Pitch-a-Week Part 26: Make Me Wanna Holler

High Concept: The X-Men, if the first class was made up of Luke Cage, Storm, T’Challa and Nightcrawler and the first publicly-acknowledged superhuman was a black Hulk. 

Overview: Few people remember the first Hyperman.

Richard Weismann, a chemist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, became the master of what he termed an “eight-dimensional intellect” after exposure to hard radiation during an accident on-site in 1943. Weismann, predictably codenamed “Wise Man” (although he preferred to think of himself as “Clever Dick”) put his astounding intellect to work on everything from nuclear weaponry to the secret war in the Pacific to civic arts programs. As a Jewish liberal, Weismann knew that he posed a threat to the status quo and that his eight-dimensional intellect couldn’t immediately protect his friends or family should that threat be realized.  Further, he surmised that an increasing number of hypermen (his hypothesis was that one percent of the population had the potential for benign, spontaneous mutation under the right conditions) would need some degree of support and guidance In a world that was bigger and stranger than anyone could imagine.

Almost no one remembers the first Hyperwoman.  Maria Lopez, a forty-year-old cleaning woman working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, gained the ability to fly and manipulate objects through an incredibly precise form of telekinesis after months of exposure to radiation. Lopez kept her abilities secret, volunteering for night shifts in order to use her telekinesis and flying by night under moonless skies. Aside from her priest and her doctor, she kept her abilities a secret and considered them a blessing best used quietly than to be broadcast to the masses.

Everyone remembers the second Hyperman. Jericho Lee, a sharecropper in Alabama, received one hundred dollars to take part in a study of the effects of plutonium on the human body. The small dose of plutonium he received seemed to have no effect, and he went back to his farm. Lee’s life took a turn for the worse when he was accused of flirting with a white shopkeeper’s daughter during a visit to town. A lynch mob came to Lee’s shack one night, only to find the gangly sharecropper transformed into a ten foot tall mountain of muscle and boundless rage.

Jericho Lee destroyed the town of Cullman, Georgia, killing more than 5,000 people before disappearing into the hills. A grainy photo of the enraged Hyperman crushing the town constable’s head with a sign reading “NIGGER DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOU IN CULLMAN” provided Lee with the name by which he was known to a terrified public: Sundown.

The Federal government responded to the mounting panic with Project THESEUS, a joint task force charged to deal with the “Hyperman threat.” THESEUS agents investigated superpowered crimes by day and kidnapped and interrogated thousands of possible threats by night, hiding them away in secret prisons or drafting them to serve as government-sanctioned superheroes. Military units went toe to toe with the most powerful of the Hypermen, turning farmland and small towns into war zones.

And, as the conflict rages on, the growing superhuman population is forced to make an almost impossible choice: defend a public that hates and fears them or stand with atom-fueled monsters.

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