By Christopher McGlothlin, M.Ed.
Hi, I'm Christopher McGlothlin. You may remember me
from such sourcebooks as DC
Adventures: Heroes & Villains Vol. I, DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains
Vol. II, and the ones I did under my pen name "Steve Kenson."
Line developer Jon Leitheusser -- not to be confused with the Reverse Leitheusser or Bizarro Leitheusser (always check to see if the uniform colors are reversed before trusting "Jon")--asked me for an after-action report on designing the Freedom Fighters for Heroes & Villains Vol. I. This is the red, white, and blue result.
Some of you are no doubt going, "Freedom Fighters? Grant Morrison! Jimmy Palmiotti! Justin Gray! Cool!" Others are exclaiming, "Len Wein! Totally radical!" Somebody else is probably going, "Ah, the Quality Comics characters." The best part is, like a peewee league soccer game, everybody wins! You're all correct.
That's just a fact of life for most DC Comics characters: they've been around since Fibber McGee & Molly ruled all media (and a most Happy 75th Anniversary to Major Wheeler-Nicholson's progeny, while I'm at it!). Not only have the characters associated with the Freedom Fighters been around since rumble seats, they've been invented, re-invented, re-imagined, and resurrected for each new generation of comic-book readers.
Enter yon middle-aged game designer. Golden Age idolater that I am, any mention of the Quality characters brought visions of Stormy Foster and Bozo the Iron Man to mind (no, that's not Robert Downey, Jr. in a clown suit). Then I was informed of the sourcebook's sub-Rowling page-count, and away went the obscurities, much to the Ghost of Flanders' sorrow.
That still left the Bronze Age/Golden Age retcon version of the Freedom Fighters, the iteration that did red-shirt duty in Infinite Crisis, the current team, and many, many more words than I had room for. So like an afterschool special, I talked to some groovy adults, resisted peer pressure from the popular kids, and made the right choices. And you know something? I grew up a little in the process.
The first step was to make sure the Freedom Fighters' whole history was retold, from their big move to the DC metro area back in ‛42 to their long-running feud with the Silver Ghost to JLA: Year One (did you miss their cameos?), right on into the new millennium. So even when I lacked the room to quantify a particular character, I made sure he wasn't erased from memory. The Red Torpedo would've wanted it that way.
This made escaping the love-square between me and
the Len Wein, Geoff Johns, and Morrison/Palmiotti/Gray versions of the team a
lot easier. You see, all these talented creators know well the Freedom
Fighters' long history (Uncle Sam debuted in 1940) is part of their
appeal, and each rendition of the team took care to preserve their heritage.
Therefore, focusing on the game statistics of the current version of the Freedom
Fighters still left enough room to include the most significant differences
between its present members and their predecessors. So whether you're a Richard
Grey/Thomas Wright voter or a Ryan Kendall fanatic, it's not too much work to have
your preferred Black Condor soaring through your DC Adventures series with the
Now I know there's no getting you into the tent without a little peek at what's inside, so peep this and get ready to buy your ticket. Yessiree, this book has the Red Bee in it. Yes, the Red Bee--my personal test for how big a DC fan someone really is. If you know Superman, that just shows you've been alive since 1938, but the people who know the Red Bee... someday, Johnny DC himself will look upon you and call you his own.
The Red Bee(s--there've been two so far) has appeared in three RPG books. I've written two of them. That's what I call an accomplished life, and herein lies the proof:
The Red Bee II PL10 • 150 points
Abilities Str 7, Sta 3, Agl 4, Dex 3, Fgt 4, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 3
Powers Exoskeleton (40 points, Removable, -8 points): Stinger Blasts (electricity; Ranged Damage 8), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Impervious Protection 5, Enhanced Strength 4, Senses 1 (Communication Link with Robot Drones)
Advantages Beginner's Luck, Inventor, Minion 6 (2 Robot Drones)
Skills Close Combat: Unarmed 7 (+11), Expertise: Entomology 9 (+13), Expertise: Robotics 9 (+13), Expertise: Science 8 (+12), Perception 7 (+11), Ranged Combat: Stinger Blasts 9 (+12), Technology 7 (+11)
Offense Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +12 (Ranged Damage 8), Unarmed +11 (Damage 7)
Defense Dodge 12, Parry 10, Fortitude 9, Toughness 8, Will 10
Totals Abilities 56 + Powers 32 + Advantages 8 + Skills 28 + Defenses 26 = 150
Thrills: Freed from the laboratory, the Red Bee quickly found the excitement of costumed super-heroics to her liking.
Relationship: The Human Bomb's hatred towards her drove her away from the team. She apparently harbors some degree of attraction to Andre Twist, but guilt over her actions while under the control of alien insects caused her to abruptly cease all contact with him, leaving their mutual feelings unresolved.
Jenna Raleigh is the grand-niece of Richard Raleigh, who fought crime and Axis saboteurs during the early 1940s as the costumed Red Bee. Uncle Sam saw to it her grand-uncle's notes and crime-fighting gear found their way into her hands, and coupled with her extensive knowledge of insects and robotics, she was able to outfit herself as the second Red Bee.
The new Red Bee made her public debut helping to free Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters from the clutches of S.H.A.D.E., and with that accomplished accompanied the team back to its extra-dimensional base "the Heartland." Excited by her first super-heroic outing, Jenna eagerly accepted Sam's offer to join the team, and remained steadfast even after witnessing the Invisible Hood II's slaying by the traitorous third Ray.
Jenna's assumption of the Red Bee mantle changed her life entirely. She experienced the first sparks of romance with her teammate Andre Twist, and was groomed by S.H.A.D.E. to become the team's public face after Stormy Knight became a drunken embarrassment. The greatest transformation of all occurred as a result of her encounter with a swarm of alien invaders which secretly took over her mind and forcibly mutated her body into a more insect-like form.
Under their domination, Jenna seized control of the Freedom Fighters and forced them to do her bidding in preparation for a full-scale invasion of Earth. Eventually Jenna regained her free will and normal human form with the help of her teammates, and was instrumental in defeating the insect conquerors. Despite her redemption and other mitigating factors, Jenna's relationships with Andy Franklin (whom she forced to mate with her) and Andre Twist were strained to the point she felt compelled to leave the team. She returned to her research, and it remains to be seen if she will ever resume her career as the Red Bee.
The original Red Bee had no super-powers, but relied on his hand-to-hand combat training, swarm of trained bees, and "stinger gun" (Damage 8) to fight crime. Unlike Jenna, his Expertise was in practicing law and bee-keeping.
Robot Drone PL6 Minions • 46 points
Abilities Str -5, Sta ―, Agl 4, Dex -2, Fgt 0, Int ―, Awe 0, Pre ―
Powers Stinger Blasts (electricity; Ranged Damage 6), Shrinking 8 (Continuous, Permanent, Innate), Flight 5 (60 MPH; Wings), Immunity 40 (Fortitude Effects, Mental Effects)
Offense Initiative +4, Stinger Blasts +6 (Ranged Damage 6), Unarmed +8 (Damage -5)
Defense Dodge 12, Parry 9, Fortitude Immune, Toughness 0, Will Immune
Totals Abilities -26 + Powers 71 + Advantages 0 + Skills 0 + Defenses 1 = 46
I can hear the scoffers in the back snorting, "So yer game kin handle a guy who wears a belt full o' bees! What about a guy who can level Manhattan with his sweat, huh? Stat that, nerd boy!" So without any further ado, here's the new Human Bomb:
The Human Bomb II PL12 • 234 points
Abilities Str 3, Sta 4, Agl 2, Dex 2, Fgt 2, Int 4, Awe 4, Pre 2
Powers Explosive Physiology: Array (132 points): Nuclear Blast (Burst Area 12 (16 Miles) Damage 12, Side Effect (same as base effect, always occurs)), AE: Tissue Grenades (Ranged Burst Area Damage 10,), AE: Thunderclap (Cone Area Damage 8); Fibro-Wax Containment Suit (Protection 6)
Advantages Extraordinary Effort
Skills Expertise: Chemistry 12 (+16), Expertise: Science 7 (+11), Technology 7 (+11)
Offense Initiative +2, Explosive Physiology (Damage 12, 10, or 8), Unarmed +2 (Damage 3)
Defense Dodge 12, Parry 12, Fortitude 8, Toughness 10, Will 14
Totals Abilities 46 + Powers 140 + Advantages 1 + Skills 13 + Defenses 34 = 234
Acceptance: The Human Bomb feels almost completely cut off from humanity, and hopes his heroism will somehow overcome the fear he engenders in others.
Temper: The highly emotional Andy has a tendency to overreact when he believes his teammates have been harmed, retaliating with extreme (sometimes lethal) force.
Accident: If not immersed in a fibro-wax bath or given special daily medication prepared by S.H.A.D.E., Andy's explosive physiology reaches critical mass in 24 hours and uncontrollably explodes at maximum Damage rank.
Honor: Though his Temper complication sometimes overwhelms him, Andy is normally governed by a strong moral concern for the well-being of others.
Andrew Franklin was a young research scientist working in Blüdhaven when the villain Chemo's exploding poisonous form ravaged the area. Like other city residents, Franklin gained meta-human abilities as a result, and his entire physiology become dangerously explosive. Contact with his bodily tissues, even his perspiration, could level cities. The government agency S.H.A.D.E. kept Andy immersed in liquid fibro-wax to keep his power in check until, at Father Time's behest, he was equipped to serve the organization as the new Human Bomb.
Of the various meta-humans working for S.H.A.D.E., Andy had the most qualms about its aims and means, and eventually deserted it to join Uncle Sam in forming a new Freedom Fighters. In time, his teammates lost their trepidations about his volatile abilities, and his awesome powers were a major asset in defeating Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard and its corrupt allies in S.H.A.D.E..
Later incidents threatened Andy's new hard-won friendships with his teammates. While both under the influence of invading alien insects, Jenna Raleigh forced Andy to mate with her, something he has yet to forgive her for. Andre Twist in turn harbored a grudge against Andy for the incident because of his feelings for Jenna, but the two have since reconciled. With the Freedom Fighters in abeyance, Andy ponders his future in the team's "Heartland" sanctuary.
The original Human Bomb's abilities were similar to Franklin's, but with a top-rank Damage 9. Lincoln also did not have the Accident complication.
And that, gentle readers, is my testament to a legacy handed down from Lou Fine to Travis Moore & Trevor Scott, with many, many other talented folks involved along the way. It's equally humbling and an honor to have chronicled them, and I am left with but two words for the DC Adventures-buying public: En-joy!
Join us next time as Seth Johnson takes a look at what it's like to create different versions of a legacy character... just like Blue Beetle!