Paragon City: The Cold War
In the 1950’s NATO and the Warsaw Pact began a deadly game of international cat-and- mouse that would last for decades to come. Both sides believed fervently that the other was hell-bent on destroying their way of life, and to a certain extent they were both right. Along with nuclear posturing, third world manipulating, and rampant spying, both sides also sought to bring their super-powered assets to bear as best they could against the enemy.
It only took a few years for the U.S. government to turn from lauding its heroes as saviors of the free world to fearing them as possible villains or, even worse, communists. The Second Citizen Crime Fighting Act lent legitimacy and a certain security from persecution to those who were properly registered in Paragon City. For those heroes who refused to register, who preferred to keep their secret identities a secret, or who lived in other communities, the U.S. became a tough place to be a hero; Paragon City was no exception.
In 1956, Congress passed the Might for Right act. This law proclaimed super-powered individuals and vigilante heroes a valuable national resource subject to draft without notice into the service of the United States government. For the next decade the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense routinely pressed heroes into service, both at home and abroad. Most were only too happy to help, but there were undoubtedly many, many abuses of the law. Heroes with unpopular politics found themselves sent on suicide missions into Eastern Europe. Minority heroes suffered particular discrimination during this period, often being forced into secret duty for months or years at a time, with no contact with family and loved ones.
From 1956 to 1966, the vast majority of those heroes pressed into service were used to fight a covert war against the Soviet Union. While public hero organizations like the Freedom Phalanx and the Dawn Patrol carried on their seemingly never ending war against costume-clad villains, many of America’s "lesser known" heroes found themselves fighting and dying behind the Iron Curtain or in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia. These battles, waged with ferocity by each side, did little more than maintain the status quo, often at the expense of local populations and governments.
As constitutionally dubious as these policies were, the U.S. did not base its actions solely on paranoia. The Soviet Union had engaged in its own, even more abusive program for amassing super-powered spies and operatives. Through a series of often deadly and deforming medical experiments, the Soviets managed to assemble its own elite cadre of heroes. They fought on the front line of this cold war, going toe-to-toe with U.S. heroes in a hidden war that the public scarcely knew was being fought. Occasionally, a super- powered melee would boil over into the public eye, but for the most part the victories and deaths went unnoticed.
The Might for Right Act finally met its demise in 1967 when a case brought to trial by three African-American superheroes went before the Supreme Court. The high court ruled the law entirely unconstitutional and ordered the immediate cessation of all Might For Right draftee operations. In reality, it took close to three years for the last draftee to be freed from duty, as many were deeply entrenched in covert operations that the government was reluctant to close in a timely manner.
By the 1970’s, the cold war had reached a fevered pitch. Both sides had long considered skirmishes between their secret super soldiers to be outside the normal channels and not necessarily cause for an international incident. Public hero organizations like the Freedom Phalanx or the Soviet Defenders of the Motherland were a different story. These groups operated in the world spotlight, and anything they did was bound to draw media attention and political fallout.
This was proven disastrously true in 1976 when the world nearly stepped over the brink into total nuclear annihilation. A U.S. spy plane flying over the Soviet Union was brought down by one of the Defenders of the Motherland’s flying heroes. The crew survived and managed to send a distress signal. The plane had been carrying one of the Air Force’s few active super-powered soldiers, a code breaker and psionicist named Captain Gerald Mynor. Captain Mynor had used his psionic blasts to disable the Soviet hero, but that only bought him and his crew a few hours of safety before the rest of the Russian heroes arrived on the scene.
With only moments to act, the U.S. Air Force asked for and received the help of Statesman, the leader of the Freedom Phalanx. Statesman used Freedom Phalanx technology to teleport into the USSR and find the crew before the Soviet heroes could. He ended up in a skirmish with a squad of Russian super-soldiers, wounding several of them before escaping through the air with the Air Force personnel and Mynor in tow. The general in command, enraged that the normally untouchable Statesman was escaping his grasp after embarrassing the Defenders of the Motherland, took drastic action. He launched a tactical nuclear missile at Statesman as he fled across the border.
The weapon detonated on target, which was unfortunately somewhere over Finland. Mynor and the rest of the crew died instantly and Statesman himself scarcely survived. NATO responded to the attack by putting their nuclear forces on full alert and preparing a counter strike. The Soviets in turn put their nukes on standby. The United States then "upped the ante" by preparing to launch a space based anti-missile system designed and manned by super-human scientists and soldiers. Soviet clairvoyants uncovered the proposed launch and the Russians realized they would soon have no chance – they launched a limited nuclear strike aimed at taking out the satellite before it launched and became operational.
Seeing more clearly than either government what was about to happen, the Earth’s premiere heroes took it upon themselves to stop the madness. Organized by members of the Dawn Patrol and Freedom Phalanx, a group of two-dozen international heroes sprang into action. They neutralized both the American space launch and the soviet missiles before either could fully deploy, and sent the world a message: they would not tolerate such behavior. Hero One (Great Britain’s foremost hero and predecessor to the Vanguard’s Hero1) stepped into the limelight to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.
While the governments involved were quite resentful towards the heroes, the world at large came to adore them – as far as the public was concerned, they truly were the saviors of the world. This marked the beginning of the break in close cooperation between governments and hero organizations that had characterized much of the post-war period. The many events of the cold war had shown heroes that they often worked better outside of government policies and politics. They began to see themselves as a kind of fifth estate, standing as guardians not only of the world’s safety and physical well being, but also of the rights of humanity as a whole.