Blood Syndicate

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Blood Syndicate
The Blood Syndicate, artist Denys Cowan.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Blood Syndicate #1 (April 1993)
Created by Dwayne McDuffie (writer)
Ivan Velez Jr. (writer)
Denys Cowan (artist)
In-story information
Member(s) Aquamaria
Boogieman
Brickhouse
DMZ
Dogg
Fade
Flashback
Holocaust
Kwai
Masquerade
Oro
Tech-9
Third Rail
Wise Son

The Blood Syndicate is a fictional multicultural gang of superhumans created by Milestone Comics and published by DC Comics. The team first appeared in Blood Syndicate #1 (April 1993), and was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez Jr. and Denys Cowan.

Publication history[edit]

In Milestone Comics' fictional city of Dakota, the Blood Syndicate is a loose affiliation of super-powered individuals brought together by circumstance; 35 issues of their eponymous comic book, written largely by Ivan Velez, Jr., were published between 1993 and 1996.

The Blood Syndicate differed from other supergroups in that they were (in Velez's words) "not a team - they're a gang".[citation needed] In fact, they were the surviving remnants of multiple street gangs (thus the name, a combination of "Paris Island Bloods" and "Force Syndicate"), who had gained superpowers in the so-called Big Bang, and decided to use them for a greater purpose. However, their constant in-fighting, the unsustainability of their methods, and their lack of a central vision (particularly after the death of their first leader) led to the Syndicate's eventual disintegration.

Fictional Team History[edit]

The "Big Bang" refers to an incident in which gang members from all over Dakota met in one, huge battle. Unknown to them, or even to the police involved, the tear gas used to disperse them was tagged with a radioactive agent called "quantum juice." Many gang members and police officers died. Others are transformed, some according to what they are next to; for instance, Aquamaria, landing in water, gains water powers, and Brickhouse merges with a brick wall and becomes brick. Other entities are affected in other ways. Dogg, a normal dog, discovers he has cognitive abilities and develops speech. Other heroes and villains that the Syndicate would encounter later would also gained their abilities from encounters with the gas. Some of them, such as Static, were neither gang members nor police.

Coming Together[edit]

The gang members eventually come together, forming a new gang. This takes some time. The original members are actually killed by Holocaust, only to be saved by Flashback. He vacillates, only to recruit Wise Son, threatening his mother in the process. Third Rail is found in a homeless camp deep below the streets, suffering from guilt over his father. Templo is recruited, through deceit, from a local church. The group meets and agrees to work together. After an initial disagreement, they agree to go by "Blood Syndicate", a combination of the names of the two rival gangs, "Force Syndicate" and "Paris Bloods".

Their first raid, on a crack house for operating capital, results in the deaths of many drug addicts and criminals and in the recruitment of Masquerade, who had been recruited to guard the actual drugs. They meet back at their original spot, only to be ambushed by a large contingent of local criminals. Templo is killed and the gang works together, killing every single one of their attackers.

Media Spotlight[edit]

They attract the attention of Dakota's local media. The Dakota Chronicle, the city's most popular newspaper sends reporter, Roberta "Rob" Chaplik, to score an interview with the Syndicate. Chaplik follows them to a raid on a crack-house, their main source of money. She actually perishes, but the powers of Flashback save her.[1]

Initially, the Blood Syndicate's methods were violent, but they softened over the course of the series. They killed less and less. Unfortunately, this was not enough to convince the traitor Masquerade. After stealing from the team, he was not convinced they would spare his life. (Of course, 'he' is relative, as it turns out Masqerade was a woman all along.)

The Syndicate faced multiple threats and disasters. The unstable nature of their powers causes their original leader, Tech-9, to perish. The less popular Wise Son is forced to replace Tech as leader. Another gang leader, John Wing, whom they humiliate (he is actually urinated on by Wise Son) kills his wife in order to summon the 'Demon Fox.' This powerful demonic entity would prove extremely difficult to beat. He almost slays the entire team and is also able to get deep inside their heads psychologically. After his first defeat, he attempts to influence others to affect the team. Another villain, Rift, with reality-warping powers, temporary kills most of the people the Syndicate cares about, by dumping Paris Island into the ocean. These deaths lasted for some time. Eventually, Rift is manipulated into reversing the murders.

Racial tensions arise briefly as a mystical incident reveals that long-standing Syndicate member Boogieman is a shape-shifting white male. His status as a reliable member of the team is enough to make it through.

There were bright spots during the team's history. Third Rail and Brickhouse began a romantic relationship and eventually move out to start a new life together. Wise Son's little sister and son, both of close ages, develop powers of their own, teleporting long distances through mirrors. They frequently visit the team and strike up a friendship with Dogg.

Tensions[edit]

The team develops money troubles due to having driven most of the crack gangs out of town, plus renovation bills.[2] They managed to find one last crack house. They decide on a raid and then more responsible use of any resulting money. The raid goes badly, leaving team member Kwai shot.

Though having moved out, Brickhouse and Third Rail's troubles are far from over. Third Rail is attacked by a gigantic villain called the 'Techno-Shaman' and is ultimately saved by Brickhouse.

Kwai recovers from her injuries but learns that she is on the last life of a series of mystically granted lives. She travels to her home realm, Kwen Lun, the Wondrous Lands, in a desperate attempt to gain at least one more buffer life. During Kwai's troubles, Dogg deals with operatives of a murderous organization called S.Y.S.T.E.M.. who want to experiment on him and other Bang Babies. Fade and Tech-9 confront a simmering attraction for each other. Masquerade also deals with another branch of S.Y.S.T.E.M.[3] Upon returning home Kwai meets with her old friend, the Monkey King, and the two plead to her father, the Jade Emperor for another life. The Emperor denies this request, declaring that she has grown too attached to the mortal world. He then sentences her to death without reincarnation stating that she has broken the blood contract between them by rebelling against him.

To save Kwai's life the Monkey King recruits most of the Syndicate to go with him to Kwen Lun to save her while Tech-9 and Flashback stay behind as backup. In the Kingdom of Ti Yu (Hell), Kwai is offered marriage to the Dog God there to save her existence, but decides she can't marry him and goes on to meet the Grey Lady. There she learns that her entire existence as Kwai has been a nothing more than to provide entertainment to the gods of the Wondrous Lands in the form of a never-ending battle against the Demon Fox. The Grey Lady offers Kwai once more a chance to live and marry the Dog God but she refuses, deciding that she will no longer allow to gods to control her existence - even if it means death. The Grey Lady, impressed with her spirit allows her to return, with the warning that her father will not stop until he has his revenge.

The Beginning of the End[edit]

After returning it is revealed that The Demon Fox aided Masquerade in imitating Tech-9 - by giving Masquerade some of Tech-9's essence so she can assume leadership of the Blood Syndicate. In an all-out battle royale between the Demon Fox and Masquerade vs the Blood Syndicate - Kwai and the Demon Fox destroy each other, leaving the 9 year-old Nina Lam surviving. The Syndicate confronts Masquerade for her deception where she proclaims that under her leadership they had become more efficient than ever before and that with her they can achieve their true potential as a team. Failing to convince the others of this Masquerade leaves the team once again. Wise Son, although, disagreeing with her methods admits that that she is right and that they "never lived up to the hype". He states that they have all kept too many secrets from each other and that they all fight each other more than their enemies. Tired of the pain that they have endured and the constant violence around them, the team disbands. A few days later, while recounting the events of the past ordeal to Rob Chaplik, Dogg appears before Wise Son telling him that "the Syndicate isn't over, its just stopped for a while is all", to which Wise Son smiles and replies "thicker than blood G, thicker than blood."

Milestone Forever[edit]

Since their disbanding the Blood Syndicate left a hole in the hearts of its members, powerful people left to fend for themselves. But when Holocaust makes his inevitable return he does so and reinstates the Blood Syndicate as they once were a gang. He tries to take his actions out into the street and claim Dakota City as his own, he is stopped by Wise Son and other heroes as they Wise Son himself challenges Holocaust into a battle for the rightful ownership of Syndicate. Wise Son wins and it seems that Holocaust has burned himself to death, yet again. It remains to be seen if Holocaust actually died, but to all present Wise Son is their leader, who has ideas to bring his family to the light away from Holocaust's fire.

DC Universe[edit]

Following the death of Darkseid (as chronicled in Final Crisis), the space-time continuum was torn asunder, threatening the existence of both the Dakotaverse and the mainstream DC universe. The being known as Dharma was able to use energies that he harnessed from Rift (upon that being's defeat in Worlds Collide) to merge the two universes, creating an entirely new continuity. Only Dharma, Icon and Superman are aware that Dakota and its inhabitants ever existed in a parallel universe.[4]

In the revised continuity, Holocaust has been defeated in battle by Static (now a member of the Teen Titans) and the similarly powered Black Lightning (of the Justice League of America).[5]

Solicits have revealed that in February 2010, Holocaust will show up as an adversary of the Teen Titans in issue #80 of their series.[6] On the covers for issues 80 and 81, he is shown battling Aquagirl and Superboy respectively.[7]

Membership[edit]

  • Aquamaria - Maria (last name unknown) survived the Big Bang while floating in the (fictional) James River; as a result, she was transformed into "living water." A former member of the Sociedad de la Cruz gang, she exhibits all the properties of water - for instance, she has survived evaporation and recondensation. She also has substantial control over water in all its forms: she can induce tsunamis and geysers, and shape near-freezing vapor into ice sculptures. The character was renamed "Aqua-Maria" when she appeared in the animated series Static Shock.
  • Boogieman, or Boogie - Martin Berger is able to transform into what is essentially a giant blonde humanoid rat. He is also able to communicate with the hyper-intelligent rats of Dakota (and possibly with ordinary rats), even when untransformed. A post-Texador member, Berger joined the Syndicate during their attack on the S.Y.S.T.E.M. conspiracy. When his mother was trapped in a hospital full of angry inter-dimensional chihuahuas, he chose to rescue her with only the teen hero, Static, as backup.
  • Brickhouse (or Brick): Marta (last name unknown) survived the Big Bang while pressed up against a brick wall; as a result, she took on its characteristics, becoming a 10-foot-tall, super-strong woman of living brick (complete with mortar lines). Unfortunately, this led to a substantial amount of brain damage, and she was subject both to epilepsy and retrograde amnesia (by the time the series was canceled, she still did not know her last name). Her name was inspired by the Commodores' soul classic, "Brick House". The character "Brickhouse" appeared in the animated series Static Shock.
  • DMZ - DMZ's name is an abbreviated form of the term, Demilitarized Zone. Little is known about him. He has superhuman strength and durability and is able to fly; furthermore, his eyes glow red. DMZ never speaks (except during the Worlds Collide crossover, when he said the word "Damn"); nor does he ever take off his mask, even to eat. He spends his free time atop a bridge, whirling a lamp on a chain in the hopes of signaling passing extraterrestrials, and wears what appears to be the uniform of the D'amsi police officers of Icon's interplanetary civilization, the Cooperative. When Icon asked DMZ to join him (when an alien rescue party arrives for Icon) he declines. Dwayne McDuffie stated on his Delphi forum that "DMZ is a human who teamed up with a member of the D'amsi police force when she chased a criminal to Earth. He was severely wounded saving her life, so she used her technology to optimize him, unlocking his full human potential. She left the Earth to chase the villain as he healed, promising to return for him.[8] He got his name from a mis-heard 'D'amsi'".
  • Dogg: Originally Texador's pet dog, Dogg gains human-level intelligence and speech, while remaining a dog in shape, personality, and abilities. First introduced in issue #2, he became a valued member of the team despite his size and shape. He was allowed a spot at the table and listened to, just like anyone else. When Pyre formed his own Blood Syndicate, Dogg was one of those who rejected the offer to join.
  • Fade: Carlos Quinones Jr., he has the same name as his father and is the brother of Sara Quinones (Flashback). He can fly and pass through solid objects, and frequently has difficulty becoming substantial. He is actually "spread out" over a three-second interval, and is thereby able to, for instance, punch someone and leave them unharmed until after he has left. As was stated in the comic, "Fade isn't what he does, it's what he endures." He is a deeply closeted gay man, and was in love with Texador (Tech-9).[9] He also has the undeveloped ability to travel back (and possibly forward) in time by significant amounts, evidenced by Kwai recognising him the first time she meets the Syndicate, as someone she had known in one of her previous incarnations. A side effect of this ability are the instances of clairvoyance he sometimes displays. The character appeared in the animated series Static Shock.
  • Flashback: Sara Quinones, sister of Carlos Quinones (Fade). Flashback can fly and can travel back in time three seconds, an ability she uses to change the past. She considers herself responsible for the welfare of the Syndicate as a whole because she has witnessed (and reversed) their deaths and severe injuries on multiple occasions. She is also a crack addict, partly because of the stress of having seen her friends die so many times, something only she remembers. Later, Rocket, sidekick to Icon, would intervene in her drug habit.[10] She is the inspiration for the character Nina Crocker/Time-Zone, in the animated series Static Shock.
  • Holocaust (later Pyre): Leonard Smalls, Jr. is the illegitimate son of Dakota mayor, Thomasina Jefferson. A superhumanly strong pyrokinetic, Smalls left the Syndicate after a leadership struggle with Texador, and chose to abandon the small-scale world of gangs for the greater possibilities offered by organized crime.[11] As an initiation ritual, he was obliged to surrender something of great value to him: his name, and the reputation that came with it. Unable to call himself Holocaust, Smalls renamed himself Pyre. As Pyre, he tried to reform a new Blood Syndicate of his own recruiting: Boogieman, Flashback, Mistress Death, Bad Betty, Fade, Tarmack, Bubbasaurus, and Rocket (who was undercover). Smalls then reclaimed his name - Holocaust.
Kwai, artist ChrisCross
  • Kwai (Shen Hsien Pu Kwei)- one of the two non-Bang Babies in the Blood Syndicate (DMZ being the other), Nina Lam was the 77th - and last - incarnation of a Chinese mystical being. Originally a 9-year-old girl, Lam was mystically transformed into a 7-foot-tall adult woman with albino-pale skin, immensely long hair, and pointed ears. She encountered the Syndicate in the wake of their defeat by the Demon Fox, and thanks to Flashback, survived a booby trap set by John Wing's Demon Fox Tong. After the Blood Syndicate was saved and restored by Nina Lam, now Kwai, she joins the Blood Syndicate and periodically calmed Brickhouse's seizures. Kwai fought alongside the Blood Syndicate a number of times and was once shot during a crackhouse raid; while she went into a healing cocoon, Hannibal White (Wise Son) tortured Kwai's shooter. Later Kwai's healing light changed the Blood Syndicate back to normal for a short time, and learns that she's down to her last life. After Brickhouse and Third Rail leave, Kwai decided to leave, later seen returning to her homeland, the Kingdom of Kwen Lun; meeting with her old friend, the Monkey King, revealing that she needs to ask her father, the Jade Emperor for another life, as she is sentenced to death without reincarnation. Ending up in the Kingdom of Ti Yu (hell), Kwai was offered marriage to the Dog God there to save her existence, but decides she can't marry him; finally in a battle royale with the Blood Syndicate against the Demon Fox, Kwai and the Demon Fox apparently destroyed each other, leaving the 9 year-old Nina Lam surviving. Later in the Static Shock: Return of The Cool mini-series, Nina is shown meeting with the Syndicate, and apparently attempting to transform back into Kwai by saying her name, reminiscent of the 'SHAZAM' transformation of DC's Captain Marvel. Although she is rendered unconscious before she can say the word, she is later seen in the form of Kwai, implying that she has been granted a 'normal life' as Nina, with the potential to become Kwai in times of danger.
  • Masquerade: a shapechanger able to assume the form of any animal (including humans), Masquerade was a woman who concealed her true nature from the rest of the Syndicate by transforming into an idealized male version of herself. He fled the Syndicate after reflexively stealing several thousand dollars from them. A brief encounter later failed to convince him the Syndicate had changed their ways, and he would not be killed for his betrayal. He returned in the guise of a resurrected Rolando Texador (Tech-9), hoping to be accepted as their leader. As leader, Masquerade was responsible for the Syndicate instigating the Utopia Park riot.
  • Oro: Miguel Medina is a former police officer who survived the Big Bang as a member of the Riot Squad. After the Big-Bang, he was for a time a member of the Shadow Cabinet but was kicked out, and later framed for the murder of his ex-partner. He subsequently sought refuge with the Syndicate and helped protect their territory. He can fly, project energy blasts and produce blinding visual displays. Being an ex-policeman, he took some time to win the respect of the rest of the Syndicate, having to endure the nickname 'Oral' for some time.
Tech 9, artist ChrisCross
  • Tech-9 (or Tech): Rolando Texador, formerly leader of the Force Syndicate, had the ability of "talismanic telekinesis", making him able to shoot endless quantities of bullets from any and all guns, with perfect accuracy. He could also materialize guns in his hands; his favored was the Tech-9 semiautomatic handgun. Charismatic and with military training, he masterminded the Syndicate's formation and led them in their raids on crackhouses; unfortunately, his flesh spontaneously melted off his bones when his superpower destabilized.[12] Later in the series, Masquerade impersonates Tech-9, having sided with the Demon Fox. He is the inspiration for the character Tech, from the Static Shock animated series.
  • Third Rail: The son of Korean immigrants, Pui Chung is able to absorb any form of energy and use it to grow in size and strength.
  • Wise Son (or Wise): Hannibal White, leader of the Syndicate after Texador's death and a Black Muslim ("Wise Son" is a Qur'anic reference), is invulnerable and has superstrength. Although he is able to, for instance, shave his head (as he did in 1997's Wise Son: the White Wolf miniseries by Ho Che Anderson), he is completely immune from physical harm. Wise Son was responsible for stopping the Utopia Park riot, chronicled in the Milestone crossover event 'Long Hot Summer', after Masquerade, disguised as Tech-9, persuaded him to use the Utopia Park PA system to appeal for an end to the violence. He has also shown the ability to resist mental manipulation, and to survive the draining of large quantities of his lifeforce. He is the father of Edmund White, and has sole custody.

Other characters[edit]

  • Babe - Bodyguard of the House of L'Amour beauty salon, and possibly lover to its transvestite beautician. As a Bang Baby, he resembles a humanoid blue ox. Seen in issue #27 "Possessions" - returning to the House of L'Amour after being held by S.Y.S.T.E.M. (originally, he was distraught after returning from S.Y.S.T.E.M. with an enhanced—more muscular—appearance).
  • Bubbasaur/Bubbasaurus - Bubba Brown, able to turn into a huge dinosaur-like creature resembling a carnotaurus; introduced in issue #11 as a spurned student going after a high school principal—Carlos Quinones Sr. (Fade's father) -- though Bubba Brown was seemingly killed in a fight with Fade (Carlos Quinones Jr.), he was picked up by Mom's S.Y.S.T.E.M. troops and taken to Garden Station. He joins in an escape attempt by the other prisoners.
  • Demon Fox - The Demon Fox is a Chinese mystical being and emotional vampire who first appears in issue #6. It is awakened by John Wing, leader of the Demon Fox Tong, when he killed his wife in order to unleash the Demon Fox (this is in response to being humiliated by the Blood Syndicate after failing to kill them). The Demon Fox finally strikes in issues #7 & #8 as it tears apart the Blood Syndicate, and brings up the darkest secrets of each Syndicate member. After defeating the group, the Demon Fox kills Wing after granting his wish. Afterward, it is defeated by a newly transformed Kwai (previously Nina Lam) who comes to the rescue of the Blood Syndicate. The Demon Fox aided Masquerade in imitating Tech-9 - by giving Masquerade some of Tech-9's essence so she can assume leadership of the Blood Syndicate; in issue #35, "The Beginning of the End" - in an all-out battle royale between the Demon Fox and Masquerade vs the Blood Syndicate - Kwai and the Demon Fox destroy each other.
  • Edmund and Cornelia - Wise Son's (illegitimate) son and little sister, respectively. They frequently visit him at the factory the Blood Syndicate call home, regardless of the constant danger they place themselves in. The two children have a teleportational ability; they can write a location or person on a mirror and enter, encountering what they desire.
  • Mom - head of the Amber Cell of the S.Y.S.T.E.M./Coalition & heading the research into creating custom-made Bang-Babies and controlling them. Mom runs the Garden Station, the command center for the Amber sector of S.Y.S.T.E.M.
  • Templo - Juan Templo; a telekinetic and one of the founding Blood Syndicate members, was first seen in issue #9 "Fade to Back" in December 1993—the origin of the Blood Syndicate following the Big Bang is seen; the Blood Syndicate believed Templo was killed—but in issue #19, "Collections", Templo is seen alive in a hospital. In issue #21, "Retrievals", Templo is seen at the Garden Station where he is revived by Mom's scientists; in issue #24, "Things Fall Apart" Templo, along with others (Karess, Babe, Masquerade, Oro, and the Cross Station survivor) survived the Garden Station war. In issue #26, "Prodigals", Templo along with Mistress Mercy and Rose go to the church of Father Francisco.
  • White Roaches and the Rats -- two groups of vermin who acquired human characteristics during the Big Bang, they are now large, intelligent, and (especially in the case of the White Roaches) hostile.

Other media[edit]

  • Versions of other Syndicate members have also appeared in the Static Shock cartoon, and a subsequent incarnation of the Syndicate, led by former member Pyre, in the final issues of Icon's self-titled series.

References[edit]

External links[edit]