I wanted to take the opportunity this week to discuss the secret origins of the Parahuman world; where it came from, how it evolved and why it seems to have a pretty rich history despite there being no comic series or previous sourcebooks published for it.
Simply put, the world of Parahuman is much older than you might think and has evolved over about 30 years into something far, far different than the original concept.
I’ve been a fan of comic book characters, literally, for as long as I can remember. I’ve been reading comic books since I was old enough to figure out that putting letters together make words. I’ve been fooling around with drawing comics and comic book characters since kindergarten; though never professionally, mind you.
I remember well the first time I put pencil to paper and drew my first, rather crude, comic. I was either 5 or 6, and I had just finished watching an episode of the Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show at my grandmother’s house in the back bedroom and I decided to try to create my own superhero group and make my own comic book on an old spiral notebook.
Thus was born the Fantastic Five. I don’t remember the names of the characters, but there was a guy that could stretch, a guy that could turn into flames, a guy that could create invisible force fields, a guy that was super strong and turned into metal and a robot (at the time, I didn’t know the word “android”). You probably see some similarities between four of those five guys and existing comic book characters. I think the “comic” was only three or four pages long each and I made maybe two or three of them.
I’m pretty sure my grandmother still has these spirals tucked away somewhere.
Anyway, after that I kind of lost interest in drawing the Fantastic Five, though I never lost interest in comic books or sketching out characters. Of the years, I lost interest in DC and became almost all Marvel (with the exception of Batman). Flash forward to fifth grade and I met Aaron, the guy that would become my best friend.
Aaron was a fellow comic (and G.I. Joe and Transformers) nerd, and it was something we bonded over. In the summer of 1986 (I remember it well because that was the year the Transformers: The Animated Movie was in theaters), my family moved from Oklahoma to Dallas, Texas. Aaron and I kept in contact, and I spent that next summer back in Oklahoma at my grandmother’s house.
I had discovered that Aaron had been drawing his own comic series, the Revengers. So, faced with a couple of months of not really much else to do, I started a couple of series of my own.
The first was titled Silverbolt and was about a saboteur whose mind and personality accidentally got transferred into the body of an experimental android. There were about 24 issues in all in that comic if I remember correctly, and it had a big impact on what would eventually become the Parahuman universe.
The second was titled Origions. Yes, that title was a misspelling of the word “Origins,” but involved a world where all the supers had a shared origin; a war between aliens had bathed the world in a sort of radiation that caused super powers to develop and centered around one of those aliens, called Clatish. Clatish was very loosely based on Justice of the New Universe comics, as was the shared origin explanation of the supers of the world.
Clatish and Silverbolt shared the same world, and Silverbolt’s origin was retconned so that his mind was transferred at the moment the world was bathed in the alien war radiation.
The Revengers also existed in this universe, and there were a couple of crossover events between the comics with Aaron borrowing some of my characters (namely Psychobolt) and me borrowing some of his ideas and concepts, though I don’t think the Revengers shared in the group origin of the worlds’ supers. It didn’t matter, though, we were having fun.
After I went back home at the end of the summer, Aaron and I kept in touch for a while but eventually life got in the way and we lost contact. Determined to become a comic book artist, I continued through the rest of Jr. highl and high school to refine the “world of Origions” and made a few additional series’ up.
One of those series involved a group of supers that was, essentially, a police force and consisted of Emerald and the immortal Darius Blackheart fighting against the group known as Enigma and Emerald’s long-thought-dead brother who now went by the name “Cyberpunk.”
It was also in late Jr. high that I got involved in RPGs. In high school we would play at lunch and I eventually turned my comics into a GURPS Supers campaign. Clatish became the Clatishians. The shared origin concept evolved into what Parahuman refers to as the born, though they became just born that way as opposed to having been bathed in cosmic radiation. Silverbolt became what Parahuman refers to as Experiments and Darius Blackheart became the prototype for the Immortals. Further refinement (and additional systems..the game world was also a short-lived Champions/Heroes game as well) added in the Mystics and further tightened up the concept of the world itself.
I submitted art to a few companies to try to become an actual comic artist. I still have the rejection letters around somewhere.
Again, life took over..a marriage, a child, a divorce and vicious custody battle..all through which I continued to game (mostly World of Darkness and Deadlands) and continued my love of comics, though my collecting waxed and waned and at times sputtered out completely. I lost the drive to become a comic book artist, things were too stressful.
Parahuman had a very short stint as an Aberrant setting as well, and it was here that the police force Emerald and Darius worked for became the SPPF, or Special Parahuman Police Force.
Around the time I met my second wife, D&D 3.0 was released (and the OGL along with it). Eventually, Mutants & Masterminds 1st Edition was released and I started a very short lived campaign with it. When 2nd Edition came out, I adapted the comic world I’d had in my head for so long into it, renaming it from Origions to “Parahuman.” I further tightened up the game world concepts to something very similar to the final Parahuman world. I added back in the important role Silverbolt played in those early comics, including the destruction of Dallas and the building of New Dallas, though the campaign didn’t explore New Dallas as it was set in New York City.
Eventually, I started working on Parahuman as a Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition sourcebook. Concepts were further refined and tightened up, and evolved more. Now the Born (and possibly the Immortals) were the result of bioengineering by the Clatishians, who claimed Earth as there own. The information on the Invasion was added in, and ties to the Dogon of Africa in ancient times with the Clatishians were added. Eventually work on this slowed and stopped altogether. Emerald became Latina, and I added Patriot. Jonathan Staxx became an even more important force in the world, as well as a bigger villain with far grander and more epic schemes than he’d had before, but with a touch more humanity than he’d had in the past as well..something you will find ironic once the book is released and all the secrets are laid bare. The police force that
And then, I reconnected with Aaron on Facebook. After all these years, I still consider him my best friend and, while he doesn’t really read comics anymore like he used to, he’s still someone I can bounce information off of, someone who understands much of the behind-the-scenes parts of this world, someone that I can wax nostalgic with.
When DC Adventures was released, it sparked my interest in converting my notes over to a 3rd edition M&M campaign, as well as bringing me back into DC. Around that general time, I got on here at Troll in the Corner. It took me a while, but eventually, I put two and two together and decided, hey, why not actually publish all these notes as a campaign setting for Mutants & Masterminds through Troll in the Corner?
And here we are. I’m still evolving the game world somewhat, partially from the playtesting we’re doing on Parahuman and input from the players and partially from ideas that keep popping into my head. This time around, New Dallas is playing an important part of the game and is the default setting for the sourcebook. At some point (soon), I’m going to have to stop adding things to the book just for practical purposes otherwise it’s going to end up being the Duke Nukem Forever of the RPG world.
So where is Parahuman right now? I and three players; Nick here from Troll in the Corner, my friend Rich and his wife Kate; are playtesting the world. I’m taking their input and finishing up the text for the game. I still need to add Clatishian technology to the equipment section and write up about 30 or so more NPCs, both hero and villain.
After that, I’ve got to work on the art. The logo’s done (thanks to Nick who whipped that up for me), but the interior art hasn’t gotten, mostly, past the concept and sketch point. I have a couple of pieces ready to go, but I’m planning on lots more. After that, I have to lay out the book and then, once that’s done, we’ll get it in .pdf format and have it available for you, the public.
And when it’s all done and over with, I sincerely hope you will enjoy it and play in the world that’s been a large part of my life in one way or another for such a long time.
[tags]parahuman,role playing games,rpgs,designer diary[/tags]