Anyway, it got me thinking about heroes who are not necessarily lame, but were either (a) only moderately popular or (b) so polarizing to fans that they either love the character or hate the character. Sometimes I call the latter the Robin Williams category. This, in turn, got me thinking about another idea I had about creating DC’s own Fantastic Four, which contained characters from categories a and b.
To clarify: By Fantastic Four, I’m not referring to a clone version DC could create. No, I mean a team consisting of four pre-existing / established characters that come together to form a team.
I’ve also observed – in both cyberspace and ‘real space’ – that when asked to name a fan choice 4-hero team, fans invariably struggle and cite it’s extremely difficult to limit themselves to four heroes. One True GL, a self-admitted hero slut (meaning someone who knows and likes a ton of heroes) who is referring to himself in the third person at the time of writing this, had to alter his profile as result of similar indecision.
Another observation I’ve made is the tendency of any original or fanfic created superhero foursome team to receive the comment, “Too much like Fantastic Four.” That’s even the case when the only similarity is that there are 4 members on the team. I’ve even heard of creators opting to expand their original team ideas to include 6 members to avoid opinions such as the above.
Note to fans, the internet, and creators: Marvel doesn’t own the copyright to the concept or word ‘four’ in any way whatsoever!
Besides, you can get around those concerns if you have a different enough genesis story for the team and if you use characters that are far removed from Reed Richards and the gang.
With that, let’s get back to my team idea, starting with the roster:
Nate falls in both (a) and (b) categories to varying degrees, depending who you ask. The good captain is both the genesis and leader of this team.
The team’s origin and how Captain Atom is instrumental in it:
Throughout his time at DC Comics, Captain Atom has straddled the line between superhero and super-powered government operative. Sometimes CA has gone toe-to-toe with former team mates and long-time allies at the behest of his government controllers. However, in some crossovers CA has made cameo appearances and usually helped the heroes (by leaking classified information, for example). At times, his motivation for some of those actions is fuzzy but seems to be directed at preventing the government’s aggression toward the heroes of the DCU from escalating.
It’s at this stage that I recalled that I’ve only seen the government send a few fighter planes or super-powered operatives after the heroes. I’ve never seen the government go after them FULL TILT. What would that involve? Does Captain Atom know what the government’s ultimate hero takedown protocol would entail? Is that why Cap is always covertly interfering?
While Captain Atom has succeeded in preventing that scenario from being realised, it may also mean that others have failed in making that scenario come to fruition. What if those persons are part of a shadow organisation within the government that have been banking on the FULL TILT SOLUTION (for which I can’t recall the original name I gave to it)?
The story is moved forward when the aforementioned shadow organisation puts Captain Atom on trial and finds him guilty of treason. Oh yes, forgot to mention, CA is tried in absentia and without his knowledge. In addition, the sentence passed is death.
The shadow organisation gets even sneakier and pulls some strings to get Cap assigned to an all-new, ad hoc assembled Suicide Squad due to depart on a mission within 48 hours. The fact that Amanda Waller isn’t involved raises some red flags in CA’s mind and picks up on a few other clues that everything isn’t 100% with this mission.
In the run-up to the mission, Cap gets a tip-off that the mission is a ruse to allow one of his team mates to eliminate him ‘in action’ on behalf of the shadow organisation. Furthermore, the source reveals that this is somehow related to the FULL TILT SOLUTION.
It is then that Cap decides to do two things: One, fly off to ask Oracle (Barbara Gordon) for a favour. Two, recruit his own team to help him defeat the Suicide Squad and go after the shadow organisation responsible.
He reveals to Barbara exactly how the government’s information on Earth’s heroes is organised: Separate databases for government super-powered operatives, non-powered heroes, super-powered heroes, and super-powered villains – each housed within server farms located hundreds of miles apart. In addition, he explains that the knowledge contained within these databases is much more comprehensive than most suspect. He wants Barbara to temporarily sever the connection between these server farms and a covert installation called Project Gridview.
He has limited time to recruit his team and has to settle for only three heroes. Having had some experience with government shadow organisations, Cap knows how dangerous such groups can be when challenged and decides on some criteria to use:
(i) Recruit outside of his “known associates” circle for the most part. Since he’s the target the bad guys will have special tactics worked up for his closest friends and allies. This criterion carries a 20% weight.
(ii) Recruit loners and aliens, because they tend to have fewer family members and friends for the shadow organisation to target. If recruits have family, make sure that said recruit’s family have kick-ass powers. This criterion carries a 30% weight.
(iii) Recruit mystical heroes, because although databases contain information such as power lists on many heroes, the databases are deficient in terms of how mystical powers work. On the other hand, heroes with Earth science-based, technology-based, and biologically sourced powers are easier to work up special tactics for. This criterion carries a 50% weight.
The rest of the team:
She was originally created as a heroic partner for Captain Atom (back when both characters were owned by Charlton). Notice, I said partner and NOT sidekick. Her selection ignores the criteria somewhat, because of her past work with suicide squad. However, her powers (darkness manipulation, being able to transform into 2D shadows, and teleportation via the land of nightshades) are mystical in nature (iii).
Ragman has always a bit of weird hero as he is at home both among non-powered vigilante types such the bat-family as well as among those who are just as mystically powered (iii) as he is. And if anyone is wondering, I mean weird in a cool way. Drawing upon the physical powers of defeated corrupted souls that have become part of his costume to increase his speed and strength between dozens (or even hundreds) of times is a pretty cool power to have in a pinch. Of course, he can absorb new corrupted souls whenever he defeats enemies. Rory can also do things with his costume that are similar to what Spawn does with his cape (e.g. morphing it into weapons that are still capable of absorbing an evil soul).
Another bit of trivia is the fact that both Ragman and Nightshade were members of Shadowpact, DC’s mystical superteam. Rory had also developed some feelings for Nightshade, which were never fully explored. Another interesting aspect to the team dynamic is the fact that Captain Atom and Nightshade were once romantically involved (during the Charlton days, I think). There’s definitely potential for a love triangle or at least a line between two points and disconnected point adjacent to that line, if you get my drift.
DC has underutilised Mr. Miracle over the years. Known associate (i), you say? Well, not so much really. Cap and Scott - Yes, Scott Free and NOT Morrison’s Seven Soldiers (Shilo Norman) version - have both been in the JLI, but have rarely spent any significant amount of time together (i). Scott’s an alien and his wife, Barda, can take care of herself (ii). Have Mega-rod, will blast bad guys. Besides, Cap really needs MM’s techno-savvy mother-box tricks to pull off the mission. Furthermore, Scott Free possesses some other pretty useful powers: Immortality, Superhuman Strength (not Superman-level but enough to get by), Agility, Coordination, and the Alpha effect. He’s also inventive and an expert in martial arts, but most of all he’s the greatest escape artist EVAR (in part by using devices that embody Arthur C. Clarke’s quote: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.) Yes, I’m using quotes, so you know I’m not playing...
Small costume redesign: Change all yellow parts of MM’s costume into a slightly darker shade of gold.
One another level, I can see Scott and Rory (Ragman) becoming good friends and being able to play off each other. The two also represent the balance of mystical and the technological within the team.
Question: Does DC ever look at the heroes’ personalities to see who would make good combinations, friends, team mates? If not, they should. At least sometimes (like with Scott and Rory).
Btw, if you were wondering how Cap convinces Barda to let Scott join, he cites the one-off nature of the team-up. Barda doesn’t buy it and mentions how many one-off team-ups become permanent teams – the world is always in trouble. Cap manages to win Barda over by agreeing that if the team does become permanent, it wouldn’t be like the Justice League (in terms of the time commitment, etcetera). If there’s one thing Captain Atom can write a thesis on, it’s what’s wrong with how (various incarnations of the league) have been run.
With his team and plan in place, Cap heads off to lead the Suicide Squad (not knowing who his would be assassin within the squad is or if there’s more than one within the team). The last minute addition of Major Force to the squad roster makes Cap believe that MF is the assassin tasked with taking him out. However, this was only done to mislead and divert his attention from the true assassin – someone he doesn’t suspect.
At this time, Cap recalls the previous time a similar scenario had played out when he was the assigned betrayer. It is here that we learn of the purpose of Project Gridview and the fact that Cap had previously witnessed the FULL TILT SOLUTION being used on a much smaller but no less devastating scale. We also see how Cap and Wade Eiling (before he becomes The General) actually agree that, even on a small scale, the FULL TILT SOLUTION is too dangerous to ever implement. Cap had sincere reasons for his protest while Eiling’s objections came from his inability to see a way for him control and benefit from the FULL TILT SOLUTION.
However, the people that ran Project Gridview didn’t work for Eiling and ignored his advice. They just went ahead with testing it during the mission for which they had asked for Cap’s assistance. A fellow super-powered g-man and friend of Cap’s learned that he had three months to live and that his ‘acquired’ power was the cause of his fatal illness. I used the word ‘acquired’, because he got his power in a government experiment. Since the aforementioned revelation, he’d gone on a mad rampage and Gridview bosses volunteered to take him down.
But let’s get back to what the mini-full tilt solution is, what the FULL TILT SOLUTION would look like and Cap’s objections with regards to it:
At the core of the FULL TILT and mini-full tilt solutions is a free-floating, mirror-like, energy ‘portal’ similar to the stargates featured in Stargate (the movie and subsequent tv series), except without the metal chevron-coordinate locking metal structure around it. In addition, you cannot step into it. However, ‘stuff’ can come through it into our world - notably doppelgangers.
This was where things got weird for Captain Atom: The Gridview brass ‘simply knew’ how to create a doppelganger of Cap’s friend. The method they used didn’t seem scientifically rational for people that only studied the strange energy portal for a day - they download Cap’s friend’s file from one of the previously mentioned databases and displayed it in front of the portal. After half a minute, a doppelganger stepped through and without instruction went after CA’s real friend (with Cap in tow). What was even more bizarre to CA was that Gridview didn’t research or create or discover the portal. It just appeared and they brought it inside their gates.
Cap suspected that there was some form of intelligence inside the portal and that it was ‘psionically influencing’ Gridview’s leadership. So, he called in help that didn’t arrive before Cap faced both his friend and the doppelganger in three-way battle...
His friend perished in the battle and then the doppelganger simply flew back into the portal, despite Cap’s attempts to capture it.
When the higher-ups eventually contained the situation, the Gridview brass were detained and sent away for psychological and psionic evaluation. However, the higher-ups then decided that the portal has too much strategic importance to destroy. So, they allowed it to be monitored at Gridview within a psi-shielded room and limited access to scenarios where they would need to activate the FULL TILT SOLUTION (which means downloading all their hero database files to the Gridview servers, displaying these files en masse, and creating an army of doppelgangers who naturally [or supernaturally] want to kill the originals).
Back in the present:
Cap knows that the FULL TILT SOLUTION must be avoided at all cost, but he also knows that there must be an agenda beyond it...If you want to know what happens next, petition DC to publish this comic. I’m just joking. The truth is that I’ve forgotten some of the specifics of what happens in the rest of this story.
What do you call DC’s FF?
I can’t recall what I called the team, which isn’t such a great sign and probably means the name was forgettable. So, I’ve thought up some new possible names.
Gridbusters? There have been Hulkbusters and League Busters in comics. So, there’s a historical precedent for using the word Busters in team names.
Maybe it should be named something with the word ‘four’ in it?
I’m also partial to having a name that includes the word Equinox, because the team consists of two heroes with science-based / technological powers (symbolized by the light of day) and two heroes with mystical powers (symbolized by the darkness/mystery of night). So, how about Equinox Four (too much like Fantasic...never mind) OR Equinox Guard OR Strike Force Equinox OR Task Force Equinox (Okay, there’s JLTF and the Suicide Squad’s real name is Task Force X, but who cares?) OR Equinox Watch OR Equinox Vigil (being alert and keeping watch and acting only when necessary would be the later MO of this team)? I'm partail to Equinox Vigil at the moment.
Which team name is the best (in your opinion) and why? Any other team name suggestions?
Do you have another FF-like DC team you’d like to see? It doesn’t matter if you only have the names of four heroes and you don’t have the genesis / reason for their team-up or a name for the team. Just fire away!