Einstein told the President to make a bomb. Instead, they made a man.
Meddling Heroes is a superhero murder mystery told from two perspectives: the world’s greatest supervillain and the woman who frees him from prison. Before we explore the characters in this drama, though, let’s break down the world in which it unfolds.
The Turning Point: World War II
On Earth-Prime, World War II ended with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Earth-R, however, nuclear weaponry didn’t see use for several more years. Instead, the end of the war came about because of the genesis of the superhero.
Doctor Solomon Krenzler, the lead scientist on the Manhattan Project, discovered a German spy on the day that the first atomic bomb was to be tested. Pursuing the spy onto the test field, Krenzler was soon joined by an enlisted soldier named Jack Stevens. After a struggle, Stevens shot the spy dead…but not until the countdown leading to the atomic explosion had begun.
Krenzler and Stevens rushed to get off the test field before the explosion, but ultimately were too slow. In an act that should have been futile, Krenzler threw himself upon the soldier, shielding him with his body. Surprisingly, this saved Stevens’ life. Studies would later suggest that years of exposure to experimental radiation had altered Krenzler’s body chemistry. Instead of perishing in the blast, both Krenzler and Stevens were transformed.
Stevens found himself possessed of super strength, hyper-keen senses, the ability to fly, and near invulnerability. Donning a costume and a mask for the government, he became the American Paradigm. His debut at the end of World War II brought a halt to battle, as the sheer force of his power was enough to level Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To this day, superheroes are outlawed in Japan.
Krenzler was also transformed, but in a different manner. The trauma of the explosion exacerbated his previously-undiagnosed bipolar behavior. He sunk into alcoholism, and on one fateful night attempted suicide. It was this suicide attempt that unleashed Krenzler’s hidden powers: when he comes close to death, the sheer primal survival instinct inside him takes form. In those moments, he becomes Titan, a towering gray-skinned behemoth ruled by instinct and hostility toward a world that has repeatedly hurt Krenzler.
Many other superheroes and villains joined the American Paradigm and Titan in the years to come. The public came to see the American Paradigm as the iconic superhero, the first of a new generation. Titan, unfortunately, was hunted and hounded for the duration of his existence. Solomon Krenzler now sits in a hidden prison, locked securely away until the government finds a way to cure his condition.
The McCarthy Era
In the wake of World War II, a number of other superpowered individuals cropped up. Many of these people gained powers due to exposure to the strange scientific energies that both the United States and the Soviet Union used in their race to find the next breakthrough in the arms race of the Cold War. With very few exceptions, these supers had civilian identities that they kept secret. This made them prime targets for Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare of the 1950s.
Using a combination of growing public fears, political clout, and subpoenas, McCarthy forced several supers to unmask or face charges of being communist sympathizers. A number of them chose to quietly retire rather than testify. Some did unmask, and more than a few found their personal lives ruined, facing lawsuits for collateral damage done as part of their heroism or direct attacks by their nemeses against their loved ones.
Eventually, McCarthy overreached and turned his eye toward the American Paradigm, whose civilian identity had been a state secret following the disaster on the Manhattan Project. The first superhero refused to appear before the committee, instead challenging the senator in the court of public opinion. McCarthy’s approval rate plummeted when he tried to slander the man who had single-handedly ended World War II and was ultimately voted out of office.
The American Paradigm did not escape McCarthy’s attacks unscathed. A vocal minority of Americans began to question his dedication to the country, even going so far as to suggest that the government should devise a plan to stop him should he ever go rogue. The hero himself distanced himself from the Red Scare by declaring himself at the service of the United Nations and the world at large. In 1957, he changed his name to simply Paradigm, reflecting that he was no longer just another tool to be used by the American government.
The League of Liberty
Established in the 1960s by the United Nations, the League of Liberty began as an international superhero team dedicated to solving global crises. The roster changed many times over the years, but three of the founders remained the same throughout its tenure: Paradigm, the time-traveling Captain Tomorrow, and the spell-weaving Miss Destiny.
The League of Liberty had a successful run of several decades, but the challenges of the 21st century proved too much for it. Budget cuts forced the United Nations to cut ties with it, and public confidence eroded as the broadcast of large-scale terrorist attacks and natural disasters made the superheroes seem ineffectual despite the massive number of lives that would have been lost without their intervention.
The final nail in the League’s coffin came from the supervillain Roosevelt Pythagoras. A billionaire scientist who had long served as an enemy of Paradigm, Pythagoras infected each of the League of Liberty with mind-controlling nanomachines and unleashed their powers upon the world, creating several global catastrophes. The League eventually broke the control of the nanomachines, but public fear of what the assembled supers could do combined with strife from within the team led to the formal dissolution of the League.
The Fall of Roosevelt Pythagoras
Already a villain in the eyes of many, Roosevelt Pythagoras became increasingly brazen with his schemes following the dissolution of the League of Liberty. Initially concerned with plausible deniability, he became more public with his deeds, to the point that the board of directors of his company, RP Industries, ousted him as CEO. This proved but a minor setback for Pythagoras, however, as he had already set up a secret lair on a volcanic island.
The founding members of the League of Liberty, Paradigm, Captain Tomorrow, and Miss Destiny, united once more to face Pythagoras as he began a plot to take control of the moon’s orbit and weaponize its gravitational field. After a pitched battle, they finally defeated Pythagoras and brought him to justice. In the trial of the century, Roosevelt Pythagoras was ordered to serve twelve consecutive lifetime sentences without possibility of parole for crimes against humanity.
Pythagoras claimed that all of his crimes had been committed by an evil clone, but even his superstar defense attorney Eva Corson could not convince the courts of that story. For the past five years, despite multiple appeals, Roosevelt Pythagoras has been left to rot in a maximum security prison.
Just days ago, a corpse showed up on the streets, and it was positively identified as Roosevelt Pythagoras. But Dr. Pythagoras is also in his prison cell. How can he be in two places at once, unless perhaps he was telling the truth about there being a clone?
As Meddling Heroes opens, Roosevelt Pythagoras is getting his day in court. After that, all hell will break loose.
Image: dnekrufi (CC BY-SA 3.0), FRacco (CC BY-SA 4.0), Yale Law Library (CC BY 2.0), Prettysleepy, Matthew Henry