Calavera (ICONS Writeup)

Calavera
Valerie Gray
created by Barry Reese

Prowess 3
Coordination 3
Strength 3
Intellect 4
Awareness 4
Willpower 6

Stamina 9

Powers
*Blast 8 (Extra: Magical)
*Immortality 1
*Servant 5 (Valerie can raise the dead, which function as shambling warriors at her control)
*Postcognition – Speak with the Dead 8 (Valerie can revive the recently deceased – they are compelled to answer her questions until the time limit (generally around 5 minutes) expires, after which they cannot be revived)
*Telepathy 6 (Limit: Only works with ravens)
*Life Support 10

Specialties
Art – Writing (Expert +2), Occult

Qualities
Creepy – she makes people who are ‘sensitive’ very uncomfortable
“I really shouldn’t be enjoying all this death and mayhem so much, should I?”
Sometimes gets unwanted visions of people’s deaths

Background: Valerie Gray is the great-granddaughter of famed hero Lazarus Gray. Her grandmother was also the daughter of Gravedigger, another famed hero of the past. As such, is the product of multiple heroic legacies and was seemingly destined for greatness from birth — however, her father (the hero known as Geist) did everything in his power to drive her away from the family business. As such, she grew up thinking her father was an absolute jerk. Eventually Valerie became a successful mystery novelist, working under a pseudonym and trying to keep everyone from knowing of her connection to Lazarus Gray. When a massive conspiracy targeted her on the brink of the apocalypse, Valerie found herself dealing with attempts on her life, even as she was dealing with the death of her beloved grandmother. Unwittingly, she had exposed herself to a set of sugar skulls that had belonged to her Gran — these sugar skulls were portals to Deadworld, a gateway between the living and the death. As a result, Valerie is ‘partially dead’ – meaning that she no longer ages, she’s unnaturally pale, her skin is cold to the touch, and people get a bad ‘vibe’ from her. These energies also transformed her into the hero Calavera and she was essential to saving the world from the forces of Heaven and Hell. Though not the most powerful hero, she has a strong sense of purpose and always seems to find herself in the right place at the right time.

Geist (ICONS Writeup)

Geist
Mordecai Gray
created by Barry Reese

Prowess 6
Coordination 5
Strength 5
Intellect 4
Awareness 5
Willpower 5

Stamina 10

Powers
All powers are derived from his suit and equipment:
*Damage Resistance 5
*Binding 4
*Strike 6 (Taser Gloves)
*Gadgets 4

Specialties
Athletics, Drive, Investigation, Leadership, Martial Arts, Military, Pilot, Stealth, Weapons – Handguns (Expert +2)

Qualities
“I’m a better hero than I am a father.”
Unusual family
A man of action

Background: Mordecai Gray is the grandson of Lazarus Gray, the founder of Assistance Unlimited. Mordecai was trained from a young age to be a dangerous fighter and when he reached adulthood, he quickly became one of Assistance Unlimited’s most capable agents. To honor a close family friend – Jakob Sporrenberg, a former member of his grandfather’s team – he chose to use an identity and costume similar to that of a 1930s hero known as Eidolon. As Geist, Mordecai has spent most of his adult life battling villains all over the globe, though he has rarely been mentioned in the media. He tried in vain to keep his daughter Valerie from entering the family business and this caused a severe rift in their relationship. After her transformation into the hero known as Calavera, they have both made attempts to mend the wounds in their family. He’s middle-aged now and may have lost a step over the years but he’s still quite dangerous.

Singularity (ICONS Writeup)

Singularity
Dr. Gail Sanders
created by Barry Reese

Prowess 2
Coordination 3
Strength 3
Intellect 6
Awareness 8
Willpower 5

Stamina 8

Powers
*Cosmic Power 8 (Extras: Blast, Dazzle, Flight, Force Field, Life Support, Phasing, Transmutation)

Specialties
Science – Physics (Expert +2)

Qualities
Science is my religion
Don’t call me a superhero
I have three Master’s degrees and a PhD – but my mom thinks I’m a disappointment because I’m still single

Background: Gail Sanders was a scientist working at the Atom Valley Nuclear Power Facility when she witnessed something incredible: a being dressed in red entering her universe from another. He alternately referred to himself as Phil and as MOTA, telling her that he had traveled through hundreds of universes and in nearly all of them he was always drawn to variants of her. Sometimes she had different names or slightly different appearances but she was always brilliant, capable, and (in his eyes) beautiful. After exploring more of the universe, MOTA returned to say goodbye to her — he gave her a kiss, accidentally transferring a small amount of his essence to her. Shortly thereafter, Gail was at CERN when the Large Hadron Collider was used to open doorways into both Heaven and Hell. She was confronted by beings known as the Ophanim, who sensed a ‘spark of the Divine’ within her. She unwittingly tapped into the power given her by MOTA and used it to help a number of other heroes, including Catalyst, the Straw-Man, Jupiter, and Calavera, to save the world. Since then, she has occasionally used her powers to help protect the planet, though she prefers to avoid the limelight.

Catalyst (ICONS Writeup)

Catalyst
Logan Jenkins
created by Barry Reese

Prowess 3
Coordination 3
Strength 3
Intellect 5
Awareness 7
Willpower 8

Stamina 11

Powers
*Magic 8 (Extras-Mastery: Blast, Flight, Healing)

Specialties
Occult (Expert +2)

Qualities
Sorceress Supreme
I’d rather talk this out than have to fight you
I don’t like to talk about my past

Background: The title of Catalyst is given to the most powerful magician in the world during each century. Logan received the role after her predecessor, Nathaniel Caine, finally passed away. She is still relatively new to the position but with time, she has the potential to surpass those that have come before her – in fact, her Magic rating of 8 is bound to increase before long. At the moment, her power levels reflect her inexperience more than anything else.

She runs a magic and curiosity shop called Jenks (pronounced “Jinx”) that’s based in Grove’s Folly, a small town that’s home to a surprising amount of supernatural activity. She is close to a number of other heroes, including the Straw-Man (she is romantically involved with him), the American Crusader, and Calavera. If there is anything of an occult nature threatening to the world, it’s safe to assume that Catalyst will end up taking an interest in it.

American Crusader (ICONS Writeup)

American Crusader
Jada Grant
Original American Crusader is public domain;
Jada Grant version created by Barry Reese

Prowess 4
Coordination 3
Strength 8
Intellect 3
Awareness 3
Willpower 4

Stamina 12

Powers
*Flight 6
*Damage Resistance 6

Specialties
Aerial Combat, Art (fashion design)

Qualities
Legacy Hero
There’s not much I can’t solve by hitting things.
It’s time for someone to remind America of what makes it great… might as well be me.

Background: Once upon a time, there had been a man named Archie Masters. A shy, timid astronomy professor, Archie had mistakenly believed that he had discovered the existence of a new planet, one located near Uranus. Excited to share his news with a colleague, Archie had mistakenly wandered into the middle of an atom smasher experiment. His close proximity to the atom smasher had unexpected results, rewriting Archie’s DNA. He became the most powerful being of his era, able to fly, smash tanks with his bare hands, and bounce bullets off his pectorals. As the American Crusader, he fought first on the homefront and then in Europe. From 1941-1943, he became a household name… and then, as quickly as he had burst onto the public consciousness, he was gone.

Archie had vanished in ‘43 and popped up next in 2021… on Jada Grant’s couch, no less. The twenty-three year-old college student had wandered out from her bathroom, wrapped up in a towel, and found a wizened old white man on her couch, his shrunken form wrapped up in what she considered one ugly-ass costume. She had screamed, punched him twice right in the face, and then screamed again when she realized that she had just broken her hand. 

Archie hadn’t taken any offense to the attack. He had reached out to her with one trembling hand, opened his mouth in a toothless grin, and said the words that she’d never forget, “Jada Grant… You have been chosen. Eat of my flesh and gain my powers.”

Jada had not been made any calmer by his request that she ‘eat of his flesh.’ Though he’d never told her exactly how he’d been transported through time, Archie did reveal that he knew somehow that she was going to be his successor… and he further explained that she didn’t need to eat all of him… just a small part. After much prompting and convincing, she followed his instructions on how to prepare a small section of his flesh after he had used his own incredible strength to remove it. Immediately upon ingesting it, she had been altered, gaining the same powers that Archie had used as a hero. Now, the crotchety old man serves as her mentor as she protects her hometown and the world from threats of all types. She knows that he believes that whatever dispatched him through time might return and she hopes that he shares the details with her before it arrives.

She is currently dating Samuel Hain, the human host of the Straw-Man. Jada is sassy, bold, and confident — and she’s increasingly proud of being the American Crusader, weird costume design choices and all.

Straw-Man (Icons Writeup)

Straw-Man
Samuel Hain/Gwydion fab Dôn
Created by Barry Reese

Prowess 6
Coordination 4
Strength 5
Intellect 5
Awareness 6
Willpower 6

Stamina 11

Powers
*Extra Body Parts – Elongation 4 (The Straw-Man can grow pumpkin vines out of his back)
*Immortality 3
*Life Support 10
*Magic 5 (Limit: Spells must be nature-based and require the Straw-Man to ask the spirits of nature to assist him by lending their powers)
*Regeneration 6
*Damage Resistance 3
*Strike – Sickle 8 (Extra: the Sickle is a magical artifact and may be summoned back to its owner’s hand)

Note – When transformed back into Sam he has no powers and his stats are as follows:
Prowess 2 Coordination 2 Strength 3 Intellect 4 Awareness 4 Willpower 3 Stamina 6

Specialties
Investigation, Occult (Expert +2), Weapon – Scythe (Expert +2)

Qualities
Distrusts any kind of formalized group – churches, governments, teams.
Prone to exaggeration
Protector of Grove’s Folly

Background: The Straw-Man is made up of two very different entities: a young man named Samuel Hain and the spirit of Gwydion fab Dôn, a magician, hero, and trickster whose exploits had been highly fictionalized in Welsh mythology. Gwydion was apprentice and lover to a powerful witch during the middle ages… she taught him nature magic but when her lust for power grew to fightening levels, they parted on bad terms. Eventually she tracked him down and cursed him, destroying his physical form and binding his spirit to a set of tattered rags. Those rags survived through the centuries, eventually ending up atop a scarecrow that came to rest in Grove’s Folly, a sleepy little town located just outside Sovereign City.

The duo bonded after Gwydion’s former lover attempted to kill Sam — since then they have battled the forces of Heaven, Hell, and everything in-between. Gwydion has a habit of adding to his own legend by falsely claiming to have inspired the likes of Loki and Anansi but he’s certainly done many things that are verifiably amazing. Despite the fact that he is now spiritually bonded to a teenager, he is making the most of his new existence – as the Straw-Man, he is involved with Logan Jenkins (Catalyst) and he has formed partnerships with several other heroes such as the new American Crusader and the International Hero Corps. Grove’s Folly has become his adopted home and he protects it from all threats.

JUPITER (ICONS WRITEUP)

Jupiter
Joseph Blake
Created by Barry Reese

Prowess 5
Coordination 6
Strength 9
Intellect 4
Awareness 5
Willpower 5

Stamina 14

Powers
*Blast 10 (Can be emitted from either his eyes or his hands)
*Dazzle 6
*Flight 8
*Immortality 5 (Limit: Can be killed by magical attacks)
*Damage Resistance 8 (Limit: Reduced by half against magical attacks)
*Super-Senses: Enhanced Hearing 3

Specialties
Aerial Combat – Expert (+2), Investigation, Performance: Acting

Qualities
The World’s Most Famous Man
“God, I hate magic.”
Everyone: “Don’t you want to know more about the source of your powers?” Jupiter: “No.”

Background:

Jupiter’s mother was caught in the rays of the Tunguska event that took place in Siberia in 1908. Pregnant at the time, she immediately noticed that her unborn child seemed to be growing at an accelerated rate within her and was quite active. She came to the attention of an American scientist (Wilbur Blake) who took her under his protection. After she died in childbirth, the scientist took the baby back to the United States with him and named the child Joseph. It soon became clear that the child was not a normal boy — he developed far faster than normal and was a physical marvel, as well as being able to channel energy through his body. Upon reaching maturity, his aging seemed to halt, leaving him perpetually in his twenties physically. Eventually brought under the auspices of the United States government, his first mission was to accompany the bombers on their runs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the end of the War, the Allies were able to convince the United States to ‘share’ Jupiter (his codename being a reference to both the mythological god and to the largest planet in the solar system) with the world. Jupiter thus became the first member of the United Nations’ International Hero Corps (IHC).

Decades later, he is now the world’s most popular ‘superhero’, with action figures, a Netflix series, and a long line of charitable works to his name. He can sometimes come off as arrogant but that’s a byproduct of being treated as special his entire life — he genuinely does want to help the world. He has been in a longtime relationship with his teammate Spook, a woman trapped in a ghostly, intangible state. Since they cannot touch, she allows him to have physical relationships with other women, though this is a constant source of jealousy and tension between them.

He hates dealing with ‘magic,’ since that seems to be one of the few things that can really hurt him.

The Super-Fan Reviews Lazarus 13

The Pulp Super-Fan, Michael Brown, is back with a look at volume thirteen of the Lazarus Gray series. Let’s see what he says:

Lazarus Gray is a New Pulp character from Reese (The Peregrine, Gravedigger, and other characters and works). Gray is sort of inspired by the classic pulp hero The Avenger, and has a group of associates organized as Assistance Unlimited.

Gray is located in a fictional town called Sovereign City (created by Pro Se Press publisher Tommy Hancock), and thus is part of the larger Sovereign City Project. He is also set in the same universe as Barry’s other characters, so has crossed over with them.

In addition to the current members of Assistance Unlimited — Morgan Stanley, Eun Jiwon, Samantha Grace, Abigail Cross, and The Black Terror — we will see some new additions to the group in these, as well as various guest stars. This time, each volume consists of a single novel.

Finally, in Volume 13, we have “An Adventure of Lazarus Gray With Assistance Unlimited” (did someone mess up on the title???). Here the team faces a new threat: a mummy, Rama-Memnon, and his associate, Teddy Pumpkins. They team up with Rose Dorcas, who runs an insane asylum on the outskirts of Sovereign City and had her own mad plans. They devastate Soverign City, but are stopped by AU and some new and old friends. Rama-Memnon has a connection with Princess Femi, who Lazarus and AU battled and defeated in earlier volumes. Hopefully the city can fully recover.

We meet a new superhero: Nature Boy. He’s actually a short-lived superhero from Charlton Comics, all of three issues in 1956-57. You can read them online or in a reprint by Gwandanaland Comics. In the comic, the gods of the elements saved him when he was a baby and granted him powers. But here he’s another “creation” of Project: Cicada, like The Black Terror, though with nature-based powers. So he works for them, though will probably show up in future stories. Another new character is Wynona Jones. She is well skilled with firearms, and has dealt with threats like vampires and more. She will be joining AU.

Returning is Jakob Sporrenberg, who as Eidolon had been a former member (twice) of AU, but left due to his violent nature. He rejoins AU as the less violent The Observer after his experiences here.

I’m not sure when we’ll get Volume 14. I hope it’s not a long wait. In addition, if you check his timeline, you see references to a few other works that aren’t out yet. And some that are, like the new Chronicles of Lilith.

Thanks for the detailed coverage, Michael! I don’t think you’ll have a very long wait for volume 14. It’s complete and in the queue at the always-busy Pro Se Productions publishing house.

Calavera

So I’ve been working hard on the debut novel featuring Calavera, which has turned into a crossover novel for many of the characters that exist in my modern-day. Several years back, I had all my World War II-era characters meet up and this is similar but with the likes of Calavera, Babylon, Catalyst (the 21st century version), the Straw-Man, Jupiter and more all uniting to take on the forces of Heaven and Hell. You’ll also get to meet Lazarus Gray’s grandson, the Reese Unlimited version of Miss Fury and a whole lot more.

I’m over 40,000 words into the novel at the moment and to celebrate how well it’s going I’m going to debut the world’s first look at our heroine — Calavera! Art is by Luis Filipe and he did a wonderful job transforming my ideas into reality! Hope you find her as beautiful and intriguing as I do.

Dragonlance Reading Order 2022 — Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Logo Credit: Wizards of the CoastImage Credit: Larry ElmoreBanner Credit: Fantasy Book Nerd The Dragonlance world is one I happily revisit every year. Rich in detail and huge in scope, the series itself boasts over one hundred novels, and the first book in a new trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, titled Dragons of […]

Dragonlance Reading Order 2022 — Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub