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A Superheroic-Pulp World of Freedom

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  • A Superheroic-Pulp World of Freedom

    [Inspired by the world of the "Society of Super-Heroes" from the second issue of Grant Morrison's The Multiversity, and my own love of pulp and the Golden Age, enjoy this alternate take on the World of Freedom.]

    Pulp Freedom

    “It’s been five long years, but we’re finally at peace. SHADOW’s been run out of Europe, after being pushed out of Africa and Asia shortly before, and people are finally getting used to peacetime. People want to see the world. Airship travel is more popular than ever, and every radio station or Atomvision set has its own intrepid hero off on adventures: Johnny Danger, Doc Prophet, the Phantom Ace. Thing is, those guys are make-believe. But there are real heroes: The League of Light. They met up during the War, and it sounds like they were smart enough to realize that we would need them as much in peacetime as we did then. And they were right: SHADOW is still out there, somewhere, alongside the Crime Club, the Sky Lord, and other menaces like them.”

    Heroes

    “The League watches over us from that soaring Freedom City skyscraper with the beacon on top, their Lighthouse. That light is to remind us that they’ll always be there for us, that the darkness will never prevail. There are five of them, Agent Liberty, Captain Thunder, Doc Atom, the White Lion, and, sometimes, the mysterious Midnight.”

    “Donna Mason is Agent Liberty, the founder, leader, and inspiration for the League of Light. She used to just be Agent L, working for ALPHABET (you know, that once-but-not-now-secret Allied spy agency), until she was sent on a mission to rescue a scientist known as Daniel Daedalus from behind enemy lines. He died in the attempt, but not before giving her his latest invention, the “Light of Liberty.” It’s a small, handheld device that can manipulate light for all sorts of effects. Agent Liberty has used it to create blinding light, hypnotize her foes, or even project a beam of light hot enough to melt steel. But her real strengths are her fearlessness, her determination, and ability to lead the League to victory no matter the odds.”

    “Captain Thunder is the popular name for Raymond Thunder, formerly of the Allied Airship Corps. He went his own way, and seemingly on his own, developed his famous airship, that marvel of modern engineering, the Stratos. The boisterous Captain took to the skies shortly thereafter, and he rarely ever stops back on Earth. It’s a wonder that he ever found time to get married, or have a son, but his family travels with him, alongside that strange bird-girl they found, Talona. Captain Thunder is an explorer first and foremost, and he’s scoured the globe to find new challenges. The Stratos has soared over Magic Mesa, the Lost World, and even the mysterious mountains of Ultima Thule. But when the League calls, he’ll always be there. In fact, the moorings on the top of the Lighthouse were built explicitly to accommodate the Stratos.”

    “Dr. Alexander Atom usually goes by the much snappier ‘Doc Atom,’ because he’s such a busy man. One of the geniuses assembled by Allied Command, he helped develop many of the weapons and tools used to win the war. He didn’t stop after the war, creating everyday conveniences like Atomvision: moving pictures broadcast live into your own home. What an age we live in! He was also responsible for most of the design work on the Lighthouse, and he has labs stored deep within. But while he may be a bit of an egghead, more focused on whatever piece of technology he’s tinkering with than what’s going on around him, don’t assume he’s a pushover. During the war, ALPHABET Agent W (Jack Wolf) was assigned to be his bodyguard, and apparently the Doc picked up more than a few lessons about self-defense from him. Meanwhile, he’s still pushing new frontiers in science and engineering. His MENTAC thinking machine is amazing and helps keep him and the League organized and alert to what their foes are up to. Hey, here’s something else: Rumor is, Doc Atom and Captain Thunder are conspiring together to launch a mission to the Moon! Crazy, right? But the Doc claims to have received weird radio signals from up there, and if there’s anybody who could reach it, it would be him.”

    “M’Balla, who the press calls the White Lion is, get this, nobility. His father, M’Zale, is the King of Dakana, a land that, as you know, SHADOW spent a lot of time and energy invading during the War. Fortunately, the Dakanans were able to hold them off, but M’Zale realized they might not be so lucky next time, and that their country needed to know more about the world around them. So M’Balla, donning the ceremonial warrior dress of his people, was sent on a global tour to learn new ways and to represent Dakana. M’Balla began his journey in Asia, and according to the stories sailors tell, he wound up at the mythical Shamballa Vale. While there, not only did he prove himself worthy of the most ancient secrets of martial arts, but also he made an enemy of the notorious Dr. Sin and his family. Apparently they still pursue him now, sending their assassins after him, but fortunately the White Lion has the League watching his back, though of course he’s more than capable of defending himself. The Lion is headstrong and more than a little vain, being a prince and all, but he’s fiercely loyal to his friends and allies, and actually quite worldly and open to new cultures as a result of his travels. While he’s touring the States right now and residing in the Lighthouse, apparently he might head to South America next, and see what trouble he can get into there.”

    “The final member of the League is also its most mysterious. No one knows much about the masked avenger known as Midnight, and that includes her true identity. The first reports about her came shortly before the end of the War, when she began busting up smugglers and SHADOW spy rings in Freedom City. After the War, she turned her attention to organized crime and various strange criminals who have popped up since. Some of the crooks I know she’s faced include Dollface, a.k.a. scarred actress Clarice Fairbridge who wore a porcelain doll’s mask and was driven by a desire to wipe away the facial features of everyone in the city; the Labyrinth, a sinister society of the rich and powerful who abducted innocent people so that they could hunt them like animals in a maze in the sewers; and her greatest foe, the Fear-Master, that mad occult genius, and his monstrous creations called Terrors. Midnight may face dangerous foes, but she’s got a number of talents herself: by all accounts she’s a phenomenal fighter, has an arsenal of amazing vehicles and gadgets, and can seemingly create and control darkness. Some say she’s a technical wizard on par with Doc Atom himself, others think she’s sold her soul to a certain infamous figure for magical power. Best explanation I can come up with is that she doesn’t work alone, but rather has the aid of an entire Midnight Society. Whenever she saves someone, they become part of her network, and she’s saved a lot of interesting and talented people. Maybe some of them even put on the hood and mask? Who knows. All I can say for sure is that she usually operates separate from the League, but when the situation is really dire, they know they can rely on her to show up.”

  • #2
    Re: A Superheroic-Pulp World of Freedom

    Villains

    “So that’s the League, but what about the villains they face? Well, the first and most obvious one is the remnants of SHADOW. Wilhelm Kantor’s faction of mad, fanatic followers was the greatest threat the free world has ever faced. They took over most of Europe and large swaths of Asia and Africa, but we fought them hard. We forced them out of Dakana, out of Egypt, and all the way back to the very nation they started in, but a number of their high-ranking officials escaped, to South America or elsewhere. Groups like ALPHABET are still hunting them down, but every now and then they come up with another mad scheme to destroy the free world and reclaim their empire. Kantor is dead, but a new Overshadow has arisen, and nobody knows who he is. He might be one of Kantor’s old retinue, or maybe a new figure rising through the ranks. But whoever he is, and wherever SHADOW shows its slimy head, the League of Light arrives to smack it back down.”

    “While SHADOW haunts the globe, there are plenty of threats closer to home. Inspired by the success of the League of Light, a group of twisted criminal minds realized that they too could achieve more by working as a group than struggling as individuals. They formed the Crime Club, and unfortunately, while the League of Light has managed to defeat them many times, they have yet to bring them to justice. The Club is a dark mirror of the League, with each member having ties to one of the heroes.”

    “The Club’s leader is the maniacal man now known as Dr. Simian. A genius scientist, he was a colleague of Doc Atom in the wartime brain trust, but he never reverted back to peacetime thinking. Instead, he continued to pursue more and more destructive and unethical research. This culminated in transplanting his brain into that of a tremendous ape, granting him the immense strength needed to wield his terrible inventions. He maintains the Club through blackmail and bribery, having amassed a small fortune from the creation and sale of weapons to criminals and rebel forces around the world. Doc Atom sees Dr. Simian as an affront to good scientists everywhere, and in turn, Simian sees Atom as a meddling, condescending, small-minded hack.”

    “ALPHABET may be on the side of the angels, but not all of its agents are. Orion the Hunter was once Agent O, who had a reputation for ruthless efficiency. However necessary ruthlessness may have been at times during the War, Agent O took it too far. Rather than return to his superiors and face sanctions, he went AWOL on a mission and began selling his services to the highest bidder while operating under his new, self-glorifying name. Agent Liberty has tried to apprehend him more than once, but his immense skill with all manner of modern weaponry and his willingness to endanger innocent lives has let him escape time after time.”

    “Like his nemesis, the White Lion, Toshiro Ranaga is a man with regal bearing who comes from an age-old dynasty. Unlike M’Balla, however, Toshiro is not the heir to a noble kingship but rather one of the largest criminal empires in East Asia. Named for his ancestral blade, which may or may not possess supernatural abilities, the Crimson Katana is a globe-trotting criminal, spreading his family’s influence wherever he goes. His father, Asano Ranaga, rules their criminal empire from back home in Japan, where the White Lion first earned their ire during his sojourn through Asia. The White Lion is a better hand-to-hand fighter than the Crimson Katana, but the latter’s weapon is deadly and helps even the field between them.”

    “Whereas Captain Thunder soars the skies, seeking adventure, enlightenment, and new horizons, Devil Ray scavenges the ocean depths for loot and treasure, and when he can’t find it, he attacks ships to create his own. Carl Mattus is just as brilliant a mechanic and engineer as his rival in the sky, but he is an egomaniac and tyrant, keeping his crew in line through intimidation and the threat of execution. Devil Ray is obsessed with the legends of Atlantis and constantly seeks out any evidence of its existence, but has yet to find it. Captain Thunder’s constant taunting that if he wants to find a lost city he must look to the skies (the Aerie where the Thunders met Talona) simply further drives Devil Ray. While Thunder cannot submerge his vessel and Devil Ray cannot send his airborne, his submarine does house an entire hangar of fighter planes that can take the fight to the skies.”

    “The final member of the Crime Club is an unpredictable and murderous madman, solely kept around to oppose Midnight when she appears. The Red Death’s past is as unknown as his archenemy’s, but it’s certain that he’s a chemist of some talent, as evidenced by the many lethal poisons and acids he has concocted and employed over his criminal career. He is also surprisingly capable at disguise, having managed to hide his hideously malformed and malicious visage in order to infiltrate a location, before dramatically revealing himself. The rest of the Crime Club, villains all, hate him and refuse to work with him any more than is absolutely necessary.”

    “There’s a whole mess of madmen out there besides SHADOW and the Crime Club. Just look at the papers to see just a handful of them. Some of the more notable ones include the Sky Lord, who dispatches armies from his flying fortress to prevent any further; the Silver Hyena, a European explorer who was cursed and became a monster haunting Africa; and King Cole and his Blackbirds, the whimsical-yet-deadly crime lord with a lovely-yet-lethal harem. But this is a world of heroes, and nobody, not the villains of the Crime Club, nor the armies of Sub-Terra or SHADOW, nor the enigmatic “Omegadrones” the League recently fought in the skies over Bangladesh, can ever put an end to it."

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    • #3
      Re: A Superheroic-Pulp World of Freedom

      Conclusion

      “And who am I? How do I know all this? It’s nothing special. I’m just a journalist. Call me Rick Fox, that’s the name I'm using now. I just happen to know a couple tricks; little make-up here, little disguise there, those and a good accent can get you into all sorts of interesting places. I did it during the War a bit. I left my signature here and there, writing "Kilroy" where I could. But that was just another pseudonym, like this one. Anyway, I’m not the real hero. I just tell their stories.”

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