Helena Rosa Bertinelli (Huntress)

In this week Arrow episode Muse of Fire we finally met another masked vigilante, the Huntress, secret identity of Helena Rosa Bertinelli, portrayed on screen by Jessica De Gouw. Being the daughter of a famous crime boss, who tries to destroy her father’s empire thus redeeming her name, her portrayal in the show is very similar to her comics’ original appearance. Some details, anyway, are quite different, especially the ones regardind the deep connection of the Huntress with another famous superhero, Batman. Let’s see wher her television origin story differs from her comic book one.

Similar to many other heroes, also the Huntress has got more than one origin story. In the first one, she was the daughter of Guido and Carmela Bertinelli, members of one of the most powerful Mafia families of Gotham City. When she was six years old, Helena was kidnapped and raped by a rival crime boss, who wanted to take revenge on her father. Freed from his captor, young Helena was sent in Italy, where her bodyguard, Tony Angelo, taught her how to fight and how to protect herself. She then came back to Gotham to start a personal vendetta against the city’s Mafia families. Her origin story, however, was retold, changing some details. In the new version of the story, Helena was the daughter of Franco Bertinelli, the most powerful Mafia head in Gotham City. He was a cruel man, who often beat his wife, Maria Panessa Bertinelli. The woman couldn’t stand her abusive husband anymore, and started an affair with a rival crime boss, Santo Cassamento. Her daughter, Helena Rosa, was, in fact, Santo’s daughter, and not Franco’s. Bertinelli knew this, and he kept beating his wife during all her pregnancy. When Helena was born, Franco decided to take care of his “daughter”, still despising his wife, anyway. The girl grew up serenely in Bertinelli’s house, without knowing anything of the real activities that is father was involved with. When she was eight years old, anyway, Bertinelli’s life of criminality came knocking to his door: an assassin, Mandragora, broke into his house while the whole family was at dinner, and he shot Franco, Maria and Pino, Bertinelli’s trueborn son. He only spared Helena, without the girl knowing why. Mandragora was sent by Cassamento, who wanted him to kill everyone in the family but Maria, calling her under the nickname “the sister“: clearly, the hitman confused Maria with Helena, and sparred the girl instead of the woman. After the massacre, Helena was placed under the care of her uncle, Tomasso. He decided that Gotham City wasn’t a safe place for the girl, and ordered his nephew, Salvatore Asaro, to take the girl back to Sicily, the historical Bertinelli family’s home.

Helena was clearly terrified, and she kept having nightmares about what happened back in Gotham. Her cousin, Salvatore, told her that only she could stop her nightmares, by taking the lives of her parents’ killers. He taught her the family motto, blood cries for blood, and took her to his barn, offering himself as a combat teacher. Helena chose a crossbow from a wall, and began a tough training, which would have made her a great fighter. During her years in Sicily, she was taught that Mafia was a honorable activity, a force for good that protected innocents and punished evil men without pity. Helena believed it. When she was fifteen, anyway, her uncle and cousin chose to send her to a boarding school in Switzerland, thus protecting her from the Italian authorities, who were close to arrest the entire family. Seeing what was happening, Helena realized that everything she was told about Mafia was a lie, and started hating everyone in her family because of the world she was dragged in when she was just an innocent child. For Christmas, she unwillingly joined her uncle Tomasso in Gotham to celebrate with everyone; Helena knew that Mafia was an evil organization that built its power on fear, but she also found out that, in Gotham, also Mafia was afraid, and by a single man: Batman. She decided what to do and, back to Italy, she enrolled in the Palermo University. She learnt everything about Mafia and its hiostory, and, back to her cousin’s villa in the countryside, deserted after the arrest of her family, she started plotting her revenge. She collected her old crossbow and other weapons from the barn, and came back to Gotham, where, emulating the Batman, she created the masked identity of the Huntress, a cruel and pitiless vigilante, who repaid the criminals with their own coin. Blood cries for blood.

Helena Rosa Bertinelli is a strong and hardened woman, who buried her fears and personal traumas under her hate and her determination. As the Huntress, she’s a violent and implacable crime fighter, who believes that only death can cure the evil inside human heart, and systematically hunts down and kills the members of the Mafia families in Gotham. This policy brought her to divergences with her inspiration, Batman, and his sidekicks Robin and Nightwing, but, having a common cause to pursue, they sometimes get along long enough to bring down some criminals (she also had a brief romantic relationship with Nightwing). A devoted Catholic, the Huntress thinks of herself as some sort of nun with a holy mission: to eradicate Mafia from the world, and she’s ready to do anything to accomplish her goal.

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Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)

Well, I think it was about time I spoke of Arrow protagonist, Oliver Queen, portrayed on screen by Stephen Amell. In the comics, he’s one of DC oldest heroes, being born in 1943, and already had quite a huge tv appearance in Smallville, where he was portrayed by Justin Hartley. In both versions, he was a spoiled rich boy who shipwrecked on a deserted island, where he was trained to become the hero Green Arrow: in Arrow, he found a mentor in Yao Fei, while in Smallville he was transformed into a skilled archer by the League of Assassins. In the comics, it wasn’t the first, nor the second.

First of all, Green Arrow’s origin story has been changed many times in the years, a common destiny for superheroes, especially the DC comics’ ones. In his very first appearance, Oliver Queen was an archeologist who learnt to used bow and arrows by studying the native American culture. I’m going to speak about the most famous and used version of the story, the one retold by the great Jack Kirby. In this one (fused with many retcons), Oliver was the young and shy son of billionaire Robert Queen and his wife Moira, the richest and most important people in Star City. As a boy, he idolized Robin Hood, his childhood hero, and was overwhelmed with joy when his father, wanting to make a man out of him, gave him a bow for present. Ollie‘s character wasn’t meant to be forged so simply, and the boy was half traumatized the moment he accidentally killed an animal while playing with his new “toy”. His weak character became his curse: while on safari in Africa with his parents, a pack of lions attacked him and his family, and his hesitation in shooting the beasts costed Robert and Moira their lives. Ollie managed to survive the experience thanks to the guide Robert had hired, Congo Bill, who took him back to America. Back in Star City, Oliver was raised by an uncle of his, and, once of age, he inherited his father’s fortune and business, becoming the corporate executive of Queen Industries. Having completely abandoned his shy and weak personality, Oliver grew up to be a spoiled and arrogant playboy, a thrill-seeking, over-rich, constantly drunken man with no responsibility in life. With no direction for his life, the Queen heir preferred to spend his days and nights partying, using his money to pay a life of excess. Everything changed because of a boat: while on his private yacht, completely drunk, he fell off into the ocean, and was dragged away by the stream. He used a bow to stay afloat, the same old bow that his father gave him when he was a child and that he caught before falling. Exhausted, Oliver Queen washed ashore of Starfish Island, a remote and isolated land in the Pacific Ocean.

For Oliver, used to have everything he needed without putting the slightest effort in getting it, living on the island was a real hell. He learnt how to survive in the most desperate situations, and used his bow to hunt for some preys. He mastered his weapon to become an eccellent hunter, and, finally learning to rely upon himself and his own skills, he became a man. Alone on the island for weeks, Oliver finally found a small village, but there were no people in it; in a well nearby, Oliver found the corpses of the inhabitants, slained and thrown into the well. Shocked by his discovery, Ollie had his first taste of the world’s evil. During his time on the island, Oliver became so skilled with his bow that, when a plane came across the island and started opening fire at him, who had tried to signal his presence, he managed to take him down, using just his arrows and his knowledge of the island’s territory. His occasion of coming back home arrived when a commercial freighter passed by Starfish Island: thinking the crew could have saved him, Oliver swam towards it, getting on board. Once aboard, Oliver found out that the cargo was in the middle of a mutiny, led by the group of pirates and drug-dealers at the orders of the infamous China White. Using the skills and abilities gained on the island, Oliver managed to subdue them, and freed the freihter’s crew. That was the moment in which he realized that he could really do something for the greater good, and he decided that, with his hunter abilities, he would have become a crime fighter. Once in Star City, Oliver took back his life, and secretly created the identity of Green Arrow, a modern Robin Hood who would have protected his city and the entire world. In the years, Oliver took a young boy as apprentice, Roy Harper, an orphan who would have become his sidekick Speedy and his adoptive son. He also entered the Justice League of America, becoming the team’s sixth member after saving the others from the alien Xandor. As a hero, he also met the superheroine Black Canary, aka Dinah Laurel Lance, who would have become his wife.

Oliver Queen is one of the wealthiest man in the world, and he uses his company to serve society the best he can, focusing on the common people’s needs. After a youth of recklessness and irresponsibility, Oliver learnt his priorities and does what he can for the world through charity and social initiatives. As the Green Arrow, Oliver has reached the peak of human capabilities, he’s extremely strong, agile and durable, being a regular man without superpowers. He’s a skilled hunter, and has a complete mastery over archery. Fusing Queen’s resources and the Arrow’s weapons, he created his trademark Trick Arrows, special arrows with different usages and effects, that make him even more effective in his crime fighting activity.

Jack of Spades

Finally, waiting for this evening’s new Arrow episode, we speak about the last member of the Royal Flush Gang as it has been seen in the episode Legacies: the Jack of Spades. In the show, he’s a boy named Teddy Reston, the teenager son of Derek and brother to the psycho Kyle. He was portrayed by Tom Stevens, and didn’t have so big a space in the episode. In the comics, he’s a little bit more important.

In the original Royal Flush Gang, the Jack of Clubs was the first one to abandon the team, starting a solo career as the High Jack. When the team was reformed, the new Ace chose a replacement for him, finding the first Jack of Spades. After a brief fight with Wonder Woman and the later team’s dismantlement, this particular Jack went missing, and never appeared again. The most famous and important version of Jack was the one recruited by Hector Hammond. This powerful telepath reformed the Royal Flush Gang the moment its original leader, Hamos Fortune, was incarcerated, and the other members disbanded. He kidnapped and brainwashed an engineer, Derek Reston, to build an android, acting as the new Ace, and sent it to recruit some disbanded people with nothing to lose to be the new cards for his deck. The man behind the mask of the Jack of Spades is unnamed, his secret identity is never revealed. He was a famous gigolo, a women’s man who made a living out of his charm and appeal. Being a gigolo, as well as being any other kind of prostitute, is a risky job: if you didn’t put aside something in your best years, you’ll face poverty the very moment you reach an age in which you’re not requested anymore. And this was the case of our man: Jack didn’t think of the future during his best years, and suddenly found himself old (or at least, old enough to be at the end of his career) and with little or nothing for his retirement. That’s the reason why our gigolo started to rob his clients, after being paid: not quite a risky business, considering that the most of his clients were aged women. Even a simple plan has its flaws, anyway, and so it was with Jack’s one: during one of his thefts, he accidentally killed his client. Facing the corpse of the dead woman, without knowing what to do and waiting for the cops to arrive, Jack was found by Ace (the android), who made him an offer he simply couldn’t refuse. Being now a wanted man, the gigolo agreed to become the new Jack of Spades, erasing every traces of his previous identity (thus, we don’t know who he is).

As the new Jack of Spades, the gigolo obtained his own hoovering card, blaster guns and a lot of other nice toys to play with; plus, he could share his life with some real teammates (at least, this was what he thought), leaving apart his life-long loneliness. The new Jack proved to be a cunning and capable asset for the team (he was the only one to realize that Derek Reston was in fact an android), and distinguished himself during the Royal Flush Gang’s fights against the Justice League of America, first, and against the previous Gang; during this last one, by the way, the only survivor from the previous team was High Jack, who joined his old teammates just in time to see them all die, while he managed to flee with his life. Anyway, the new Jack (not the High one) got along well with the rest of the team, until the moment he started regretting his previous life. He never liked being a gigolo, at least while he was one, but facing the ugly truth, that he would have never been able to come back to his old life, made of precious gifts, women, money, he started suffering his new status of wanted criminal and nomadic robber. The only other card who cared something about his personal problems was the Ten of Spades, aka Wanda Wayland, who was quite worried for him; nobody else, among the society’s rejects Jack called friends, was interested in his problems. His mental health kept crumbling, until the final straw. Steven Sharpe V, the criminal known as the Gambler, took control of the Gang, but things ended up badly, and the new leader and the others battled each other. During the fight, the Gambler used his notable skills in throwing knives to take away one of Jack’s eyes, making him a real One Eyed Jack. Although the missing eye was replaced with a laser gun, thus increasing his power, Jack lived his wound as a mental trauma, and had a definitive breakdown. He left the team, and was later replaced by Joe Carny, the King, with another unnamed Jack. From the gigolo on, anyway, the laser eye became a characteristic trait of the Jack of Spades, and all the following Jacks voluntarily took away one or both eyes to have it (or them) replaced with laser guns.

As every other member of the second Royal Flush Gang, the gigolo is a failed and frail man, with an unstable psyche and many traumas to come up against. As the Jack of Spades, he is a powerful foe for every normal human being, but a low treath for real superheroes. His most lethal weapon is the only one he didn’t want to have: the laser gun replacing his missing eye.

Mona Taylor (Queen of Spades)

In Arrow episode Legacies, the only member of the Royal Flush Gang that didn’t wear a mask was the unnamed Queen of Spades, portrayed by Sarah Jane-Redmond. In the show, she is the wife of Derek Reston, mother to Kyle and Teddy, and an active member of the band of robbers her family forms: she operates from the inside of the target banks, finding weaknesses and strengths of the victims. In the comics, she’s a completely different character, but for her role, quite similar.

When an unnamed Ace took the leadership of the original Royal Flush Gang and changed its seed from clubs to spades, the Queen of Clubs, whose real name was Queeenie, became the first Queen of Spades, but this incarnation of the character was short lived, since, the moment the Gang couldn’t stand its leader anymore, it disbanded, and went missing for quite a time. The absence of the original squad allowed Hector Hammond, a criminal and powerful telepath, to create another one. After forcing with his mind-controlling powers Derek Reston to create for him an Ace android, Hammond used it to recruit new members for his team. A common trait between this new top face cards was the terrible situation they all lived in: people with nothing to lose, living at the borders of society, unable to fulfil their own potential and ready to accept any offer. Given this, Mona Taylor was the perfect choice for the role of the new Queen of Spades. Mona had once been a great actress, who had a sparkling career in her future. She married her agent, Richard, and prepared herself to have the time of her life in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Mona’s personality wasn’t as tough as her skills, and she developed in no time some serious addictive problems. A chainsmoker since the very beginning of her actress career, Mona was unable to withstand the stress and the tension coming from her job, and fell also into alcohol. Nobody wants an alcoholist actress for protagonist, and, following the memory drops, the mood swings and the professional unreliability coming from her addiction, Mona lost every possible booking. Plus, her husband and agent Richard left her, preferring to focus on some other more promising actresses. Mona was alone, jobless, pennyless, having her only (temporary) relieve in alcohol and cigarettes.

She was found in this state by the Ace android, going under the name of his creator Derek Reston. Recognizing her past acting skills, Ace offered her a place in the new Royal Flush Gang as the Queen of Spades. With nothing to lose, and a strong desire to come back acting (in every way possible), Mona accepted the offer, and took her place at the King of Spades‘ side. As the Queen, Mona was given the normal team’s equipment, such as the hoovering card she would have used as a means of transportation, a blaster gun, and a special wrist shooter charged with razor-sharp spades-shaped blades. Unique among everyone else in the team, the Queen was also given the Sceptre Royal, a powerful holographic device that allowed her to take the physical appearance of any other woman she could think of; this weapons, added up to her acting skills, made her the team’s infiltrator, an amazing shape-shifter able to impersonate whoever. In the years, the Queen used her skills to take also the place of some “untouchable” women such as Lois LaneSuperman‘s wife, or Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. The Queen proved herself to be a useful asset to the new Gang, both during her first fight against the Justice League of America, and during the one against the previous Royal Flush Gang, which ended up completely annihilated. Mona retained her Queen identity even when Hammond and Reston forcedly left the team, and Joe Carny, the King of Spades, became the new leader. During the years, anyway, Mona’s personality had other breakdowns and she fell again in her old addictions. Plus, being a real prima donna, she developed a harsh rivalry against the only other woman in the group, Wanda Wayland, the Ten of Spades, who was far more skillful, able and, especially, not addicted to anything that could damage her job.

A deeply insecure and vain woman, Mona Taylor doesn’t trust herself at all, and looks for confirmations in the people around herself. Weak but proud, she sees as personal threats everyone who’s better in anything than herself. As the Queen of Spades, she is a skillful shape-shifter and a good infiltrator, but her skills are always put at risk by her alcoholism and her insecurity, which always threaten to make her lose everything she obtained.

Ace of Spades

Here’s the second member of the Royal Flush Gang as it has been portrayed on tv show Arrow, the Ace of Spades. In the episode Legacies, Ace’s real name was Kyle Reston, son of Derek, who became a bank robber after quitting high school, following his father’s footsteps. He was portrayed by Kyle Schmid. In the comics, his origin story is completely different…especially because, despite actually being some kind of Derek Reston’s son, the Ace of Spades is not even human!

In the original Royal Flush Gang, the place of Ace (in this case, Ace of Clubs) was taken by the leader and founder Amos Fortune. After some time, anyway, Fortune got incarcerated, and the rest of his team remained without a leader. The situation changed the moment an unknown man took up the mantle of Ace and, after changing the card seed from clubs to spades and supplying the team with new technology, such as the Gang’s trademark hoovering cards, guided them for some time. The Gang didn’t like the new Ace at all, and, after some failed robberies, left him by himself. It was quite clear, at this point, that the Royal Flush Gang needed a good Ace to actually do something in the criminal world. The solution came with Hector Hammond, a powerful telepath who named himself the Wild Card: wanting to form another, more powerful version of the Royal Flush Gang (the first one had gone missing and, above all, it was far too weak to compete against the powerful heroes of the Justice League of America), Hammond kidnapped and brainwashed the industrialist Derek Reston, a brilliant engineer, and forced him to build for him a powerful android. Thanks to Reston’s technology, the robot was advanced enough to pass as a human being, and Hammond used it to recruit a new Gang. The Ace android was remotely controlled by Derek Reston himself, who proceeded to find a new KingQueenJack and Ten for the team. The Ace of Spades, introducing himself as Derek Reston, was believed to be human by everyone, his teammates included, and led them in their first robberies. During a fight with the Justice League, anyway, Black Canary destroyed the android with her Canary Cry (her super-powered scream), while Elongated Man dealt with Reston. After discovering their leader was an android, the Gang disbanded.
Some times later, anyway, the Ace android was replaced with a human, Ernest “Ernie” Clay, who didn’t last long as the new Ace of Spades. Despite his exoskeleton, which granted him super strength and durability, he was quite a disappointing addition to the team. The King of Spades, who meanwhile had taken the leadership of the Gang upon himself, decided that the android option was really the best one, and proceeded to have another robot built. The new Ace of Spades was much bigger and more muscular than the previous one (nobody had to believe he was a human anymore), losing in human appearance, but gaining a lot in super strength. As a real “ace up the sleeve”, the android was used as a trump card when the team wanted to have more power, or had to retreat and needed someone (or something) covering their escape. From that moment on, a lot of Aces of Spades followed one another: despite being very powerful, none of them were a match for heroes like Superman or Booster Gold (who holds the record of destroyed androids: five for the first one, three for the second one), and they always ended up in pieces on their first assignment.

From being the leader of the Royal Flush Gang, the Ace of Spades has become the secret weapon of the team, to be used in emergency situations. With a considerable amount of super strength, an incredible durability and the undeniable advantage of the lack of a conscience, the Ace of Spades is a powerful asset for one of the most feared team of robbers in the DC universe.

Carl Grimes

Here we are, our last regular member of The Walking Dead cast: the little Carl Grimes, portrayed in the show by Chandler Riggs. In the tv series, he’s grown up from being a normal child (as normal as any child can be in the middle of apocalypse) to be one of the willing shooters and defenders of the little group of survivors led by his father. During Season 3, some traumatic events he’s gone through promise a further evolution of the character. Who, in the comics, has already evolved pretty much (warning: there may be some spoilers ahead).

Carl Grimes is the beloved son of Rick and Lori Grimes, a son who is truly the fruit of the couple’s love. He grew up with his parents in CynthianaKentucky, and often suffered because of the absence of his father, who he adored. Rick became Carl’s life model since his first childhood, and he started dreaming of becoming a sheriff like him once grown up. When Rick was shot during a car chase and fell into a coma, the event deeply shocked Carl, who was only seven and had suddenly to realize that his hero wasn’t invincible as he thought him to be. Along with Lori, he stayed at his father’s bedside, but their vigil could last little: a few days after Rick was wounded, a strange desease started spreading all over the city, and the dead rose from their graves to hunt for the living. Shane Walsh, Rick’s partner, took both Lori and Carl with him, willing to protect them in memory of his (believed) dead friend. The trio tried to go to AtlantaGeorgia, where the authorities had prepared a reception centre for the refugee population. The big city was already overrun by zombies, and the army failed to contain the walkers, so Shane took Lori and Carl to a nearby camp, formed by a small group gathered around Dale Horvat‘s van. In the period spent in the camp, Carl started to dislike Shane, despite him being his savior, since he noticed the attentions of the man towards Lori. He also met Sophia Peletier, a girl almost his age, who became his “childhood girlfriend”; the two spent a lot of time together, under the surveilance of the women of the group, especially Andrea, who became Carl’s friend. Carl developed a deep bond with his mother, and the two often consoled one another in many situations.

When Glenn, the group’s scavenger, came back from Atlanta with an alive Rick, Carl finally saw his family reunited. His coldness towards Shane became even harsher, since he saw that Shane was now seeing his former partner as a rival to Lori’s attentions, despite the two had spent just a night together. Even if he was just a child, Rick, along with Shane, decided to teach Carl how to shoot, realizing that, in a world crowded with blood-thirsty zombies, it was indispensable to be able to protect oneself and the others. Carl proved to be a skilled shooter, and rapidly learnt to master guns and rifles. He proved his skills by saving Lori from a zombie, shooting it in the head from quite a distance. He also had to protect his father, when Shane, gone mad, tried to kill him: having followed the two men who were fighting, Carl saved Rick, and shot Shane in the neck, having him drown in his own blood. This event made Rick understand how much Carl had grown up, surely before time, and made him see him under a new light; the same happened with Carl towards Rick, but in a worse way: when the camp ended up being attacked and destroyed by walkers, resulting in many casualties between the survivors, the boy started to blame his father for his friends’ death, and started to believe that Rick was too weak to guide the group. The survivors, anyway, was forced to move, and faced many new threats, which costed them other casualties. Carl himself faced many desperate situations, and came close to be killed twice, every time by humans: when he was shot by Otis, a farmer who took him for a zombie, an occasion in which he was saved by Hershel Greene; and when he was shot in the head by Douglas Monroe, the leader of Alexandria Safe-Zone, a near fatal wound that took away his right eye and a piece of his face, and that didn’t kill him just because of the immediate intervention of doctor Denise Cloyd.

Carl Grimes is the normal child for an abnormal situation: hardened by his continuous experiences with death, he tries to hide his childhood to face the world as an adult would do. Serious and almost emotionless in presence of others, he cries every night for what he saw and what he was forced to do in desperate situations. With his father not being a guidance for him anymore, Carl is alone in a hostile environment, desperately aware of having only himself to rely upon.

Joseph Carny (King of Spades)

Just as promised, we’re going to speak abou the first member of the Royal Flush Gang, the King of Spades. In Arrow, he’s portrayed by Currie Graham, and his real name is Derek Reston. He’s an ex Queen Consolidated employee turned bank robber after he lost his job due to Robert Queen‘s decision to close the facility he worked in. In the comics, he’s nothing like it, starting from the name, which is Joe Carny.

Joe Carny’s life surely wasn’t a succesfull one: he was a homeless man, absolutely poor, living by the day and always moving from a place to another. He named himself the King of Hoboes, and he used his natural charisma to enchant people around him: other homeless people started to look at him as an actual leader, even if he had no power at all. When you speak about influence: Carny’s personality was enough to make him a king even among the dumpsters. Being a trump was difficult by itself, but Joe’s luck really had abandoned him completely, so the man found out he suffered from a lungh cancer, which would have killed him in some time. A king with no crown and a people of vagabonds, a man whose life was doomed and every breath was a suffering: this was Joseph Carny, the King of Hoboes, until the moment a strange man came to offer him the possibility of a new life…for whatever time his life was meant to last, of course. The man introduced himself as Derek Reston, actually an android built by the real Reston. He offered Carny a job, and brought him to his boss, Hector Hammond, who was going at that time under the alias of Wild Card. Hammond wanted to found a second Royal Flush Gang, a criminal syndicate whose previous incarnation, founded by crime boss Amos Fortune, had been a complete failure. Hammond offered Carny the identity and the crown of the King of Spades, the leader of the new formation of the team, and granted him with a costume that technologically enhanced his natural abilities. In the case of Carny, he gained superhuman physical attributes, such as strength, speed and stamina, as all the other members of the team, but he also had his natural charisma strenghtened to the level of mind control. Plus, the King had access to the standard equipment of the Gang: the laser guns, the hovering giant playing cards used as means of transportation, and all the wealth Hammond could put together.

The new Royal Flush Gang soon met the previous version, and the Spades fought against the Clubs in a battle that involved also the Justice League of America, in the team formation led by Aquaman. The battle ended with an absolute victory of the new Gang, and the King of Clubs, his Queen and Ten were all killed. However, the Gang split up the moment their Ace, the android that recruited the team, was destroyed by Black Canary. Such a good team cannot be separated for too long, and soon after the Royal Flush Gang came back to action, this time without Hector Hammond pulling the strings. The real change in the King’s life arrived the moment the aliens known as Dominators decided that, due to the great amount of superhuman beings present on the planet, Earth was a treath to them, and formed an Alien Alliance to take humans down. Heroes and villains fought altogether against the common threat, and the King himself was in the team of super criminals led and coordinated by Amanda Waller. During the war, the aliens developed a Gene Bomb, a device that should have suppressed the metagene (the unstable genetic trait that grants superpowers) in earthlings; when it exploded, it ended up giving powers to some normal human beings, such as Joe Carny, who became immortal. His immortality didn’t come along with invulnerability, and so the King could only get killed again and again, never dying once and for all. Above all, being ill, Carny was doomed to suffer his cancer for all eternity, unable to heal or to die from it.

Joseph “Joe” Carny is an incredibly charismatic and fascinating man, with a strong character and a natural inclination towards leadership. As the King of Spades, he’s a reckless and unpredictable criminal, whose everlasting pain and lack of fear of death brings him to be a dangerous foe, whose plans are sometimes incomprehensible for whoever doesn’t share his condition…which means anyone.