Champions: The Sentinals

The Centennial League

In 1939, with the world on the brink of global war, an extraordinary group of men and women came together. Possessing exceptional, even super-human abilities and talents, these heroes decided to devote their powers, resources and their very lives for the protection and advancement of mankind. THE SENTINALS, organized and funded by American millionaire businessman and aviator Hugh Howard, was born.
Hugh Howard

Howard, at the height of his career as a Hollywood film maker and already accounted one of the wealthiest men in the world, was disturbed by the trends he saw in society and politics world-wide. America was in the grip of the Great Depression; organized crime and corruption ran unchecked. Overseas, the nations of Europe were rushing headlong toward another world war and Imperial Japan had set upon a course of military conquest. Meanwhile revolutionary ideas in science and engineering, which had emerged at the turn of the century, where poised to transforming the world. Nicola Tesla, the famous inventor and acknowledged Father of the Twentieth Century, had personally ushered in a new era of science and engineering. Albert Einstein had presented a new view of the universe through Relativity. And Italian physicist Enrico Fermi had already paved the way toward unleashing the power of the atom.

In 1938, Howard was in the process of getting his organization off the ground when the most monumental event in modern history occurred - an event that shocked the government and settled a question pondered by futurists and astronomers since the last century. In October, an alien spacecraft or "flying saucer" landed in New Jersey, sparking panic among civilians and shocking the U.S. military into action. For days, the "Martians," as they were mistakenly identified, ravaged the New Jersey countryside. But their intended invasion, if that is what it was, stopped short when the aliens mysteriously ceased hostilities, withdrew to their half-buried space ship and lifted off. It was speculated that the aliens, without natural immunities to the environment, began to die from an earthly disease. However, eye witness accounts of alien flying machines being destroyed in the air and a large explosion aboard the alien mothership itself sparked speculation that they had been discouraged by intervention from some third party ... What ever the cause of their retreat, Hugh Howard's worst fears had come true: A threat to the entire human race had appeared out of the starry winter sky. The event, which was quickly hushed up by the government, galvanized Howard into action and he accelerated his plans ...

Aliens in New Jersey Tesla's Death Ray First, Howard contacted Nicola Tesla, the father of radio and one of the pioneers of electrical power. Tesla's research had led him to develop plans for a directed energy or "teleforce" weapon, which the Serbian-born inventor had presented in a paper the year before. Howard, immediately saw Tesla's death ray as a needed defense against the next alien invasion of Earth. However the U.S. War Department, preoccupied with the growing threat of Germany in Europe and Imperial Japan in the Far East, were dubious -- this despite the demonstration of the effectiveness of energy weapons by the invaders themselves. They preferred to pursue research into the atom bomb, something which they were sure that Hitler's government had already begun. Howard was undeterred and began secretly funding work on Tesla's super-weapon himself.

Next, Howard began to recruit agents for his organization. But, not just anyone would qualify for the extraordinary responsibilities and risks that the millionaire magnate was sure would follow.

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster, 1820 Unknown to the public at large, the existence of so-called super-heroes had long been a secret fact. These beings had always existed, many of them the true source of myths and legends around the world. Perhaps the earliest and best known super-hero of ancient times was the Greek champion Hercules, a heroic figure possessing super-human strength and resilience. Said to be the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Hercules' true origin (and the source of his powers) are unknown ... Closer to modern times, the first documented case of a super-being was revealed in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein, wherein the author tells the story of a man resurrected by science and possessing extraordinary strength as well as immortality. The tale is a tragedy, ending with Dr. Victor Frankenstein's nameless "monster" seeking exile from humanity in the frozen Arctic.

Vlad Tepes, c.1455 Next, in 1886 came The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, related by Robert Louis Stevenson, based on factual events in London around 1880. Here, by means of a chemical formula, a meek London doctor had managed to transform himself into a violent, super-powered misanthrope.

Then in 1897, Bram Stoker revealed the existence of a far older (and preternaturally evil) super-being, the vampire Prince Vlad Tepes of Romania, known as Dracula. And finally, in 1927, German film maker Fritz Lang's cinematic virtuoso, Metropolis, presented a futuristic world of neo-Victorian technology featuring intelligent machines and a hyper-industrialized city ruled by a robotic Queen. Unknown to the world at large, Lang's robots were based on the work of a real German inventor, Hans Kroen, who had, in the early 1920s, successfully constructed a working artificial man.

Fritz Lang's <i>Metropolis</i> Since the end of the 19th Century, individuals possessing extraordinary powers and skills had involved themselves, more and more frequently, in important events. John Strong, known to an adoring public in England, was famous for his super-heroic exploits during World War I and for the fact that he appeared to be immune to aging. In America, the mysterious vigilante dubbed Shadow Man by the press had become an urban legend, fighting mobsters and corrupt police in Chicago. In the Midwest, a do-gooder had taken the name Robin Hood and, dressed in green and wielding a hunting bow, was busy taking from the criminal rich to give to the poor. Howard himself knew the Canadian woman Jesse Sharp, codenamed Electra by the Secret Service, an associate of Nicola Tesla who, through some freak accident during a high energy experiment, now possessed the ability to produce and manipulate vast electrical energies. Many of these "heroes" were simply exceptionally skilled and daring individuals, vigilantes who fought against the rampant injustices of the time. Others were obviously more than human, the products of fantastic science, magic or fate. At least one such super-being of which Howard was aware had an even stranger origin.

The year 1938 was remarkable in the history of the modern world. The Great Depression still gripped most of the world and tensions in Europe were mounting as Adolf Hitler consolidated power in Germany. Imperial Japan's war against China continued. In Europe, after German forces occupied Austria to demonstrate Hitler's principle of a "Greater Germany," Winston Churchill proposed an alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union against the growing Nazi threat. However, America officially declared its neutrality in any European conflict and British Prime Minister Chaimberlain, after meeting with Hitler, announced "Peace in our time." Later in the year, Adolph Hitler appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as the Most Influential Man of the Year.

However, the most important events of the year largely escaped the notice of most of the world ... On June 24th, a large meteorite apparently entered the earth's atmosphere and exploded in the skies above Pennsylvania. The government investigated, but no evidence of a ground impact was discovered. Days later, a man was sighted flying above the art deco skyscrapers of New York City. Speculation and government denial ran rampant as the New York Times announced the arrival of a "super-man." Then, in October, came the alien landing in New Jersey and mankind's first encounter with an enemy from the stars.

Throughout 1939, as war in Europe and East Asia kindled and spread, Hugh Howard pressed forward with his mission to prepare for an uncertain future. With his money and support, Nicola Tesla continued development of the Death Ray. Howard himself, galvanized by the "Martian invasion" and intrigued by the coincidental appearance of the Manhattan super-man, worked personally to investigate both events. A famous aviator (he had cemented his own place in aviation history the previous year by flying around the globe in 90 hours), the billionaire began to search the skies and soon experienced his own personal close encounter.


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