Keeper of Secrets
Re: Phoenix Bay Setting Compendium
1936-1945: World War II
The Burning of the Bay
The First of the Kaiju
By the 1930's the shortcomings of the overcrowded, heavily polluted old port at Northbay were plain to see. As recovery from the Great Depression began, Phoenix Bay started one of its largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects ever with WPA support. The shores of Southbay were to be dredged and a vast, modern shipping port constructed along its shores, sporting container terminals, high-speed rail links, shipyards and dry docks. Named Mackenzie Port for chief architect Joseph Mackenzie, the new harbor would incorporate civilian and military installations within a single sprawling facility, the largest in the world. The old harbor would be repurposed for tourist and leisure activity and the Santa Barbara river cleaned up from nearly a century of heavy pollution.
The project made headlines for the large number of worker deaths that could not be explained merely by the choppy waters and strong currents of the bay. Entire dredging ships would vanish at night along with their crews. Soon ships started disappearing in the Northbay as well. Native American tribes in the area had warned early Europeans against digging for gold on what they believed was sacred ground, and tales of gold miners digging up eldritch horrors better left alone were passť in Phoenix Bay. But this time the strange happenings could not be easily dismissed. Vessels moving through the bay at night had to travel in Coast Guard convoys for safety while the city's heroes investigated. What they found defied comprehension.
On the morning of August 20, 1936, a coast guard convoy reported coming under attack. Military forces were unable to respond effectively due to the fog in the bay. Instead, leading some 20 heroes in coordinated assault, Madame Mystic and Doctor Future confronted and killed a vast creature described as a "monstrous turtle" with a dome-shaped spiked shell some 100ft in length and width. The corpse, too large to be housed in any museum, was towed to the shore and left to rot; souvenir hunters destroyed the skeleton by chipping away fragments, although a tooth and part of the skull are on display in the Museum of Natural History. A local reporter fabricated a report that the creature's name in the Chochenyo language was "Kamoebas", and the name stuck even after the claim was disproved.
In the wake of Kamoebas's assault many questions were asked. Paleontologist Ishiro Shimizu, leading a team of renowned paleontologists and geologists, hypothesized that Phoenix Bay was the nesting site of a titanic marine reptile. The two wings of Northbay and Southbay had been created by the sweeping motion of a colossal organism's limbs, much like a sea turtle's hind flippers, excavating a cavity to lay eggs. Over time, erosion had washed away much of the softer, looser earth packed over the eggs, lowering the surface below sea level and forming the bay. However, attempts to gather more information were hindered by the deep water, strong currents, and busy commercial activity in the bay. No further sea monsters appeared. Relegated to an academic curiosity, Shimizu's research was gradually forgotten with the completion of Mackenzie Port in 1939, and the dramatic events that followed.
Attack on Phoenix Bay
"December 7, 1941. We go now to strike the perfidious enemy. The weather is fine but waves are high." With those nonchalant words, written in the journal of Ichiro Honda -- the super known as Divine Wind -- war came to the United States. While Pearl Harbor came under surprise attack, the Imperial Japanese Special Assault Forces -- a unit of elite troops and superhuman warriors -- descended upon the West Coast by night to destroy all warships, bases and shore facilities they could find. Unable to maintain a naval force in the Pacific, America would surely capitulate and leave the Japanese Empire a free hand in Asia.
The brunt of the assault fell upon Phoenix Bay. Startled citizens of San Francisco awoke from sleep to the roar of rocket engines, the chatter of machine guns and the thump of armored boots down the streets. Within minutes the U.S. military base atop the Presidio was overrun and the attackers advanced across the waters of Northbay to destroy Phoenix Bay itself.
Dazzle, a young heroine with powers of pyrotechnics and flight, was the first to meet the invaders over the bay. Knowing she could not fight an enemy force of this size alone, Dazzle filled the sky with sparklers to wake the city and turned tail for the harbor where a defense could be mustered. Her fireworks illuminated a fearsome sight: the sky was filled with Iron Tengu jetpack troops and Imperial Japanese supermen. Small, swift attack boats ferried squads of ninja assassins, henshin mystics and power-armored samurai towards the Harborfront. By the time Dazzle landed before City Hall she was met by Sixgun, Doctor Future and Madame Mystic as well as some 25 other heroes, several of them veterans of the gang wars with Falcone. They quickly agreed on a general strategy: buy time so that the city could be evacuated and the military could arrive to repel the attack.
Then the Imperial Japanese assault was upon them. At their front was Divine Wind himself, clad in glittering gold and crimson samurai armor, held aloft by swirling winds. With a single blast of tornado-force wind he demolished City Hall. Invading troops swarmed all over King's Junction, blowing up vital industry and manufacturing plants. Teams of saboteurs slipped through the heroes' defenses to dynamite the Transcontinental Rail Link and the city's power plant. Divine Wind's lieutenants blew up the strategically irrelevant but symbolic busts of the Angels in Angel Square and the surrounding park. The city burned from the Harborfront to Millstone as the troops torched everything of importance.
The heroes made the invaders pay dearly for every block but all they could do was slow the assault. Defiant put on his mask for the first time in years and joined the fray, while American Eagle's daughter picked up her father's winged flight gear and took to the skies. Genius inventor Toshiro Yamada put on his heavily-reinforced mining suit as an improvised weapon to defend his home, and became the hero Ironclad. The heroes were also helped by the city police and even a few brave citizens or veterans with little more than small arms. The locals in Chinatown, fearing the same atrocities the Japanese Empire committed in China, gave the superheroes what help they could.
Still they could not halt the attack. Imperial Japanese troops continued to advance into Glitter Falls, pausing to loot and burn the homes of the wealthy. It was Skybolt the Lightning Lass who came up with the plan that saved what remained of the city. A Chinese-American Skybolt had fought the Special Assault Force briefly in Manchuria before coming to the U.S. and knew the culture of their supers. The Japanese supermen believed in the samurai ideal of the peerless warrior and were hungry for individual glory in battle. If the heroes split up, she argued, taunting the lead Imperial Japanese supers into strategically pointless individual duels, they might buy enough time for citizens to be evacuated and the military to assist. At first the other heroes were skeptical but as the fighting encroached upon Mackenzie Port's outskirts and the situation grew increasingly desperate they relented.
With Samson and Ironclad leading the way, Phoenix Bay's heroes punched through the Imperial Japanese front in a blitzkrieg assault before splitting up into ones and twos amidst the razed city. They were each followed by hordes of elite troops screaming for their blood. But the heroes' gambit was working! What had been a coordinated assault was degenerating into a rowdy brawl as the elite Japanese supermen, rather than razing buildings and demolishing structures, scrambled to claim the scalps of famed American heroes. Spectacular super-powered duels erupted among the smoldering ruins as the heroes played a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. The Navy fuel depot was damaged in the battle; leaking oil spilled out onto the waters of the bay and caught fire, lighting up the night sky. Phoenix Bay burned, burned as never before.
The attackers withdrew near morning, fearing the arrival of the U.S. military in force, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties. But the heroes could not cheer. Sombre news was beginning to pour in from around the world. Pearl Harbor had been reduced to a smoking crater. The Pacific Fleet had detected the Imperial Japanese sneak attack and sortied to meet it. Without carriers or planes of their own, they were torn apart by the faster Japanese carriers; eight U.S. battleships were forever destroyed. The ninth, Pennsylvania, was bombed in dry dock at Pearl Harbor and would later be repaired. Japanese supers had hunted down the carriers Enterprise and Lexington, while Saratoga lay burning in San Diego harbor. Some 25,000 U.S. soldiers and civilians were dead or missing from Hawaii to California.
The rising sun dawned on terrible carnage. Phoenix Bay, from King's Junction to the Millstone, was razed nearly to the ground, with thousands left homeless and countless millions in damage dealt. The bay itself was a sea of flame as fuel oil burned and bubbled. The city's heroes paid dearly for their gambit. Defiant, Madame Mystic and Doctor Future were found among the dead.
But Mackenzie Port and most of its shore facilities remained critically intact. Imperial Japanese intel had been scant on the new port. In the confusion of the night the attacking troops had not realized that much of the port remained safe. But more than anything, the heroes' ferocious defense and daring distraction had saved the harbor. Its extensive shipyards and dry docks were largely spared. Thanks to the heroism of a few super-powered citizens, Imperial Japan's strategic objective had not been achieved.
(to be continued...)
Last edited by Ysariel; 04-01-2017 at 11:09 AM.
Keeper of Secrets
Re: Phoenix Bay Setting Compendium
A Terrible Resolve
"This Means War!" declared the Phoenix Bay Chronicle, running off hastily-repaired presses in bombed-out rooms the morning after the attack, and Mackenzie Port was renamed Liberty Port in a patriotic fervor. Overnight, Phoenix Bay became the frontline in the war against the Axis, as an industrial center, a strategic seaport, and a symbol of U.S. defiance in the face of what was seen as a cowardly and unprovoked attack. The Roosevelt administration swore that Phoenix Bay would be rebuilt greater and grander than ever before, declaring billions of dollars in reconstruction aid and vast new facilities for the military. One of the most iconic images of the war was a propaganda poster depicting the attack on Phoenix Bay. It showed the burning city skyline beyond the oil-filled waters of the bay and, rising from the flames, a great fiery Phoenix.
A wrathful giant had been awakened and was flexing muscles of steel. Throughout 1941 and 1942 the thunder of hammering and drilling continued without end in Phoenix Bay while the arc welder and the gas torch lit up the night. Battalions of soldiers mustered for war, and at their front were the heroes of Phoenix Bay spearheading the counterattack. With its capital ships rusting away on the seabed, the US needed superheroes. The Hero Act of 1942 was signed into law, authorizing caped crimefighters to act in defense of the nation against foreign threats and making them police deputies to assist in the fight against saboteurs and spies. Indeed, the demand for heroes was so high that the government tried to make more.
As early as 1939 physicists had realized the power of the atom. Now, top-secret efforts to produce atomic-powered super-soldiers swung into high gear, and soon produced their first, stunning success: Miss Victory. An all-American girl-next-door beauty originally intended only as a propaganda device, she became a strategic weapon overnight when a dose of Isotope X (described as a 'super-serum' to hide her nuclear origins) unexpectedly produced super-strength, invulnerability and energy control powers an order of magnitude above what was previously thought possible.
Japanese-American supers were promised exemption from internment and the restoration of their rights if they fought. The kendo master Swordwind joined heroes such as power-armored genius inventor Ironclad, and the lightning and water controller twins Violet Lightning and Tsunami in Europe to fight alongside the almost entirely Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They would go on to become some of the most decorated units of the war in Europe. Other heroes came from the ranks of the military, including Navy ace Airman One, who earned the monikers "One and Only" and "Seven at One Blow" (after downing seven enemy planes in a single battle) in his prototype F6X Super Hellcat. As women were not allowed to serve as combat troops at the time, the Victory Brigade and the Liberty League were formed as civilian militias to spearhead the counterattack, uniting all U.S. superhumans serving in the war under two commands.
Early 1942 was filled with setbacks, defeats and tragic accidents. A motley group of Americans from wildly different backgrounds and cultures struggled to work together as a unified force in the Victory Brigade. In turn, military commanders were often disdainful or distrustful of the superhumans they worked alongside with.
Circumstances soon forced them to work together for survival. Ostensibly superior military forces proved shockingly vulnerable to superhuman attack, such as when Divine Wind single-handedly sank the British ships Prince of Wales and Repulse, whose 14-inch guns would have pulverized him had they landed on target. Instead, Divine Wind dived underwater and tore open the hulls of both ships, taking not a bruise in the process. He even managed to pose atop the gun turrets for propaganda photos taken by attacking aircraft. The Victory Brigade and the military learned to cooperate and develop a mutual rapport. U.S. supers proved a powerful counterpoint to perceptions of Imperial Japanese invincibility, and troops were frequently enthusiastic about their support. Heroes screened military forces, performed reconnaissance and evacuation, and spearheaded the most difficult assaults.
They were met by the supers of the Imperial Japanese Special Assault Forces as well as the regular Japanese military, equipped with the creations of a genius engineer known only by her ominous pseudonym Reiko Kozuibu (洪武零子). Among these were the notorious Mitsubishi A6M-VF "Zero Kai" that shredded U.S. planes in the air before transforming to a ground-based humanoid robot to wreak havoc on Marine forces. The Americans had their own industrial powerhouse in the form of Rosie the Riveter, a brawny, redheaded genius engineer clad in overalls who orchestrated the U.S. transformation to a war economy.
By 1943 the tide had began to turn. The Victory Brigade and the U.S. military had defeated further Japanese assaults in the Coral Sea and Midway. Heroes joined savage jungle fighting in Guadalcanal. Phoenix Bay's reconstruction was well under way and now the city's rebuilt factories poured out ships, tanks and planes by the thousands, a tide of military power that helped the heroes push back Imperial Japanese forces on all fronts. Meanwhile, working with the Navy cryptanalysis unit, a little-known American super by the codename of Cipher -- whose power was to decode all languages, even those written in ciphertext -- helped break Imperial Japan's Ultra code, revealing vital intelligence.
Reiko and Rosie were evenly matched, but Reiko fell victim to wartime shortages and the Imperial Japanese mindset of trying to make super machines that could take on anything, while Rosie focused on optimizing cheap and reliable designs. Rosie relented only once: when she was asked by Eisenhower for "something special" to spearhead the retaking of Europe. Thus it was that stunned Nazis on the Normandy shores were treated to the sight of Lady Liberty herself wading through the waves, unleashing gigawatt laser blasts from her torch, her tablet now bearing a single stark phrase, ominous in its double meaning: "LIBERTY OR DEATH". The weaponized Statue of Liberty was returned to New York harbor after the war and stands till this day.
Phoenix Bay's citizens intensified their contribution to the war effort through 1943 and 1944. Millions of tonnes of supplies were shipped to the Soviets through Vladivostok, putting immense strain on the Nazis, while heroes smashed Imperial Japanese strongholds island by island. Soon, the Home Islands were within striking distance of conventional military forces.
Therefore the heroes were shocked to their core when the first mushroom cloud bloomed over Hiroshima. For several years now, the Manhattan Project scientists had known that atomic energy could be released in other, more devastating ways, and efforts at secrecy had been so successful that not even the Victory Brigade knew of the atomic bomb.
The heroes were divided over the use of the new weapon. However, having fought the Japanese Empire for over three years, all of them agreed that the Chrysanthemum Throne would never surrender. Not knowing how many bombs the U.S. had, and based on Allied demands that the Japanese Empire surrender unconditionally or face "prompt and utter destruction", many believed that President Truman would be forced to bomb Japan into a charred wasteland, and had the weapons to do so. Several high-ranking heroes -- among them Bombshell, Airman One, American Eagle, Major Megaton and Miss Victory -- convinced members of the Brigade to intervene. Acting without government approval, Victory Brigade heroes delayed atomic weapons from being loaded for transport to Trinian at Liberty Port, preventing the second atomic weapon from being dropped, while an elite group of the Brigade's finest fought through the defenses of the Imperial Palace and confronted Emperor Hirohito and the members of the War Council. What transpired within the walls of the Imperial Palace that day remains classified in U.S. government archives, and academics debate whether it was the bomb or the heroes' intervention that ended the war. But come dawn, the war was over. Imperial Japan had surrendered.
For the first time heroes had conducted a major action with international repercussions without the approval of the United States government. This was the beginning of a period of strained relationships between the White House and the superheroic community. The U.S. realized that superheroes could, and would, act outside of the government's wishes with potentially far-reaching consequences. Nevertheless, to recognize their outstanding heroism throughout the war, heroes from Phoenix Bay were honored by being requested to escort Admiral Nimitz to the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.
The war changed the face of Phoenix Bay forever. Already a world center of commerce, industry, culture and finance, the city now gained new significance as one of the largest seaports and a military strongpoint. Significant numbers of Blacks and Mexicans from the South had moved in to take up industrial jobs left vacant by the Japanese-American Internment, changing the city's demographics significantly. The homecoming troops caused a vast population boom and the development of new neighborhoods east and south towards the Santa Clara valley. Returning along with them were a large number of supers that served in the war, including some of the country's most decorated heroes, making Phoenix Bay a center of superhuman activity for many decades to come. Factories sprouted up around Liberty Port, attracted by cheap land and access to sea, air and rail; it remains the largest West Coast container port and one of the busiest in the world till this day.
Not all stories had happy endings. King's Junction was rebuilt, but never regained its former glory as the industrial heart of the city, entering a slow decline as industry clustered around Liberty Port. This and the resulting loss of blue-collar work caused Millstone -- which had recevied little reconstruction money when it was burnt down -- to sink further into poverty, becoming an unappetizing slum that the city would rather pretend not existed. Phoenix Bay's Japanese-American heroes and the soldiers of the 442nd returned to vandalized homes, looted businesses and signs reading "No Japs Wanted". Nihonmachi was a shadow of its former self and would not recover for many decades.
The war was over, but if Phoenix Bay's citizens hoped for a lasting peace, they were soon to be disappointed. The Truman administration's relations with its superheroes were beginning to worsen amidst fears of Communist sympathies and heroic defiance of government actions. Among the supers returning from the war, poverty, disillusionment and the lure of wealth and power tempted many into taking up the mantle of supervillain. Divine Wind committed ritual suicide in shame for having failed to destroy the Japanese Empire's foes. A handful of his elite troops would continue fighting against the Allied occupation and later, a government they viewed as a U.S. puppet, forming the terrorist organization they named after him -- the Divine Wind. And across the Pacific, the Soviet Union was beginning to flex its muscle.
Awesome powers and terrible new weapons had been unleashed on the world, and the number and strength of superhumans increased by leaps and bounds. As humanity marched towards a colder war, Phoenix Bay would soon see some of the most ruthless villainy of the 20th century.
Last edited by Ysariel; 04-17-2017 at 11:00 AM.
Keeper of Secrets
Re: Phoenix Bay Setting Compendium
1946-1961: McCarthy Era and early Vietnam War
A Colder War
Lost and Damned
In 1946, the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory was founded at Phoenix Bay and became the largest U.S. lab for applied nuclear science. Officially founded to study the effects of Operation Crossroads nuclear tests and to study decontamination procedures, the NRDL also conducted secret experiments to try and produce super-soldiers.
In those early days the long-term effects of radiation were poorly understood or downplayed in the haste to produce results. The NRDL operated with little concern for the health and safety of Phoenix Bay's residents. Human subjects were dosed with radiation, given radioactive substances to drink or exposed to various isotopes. Volunteers signed up for projects to produce atomic-powered supers; the risks of the experiments were rarely disclosed. Few ever learned what they were being dosed with and many were even excited at the idea that they had a chance to become a mighty superhero.
The results were disappointing. They drove home what had been discovered during the war, which Soviet scientists were learning simultaneously. Even minute differences in biochemistry might cause a super-serum that worked on one person to fail miserably on another. Worse still, the failures often developed severe health problems, horrendous mutations and massive cancers.
In 1947 and 1948 the NRDL's experiments caused a sudden outbreak of people mutating into hideous, deformed monstrosities. Not understanding what had happened to them and suffering from excruciating pain from their mutations, many either went berserk, or inadvertently harmed people and property in their confusion. A series of dramatic clashes resulted as mutants clashed with police and heroes attempting to keep the peace. The Victory Brigade's attempts to uncover the cause of the mutations forced the NRDL to scale back its experiments down to almost nothing, but the heroes could do little to help the victims.
Some of the more powerful found work as enforcers or mercenaries, or joined a growing number of super-powered criminals. Most were treated as monsters by former friends and family, rejected by human society, and never returned to their old lives. Driven from the surface world, the mutants sought shelter underground, retreating into the maze of sewers below the city and the old Graveyard of Ships under the Harborfront where they tended farms of luminous fungi, developed their own society, and came to terms with their fate. They became known as "the Lost", and till this day they and their descendants haunt the city's bowels. For its part, the NRDL continued various experiments, eventually dumping some 44,000 barrels of nuclear waste at the Farallon Islands some 30 miles from Phoenix Bay before its shutdown in 1969.
Red Scare Rising
In 1947 a Grue spacecraft crashlanded in Roswell, New Mexico. First contact with aliens had been made, and they were not friendly. Throughout the late 40's the U.S. government found itself fighting a shadow war on two fronts, against Soviet infiltrators and the Grue. Then, amidst the paranoia and fear, something happened in 1949 that severely shook the American people. Major Megaton, one of the Victory Brigade's most celebrated heroes, declared his allegiance to the cause of Communism and assumed the alias of Comrade Hero. Comrade Hero was neither a Soviet puppet nor a spy. He genuinely believed that communism was in the best interests of the people, and he was a gentle and charismatic soul. He deplored the Soviet Union's actions but chalked them up to its corrupt and dictatorial government. Americans, he claimed, could do Communism better.
Members of Victory Brigade reaffirmed their commitment to American ideals but the damage was done. Ordinary citizens awakened to the possibility that powerful superhumans could well turn into Communist sympathizers overnight. When one Senator McCarthy claimed that he had a list of influential public figures ready to turn to Communism, including several leading superheroes, he found a receptive and eager audience. Cries that superheroes should reveal their identities and be screened for Communist sympathies resounded throughout the nation. For the first time, the protections of the Hero Act were severely tested.
Lux Omnia Vincit
U.S. government distrust of superheroes had been growing since the Victory Brigade's storming of the Imperial palace. Now it reached an all-time high amidst fears that leading superheroes might have been Grue or Soviet sleeper agents. To counter the perceived danger of defection en masse, the highest echelons of the U.S. government envisioned a top-secret organization of loyal and capable super-powered operatives, completely under government control. Faced with Communist subversion and alien infiltration, the United States would fight darkness with light. Light would conquer all, in the form of the Super-Powered Elite Corps for Tactical, Reconnaissance and Undercover Missions (S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.).
For twelve long years starting in 1949, S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. served as the government's super-powered arm. Its goal was to ensure that super-powered individuals remained subservient to the cause of the U.S. government. S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. kidnapped, blackmailed, tortured and coerced super-powered individuals from America and around the world into serving the interests of the U.S. government, controlling them by brutal means such as brain implants, bomb collars and addictive designer drugs. They performed deadly experiments on captured supers and aliens and designed cruel and exotic new weapons. S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.-controlled super teams fought unseen battles in the Congo, Indochina, Korea and South America safely out of the limelight, performing assassinations and sabotage that none would trace to their backers in the U.S.
Those few who knew of S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s atrocities usually excused them on the basis of their outstanding performance, beliving that the means justified the ends. In 1954, S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. masterminded the defection of the top Soviet super-soldier, a man known only as "Red Flag", a feat no Western intelligence agency has surpassed ever since. As a reward, Red Flag was chosen to lead S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s newly assembled super team, the elite of the elite, a group of seven handpicked supers known only as Rainbow Seven.
S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. and Rainbow Seven played key roles in the developing Vietnam War. They developed many of the "Rainbow Herbicides" used in the war (such as Agent Orange) and their agents were heavily involved in fighting against the Viet Cong (who were in turn backed by Spetsgruppa Gamma, the Soviet Union's own covert super-agent division). As its successes mounted, S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. operated with little oversight, no accountability and unlimited funding. Indeed, there was no warning that one fine summer day in 1961, it would vanish off the face of the Earth.
S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s disappearance came as a shock to the handful of people who were aware of its existence. Its agents simply went dark and disappeared, taking with them untold billions in slush funds and the most sensitive secrets of the U.S. government. Bases were found meticulously stripped of anything useful and evacuated, files had been sanitized, bank accounts wiped clean and equipment vanished without a trace. It was as if the entire organization had never existed in the first place. At first it was feared that S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. had defected to the Soviets, but that possibility was soon disproved when reports surfaced of occasional, highly-skilled raids on both U.S. and Soviet facilities bearing the signature style of the Rainbow Seven. How the organization was subverted, who it now serves, and what its new goals are, all remain mysteries till this day.
(to be continued...)
Last edited by Ysariel; 04-17-2017 at 11:02 AM.
Keeper of Secrets
Re: Phoenix Bay Setting Compendium
"If the superman [sic] cannot be controlled, he must be destroyed," reads the internal memo arguing for S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s creation. With the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapons test in 1949, and explosion of the Korean War a year later, the U.S. government deeply feared that a rash action by superheroes (such as the Victory Brigade's storming of the Imperial Japanese palace) could provoke nuclear war. It was also thought that if heroes knew of the Grue presence their uncoordinated and brash action would tip off the Grue and cause the aliens to vanish deeper into hiding. These fears, not unjustified, would form the rationale for S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s actions in the years to come.
Tasked with both controlling the superhuman population and fighting the Grue, S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s agents, clad entirely in sinister black suits (an in-joke, for black absorbs all the colors of light) would show up to investigate alien sightings or reports of superhuman powers manifesting. Through the U.S. military, S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. obtained and exposed Comrade Hero's civilian identity, which would have been illegal under the Hero Act.
Meanwhile, the Victory Brigade had its hands full fighting off the agents of Spetsgruppa Gamma, which engaged in both overt and covert actions against the United States. The heroes won a series of spectacular super-battles along the Harborfront and in the bay against agents such as Kapitan Hammer, Siberian Winter and the Red Star. However, the true Soviet goal had already been accomplished: U.S. heroes were busy on home soil, unable to intervene in Korea.
Matters came to a head when the Victory Brigade was called upon to apprehend Comrade Hero, who was continuing to espouse the cause of socialism. Following a series of cat-and-mouse encounters, both sides finally confronted each other in early 1954 one evening. Miss Victory angrily confronted Comrade Hero, asking him it he was betraying everything they had stood for. Comrade Hero insisted that he was merely peacefully advocating a political position. Airman One then asked him to consider the effects of his actions in a period when the Soviet Union was actively attempting to divide the American people.
In later years, members of the Brigade gave conflicting accounts of what happened next, that dark windy night by the bayside. Either the argument grew heated, and they briefly came to blows; or Comrade Hero left, stung by his friends' accusations but unwilling to surrender. Whatever the truth, the end result was the same. Comrade Hero turned and vanished into the darkness of the Pacific before he could be stopped. While Miss Victory was stronger, the Comrade was faster, and none of the heroes could catch him in time. He was never seen again, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most controversial super-powered figures ever.
The Victory Brigade's failure to capture Comrade Hero led to a public outcry. Claims that he had been allowed to escape due to the Brigade's Communist sympathies mounted, at least in part instigated by S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. from behind the scenes, and the Brigade faced public scruntiny as never before. By 1954 many Victory Brigade members had been pressured into retiring, leaving a diehard core of around half a dozen who stood accused of corrupting American youth. Among the charges levelled at them were wearing a revealing costume (Miss Victory), homosexuality (Airman One), atheism (Bombshell),
By 1955, the HUAC was openly contemplating summoning the Liberty League. McCarthy sensed the time for the killing blow had come. Under his direction, the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Investigations held a series of hearings to determine the Victory Brigade's rationale for its continued existence. In an unprecedented move, every minute of the hearings was to be broadcast live on national TV. McCarthy predicted a public cruxification of the Brigade before the eyes of millions.
But the ploy backfired! The heroes of the Brigade acquitted themselves well and impressed audiences with their sincerity. Instead of exposing the heroes' alleged Communist sympathies, the hearings revealed the American people McCarthy's unethical tactics of character assassination. The most dramatic exchange of the hearings came when, in the middle of aggressive questioning by McCarthy, aides burst into the chamber blurting out that the largest supervillain attack ever had hit the West Coast. Immediately the members of the Victory Brigade exchanged meaningful looks, stood up and began to leave. Furious, McCarthy began ranting at the departing heroes, accusing them of disregard for procedure, contempt for the Senate, and outright treason. The heroes ignored him until Bombshell, unable to endure the ranting any longer, turned and fired back, "I'm sorry, Senator. You're welcome to come help save lives with us if you want to."
As the heroes walked out, all else who were present burst into applause.
Doctor Zero's Revenge
Fantastical war machines, from armored mecha-crabs to minute, robotic dragonflies that served as spy drones and flying bombs, swarmed out of the sea in a tide of steel before screaming crowds. They bypassed U.S. military forces on the West Coast and struck inland, heading for nuclear missile silos in the sparsely populated Midwest. The machines all bore a single insignia: the kanji for 'zero' within a perfect circle. The press soon had a name for this ominous new mastermind: Doctor Zero.
But the veterans of the Victory Brigade realized that it was actually Reiko Kozuibu, mysterious creator of the Imperial Japanese military's war machines whom none in the West had ever seen, come to wreak revenge on her old foes; the name 'Reiko' means 'child of zero'. In a series of running battles, the heroes blunted and stalled the attack long enough for the military to arrive and break the momentum of the attack.
Just as it seemed as if the day had been won, the ranks of the mechanical monstrosities parted and a towering figure in bulky, jet-black powered armor emerged. In a synthesized voice, Reiko herself came forward to challenge the heroes, promising to finish the job she began during the war and destroy the heroes who had caused her countrymen such suffering.
The ensuing fight was more vicious and brutal than anything the heroes had witnessed. Reiko had continued improving her skills over the last decade and brutally beat the heroes who opposed her, while USAF planes circled overhead, not daring to fire for fear of killing the downed heroes. The Victory Brigade was saved only when those heroes who had retired arrived en masse, lead by the woman who had once been called Rosie the Riveter. Swiftly pinpointing the machine's weakness, Rosie led a furious counterattack and turned the tide. Reiko's armored suit toppled to the ground, but before the power died, the villain promised that if she could not destroy them, she would destroy their descendants instead. The heroes tore apart the suit of armor, only to realize it was nothing but a remote-controlled drone. Their foe remained as mysterious and implacable as ever.
The Torch is Passed
For walking out of the hearings, the Senate's Committee for Investigations decreed that the Victory Brigade had to disband. But the dejected heroes returned to cheering crowds and thunderous applause in the streets of Phoenix Bay. They had saved the U.S. nuclear arsenal and vindicated themselves once and for all.
The fever of the Red Scare had been broken. Public opinion turned sharply against McCarthy after the hearings and his later investigations against the Army. Conversely, while criticism of the Brigade never completely disappeared, in the years that followed citizens slowly grew to welcome costumed crimefighters once more. Sensing that momentum had turned against it, the highest echelons of S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. made secret preparations to break ties with the U.S. government and continue their mission as an independent entity. In their eyes, the elected government of the United States was too easily swayed by public opinion and could not be counted upon to do what was necessary to defend its people against subversion. They took with them the secrets of their war against the Grue, and went AWOL in 1961.
S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s disappearance discredited its backers in the U.S. government, and lent strength to those voices in the Kennedy administration calling for a different relationship with super-powered citizens. It is no coincidence that in 1962, the year after its disappearance, AEGIS was established, beginning a new era of government-superhero cooperation. But the rogue organization did not lay idle, remaining a sinister force behind the scenes. In the years after, Men in Black and ominous black helicopters could be seen at scenes of purported alien sightings, often long before actual government officials could arrive.
The Victory Brigade lost the battle but won the war. After it was disbanded, heroes from the Brigade went on to mentor younger crimefighters, or retired but remained active in charity, public works and education. They laid the foundation for a vibrant and active superhero community that would blossom in the early 60's and last over two decades, when super teams flourished and colorfully clad crusaders dotted the city skies. Thus, as the sun set on a generation of protectors, it rose on another.