Jab’s Image Deep Dive: Freak Force, Part 2

SuperPatriot- Most Prominent Dragon Ally?:
Among the most prominent of Savage Dragon’s supporting cast is SuperPatriot, a masked cyborg superhero who dates back to World War II in that setting. His origin story is that he was a WWII soldier captured by the Germans, who used him as a guinea pig for evil scientific experiements- these ended up giving him super-powers. Escaping, he destroyed the base where he was being held, preventing the Nazis from creating more super-soldiers like himself. Becoming SuperPatriot, he joined the Allies along with other characters in the setting (Spartan, Glory & Supreme among them). He defended peace and justice for decades, but by the ’90s, was finally out of his depth- Overlord’s Vicious Circle overpowered him, tearing off his limbs and part of his face. Cyberdata (from Cyberforce ) transformed him into a cyborg. Going mad from the change, he was easily controlled and turned into an attack dog by the Covenant of the Sword, a somewhat antagonistic secret society kind of thing.

Finally, he was freed from the Covenant’s control and regained his senses- he joined the side-group Freak Force. He would later discover that his wife and children hadn’t been killed like he’d thought- his kids turned into Liberty & Justice, while his wife was secretly a member of the Covenant. Finally, he remarries, but his children are killed for real. Also I think there’s an alternate reality story in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what “counts” or not in Savage Dragon .

SuperPatriot- The Beta Version:
The funny thing about SuperPatriot, to me, is that he VERY CLEARLY exists as a “Beta Version” in Marvel Comics, as Cyborg-X-, a character who pops up in the Revenge of the Sinister Six arc in Larsen’s Spider-Man run. This is actually part of a failed X-Factor pitch he’d made, in which Cyborg-X was supposed to be a resurrected/cyberized Crimson Commando, who’d been badly maimed in a “Freedom Force” side-story in the X-Annuals one year. Cyborg-X had gone mad somehow, and was re-living the circumstances of his maiming, directly using dialogue from that Freedom Force story- he was beaten by Spider-Man & Ghost Rider, then returned to the lab where he was created.

Spidey later meets him and learns his backstory (though his identity is still a secret), and is not that impressed with their “well, it’s not his fault” answer to his rampage, recognizing that their irresponsibility got people hurt. But by this point, I figure Larsen realized he was leaving Marvel, because he kills the character off in the same story, as the Sinister Six invade the lab and murder dozens of people. Cyborg-X would very obviously be repainted from green to patriotic U.S. colors in Savage Dragon , keeping up the “WWII Hero Turned Cyborg After Being Maimed” origin story. Funnily enough, the Commando WOULD return in a cyborg body many years later, but far too late for anyone to remember or care.

Erik Larsen, unique among the Image Comics founders, was a real student of the game. While everyone else was doing teams full of squinty-eyed edgelords, and “Superman if he was a pschotic asshole”, Erik was throwing out blond-haired Captain Marvel Expies played entirely straight, even as his comic was full of blood, guts, and tits. But rather than simply rip off Captain Marvel and tell his own stories with the character, he decided to play around with the notion of the “Super-Powered Other Identity”.

See, Mighty Man was actually a specific power-set transformation into itself, and could be transferred to other people, as it had been doing for centuries. The original Mighty Man was Robert Berman, who had been active since the 1940s (where he was a “boy reporter”- remember what I said about Larsen being a student of the game?), and was aging. And the “Normal Identity” of Mighty Man still needed to eat in order for both to live, and so Berman was still aging. And then his grandson Billy discovered his identity and revealed it to the newspapers- this foolish act caused Robert to be stabbed repeatedly by vicious thugs before he could transform to Mighty Man. He’d intended to give Billy his “birthright” (the powers had been gifted in the same family for a while), but hesitated, as he was too tough and stubborn to die quickly- feeling himself slipping away, he finally let himself go, thinking Billy was present.

However, the person he’d ACTUALLY gifted with his powers was his nurse, Ann Stevens (a side character in the comics who had named the Dragon and even had a crush on him). And now ANN was gifted with the powers of “Mighty Man”… and her alternate identity was exactly the same man as Robert had been. Because “Mighty Man” is simply always that blond guy. Ann struggled with the powers at first, not even realizing how to transform back (and growing weak from starvation), but she soon figured it out, and became a superhero, joining Freak Force. She stayed with the group for a while, but refused to join Strikeforce, as it meant giving up her secret identity- she remained a freelance superhero. However, tragedy struck after she and Dragon finally started dating- she was tied up and murdered by Chelsea Nirvana, the daughter of Mighty Man’s Golden Age nemesis Dr. Nirvana.

In the new, post-DarkLord reality, the Dragon discovered that Ann had never realized she had the Mighty Man powers. He left her to her college boyfriend Larry, and only revealed her identity years later- the two beat Cyberface, and she joined the Liberty League. Her abilities were then stolen by the evil Billy Berman (the grandson of Robert, remember), and she more or less happily retired until Billy was killed (he foolishly kept fighting in Mighty Man form and starved to death) and she regained them. She kept on as Mighty Man, even marrying Larry, but retired for a while when she was pregnant, as she (and Larsen, probably) didn’t want to see what would happen if she changed while with child. Hilariously, her infant BETTY then inherited the powers, thrashing about the city in a confused infantile state until Ann got the heroes to depower her.

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