Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Flash Meets Captain America – Silver Streak

When I first started reading comic books, I immediately decided my favorite superhero was the Flash. Not only did he have the best super-power -- super-speed IS the ultimate power, bar none! -- he also had the coolest costume: red bodysuit with yellow lightning bolts -- and I just loved those wings on the side of his head.

Whenever my dad brought home comic books for me, I always prayed the stack would include a Flash comic. My favorite adventures involved Kid Flash and/or Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash from Earth-2. I also loved when Flash would race Superman.

Even at the tender age of five, I admired how DC editors navigated between the horns of the “Who’s Faster?” dilemma. Flash was actually a microsecond faster than Supes, but Flash didn’t have Kal-El’s limitless endurance. In other words, Flash beats Supes in a dash; Supes beats Flash in a marathon. That made total sense to me.

Needless to say, when I first began creating prototypical superheroes based upon DC antetypes, my seminal “Adam” was a blatant Flash rip-off. He bore the appellation Blue Bolt. His costume? A navy blue bodysuit highlighted by white lightning bolts. His teenage partner called himself Blue Streak and wore a white bodysuit offset with blue lightning bolts.

As recounted before, my taste in comic books drifted from DC to Marvel a few years after I created my initial DC-esque characters. My favorite Marvel character was Captain Mar-Vell, originally because of his green and white costume, and then later because I dug the whole “hero who’s actually a villain” conflict. Alongside Mar-Vell, I also idolized Captain America, especially after reading a reprint of a Cap story that originally appeared in Tales of Suspense #59.

In this short feature, a gang of thugs breaks into Avengers Mansion because the only Avenger on duty is Captain America. Since Cap possesses no awesome super-powers, the crooks assume he’s a pushover. Naturally, Cap kicks all their butts in true Cap fashion. This single story made me a Cap fan forever. Shortly afterwards, as I followed his stint in the Avengers, I grew to admire his unflinching morality and staunch adherence to ethical behavior. Somewhere along the way, I also noticed that Cap, like the Flash, also had a pair of wings on his head mask.


When I first began crafting the Trademark Universe, then, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that my initial creation came out as a combination of the Flash and Captain America, with a nod in costume design to Captain Mar-Vell. Originally deemed Skater, my first hero was a super-speedster who streaked about on a pair of “super skates.” In addition to super-speed, he also possessed a super sense of right and wrong. Unwavering in his pursuit of law and order, Skater became the Trademark Universe’s Captain America.

As originally conceived, Skater stood as your basic super-patriot. Recovering from a career-ending injury, Olympic speed-skating champion and hockey star Mark Hunter found himself recruited by the U.S. government to become its first Super Secret Agent. Repairing Hunter’s damaged legs with space-age surgical techniques, the government convinced him to lace up a pair of high-tech skates and a friction-resistant jumpsuit. The skates allowed Hunter to skate over any flat surface and defy gravity at near light speeds. Thus was born the Skater!

Okay, I know “Skater” is a stupid name. I knew it even when I created it. I just couldn’t think of anything better, so the name stuck. Years later, I tried new names -- Defender, Silver Skater, Blue Streak -- before settling on Silver Streak.

During his long and storied career, Silver Streak helped found S-1 Operations, a government agency policing superheroes, as well as the Protectors. Things weren’t always easy for Silver Streak, however. As my life and ideals changed, Mark Hunter’s initial backstory transformed over several retellings, while my original Trademark hero experienced many character-defining pitfalls and hardships.

Two years after first creating Silver Streak, I came to realize the potential for personal conflict posed by his unflinching law-and-order mentality. As a kind of moral counterweight to the lily-white Silver Streak, I created my first black superhero, Archibald Turrentine, b.k.a. Wolf. At the time, I didn’t know that I was juxtaposing SS’s conservatism versus Wolf’s liberalism. I just liked the idea of these two ultra-moral superdudes constantly arguing the issues of the day as they fought their own interpretations of evil.

Of course, I owed my original inspiration to DC’s revolutionary Green Lantern / Green Arrow series. However, truth be told, I actually think my take was even better because my heroes were divided by race in addition to politics.

Wolf first appeared as a character in Skater stories. The more Wolf stories I wrote, the more I developed his backstory, thereby generating more ideas concerning Skater’s true origin. Unlike Archibald (Wolf) Turrentine, Mark Hunter -- the ultra-patriot -- never served in Vietnam. Hunter was too busy winning gold medals and serving the military in a PR capacity, making stateside speaking appearances and filming TV ads. After completing the terms of his enlistment, Hunter went into the world of professional sports while Turrentine slogged in the bush, finally being dishonorably discharged after refusing to obey orders in a massacre incident reminiscent of Mai Lai.

Needless to say, Skater and Wolf started off on the wrong foot, and their relationship never improved. Years later, when Skater, now calling himself Silver Streak, spoke out against the tactics used by “rogue” heroes like Wolf and Retaliator, Wolf retaliated by banding these like-minded heroes together and deeming them the Irregulars. The action at the onset of Worlds Apart clearly demonstrates the conflict between Silver Streaks’ “Law & Order” Protectors and Wolf’s “By Any Means Necessary” Irregulars. I’ll be delving deeper into the ramifications of the Silver Streak vs. Wolf conflict in a later blog dealing with Wolf.

For the remainder of this entry, I’ll refer to Silver Streak’s entry in the original Trademark Universe Handbook I drafted for Worlds Apart co-creator & artistic force, Tony Lewis:

Silver Streak (Mark Hunter) Highly skilled in all forms of hand-to-hand combat, Silver Streak excels in kickboxing. He is also a top-notch gymnast and acrobat both in and out of his skates.

A staunch patriot and the quintessential “good soldier,” Silver Streak remained oblivious to much of S-1’s “darker” shenanigans while acting as its titular head. During his tenure as S-1’s CEO, Silver Streak unwittingly functioned as the unit’s public face while other less reputable forces saw to the agency’s actual workload. Only later did Silver Streak learn of S-1’s “Black Ops” activities, at which point he resigned from the agency in every capacity.

Severely disillusioned, Hunter “retired” from the super biz, taking his skates with him and travelling the country “in search of the years he’d lost.” His self-imposed exile ended when confronting the threat that led to the founding of the Protectors. Since then, Silver Streak has served as the group’s leader on numerous occasions, generally splitting the duty with Flurry.

Weapons -- Silver Streak’s skates create ice-like surfaces over any flat, semi-smooth surface: concrete, brick, even grass. The skates allow him to defy gravity by skating at ninety-degree angles and upside down. At top speed, SS can approach light speed, thus allowing him to dodge high-energy and laser blasts. The laser-sharp blades of his skates can also be formidable weapons, seeing as Hunter is an expert kick-boxer.

Personal Items -- At times, especially in his earlier days, Mark Hunter’s boyscout-like faith in the “American Way” made him a little unrealistic when dealing with the super biz’s numerous shades of gray. His simple, straight-forward, unrelenting morality, however, has been a positive force in reshaping the lives of several former superbaddies, most namely Buckshot and Slice.

At one time romantically interested in Flurry, Silver Streak stepped aside without ever pronouncing his love when he learned that his old Cold War mentor and comrade, the Spring, loved the exotic elemental, too.

Despite their obvious differences, Silver Streak and Hangman have become close allies over the years. In fact, it was Silver Streak’s endorsement of Hangman that convinced the government to cease treating the hero as a threat, thereby allowing Hangman to be co-founder of the Protectors.

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