Thursday, July 19, 2012


A long time ago I heard the name of an old car called a Stutz Bearcat.  I’m not really a “car” person except that I love cars that I think are beautiful (as I love anything that I think is beautiful), but I just thought that was a cool name:  “Bearcat.”  There ought to be a character in comics by that name, I thought, and mentally filed away that name for years and years.  So at last, here he is.
The Bearcat is my take on the archetype of the “raging, rampaging berserker fury” hero.  You know, the kind of hero who in a certain comics universe would turn green with rage and have a predilection for purple pants.  I once had a universe of characters that I had started building in high school.  Most of it is in mothballs now, but a few of its characters and ideas in updated form are part of Quantum Comics.  In that reality the Bearcat was a villain:  an axe murderer who turned into a literal monster.  For Quantum I decided to bring him back as a dangerous, conflicted hero--an anti-hero, if you like.  Such characters have a following, as we know.  You know that other place, the one with the green guy with anger issues and purple pants?  Over there they have an animalistic, murderous anti-hero with metal claws who’s been held up as the poster boy for everything that is considered heroic in a way that I don’t think such a character ought to be, whom I don’t like.  Perhaps, I thought, I could do a better one.

The Bearcat is Russell Lockhart, a genetic engineer by profession.  He works for the government on a project to try to unlock at will the latent super-powers that people carry around in their genes.  In Quantum Comics, in the origin of the Environauts that is the starting point for all super-heroes and super-villains, Earth’s oceans are seeded with alien “xenosomes” that get into the planet’s water cycle and thus into people, making everyone a potential superhuman, but allowing only a few people to hit the super-lottery, so to speak.  The US government and military, as you can well guess, would just love to be able to weaponize the xenosomes, and Russell here is part of the top-secret project to figure out how to do it.  
Now Russell is really not the militaristic aggressor type.  In fact all he really wants to do is make good money, live a quiet life, stay out of people’s way, and keep other people out of his way.   Unfortunately, as Mr. Spock in Star Trek once pointed out, humans are very good at getting things that they don’t want.  Russell is an escapee from a toxic home filled with family members a lot like the people for whom we find him working, “Type A” men pumped up on testosterone, aggression, and archaic perceptions of manhood who all became cops and soldiers and firefighters--and womanizers, and frequently alcoholics.  Russell was “the runt of the litter” who was quiet and introverted, intellectual, and bisexual, ignored by his father and taunted and picked on by his brothers.  He couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and his interest in science was his ticket.  When the Army came calling on Russell’s gift for biotechnology, he wasn’t exactly keen to do it, except that he imagined the money he could earn working for them would buy him a very comfortable, very quiet and stress-free early retirement.  And besides, with his mind, he could play in the arena of the soldier boys and pumped-up authority figures like his father and brothers and show them the superiority of intellect over brute force.  Hold that thought, Russell; here comes the twist.
There is a (fictitious) foreign country that I call Toraq.  I won’t tell you exactly where Toraq is.  Just picture a place in the Eastern Hemisphere where it’s really hot, they have a lot of sand and a lot of oil, it’s rife with religious fundamentalism and they’re not at all enlightened about women, and they really don’t like Americans.  (See?  Pure fiction, right?)  The rulers of Toraq have gotten wind of the US military’s secret superhuman project and they feel very threatened; after all, these Americans have a way of stomping all over countries like theirs to get what they want.  So into our country they’ve sent operatives who are part of Toraq’s own project to tap the xenosomes.  (Of course ours would not be the only country trying this.)  The Toraqi xenosome formula is unstable and dangerous; the people on whom they’ve tried it were the genetic equivalent of suicide bombers, sacrificing their lives in exchange for a promised reward in the next life.  (There were a lot of imaginary virgins in the deal, no doubt.)  Their formula either kills the subject or produces a super-power so volatile that it destroys the subject and everyone else around him.  The Toraqi’s evil plan is to abduct Americans, inject them with the formula, and use them as living weapons.  And one American they’ve targeted is Russell Lockhart.  Their reasoning:  If he dies, good; that’s one less American scientist.  If he dies and destroys or cripples the Americans’ superhuman project, also good; it’s a setback for us.  Win/win.  The trouble is, Russell doesn’t die.  He hits the super-lottery and draws a power that doesn’t kill him, but it does make him very angry, as strong and invulnerable as a superhuman can get, and very, very dangerous.  It makes Russell everything he never wanted to be.  He becomes aggressive and violent to the point that he’s on the razor’s edge of going totally berserk, with the strength to lift or press 90-100 tons and invulnerability in direct proportion.  He becomes the Bearcat.
To cut to the chase here, it takes the World Champion and the new hero team that he’s just formed, the Wonders (one of whom is the Satellite, whom we met in the previous post) to get the Bearcat (mostly) under control.  This has the benefit for the Wonders of giving them another immensely strong and powerful member and a relationship with the government that is to their mutual advantage, with high-level privileges and clearances.  To the government, having the Bearcat in the Wonders relieves them of most of the responsibility for controlling him, though there’s always the possible complication of military intervention if the Bearcat proves impossible to restrain.  And for Russell, who really doesn’t want to be a superhuman or a hero at all, being in the Wonders means keeping the military’s hands off him.  It’s a better thing, he decides, to throw in his lot with the other super types than with the Army.  The one silver lining in the whole setup for poor Russ is that he isn’t constantly stuck in the form of the Bearcat; unwilling as he is, he can summon his monstrous self when it’s needed.  So the reluctant scientist becomes a dangerous hero (and a handful for his teammates), and a startled and awestruck world must behold the Bearcat!
Watch for more of the Bearcat in the next post!


  1. I'm impressed by how well you've worked this through - he certainly is a scary fella. I'm not keen on the long hair ... too Tigra.

  2. This is nice stuff, Joe! I keep wishing I could realize my dreams and become a "patron of the arts", supporting (and publishing) work by people I admire.

  3. Thanks for the bon mots, guys. I have a lot of cool stuff planned for upcoming posts yet...including, Martin, a whole TEAM of super-powered Brits! That ought to tickle you...