RENAISSANCE

 

The French word for “rebirth,” the Renaissance certainly lived up to its name for several of the characters to emerge during its period. At some point in the 14th century, the man known today as Ra’s al Ghul was a member of the nomadic Bedouin tribe in and around Arabia before settling down as a physician and taking a wife in his love Sora. Discovering and researching the properties of the Lazarus Pit, the man used it to restore the life of the Sultan’s son who was driven mad by its properties and murdered Sora. The Sultan imprisoned the physician but he would be saved by the son of a woman he helped. Seeking revenge, the physician sent virally contaminated fabrics to the Sultan’s son such that they would seek out the physician and he could murder them for what they had done. Returning to his tribe, the physician lead them to raze the Sultan’s city. In time, the tribe adopted the name “The Demon” as the physician became Ra’s al Ghul, or “Demon’s Head.” Employing the Lazarus Pit, Ghul and a handful of his followers lived on for centuries. Over that time, Ghul developed a hatred of humanity and dedicated his organization to wiping out the species for the sake of the Earth’s health. In modern times, Ghul found someone he felt could succeed him in his endeavors in Gotham City’s Batman. However, Batman instead became his greatest enemy. Ghul would not be the only person to be reborn in the Renaissance.

Vandal Savage would at some point adopt the identity of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler, in Wallachia, Romania. History states that Tepes fell in battle in 1477 however a dark creature emerged in his stead. While undoubtedly Savage abandoned the guise to adopt another, a vampire named Count Dracula arose as seemingly the undead resurrection of Tepes. Dracula would later combat Beowulf before becoming Satan’s heir to the throne of Hell leading to a confrontation with the devil’s adopted son Grendel. In the modern age, Dracula would emerge to trouble Superman and his allies before seemingly meeting his end by drinking the Kryptonian’s solar-enriched blood. Savage made other notable moves during this time period including blackmailing Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa (a portrait of a Florentine merchant’s wife Savage coveted) and lead the Spanish Armada as Vandalo Salvaje against Sir Francis Drake. Around the time of Dracula’s initial appearance in Wallachia, a meteor crashed in North America apparently in answer to the prayers of Flying Stag. An Iroquois of the Wolf Clan vying for the role of Royaneh, or supreme chief, Stag was trapped in a pit by his rivals such that he could not compete. Wearing the stone, Stag developed wondrous powers and became Saganowhana, or Super-Chief. Becoming his clan’s Royaneh and marrying his love White Fawn, Stag lived for centuries as his stone formed the Super-Chief legacy after his death with several inheritors, a few that were associated with Superman, in the late-20th/early-21st centuries. The final decades of the Renaissance featured a handful more interesting advents. Such included the debut of the Black Pirate legacy.

British nobleman Jon Valor felt a deep need to see justice done in war-ravaged Europe and adopted the identity of the Black Pirate to set sail on the sea and make a difference. Along the way, Valor crossed swords with the pirate known as the Queen of the Seas who in time became his wife. The Queen, in reality, was Donna Bonita, the ward of King Phillip II of Spain. When Spanish forces caught Valor and prepared to execute him, his true identity and marriage to Bonita saved his life as he became an agent of Phillip. Valor and his wife bore a son named Justin who fashioned himself after his father. Valor went on to leave the service of Spain and join Sir Francis Drake against them. Justin was subsequently be lost at sea and believed dead leading Valor to retire the cowl. However, King Charles of England requested Valor’s aid with a band of pirates sacking British ships. Valor discovered his son Justin was alive and the leader of these pirates, securing funds to travel to America. The pair departed on good terms as Jon entered retirement again and Justin journeyed to a new land. Sadly, Jon would learn his son was murdered and when he went to investigate, he was convicted of the crime and hanged. Jon became a ghost seeking his name to be cleared and an ally to Starman Jack Knight in modern times until his soul was finally put to rest. Justin’s son Jack took up the Black Pirate mantle and became a foe of Vandal Savage while he was under the guise of the pirate Blackbeard. The original Black Pirate is considered one of history’s greatest champions and was plucked from time by Epoch, the Lord of Time, as part of his Five Warriors from Forever and was also part of a force of Earth’s greatest champions hailing from across time during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

While the Renaissance offered the rise of the scourge of vampires on the world, by the end of this era someone would come to combat them in Andrew Bennett (whose story was expressed in detail in the first “Legends of the DCU”). Also around this time, something else of a paranormal state was created. Suffering religious persecution, Rabbi Loew of Prague created a clay golem to protect the Jewish community. However, the monstrous being could not be controlled and became a menace. Another golem was made, one of cloth that had to be worn by a human to be activated. So was born the Ragman whose Suit of Souls was composed of patches trapping the souls of the damned. Each patch offered power to the wearer but at the risk of driving them insane or to darkness. The suit was passed down through the ages, notably in World War II when Jerzy Reganiewicz wore the suit to combat the Axis in Warsaw only to be forced to flee to America where his son Rory would become the modern day Ragman.

 

AMERICAN COUNTERCULTURE MOVEMENT

 

The western world developed anti-establishment sentiments in the 1950s and ’60s as the civil rights of African-Americans came to the forefront of affairs in the country while the United States went to war with North Vietnam just after ending war with North Korea. With the Justice Society of America disbanded in 1951 due to the efforts of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (which Vandal Savage claims he was behind) and masked heroes viewed as outlaws, the world was left exposed. Around the time the Society disbanded, a new hero emerged in Captain Comet but after three years guarding the Earth, he decided to leave to explore space. A year later, J’onn J’onzz of Mars was accidentally brought to Earth by Dr. Saul Erdel. Stuck on this foreign world, J’onzz adopted the identity of fallen police detective John Jones of Middleton, Colorado. Given the political environment at the time, the Martian tried to operate under the radar, using his abilities unnoticed when necessary. However, by the end of the 1960s, a group of heroes tried to fill the Justice Society’s absence in the Justice Experience. Led by Acro-Bat, J’onzz adopted the guise of the super-powered Bronze Wraith as a member of the group. Sadly, J’onzz would be its sole survivor as the team was massacred by the villainous Dr. Trap. Acro-Bat’s daughter, Cameron Chase, grew up to become one of the top operatives of the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations). Subsequently, J’onzz became a mentor figure to Kal-El of Krypton (who became Clark Kent of Smallville, Kansas) acting as a farmhand on the Kent farm named Josh Johnstone and a high school Civics teacher named Mrs. Klingman. Years later, when Kal-El became Superman and exposed himself to the world, J’onzz followed suit as the Martian Manhunter and both were founding members of the Justice League of America. Under various guises, J’onzz became the guardian of the Southern hemisphere. In the wake of the Justice Society’s disbanding, another entity would also step up to try and fill the void.

During World War II, the world was awash in heroes. While superheroes fought super-powered foes and villains employing super-science, soldiers bled and died on the frontlines of battle, and spies worked behind enemy lines to secure life saving data, soldier Rick Flag led a group called the Suicide Squadron which tackled the most dangerous of assignments often inter-blending all of the noted above. Following the war, Flag’s unit would transition to a civilian operation doing very much of the same work as the Suicide Squad under Task Force X (while military operations fell to the burgeoning Argent unit). Living up to its name, Flag died in battle and another soldier took his name and place. The second Flag went on to work as an operative in the group known as the Forgotten Heroes (largely composed of heroes from the ’60s initially to combat Vandal Savage) before leading a reformed Suicide Squad that almost exclusively employed coerced supervillains. As the Suicide Squad operated out of America, an international team of heroes developed to help safeguard the world.

Seeking to create a police organization that could operate without borders, the European Economic Community founded the Dome. Dr. Mist, emerging from the Hidden City, founded the task force arm of the Dome in the Global Guardians which included the Knight (formerly Shining Knight’s Squire) and Squire of England, Gaucho of Argentina, Legionary of Italy, Musketeer of France, and the Wingman of Sweden (the mantle of this group would later be picked up in the Club of Heroes). Mist remained on the team as its other members retired seeing twenty three more operatives before disbanding. The Guardians’ surviving members largely folded into the Ultramarine Corps but the Guardians title was resurrected by the Faceless Hunters of Saturn as pawns in their bid to collect a bounty on Green Lantern Hal Jordan. As Mist founded the Guardians, another team of heroes emerged in the Challengers of the Unknown. Traveling together to be guests for the television series “Real Incredible People,” brilliant scientist Professor Walter Haley, ex-boxing champ Rocky Davis, and circus acrobat Red Ryan flew on war hero and test pilot Ace Morgan’s private plane. When a storm forced their plane to crash, all four men walked away unscathed and felt they lived on borrowed time. In truth, for reasons yet known, the four men came to exist outside the purview of the cosmic entity Destiny of the Endless and became invisible to its Book of Destiny which records all of history. Joining forces as the Challengers, they took on dangerous assignments for commission which went to finance their equipment and their headquarters Challengers Mountain. On one of their earliest assignments, the team tackled a robot called Ultivac which put them into contact with Dr. June Robbins who went on to become the team’s fifth member. In time, the group would adopt so many enemies, several of them formed together to become the League of Challenger-Haters led by their nemesis Multi-Man. Several groups emerged over the years adopting the Challengers name. A time traveler from the past would pop up on Earth around the same time as the original Challengers and Guardians.

A messenger in 1830 learned of an ambush being planned by the US Army of a local Blackfoot tribe that he had befriended. A shaman left near-death by the soldiers would enchant the messenger with super-speed as his last act. With this gift, the man saved the Blackfoot and came to be known as Ahwehota. Later, known by another name in Windrunner, the speedster heard the call of the Speed Force. Running as fast as he could, the man hesitated before entering the Speed Force and was thrown several decades into the future. The speedster tried repeatedly to heed the call of the Speed Force only to keep jumping through time becoming a hero to different eras. Whip Whirlwind in the 1890s, Lightning in the 1920s, Thunderpace in the ’30s, and Max Mercury and Quicksilver in the ’40s, he would find love in the arms of his friend’s wife Laura Claiborne and came close to finally settling down in that time period. However, after finally spending a night with Laura, the speedster couldn’t bring himself to face his friend and jumped again, this time to 1957. Adopting the name of Blue Streak, the hero learned of a new speedster in 1963 named Savitar. A pilot for a third world nation, the man who became Savitar was testing an experimental supersonic jet only to have his plane hit by lightning when it reached maximum velocity. Crashing, he discovered he had acquired super-speed and became obsessed with moving faster. Naming himself Savitar after the Hindu god of motion, he learned he could pass speed on to others. Soon, a cult formed worshiping him for his ability to bestow speed as Savitar sought out another like him. With the Flash Jay Garrick essentially frozen in time at this point, the next most notable speedster was Johnny Quick whom Savitar approached and fought against. Fortunately, Blue Streak had sought out Quick as well to discuss Savitar at this point and was in time to join his friend in the battle. Together, the heroes forced Savitar to seek reinforcements as the pair made chase. Realizing he had no chance of defeating Savitar and his followers, Blue Streak brought the villain toward the Speed Force and pushed him into the time stream where both men jumped forward. Deciding to remain under the radar at first, Garrick at some point came upon Blue Streak and recruited him to face Professor Zoom. Returning to his Max Mercury identity, he helped defeat Zoom and became a teacher to the Flash Wally West and mentor to Impulse Bart Allen. Inevitably, Savitar re-emerged and became one of the greatest trials West had ever faced. Soon after Blue Streak made his debut, a series of characters known collectively later as the Forgotten Heroes appeared.

A veteran of the Great War, “Congo” Bill Glenmorgan spent the rest of his life as a globe-trotting adventurer and hunter until settling in some remote part of Africa. Chief Kawolo, a witch doctor and close friend to Glenmorgan, requested his presence as he laid dying in bed. Kawolo offered his friend a magic ring that when rubbed, would transfer the wearer’s consciousness into the golden gorilla, a legendary creature Glenmorgan had earlier discovered. Skeptical of his claims, Glenmorgan nonetheless accepted the gift and wore it in his honor. Some weeks later, Glenmorgan was caught in an earthquake and trapped inside a cave. With little recourse, he rubbed the ring and was shocked to find himself inhabiting the golden gorilla. Rescuing his body and learning he and the beast transferred minds when using the ring, Glenmorgan decided to use this circumstance to fight crime in the jungle as Congorilla. As Glenmorgan started this new role, Dane Dorrance was making his name as an aquatic treasure hunter. The son of highly decorated World War II frogman John Payton Dorrance, Dane became one of the world’s leading deep sea divers to earn his father’s respect. Finding success hunting treasure, Dane formed the Sea Devils with girlfriend Judy Walton, Judy’s younger brother Nicky, and Biff Bailey (the team later expanded with the International Sea Devils with divers around the world). In addition to finding treasure, the Devils had a tendency to combat monsters from the deep and would even befriend one in Man-Fish. Blaming the mysterious Captain X for his magical transformation, Juan Vallambrosa became the creature named Man-Fish and joined the Sea Devils in finding submarine pilot Captain X (who turned out to be Dane’s father). In the conflict between Man-Fish and Captain X, the team was split. Ultimately, both Man-Fish and Captain X learned to co-exist as the Sea Devils’ allies. While the Devils explored the depths of the ocean, Cave Carson and his team explored the depths of the earth.

Calvin “Cave” Carson had always been fascinated by caves and tunnels and as an adult, became one of the world’s leading geological experts and spelunkers, forming a team of adventurers with his friends Bulldozer Smith, Johnny Blake, and Christie Madison. Employing the Mighty Mole tunneling machine which can dig and ride along nearly any solid surface, Carson and his crew had a tendency to find monsters in much the same manner as the Sea Devils. Following the emergence of Superman, dozens of superheroes took the stage and replaced many of the coincidental heroes that came before them. However, at some point, several of these lesser known heroes were contacted by the mysterious Immortal Man for a greater purpose. Cave Carson, Animal Man, Rick Flag, Dane Dorrance, Dolphin, Congorilla, and Rip Hunter related to each other tales about having encountered over the years golden pyramids around the world. The Immortal Man reveals that he’s the nemesis of Vandal Savage having gained a form of immortality alongside the villain from the same meteorite. These pyramids they discovered were part of a scheme by Savage to conquer the Earth and fate chose them to aid in their destruction. Referring to the group as the Forgotten Heroes, they managed to stop Savage’s plan with the aid of Superman and occasionally regrouped to face other threats (such as the Forgotten Villains). Other heroes would emerge in what maybe something of a forgotten age.

A supernatural detective, Mark Merlin made a living debunking magic and the occult. However at some point, he would be trapped in another dimension and forced to return to Earth as a reincarnated Egyptian sun god named Prince Ra-Man. Becoming a magical hero and frequent sparring partner for Eclipso, Ra-Man died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths seemingly bringing Mark Merlin back to life in his former form while an entity known as King Ra-Man emerged. Not long after Prince Ra-Man appeared, a mysterious organization known as the Agency recruited Dr. August Durant to assemble a team of individuals he aided in the past (that he could force to do his bidding) to combat various societal ills. Bringing together illusionist Carlo di Rienzi, actresses Kim Dawn and Lili de Neuve, fighter pilot King Savage, and boxer Mike Tempest, the group became known as the Secret Six taking orders from the shadowy Mockingbird (who was secretly Durant under the Agency’s orders). Durant and di Rienzi would eventually retire from the Six only for two decades later be forced by the Agency to assemble yet another Secret Six. Durant tried to assemble the old team to get from under the thumb of the Agency leading the organization to kill the entire original Six while the new team disbanded. Around the time of the original Secret Six, the Atom Project had created Captain Atom and, the following year, Major Force only for both men to jump forward two decades in time. Captain Atom had become the Earth’s elemental for the Quantum Field while Brother Power the Geek emerged as the Earth’s puppet elemental. Jim Rook would finish out the era for the last of the emerging heroes. The lead singer of a rock band, Rook was transported to the dimension of Myrra where he inherited the Sword of Night to fight evil. Eventually returning to Earth, he helped found the latest incarnation of the Shadowpact which has emerged through the centuries to combat mystical threats.