Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hughes High: A Brief History of Time

(Editor's note: With the passing of Signal Editor Emeritus Jack Massey, Ron was unable to contribute a column this week due to close friendship with Jack. This weeks column is a bit of a history refresher, excerpted from Signal Magazine, week ending October 13, 2002)

You can hardly imagine that Masks have nearly been around as long as
the motor car or color motion pictures. For those of you that slept
through history class, here's a brief capsule history of our
relationship with superheroes and super villains.

1920-1934: Rumors and wild stories filter into the public
consciousness of masked mystery men and women stopping petty crimes
and cracking down on bootlegging mobs.

1935: The Gargoyle brings about the end of Boss Carruthers' control
of Hudson City Hall. He deposits the crime lord on the steps of the
Hudson Times newspaper. This is the first and only time the
Gargoyle is seen by the public.

1937: The Rocket, sporting a high-tech jet pack and two sliver .45
pistols, thwarts a Nazi spy ring in Southern California. Soon
afterwards, newspapers around the world are flooded with stories of
people with unusual abilities on both sides of the law.

1939: Knowing the situation in Europe is boiling beyond control,
American scientists begin working on a chemical formula to give to
its allies to combat the Nazis. Both Hitler and Stalin have already
begun research in their own "super-men" programs.

1941: A paranormal population explosion. The Americans field
Captain Patriot, the Rocket, and Junior Jet. Britain stops the
Luftwaffe by the timely first appearance of Pendragon. The Germans
are led by Ironwing, Valkyrie and Victor Von BludBann.

1943: Valkyrie joins the Allies and helps turn the tide in the war.
Rumors persist of romance between her and the young Pendragon.

1945: The end of WWII with the surrender of Ironwing after the
destruction of Onikaze with two atomic bombs. Malice is rewarded by
the Soviets with a dictatorship he calls Roldavia. Jack Massey, the
only suriving member of the Platoon that aided Captain Patriot's
siege on a Nazi atomic rocket, becomes The All-American Kid.

1950-1962: The Salad days of Capedom. First appearance of the
Champions, the Fists of Justice, the Honor well as the
Dastardly Dozen, The Red Hand, and VIPER.

1962: Senator Joseph McCarthy launches a second HUAC committee,
this time targeting the superhero community. The first "black
magic" trials single out mystic heroes but soon expand into
other "unsavory" activities. The Scarlet Archer and his sidekick
Shaft are forced to retire after the implication is made their
relationship is not strictly a professional one.

1964: Captain Patriot is thought to be killed in Vietnam, but
resurfaces two years later. In a growing response to more
paranormals battling on its home soil, the US government begins
equipping National Guard posts with high-tech weaponry to both help
subdue supervillains until a superhero arrives and to take them to a
holding facility after the battle. This branch eventually becomes
its own agency, commonly known as "The Guard".

1966: Signal Magazine, a magazine about superheroes, is founded by
the now-retired Jack Massey.

1967: Professor Power makes his first appearance.

1969: Man walks on the moon and discovers a black monolith beacon on
the darkside. Soon, alien races begin to contact the Earth's
denizens. Some are peaceful. Others are not.

1972: With the aid of the best and brightest scientists and
ambassadors from Alpha Centauri, The United Nations begins the
Science Initiative of Supernatural Technology, Education and
Research (SISTER). SISTER researches the origins of supernatural
beings, catalogs powers, and tries to apply breakthroughs to the
common good.

1974: Zinger, the famous speedster and self-proclaimed "Fastest Woman
Out of Mercy High next to Betty Kowalski", appears in Chicago.

1976: The Silhouette makes her precence knwon by stopping an assassination attempt by the Red Hand on Michael Albright, a
candidate for Senate. Albright, the former Professor Power, is
elected to the Senate representing California. He is the first
paranormal is that level of government and makes "Power to the
People" an Election year catchphrase.

1978: Roboto makes his first appearance.

1981: The City of San Fransisco help to pay for Champions manor
after the Champions save the city from a shapeshifting alien race.

1985: Punchline appears to torment heroes across the world. He
offers to sell the secret identities of the worlds greatest heroes
for a million dollars per identity. He then promptly turns the
buyers over to the police, including Alaric Krueger...but disappears
with the money, saying he hasn't learned the identities yet.

1987: While on trial for attempting to destroy Houston with am army
made of the animated dead, the Seventh Sorceror makes a shocking
revelation. Many of the mystic heroes operating in the world came
to him looking for power and he created them. The mystics deny
these allegations but an underlying current of mistrust and
prejudice wells up. Silhouette disappears after the Sorceror
implies "improper" sacrifices were taken by her to achieve her
power over shadow.

1993: Zinger becomes the star of her own network show. While it is
a moderate hit, prouction is rarely stopped for her superheroic
duties. Lady Malice eliminates her father and takes over rule of Roldavia.

1995: Mercy hijacks the Champions Manor and downloads the contents
of the computer into his cerebral matrix. He sets out to hunt all
the heroes in the database.

1999: Omnus arrives over New York City. He decimates the Big Apple
and makes a single offer. Join him or die.

January 1st, 2000: Silhouette returns and chastises both Pendragon
and the Seventh Sorcerer for not working together to stop this
threat that's bigger then both of them. She then is somehow able to
stop Omnus's assault of London. She is not seen again.

January 19, 2000: The entire paranormal community converges on Ayers
Rock in the Austailian Outback to settle the matter. Some have
allied with Pendragon and the Sorceror. Others with Omnus. This
day, known as the Event, was a 48 hour battle that could be heard
around the world. When the dust settled, only Senator Albright
returns from the scene. To this day, he has not told anyone what
happened, only that everything is taken care of.

2001: VIPER resurges and attempts to take control of the White
House. A new breed of heroes rises up to stop them, including
Pinnacle, and Purple Haze.

2002: More and more supernaturals are arising, unbound by tradition
and unguided by those masks that have come before. Will they lead
us into a Silver Age?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hughes High: Absense of Malice

Roldavia has always been a tumultuous country. Even those people that aren't a fan of history or current events could tell you what was happening in Roldavia. Whether you speak of its time under the iron fisted rule of Malice, the late Cold War chess games played by his heirs, or its current state as a free haven for capes and masks of any type, any student of history and its relation to superhumans will discuss Roldavia. Of course, Roldavia has the distinction of being the first sovereign nation ruled by a costumed superhuman.

Malice was allegedly active as a secret super during World War II. While the Allies and Axis powers made big displays of their capes, encouraging patriotic names like Captain Patriot and Das Eisenfaust, most of the men and women manifesting powers in Russia found their way into dirty government work. If his own tales can be believed, Malice was Stalin's right hand man, kept close to his vest when the war with America would need him to lead his country into battle. Malice first appeared to the general public in the early 1950's. Clad in his battlesuit, he defeated Captain Patriot time and time again, only to to have the Greatest American Hero take the fight to him as the Soviets expanded their influence over what would come to be known as the Eastern Bloc.

"Malice was a real son-of-a-gun," said Jack Massey in an early Signal Magazine interview. "That's not to say that any of the German masks we fought during the war were walks in the park. But whenever we'd see that red suit clanking towards us, we knew we were going to be sore for the next few days."

Malice and the Patriot would stay on this course of tit-for-tat one-upsmanship until it was revealed that Premier Ivan Brakov, dictator-for-life of recently-renamed Roldavia, were one in the same on March 18, 1953. Many cape conspiracy theorists believe that Patriot and Malice had a secret meeting shortly after this revelation, and Patriot left Malice alone, so long as he did not directly interfere with American interests.

Malice had two children during his time as Premier of Roldavia. His son, Piotr, has forgone a flashy life in the public eye. He was often the target of other cloaks' schemes and found himself a kidnapping victim or worse. His whereabouts are unknown today. Rumors suggest that he was a participant in the Event, stopping the final plot of his sister.

That sister, whose full name is Dahlia Romanov Sabrinski Illyitch Brakov, is more often called by her mask name: Lady Malice. Her alluring beauty (despite the loss of an eye in a mysterious incident) and her forceful personality made her one of the stars of the pre-Event mask culture.

What few of her fans and detractors remember was her time at Hughes High. Lady Malice, calling herself Black Dahlia at the time, led Varsity for a time and dated many of the prominent heroes from the school. Some suggested she was a spy acquiring information for her father. Others suggested just the opposite, that she, like many fellow communists, wanted a taste of the American lifestyle, and that acting as the Roldovian ambassador to the school was the best way she knew how to escape. Was the time at school responsible for her declaration of mask sovereignty when she wrested control away from her father?

I saw her once at Glitterdance. She was striking even then, and was shooting down boys left and right. Somehow, in my teenage mind, it didn't faze me. She had turned everyone else down; why would she say yes to me.

But she did.

It still amazes me to this day that I danced to "99 Luftballoons" with one of the most powerful women in the world.