Trying something a little different this issue. I finally started messing around with HeroMachine.com’s online software for creating superhero/sci-fi/fantasy characters. There are a lot of options to choose from for various articles of clothing, facial features, weapons, etc. — some are great, some not so much. Of course, they can’t offer everything you can think of, so there are definite limitations. Limited number of poses, too. (Actually, 3 different male figures and 3 different female figures, but all in the same pose.) But, I can’t complain too much, since I have no artistic skill of my own. Eventually, I’ll try the 3.0 version, which is more advanced (and presumably has more options) but not as easy to use.
“Those Were the Days”
I found old promotional shots of me in a couple of my old “uniforms”, which I thought you might enjoy, so I scanned them in for this issue. The first one was, in fact, the one I wore when I first debuted publicly as a “costumed adventurer” (Is that the PC term?). So, naturally, it was inspired by my wrestling costume from back in the day. Of course, I didn’t look quite so “regal” when I was wrestling, and the beard was a bit bushier. But, I kept the longish hair, the cape (which I had to take off once I got in the ring but usually kept on when doing the hero thing), and the purple & yellow color scheme. I switched to pirate boots, which were still quite popular back then. They just seemed to fit the semi-classic look I was going for. And, of course, I added the jeweled belt.
Fun fact: The belt actually housed the small computer that controlled the circuitry in my costume, which absorbed & stored the electricity that I released in bursts from my gauntlets. *That* was the true source of my “lightning bolts”. Most villains — along with the public at large — assumed the bolts were part of my superpowers and never thought to intentionally damage or remove the belt or gauntlets.
The second superhero costume is from a few years later. I had decided to ditch the cape, cut the long locks, and go for something a little more militaristic. Changed the color scheme, too, which I thought worked really well. I never liked the placement of the lightning bolt on the chest, but I really liked it being blue. (As you probably remember, I used it again in my next couple costumes, but the bolt looked more “normal”.) Also, I switched over to “throwing” lightning from my new “power mace”, which eliminated the need for circuitry in the belt and costume/gauntlets. The computer and circuitry was self-contained within the mace, and it was programmed to operate only for me.
The cigar was a personal touch I added at the last second, since I was smoking it off-camera. When my agent first saw the pic, he almost had a fit, saying that the politically-correct crowd would accuse me of setting a bad example, yada yada, and that my popularity would take a hit with the general public. I insisted on keeping it, but the shots that ended up being used by magazines and such were without the cigar. So, my agent needn’t have worried. Since this particular pic was never used (to my knowledge), I guess this one is “rare” and a collector’s item of sorts.
In fact, I just decided… I’m going to have a contest. Send in one paragraph describing your favorite costume that you ever saw me wear (as wrestler or superhero or ???) and why you like it. I’ll choose my favorite three entries. Two runners-up will get a personalized, signed photo of me in that uniform. The grand-prize winner will get the same, plus a signed copy of the rare “cigar photo”. (That’s the only one you can’t write about.) I may throw a little something extra in there, too. Not sure what, yet. Be sure your entry is postmarked by July 30th.
“So Long, Soldier!”
Speaking of old memories, I recently attended the funeral of an old friend: Major Bad@$$. He wasn’t the most, uh, family-friendly hero. (Had quite a foul mouth!) Very violent, too, what with the heavy firepower and explosives. He had very little patience, even less mercy, and we fellow superheroes often had to rein him in from killing indiscriminately. If you remember him at all, you might remember that he came on the scene a couple years after I did, then disappeared a couple years after that. What you might not know is that Major was a wrestler, briefly, just like me. He went by the name “Danny Draco”, but he only wrestled professionally for one year before being thrown out of the Federation for erratic and dangerous behavior both in and out of the ring. I was the only friend he had from those days, but I could never get him to chill out or get counseling for his personal “issues”.
Another thing the public doesn’t know is that Major actually did eventually go rogue, killing a mob kingpin’s family, including women and children. He had been especially edgy in the days beforehand, but he wouldn’t talk about why. He finally just snapped. A small group of his colleagues (including me) in the superhero community had to bring him to justice. Unfortunately, Major wouldn’t come in quietly and was seriously injured in the battle, leaving him in a coma. He was still in that coma up until a week ago, when he had a serious stroke and died.
I can’t tell you Major’s real name, because his parents & siblings want to maintain their anonymity. They also requested that the news of his death not be made public, but they let me inform some in the superhero and wrestling communities. A few showed up for the funeral and/or the wake, but not many. He was not an easy guy to like, and frankly he was a pain-in-the-butt to work with. (Someone once remarked that he should rename himself “Major Headache”.) But, he did take down a lot of mobsters, drug-dealers, and various other scumballs. He even assisted in stopping an alien invasion one time. (Oops! That may still be classified. Forget I mentioned it.)
Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about those times I worked with Danny Draco / Major Bad@$$. One mission in particular stands out. Some wannabe dictator in Central America had hired a boatload of mercenaries, the worst of the worst, to be his army. He then launched a coup against the U.S.-friendly government of island nation of San Rafael. The U.S. government’s hands were tied, though I’m sure the CIA was mixed up in it, somehow. Anyway, at the request of a couple of our Central and South American colleagues, a half-dozen of us North American superheroes decided to, uh, unofficially intervene. The hostile army was headquartered at a military base they had captured, which included a massive underground bunker. Security was really tight, too. The eight of us heroes, along with a couple representatives of San Rafael’s duly-elected president, discussed and debated for a full day and a half how best to neutralize the enemy forces, while minimizing casualties and destruction of said base.
Major wanted to just storm the place from the start, but the rest of us nixed the idea. He didn’t say much after that, but I could tell he was getting *very* impatient to get on with it. When we broke for lunch on that second day, I noticed Major (and all his gear) was gone, and one of the Hum-Vees was missing. (Remember, he couldn’t fly.) By the time we realized what had happened, Major had already infiltrated the base. The rest of us arrived on the outskirts of the base and did some reconnoitering to a) see what the enemy was up to and b) try to figure out what Major was up to. Less than an hour later, we were just about to execute our plan whent there were a series of huge explosions, mostly underground, and practically the entire base imploded into the bunker.
As we found out later, Major had snuck onto the base and found his way to the armory, where he grabbed a few extra explosives and other gear to add to what he already had on him. Then, he quickly worked his way down into the bunker and strategically placed several high-energy explosives in structurally-crucial areas. Originally, he was going to wait to remotely detonate them after he got out. But, most of the army was gathered in a gigantic central hall, receiving instructions and prepping for an attack on the president’s palace that afternoon. Major saw an opportunity to take out virtually the whole army at once, even if it meant he probably wouldn’t survive. He was discovered and got caught in a firefight, but he managed to set off the explosives just as he dove into a reinforced shaft of some sort.
All that was left for the rest of us to do was mop up. We found Major alive the following day, trapped in that shaft, which was covered in some pretty heavy debris. With a combination of superstrength and telekinesis, we dug him out, along with a handful of other survivors. But, the crazy son-of-a-gun had managed to take out the wannabe dictator and several hundred brutal, bloodthirsty mercenaries at once, thereby saving untold death and grief for the people of San Rafael (and probably a lot more). And he was willing to sacrifice himself to do it. For all of his ridiculous bravado, violent tendencies, and other issues, that’s the kind of guy Major was deep down — a selfless warrior for freedom and justice. That’s the guy I choose to remember.
Sleep easy, soldier, and thank you for your service….
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.