Freedom City Annotated

Freedom City is an amalgamation of everything I have enjoyed in superhero comics over the years. So it includes more than a few homages to classic comic stories, characters, and creators who brought those comics to life. Fans of the book have enjoyed hunting for these various “Easter eggs” that are scattered throughout. For folks who might enjoy the Easter eggs, but aren’t quite so fond of hunting for them, I’ve prepared this collection of notes. It’s a peek behind the scenes of the creation of Freedom City, offering some insight into the homages hidden in its pages and some of the ideas I had while writing the book.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t care to have the mystique of a setting spoiled by knowing its background, or you don’t like in-jokes or homages in your settings, read no further! You can enjoy Freedom City just fine without knowing any of the stuff in this document. On the other hand, if you want some insight into the four-color saturated thoughts that led to the first campaign setting for Mutants & Masterminds, then read on, true believer!

p. 29, Gigantosaur. Gigantosaur is a big, purple dinosaur, similar to the saccarine, singing host of a particular children’s program.

p. 31, The Claremont Academy. The two unnamed characters in the middle of the illustration look like teenaged versions of young mutants Artie and Leech from the X-Men comics. (Note that the illustration is also somewhat in error, since the presence of super-powered students at Claremont is a secret, so they wouldn’t necessarily be roaming the halls openly, although they may in your campaign.)

p. 41, AEGIS. In Greek mythology the Aegis is a shield bearing the image of the Gorgon’s head. A type of “shield” seemed appropriate for the name of a super-agency.

p. 43, Patriot. Jack Simmons is named for Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, the creators of Captain America.

p. 50, The Scarab. The name Alexander Rhodes comes from the city of Alexandria (itself named after Alexander the Great) and the Colossus of Rhodes in the ancient world. The Scarab has elements of heroes like Hawkman and Dr. Fate (both reincarnated Egyptians) in his background.

p. 53, Security Companies. Stronghold Security is named after the super-prison from the Champions RPG while Titan Security Services is named after the Teen Titans (and shares the same circled-T logo as the 1980s incarnation of the group).

p. 53, Law Firms. Cabot, Cunningham & Crowley is named after Laurie Cabot, Scott Cunningham, and Aleister Crowley, all occultist authors. The Grayson in Hartford, Grayson & Cole is an homage to the Earth-2 Dick Grayson, who was a partner in a law firm. The Nelson in Nelson & Bannerly is after “Foggy” Nelson from Daredevil.

p. 54, The Claremont Academy. Named for Chris Claremont, longest running writer on X-Men (the original “School for Gifted Youngsters”).

p. 56, Master Lee. Named for two masters: Bruce Lee and Stan Lee.

p. 56, The Beaudrie Opera House. Named after Valerie Beaudrie, alias Wonder Woman’s enemy the Silver Swan.

p. 57, The Hunter Museum of Natural History. Named for Rip Hunter: Time Master. Who better to be the patron of a museum of history?

p. 58, The Kirby Museum of Fine Arts. Named for Jack “the King” Kirby, the most influential comic book artist ever.

p. 58, Champions Restaurant. Named for the Champions roleplaying game, of course.

p. 59, McNider Memorial Hospital. Named for Dr. Charles McNider, the Golden Age Dr. Mid-Nite.

p. 59, The Providence Asylum. Its founder is Howard Phillips, after H.P. (Howard Phillip) Lovecraft, pulp horror author in the 1920s famed for his “Cthulhu” stories, who lived in Providence, RI. Randolph Carter was a character from Lovecraft’s fiction (who also mysteriously disappeared).

p. 61, Ditko Street. Named for Steve Ditko, early Marvel artist on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.

p. 63, Jerry Jonas. An homage to comic book newspaper editors Perry White and J. Jonah Jameson.

p. 63, Julie Streeter. A street is another name for a “lane” and Ms. Streeter is a star reporter…

p. 63, Radio Stations. A bunch of comic book homages here:

WBTO = Batman and the Outsiders

WJLA = Justice League of America (classical indeed)

WLSH = Legion of Super-Heroes

WNTT = New Teen Titans

WJSA = Justice Society of America (the “oldies” station)

WBNB = Brave and the Bold

WNCC = New Century City (the original name of Freedom City)

p. 71, The Pinnacle Path. Named for Pinnacle Entertainment Group, publishers of Deadlands and Brave New World, among others.

p. 72, Nightclubs. Many named for comic book mini-series:

Eclipse = Originally called “Final Night,” changed to an homage to the super-villain Eclipso.

Fouth World = Jack Kirby’s “New Gods” stories.

Infinity, Legends, Millennium = The comic mini-series of the same name.

The Secret Bar = Named for the Secret Wars and inspired by the Safehouse, a spy-themed bar in Milwaukee (and in past years a regular spot for gamers visiting for GenCon).

p. 73, Restaurants. Stan’s Super Heroes is named for Stan Lee, of course.

p. 74, Bands and Musicians. The Boy Wonderz are a play on Robin’s “Boy Wonder” nickname. The Kings in Yellow are named for an element from the Cthulhu Mythos (a potential adventure hook if the band is also tied in with, say, the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign). Promoter Frank Mills is named for comic creator Frank Miller.

p. 75, ASTRO Labs. An homage to both Kurt Busiek’s Astro City and STAR Labs from DC Comics.

p.75, Danger International. Johnny Danger is based on a character from an unrelated pulp heroes campaign while the name of the company is also an homage to Hero Games’ modern spy/thriller RPG.

p. 78, Prominent Wealthy People. Publisher Wayne Clark is, of course, named after Bruce (Batman) Wayne and Clark (Superman) Kent.

The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. Based on elements from the Cthulhu Mythos, and from the similar cult in Green Ronin’s Freeport setting.

p. 80, Stadiums. Schuster Arena is named for Joe Schuster, one of the creators of Superman. Stone Studium is named for Victor Stone, Cybord of the Teen Titans (who was a college athlete).

p. 94, The Grue Empire. The Grue are originally named after comic author Mark Gruenwald (note their homeworld is named Gruen Prime, or Gruen-World).

p. 96, The Star Knights. A’Lan Koor, Earth’s former Star Knight, is named after Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.

p. 99, The Freedom League. The League was originally called “The New Centurions” (in honor of the fallen hero Centurion) but I decided “Freedom League” was a more classic-sounding team name, and gave them continuity with a previous Freedom League team (which Centurion belonged to).

p. 100, Captain Thunder. Ray Gardener is named for Silver Age comics writer Gardener Fox. Ray Cloud, “Captain Thunder’s Pal,” is an homage to both Jimmy Olsen and Tom “Pieface” Kalmaku (Green Lantern’s young sidekick).

p. 108, Johnny Rocket. Johnny Wade is named for fellow “hot-head” Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) and Mark Waid, long-time Flash author. His coming-out is an homage to another other gay speedster, Marvel Comics’ Northstar.

p.110, Lady Liberty. Beth Walton is named for Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross and that most American of families, the Waltons. Her husband is named for Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s long-time romantic interest, and is, of course, literally “Mr. Right” (Wright).

p.113, Raven. Callie Summers is named after Callieach, a Celtic raven goddess. She’s at least partially inspired by the Earth-2 Huntress in DC Comics, who was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman.

p. 116, Siren. A portion of Siren’s inspiration comes from a desire to do a “non-lame” aquatic character, and also to treat the Voodoo mythos much like DC did Greek mythology (with Wonder Woman) or Marvel did Norse myth (with Thor).

p. 119, The Atom Family. Their name is something of a pun both on the atomic nature of many Silver Age characters and the Addams Family. Dr. Atom was inspired by a character named “Dr. Warlock” that a friend played in a Torg campaign. (Dr. Warlock was, of course, a pulp hero from that game’s “Nile Empire” realm.) Jack Wolf was inspired by another character from the same campaign.

p. 123, Tess Atom. Although it isn’t stated in the book, Tess is short for “Tesla” (after both inventor Nikolai Tesla and Tesla Strong from Tom Strong). It’s also similar to Tessa, or Sage from X-treme X-Men.

p. 125, Cosmo the Moon Monkey. An homage to the many super-pets of the comics, particularly Lockjaw (the Inhumans’ teleporting dog) and the space monkeys Gleek (from Super-Friends) and Blip (from Space Ghost). Cosmo has proven to be one of the most popular characters in Freedom City!

p. 128, Megastar. Christopher Beck is named for C.C. Beck, early Captain Marvel artist.

p. 132, Seven. Vervain is an herb associated with witches and witchcraft. It’s the same root name as “Verbena” (used in White Wolf’s Mage RPG).

p.133, Sonic. Lemar Phillips is named for Phil LeMarr, voice actor on cartoons like Justice League and Static Shock!

p. 135, Wilson Jeffers. The Black Avenger is inspired by the slate of ’70s African-American characters whose names all had to start with “Black” (Black Goliath, Black Panther, Black Lightning, etc.). He’s named after Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning).

p. 147, The Factor Four. A villainous version of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, complete with elemental themes. Granite is loosely named for my home state of New Hampshire (the “Granite State”).

p. 151, Argo. The Argo was a ship that carried the heroes of Greek myth, so it seemed a fitting name for a construct that carried the powers of modern heroes. The similarities in appearance between Argo’s features and those of Amazo in the recent Justice League episode “Tabula Rasa” (tall, bald, gray skin) are kind of interesting, given that Amazo partially inspired Argo, but his animated appearance came after Freedom City.

p. 155, Doc Otaku. A poster on the Mutants & Masterminds forum of the Green Ronin message boards used the handle “Doc Otaku” before Freedom City was published. The character was invented independently, but I almost changed his name because of the coincidence. I’m glad I didn’t; he’s a fun character and his name is part of his charm. The real Doc Otaku online has since adopted the Freedom City character as his online avatar.

p. 156, The Angel Androids. Doc Otaku’s favorite creations are a blond, a redhead, and a brunet whose names all begin with the same letter, just like The Powerpuff Girls. They’re also inspired by Charlie’s Angels and the endless anime featuring cute, but unstoppable, girl androids.

p. 158, Gamma the Atom Smasher. Named for both the gamma radiation that spawned so many Marvel heroes and villains and the modern-day inheritor of the mantle of the Golden Age Atom in JSA. His real name, Adam Ward, is after Adam West and Burt Ward, who played Batman and Robin in the 1960s TV series.

p. 165, Lady Tarot. Her first name, Alicia, is the same as Alician Masters from Fantastic Four, who is also the daughter of a criminal.

p. 173, Quirk. The “Q” name comes from both Aquaman’s impish foe Quisp and Q from the Star Trek: the Next Generation series (and its spin-offs).

p. 176, Star-Khan. At least partly inspired by Ricardo Montelban’s Khan from Star Trek.

p. 181, Toy Boy. “Lettam” is the name of a particular toy manufacturer spelled backwards.