(Disclaimer: The contest required the entrants to create an origin story for a known – or original – character, although it was preferred that the character be a known one. Some of the details for Action Man are invented, since ‘Big Hero 6’ does not specify the name of the character, and it is very likely that Disney studios has plans for the character that differ from what I have written. Some of these details could be substituted as soon as they became known. My intention was not to create an original character, but in a sense I have fulfilled both requirements, since my story not only creates the character of Action Man and his origin story, but also fills in details of Hiro’s origins as well.
Also, I admit that the first section of my story is a direct copy from the ‘easter egg’ at the end of the movie ‘Big Hero 6’. I acknowledge that it is not my property, and is only quoted here as a lead-in to my original story, to make the circumstances around the conversation more clear to the intended audience.)
Fred looked around with astonishment at the contents of the secret room he had discovered behind the family portrait. One wall was covered by a large screen, with a full-length desk loaded with high-tech controls. Another wall held racks of backpacks, weapons and other equipment, much of it seeming to have to do with magnets. Yet another wall bore elements of a colourful costume, which made Fred recall a legend he had once heard, in his explorations of comic book lore. It was said that a ‘real’ superhero had once patrolled the streets of San Fransokyo, who mysteriously vanished over a decade ago.
Unable to resist, Fred took a pair of multicoloured underpants from one of the hangars on the wall and examined it more closely. Could this proliferation of red, yellow and blue spandex mean…?
“Fred,” came a voice from the doorway.
Fred whirled around, a sudden sense of guilt at being caught in this secret room blossoming in his chest.
Standing in the open doorway, his face hidden in shadows, was a tall, thin man in a suit. A briefcase stood on the floor beside his feet, as though it had just been set down. As Fred watched, the man stepped forward into the light. The suit, previously shadowed, turned out to be white, with wide lapels on a jacket worn over a Hawaiian shirt. Greying hair and a moustache covered his suntanned face, eyes hidden behind a pair of custom sunglasses. Fred recognized him at once.
“Son,” the man said, as if in acknowledgement.
Fred swallowed a lump in his throat. “Dad?” he replied. Was his father upset that Fred was here? It was hard to tell; the man’s face was unreadable.
Fred watched as his father reached to one side and took something from the wall. Then he held it up between them. It was one of the pairs of underpants. It was then that Fred saw his father’s wry grin.
“I wear ‘em front!” the man declared. “I wear ‘em back! I go inside out…”
Fred knew this mantra; he had said it himself so many times! He found himself speaking it in unison with his father, as he continued, “…and then wear’em front and back!”
“Dad!” Fred exclaimed, throwing his arms around his father joyously.
For a moment, they maintained that loving tableaux. Then Edward said to his son, “We have a lot to talk about.”
“…So I never understood,” Fred commented, as he and his father sat at the breakfast nook off the kitchen. During daylight hours it was a cheery place to eat Cheerios, but at night it was still cosy. “Why did you call yourself ‘Action Man’? I mean, all your powers – I mean, weapons – are based around magnets, right?”
“That’s right, son,” Edward said, as he took a sip of his coffee. “You’re very perceptive.”
At that moment, Heathcliffe laid a plate down before Edward. “Your Monte Cristo sandwich, sir.”
“Thank you, Heathcliffe.”
“And, your turkey and spam club, Master Fred,” the butler continued, giving Fred his snack.
“Thanks,” Fred said, not really paying attention. “So, why didn’t you call yourself, I dunno, Magnetron, or Magnetic Man, or something?”
Edward smiled, setting down his coffee cup. “You don’t understand. The papers named me. I never had any intention of having a public image.”
Fred grinned. “You say that now, but there’s a whole closet of flashy spandex that says different.”
“No, that came later,” explained Fred’s father, after taking a bite of the sandwich. “At first, I just wore a trench coat and hat. You see, it all started when I got information that one of our managers was illegally selling some of our company’s equipment after hours. I couldn’t just report it to the police; I didn’t have any proof. So I decided to try out some of the prototypes the R and D department had been working on, while finding out for myself.”
“I remember it well,” Edward continued, as Fred took an enormous bite of his sandwich and listened intently. “It was a cool, foggy night, and I was using the repulsor pack to fly slowly over the rooftops. I could feel the adrenaline in my veins as the terrain beneath me changed, causing the pack to shift and bob. I was afraid that it would fail, and dump me on my butt.”
As Edward described the scene, Fred could almost picture it; the moonlit evening, filled with shifting shadows, and a trench-coated man hovering through the seedier parts of town.
“I was a block away from the warehouse where the sale was supposed to be going on, when I heard angry shouting. I looked over, and saw a mugging in progress. At first, I was tempted to ignore it, and continue on my way, but I realized that those people needed help, and I was the only one who could give it.”
Fred’s imagination created the scene: Beneath a lamppost, a couple cowered at gunpoint as a lone mugger demanded their money. Suddenly, a shining metal capsule struck the pavement next to the thief. Distracted, he turned to look at the capsule, only to cry out in alarm as a magnetic pulse tore the gun from his hand! He stepped forward to try and recover the gun from the capsule, but the sight of the trench-coated man landing before him made him stumble back.
The man who would be later known as Action Man stepped forward, kicking the gun away. The mugger grunted menacingly, and drew a switchblade from within his coat, flicking it open in a threatening manner. Before he could do anything else, Action Man disarmed him, knocking the knife to the ground and pivoting the man around. With a loud clang, the man’s face hit the lamppost, and he sank to the sidewalk.
“…Fortunately, I had taken some judo and karate in my youth, so I could defend myself,” Edward was saying, as Fred’s mental images faded. “I tied the mugger to the lamppost with his own belt, and told the couple to call the cops.”
“Wow,” came Fred’s muffled exclamation, his mouth full of unchewed sandwich. He quickly swallowed, then asked, “What about the warehouse? Did you stop the crooked manager?”
At this, Edward looked uncomfortable. “No,” he admitted. “Apparently, my information had been wrong. It was the wrong night for the heist. I stayed up most of the night, but I saw nothing. And nothing the next night, or the night after that.”
“Man, that bites,” Fred said, taking a sip of his Coke.
Edward nodded. “It certainly did. And on the fourth night, I was ready to give it up, but I heard the sound of breaking glass nearby, and I had to investigate. It was another thief, breaking into one of the other warehouses in the area. Flushed with my previous success and eager for some action after several nights of boredom, I followed the thief through the broken window, and managed to subdue him.”
Fred laughed. “Two crimes thwarted in one week! It’s like Fate wanted you to become a superhero!”
Edward chuckled as well. “No one was more surprised than I was, reading the newspapers a few days later. Apparently, my exploits had been reported in the evening news. They had dubbed me Action Man, and a conceptual artist drew me wearing this outrageous costume. Maybe it was ego, but I decided to take their ideas and make them my own.”
“And thus, Action Man was born,” Fred declared. “That is an amazing origin story.”
Edward nodded, and took another bite. “Eventually I did stop that manager’s crooked dealings, but by that time, I had developed a taste for crime-fighting. So I spent all my spare time after that refining my methods, and devising better equipment.”
“And your exploits became legendary,” added Fred. “But I don’t understand. Action Man disappeared more than ten years ago. Why did you stop fighting crime?”
“Oh, I never stopped, son,” replied Edward. “I just stopped doing it so publicly. At first I appreciated the infamy, the way the people held me up as a hero even as the police labelled me as a vigilante. But I noticed that the criminals I fought began to get more flambuoyant as well, putting on costumes and using gimmicks. It was as if they thrived on the spectacle, prompting them to do more and more public crimes. They were getting bolder, more destructive. And it seemed like there were more and more of them every day.
“Which brings me to the subject of Megazod.”
Fred put down his sandwich, mouth agape as he stared at his father. “Megazod? I thought he was a character from monster movies. Are you saying he was a supervillain?”
Edward grimaced. “I think he was more of a victim than anything else. I first encountered Megazod when responding to a disturbance at a genetics laboratory. When I got there, there was this giant purple man with strange growths all over him, wreaking havoc. Of course, I tried to stop him, but despite my best efforts, he managed to escape.
“This was followed by a series of robberies, always at chemical companies, always with Megazod tearing up the place. I studied these occurrences and determined a pattern. From what I had learned, Megazod was a scientist from that first genetics lab, who had somehow been infected with a formula that forced him to change into that hideous creature who caused so much destruction.”
“And he could do it at will?” exclaimed Fred. “Ha! I told Honeylemon that it was possible!”
“No, son,” came Edward’s cautionary words. “Not at will. Something was triggering these terrible transformations. And I also noticed that Megazod’s behaviour was changing with each occurrence. He was becoming more violent, more destructive. And while he at first tried to ignore and avoid Action Man, he slowly began to see me as a threat, and would attack without provocation.”
“No way,” Fred gasped. “He was your nemesis.”
“Precisely. He was organic, and so my magnetic abilities could do nothing against him. Only by using the metal structures around me could I try to contain him. And since his power seemed to be growing, even those tactics would fail me.” Edward paused, to take a sip of his coffee.
“So what happened? Did you finally defeat Megazod?”
Edward shook his head. “What happened? Megazod escaped. And he did it by causing a huge train wreck. He smashed the track of the elevated train, knowing that I would try to stop the wreck, to save all those passengers. But I couldn’t; I didn’t have the power. So many lives lost… and the police blamed me for Megazod’s rampage. We never saw Megazod again after that, and the public never saw Action Man again, either.”
Fred sat back in his chair, looking at his father with wonder in his eyes. “So, for the greater good, you allowed Action Man to disappear,” he concluded.
Edward nodded. “I still keep abreast of what goes on in the city, and where my help is needed, I go. But I try to keep things low-profile, now. I don’t want to be responsible for the rise of another costumed crook.”
“Whoah.” That was all Fred could say. These revelations had changed his entire world-view, or at least the way he saw his own father.
Edward glanced at his Rolex and sighed. Rising from his chair, he said, “It’s been a long day, son. Perhaps it’s time we went to bed.”
“All right, Dad,” agreed Fred. “But there’s so much more that I wanted to ask you about.”
Edward nodded, and laid a fatherly hand on Fred’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. There’s time. And I promise, I’ll tell you everything.”
Long after Edward had gone to bed, Fred sat at the table, pondering what he had learned. His own father was a superhero! It felt as though Destiny had led Fred to become one as well. And if it hadn’t been for Hiro-
“Wait a minute,” Fred suddenly said aloud. He glanced toward the hallway that led to his father’s room. “Hiro’s parents… they were killed in a train accident when he was three... eleven years ago.”
… To Be Continued.