An hour with
By Jeff Brooks
HERO Magazine, October 2003
John Wrath, Solo Avenger
Photographer: Donald Gerrik, HERO MagazineIt's a warm afternoon in Millennium City, as I sit in a run down apartment downtown about a half block from the local PRIMUS HQ. The couch I'm sitting on has seen better decades, there are bars on the windows, and from where I sit I can pretty much see the entire place. Strangely the building itself would be as old and run down as the furnishings if this were any city other than the big MC, but as it is the battered coffee table my host's feet are propped up on is probably older than the apartment by at least twenty years.
My host looks like an aging "man of action", maybe in his early 40's. The only thing that would hint to a person that didnt know him that he isnt 30 anymore are a few wrinkles around the eyes (one of which is cybernetic), a certain indescribable grizzled hardness to his features (including a large facial scar thru said eye socket), and of course the un-trendy cuban cigar jutting out of his mouth.
Finding such a mythical observer who didn't instanly recognize my erstwhile host would be a difficult achievement in its own right. His likeness has been seen, largely unchanged, by several generations of TV watchers over the past two decades.
He is the well known and controversial John Wrath, formerly the Silver Avenger of Miami and then of Millennium City after Detroit was detroyed and rebuilt. Not just any Silver Avenger, but one of the first, the chronologically oldest, the longest still in service until very recently, and perhaps the most experienced ever to serve. Though he looks to be in his 40's he is in fact two times older than that and prior to serving in PRIMUS for 19+ years he was in the CIA for a decade and before that was a LRRP Ranger in the Army for two more decades, doing several tours in Nam as leader of the famous Growling Recondos.
In all he's served the United States government uninterrupted since the 1950's. The length of his service is so long in fact, it can be measured by the number of times the word decade is used in this article.
So how do you talk to somebody older than your grandfather who is still very capable of leaping out the 4th story window onto the back of some rampaging supervillain without a second thought? I've interviewed a lot of supers in my time with HERO Magazine, but this is JOHN WRATH. I mean, my dad used to tell me John Wrath stories from his time in the bush. This guy was on the TV when I was a kid growing up in the 80's, and here he sits like an unaging artifact of the cold war, armed and still very dangerous.
I remember when he took down Explosor before he could destroy the Rose Bowl in '82 and when he beat the snot out of the so-called "undefeatable martial artist" Perfecto back in '86 on national TV, which still tops the best wire work movies coming out of Hong Kong for sheer over-the-top martial arts action in my opinion. I'm not embarrassed to admit it, for a few minutes I lost my reporter's composure and was at a bit of a loss for words, fumbling around with my recorder and trying to get my thoughts in order.
Never one to sit around waiting however, Wrath took charge as usual.
Wrath: "Get on with it, kid. I ain't got all day."
Q: "Yes, sorry, uh, sir. Just getting my notes in order."
Wrath: "So what do you want to know already?"
Q: "Well, the readers of HERO Magazine would like to know the details of your recent retirement from PRIMUS and subsequent activities with the superhero group, the Millennial Men."
Wrath: "What's to know? I told my useless paperweight bosses at PRIMUS to piss up a rope and the spineless politicos gave me my walking papers six months before I was eligible for retirement. Uncle Sam wants you all right; he wants you over a barrel."
Q: "But, the official account is that you retired early."
Wrath: "Kid, let me tell you something, and write this down because its important. The only thing you can be sure of about "official accounts" is that they are all a pack of lies."
Q: "Well, you were a Silver Avenger; so the only people that you could mean are either the Golden Avenger or the Director of PRIMUS. What happened?"
Wrath: "Well, Ill let you figure out who kid, but as to what, just bad timing mostly. Congress was hassling PRIMUS over their budget again about the same time the Synth-tech robberies started happening locally. My boss got fussy because he wanted PRIMUS looking white hot just then, and wanted to know why I hadn't caught the culprits yet. Christ, it was like a three day window; these things take a little bit more time to crack than that. It wasn't some punks flipping cows or something, which the pencil-necked seat warmer would know if he had ever spent a single day in the field actually doing something more strenuous than kissing the ass of the politico above his rung on the ladder. So I told him to keep his nose where it belongs and out of my business. And then the petty little functionary "retired" me, which is to say FIRED. That's the way it works kid; the faceless bureaucrats call the shots, despite the fact that they aren't qualified to do so. It was like that in Korea, it was like that in Nam, it was like that in the Company, and it's like that in PRIMUS. The bands keeps changing but the song remains the same."
Q: "But didn't you come out of Nam festooned with glory and fame?"
Wrath: "Glory? What the hell are you talking about, glory? When you've had one of your best friend's brains sprayed all over your face after they took a bullet that would have gotten you instead if it had been a half-foot to the left, THEN you can talk to me about "glory" in war. Hah! "Glory" he says. There's no glory to be had in war, kid. Just a lot of killing."
Q: "So, uh...back to the PRIMUS situation, would you say you are bitter about the whole experience?"
Wrath: "Bitter? No, I like having 19 years of service flushed down the drain with no retirement benefits to show for it. But hey, at least they let me keep my cybernetic eye. I half expected them to ask for it back when I turned in my badge. Hey, at least I'm still a young man and have time to retrain for a new career. I hear that there's a big market for truck drivers these days; maybe I'll become a teamster. Hah!"
Q: "Can you tell us a little bit about why you changed your Superhuman Registration information to "John Wrath, Solo Avenger", and your work with the Millennial Men over the last six months?"
Wrath: "It takes more than some wet noodle political appointee to tell me when I'm ready to retire. I've got another 30, 40 years left in me easy. I didn't quit in Nam after taking three bullets to the back in the middle of the damn jungle, I didn't quit a dozen and more times after that when I was shot, stabbed, or dragged from a jeep working for the Company, and that was before the god damn Cyberline. You think I'm going to quit now just because they told me to? Hah. I'll take the war to the enemy, even if I have to do it alone. The U.S. Gov thinks its time I "slow down and take it easy"? Hell if I will! Besides, on the plus side there's a lot less paper work involved now that I'm no longer working for PRIMUS, and I hate paperwork.
Q: "Well, is there anything you miss about working for PRIMUS? The people, the prestige, the office?"
Wrath: "Shove all that crap."
Q: "Uh....ok...what about your work with the Millennial Men, Millennium City's newest superhero group?"
Wrath: "I do miss the car though."
Q: "Uh...excuse me?"
Wrath: "Deaf? I miss the CAR. You know. The Flying Car? Best damn use of technology I've ever seen. It's a car -- but it flies. You're driving along and suddenly you need to be 30 miles away thru down town traffic to bust up some lug-headed perps pulling a job on your beat. So what do you do? Push the big red button and go into Flash Gordon mode. I loved that damn car."
Q: "Uh...yes, the Flying Cars are very spiffy. About the Millennial Men..."
Wrath: "I once acheived escape velocity in one, did you know that? The last time I flew one, oddly enough. Or at least the analysts said I had. Of course, the nimwits in R&D didnt think to make the cabin space worthy, but they put a powerful enough engine in it to slingshot you into orbit. Typical government engineering. Cutting edge technology, made by the lowest bidder. Never changes."
Q: "So, you first met up with the Millennial Men when you still had the car, right..."
Wrath: "Thats another thing I DONT miss about PRIMUS, Ill tell you that much for free."
Q: "Er...what's that?"
Wrath: "The damn R&D boys. Those jerks were trying to kill me, I'd swear to it. Every piece of gear they ever gave me was a hunk of junk. I never knew if it was going to work, blow up in my hand, or turn into a bouquet of flowers or something. R&D. More like AD&D -- Accidental Death and Dismemberment. Hah. You know what PRIMUS R&D's motto is?"
Q: "No, can't say that I do."
Wrath: "PRIMUS R&D -- Reinventing the Square Wheel, One Spoke at a Time. Hah. Cigar?"
Q: "Um, no thank you, I don't smoke. So, what would you say your most interesting moment has been since you joined the Millennial Men?"
Wrath: "The who?"
Q: "The Millennial Men? The supergroup you are a member of?"
Wrath: "Is that what they are calling themselves today? I'm not a member of the Millennial Men or any other group. I'm John Wrath, Solo Avenger."
Q: "But, since leaving PRIMUS you've been involved in several encounters with supervillains, and all of them with the Millennial Men."
Wrath: "Just a coincidence. Those kids keep following me around. I've told them to stop, but they do it anyway. No accounting for kids these days."
Q: "So you're saying that you aren't a member of the Millennial Men, but that they follow you around?"
Wrath: "Did I mumble? I didn't even know they were called the Millennial Men until you mentioned it. That War-Man kid is a good seed, the rest of them I'm not too sure about. Savage is ok for a damn jarhead. The rest are just scrubs."
Q: "Scrubs? You mean to say you dont respect them?"
Wrath: "Well, when they've got another 9 or 10 years under their belt and have faced down something a little more serious than a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac like Holocaust or a garden-variety psychopath like Black Harlequinn, I'll have some respect for them. They're good kids with bright futures, but half of them belong in day care. Not yet ready for prime time. It's all I can do to keep them alive as it is."
Q: "Um...Ok, so where do you see your self going over the next year?"
Wrath: "I look like a fortune teller to you? I dunno. I'll fight crime and protect my city until a greater need comes along. I just cant abide screwhead criminals making a mess out of the place; and that skirt Sanchez certainly doesn't look up to the job."
Q: "You mean Silver Avenger Sanchez? The new Silver Avenger assigned to Millenium City?"
Wrath: "Who else? Cute kid. Reminds me of a girl I knew once back in Da Nang. I'm sure she means well, but a Silver Avenger? I've got several pairs of boots with more time-in-service than her. This is a crazy city, and it takes more than a public relations oriented appointee to keep it safe. Where was Sanchez when I stopped Holocaust last month, or dealt with Black Harlequinn? Where was Sanchez when I raided Wayland Talos's arms factory? Where was Sanchez when I put a stop to Papa Zombie and his army of undead? No where to be seen. She's on TV a lot though. The camera likes her, or she likes the camera?"
Q: "Are you saying that Silver Avenger Sanchez is a...uh..."
Wrath: "Pretty face assigned because she looks good in front of a camera? Yeah. Woman? Minority? Pretty? Hasn't done any real field work since she got here four months ago? What do you think? How long does it take to 'familiarize herself with the City'? PRIMUS-MC has done what since she's been here? Not generate negative publicity, that's what. It's all a political shell game. Congress passed the PRIMUS budget last month after six months of deliberation. I'd bet you a case of JD that the order went out -- don't do anything unless it's sure to get good press."
Q: "Well, I think I have enough for my article..."
Wrath: "Good; I need to get back out there. I've been off the streets for four hours; no telling what kind of screwhead is up to what while I'm sitting here."
I left quickly there after and had time to think about the interview in the taxi ride to my hotel in a nicer part of town. I came to Millennium City for a flavor piece, revisiting a hero with a checkered history that has appeared in HERO Magazine in one form or another since it's inception as a publication. Instead I find indications of a disquieting political agenda that might go to the very core of PRIMUS. Was John Wrath, the last of the original generation of Silver Avengers still serving, really put out of the organization because his old fashioned results oriented mentality was at odds with the political agenda of the current administration?
Either way, I came for an interesting story and as usual John Wrath, Growling Recondo, CIA Agent, Silver Avenger, and now freelance superhero didn't fail to deliver the goods. I see now why my father held him in such high regard. He's hard and edgy, but there is a core of selfless dedication to serve the interests of the American populace coupled with an honest cynicism and distrust of the government by which he has served those interests. Personally I hope that we can look forward to another 20 years of the Avenger, John Wrath, Solo or Silver.