Now that we’ve met the members of the Liberty League, it’s time to look behind the scenes and explain a few things which would have disrupted the individual characters’ narratives if I’d included them previously. First (and most surprisingly), the Liberty League’s members aren’t randomly rolled characters. They’re “modeled” characters designed for another game entirely, namely the first Marvel Superheroes RPG (published by TSR in 1984). One of the many fan websites devoted to the game (re)published a “point buy” system for creating MSH characters. Another MSH fan site has a printable system for converting Villains & Vigilantes characters to MSH. I created the Liberty League for a 1940’s MSH solo game I was planning to horse around with (after all, TSR’s Marvel game always seemed kind of “Golden Age” to me anyway), then I had a brainstorm: why not convert them to V&V characters as a “deep backstory” for the Silver City campaign? The rest is (*ahem*) history. I used the conversion rules in reverse to derive the V&V stats, which explains why some of the character stats look a little odd or inflated. Even so, some of the characters are far more effective as MSH characters than they are in V&V; for example, Bombergirl’s plasma “bombs” don’t convert to V&V at all, so she’s forced to use the far less effective Power Blast.

Other “Liberty League facts”:

  • RPG characters are much more lifelike if you base them on people you know in real life; this is certainly the case with some of the Liberty League. The appearance and personality of Liberty Lass, Reb O’Brien, and (especially) Bombergirl are based heavily on some of my friends.
  • Jack Victory’s father, Giuseppe Ricci, is based on my grandfather Albert Lopez, a Portuguese immigrant who insisted that English be spoken in his home with the injunction “English! We are Americans now!” That wasn’t true, strictly speaking, in Grandpa’s case as he didn’t become a U.S. citizen until the 1940’s while Dad was in the Pacific fighting Japanese. I have the letter Grandpa wrote to Dad in which he proudly proclaimed that he had become an American citizen; it’s one of the coolest things I own. An interesting postscript: Grandpa died in 1961 and for the next fifteen years, until her own death in 1976, Grandma never uttered another word of English; I remember her speaking only Portuguese to me when I was a child.
  • John Ricci’s employment as a “CCC Boy” in the 1930’s is a salute to the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC had close ties to the Maryland Park Service; one of my museum’s displays discusses the CCC’s involvement in my park’s construction back in the mid-Thirties. Because of their hard work and dedication during the Great Depression, guys like me have jobs today. The CCC is aces in my book, then, now, and always.
  • The Negro baseball leagues were totally cool. I made up the “Yazoo City Road Kings”, though. I used to be a blues musician and back then I steeped myself in the history and lore of Mississippi delta blues. Yazoo City is a delta community of some renown, and for some reason I think the name “Yazoo City Road Kings” is the coolest name ever for a baseball team, evoking images of a beat-up rustbucket tour bus barnstorming ball fields all across the American South.
  • Technically the statement that Jet Johnson was one of only two Liberty League members to have a public identity isn’t true, as Reb, Neptunus, and Bombergirl were also public figures. But as no one knows Neptunus’ true name and Reb went to extraordinary measures to “stay under the radar” (both literally and figuratively), the statement as written applies primarily to Jet and Bombergirl, both of whom became bona fide 1940’s icons on Earth-1.
  • The word “jet” was in use in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Although jet warplanes were pioneered by the Germans toward the close of WWII, jet aircraft engines had been in limited experimental production in England as early as 1930.
  • Liberty Lass’ real name “Joan Adams” is an obvious riff on “John Adams”. This kind of “nameplay” was a common comics trope in 1940’s comic books. One of my favorites is the Greek-American girl Pat Patrios, who dons star-spangled garb and fights crime as “Pat Patriot” (her stories, by the way, are still pretty entertaining today; Pat was a regular backup feature in the original Daredevil Comics in the 1940’s).
  • Reb O’Brien’s background story is very loosely based on that of Jake Cutter from the 1980’s TV show Tales of the Gold Monkey, a delightfully goofy and frightfully historically-inaccurate adventure series set in the South Pacific in the late 1930’s; Jake gets into hair-raising adventures and scrapes with Japanese warlords, Nazi spies, and a completely inept (but cute) U.S. secret agent. The fact that this show isn’t available on DVD is truly criminal, about as criminal as the show’s influence on me (I wore bomber jackets and smoked cigars for years in emulation of Jake and the Flying Tigers; I never got my ass kicked in a bar run by anyone named “Bon Chance Louie” though).
  • “Dixie Air Pirates” is another cool name I just dreamed up. It’s what UPS could be if they ditched those lame brown trucks and quit hassling drivers with those awful “efficiency studies”.
  • Fireball is loosely based on a couple of pervy old codgers of my acquaintance; the “strip club” thing was inspired by the notorious Jack Ruby.
  • The whole “McCarthyism killed costumed superheroics” thing in Fireball’s bio has been done to death, I’ll admit, but it really does a nice job of tying in early 1950’s sociopolitical history with the demise of the classic Golden Age superhero comics which happened around the same time, so it was impossible for me to resist. The reason I picked Estes Kefauver as the “heavy” (instead of Joe McCarthy) is because Kefauver was instrumental in killing off classic EC horror comics and instituting the Comics Code Authority in real life.
  • The facts that Reb O’Brien’s bio drew a spam reply from a Nigerian air cargo company and Fireball’s bio got a pingback from a website on Algerian history are both incredibly hilarious to me. Just sayin’…
  • During World War II, my dad used to paint those fabulous gals on the noses of his friends’ bombers. I’ve been a fan of “nose art” as long as I can remember, so I naturally had to link Bombergirl to that (sadly lost) art form.
  • Bombergirl is my favorite Liberty League member. But I’ll bet you guessed that…
  • I honestly came up with the name “Liberty League” on my own; it wasn’t until later that I learned it had been the name of a couple of actual comic book teams and a team from the “Golden Age” sourcebook for the RPG Mutants and Masterminds. There was also a historical group called the American Liberty League, ultra-right wingers (the “Tea Partiers” of their day) who were vehemently opposed to nearly all of FDR’s depression-era programs.

Have fun! — Steve