Jab’s Image Deep Dive: Freak Force

Savage Dragon being based around the notion of the main hero fighting the “Suprefreaks” that make up Chicago’s supervillain community, it made sense to slowly gather good-aligned superfreaks to help out. The Chicago PD recruited various characters- the Detroit vigilante Dart, the abuse victim Horridus, and Ricochet & Barbaric were recruited by the Dragon. The elder heroes SuperPatriot & Mighty Man also join, as does Dragon’s girlfriend, the ex-prostitute Rapture. Their run as cops was pretty disastrous- Barbaric nearly killed some Vicious Circle members during a prison break, and they all hated the idea of wearing police uniforms. This all led them to quit the force, at which point Erik wrote a spin-off series that lasted for eighteen issues from Dec. 1993 to July 1995- Vic Bridges provided the pencils, and Keith Giffen was a co-writer. The team is frequently beaten and humiliated- Dart quits after a disastrous mission that leaves two assisting heroes (Mr. Big & Hornet) dead and Rapture with a broken leg. Freak Force disbands shortly thereafter.

The team’s members appear periodically over the years, like in the Dragon’s “Strikeforce” team to replace Youngblood- Mighty Man’s human form is killed, and his powers go to Dart. Barbaric & Ricochet marry to get a merchandising deal, and Rapture is killed on an S.O.S. mission.

Rapture is an early love interest for the main hero in The Savage Dragon , and one of the “Image”-iest- wearing little more than the world’s tiniest lingerie, she’s spilling out of the top, has hair down to her calves, and is a literal EX-PROSTITUTE, just ramping up the “Bad Girl” tropes. Like a few of Larsen’s Dragon characters, she’s got great similarities to his past Marvel work- in the 1980s, he designed a character fighting X-Factor, and added her to a Spidey comic as “Powerhouse”- she’s also a black woman in a swimsuit-esque costume and wild hair.

Rapture was born into bad circumstances, and had to make a living on the streets, as her departed mother had. She ended up abducted by Dr. Nirvana, an enemy of Mighty Man’s, and given super-powers as part of his experiments on living beings. Rapture was the only survivor, badly burning Nirvana as her powers activated. She killed her murderous pimp in self-defense (she was talked out of murdering him by Ricochet, but he pulled a gun on her), and joined up with Freak Force and the Chicago PD, and even became the Dragon’s first long-term girlfriend. Her flirtacious nature often threatened to break them up, but she gave birth to their child- when it was stolen away by the Covenant of the Sword and its death was faked, the trauma broke the couple up for good. The character was killed off in the battle against Damien DarkLord, who incinerated her when she opposed him in a parallel dimension.

An alternate universe version of Rapture was among many women gathered by DarkLord later on, and she remained on Earth when it was discovered that her homeworld had been destroyed. With the Dragon thought-dead, Rapture decided to raise their now-found son, Malcolm. Except then Earth was destroyed by Universo and she died. Finally, a new “continuity” occurred when Dragon killed DarkLord in the past, and now Rapture was a fugitive from justice, having executed her pimp in cold blood- she joined a new Freak Force, but soon quit, and returned to her old life, now obese (!!). However, she lost weight and… was then killed by a vigilante who punished her for killing the pimp. Later, ANOTHER alternate universe version is killed by a cop using a “Power Glove” (It’s so BAD!).

This all comes off like Erik Larsen has a weird taste for bringing this character back… then rapidly getting bored or just killing her out of a sick fascination or something. I dunno. It’s a good look, though! Eye-popping and so, SO ’90s, but it’s a style. I mean, she’s mega-hot, yo.

Barbaric is a pretty generic-looking “Team Strongman” character- a Native American who had nuclear waste illegally dumped in his reservation’s water supply. His friends and family died, but Barney Runningbear mutated into a powerhouse. He befriended Ricochet and the two were captured by “Mutant Management Service”, but escaped and were recruited by the Savage Dragon to Freak Force, and later Strikeforce. Unusual for this series, both survived until modern times, marrying and having a child.

See the source image

Ah, so that’s who this is. I know I’ve seen this character in images before, but I didn’t know who the “1940s Aviator” chick was. Her power is to bounce like a ball, and she was born with it, causing tension with her family, who disliked mutants. She eventually ran away from home, becoming a petty thief with Barbaric, and the two were eventually recruited to Freak Force. After they left, she & Barbaric became minor characters, popping up in the alternate world created by Dragon killing Damien DarkHold as prisoners, then runaways again, then TV stars, losing their prime TV slot after a ratings war with Lamb Chop.

This character kind of defines “Ugly Cute” for me- a spike-covered female with a weird lizard-head, she nonetheless has huge “Disney Eyes” and so comes off more as a Cute Cartoon Critter to me. But she’s most famous for the early scene in The Savage Dragon where she shocks our hero by waking him up via giving him a beej- the horrified hero tosses her aside. This kind of thing is the result of her awful upbringing- she was the result of aliens abducting and impregnating her mother, and was raised by extremely religious parents who hated and were ashamed of her (they thought she was punishment for premarital sex)- they kept her in the basement and eventually committed suicide out of guilt over having such a monstrous child. The chained-up Horridus was eventually found by a paper boy, and the Chicago PD rescued her.

Horridus joined Freak Force, and formed a close bond with Rapture, who became a mother figure. Like SuperPatriot, Horridus was originally part of Erik Larsen’s “X-Factor” pitch, but when it was rejected, he moved her along to Image Comics instead.

It screws with my head seeing Image designs I don’t hate.

-huh-

I kinda like Dart’s overall look, generic as she is. Just a silver one-piece with those long leggings and the arm-length gloves- that stuff ALWAYS works. Her gimmick is pretty lamesauce, though- she just throws darts. She discovered her talent when, after a lifetime of witnessing bullying and harassment, she turned on some guys who were taunting her at the bar, castrating one and blinding the other. She of course then became a superhero, joining Freak Force and dating SuperPatriot’s son, Justice. She was badly injured when she joined Strikeforce and took a mission against Dread Knight- a stray energy blast burned her lower legs off, leaving her crippled for years.

Dart gained new powers when an evil Mighty Man attacked, but starved to death (the human form of Mighty Man still needs regular food)- the “Mighty Man” powers passed on to her. She used her powers to kill the villain DarkLord, throwing a spire through his chest, but the Strikeforce largely mopped things up on that world until Erik Larsen created an alternate timeline for his comic, reshuffling everyone. Dart thus “restarted” as a new heroine. However, she was nearly raped during a prison break, and rescued by Mako, who takes her to a secluded island, where the two fall in love- Dart thought that humanity was wiped out in an alien invasion thanks to Mako’s lies. When Dart realized the truth, she reluctantly hightailed it outta there. Eventually, she fell out of love with Mako and started dating this world’s Justice, which made Mako jealous- Mako abducted her, and in the subsequent battle involving the Dragon & Horridus, he accidentally splattered her head, killing her.

It was revealed that her niece had set her up so that she could take her place- Dart II thus killed Mako and anyone else associated with Dart I’s death in order to cover her tracks. Dart II joined the Vicious Circle, which she ends up leading. She is usually opposed by Malcolm Dragon, the Dragon’s son.

TO BE CONTINUED… (because Stew decreed Freak Force deserves at least a two-parter!)

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