Dad, Mom, Biff, Sis, Brat, Dog (Nuclear Family)

Titans delivered a fine second episode, and it clearly has high aims in terms of storytelling… and in justifying its R rating. Hawk and Dove introduced a quartet of unsettling villains who go from playing Monopoly to torturing and killing without flinching, and they’re just as creepy as their comicbook counterpart. They’re the Nuclear Family, and the four out of six members appearing in the show are Dad, Mom, Sis and Biff, portrayed respectively by Jeff Clarke, Melody Johnson, Jeni Ross and Logan Thompson; Brat and Dog are missing, at least this far. This is the first time I have a single bio for this many characters, but they are indeed a single thing, born, living and acting together in every appearance. They are also a bit different from the little we saw about them on the show: they’re not superhumans, in fact, as they’re not human at all. Let’s see together.

The Nuclear Family was born from a tragedy, one that struck their creator. Dr. Eric Shanner, one of the best nuclear scientists in the world, dedicated his life to study atomic energy, but an accident caused a massive radiation leek that poisoned him and killed his entire family. Convinced that the world wasn’t truly aware of the dangers of nuclear energy, a dying Shanner used the years he had left to live to build six androids: one resembled himself as a younger man, while the others looked like his deceased wife, sons and daughter, and even his dead dog, the ones killed by radiation years before. The androids were programmed to think of themselves as a family, and they behaved like they came from a 1950s advertisement. Despite their peaceful and even jovial looks and attitude, though, their purpose was much more sinister: since they had to convince the world of how dangerous nuclear energy was, they had to gain people’s attention over the matter by causing a tragedy the world couldn’t have ignored. Shanner granted each android a nuclear-based power, so that each one of them could mimic the effect of a phase of a nuclear holocaust, and then assigned them with a test mission, disrupting the opening of the Esperanza Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Not only they managed to destroy the facility, but they even came to blows with one of the newest superhero teams around, the Outsiders: the two teams clashed, with the heroes not taking the Nuclear Family members seriously at first, but they rapidly changed their mind as they were swiftly and pitilessly vanquished. The mission was a total success, but the Nuclear Family needed to do something bigger to fulfill their master’s last wish: to make the world truly aware of the dangers of the atom, they would have burnt Los Angeles in a nuclear holocaust.

The Outsiders, beaten but not destroyed, tried to spy on the Nuclear Family to find who was behind them, but their newest member, Looker, was captured instead, and sedated not to be a menace anymore. The second fight ended once again in the Family’s favor, as nothing seemed to work: not the demonstration of sheer power from Black Lightning, Halo or Geo-Force, and not even the stealth skills of Katana or the abilities of Metamorpho. L.A. seemed to be doomed, but then the Outsiders resolved to act with all their might, without restraint, despite Biff and Sis looked like teens, and Brat like a little kid. This way, all the androids got destroyed in a massive explosion, right before Dr. Shanner died of radiation poisoning, knowing his project had been foiled and that even the copies of his family members had “died” in a nuclear explosion. This could have been the end of the Nuclear Family, but they were all rebuilt years later, reprogrammed and reactivated. Only a genius could have accomplished such a feat, and in fact the new master of the Nuclear Family was Alexander Luthor Jr., the most brilliant mind from an alternate reality. Luthor made Dad, Mom, Biff, Sis, Brat and Dog members of his Secret Society of Super-Villains, and immediately found the perfect assignment for them: the city of Blüdhaven had just been destroyed by the supervillain Chemo, who had been used as a living chemical bomb, but the city was now poisoned also by a nuclear fallout of unknown origins. The Nuclear Family was among the few agents Luthor could send there to investigate without any risk, and the only ones who could track the source of the fallout in a matter of minutes. As they reached the city, though, Dad and the others realized there were many other forces at play: the Freedom’s Ring, the Teen Titans, Father Time, the Atomic Knights, the Nuclear Legion and others had reached the place, each one of them representing different interests in the source of the fallout. The Nuclear Family would have enjoyed quite a special family trip, with so many playmates on ground zero…

The Nuclear Family is quite a creepy group of polite murderers: they are programmed to love each other like a real (albeit idealized) family, and this much they do, but they indulge in atrocities and mass-murders without the slightest sign of emotion or regret. As androids, they all possess superhuman strength and durability, and they all have the ability to fly, but each one of them possess a unique nuclear-based power representing different phases of a nuclear bombing: Dad can emit enormous amounts of radiations, Mom can project strong EMPs that instantly fry any electronic device in miles radius, Biff emits a thermal pulse that reaches the temperature of a nuclear explosion, Sis creates blast waves strong enough to level a city, Brat and Dog can turn themselves into sentient radioactive fallout. More often then not, the members of the Nuclear Family will let their facade of perfect Ozzie & Harriet family to use a surprisingly vulgar language and a blood-thirsty attitude that clash with their allegedly cold and pre-programmed personalities, sign of a character that’s quite enjoying all the wanton destruction they’ve been created to unleash on the world…

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Lobo

The biggest and most welcome news about DC television comes regarding Krypton, that this year will feature the live action debut of the most badass, vulgar and politically incorrect anti-hero in the roster: Lobo! The galactic bounty hunter will be portrayed by Emmett J. Scanlan, and we already have an amazing first look at him. He’s been indirectly mentioned also in Supergirl, when J’onn, speaking of an alien bounty hunter in National City, says: “If he was in town, we’d know”, and this pretty much summarizes the character: trouble, for all. It’ll be nice seeing squaring off against Kryptonians or even Doomsday (he’s perfectly capable of doing it), but we’ll have to wait a while. In the meantime, as usual, let’s take a look at the original Main Man.

First of all, Lobo’s real name is unpronounceable in most of the universe’s languages, and the one he sports is a word from the Khund dialect that means “One who devours you entrails and thoroughly enjoys it“. He was born on planet Czarnia, a Utopian planet inhabited by near immortal beings who dedicated themselves to art, science, poetry and beauty, and knew nothing of war and conflict. Lobo, however, was different since his birth: the moment he was born, he was already so mean that he chewed off four fingers from the nurse delivering him, and she was so frightened that she became the first mental patient on the planet in ten millennia. The baby’s parents, on their account, became hermits, afraid and sorry for the untold evil they had unwillingly released upon their perfect world. Growing up, things didn’t go any better, quite the opposite: Lobo was one of a kind, and the Czarnian society was totally unprepared to manage someone like him. Eventually, at sixteen years old he developed a unique school project, investigating an ancient and forgotten concept he had heard about in the metal songs he liked: genocide. For study (and for fun), Lobo created a new species of scorpion-like creatures, and released them on the planet. In a matter of days, while Lobo was playing death metal on his electric guitar, the entire Czarnian population, including Lobo’s parents and family, had been killed, and the deranged teen, who had made himself immune from the poison, was the last surviving member of his species. Considering the project a success, Lobo awarded himself with an “A”. Unsurprisingly, Lobo hadn’t done it for the doubtful pleasure of ruling a dead planet, as he had other plans, such as working to save his beloved space dolphins. He left what remained of Czarnia, and went to space to find the job of his dreams… failing pretty much everything: the only thing he did really good was beating the hell out of anyone. So he became a bounty hunter, and the best one around, of course.

As in everything he did, Lobo had a particular idea of what being a bounty hunter meant, and his contractors had to be very careful of what they asked of him and how. Once he was hired by Harry Hokum, an agent of the Citadel, first to capture Kalista, an Euphorian who held the secret of an impenetrable planetary shield, then to kill Tigorr, leader of the Omega Men. The Citadel, however, made the mistake of hiring two other bounty hunters, Berserk and Bedlam, to help him: interpreting this fact as a lack of trust, and seeing it as a breach of contract, Lobo got offended and, in revenge, he allied himself with the Omega Men, leveled the Citadel and slew the supreme commander of its military forces, thus ending a years-long war. The following contract brought Lobo on Earth for the first time: the broker Manga Khan was trying to strike a deal with Apokolips, but in order to do so he needed to take care of the Justice League International, that was trying to save their teammate Mr. Miracle, prisoner of Darkseid. Lobo demanded as payment a ten-years supply of treats for space dolphins, and took the job. He was true to his name, as he destroyed Rocket Red‘s suit and nearly killed Martian Manhunter, before Big Barda teleported him to the far side of the galaxy… right on the head of Guy Gardner, on Earth. The two started to fight, but the altercation was interrupted by Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. As he realized he was among other members of the JLI, Lobo pretended to be their ally, saying that Big Barda (Barbra, as he called her) had sent him there as a backup. This way, Lobo was with the team when Barda teleported them on Apokolips to save Miracle, but he couldn’t even start to punish them that his contract was cancelled by Manga, and he had to withdraw. He was paid nevertheless, but he wasn’t happy at all, as he didn’t get to kill anybody. Of course, he would have had plenty of other occasions for that…

There’s not much to say about Lobo’s personality: he’s totally crazy. He’s a hyper-violent thug with a volatile temper and a sadistic taste for bloodshed, born bad and enjoying the full of it. Despite this, he shows an unexpected soft spot for some endangered species, like his favorite space dolphins, an unusual trait to find in someone who murdered hundreds of his own children. His only good trait is his consistency: his word is a bound, and he’ll never break a contract or a promise… even if he often “interprets” them in a very flexible way. As a Czarnian, he possesses unbelievable strength and durability, superhuman speed, reflexes, agility and stamina, and he’s totally invulnerable: he can heal from any wound and completely regenerate himself as long as a single cell of him is left intact, and since he’s been banned from both Heaven and Hell he’s now totally unkillable; he used to be able to spawn perfect replicas of himself from a single drop of blood, an ability luckily suppressed by Brainiac 2; he’s also a terrific hand-to-hand fighter and, surprisingly, a genius tactician, unbeatable when it comes to plan a massacre. He moves on his Spacehog SpazFrag666, equipped with a small arsenal of illegal weapons, and he uses tons of explosives and firearms, albeit he prefers his chained hooks to fight. Vulgar, brutal, mean and arrogant, Lobo always brags about being the best bounty hunter in the whole universe. Unfortunately, he may very well be right.

John (The Homelander)

From today, we can finally take a look at The Seven… or rather the “six”, as I have no idea who the invisible man spotted in the trailer for The Boys is supposed to be. Anyway, as The Seven are a pastiche of the Justice League of America, let’s start with their version of Superman, that is The Homelander, the blonde guy in a cape portrayed by Antony Starr. We can see the leader of The Seven, the most powerful supe in the world, as he plays with a kid in the park and he’s adored by a crowd of fans. As you can imagine, though, there’s much more about him than what we can see from the Vought International spot, and we’re about to find it out together. Minor spoilers ahead.

There’s a story fed to the masses, a story that everybody loves, told in comicbooks, movies and whatever. According to that story, The Homelander was an alien, born on a distant, dying world. Still an infant, he was put in a space rocket and sent away from his home planet just before it exploded, and he reached Earth after a perilous voyage. Finally, he landed in the United States of America, of course, and he was found by an elder couple who adopted him, named him John, and raised him teaching him the highest and purest American values, such as patriotism, altruism, respect for truth and justice. As he grew up and his incredible alien powers manifested, John chose to protect and serve the planet that had given him a new home, and he became The Homelander, the most powerful and righteous superhero the world had ever known. Of course, this is just a story, while history is a whole other thing. Vought-American planned to bio-engineer seven superhumans who would have outmatched any other supe around, and for the first two experiments they collected some genetic material from the captive Stormfront, and injected it along with extreme amounts of Compound V in a fetus, son of a mentally challenged woman that nobody would have missed. The baby (the second: the first one was a secret project) grew much faster than normal, and in a matter of weeks he burst out of his mother’s womb, killing her. He was immediately taken in by V-A’s scientists, and grown in a controlled environment, where people registered any new power manifesting and tested him. In the meanwhile, V-A’s workers instructed him on the character he would have had to be for the public as soon as he was adult, and thus created the myth of the Homelander, the greatest hero in history, a legend dressed in the American flag. When he and the other six super-supers were ready, Vought-American introduced The Seven to an amazed world.

In public, The Homelander was simply perfect, a hero who incarnated all the values and principles so missed in a consumerist society, and who reassured the American audience by dressing in the national symbols. In private, however, the leader of The Seven was a megalomaniac who indulged in any form of violence, from rape to unnecessary murder, just because he was able to. As powerful as he was, though, he still depended on Vought-American’s money, as they funded his luxurious life style, so he had to control himself, at least to a certain extent. In terms of marketing, public apparitions and talk shows, The Seven were unbeatable, but the rare times V-A tried to make them do actual heroic deeds it ended in disaster: on September 11th 2001, The Seven tried to stop diverted planes that a group of terrorists wanted to send against the World Trade Center, but their inexperience and lack of training led to a catastrophe. The Homelander flew towards one on the planes while carrying Marathon, but he didn’t control his strength and he flew right through it, killing his teammate and a number of civilians. As he boarded the plane, he tried to make the people aboard stay silent for a moment, but he used his sonic scream to yell at them, and the sound wave killed them all. Scared and incapable of thinking of anything, he escaped, letting the plane crush on the crowded Brooklyn Bridge. V-A somehow managed to emerge unscathed from the tragedy, but from that moment The Seven found themselves constantly tailed by The Boys, a black-ops group of super-powered agents who wanted to bring them to justice. One of them in particular, Billy Butcher, seemed to have some personal reason to go against Homelander, albeit he couldn’t tell which one. Then, after the clash between the two teams led to the death of the innocent nieces of Mallory, on one side, and of Lamplighter, on the other, the groups reached a truce to prevent a mutually assured destruction. Any truce, however, could be broken…

John, if this is really his name, is an arrogant megalomaniac with a God complex, a sex-addict pervert with too high an opinion of himself, who can be terribly cruel and brutal just for the fun of it. A braggart as he may be, The Homelander is indeed the most powerful supe on Earth: his strength and speed are unmatched, he can fly, he’s virtually invulnerable, he can shoot laser from his eyes and he can emit sonic screams, and he probably can do a whole lot of other things. A god of gods, Homelander is not satisfied with a life of luxury and excesses: he is ambitious enough to know that he could rule the world if he only wanted to, and he’s just waiting for the right moment to abandon his last restraints and do what he’s destined to.

Katherine Rebecca Kane (Batwoman)

This year’s crossover event in the Arrowverse will be titled Elseworlds, and it will introduce a brand new heroine to the already crowded roster: Batwoman, in the Kate Kane version. She’ll be played by Ruby Rose, and she’ll get her own stand-alone series right after the December crossover. She’ll be portrayed as an out lesbian with a fortune to spend and a nick for social justice, who’ll suit up to fight the rising criminal tide in Gotham City, but who’ll apparently have to overcome her own inner demons before being properly defined a “hero”. This matches the most recent incarnations of the character in the comics, and will at least bring Gotham to the shared multiverse. Waiting to see in which of the three shows involved she’ll pop up first, let’s take a proper look at her.

Katherine Kane was born in Fort Richards, a military facility just outside Gotham City, as she was the daughter of Colonel Jacob Kane and of his wife Captain Gabrielle Kane. She had a twin sister, Elizabeth, and together with her she learnt to rely only on one another as they constantly moved from town to town, from base to base, depending on their parents’ assignment. Jacob was usually away from home, and it was during one of his absences that his entire family was kidnapped by a group of terrorists in Brussels, Belgium. Jacob personally led a rescue team, but the group, belonging to the Religion of Crime, had already executed Gabrielle, while Elizabeth was apparently killed in the crossfire during the rescue; needless to say, Kate was deeply traumatized by the death of her mother and sister in front of her eyes. From that point on, she always tried to be able to defend herself in any situation, and to please her father, and she even enrolled in the United States Military Academy. She was an excellent cadet, earning a number of prestigious awards, completing superior classes and even obtaining the title of Brigade Executive Officer. The Academy, however, was also the place where she discovered her sexuality, as she started a romantic relationship with her roommate, Cadet Captain Sophie Moore. Their homosexual conduct was exposed by an anonymous informant, and Kate was put on trial. Not wanting to lie to protect herself, she admitted she was a lesbian, but she chose to protect Sophie, and didn’t tell anything about her. Because of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, however, she was expelled from the military with dishonor. When she told her father, he was supportive, as he appreciated she had saved her honor by telling the truth. In the meanwhile, Jacob had married a wealthy heiress, Catherine Hamilton, so Kate could start now a new life as a rich socialite in Gotham City.

Kate Kane became famous for her unusual dressing, her tattoos, her drinking and her way of always speaking her mind, all three a rarity in Gotham parties, but she didn’t fail to inspire some admiration too. A young cop, Renee Montoya, who had stopped her for drink-driving, even fell in love with her, and the two dated for months. Eventually, they broke up: Kate couldn’t forgive Renee for keeping her sexual orientation hidden from families and friends, while Renee didn’t like the way Kate always avoided responsibilities, missing college and always failing to build a future for herself. Soon after the final argument, Kate tried to call Renee for apologizing, but she was attacked by a mugger, trying to steal her purse. With her military training she easily overpowered him, and she was pleased when Batman, who intervened to “save” her, could but acknowledge the fact that she had done great by herself. Inspired by the meeting nevertheless, she stole some weaponry and a military body armor from her father’s base, and she became a vigilante in turn, patrolling the streets and defending those who couldn’t protect themselves. Eventually, Jacob found out about the missing gear, and confronted his daughter. Once again, she told the truth, and once again, he supported her. He insisted to help her, and Kate accepted his offer: in the following years, she traveled the world to be trained by many friends of her father, each one of them a military veteran specialized in a different discipline. When she was ready, she returned to Gotham City, only to discover that, in her absence, Jacob had used all the data he had on Batman to build for her a specially designed Bat-Suit and a small arsenal of gadgetry, even preparing for her a bunker hidden under the Kanes’ house. It was time for a new Batwoman to hit the streets of Gotham, showing the many criminals in town that they had a new hero to fear…

Stubborn and strong-headed, Kate Kane is quite a tornado wherever she goes, a young woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind in any situation (even when it’d be better not to) and who’s always faithful to herself… but she’s also a naturally altruistic person who’s determined never to let someone loved die in front of her eyes as she did when she was a helpless child, and who uses her strength and skills to protect only, ready to sacrifice herself if need be. As Batwoman, she’s an excellent acrobat and martial artist, an accomplished fighter with an extensive military training and an arsenal of Batarangs and other tools inspired by Batman’s ones; she has money enough to back her crusade up, being rich as much as Bruce Wayne (she’s also a distant cousin of him, as her father is a relative of Martha Kane). After being stabbed to the heart by Bruno Mannheim, her physical skills aren’t as superb as before, but she’s a terrific athlete nevertheless. Expelled from the military and a college dropout, Kate Kane made Batwoman become her main horizon and life calling, a mission she embraces with all herself without restraints nor second thoughts: she’s one of the most determined and dedicated heroes in Gotham City, and she won’t let anyone to suffer what she did. Never again.

James Stillwell

The trailer for The Boys is incredibly tasty, and it’s presented like a tv commercial for Vought International, the series’ major antagonist. Speaker for the evil corporation is Madelyn Stillwell, portrayed by Elisabeth Shue, a smiling and reassuring public face who presents to the world the greatest heroes Vought has to offer. This character represents the biggest departure from the comics yet, as Madelyn is originally James, and albeit being indeed the most prominent presence felt from Vought, he’s not smiling nor reassuring, quite the opposite, and he’s possibly the best villain offered by the entire series… exactly because he’s so “normal” and believable that he truly is scarier than all the supes around. Let’s take a look at him.

James Stillwell appeared pretty much out of nowhere, and in a matter of years he became the most powerful man in the world. He started to work for Vought-American in the 1980s, and he climbed his way patiently and smartly to the top ranks, becoming by 1989 the assistant of Mr. Edgar, the CEO of the company. Albeit his exact role has never been explained, he started to take care of everything (and everyone) concerning Compound V, V-A’s major product, and he took in his hands the management of the many superhumans that the company was literally selling to the world as superheroes. This “heroes”, however, were mostly highly-empowered sociopaths, primadonnas with a God complex who started more troubles than they solved: if all the scandals caused by the supes’ true actions ever came out, it would have been a disastrous hit to V-A’s public image. James Stillwell specialized in taking care of this kind of things, covering things up, paying large amounts of money to eye-witnesses or making them disappear when they refused, coordinating the army of lawyers who had to defend the company in trial. He covered up the fact that the revered Professor Godolkin was actually a pedophile who abused minors before letting them become G-Men, he hid the truth behind the real identity of Black Noir even from the rest of The Seven, and he took care of erasing what little remained of V-A’s failures in the war effort. More recently, he even managed through the disaster caused by The Seven during September 11th 2001, allowing the company to survive the scandal against all odds, and even to clean the “heroes” from every possible accusation following the “incident”. He was terribly good at his job, and he was the true man in charge of V-A, with the old Edgar being but a puppet in his hands. But, of course, he wanted more, and he had started to play well in advance for it.

As ambitious as he was, James Stillwell aimed at nothing less than controlling the entire country, and he had placed his pawns in position for years to achieve that. He had “befriended” Vic the Veep, a semi-retarded movie celebrity who was unbelievably popular with the big audience, and he had arranged for him a campaign that brought him to be elected Vice President. As a direct liaison of Vought-American with The Seven, he also had quite a leverage with the most powerful supes on the planet, and despite the rivalry that Homelander felt with him, he could easily manipulate them into doing pretty much whatever he wanted. Last but not least, he had instructed V-A’s scientists in synthesizing a new version of Compound V, that he experimented in Russia, using as an unwilling accomplish the mob boss Little Nina: this version of the substance created supes like the previous one, but it also caused an explosive reaction that literally blew any supes’ head up, thus presenting the opportunity of creating a weapon 100% effective even against the most powerful supe around (the Homelander, to say one). The plan was simple, and it would have been perfectly accomplished in a matter of five years: Stillwell would have caused an “accident”, possibly manipulating The Seven, during which President Robert Shaefer would have been tragically killed; then, he would have used the modified Compound V to stop the “rogue” supes, while Vic the Veep would have become the new President of the United States of America, a total moron who would have been a mindless puppet in his hands. He even planned to blame it all on Mr. Edgar, if things went wrong: after all, he was but a worthless and unimportant subordinate. Things were going exactly the way he had planned, with no force able to mess with his plan… or rather plans, as he always had a backup for his projects, and backups for the backup. What could possibly go wrong?

James Stillwell is a highly functional sociopath, a man who doesn’t show, and most likely doesn’t feel, the slightest emotion in any situation, maintaining his blood as cold as ice under any circumstances, even when directly threatened by the mountain-leveling punch of the Homelander. Monstrously intelligent, he is a careful and patient planner, who has always total control over everything, and is always able to land on his own feet when he doesn’t. Stillwell is usually at least three steps ahead of his adversaries, he feels no remorse for even the most terrible actions, and has a talent for making profits upon the graves of others… practically, he’s Vought-American incarnate.

Block

New freak of the week in The Flash, and even this time it’s someone who’s hardly known even by comics readers. In Blocked, Flash trains his daughter XS on the field facing a new metahuman, Vanessa Jensen, a former weapons dealer portrayed by Erin Cummings, who just came back after four years locked up in Iron Heights and is not exactly happy with her former partners, the Moretti Brothers. Because of her powers, Cisco nicknames her Block: while there’s no Vanessa Jensen in the comics, we surely have a Block, who’s a secondary villain in the Flash comics. Let’s take a look at her.

The one who would have later been called Block was a young Maori woman who, in 1957, lived in Melbourne, Australia. She worked as a strong woman for a circus, but her show changed drastically after she got struck by a lightning, one night, and survived. The one that hit her actually wasn’t a normal lightning: it was a manifestation of the Speed Force, that imbued several individuals throughout time with abilities and powers related to speed, making them its avatars. The woman became able to slow down her atoms to the point of increasing her density beyond any imagination, becoming terribly heavy, and virtually invulnerable. The circus’ ringmaster immediately saw the potential in this, and he created a new show, challenging the viewers to move the one he called The Human Block, with a prize of $1000. Obviously, the game was impossible to win, and many men tried to move the Human Block, either by pushing her, by lifting her, even by hurting her: nobody managed to make her flinch. She soon became the star of the circus… until the day a drunken man climbed on the stage, and instead of using brute force started to mock Block’s Maori heritage. This made the woman lose control, and she rushed to the stranger. She lost the game, but it mattered little to her, as she now wanted the blood of the man who had offended her ancestors. Many tried to stop her and failed, some even shot at her, obtaining nothing. Finally, three people in weird dresses approached her, with an offer she couldn’t refuse.

The leader of the trio was Professor Zoom, and the ones with him were his first two Acolytes, the Folded Man (not Edwin Gauss, but rather an African thief named Xolani) and Magali. The Folded Man teleported them all outside the circus, and Zoom invited Block to join them: she would have been taught to use her abilities at their maximum extent, and she would have been revered as the goddess she was. Block immediately accepted, even after hearing the one condition Zoom demanded: they first had to kill an evil speedster who was using the Speed Force for his own purposes, a masked man from the future called The Flash. Block (she soon lost the “Human” part of the moniker) followed the Acolytes, and together with them she traveled through space and time, recruiting two other people who, like her and the others, had been struck by lightning: The Top and Selkirk. When the team was complete, Zoom personally trained them for centuries: every time they got too old, Magali used her powers to rejuvenate them all, and they started it back again. As Zoom possessed the same powers of their enemy, Block used him to perfect strategies to counter The Flash’s powers, and she mastered her abilities to a new level. Block, however, didn’t know the most important thing: Professor Zoom was the one who had paid the drunken man to mock her back in Australia, thus igniting her rage and ruining her career just so that she joined him. And this wasn’t the gravest thing Zoom was hiding from her…

The Human Block, or simply Block, is a strong-headed and volatile woman, extremely proud of her heritage and eager to reclaim the glory lost by her people. Empowered by the Speed Force, she has the ability to slow down her atoms and increase her density, becoming immensely strong and durable, virtually unmovable; she can also slow down anyone she touches, thus being able to negate the powers of a speedster, and she can transfer her power also to inanimate objects, like air itself, making it so dense that it becomes an impenetrable shield around her. Still measuring the extent of her powers, Block is so impulsive that she becomes terribly gullible, falling for the promises of strangers and letting people like Zoom manipulate her good will for their own wicked purposes…

Topher

In the last days we also got news from the upcoming second season of Runaways, and it seems like Hulu will be adding more elements from the comics… starting with one of the fan-favorite villains, Topher, portrayed by Jan Luis Castellanos. The fascinating and enigmatic Topher will introduce himself as a precious aid and ally to the group of teens on the run from their murderous parents, but of course, all that glitters is not gold, and he surely won’t make an exception. Even if he doesn’t glitter, as some modern writer would make us think. Spoiler warning for what follows…

Topher, surname unknown, was born some time before 1900, and by the age of sixteen his life changed forever: he was attacked and turned by a vampire, and by mutating he was doomed to look like a teen for all of his immortal life. He lived through the Great Depression, and in the 1940s he smartly played in the stock market and earned a fortune. It was during this time that he turned at least one person, who became his minion (another would have followed, so that he had an adult male and female as his servants). We know that he consumed also a mutant in 1979, but for most of the second half of the XX Century, he preferred to live away from the spotlight, hiding his vampirism, and living of his millions. Everything was great until 2001: Topher was among the many investors who lost everything in the Dot-com bubble, so he found himself on the road again. Along with his two minions, Topher turned to crime, taking what he wanted and when he wanted, living a nomadic life and always taking care of avoiding too much attention. He went from petty theft to petty theft until he tried to rob a convenience store in Los Feliz, California. It was here that he first met the Runaways, a group of superpowered teenagers who stopped him. As his minions escaped, Topher told his attackers a moving story about his origins: he pretended to be truly sixteen, and told the Runaways that his parents had been involved in a power plant accident that had turned them into super-strong beings, but that had also made them go mad. He also told them that his “parents” were the ones who had forced him to a life of crime, and that he wanted out. Most of the Runaways, recognizing in Topher’s tale a story similar to their own, asked him to join their group out of empathy; only Alex, their leader, saw through his lies, but for some reason he decided not to tell anything to the others, waiting for the moment Topher would have shown his true colors.

From his very first moment with the Runaways, Topher started to manipulate the group to his own purposes. Nico was the one who gave him a tour of The Hostel, their underground headquarters, and Topher was quick to seduce her, sharing a kiss with her in her bedroom. Nico, albeit intrigued by the handsome stranger, sent him away, as she was starting a romantic relationship with Alex, but the very next day, as Nico and Alex were discussing what happened, Topher did the same trick with Karolina… and Nico arrived they moment they were kissing. As Nico and Karolina started a fight, Gert intervened to calm the two of them, but Nico stormed out, followed by Topher. Finally managing to isolate one of the Runaways, Topher revealed his true nature, and tried to bite her… but as soon as Nico lost a drop of blood, the Staff of One emerged from her chest, impaling him. He healed in a matter of seconds though, and was stopped from killing Nico only by Alex, who hit him in the face with a burning torch. All the Runaways gathered to face him, but the vampire proved to be too strong for them: he defeated them one by one, without a sweat, until only Karolina stood standing. Topher revealed that, among all the Runaways, he wanted her to be his new minion, and she surprisingly offered herself to him: she was tired of running away all time, and of the impossible situation with her parents. Topher proceeded to bite her… not knowing that she was a Majesdanian, and that her blood absorbed solar power. Quite ironically, Topher burnt on the spot, reducing himself to a pile of ashes, killed by the very blood he wanted to consume.

Topher is a smart, manipulative and cold-blooded man, a cruel predator who uses any possible tool to stalk, trick and isolate his preys. As a vampire, he possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility and senses, he has retractable fangs and claws, and he can turn other people into vampires by injecting them with a particular enzyme while feeding on them; differently from other vampires, he showed the powers of withstanding attacks that would be normally lethal, such as been impaled with a wooden stick, to heal almost instantly from any wound, and to sense the state of the minions he created even from miles away. A beautiful monster who can be just as dangerous when he uses brute strength or when he emotionally manipulates his victims, Topher is a century-old vampire wise enough to keep his very existence a secret for decades, but who definitely didn’t lose his taste and skills for hunt during his years of seclusion…