History (Alternate) of the United States
1925-1939 The Pulp Era
When people with augmented gifts began showing up in 1925 and later, life around the world took several crazy turns. As soon as the "augmented humans" appeared, cities began passing laws to try to control a new menace everyone quickly feared. There were augmented people who decided to take advantage of their newfound powers, engaging in reigns of crime and villainy. Soon after, these criminals began to encounter citizens with gifts, whether minor or major, who tried to resist this superior brand of villains, with varying degrees of success.
Regardless of "good" or "bad," when police could lay hands on these so-called "Augments," they either went to prison – if the police could hold them – or, as often as not, killed. Newspapers railed against these citizens being deprived of their constitutional rights, though often footnoted that these "super-villains" got what they deserved. And the other augments who tried to stop them should have backed off and allowed the police to handle it – even though that usually resulted in even more bloodshed.
By the '30s, some Augments adopted costumes in order to keep their identities secret from the authorities, and to protect their families from those who would seek to harm them because of the actions of their augmented family members. The news dubbed these masked men (and a few women) "super-heroes," and a new breed of humanity took hold in the American (and global) culture. Magazines and "comic-books" were published to follow the exploits of these Augments.
Perhaps the most celebrated superhero of the day was The Raven. It was said that he could talk to birds, particularly his namesake, and had a direct line to the police commissioner of New York, who ordered a bird coop installed atop the central police station where an officer was on watch 24/7 to keep an eye out for any news from the hero's trained birds. Many criminals were brought to justice because of the superhero and the commissioner's cooperation.
The dynamic changed at the end of the decade, when Nazi Germany declared war on Poland, and war was declared upon them by France, beginning World War II. Supers were drafted into service, and Augments like Joan d'Arc and Wehrmacht went to war for their countries. Once America joined the war, the paradigm of Augments had fully changed from notorious vigilantes into patriotic soldiers.
WWII and The Liberty Brigade
The Liberty Legion
Superheroics were very quiet in the post-World War II era, as everyone was expected to return to their nice, peaceful lives after the war, Augments and non-augments alike. Only a handful of the Supers maintained a public profile in light of a new, revamped set of anti-Augment laws, and even those heroes dwindled in the era of McCarthy-ism and into the early 60s.
The Christmas Invasion
Only a month after the assassination of President Kennedy, the United States was attacked by the Araki, a race of aliens bent on the subjugation of any who would seek to venture into space, and thus be a rival to their interstellar empire. Having seen the success of the Mercury space program, they decided to launch an attack on Earth, beginning with conquest of the premier space facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 14 in Florida, and the Baikonur LC-1 facility in Kazakh SSR, USSR.
Neither the Soviet nor the United States military fared well against the superior technological might of the Araki. Both space launch facilities were quickly seized and prepared by the aliens for a full-scale incursion into both countries. President Johnson and the United States government relocated from Washington DC to a remote mountain cavern complex hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
Meanwhile, the long-dormant American superhero team, the Liberty Brigade, awakened from its self-imposed exile to come to the aid of the republic once more. Without Professor Atom, who had passed away from radiation sickness shortly after the War, and Mighty Man, suffering from advanced acromegaly in a Nevada old folks home, leadership of the team descended to Silver Agent, who commanded the team like a military unit.
The first assault on the launch complex fell to abject failure, with both Silver Agent and most of the Liberty Legion missing. That left the remaining few experienced Legionnaires to the leadership of the junior member of the team, Lady Liberty. Liberty gathered the remaining Legionnaires and as many liberty-loving Augments and Gimmicks from Riceville's locals to supplement the team as she could gather.
Meanwhile, President Johnson and Premier Khrushchev conferred over the red phone to determine that each country would drop a single nuclear bomb on their respective launch complexes in order to eradicate the Araki menace, without either country resorting to a mass nuclear launch against the other. Each nation was to drop their warhead at a pre-selected time, with witnesses from the other nation on hand in order to verify the destruction of the other's launch complexes. In this way, casualties would be controlled and peace assured.
While the nations' leaders crafted one plan, Liberty and her Legionnaires approached the military with another. While the Air Force conducted an assault upon the Araki compound as a distraction, multiple groups of Legionnaires would attempt to infiltrate the launch complex in an effort to penetrate the Araki defenses and sow chaos from within, using different sets of powers to test what worked and what didn't. Major John Glenn would command the attack squadron, while Lady Liberty led the Legionnaires and their stealthy infiltration.
With nuclear armed warplanes in the air, the Liberty Legion found their way under the Araki energy dome and into the launch complex. The group split into multiple teams in order to give themselves more chances to uncover weaknesses of the aliens. Meanwhile, Major Glenn conducted sorties against the Araki, testing the energy dome and air defenses to determine the success or failure of Lady Liberty's units, as well as to distract the Araki command's attention away from the Legion. Their mission was a grim one, and many fine pilots were lost.
Legionnaires who were super strong, or tough, blasters and the like, were overwhelmed once they were discovered inside the Araki compound. But a very few were successful. Shy, an invisible girl, and Desol, whose gift was the ability to become insubstantial, proved invaluable. Working together with Lady Liberty, they were able to cut power to the Araki computer systems, and bring down the force field around the compound, giving Major Glenn's marine pilots access to the launch facility.
The marines rained bombs down upon the aliens, turning the launch facility into a wasteland. The nuclear bombers were called off, but the "all clear" was not sounded until the army could search the grounds and confirm all Araki were dead. As a result, the USSR's Baikonur launch facility was destroyed in a nuclear detonation.
The Kremlin maintained that President Johnson and the United States armed forces had deliberately stalled communicating the success of the Liberty Legion to the USSR in order to have Premier Khrushchev drop a nuclear bomb on his own people, as well as destroy the country's entire space program. To this day, the Kremlin declares that they would have landed on the moon in April of 1969 had they not been "tricked" into killing thousands of their own citizens and dropping an unnecessary nuclear bomb upon itself.
Presidential Election of 1964
With President Johnson unsure that he could win the presidency in his own right after the 1963 Christmas Invasion, a search went out for someone to run on the Democratic ticket in 1964. The primaries came down to three men: Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and Major John H. Glenn. The primary was a struggle, with Humphrey, backed by LBJ, taking several early contests. Kennedy, on the strength of his enormous personal charisma and his brother's legacy, charged back late in the primaries, while Major Glenn took several midwest states plus Florida. After Kennedy's win in California to deny the delegate majority to Humphrey, the three candidates went to a brokered convention.
At the convention, Humphrey had a commanding lead, and the sitting president speaking on his behalf (plus the President's staff working the phones). Kennedy had a good chunk of the state delegates working for him, plus his family's considerable connections. That left Glenn, with a few hundred delegates and no prior political expertise. News reporters broke it down to whether Humphrey or Kennedy could convince Glenn to swing to their camp, and what he might be offered to throw his support. Glenn, a marine, was disgusted by the ensuing bare-knuckle political brawl, and refused to give his support to either candidate. The first ballot, early Wednesday, split as expected between the three candidates, with each man, plus the President, set to speak on Wednesday night.
Humphrey positioned himself as more of the LBJ presidency; Kennedy invoked his family's name, and suggested a return to past glory during his brother's administration. Johnson, more embittered than ever, dropped a four-letter word on live national television during his speech. Glenn came through as the stalwart World War II and Korean War hero, test pilot, and the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, receiving a thunderous standing ovation from the delegates in the hall. The second ballot suddenly swung in Glenn's favor, and on Thursday afternoon, he accepted Kennedy's offer to become his vice-presidential candidate. Early Thursday evening, the Glenn-Kennedy ticket was introduced to the nation as the Democratic presidential ticket.
With Republican candidate Goldwater hugely unpopular within his own party, and Glenn a neophyte to the political scene trying to pull the Democratic version of Eisenhower's victory in 1952, no one knew exactly what to expect from the national election in 1964. But Glenn's fame as a war hero and astronaut, combined with the Kennedy political machine (and Richard J. Daley repeating his Chicago miracles), rocketed him to the Presidency.
President Glenn and Supers Civil Rights
Johnson had refused to deal with the issues of civil rights for the growing population of Augments and Gimmicks in the aftermath of the Christmas Invasion, leaving the issue to the new administration. President Glenn, in a relatively weak position handed to him by former President Johnson, nibbled around the edges with minor legislation, as he still had the Vietnam war to deal with abroad as well as increasingly violent protestors at home.
Still, Augment civil rights advancements were made, and with the revelations that the sheer numbers of supers living among the citizenry was far greater than anyone ever suspected, public opinion began to shift. By Glenn's second term, the successful moon landing, and the end of the '60s, nearly everyone knew somebody – a relative, neighbor, or fellow parishioner – who was a superior, a mutant, a deviant, or a paranormal of one form or another. It was becoming harder to maintain one's personal prejudices when friends kept turning out to be Augments or Gimmicks.
Pockets of hatred against supers grew, however. Alongside more common and well known anti-civil rights organizations rose groups like the Equalists and the Friends of Power. Police, especially in major cities, started to increase and diversify their firepower in order to combat a growing augmented criminal element.
After Glenn, national issues overtook the rise of supers. Nixon, Ford, and Carter had other issues of major import. Only Carter tried to give the rights of augments a push, and then the Iran crisis happened, taking the steam out of any new legislation until the '80s.
Problems with the augments grew during the '70s. Criminal augments were working for the Mafia, as well as street gangs, some in high positions. Few vigilantes appeared due to the stringent laws still on the books where a single slip would ruin lives and families forever. Regular people once again became more and more afraid of a growing "Augment menace."
Augment Rights At Last
By 1981, Ronald Reagan was President, the Iran crisis had ended, and Reagan was prepared to make Augments an offer: volunteer for military service, and receive citizenship (if necessary), be absolved of previous non-violent crimes, and earn the same benefits of government service any military volunteer receives. In exchange, the government gets to use the Augments for a special elite military team, as well as study the abilities of Augments.
Local laws were in the process of change as well. Many state legislatures and city councils modified or completely repealed laws against super vigilantism, realizing that many times it took an Augment to rein in an Augment. The Augment Services Department was born, a government agency to try to help Augments and Gimmicks fit into regular society and culture.
With legal changes, superiors began to be accepted into the mainstream as well. Specialized schools were founded, to help teach supers to control their abilities; many employers found a way to fit a few Augments or Gimmicks into their workforces; some entire companies were formed around them. The Super Wrestling Federation was one of the early corporations to catch on, broadcasting mock fights among supers around the world for entertainment. A secondary effect of this was to create a celebrity class of supers in modern culture, and show the world that "supers are just like regular people."
Changes to laws in major cities and states brought about superheroes. Many Augments decided to take their gifts and use them to help fight those who used their powers to prey upon others all these years. Usually costumed in order to protect their families and friends, these supers confronted villains wherever they found them. By the end of the decade, most major cities had at least one major hero group, plus several independents.
But confrontations between heroes and villains were not without hazards and tragedies. First was the property destruction. Frequently, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more were caused by Augments trying to stop other Augments, plus the loss of businesses or city services until repairs could be completed. All of this had an economic effect on a city. Insurance costs rose as a result.
But injuries and deaths were even more tragic. Despite heroes' attempts to minimize loss of life, it happened far too frequently, with citizens blaming the city for permitting these colossal scale fights to occur. Lawsuits against the heroes, as well as the city, emerged. Heroes were forced to reveal their identities as a result.
Heroes' loved ones became at risk. Once cities could be successfully sued, insurance companies took cities to court. Cities had to fight back. By the mid '90s, super vigilantism was being rolled back all across the country. Villains killed the families of several heroes and teams, and suddenly, heroes were vanishing all over.
Modern Day Supers
For the last 20+ years, the protection of society from those Augments and Gimmicks who would use their gifts to commit crimes is the responsibility of the police. Many large city police departments have specially trained SWAT teams – Supers, Weapons, and Tactics – dedicated to bringing rogue Augments to justice. Sometimes, they can be effective, but as often as not, they fail. But the reduction in mass panic, property destruction, and loss of lives is still the main motivator politically.