“I was born in 1922, on a farm in New York. There’s an office building there now. In the spring of 1939, when I was seventeen, I was working in the field by myself; my father was on the other side of the farm. I looked up and saw a ball of fire coming out of the clear blue sky, so I threw myself on the ground and prayed to God it would miss me.
“It did, but it was close. I was badly injured by flying debris when it hit, and I didn’t wake up for more than two weeks. I was in the hospital. The doctors told me they thought I would surely die, but somehow I held on. But then my uncle came in, and told me that Dad was dead.
“Some thugs from the city showed up the same day, looking for whatever it was that crash landed on the farm. Dad argued with them, and they killed him on the spot. Shot him like an animal. They took whatever they wanted and left. Mom was hiding in the house. When she saw them kill Dad, she broke inside somehow. By the time I woke up in the hospital, she was in a sanitarium.
“I got better, much faster than the doctors expected. I healed without scars. Only a couple of days later, I was discharged.
“With Mom committed, I was in charge. My uncle told me, ‘You’re a man now, nephew, you make your own decisions.’
“I was different, though. I kept getting stronger. When I found I could lift a car, and that knives couldn’t cut my skin anymore, I realized there was nothing stopping me from getting revenge.
“I read comics as a kid. Who didn’t, back then? And I listened to the radio shows. I decided to become a man of mystery, striking from the shadows. I sold the farm, and told Dad’s lawyer to see to Mom’s treatment using the money. I moved to the city. I worked at a series of menial jobs, jobs where my great strength would let me excel. I was careful not to let anyone know just how powerful I was; I had to fake tiredness and even injuries sometimes. By night, I put on a trenchcoat, a wide-brimmed hat, driving goggles and a bandanna over my mouth, and I became the Avenger.
“It’s a long story, how I tracked down the thugs who had killed Dad. I got involved with the police a few times. They didn’t approve of me, but what could they do? I could outrun a fast car, and I was bulletproof. Somewhere along the way, I discovered I could fly. That made getting clear of the scene even easier.
“When I finally reached the top of the criminal organization, I found a man, Lenny Verdanza, a small-time hood who had moved himself to the top quickly by making his enemies disappear. I found out that he was arming his personal enforcers with special shotgun shells. Anything that was alive or had every been alive shot with one would just disappear, up to something like three hundred pounds. They could shoot holes in wooden buildings that you could walk through, and a man shot with one was reduced to nothing more than a belt-buckle and pocket change.
“I got shot with one once. Just once, but I’ll never forget it. It was like being on fire all over, and my entire costume was destroyed. Fortunately for me, I was able to get away without anyone seeing my face. It was dark, and I could fly. It took me a day to recover from that, and I lost my civilian job over it, but it wasn’t hard to get another.
“When I went to confront Verdanza at last, I invited the cops to wait outside; I knew they’d find all sorts of interesting evidence in the wreckage after I was done. I used my speed and strength to take the guards by surprise, and I collected all the shotguns as I went. I didn’t want anyone to have that sort of power.
“When I finally got to Lenny, I discovered his secret. He had a backer, a fellow called Mister Green. He was a lizard man. No kidding, a lizard man. And he had a gun that shot lightning, powerful enough to put me on the floor. It would have killed any other man, I’m sure.
“I won’t bore you with the whole fight, even though I still remember it like it was yesterday. In the end, I knocked out Mister Green, then grabbed Lenny by the shirt. He was stupid, like I said, small-time… he taunted me. Told me what a loser my Dad had been. I guess he thought I wouldn’t hurt him.
“I killed him with my own hands.” Avenger hung his head. “Broke his neck.
“I moved away after that, tried to hide from the guilt, tried to pretend I was normal. The newspapers called me a hero. I didn’t think so. I might have done that forever, except for one thing. Pearl Harbor.
“I was drafted in ’42, and went to fight the Nazis. I kept my powers hidden until Normandy. My unit was wiped out in the initial assault. I tore off my insignia, all of them, and I made myself a mask, and I started calling myself Avenger again. I wore the mask almost the entire time I was in Europe fighting. I fought alongside the American super-soldiers sometimes, Captain Victory, Dynamo Joe, and all the rest, and I fought the Nazi supermen. When the war was over, I went back to my regular identity. Told people I’d been in a prison camp. There was a lot of confusion when it was over, and I was able to blend right in.”