Note: When the Project: Rooftop community finds a forgotten hero or villain in need of a rescue, it’s time for a RetroFix! This month: The (Golden Age) Unknown Soldier! Our guest artist is my collaborator on my new book, STRAY, Edi Torres! – Vito Delsante
Who was the Unknown Soldier?
“When the cause of freedom and democracy is threatened, then, from out of the blue sky, shall come the Unknown Soldier – dauntless American champion of all who fight under the Stars and Stripes – from the smallest child to the bravest doughboy. Who is he? Nobody knows! Where does he come from? Nobody knows! He is just…the Unknown Soldier.” His abilities include superhuman strength,invulnerability, flight, and the power to spin in the air fast enough to generate a tornado. He carries a “nitro gun” which fires explosive bullets.” – from http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Unknown_Soldier
Why the Unknown Soldier?
Vito: I like this version of the Unknown Soldier, but, pardon the pun, I know very little about him. My affinity is based purely on what I see. A soldier in a mask is quite possibly the purest of comic characters. Captain America came out first (March of 1941 as opposed to Unknown in August 1941), so we know the Solider is an imitator (one of many patriotic heroes that surely followed in Cap’s wake), but his name is so strong, that when DC created their own version, they had a strong enough concept to really give Cap a run for his money (let’s call it down the middle…DC War comics in the 60′s were absolutely brilliant!). Seriously, this dude is money, the way his hat and mask are one piece…that’s a win! Those shorts are such a Golden Age trope, though, and I have no idea who started it. In most cases, this is an OK, kitschy costume, but for our purposes, we need to change it up.
Note: Read on after the jump for Vito and Edi’s discussion, as well as the initial sketches and final RetroFix redesign! – Dean Trippe
Vito: The biggest hurdle with the Unknown Soldier is the fact that DC Comics/Vertigo already has an Unknown Soldier. So, first things first; we’re changing his name. Our version will be called Sergeant or Captain Secret. There is another public domain character whose name we could steal, but when I think of Phantom Soldier, I think of something else entirely.
Edi: I agree; name changer needed. “Sergeant or Captain Secret” still feels old fashion to me. This list can be strange or weird but there is something I like about them:Top (Cop) Secret, Secret Agent or Soldier or Sentinel, The Privateer or something with Private (like Steve Rogers was, infantryman before the serum made him super), Foo-Fighter (UFO’s, Bogey)—unidentified names—he’s the first hero/man to take flight into space, never before seen?
Vito: Right. He’s the first person to actively hunt and fight aliens. He’s a one-man army, hence the powers needed to take the task on. The best way to think of him is that he is an anonymous volunteer. He can be from any branch of the Armed Forces. I like the Secret Soldier…or what if he was just The Soldier? If no one knows who he is, then does he need more than that? Or how about the Unknown Sentry?
Edi: I like keeping the name simple, one word. Ellis created a character named The Captain in the book Nextwave. I like the Soldier, yet still generic, very used. Let’s call him The Private (a nice double meaning, a double entendre)
Vito: Let’s go with The Privateer! It has a great meaning (check out the definition on Wikipedia). Ok, second, those powers are overkill. Strength and invulnerability, you come over here. Unassisted flight, I have an idea for you, so stand still. Nitro gun and tornado powers, you need to leave. Thank you for coming.
Next up, I thought we could take the character in a different direction. Rather than just be a patriot protecting the US and it’s allies, we’re going to have him protect the world, or even the universe. The Axis were bent on taking over the entire globe, so why should our character be limited to just the Earth? So, we’re going to take him into outer space. My idea is that we combine two of the best “Rogers” that have ever hit comics; Steve (aka Captain America) and Buck. So what we’re looking at is a patriotic hero that is also a space faring adventurer, sort of Captain America meets Adam Strange (but be careful…Captain Battle had a jet pack!).
Edi: Totally, no weapons needed when he has a jet pack and himself a living weapon. Especially when he has no idea what he’ll be up against or what will and won’t work on his enemies from outer space. Just crash their vessel and use their own devices against them. Like a self propelled missile. A hero who likes to get his hands dirty, your down to earth kind of guy. Maybe his creators are the UN of Earth’s interest, the first green team. Not caught in national disputes but the Earth’s well being and all life that lives on it. Thus creating a “Captain Planet” hero in the form of a super soldier.
Vito: Guys your age all seem to love Captain Planet, heh heh! But you’re on to something. Coming out of the Depression, he would be someone that is very hands on, and since he’s invulnerable and has the strength to match, he could do a lot of damage. I would hesitate to call him a “human bullet,” but he’s a soldier; point him at the enemy and let him go. As for the “greener” aspects of what you suggested, keep in mind he’s a product of his time; there wasn’t a UN yet, so he’d probably be a, pardon the term, “tool” of the Department of War.
Edi: I hated Captain Planet, but he was the modern Voltron, “with our forces combined” thing, that’s always cool. It’s funny The UN and NASA were created after WW2, maybe there is a link somewhere, our character could be the start to those organizations.
Vito: Let’s do this Who’s Who style, since that’ll answer some more questions and flesh him out a little more:
Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Captain (US Army)
Place of Birth: Washington, DC
Citizenship: United States of America
Marital Status: Single
Weight: 250 lbs.
Brief History: While the Earth made first contact with alien life in 1898*, there have been several subsequent meetings between man and alien. It was during the Second World War that one of these meetings occurred when a race of alien called the Thules made contact with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. While many heroes fought the Thules off, only one was sent into space to battle them directly and prevent them from ever returning. This unknown soldier volunteered for a secret procedure that would make him the pinnacle of human achievement, giving him super strength and invulnerability. Just before he entered the rocket that would take him into space, a nurse offered to contact his family for him, in case the mission failed. She asked his name, and he replied, “The Privateer.”
Vito: What I attempted to do here is give a reason for him to be “unknown,” so I chose a top secret mission, an anonymous volunteer, and something so fantastic, that no one would believe it was true.
NOTE: We’re referencing War of the Worlds with this date, tying Unknown Soldier to not only the Wold-Newton Universe, but also to many other public domain characters, so he’ll feel as if he already fits in fictional literature. – Vito
Edi: For the uniform let’s say goodbye to: the shorts, the hat/mask. The keepers: color and stars. By instinct a darker brown and green color to the uniform could really modernize the military aspect of this character. What’s New: A jet pack, but because they are overused, lets get crazy with some kind of device around the waist, a harness of sorts. Overall I envisioned “the Privateer” to look be a mixture astronaut meets soldier meets mysterious superhero, who fights on land, sea, air, and space. A patriot of Earth. The terra defender.
Vito: I dig it! I really like the colors and the pattern of the stars. The accessories and the use of color are all appropriate for military wear. The Earth patches are a nice touch, but I think we should reference his military status on one of his arms…or maybe elsewhere? Maybe captain’s bars or some other rank? They can be painted on the helmet, on a lapel or maybe we save the original hat for his “down time/at ease?” This way we have a connect. Helmet for business; hat for other times. Either way, we should see some reference to his military service. Let’s kick this into overdrive and take her home, Edi!
Edi: Better yet let’s leave everything secret about “the Privateer” except for his affiliation with the US military. Let his rank equal that of a hero and his badge be the 5 pronged star icon on his chest. As for the harness it’s fitted with disk propelling devices by twin ion thrusters, able to rotate in any direction to give him unsurpassed maneuverability. And top it off a helmet/visor mask fit for air/space flight, with a decal design of the electro-powered age and a homage to the original alien’s hairstyle who crashed to earth. Awe yeah!
Vito: This guy is AWESOME! He’s a very real character to me now! I can’t wait to see this guy in action!