The winner, it’s me!

Last week, I submitted the following as an entry in a Hero Biography contest. The prize is custom hero artwork, and ten winning entries were selected from the 80+ entries. The ten winners were announced this morning, and I was very pleased to be among them.

Max Barstow was once the star of Paragon City Gladiator™, a popular television series featuring tests of strength, stamina and athletic prowess. Max’s on-screen persona, Maxx Damage™, was immensely popular and the network plastered his image and trademark battle cry (“Let’s do some damage!”) on everything from t-shirts to lunch boxes and bumper stickers. Max even did the voice for the animated Gladiator series (based not on the original show, but on the Wonder Comics licensed comic book series of the same name).

Then David Gimbal, a former contestant on Gladiator, sued the network. The ensuing investigation revealed that Max was a mutant; the network distanced itself from their golden boy, settled the lawsuit and canceled the show. Gimbal then sicced his lawyers on Max.

Despite hiring Fenton Withers, a very competent attorney, Max was unable to build an adequate defense and ultimately lost the suit. He was ordered to pay exorbitant damages to David Gimbal that drained his bank accounts.

Max was broke, ostracized due to bad press, and out of work. In his despair, he made several bad judgment calls, including breaking and entering the home of PCTV network head, H. H. Gottlieb. Arrested for breaking and entering, destroying private property and disorderly conduct, Max again found himself in court. Fenton Withers was able to keep Max out of jail… but not for long.

Convinced that he would never catch a break again, Max turned to a life of crime. Unfortunately, he was not an adept criminal, though his bumbled attempts at larceny were enough that even Fenton Withers couldn’t prevent the former television star’s incarceration.

Withers refused to give up on Max, and learned of an experimental rehabilitation program aimed at turning superhuman criminals into heroes to help combat Paragon City’s rampant gang activity. Max agreed to enroll in the program and was released under strict probation.

Max initially used his old Gladiator alias, Maxx Damage™, but soon found himself the defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The network legally owned the name and would not allow Max to use it unless he paid them stiff licensing fees. Unable to afford the fees, Max chose to re-dub himself Cardelion, a name he hopes will one day be as well known as Maxx Damage™ once was.

Max continues to harbor a great deal of resentment toward H. H. Gottlieb, former Gladiator co-star Robert “Rocket Bob” Pritchard, and Randall Tremaine, the head of Wonder Comics. When not pummeling gang members, he is required to attend bi-weekly sessions with a court-appointed anger management therapist. Though the sessions appear to be only marginally effective, Max Barstow finds that he is most at peace dispensing brutal justice on the streets of Paragon City.

Maxx Damage and Paragon City Gladiator are registered trademarks of Paragon City Television (PCTV) and its parent corporation, Transparent Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

The bio is a combination of the original bio blurb I wrote when I created the character and a short story I was writing this spring. I managed to tweak the storyline a bit to construct (I hope) a little more cohesive timeline than I’d originally created, then fleshed out a few of the details that will make writing a full-blown short story a little easier.

I’ve seen a couple samples of the artist’s work, and it’s definitely very slick. I’m sure I’ll be posting the artwork here once it is finished.

Finished: XIII (Xbox)

XIII (Xbox)XIII

I think I picked up XIII when the local Blockbuster was closing up shop and selling their used console games for half price. I hadn’t played it too much until this past weekend, when I randomly pulled it off the shelf and guided the amnesiac hero through the twisted conspiracy until he learned the identities of all twenty members of the mysterious Cult of XX.

David Duchovny provides the voice of the hero, while Adam “Batman” West is General Carrington and sometime hip-hop artist, sometime actress Eve is the sassy and deadly Major Jones. Adam West and Eve both deliver solid performances, but Duchovny sounds almost bored throughout the entire game. Hey, Ubisoft, if you make a sequel (XIV?), consider somebody like Bruce Davidson (Nowhere Man) instead of double-D. Just a suggestion.

Speaking of sequels, the developers of XIII seemed fairly certain there would be one, if the way the game ends is any indication. Though I haven’t heard anything about that sequel being in the works, I’d definitely like to play it, because despite Duchovny’s lackluster performance XIII turned out to be a very enjoyable game. It’s mostly a stealth shooter (a la the excellent Splinter Cell series), but at times it turns into a balls-to-the-wall, kill-everything-that-moves FPS.

The graphics are all cell-shaded, which perfectly matches the comic book styling throughout. Each mission opens with a mosaic of panels and one or more narrative boxes outlining the mission objectives. Every time XIII stealth kills an enemy, three panels flash in the upper left to show the villain’s demise. Likewise, as the ultra-sneaky XIII detects guards patrolling, floating panels pops up to show their movement. When hiding around a corner or in another room, XIII can hear people walking nearby, and this shows up as “TAP TAP TAP” on the screen, the size and position of the text indicating just where the perambulator is located and in which direction he or she is moving.

XIII has a variety of weapons at his disposal, my personal favorites being those designed for stealth kills: throwing knives and a scoped crossbow. In addition to these, there are grenades, several pistols, shotguns, machine guns and (of course) a bazooka. XIII can also grab an enemy in a headlock, drag him or her to a secluded location and administer a non-lethal (I think) chokehold.

There are also a few items in XIII’s inventory not designed for dealing death: medkits, a lockpick, a “shotgun” microphone and a grappling hook (which can be a lot of fun). Throughout the game, XIII picks up “important documents,” which don’t appear in his inventory, but can be accessed through the main menu. Sometimes, these documents add new skills (dual-wielding weapons, improved sniping); other times, they provide insight into a cult member’s identity or other information on the conspiracy.

The conspiracy involves the assassination of President William Sheridan. More specifically, the aftermath of the assassination. All evidence points to the game’s protagonist, XIII, as the assassin. Unfortunately, XIII has a whopping case of amnesia and can’t remember anything about the whole mess. In trying to put the pieces of his life back together, XIII meets some old acquaintances, discovers that the Cult of XX would really like him dead, and begins to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy. It’s a fairly satisfying plot, though a major problem is left unresolved, setting the stage for a sequel that may never be made.