Monday, July 23, 2007

Hughes High: Stanley Schuster: 1921-2007

I'm sure anyone that reads this column saw the funeral yesterday. If you don't know who he was, or why so many people showed up, let me break it down for you.

Stanley Schuster was a 21-year old man that signed up for OPERATION:STAR-SPANGLED in 1942. At the time, there was a real fear that Germany's beliefs about their superhumans were right. Allied heroes seemed to be created by accident, while a new hero for the Axis seemed to show up every week. We know now that it was all part of Hitler's propaganda machine, but the powers that be were very worried. They started the first serious study of superpowers and how to get them. In many ways, STAR-SPANGLED was the grandfather of both the GUARD and S.I.S.T.E.R. The test subjects were exposed to a variety of stimuli, ranging from radioactive animal bites to injections of strange formulas.

The most famous of these subjects became Captain Patriot. While the others weren't exactly washouts (except, of course, for the ones that banded together in the military unit that many consider to be a precursor to the modern super team known as The Washouts.), most of them developed abilities that weren't exactly useful on the battlefield. Stanley, for example, was struck blind by the injections he received, but gained an uncanny sense of touch. He could read newspapers by touch and could tell the colors of your tie by holding it.

After the war, Stanley started a small tailor shop in New York. He soon found himself serving a very peculiar clientele. Supers on both sides of the law came to him to help make and maintain their costumes. While not every memorable costume came from Stanley's fingers, it was hard to forget the ones that he did. Stanley gave Jack Jupiter his golden cape and Seventh Sorcerer his emerald glasses. Stanley's studio was one of the few places where cape and cloak could go and know they would be safe. The few supers that violated the unspoken sanctuary soon found themselves fighting Stanley's friends on both sides of the law.

Schuster passed away in his sleep last Tuesday. The funeral was one of the largest gatherings of masks since the Event and it was full of memorable moments. I know I watched the whole affair with a tear in my eye. Who knows, maybe some old enemies buried hatchets?