-The Salem Witch Trials
The earliest cases of superhuman powers can be traced back to Salem, Massachussetts and are of magical origin. The dark arts have existed ages before 1692, but they manifested themselves furiously in Salem. The subtle and subversive nature of dark magic brought out the worst in it’s conduits, inspiring the presence of the seven deadly sins within them. This lead to what is now known as The Salem Witch Trials, the first instance in American history in which those in possession of great supernatural power became persecuted for it. Eventually the trials devolved to mass execution of those wielding dark magic, this was achieved by seven nameless Puritans, giving their lives to invoke what they thought was “the power of The Lord” but what they accomplished was much more than some worthless religious ritual. The willing sacrifice of seven pure souls summoned the first and most wrathful Entity of Light, Zeleanon, whose magic purged Salem of the dark forces. Any remaining fanatics of the dark arts attempting to perform the black rites or study dark magic were tried and put to death. Accusations of the use of dark magic spread left and right and in the end only one true “witch” escaped the town unscathed, the deceitful Abigail Williams. Williams, possessed by vengeful spirits of the fallen dark Mages, developed a violent case of multiple personality disorder weeks into her escape from Salem. Tainted by morbid thoughts and recollections from lives half lived, dark ambitions unfulfilled, and vengeance seeking to be wrought, Williams cataloged her experiences and knowledge of the dark magics in seven tomes which were said to have disappeared after her uneventful passing. Some speculate the tomes still exist, and even though the dark arts remain accessible without them, these tomes undoubtedly contain a cache of powerful, evil secrets. Since the witch trials, magic was widely regarded as a taboo, dark or otherwise, for whenever magic is in play, mystical forces beyond comprehension are tempted to interfere with our plane. In present day, magic users are rare, but still exist in subtlety and secrecy. Many reject it’s existence but in a works where meta humans exist, whose to say what is impossible?
-The First Experiments
WWI saw the first scraps of super soldier experimentation on the US, yielding disfigured failures and byproducts ordered for disposal. In the end, the experiments only produced developments in physical body manipulation but no stable candidates survived and therefore the case was shut.
German scientists in the WWII era toyed with the super soldier idea, using Auschwitz captives as guinea pigs for their depraved experiments. Joseph Mengele spearheaded the experiments, earning him the terrifying monicker “The Angel of Death.” There were few survivors and those unfortunate enough to survive only lived on in terrible agony as abominations destined for the gas chambers. Eventually, the experiments served to further the concept of gene manipulation but not enough to the point of creating meta humans.
After WWII, the US gave asylum to Nazi scientists in it’s country in exchange for military and scientific secrets under Operation Paperclip. The combined information from both countries produced steps of progress but no final product. During the late Cold War era, when competition in arms race with the USSR reached an all time high and advancements were paramount to US success, the first meta human, Horizon, was created. In his time under the care of the US government, Horizon executed many covert missions as well as being deployed as heavy artillery in other parts of the world where conflict arose. Soon Horizon saw the great horrors of war upon being deployed in the Persian Gulf War. The sights he saw were unspeakable, but his presence there gave soldiers hope. Eventually, Horizon realized it was a pointless and senseless war that damaged both sides and refused to participate in the carnage. The US went on to win the war after Horizon’s initial devastation, George H. W. Bush, seized victory by ordering a ceasefire, fearing loss in Horizon’s absence and staring down a much larger but heavily demoralized enemy force. Horizon was deemed insubordinate, his name tainted in the media for his less than honorable behavior and people began to look down on him and resented his desertion. Horizon left his work with the government after being shocked at the horrors that war produced, “Its frightening, maddening what people can do, what the world can do. We need to protect people from these things, all people.” He said as he resigned on public television. From that point on, Horizon was decided he would protect the public, the same people that spit in his general direction after the war. He was always saving people from one menace or another, one catastrophe after the next. Eventually, he made a name for himself as a defender of the people in the face of danger.
1991- Persian Gulf War ends, Horizon’s resign
1993- Horizon dons a new uniform and becomes the first hero
1995-1999 First meta humans other than Horizon due to various happenings (very few, about 10-15 in the US, accidents uncommon)
During this time, various accidents, toxic/nuclear leaks, mutations etc. gave rise to meta humans among civilians. Most if not all of them kept quiet about their powers, trying not to draw attention to themselves. Others used their gifts for nefarious purposes, prompting vigilante justice from non powered civilians who decided it’s time to defended themselves from the meta human threat. Cults of magic and a rise in interest in the mystic arts lead to a small resurgence of magic users, but also brought upon magical mishaps. Novices summoning power beyond their control, being possessed and driven to madness, or bringing malicious otherworldly beings into our realm.
Incidents such as these were handled by local metas and vigilantes in areas where they were available while Horizon took out the larger threats, documentation and record of small time meta humans was not heavily publicized and their existence remained obscure.
-Vigilantes and Non-powered Combatants
Humans long had the capabilities for extraordinary displays of physical prowess before the emergence of meta humans. Agents, skilled fighters, martial artists, determined gadgeteers, and zealous vigilantes, have come out of the woodwork in modern day. Some driven by the challenge of competing with meta humans, others compelled to defend the world from them, whatever the motivation, these stellar fighters have developed their repertoire of skills to the point of being a threat to even some of the most powerful metas. The rivalry between meta humans and these non powered heroes runs everywhere along the spectrum between friendly competition, to conflict (usually based around the premise of defending fellow humans from the powerful meta human threats), to pure animosity. Icons such as the fearsome Ghoul, a non powered hero in The League of Champions, prove time and time again the ability for such skilled warriors to not only defeat but to utterly destroy meta human opponents.