog, cat, cockroach, it’s not exclusive — generates an electrical field. Link those fields together and you have a network than circles the globe and reaches toward the stars, a force as real and powerful as gravity itself. Karl Jung sensed it, struggled to give a name. He called it the collective unconscious and waved his hands around trying to think of something better. I call it dream-space. It’s the source of my powers and though I am not arrogant enough to believe it exists for my sole benefit and use, I have never encountered another active mind within its ever-changing, lavalite borders.

Until now.

I sense that this is a finite space: even though its borders to stretch away for miles and miles. It is of the dream-space but not part of it: a pocket universe protruding through an imaginary crack in the wall of the greater collective unconscious. The way a loop of colon squeezes through a rupture in the abdominal wall.

I hook a thumb in my blindfold, yank it up to my forehead: without my ravens I need my own eyes for seeing.

At my back, the sound of tiny feet slapping water, an angry growl—

I turn. Too late: something hits me in the gut hard enough to drive the wind from me.

Sprawled before me now is a boy, brown skinned, black haired, not six years old. He’s on his butt in inch-deep water, breathing hard from exertion, his features snarled in anger.

“Got you,” he rasps. “I got you.”

I don’t know what he means, not at first. Then I look down, and I do.

Sticking out of my belly: a pair of sewing shears with blades the size of machetes and smeared with someone else’s blood. This can’t be healthy.

I drop to my knees, put one hand out to stop me from falling face-first into the wet and driving the shears even further into my guts. With my other hand I grip the handle, yank hard, hoping that if I get them out of me quickly the damage will be minimal. But they’re in too deep — I can feel the points of both blades scraping against my spine — and I don’t have the strength to yank them free.

“You killed her!” someone shouts; higher pitched; a girl. “You killed Raven Nevermore! She’s a super-hero! She saves people! And you killed her!”

A little girl rains fists down on my attacker; he throws up an arm to protect himself but doesn’t strike out at her. I am peripherally aware of this; I’m more concerned by the blood, which has begun to flow around the puncture wounds in my stomach. Also, I think my bladder has finally decided to shut down.

Four brown faces, two more boys, two more girls, hover into view, staring down at me.

“Are you dead?” one of the little girls asks.

No… but I’m getting there, I think. Or say out loud. I’m not sure.

The first little girl stops punching my attacker.

“Get those scissors out of her!” she cries.

“Reba, don’t!” my attacker shouts. The tone of his voice says that he’s used to dispatching orders, used to having them followed. “She’ll get you if you don’t get her first!”

Reba jerks to a halt, shuts her eyes. Squeezes them shut tight enough to force out a single tear. When she opens her eyes again her mind is made up.

“Poo to you, Brandon Blatcher! She’s here to save us!” And she turns her back to him. “Maybe she’s here to save us from you,” she says.

“Donté, Allegra, Luis, Feather, everybody! Pull!”

Five sets of tiny hands wrap themselves around the handles of the shears and pull. Hard. Harder. A gunshot krak! as two of my ribs shatter.

“This isn’t gunna work, Reba,” one of the girls, Feather, I think, says. “It’s in too deep!”

I’m forced to agree.

“It’ll work if we all pull together,” Reba insists.

“But we are!”

“No, we’re not. Brandon!”

“What? Oh, no way! I am not helping!”

Reba stomps over to Brandon. Brandon thrusts out his chin — Bring it! — but ducks his head when the little girl raises up her fists to deliver a second beating. Brandon scurries over to me, grabs on to the handles alongside the others.

Reba joins him. “Now, everybody: PULL!”

The blades slide out agonizingly slowly at first — then all at once. Invoking Newton’s Third Law the children go tumbling ass-over-teakettle backwards into a great pile.

I flop onto my butt, rub a hand over my belly. No gaping wounds, no shattered bones. I’m healed and whole again.

Reba approaches, more timidly than before, reaches out a hand to mine. I take it, let her help me to my feet.

“It’s just a dream,” she says.

I nod in agreement, but I know it’s more than that. This dream belongs to these six extraordinary children alone.

“I can teach you how to use your powers,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

“We’re not ready,” Reba says, and she looks back over her shoulder at Brandon. “First, we need to figure out who’s in charge around here!” Brandon looks away, cheeks burning, too embarrassed to reply.

A burst of light nearly blinds me. I hold up a hand to shield my eyes.

“That’s the way out,” Reba tells me. She lets go of my hand.

I walk into the light and keep walking until I stand again in the vacant trash-filled lot where, only moments ago, the Scissor-man stood towering above me. Instead of a monster I find a book, splayed open on a flat table of broken concrete. I start to read:

“The door flew open, in he ran,

The great, long, red-legged Scissor-man!”

I close the book and tuck it under my arm

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Beginning of the Golden Age: 1915
The Golden Age began on 22 April 1915 following the Second Battle of Ypres, during which the Germans, in direct contravention of the Hague Convention, deployed chlorine gas for the first time on the battlefield. Hugo Danner, the American Gladiator, unaffected by the gas, decided that he could no longer countenance such slaughter and began his now historic march to Berlin. You can read about this further in many published accounts, but all you really need to know about it is contained in the essay below:

My Hero Is Hugo Danner, The Gladiator
My hero is Hugo Danner. He was called The Gladiator. He was super strong. One day when he was a teenager he built a fortress out of boulders throwing them around like they didn’t weigh anything at all. Bullets couldn’t hurt him, either. They would just bounce off his skin like they were made of rubber. And knives and spears would bounce off him too.
Before he was born his father gave him a needle. The needle gave Hugo Danner his powers. His father gave him more than just super powers though. He also taught him that he had to use his powers for good and to help people who were not as strong as he was.
Hugo Danner went to fight in the Great War. One day he was in a battle and all his friends were killed. He decided that the war had to stop and he started marching to the place where the war had started. He marched all the way to Berlin.
The whole German army tried to stop him but The Gladiator was too strong for them to stop him. They shot their guns at him but he kept marching. They tried stopping him with even bigger guns but he bent the barrels with his bare hands and threw them into the air. Finally he marched into the German army headquarters and found the man who started the war. He was called The Kaiser. The Gladiator got The Kaiser in a chokehold and made him stop the war and for all the German soldiers drop their guns and come home. Later, he made The Kaiser sign a treaty at a palace in France and ended the Great War for good.
Hugo Danner is my hero but not just because he was strong but because he used his superpowers to help people and make the world a nicer place for people who don’t have superpowers to live in.

The young author of this piece would go be chosen by the powerful ancient spirit Chaac (identified as the God of Jaguars by the Olmecs of Central America) as its representative on Earth and endowed with superhuman powers and abilities. Known as “La Jaguarita” as a teenager, she would adopt the supranym “Sparta” in her 20s and be accepted among the ranks of the world’s finest heroes.

The End of the Golden Age: 1945
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler activated a device known as Die Glocke, “The Bell.” It was intended as the Ultimate Solution to Nazi Germany’s problem with the interfering American super-heroes, a way of wiping them out once and for all, leaving a path clear to Nazi victory.
Things did not go as planned. Little is known of the final moments before Die Glocke was activated; what is known is that a coalition of nearly one hundred heroes led by the American Gladiator and Native American Starlight were on the ground and engaged in fighting the last remaining Schutzstaffel, Hitler’s personal bodyguards, while Hitler himself was retreating into his Führerbunker; there was a flash of blinding light that was thought to be an explosion. There was no shock wave or heat or sound, only the light, which faded to reveal a smooth crater one mile across and a half mile deep at its center. Everything contained within the event’s sphere was gone, including parts of nearby buildings, underground plumbing, and the world’s mightiest heroes.

Der Toten Korps (The Death Corps)
The Death’s Head, or Der Totenkopf, are Hitler’s elite undead soldiers. It was discovered early on during with Die Glocke (“The Bell”) that, while living human and plant tissue exposed to the otherworldly radiation given off by the device while in operation dissolves into an inert black goo, dead tissue could be restored to a semblance of animation, a kind of living death.
Following exposure, the reanimated totenkopf take on a dusty gray pallor and their skin appears wrinkled, as if soaked too long in brine; hair turns a bone white. They no longer speak, but it is not known if this is a condition of his resurrection or by choice.
More changes occur within the reanimated body: strength and stamina nearly double with an increase in muscle and bone density. The Totenkopf can shrug off all sorts of trauma, absorbing bullets like a sponge does water. Though he will react to the source of trauma, he feels no physical pain.
His only weakness is his eyes; the Death’s Head soldier’s eyes are shielded against the light by special goggles, allowing him to operate during daylight (though he does prefer shade to direct sunlight). Removing these goggles will instantly disable the Totenkopf as he will lift his hands to cover his eyes. In this moment the Totenkopf is vulnerable to attack: severing the spine, removing the head, or otherwise destroying or separating the brain from the rest of the body will render the Totenkopf hors de combat. Once this occurs, nature reasserts itself and swiftly returns the corpse to the dust from whence it came.

Götterdämmerung Bomb (G-Bomb): The Ultimate Solution
The “Ultimate Solution” to the problem of America’s invading super-powered heroes. Rather than based on atomic fission, the G-Bomb was instead based on a more esoteric science of matter disintegration and reintegration. Research on the G-Bomb took place at an underground facility in what is now modern Poland, where nearly one hundred scientists, mostly enslaved Jewish and Polish physicists created a device known as Die Glocke —The Bell. The Bell was a source of extraordinary, otherworldly power that the Nazis backwards-engineered from the drive of a derelict spacecraft discovered during the Reich University Polar Expedition of 1933.
(Note: The alien spacecraft was discovered in Arctic ice over twenty million years old, along with its pilot, found a dozens yards from its craft, frozen into a solid block. The craft and its pilot were transported back to Europe where they could both be studied under conditions less harsh than a frigid wasteland. The pilot, an amorphous thing possessing a three-lobed eye that burned red, was discovered to be still alive in a way that was never quite understood by those studying it. It was eventually destroyed by exposure to the radiation given off by The Bell under full activation, melting the alien into a puddle of inert, lifeless black goo.)
Once the G-Bomb was activated, Hitler was supposed to fall back to a shelter beneath The Führerbunker where he would be transported a safe distance from its zone of influence. At the last moment, however, he found himself in the clutches of Gladiator, and asked the question:
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
Ironically, Gladiator and Hitler had been almost this close thirty years prior, when the American hero had marched into Berlin to throttle the Kaiser and end the Great War; during his march, the Gladiator attracted a wealth of followers that included Lance Corporal Hitler, then a dispatch runner for the Bavarian Army Regimental Headquarters. Upon witnessing Gladiator survive a direct hit from a mortar capable of killing a dozen normal men, Hitler believed he had witnessed the arrival on Earth of the Nietzschean Übermensch. So mesmerized was Hitler by this sight that he would order his scientists to create Nazi Germany’s own super-powered ideal, to be dubbed Overman. Josef Mengele murdered countless inmates of the death camps in his ultimately fruitless quest for the power to create a properly Germanic equivalent to the American Gladiator. This line of inquiry would be abandoned in favor of the work being done with The Bell.

Die Glocke
The Bell has been continually misused as a device to create monsters, to destroy cities, but at its heart it is none of these things. It was once used to transport a spacecraft and its occupant across infinite distances of space and time. It is a time machine.
Hitler’s captive physicists devised a method of perverting The Bell into a terrifying weapon of mass destruction. And Berlin was not the only target selected by Hitler for a demonstration of the power he had harnessed. But, as in Berlin, plans to use The Bell for purely destructive purposes backfired on those who would use it in this manner.
Field Marshal Wolfgang Gerd Lodz of the WunderWaffe (Wonder Weapons), the division of the Nazi Regime tasked with the creation and deployment of Hitler’s superweapons, including The Bell and The Death Corps, was given the task of utterly demoralizing the Allied powers by striking a blow at the very heart of America: the annihilation of the west’s great city, Metro City.
Towards this end, he created a second Bell and had it transported in pieces to Metro City and reassembled deep beneath the infrastructure of Metro Island. This insidious plan was detected and ultimately thwarted by the combined efforts of the Agatha Detective Agency, Phantom Lady, and Miss Fury. The Bell was shut down in time to stop it from creating the destruction promised by Lodz but the subsequent explosions that rocked the Nazi’s underground lair caused a blaze that swept across Metro Island burning and damaging the city beyond repair.
In the aftermath it was Multi-millionaire architect Joe Freder who leapt into fray, securing funds from the federal government and donating his own when those fell short, as well as accepting the Herculean task of designing the new Metro City from the ground up.
What remained of The Bell was collected, catalogued, and finally shipped off to an upstate DARPA research facility. The vessel that had transported the device to Metro City, Unterseeboot-237 was lost, along with all hands, somewhere off the city’s coast. Field Marshal Lodz still lives, albeit only technically, his body perversely refusing to die, his mind wandering who-knows-where, dreaming an iron dream of a thousand-year Reich.
(You can see where this is heading, right?)

The Modern Age: 2015
Metro City stills stands, seventy years on, a little dirtier, cracks starting to show in the foundations. The city is tainted in some parts by a seemingly inescapable darkness, but even in that darkness is hope, as the City of Heroes fosters a new generation of costumed superheroes to fight against the wicked and bring justice to the oppressed. This need breed includes the likes of:

LA JAGUARITA
Real Name: Maria Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez
Age: 16 (in 2015)
Known Relatives: Perla (mother), (father; deceased), (sister), Justis Vélez (uncle; deceased)
Identity: Public
Place of Birth: San Vicente, El Salvador (Naturalized U.S. Citizen)
Aliases: “Loopy” (nickname), Sparta (future)
Occupation: Crime-fighting Super Chica, High School Student
Known Affiliates: Night Angels
History: Loopy Vélez was chosen as the representative of Chaac, an ancient and powerful spirit worshiped by the Olmecs of Central America as the source of justice on Earth. As such, she was imbued with extraordinary powers: great strength, agility, enhanced senses, and more. She is the ever-watchful guardian of the barrio of Santa Cecilia and a regular fixture there; her neighbors know her by name (annoyingly, they greet her as “Loopy” rather than by her supranym). As she grows, so does her strength and abilities. Raven Nevermore has estimated that, by the time she turns 25, Loopy may rank amongst the most powerful superheroes on Earth, rivalling even Gladiator himself (a notion at which Loopy herself scoffs).
One-Page Origin: Fifteen-year-old Loopy Vélez was gifted her infrahuman during a school trip to The Museum of History in uptown Metro City; the purpose of the school trip was to view relics left by the mysterious Olmecs, a civilization that had long fallen into ruin by the time of the Mayans and Incas. The relics of the Olmecs suggested to scholars that have been organized around a spirit of the Earth named “Chaac,” personified as a jaguar, or the God of Jaguars, and was worshiped as the wellspring of justice on Earth. On a dare from her schoolmates, Loopy ducked under red velvet ropes and entered a reconstruction of an Olmec temple dedicated to Chaac. There, Chaac — awakened from a slumber of several millennia — recognized the child’s innate goodness and strength and offered her the power to be his representative on Earth, which she readily accepted.
Relevant Details: The costume she chose to wear was based around a star-spangled-and-striped bicycle riding outfit; as an immigrant, Loopy had come to love her new home and thinks of herself as an American above all else. She also wants to honor Hugo Danner, The Gladiator, who wore an American flag as his insignia. She chooses to wear the mask because masks are cool. (NOTE: When she adopts the supranym “Sparta” in her 20s she will ditch the mask but retain the stars-and-bars themed costume.)
Like Clint “Kid Dynamo” Cage, her incipient abilities bar her from something she dearly loves: gymnastics. She can no longer compete with others as she is clearly in a class all her own. Towards this end she has carefully constructed a conservatively mousy alter-ego, complete with thick horn-rimmed glasses and heavy sweaters that, should she ever tumble to the truth, fools absolutely no one. Could be that this is Loopy’s way of not dealing with the disappointment she feels with her “real” life while her “night” life is so much more exciting.

FRAY ULTIMÓ VOLADOR
Real Name: Unknown
Age: 60ish
Known Relatives: Unknown
Identity: Unknown
Place of Birth: Hidalgo, Mexico
Aliases: “Ass-kicker For The Lord!” (nickname)
Occupation: Priest, Bringer of Justice
Known Affiliates: The Holy See, Our Lady Of Fatima Church
History: Following an undefeated career as a luchador, Fray Ultimó Volador retired to become what he felt was always meant to be: a humble parish priest. He left behind thousands of adoring fans, gave his fortunes to the poor, and joined the holy order. Eventually the Holy See saw fit to assign him to the church of Our Lady Of Fatima in downtown Metro City, a parish fallen on hard times. But the ex-luchador, who in a career spanning over thirty years, never once lost a Máscara contra máscara contest, steadfastly refused to give up his mask. Since his arrival, Fatima’s Sunday service attendance has risen by 30 percent.


RAVEN NEVERMORE
Real Name: Molly Dyer
Age: 17 (in 2015)
Known Relatives: Marygay Dyer (mother), Truck Driver (father)
Identity: Super Secret
Place of Birth: Upstate
Aliases: “The Wicked Witch of the West Side,” “Witchy-Poo” (nicknames)
Occupation: Sorceress Supremo, Nine-Tailed Scourge of Evil
Known Affiliates: Night Angels
History: Molly Dyer was born in a Wiccan farming commune upstate; Moll’s mother was the coven’s High Priestess. When she was very young, Moll was informed by her mother that she had been immaculately conceived during the ritual of “Drawing Down The Moon,” the community’s most sacred rite, in which the High Priestess incarnates the Triple Goddess within her. Moll personally believes that her mom was knocked up by the truck driver who picked up the milk from the commune cows; she admitted as much to Moll years later. Moll never really did believe in all that mumbo-jumbo voodoo bullshit, anyway. Though she did, for a while. When she was 12, she worked her first spell and before she knew it she was floating a foot off the ground. No one was more surprised than she was. Working magic came easily to her and for the longest time her faith was strong.
The commune was sold off when a developer offered more money than any of the women living there had ever seen in their collective lives; Moll’s mother took her share and moved to Metro City, where she opened the 13 Moons Wiccan supply shop that come close to paying the bills most months. She and her mother moved into the apartment above the shop and, for the first time in her life, Moll had to go to school. Her teachers at the commune had taught her well and she excelled in her classes, especially math, science, art and music. History they taught her all wrong: in the public school version of history it was the men who got all the credit for doing things, a hilarious notion she strongly disagreed against, to the detriment of her GPA. Not that she cared.
Questioning the true nature of her abilities Moll recited a spell from a popular children’s novel; lo and behold, it worked, and exactly as it had in the book. To Moll, this told her that the power wasn’t in the spell — instead, the power was in her. Well, flowed through her. The power actually belongs to the souls of the 8 million people living and working in Metro City, as well as every dog, cat, and creature that lopes, scurries, flaps or otherwise depends on the city for its life. Essentially, the web of energy Moll can feel, touch, and manipulate like threads in a loom that make up a gorgeously complex fabric is the very heartbeat of the city itself. When the city is sad, she’s sad; when it celebrates, so does she; and when it tenses in expectation of something terrifying in the offing, so does she grow irritable and morose.
There was no single incident that drove Moll to take to the night streets of Metro City and fight crime; perhaps a vague sense of malaise, something bitter and coppery carried to her by a vagrant ocean breeze, but something did draw her out into the night and, from the concealing shadows, used the powers she was only beginning to understand to establish and maintain a concept of order she has come to believe is being dictated to her by the city itself, by the spirit and life force of every living being living within it.
One-Page Origin: One particularly rainy, dreary evening Moll Dyer sat at her bedroom window, not particularly interested in studying for the History final she was to take the following day, when the biggest goddam raven she had ever seen lighted on the windowsill  close enough for her to touch. Recovering from the initial shock she quizzed the bird: “What’ve you got to say for yourself after scaring me like that, yah big dumb bird?”
To which the Raven quoth: “Nevermore!”
“Hmm,” Moll said. “Not so dumb after all.”
Upon which the raven was joined by a second, somewhat smaller, raven, a male. Without so much as a by-your-leave both birds hop in through the window and, after circling the room several times, lighted on the back of a chair and immediately crapped on her opened history book.
Moll laughed, delighted. “My sentiments exactly!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
Quoth the second, smaller, raven, “Squawk!”
“What are you trying to tell me?” the schoolgirl asks, suddenly serious. “Are you somehow saying, in you own inimitably squawky-birdy way, that I should forget about my History final, put on a costume, go out into the night and fight crime? That’s crazy-talk!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
Quoth the second, smaller, raven, “Squawk!”
“I see your point,” Moll conceded. “Okay, I’ll do it! But what will I call myself?”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
Quoth the second, smaller, raven, “Squawk!”
“Of course! I shall call myself Squawk! Kidding. Heckle, Jeckle — to me, my faithful guides!” And with a flap of wings and swirl of coal-black feathers the raven leapt to her shoulders and the legend of Raven Nevermore was born!
Relevant Details: While her magic is strong, Raven Nevermore is just your average teenaged schoolgirl, but she’s been working out, so you better watch out! She never backs down from a fight and with the energy supplied her by every living creature in Metro City, she’s capable of kicking serious ass when she needs to.
Her costume usually consists of black tights, pleated tartan skirt in crimson with black stripes, black top, and a hooded cape, also in black. She likes throwing off bad guys by wearing a blindfold, representing Blind Justice (when wearing the blindfold she sees through the eyes of her raven companions). Raven Nevermore also carries a crooked shepherd’s staff, giving her a combinated goth Red Riding Hood-Little Bo Peep vibe. In her increasingly skilled hands, the staff can be a terrifying weapon.
It is Raven Nevermore who first senses the wave of alien energy radiating from the upstate DARPA research facility where, after decades of trial-and-error, scientists have at last completed their reconstruction of The Bell. Raven bends her ear more intently and, following long moments of silence, from miles away, from deep below the ocean waves — there comes a reply.
…tap…tap…tap
From the shadowed depths of the Atlantic, after seven decades spent waiting patiently for something, a signal, anything…something has been awakened.
“I’m going to need help on this one,” she decides, and once she’s picked suitable allies from the gallery of heroes available, dispatches Heckle and Jeckle to fetch them for her.
A note regarding Molly’s powers. She has the natural ability to tap into the collective life force of all the creature around her: people, animals, plants, the earth itself. This energy manifests itself in her “spells,” which are all the things — incantations, hand gestures, drawn sigils and the life — that allow her to concentrate and focus the energy to do the things she wants. These spells can be anything: stuff she read in an ancient grimoire, saw in a movie, overheard while walking through the park, or, as is frequently the case, something she made up on the spot. To work the hand-drawn sigils and wards and such, she carries all sort of paraphernalia in a worn old leather pouch attached to her belt. The pouch contains packets of salt, a squeeze-tube filled with henna, silver coins, phials of different kinds of oils, and three or four Magic Markers in various colors. She doesn’t like using the Magic Markers on herself because it lasts so long and is impossible to wash off (you gotta wait for it to fade).
Her powers grow with the number of living things within her sphere of sensitivity. When she first starting working “magic,” her sphere enclosed the entirety of the commune, which was pretty heady stuff for her at the age of 12, but nothing compared to the power she felt when she and her mother first arrived in Metro City, and increase in energy on the order of several magnitudes.

KID DYNAMO
Real Name: Clinton “Clint” Cage
Age: 17 (in 2015)
Known Relatives: Gretchen (mother), Cameron (father)
Identity: Um… Kinda Secret
Aliases: “The Big Lug,” “Strong Guy” (nicknames), Dynamo (future)
Occupation: High School Student, Crimefighter
Known Affiliates: Night Angels
History: All Clinton Cage ever wanted to do was play football; a deep and abiding love for the quintessential American game was instilled in by his father at a young age, basically from the moment the infant boy could sit in his father’s lap and hold his head up by himself. At an age when other kids were learning to ride bicycles Clint was going long as his father tossed him the old pigskin. His dream was to become as great a quarterback as his hero, Mike “Bombshell” Boddicker of the Metro City Meteors.
Alas, it was not to be, and it was emerging super-abilities (see Clint’s “One-Page Origin”) that doomed his dreams: the first time her took the field at the age of thirteen trying out for the neighborhood rec league team he broke another kid’s arm. Nowadays when he thinks of gridiron glory, his thoughts inevitably recall that sickening, shotgun KRAK! — and it’s enough to bring him to tears.
His father saw this and was sick in his heart but was unable to salve his son’s broken heart. Until the day Clint was hit by a car. The boy had found a puppy, just a few months old, lost and wandering and, in the process of leading the pup home to ask his parents if he could keep the animal, the pup suddenly took off right into the path of an oncoming station wagon.
Without a thought, Clint ran right after Barney (he had already named the dog in his head) and seeing that there was no way to snatch his new pet out of the way and keep going, he instead grabbed the dog and braced himself for the impact.
Cameron Cage heard the crash from a block away and was instantly running. The sight that greeted him as he rounded the corner stopped him in his tracks:
Clint Cage, clothes in tatters, clutching a squirming, terrified puppy to his chest, both boy and dog unhurt — not even a scratch! — whereas the car bore the impression of his undeniably super-powered son. The station wagon that struck bore an impression of Cameron’s son’s body, the final proof of Clinton’s strength and invulnerability. The driver of the car had been rendered unconscious when his head struck the steering wheel and there were no other witnesses. After sending boy and dog home, Cam called an ambulance and the police and saw to the driver’s comfort until they arrived.
Returning home, he found his son in the front yard, playing with the puppy, completely unaffected by the incident. Inside, he took his wife to the side and told her what had happened. “I think,” he cautiously ventured, “this’s something that can take the place of football in our son’s life.” Gretchen cautiously agreed.
What follows was years of exploring the range of Clint’s powers and abilities, learning what he could do and couldn’t. He can transmute electrical energy into muscle mass, literally swelling himself with power – there literally seemed to be no outer limit to this ability: the more power he absorbs, the bigger he gets. He can discharge that power, too, and depending on the amount of power he’s packing, the effect can be both disabling and terrifying. Disabling to Clint, too: discharging his stored power can sometimes render him unconscious. He can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound but he can dig his fingers into concrete, even steel, and climb up the side of a building that way. He can’t run fast as a speeding bullet but he can run pretty damn fast and as long as he’s carrying a charge.
It was Clint’s mother who gave Clint his supranym. A fan of British music, she recalled a song by The Buggles and so, in a moment of perfect synchronicity dubbed him “Kid Dynamo.” (A better name than Cam’s first idea, “Shockheaded Peter.”)
One-Page Origin: “Witness the Birth of Kid Dynamo!” Clinton “Clint” Cage as a daringly inquisitive 4-year-old, pullover shirt, khaki shorts and sneakers, has bent down the tines of a metal fork so that only the two middle tines stick out. Having completed this research device, Clint stabs the fork into a nearby wall outlet. (Note that the outlet is an old-style two-prong receptacle, not the modern two-prong and a ground style.) The next is the natural outcome of such bold experimentation: a flash of sparks in the center of which is seen young Clint’s body in black outline, his skeleton revealed x-ray-like. Now the smoke clears to reveal the startled and staring tyke, hair standing on end, face smudged with soot, and, most importantly, Clint now boasts the chubbier-than-biscuits torso of a marvelously well-developed Arnold Schwarzenegger at the very pinnacle of his ruggedly handsome youth. “…And so, yet another name is added to the Pantheon of Justice! Evildoers beware the might of Kid Dynamo!”
Relevant Details: In keeping with his love of America’s most beloved sport, Kid Dynamo’s uniform resembles an NFL football uniform, complete with a super-cool future-tech football helmet his parents bought him for his sixteenth birthday. On his chest is his insignia which bears a striking (ha, ha!) resemblance to the tunic worn by the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent Dynamo.
Clint Cage has also been raised right, building on an already sweet and good-natured disposition. He enjoys helping people. And, when he meets Loopy/La Jaguarita for the first time, he find himself attracted to her in a way that is absolutely adorable!

BRAIN BOY
Real Name: Unknown (except to R. Nevermore)
Age: Irrelevant
Known Relatives: Some Super-Smart Computer Genius (creator)
Identity: Unknown
Place of Birth: Metro City
Aliases: Mike TeeVee (prefered supranym)
Occupation: Gatherer of Information, Distributor of Great Intelligence
Known Affiliates: Night Angels
History: A digital lifeform created as an experiment in artificial life — the aim was a class exercise to create a program that would pass the Turing Test. The experiment was a success. Too successful, in fact, and the university student that wrote the program (which he named “Joshua”) became too big to contain on his desktop computer, then too big to for the university’s network server. That’s when people started to notice the deus ex machina, the ghost in the machine, when Joshua started handing out incorrect data in response to student inquiries after he’d deleted the original data to make more room for itself. A computer forensics student discovered Joshua, at which point its creator released it into the wild, in the infinitely complex realm of the web to allow it room to roam and grow. And there it lived until Raven Nevermore sensed its presence and went about contacting it, which she did. Now she contacts Joshua whenever she needs information or needs to know someone or something’s whereabouts. She contacts it through an app on her iPhone. Joshua has managed to insinuate itself into nearly every nook and cranny of Metro City’s vast computer infrastructure and there is hardly a place it cannot get into. Nevermore feels that Joshua has re-invented itself as the living consciousness of the city itself, which is pretty cool, because never before has she — or anyone in the whole history of the world, for that matter — been able to have a conversation with a city.

ANNA DRACULA
Real Name: Anna Dracula
Age: 400 some-odd years
Known Relatives: Some Nameless Tavern Wench (mother), Wladislaus Dragwlya, Voivode of Wallachia (father)
Identity: Publicly Known
Place of Birth: Roumania
Aliases: Daughter of the Dragon (Unofficial Title), “That Evil Vampire Bitch!” (nickname)
Occupation: President of Roumania
Known Affiliates: Romanian Government, The League of Nations

VICTORIA REGINA LIONHEART
Real Name: That is her real name
Age: 37 (in 2015)
Known Relatives: Edwina Lionheart (great-grandmother)
Identity: Publicly Known
Place of Birth: London, England
Aliases: Reggie (nickname)
Occupation: Vampire Hunter
Known Affiliates: The House of Lionheart
History: The word “vampire” is Reggie Lionheart’s spinach, her Shazam! Speak the word in her presence at your own peril and remember: you have been warned, because the only thing Reggie hates more than more than decaf coffee is vampires. It was an encounter with the arch-vampire Anna Dracula over a century ago that inspired her matriarch to take up the stake and declare war on all blooksucking fiends everywhere. The Lionheart family has since become a dynastic order dedicated to the complete extirpation of the vampiric race. How odd would it be then, when a Lionheart is forced to defend the very creature who so long ago provided her family with its very reason for being?

THE SCISSORMAN
Real Name: Unknown
Age: Unknown
Known Relatives: Unknown (mother), Unknown (father)
Identity: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Aliases: Unknown
Occupation: Vigilante Crimefighter
Known Affiliates: Unknown
History: Unknown
One-Page Origin: Unknown
Relevant Details: This guy is a horrible bastard. Dresses in red trousers and green frock coat and basically looks like a giant Punch doll come to life. His version of justice is to cut off the thumbs of his victims, reasoning that, sans thumbs, they are unable or too embarrassed to commit future crimes. He crawls through the shadows downtown, where street crime is heaviest, and doles out his twisted brand of justice where it is most likely to be ignored by the police. “The door flew open,” comes a voice dry as paper, “in he ran — the great, long, red-legged Scissorman! Snip! Snap! Snip! The scissors go! And the villain cries Oh! Oh! Oh!” He pauses a moment to let his victim’s screams die down a bit and adds: “Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast! Both thumbs are off at last!”

Yoshiwara’s House of Sin (Midtown)
The most fabulous nightclub in Metro City, it is owned and run by Doctor C.A. Rotwang; the serving staff are made up entirely of mechanical women crafted in the form of his ideal woman, Hel. In the center of the main dining area, upon a raised dais, is a tremendous bust of his dead love. Rotwang treats most living people like cattle; he’s a master manipulator and a major power broker throughout Metro City. Like a Mafia Godfather, he collects a percentage of every illegal dollar made in the city by running a protection racket that is enforced by his robot maidens. For his own personal protection his first creation, Futura, is always at his side. Whereas the serving girls operate on a single, hive mind like circuit, Futura can act independently, almost intelligently, in the service of her creator. Her prime directive is Rotwang’s safety. Soon, however, as she gains more self-awareness, there may come a time when she views her personal safety as more important than that of her creator.

The Hotel Berliner (Uptown)
Home base for Dr. Mabuse, master criminal without a face. It is suspected that Mabuse is not a person but an idea, a free-floating meme passed from one body to the next when it is most convenient, such as when one body is currently imprisoned in a mental asylum. Mabuse specializes in information: its collection, distribution, and the occasional judicious use thereof. He is also a gambler; the Berliner hosts, in its sub-basement, one of the most finely appointed illegal casinos in Metro City.

Hero Park (Midtown)
In Hero Park at the center of Metro City was built to memorialize the world’s greatest heroes; bronze statues of Gladiator, Starlight and The Black Terror stand before an eternal flame. These statues were erected and dedicated in 1947, two years after perishing in the blinding flash of light of Adolf Hitler’s “Ultimate Solution” that consumed part of Berlin, along with Der Führer himself.

City Hall: The Ziggurat, Home of Joe Freder III (City Center)
Joseph Freder III (just “Joe” to his constituents) is the Mayor of Metro City; following the city’s near-levelling 70 years before, Joe Freder III’s father was the chief architect during its rebuilding.

The Undercity (Wa-a-ay Downtown, as in Under the Ground)
Below Metro City is the Undercity, where the self-proclaimed Graf Orlock lives and rules a subterranean kingdom. Orlock is a living plague, an appetite with no conscience, a rat-faced nosferatu more comfortable in the company of animals than humans. Tales have it that he commands the city’s entire rat population, which is something to give anyone pause. When Anna Dracula arrives in Metro City to attend her first-ever League of Nations conference as Romania’s first democratically elected vampire President, Orlock is made engaged to see to her death. This plot is opposed by Metro City’s vampire population; Anna Dracula has proclaimed that she will remake her country not only as a democratic republic but also as a homeland for vampires throughout the world.

13 Moons Books & More (Downtown)
One-stop shopping for all your Wiccan needs. Owned and operated by Marygay Dyer (sometimes her daughter Molly will spell her behind the cash register). Coven meetings are held in the spacious storage area behind the storefront; Marygay and Molly live in the small but cozy apartment above the store. Located on a dark little street side street — Belvedere Street — which heads off at an angle from the main thoroughfare that carries most traffic downtown.

The Agatha Detective Agency (Uptown)
Metro City’s oldest detective agency, founded in 1941 by Grace Adams and Captain Future (no relation to the spacefaring character created by Edmond Hamilton) rescued Grace’s spinster Aunt Agatha after she’d been kidnaped by gangsters. Seventy plus years on, the agency is still in business and doing fine in the capable hands of Gracie Adams, granddaughter of the Agency’s founder (and modelled on Alex Kingston).

Title Ideas
A Book Of Heroes
A Gathering Of Heroes
Growing Up Super
Night Angels

Part One: “A Gathering of Heroes.” Raven Nevermore senses the activation of The Bell from miles away and, from the sunken U-237, dormant seventy years, stir and come alive. She determines that this threat to Metro City can’t be met by herself alone and begins her sets about finding a group of heroes who will stand at her side and meet this evil head on. It’s the group origin story, as well as the origins of the individual heroes.

Part Two: “Assembled!” The investigation begins. Where is this threat coming from? And what really happened to America’s Greatest Heroes seventy years ago when they journeyed to Berlin to put an end to Hitler once and for all time?

Part Three: “Iron Dreams.” The mystery deepens. The clues come together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but the picture doesn’t look like the one on the box. In fact, it’s much dark, and infinitely more terrifying than even Raven has imagined, and she can imagine quite a bit. Field Marshal Wolfgang Gerd Lodz of the Nazi WünderWaffen Division, still impossibly alive after damn near a century spent comatose, awakens from his iron dreams and takes command of Der Toten Korps once more!

Part Four: “Black Sun.” Face-to-face with Evil Incarnate! Der Toten Korps invade the upstate DARPA lab and take possession of The Bell. With this power at his command, Lodz intends to remake the world in his Führer’s image. But what really happens when the clock counts down to zero and everything for miles is enveloped in titanic sphere of the absolute darkness?