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Astounding Adversaries!


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With the advent of Astounding Adventures!, we need some appropriate opponents for Our Heroes to run up against.

Even though fictional heroes battled Nazi agents on radio, in comics, and in magazine stories from the late '30s on, a lot of times it was more subtle than that. After all, Germany wasn't the only Fascist power or the only ominously belligerent nation dominated by its military. Often, it was enough for a story's villains to have a martial bent and a strong leader -- readers got the point without the author having to be more specific. Historical butt-kickers like Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, or Alexander the Great also provided inspiration for the typical would-be world conqueror.

The Buck Rogers newspaper strip, for example, featured an invasion by sly, opportunistic Cat Men from Mars in the early 1930s, and the Martian Cat Men became recurring villains. Initially very animalistic (in a Kizinti or even Donald Duck sort of way), they gradually become more and more humanoid until, with the right costume and theatrical makeup, they could (almost) pass as humans. At that point, they were an effective stand-in for the Imperial Japanese.

In the same way, The 39 Steps had England threatened by deep cover agents of an unspecified foreign power ... but it was pretty clear that the power was Germany.

But there were other common styles of would-be world conquering villains that competed effectively with the German/Italian-inspired variety:

Mad scientists, always with some bizarre unstoppable weapon, were everywhere. Death rays, robots, unquenchable energy sources, invisibility belts, death or mind-control by radio/television, strange chemical formulas with bizarre side effects. The mad scientist usually had at least one brutish assistant to handle nosy adventurers like the PCs. In the movie serials, he might hire the local crime syndicate to handle his bloodletting for him (see gangsters, below).

Shadowy organizations modeled on the Ku Klux Klan, which was extremely influential (socially and politically) in the 1920s, were another popular menace. Secret handshakes, masked meetings, a mysterious Grand-Whatever with an agenda running the show, and lots of adventurer paranoia since anyone the PCs try to talk to or get assistance from could be one of Them!

Don't forget the insidious Doctor Fu Manchu, mastermind and terrorist supreme, template for all Oriental masterminds to follow. His original goal wasn't to conquer the world or even the West. He wanted to end British influence in China and used exotic drugs, trained exotic beasts, and an international army of assassins to further his ends. Given the subsequent real-life career of Osama bin Laden and the endless real-life Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft scandals, Dr. Fu Manchu's adventures seem a lot less outrageous now than when they were written.

Don't neglect garden-variety gangsters. Remember, Prohibition was in full swing during much of the pulp era, and real-life gang bosses were rich, powerful, and had politicians and corporate leaders in their pockets. It didn't take too much imagination to pit the cowboy/aviator/crusading reporter or physician against an arrogant local mogul and his goons.

These categories weren't mutually exclusive. A criminal gang might have Klan-like organization. A foreign terrorist or mob boss might have stolen the potential super weapon from its inventor. Superman continued to have gangsters and mad scientists as his primary foes well into the 1950s.

Some specific examples (stats pending) ...

From Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon:

Horace Gutman aka “The Fat Man” – Ruthless and formerly wealthy “art collector” who has been seeking the legendary treasure The Maltese Falcon for decades. He’s garrulous and charming, utterly amoral. Gutman will promise player-characters anything to get his hands on “The Black Bird” but will quickly betray them if he thinks it is to his advantage. He usually leaves the bloodletting to his henchman, Wilmer, but is a competent brawler and marksman despite his luxury-loving bulk.

Wilmer – A young gunman in Gutman’s employ. Wilmer is dangerous but relatively inexperienced. Anxious to appear tough, he’s not as good as he thinks he is and can be goaded into hasty action.

Joel Cairo – A former associate and rival of Gutman’s, who is also seeking the Maltese Falcon. He’s a short, slight, vaguely Middle Eastern looking man who favors fancy suits and expensive cologne. Cairo is quite the dandy but will stop at nothing to get the Falcon. He’s good at sneaking around, is an excellent shot, but shrinks from fisticuffs.

The Cat-Woman

Real Name: Hattie M. Hare

Occupation: Professional secretary, former nurse, kidnapper, confidence woman, would-be murderess

Aliases: None

Associates: William “Big Bill” Ryan, fence; Harry Atmore, crooked attorney; Dr. Drake, retired physician, blackmailer; Arthur C. Holton, millionaire oil magnate, boss and fiancé; Jean Ellery, “niece”

Appearance: Hare is a lithe, sexy woman somewhere in her late forties or early fifties. Her most noticeable features are her long, shapely legs and her luminous, green eyes. She has the grace and agility of a dancer, is much stronger than she looks, and prefers flimsy negligees and small blue-steel automatic pistols. She’s also handy with a knife or syringe.

Background: Mention the name “Cat Woman” and comic book lovers will immediately think of Batman opponent Selena Kyle. However, Perry Mason author Erle Stanley Gardner introduced the original Cat-Woman in the February 1927 issue of Black Mask, a popular detective magazine. Ruthless and calculating, San Francisco nurse Hattie M. Hare smelled opportunity when a daughter was born to wealthy Arthur Holton in the maternity ward of her hospital circa 1905. She persuaded attending Dr. Drake to fill out papers saying the child had been a boy and had died immediately, then took the infant into her care, raising “Jean Ellery” as her own niece. After Holton’s wife died, she managed to gain a position as the millionaire’s personal secretary, planning to reveal his long-lost heir at an appropriate time and gain his favor. Two things interfered. First, her old accomplice Drake began blackmailing her. Second, Holton fell in love with her, giving her the opportunity to become his wife and beneficiary. Suddenly, Jean Ellery was a liability. Seeking a means to solve both problems, Hare hired master burglar Ed Jenkins to steal a (paste copy of a) valuable necklace so she could claim the insurance money and to kidnap Ellery in the process. Meanwhile, she schemed to frame Jenkins for the murders of Ellery and Holton.

Hattie M. Hare’s slinky sex appeal hides a steel-trap mind that anticipates all contingencies. She is an expert at manipulating people and at arranging elaborate traps for her opponents. Her undeniable charm is marred by a quick, feline temper, which she works hard to conceal. She has a smart, unscrupulous lawyer and a handful of hired goons at her disposal and isn’t afraid to call the police once she has put her foes in a compromising position. She can also put up a good fight on her own account, although she prefers to have others do her dirty work. She doesn’t wear a costume but she does have a thing for cats; a large cat painting with luminous eyes decorates her living room.

Hare would be delighted to pay the player-characters well to perform some underhanded task for her, while setting them up to take the fall should anything go wrong. She will do her best to persuade honest PCs that she’s a law-abiding citizen beset by evil foes. If the adventures manage to thwart her, she will make good her escape from the authorities, then prepare a well-planned revenge.

STR 14

CON 12

SIZ 13

INT 17

POW 14

DEX 17

APP 16

Move: 10

Hit Points: 25 (SIZ + CON option)

Damage Bonus: +1D4

Armor: None

Attacks: Grapple 35%, 1D4+1D4; Knife 45%, 1D4+1D4; Pistol 50%, 1D6

Skills: Bargain 55%, Drive 20%, Dodge 34%, Fast Talk 55%, First Aid 30%, Hide 15%, Insight 45%, Knowledge (Accounting) 35%, Language (English) 85%, Language (Shorthand) 40%, Medicine 25%, Persuade 55%, Research 25%, Stealth 50%, Typing 50%

250 skill points plus 170 personal skill points

Edited by seneschal
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Arenia the Spider

Source: Chandu the Magician, radio show, circa 1932

A West African dwarf assassin and sorcerer, Arenia the Spider was a recurrent threat to Frank “Chandu the Magician” Chandler and his family. Hired by master villain Roxor to interfere with Chandu’s search for his missing scientist brother-in-law, Robert Regent, Arenia spied upon Chandler’s household while they were investigating in Cairo, Egypt, and later dogged their steps in Eastern Europe. At one point, he succeeded in poisoning Chandler’s teenage niece, Betty Regent, with an enchanted bouquet.

Arenia is not much taller than a yardstick. But he’s stealthy, swift, cunning, and an expert poisoner. He can scale sheer walls and steep rooftops like his namesake to eavesdrop or to hurl a dagger or poisoned dart. In addition to his native Bantu, he speaks English, French, and Arabic fluently, albeit in a high-pitched squeak of a voice. He’s given to evil, nearly hysterical laughter upon accomplishing a dirty trick. Arenia may not be able to trade punches with player-characters or wrestle them to the ground, but he’s very good at creating or using distractions to wiggle out of an opponent’s grasp. Even Chandu couldn’t keep his prisoner for long.

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The Bat Man

Source: Grant Stockbridge, "Death Reign of the Vampire King," Popular Publications, 1935


What if Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, had instead chosen a bat theme for his criminal persona? Stockbridge's villainous Bat Man, who preceded Bob Kane's

heroic character by four years, gives us an idea.

The horror began with the deaths of prominent gangsters suspected of controlling illegal horse race gambling operations. Survivors reported attacks by swarms of

bats that latched ravenously upon their victims. They arrived soundlessly and fled in response to mysterious squeaking. And overhead floated the form of a giant bat.

The Spider, however, feared more was involved than a series of mob hits. Unfortunately he was right. Although the cloaked vigilante raced from city to city trying to prevent the carnage, bat swarms slaughtered thousands across the nation. Worse, his attempts to track captured bats caused the Spider to be

accused of the murder spree himself. He discovered that the giant bat was a man piloting a glider and that the attacking swarms had human help in reaching

their victims. Captured by the Bat Man's Jivaro worshippers, the Spider and his companions narrowly escaped being fed to the vampires. Since he was unable

to keep up with the Bat Man in an airplane, the Spider built a glider himself. The two masked men engaged in a harrowing dogfight over the Continental Divide.

The Spider crashed on a ledge but his final bullet had found its mark.

His initial attacks may have been revenge upon mobsters who had interfered with his earlier career but the Bat Man's motives for mass murder are unclear. It

can't be a bid for power; he has no apparent political agenda and is already a god. Is it a grab for wealth? His resources are obviously vast, and he has never demanded money in return for calling off his vampires. Perhaps he's mad; the Spider learned that Earl Westfall is a recovering drug addict.

In any event, the Bat Man is a detail-sweating strategist whose careful planning has paid off so far. He's a stay-in-the-background mastermind type who lets his henchmen and little winged friends do his bloodletting for him. If the player-characters ever manage to catch him on the ground without his helpers, they'll be able to beat the snot out of him. They will have to work hard to do it, however. Westfall is cautious and resourceful. Confronted by the PCs, the Bat Man will at first depend on his vampire hordes to finish them off. If this fails, he'll have the Jivaros stalk them with poison darts or will attempt to pick them off from the air himself. Should the heroes persist and get too close to one of his hideouts, the Bat Man will try to capture them alive -- not out of mercy or because he wants to learn what they know but because his bats prefer live food.

Westfall is a jet-set type with no criminal record or known underworld connections. He will be polite to the PCs but will attempt to stay out of their way and fade into the background as much as possible. His role as a retired sports celebrity gives him a plausible excuse for vacationing in whatever city the bats happen to strike next.

Powers and Abilities:

Earl Westfall is an unsung genius: aeronautical engineer, anthropologist, biologist, chemist. He's persuaded a tribe of Jivaro Indians that he is their

bat god, trained a vast swarm of vampire bats to kill on cue, and constructed a compact one-man flying machine more agile than most 1930s airplanes. Westfall

coats himself with an artificial bat musk so that the vampires won't attack him and coats their teeth with a poison that is harmless to the bats but which

kills humans on contact. He maintains several lairs around the United States but his main headquarters is a cavern system in the Rocky Mountains warmed by

natural hot springs where he raises and cares for his tropical bats. It is inaccessible except by air and affords no place to land a conventional aircraft.

The Bat Man reaches it with his glider. Adventurers will have to use a hot air balloon or autogyro -- or construct gliders of their own.

The Jivaros are stealthy hunters and stalkers, natural tacticians. Their favorite weapon is a blowgun firing drugged or poisoned darts but they also

carry knives. A few of them are good wrestlers. In the Bat Man's employ they've learned to be efficient burglars and getaway drivers. They still

regard aircraft and the men who pilot them as something supernatural.


Because of his short stature, Earl Westfall stands out in a crowd even when he's not in his Bat Man guise. In addition to the PCs, he's sought by the FBI because of the nationwide nature of his crimes. Two of his strengths are also weaknesses. His glider is rather fragile as vehicles go and affords him no protection. He can't wear an armored suit while flying what today would be called an ultralight aircraft. A good shot to it or to its pilot will end the Bat Man's career rather quickly. Also, Westfall's control of the bats depends on a liberally applied musk perfume. If it gets washed off, or if the bats are somehow released before he can splash it on, the Bat Man will suffer the same grisly fate he has meted out to others.

Height: cm (4' 11"), Weight: kg (90 lbs), Sex: Male, Race: Caucasian


The Bat Man is a short, hideous figure with a bat's ears and face and with wings extending from his shoulders. It's a costume. He speaks in a squeaky, grating voice and emits eerie calls to summon or dismiss his tiny slayers. Earl Westfall is a dapper man who has apparently more than doubled his weight since he quit riding the horses. He wears an inflated suit beneath his clothes to give the illusion that he's become fat.

Westfall's Jivaro henchmen are squat, brown jungle tribesmen proficient with the blowgun. They usually wear traditional red tunics but will don North American clothing if the climate or mission requires it. They don't speak English and may be unfamiliar with Spanish as well.

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Doctor Fu Manchu

Sources: "The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu," Sax Rohmer, 1913 (first in a 12-novel series); "Drums of Fu Manchu." Republic Pictures, 1940 (15-chapter serial);

"Master of Kung Fu," Mavel Comics, 1974-1983


Dr. Fu Manchu is an elderly Chinese physican and scholar who has been dabbling in Chinese and international politics since the Empress Dowager's ill-fated reign. A distant heir to the Manchu throne, he tried to strengthen the dynasty and limit Western influence through a program of kidnapping, assassination and terrorism. Since the dynasty's demise, he has advised some of the succeeding regimes and has waged a clandestine war against the West (particularly Great Britain) as head of the Si Fan, a secret international murder society. Viewed by the British as a ruthless killer, Fu Manchu sees himself as a patriot fighting to build a strong, independent China. To achieve his ends, he has worked with the Russians and the Japanese, although he trusts neither of them. He secretly nurses the hope of restoring the Manchu dynasty with himself as emperor but is political realist enough to put that dream on the back burner.

Dr. Fu Manchu's greatest weapons are his vast intellect and his horde of skilled assassins. A master physician and pharmacologist, he's concocted a wide variety

of drugs, poisons and gadgets with which to control, incapacitate or eliminate influential Westerners. He's too old to do much damage in personal combat, so

he prefers to direct complex schemes from behind the scenes and allow his agents to do most of the bloodletting. Fu Manchu's crimes are mysterious: victims die

(or become comatose) suddenly and without apparent cause. Hypnotized subjects attack their friends or commit thefts and can't remember doing it afterward.

People with knowledge useful or dangerous to the Si Fan disappear without a trace.


"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government ... and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu." -- Sir Denis Nayland Smith, the doctor's longtime opponent

Campaign Use:

Dr. Fu Manchu is the man who put the "super" in supervillain. In his 60-year career (80-year if you include his appearance in Marvel Comics) he has occasionally been thwarted but never captured or defeated. He has suffered apparent death, disability, bankruptcy, disavowal by the Chinese government, betrayal by associates and always comes roaring back with unwavering commitment to his goals and yet another sinister plot to hatch. In the process he has transformed the Si Fan from a medieval assassins guild to a modern terrorist organization.

During his career, his relationship with China has changed. Before World War I he was funded and supported, albeit unofficially, by an influential faction in the Chinese government. By the mid-1930s the doctor was clearly operating on his own, his imperial associations and ambitions having made him a pariah at home. By the time of the Cold War, China's Communist officials were as eager to get their hands on Fu Manchu as the British government. They considered his criminal activities a counter-revolutionary embarrassment even though most of Fu Manchu's efforts were directed against their capitalist foes.

If we haven't heard much from the doctor during the past two or three decades it's probably because his goals have been achieved. China is again a respected

international power able to shrug off Western meddling. The British Empire that Fu Manchu so passionately hated no longer exists. And China's official espionage community is efficiently siphoning off Western technology without outside assistance from the Si Fan (as recent scandals over U.S. nuclear secrets and Chinese campaign contributions attest). How many superheroes can boast of that kind of track record?

Dr. Fu Manchu typically has technology which is fifty years ahead of its time. However, he's not a gadget lover. Keep in mind that part of what gives the doctor his distinctive style is his use of arcane drugs, ancient but effective assassins tools, and trained exotic animals to commit his crimes. He's probably invented a microwave weapon that could fry the good guys, but when they get in his way he'll slip a yard-long Indonesian centipede into their bedrooms to finish them off.

Fah Lo Suee

Fah Lo Suee is Dr. Fu Manchu's impetuous daughter by a Russian mother, born around the turn of the 19th century. A classic femme fatale, she's his chief agent and also his chief headache. Although she's adept at getting close to the doctor's prospective victims, she can't resist trying to pull off plots of her own, which often botches up daddy's well-laid schemes. Also, although Fah Lo Suee is an accomplished seductress, she occasionally develops a crush on handsome Occidental men she's supposed to be manipulating.

This nubile, exotic beauty has inherited her father's intellect, will to power, and eerie green eyes but hasn't yet developed his judgment. Raised as a goddess in a remote Tibetan temple, she's arrogant, lazy, and selfish, willing to sacrifice Fu Manchu's goals for her own gratification. Because of this, relations with her imperious sire are often strained; Fu Manchu admires her initiative but severely punishes her disobedience.


Depending on her mood and her mission, Fah Lo Suee can appear a frightened waif, an irresistible sex kitten, a regal queen, or a maddened attacker. She has

silky ivory-colored skin, jet black hair, hypnotic green eyes, and the slim figure of a ballerina or ice skater. Her movements, like her mocking laugh, are light and airy. Her apparent age depends on whether she's attempting to appeal to a man's libido or to his protective instincts. Since it is likely that she has ingested the same drug that gives her father his immortality, her true age may be impossible to determine.

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Sadhi Bel Addah

Source: "The Temple Bells of Neban," The Shadow radio show, 1937


During his radio adventures, The Shadow encountered all manner of gunmen, cultists, and mad scientists. Few of his opponents were as dangerous as the

enigmatic woman who calls herself Sadhi Bel Addah.

Lamont Cranston first encountered Sadhi Bel Addah while dining at the fashionable Club Caliph. She was the headline act, performing an Indian cobra dance. Observing her furtive interactions with some of the other customers, Cranston became convinced that the dancer was engaging in some sort of illicit activity. However, when he attempted to speak with her, Sadhi Bel Addah made veiled threats that she knew more about him than he would care for her to know. When he confronted her as The Shadow, the dancer mocked Cranston and dared him to interfere with her affairs.

As Cranston soon deduced, Sahdi Bel Addah is the niece of the Hindu priest who trained him in the mystic arts. Unlike her uncle and The Shadow, she has chosen to use her powers for personal gain. While her main income derives from opium smuggling, she also uses her popular dancing act to seduce young men from wealthy families so that her associates can kidnap them and hold them for ransom. The Club Caliph itself has proved quite lucrative for Sadhi's gang, but they plan to close it and leave the country should the police figure out what they're up to.

Her principal henchman is Alexis, who poses as the nightclub's manager while actually overseeing the drug ring's daily operations. He's a smooth-talking European in his forties with an accent that could be Romanian. Alexis is the only member of the gang to suspect that Sadhi is anything more than an effective vamp. The others think that all her talk of mystical abilities is just part of her act. In addition to locally hired drug peddlers and enforcers, Sahdi Bel Addah also has a ship full of thugs waiting offshore if she needs additional muscle. The ship is her and Alexis' escape route as well as the warehouse for their illegal wares.

If the player characters investigate the Club Caliph, the majority of its employees -- cooks, musicians, wait staff -- are honest, hard-working people who have no idea that the club is a front for a more sinister business. If approached correctly, they will be able to give the heroes useful information: who has been seen with whom, the location of Sadhi's dressing room, the existence of a forbidden room where she stores her reptiles (and, unknown to them, the gang's narcotics.) This last is a deathtrap waiting to happen. The PCs could discover the drugs only to have Alexis pull the lever that simultaneously opens all the reptile cages. ("Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?")

Powers and Abilities:

Sadhi Bel Addah is a powerful mystic and telepath with the ability to counteract the powers of other mentalists. She threatened The Shadow by attempting to turn off his invisibility so that her goons could shoot him. Her sinuous nightly performance is actually a demonstration of a little-known martial art that emphasizes avoiding one's opponent until the practitioner can deliver a killing blow. Player characters who attempt to seize her are in for a nasty surprise. Sadhi is also an accomplished snake charmer and keeps a menagerie of venomous reptiles which she uses in her act. Despite her apparent affection for her "pets," she won't hesitate to slip one into the heroes' quarters if they interfere with her plans.


Her criminal success has made Sadhi cocky. She loves showing off her powers and feels compelled to challenge individuals who also possess mental or mystical abilities. This led her to confront The Shadow when she might otherwise have misdirected him if not avoided his notice. The smuggling ring finds her services useful but they don't completely trust her. They're keeping an eye on her to make sure she doesn't double-cross them. And even though she's been discreet in her activities, Sadhi stands out in a crowd. In addition to wearing traditional Indian dress, she practically broadcasts allure, even when she's not psychically enhancing her affect on the opposite sex.


Sadhi Bel Addah is a lithe, brown, twenty-something woman who moves with serpentine grace. Her easy, confident manner becomes decidedly coquettish when she is taunting a male opponent.

The Scorpion

Source: Republic Pictures, "The Adventures of Captain Marvel," 1941, 12-chapter serial


When the Malcolm archeological expedition began excavating a sealed cavern tomb in steppes of south-central Asia, local tribesmen attacked, claiming the Americans had offended the volcano god Scorpio. The scientists survived the attack and upon opening the tomb found a segmented golden scorpion, almost a yard in length, with thick, round, crystal lenses attached to each of its feet. Dr. Malcolm quickly discovered that by aligning the lenses he could transform common rocks into gold -- or vaporize them. Awed by the potential and danger represented by the artifact, Malcolm insisted that the lenses be removed and distributed among the expedition members so that no one individual could harness its power. That night an eerie robed figure appeared in the tribal village claiming to be the incarnation of Scorpio and urging the horsemen to avenge him. During the raid the golden scorpion was stolen.

Malcolm and his companions succeeded in returning to the United States, but they soon began receiving letters and radio messages demanding that they surrender the lenses to a mysterious criminal who called himself the Scorpion. By kidnapping, torture, and murder, the Scorpion was gradually able to recover enough lenses to turn the scorpion artifact into a functioning weapon. However, he still seeks the remaining lenses in order to unleash its ultimate power.

Powers and Abilities

The Scorpion is the archetypal movie serial mastermind. The threat he poses to human civilization is so great that the ancient wizard Shazam created the hero Captian Marvel specifically to combat him. The Scorpion is cunning, resourceful, and is backed by a loyal army of goons both in the U.S. and in Asia. Since the artifact turns stones into gold, he has limitless wealth. Simple robbery and theft are beneath him. The Scorpion wants power, specifically the power the artifact's lenses will give him, and he will ruthlessly destroy anyone who purposefully or unintentionally gets in his way. He has been known to put himself at a seeming disadvantage in order to lure

opponents into a well-laid trap. According to police reports, his victims are frequently found with a small golden scorpion placed somewhere on their bodies.

He has no superhuman abilities -- the heroes could beat him senseless if they could ever get their hands on him. They never will. The Scorpion is too clever to allow himself to be captured or identified. He shows up only when his thugs have completed his dirty work, then retreats after having taunted or threatened the good guys. If they manage to corner him, he's sure to have a secret escape route. The figure seated behind a desk will turn out to be a mannequin equipped with a loudspeaker. The shape seen at the French door will prove to be a cleverly reflected projection. He has hidden lairs scattered throughout the city. He's a master of disguise and mimicry. Dr. Malcolm has voiced suspicions that a surviving member of the expedition is the Scorpion, but the group's traps and ruses haven't succeeded in exposing him.

For game masters, this uncertainty is the key to portraying the Scorpion. He could be anybody -- including Dr. Malcolm, one of the policemen investigating the scientists' deaths, or the guy at the diner who sold the heroes this morning's coffee. Even Captain Marvel, who has the wisdom of Solomon, hasn't figured it out. If the heroes become certain a particular individual is the Scorpion, that person will invariably have an airtight alibi for the fiend's latest outrage or will be the victim of the fiend's latest outrage. Anonymity is the Scorpion's ultimate advantage.

The reason the Scorpion seems to know the heroes' plans and daily routines in advance is that he is someone they associate with on a regular basis. He could be a business associate, a co-worker, a deacon at their church, the man who runs the news stand across the street from their apartment building. He is using this close proximity to spy on them and thwart their attempts to find him. Once the good guys figure this out, the game master should milk it for all it is worth by surrounding them with suspicious little coincidences. The acquaintance they were meeting for lunch arrives late just after the Scorpion's most recent crime has been announced on the radio. They open an office door to find the secretary lurking behind it as if she had been eavesdropping. Their professor comes to class with a bandaged hand the day after they succeed in winging the Scorpion in a firefight. Naturally, each of these individuals will have perfectly reasonable explanations to offer.

Another reason for the Scorpion's success so far is his level-headedness. He's calculating, calm, and patient. He'll get even with the heroes, all right, when the timing and opportunity are to his well-considered advantage. Unlike other would-be world conquerors, he's not a megalomaniac who raves about his master plan or a sadistic killer who slays for the fun of it. The Scorpion won't hesitate to employ violence if it serves his ends, but he won't waste the effort if it doesn't.


The Scorpion is draped in a flowing, ankle-length, red robe with yellow scorpion icons on each shoulder. His face is concealed by a cloth mask with round eye holes that hangs to his shoulders. It has a yellow scorpion icon on the forehead. It is assumed that the Scorpion is a Caucasian male, but can we be sure, really?

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The Grand Vampire

Source: "Les Vampires," The Gaumont Co., Ltd., 1916, 10-chapter serial


On the eve of the Great War, France was horrified by a series of audacious crimes committed by a mysterious gang called The Vampires. No corner of the nation was safe. An American millionaire was robbed at her chateau, then strangled while in protective custody. A bank courier vanished from a moving train along with an envelope containing 300,000 francs. At the Paris Opera, a ballerina who dared to stage a production called "The Vampires" was poisoned in the middle of her performance. A ballroom full of aristocrats were gassed and awoke to find their wallets and jewelry gone. A special investigator was murdered and his severed head delivered in a box to local magistrates. Victims who were allowed to live reported seeing spidery figures garbed in black leotards and cowls.

Police were helpless. The criminals left few clues. Their outrages were committed with military precision after months of preparation. Detectives and reporters who persisted in investigating after being warned off by the gang simply disappeared. A raid of one of the gang's safe houses yielded evidence that the The Vampires' guiding Black Committee included members at the highest echelons of French society. At the center of this conspiracy lurked an elusive being who styled himself the Grand Vampire.

Powers and Abilities:

The Grand Vampire is a master actor, burglar and escape artist. Able to disguise himself as almost anybody, he maintains a dozen secret identities -- a beloved country doctor, a prosperous real estate agent, a popular society playboy, the proprietor of a notorious Paris nightclub -- all for the purpose of scoping out and developing lucrative criminal opportunities. Lithe and wiry, he can slither through chimneys, glide down drainpipes, and traverse the rooftops of Paris as if they were its sidewalks.

He is a skillful leader. Although he demands absolute obedience from his minions, he's careful to ensure that they share the rewards as well as the risks of his well-calculated schemes. This even-handed treatment is key to maintaining the gang's loyalty and cohesiveness; it's why the police haven't been able to cultivate informants and spies to use against The Vampires.

While it is uncertain what the Black Committee's ultimate goal is, his motives are simple: the Grand Vampire wants cash and lots of it. He'll try almost anything (except honest work) to get it.


The Grand Vampire's most effective opponents aren't the authorities; they're the press and the rest of the criminal community. The Vampires' plots have more

than once been exposed by articles published daily by "Paris Chronicle" reporter Phillipe Guerande. And their success has won them the enmity of a rival burglary ring overseen by Spanish thief and con man Jose Juan Moreno. The Grand Vampire has also grown protective of his slinky spy and second-story girl, Irma Vep, although their relationship is strictly professional.


When he's not covered in forty pounds of makeup and false hair, the Grand Vampire appears as a slim, wiry man in his early to mid thirties. He has nondescript brown hair and a pleasant, squarish face that serves as a good foundation for his disguises. He's handsome enough to encourage his victims' trust but not so notable that they'll remember him later. He adapts his costume to his surroundings. In Society he slicks back his hair and dons evening clothes. At The Howling Cat, a jazz club that serves as a hideout, he sports a cheap suit, a thick mustache, and a derby hat. As the Grand Vampire, he's encased in a tight black bodysuit and full mask, which accentuates his thinness and makes him look like a human spider.

Campaign Notes:

The Vampires are comprised of several levels of personnel. The Black Committee calls the shots from the exclusive clubs and salons of Paris but its members

rarely, if ever, are directly involved in the gang's crimes. The Grand Vampire oversees the gang's daily activities and pulls off it's most spectacular crimes with the aid of a small (three to five people) core of veteran thieves who know his face if not his real name. This inner circle includes: Irma Vep, the gang's master infiltrator; Venomous, the chemist who concocts the its poisons and drugs; the deaf kidnapper Father Silence; Madame Alba, medium and hypnotist; the Grand Inquisitor, who interrogates captives; and Satamas, also known as the Bishop. The rank and file of the gang -- 15 to 20 individuals -- are ne'er-do-wells and thugs who know the Grand Vampire only by reputation or as a shadowy figure. They obey orders in return for a spiffy black costume and a share of the loot. Oscar-Cloud Mazamette, Phillipe Guerande's sidekick, is a former Vampire hanger-on of this last category.

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Dr. Cyclops

Source: "Dr. Cyclops," Paramount Pictures, Inc., 1940

Quote: "You have succeeded in breaking one of my lenses. Now I am truly a Cyclops!"


In 1940, the North American Research Foundation of New York received a request for professional assistance from Dr. Alexander Thorkel, a brilliant but eccentric

biologist who had moved his laboratory to the Peruvian jungle. A three-member scientific team led by Dr. Rupert Bulfinch eventually reached Thorkel's remote compound with the aid of prospector Steve Baker. However, Thorkel politely dismissed his colleagues after having them view and evaluate slides containing a series of tissue samples. He also refused to discuss the nature of his research. Irate at being summoned to the wilderness for such an errand, Bulfinch refused to leave. Meanwhile, Baker determined that Thorkel's camp was sitting on a rich radium mine. Pedro, Thorkel's kennel keeper, let it slip that a feed lot's worth of livestock had entered the researcher's lab never to be seen again while the cat kept growing fatter. And team members stumbled upon miniature hog bones in the compound's refuse pile.

When Bulfinch was caught reading Thorkel's notes, the biologist agreed to share his findings with the team. He did, but not in the way they expected. While

showing them a device that drew atomic power directly from the earth, Thorkel locked his visitors and Pedro in the test chamber. The five were bathed in

intense radiation and awoke to find themselves the size of action figures. Thorkel had devised a method of shrinking living organisms to one-fifth their original size. Bulfinch, referring to the legend of Ulysses, accused Thorkel of being a bully like the Cyclops, a one-eyed giant who had trapped the Greek hero. The group managed to escape Thorkel's bedroom. Bulfinch returned to negotiate and, after being weighed and measured, was killed when Thorkel determined that his human test subjects would grow back to their original size if given enough time. The remaining team members played a literal cat-and-mouse game with Thorkel -- setting booby traps and attempting to steal or break his glasses -- until the mad scientist apparently perished by falling into the mine shaft. But they never recovered the body.

Although he's nutty as a Snickers bar, Thorkel is always polite, deliberate and calm. He's so reasonable (even while committing murder) that it may be difficult for adventurers to anticipate his next move. His first response to visitors will be to offer courteous assistance so that they can quickly be on their way. If they pry into his research, the doctor will do his best to prevent them from ever leaving. Thorkel will want to keep the player-characters alive for as long as possible for use in his experiments. Once he's learned all he can -- or if the heroes prove resourceful enough to be dangerous -- Thorkel will attempt to kill them mmediately. He usually anesthetizes victims with a drug-soaked cotton swab but isn't averse to feeding them to his pet cat. If they really tick him off by escaping or by attempting to sabotage his experiments, Thorkel will come after the adventurers with his double-barreled shotgun.

One could argue that Thorkel's invention is already in the wrong hands but given that he's conducting his studies in South America during World War II things could probably get worse if the German High Command took an interest in what he's doing. His shrinking machine might be used to make troop transport more efficient. On the other hand, having a second set of villains show up might give the good guys a chance to escape.

Powers and Abilities:

Dr. Cyclops is a brilliant researcher in a variety of fields related to his work: molecular biology, zoology, physics. He's a persuasive speaker, good at disarming the fears and suspicions of outsiders until he can get the drop on them. He's also reasonably athletic for a middle-aged man.

While he personally has no paranormal abilities, Thorkel has constructed a room-sized device capable of reducing living organisms to one-fifth their original size. His shrinking process doesn't work on non-living items such as tools or clothing. It's also a one-way trip. He can't restore characters to their original size or enlarge his cat to the size of an elephant. However, a shrunken hero will gradually return to his former dimensions as he heals the damage done by the ray. Characters transformed by the machine are about a foot tall.

The test chamber has thick, lead-lined walls and features a bulky ray projector similar to that of a hospital X-ray room. Its armored door has a thin viewing slot. A series of knife-switch controls are nearby. Outside the lab, a huge electrode dangles from a winch so that it can be lowered into a vertical mine shaft. It is attached to the lab's power box by thick cables. The player-characters will probably need explosives to destroy the facility. A character needs to know what he's doing to run the equipment, and throwing all those levers in sequence takes time. The machine sucks its energy from the radium ore below by an unexplained process.


Thorkel's most obvious limitation is his weak vision. He's virtually blind without his thick glasses. He can't stand for his work to be interrupted and fears that others (even those with no scientific background) will try to steal his research. In reality, they're more likely to attempt to steal his radium mine. He's completely amoral; any deed is permissible as long as it advances his studies.


No wimpy nerd, Dr. Thorkel is a tall, muscular man in his late forties. He shaves his head, wears incredibly thick wire-rim glasses, and sports the pencil-thin mustache required of all villains of the period. He wears a long-sleeved khaki shirt, trousers, and boots appropriate to the climate of his jungle laboratory but slips on a lead-lined coverall and helmet when he's doing his experiments with radium.


300+ views and no comments yet? Hopefully it is because you are so inspired by these posts that you're busy sending your player-characters out to battle evil and make the world safe for democracy. ;D

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Agents of the Si Fan

The Si Fan is a federation of various Asian murder cults, overseen by a Council of Seven and directed by Dr. Fu Manchu. The doctor once boasted that this secret murder society was older than Buddhism, but several of its current component groups are of much more recent origin. Members include former Chinese Boxers, Burmese dacoits (robbers), Syrian and Persian Assassins, Indian Thugs (Phansigars), Tibetan warrior monks, Nubian wrestlers, and Indonesian tribesmen. Members of the Council of Seven wear silver rings with emerald settings for identification.

"Boxers" derive their title from a mistranslation of the name of their secret society, The Society of Righteous Fists. The organization flourished in northern China during the late 1800s and was dedicated to ridding China of foreign meddlers, notably the British. Recruiters held public demonstrations to convince their audiences that members were immune to European bullets. Members murdered Christian missionaries and their converts, but when an army of Boxers marched on the capital to drive out the foreign diplomatic corps, a coalition of colonial powers (including the Japanese) invaded and eventually defeated them. The invaders captured the Empress Dowager and restored her to power, and the influence of the Boxers waned rapidly. The Boxers make up the rank and file of the Si Fan: soldiers, couriers, front men.

Dacoits are members of a thieves' guild with religious links to the Phansigars. Masters of stealth, knife weilding and poison, the dacoits are Fu Manchu's most

commonly used assassins. He calls in other elements of the Si Fan mainly when he needs a specialist. One of their favorite techniques is to introduce a venomous bug or reptile into a sleeping victim's room, then withdraw the beast by means of a thread once its work is done. Dacoits often are garbed only in loincloths and small, tight turbans. Members from the Indian branch have a religious symbol tattooed on their foreheads.

The Assassins are a Shiite Moslem sect founded c.1090 to deal with Christian Crusaders and Sunni Moslem "heretics." Members perform their crimes under the influence of hashish and will keep fighting until incapacitated. The order is ruled by an autocratic grand master traditionally known as The Old Man of the Mountain. Assassins are probably the newest members of the Si Fan since the British only recently gained control of the Mideast. They are the society's shock troops; on missions a sober lieutenant will direct one or two drug-crazed slayers.

Thugs are a religious fraternity of robbers and murderers who strangle their victims as sacrifices to the Hindu goddess of destruction Kali. They traditionally waylaid wealthy travelers by disguising themselves as holy men or merchants. They were (supposedly) repressed by the British between 1829 and 1836, when 300 members were executed.

Tibetan warrior monks are the classic, mysterious martial artists whose hand-to-hand combat ability is alleged to be mystically augmented. They wear shapeless

brown robes with deep cowls that hide their faces. Not much else is known about them; although they hold a prominent position on the Council of Seven, warrior monks are rarely employed on missions.

Malaysian Dayaks, tribesmen native to Borneo, are employed by the Si Fan for their skill with ropes and boats and their diving ability. Nubians act as bodyguards and personal servants for society officers; Fah Lo Suee usually has a couple of them nearby.

One element conspicuous by its absence is the ninjas of Japan. There are several reasons for this. Japan, in contrast to other Asian nations, is a successful and prosperous world power in the 1920s and '30s. Since being forced to trade with the Americans, the Japanese have welcomed Westernization. Not only is Nippon not under foreign domination, but it is well on its way to becoming a colonial power itself. Despite talk of a pan-Asian prosperity zone, the Japanese are as eager as the Europeans to carve up Asia for fun and profit. The Japanese view the Western nations as rivals rather than oppressors and are traditional enemies of the Chinese, Koreans and Russians.

Also, the ninja clans are clannish. They keep to themselves to avoid prosecution when they aren't being hired on the sly by Japanese politicians for espionage missions. They have professional secrets to protect and a long history of government service to be proud of. Ninjas may be despised as honorless criminals in Nippon but they're as patriotic as the next guy. Why should they throw their lot in with a bunch of foreigners?

A third reason ninjas aren't Si Fan members is that Western writers (such as Sax Rohmer) didn't know about them in the pulp era. They were truly a secret society. Note that with the exception of the Tibetan monks, most Si Fan agents aren't martial artists. Europeans had heard rumors about Chinese Kung Fu (Wu Shu), but the only Oriental fighting style they were really familiar with was Japanese jujitsu, which came to the West as the sport, judo.

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Dr. Satan's Robot

Source: "Mysterious Dr. Satan," Republic Pictures, 1940; 15-chapter serial


Dr. Satan, a master criminal, built the robot as a prototype soldier for his mechanical army of world conquest. Bulletproof and immensely strong, the robot was impractical for field operations until Dr. Satan forced Professor Scott -- a rival electronics genius -- to reveal the secret of his remote-control cell. Fortunately, the cell required a rare metal, tungite, and Satan was unable to acquire enough of it to equip an automated army. The lone robot, however, is trouble enough. The remote-control cell enables Dr. Satan or one of his henchmen to direct the robot from a laboratory on the other side of a large metropolitan area. If the cell or the robot's communications components become damaged, however, the automaton becomes inert and helpless. The robot also shorts out if immersed or sprayed with water; a cup of water won't do it but a bucketful or a fire hose might.

In addition to its strength and invulnerability, the robot is equipped with a powerful electric arc that can cut through thick steel doors or zap a security guard from several feet away. Its remote operator can see and hear what is going on around the robot via television console and can broadcast his voice in the robot's location. A man could easily outrun the robot in the open but it is most often employed indoors, where Dr. Satan's opponents are trapped in cramped offices or bedrooms. Dr. Satan's henchmen transport the robot by truck in a refrigerator-sized wooden packing case.


Dr. Satan's fiendish robot slave is a classic B-movie mechanical man. Seven feet tall, it looks like a hot water heater on short, bulky mechanical legs. It has can-shaped "shoulders" attached to the main cylinder from which hang flexible tubular arms ending in thick, two-fingered claws. Between the fingers are electrodes capable of generating an electric arc powerful enough to cut through vault doors. It has various slots and lenses where a human's face would be. It moves deliberately but silently, enabling it to sneak up on prospective victims.


Source: Republic Pictures, "Perils of Nyoka" (aka "Nyoka and the Tigermen"), 1942, 15-chapter serial


Vultura is the daughter of a Bedouin chieftain who conquered a number of other tribes, leaving her leadership of several encampments. Although her people pay

lip service to Islam, she rules from the Temple of the Evil Birds as a goddess. Her agents have infiltrated Professor Douglas Campbell's expedition to locate the golden Tablets of Hippocrates. In addition to conventional treasure, the tablets are supposed to contain the cure for cancer. When she followed the expedition to the Valley of the Taureg's she discerned that their chief is actually archeologist Nyoka Gordon's long-lost father, Henry Gordon, who knows the location of the tablets.

In her quest to steal the tablets, she gets lots of support from her henchman; Cassib, a bandit chieftain; and her trained killer gorilla, Satan. Count Torrini, a member of the Campbell expedition, is actually her spy. Vultura also has a small army of tribal soldiers. Their numbers are not limitless, but it often seems that way.

Powers and Abilities:

Vultura is an excellent public speaker. She has convinced both Cassib's bandits and the Taureg tribesmen that she is a minor deity. A scrapper, Vultura is good

at fisticuffs. She's fully capable of knocking out a male opponent. First, though, she'll try to stab (or shoot) him in the back.


While Vultura's exotic charms frequently enable her to pull something sneaky on unwary people, they also tend to attract unwanted male attention, particularly

when she has to visit supposedly civilized areas. She has also discovered that being a goddess is a mixed blessing. It gets her instant obedience from her goons, but she has to periodically do something impressive to keep them awed. Nyoka Gordon has not taken her predations on the Campbell expedition lying down and is currently in pursuit of the Bedouin princess.


Vultura is a shapely brunette in her early 20s. She usually wears a small turban and a knee-length, long-sleeved tunic that shows off her legs to good effect. The tunic is embroidered with an adder motif. When going out, she dons a floor-length hooded cloak. She wears a ring capable of delivering a dose of poison and typically carries a revolver and a knife. Satan frequently accompanies her, a long chain attached to a collar about his neck.

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It may seem odd to include the Green Hornet and Kato among a foul collection of villains. However, both the public and the local police regard the masked pair as opportunistic criminals who prey on other crooks rather than as vigilante heroes. Although his career on radio lasted from 1936 until well into the 1950s, the Hornet took much longer than Batman to come to a quiet understanding with the authorities.

The Green Hornet


Brit Reid is yet another wealthy Depression-era playboy who dons a mask to battle crime. Like other period vigilantes, he’s hunted by the police himself. Unlike contemporaries such as The Bat-Man and The Shadow, however, Reid actually holds down a job – as publisher of the Daily Sentinel, a major metropolitan newspaper. The newspaper provides a rich source of information for Reid’s after-hours activities. He’s got a whole staff of eager reporters to dig up clues for him. It also is a vulnerability; if the police or the underworld ever linked the Green Hornet to the Daily Sentinel, he’d be finished. To make this disastrous possibility less likely, Reid has had the Sentinel offer a hefty reward for information leading to the Green Hornet’s capture.

Another difference is his attitude. While other vigilantes are grim, driven figures, Reid appears to be enjoying himself. He hasn’t experienced personal tragedy like Bruce Wayne or his own great-uncle, the Lone Ranger. His whole approach to heroism is much more relaxed. The Green Hornet obeys his famous ancestor’s credo that life is precious; his trademark is a non-lethal gas gun. He relies on trickery and intimidation to stop the bad guys rather than the wholesale slaughter employed by crime-fighters such as The Spider.

The Green Hornet is assisted in his efforts by his Filipino valet, Kato, who invented both the Hornet’s gas gun and his souped-up car, the Black Beauty. Kato accompanied Reid to America after Reid saved his life. Once in the United States, the two found they had a common interest in automobile racing. They were preparing the Black Beauty for competition when the city was wrenched by a series of construction site accidents later connected to a rising crime syndicate. When he overheard the embattled police commissioner grumble that it would take "a modern Robin Hood" to stop the gang’s schemes, Reid took up the challenge and decided to put his car to other uses.

Powers and Abilities

Despite his reputation as a lazy rich kid, Brit Reid is an excellent boxer, a competent journalist and businessman, and a passable detective. He’s athletic and smart, but he’s not a physical and mental paragon in the mold of, say, Doc Savage or Captain Marvel. He keeps Kato, his gadgets, and his news staff nearby because he really does need them to be effective. Without his gas gun and fancy car, Brit Reid would be just another crusading reporter rather than a superhero.


Thanks to his own editorials, Brit Reid's alter ego is widely regarded as a public menace and is sought after by the police and the mob. In addition, the Green Hornet is hunted by Reid's loyal bodyguard and would-be crime reporter Michael Axford, who is eager to collect the Sentinel's reward. Since Axford has more guts than brains, the Hornet frequently has to get him out of sticky situations, risking attack from both gangsters and Axford himself.


The Green Hornet's face is concealed by an rigid, emerald-green, shield-shaped mask that extends from his forehead to the point of his chin. It has a yellow hornet emblem where his mouth and nose would be. He also wears a black fedora and trenchcoat and a white cravat. When he has to do a bit of burglary, he

puts on a pair of green gloves.

The Green Hornet made his debut on radio in the mid-1930s, was the hero of two 1940s movie serials, and made brief appearances on television and in the

comics in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. He's also had a recent so-so feature movie adaptation and appears in yet another comic book series. This version is loosely based on the 1940 Universal Pictures 13-chapter movie serial.



Son of a prosperous Manila merchant of Japanese descent, the man known as Kato distinguished himself as a student of chemical engineering. Shortly after graduation, he was approached by Japanese "recruiters" who insisted that he come with them to Tokyo and devote his talents to the Emperor. Kato eluded his would-be kidnappers and reached the harbor with the Japanese secret service in hot pursuit. There he literally ran into Brit Reid, who was holding a party aboard his yacht. Reid gave him shelter and, with his crew, managed to fend off the Japanese agents long enough for the ship to weigh anchor. Kato, a devout Catholic, declared that their meeting had been Providential and swore to devote his life to Reid.

Embarrassed and somewhat amused, Reid pulled strings to get Kato into the United States. He found himself unable to get rid of the little man and, not sure what else to do, offered Kato a position as his valet. When Reid began preparing the Black Beauty for the racing circuit, Kato surprised him by offering to formulate a high-grade fuel. He was even more surprised when his valet's concoction boosted the car's speed and performance beyond that of any other vehicle at the track. The two became fast friends, and when Reid decided to become the Green Hornet he took Kato into his confidence. Taking his cue from the Lone Ranger's creed, the Filipino engineer created their gas guns to enable them to subdue criminals without killing them.

Kato is a cheerful, energetic man who is very much grateful to be alive and free in his adopted homeland. Despite the slurs he sometimes receives from U.S. citizens, he firmly believes in the American dream and in the Green Hornet's mission to catch the crooks that the authorities can't. He also nourishes the hope that his inventions will one day help the United States free his country from Japanese occupation. Because he still fears pursuit by the Japanese secret service and because he is wary of betraying Reid's secrets, Kato says little and generally keeps to himself when he's not on duty. He gets along well with Reid's staff and associates, when they notice him.


When adventuring with the Green Hornet, Kato wears a black chauffeur's uniform and gloves. His thick driving goggles serve as a mask. At home, he consistently wears an impeccable white suit.


Initially, on radio, Kato served Brit Reid primarily as a driver and confidant, occasionally providing backup with a spare gas gun if the Green Hornet got cornered. By the time of the second movie serial, however, he'd become much more of an equal crime-fighting partner, and even demonstrated some judo expertise while helping the Hornet manhandle the bad guys. In the 1960s television show, actor Bruce Lee took Kato's skill at fisticuffs to a whole new level, nearly eclipsing the main character; indeed, international viewers in Asia considered Kato the hero and the Green Hornet the sidekick. Modern depictions have continued this trend, treating Kato as a martial arts master rather than as a reserved servant and closet scientist.

Edited by seneschal
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