Vandal superheroes, known officially as the Spitzenkrieger ("top warriors"), are the elite law enforcement unit within the Vandal kingdom. Each superhero represents a single jurisdiction, and is responsible for investigating and solving all high profile crimes within that jurisdiction. They are known for their high levels of training and their vast intellect, with many possessing creative instincts as well as a willingness to operate in an unorthodox fashion. The Vandals have an official academy for training future superheroes, the Akademie der Spitzenkrieger ("Academy of Top Warriors"), although civilians displaying Spitzenkrieger skills who catch the eye of the Academy can be hired as superheroes outright.
Official name Edit
The legal name for official Vandal superheroes is the Spitzenkrieger ("top warriors"), as technically "superhero" is an informal term. However, even in formal documents "superhero" is used liberally, with the superheroes themselves- except in very rare instances- using the term, believing it is a high honour to be able to be described in such a way.
Heather Geisera Edit
The Vandals claim that superheroes have always been a part of their culture, with many of their historic figures being afforded the legendary moniker. However, the Vandals did not start making such claims until Gunter Kaspar did in 1901 when he completed his major work, The History of the Vandals, a work that, while maintaining a high level of authenticity, is seen as a nationalistic tome created for propaganda purposes for the Vandal independence movement.
Kaspar does make mention of the first verified individual to be named a Spitzenkrieger, a young woman by the name of Heather Geisera (1867-1949), who went by the name of The Sorceress. Geisera, a medic by trade, gained worldwide fame when she concocted a potion that incapacitated Jeffrey Miller, better known as the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper. Geisera- working in London at the time- had treated Miller's last victim, Veronica Myles (saving her life), which allowed her to gain information needed to confront Miller. Posing as a prostitute, Geisera was able to get close enough to Miller to feed him her potion, which knocked him unconscious and led to his arrest.
Geisera, for her work, was also arrested, but public opinion- especially among the Vandal community in London- secured her release. Upon her release, she gave up her career as a medic and took up a life of crime fighting, often undertaking dangerous missions and succeeding in every one of them. Vandal writers of her time liberally bestowed the title of "Spitzenkrieger" on Geisera, with the earliest usage of the term coming in 1890, a week after Geiseric successfully arrested Miller. It was Geisera that led Kaspar to expand usage of the term in his own work, asserting that people of Geisera's calibre have long been a part of Vandal history. A 1902 English translation of Kaspar's work erroneously translated "Spitzenkrieger" as "superhero", leading to the term becoming a part of the English lexicon.
From this, Geisera's story inspired the creation of stories of many different superheroes, all of which shared some characteristics with Geisera. Two notable differences emerged from fictional superheroes and Geisera's methods in real life:
- Although Geisera used a pseudonym- "The Sorceress"- she did not hide her identity, as she believed her enemies were likely to find out about it anyway.
- Though Geisera had a costume, she only wore it for public appearances, opting for more practical clothing when on the job.
Geisera herself expressed disdain for the superhero genre she helped create, believing too many writers were caught up in mystique and focused too little attention on practicality. "A costumed avenger may be fun for the imagination," said Geisera in an interview with the Roman Free Press in 1942, "but a costume makes you noticeable, and you can't engage in stealth missions if you're noticeable."
After Geisera, several others became known as "Spitzenkrieger". Like Geisera, each Spitzenkrieger worked in an unofficial capacity, although not every Spitzenkrieger had an "adversary" like Geisera did in Miller. They also let the press apply the title to themselves instead of using the title for themselves, although some Spitzenkrieger would stylize themselves with the title in a bid to gain prominence.
Official unit created Edit
Because of the rise of the Spitzenkrieger, a new class of criminals began to emerge in Vandal society, the Superkriminalitat (pl. Superkriminelle, "super criminal"). Many of the early adversaries of the Spitzenkrieger were often labelled "superkriminalitat", but it wasn't until the Vandal kingdom achieved independence in 1967 that the superkriminelle emerged as their own distinctive group.
The reasons for why this happened is fiercely debated, although a tepid scholarly consensus agrees that with Vandal society focused on independence- with Spitzenkrieger and Supercriminelle alike both committing their energies to ensuring Vandal independence- it made little sense for elements of Vandal society to turn on each other. After the Vandals achieved that independence and gained a voice on the global stage, the Superkriminelle saw an opportunity to gain dominance within the Vandal community and carve a voice for themselves.
Thus, after independence in 1967, the Superkriminelle got bolder and trickier for conventional police forces, necessitating the need for the creation of the superhero unit. In 1971, the Academy was created, with formal guidelines put in place to hire and train the potential Spitzenkrieger, as well as to regulate Spitzenkrieger activity. After much haggling over jurisdictional issues, by 1980 the Spitzenkrieger were assigned cases of "high importance", with conventional police forces maintained to provide "regular security services" to the local population.
Most Spitzenkrieger originate out of the Academy's training program, although should an individual display skills the Academy might be interested in, the Academy can formally hire them outright.
In order to qualify as a Spitzenkrieger, an individual must:
- Be in top physical condition
- Possess superior intellect and comprehension abilities
- Be creative in their thoughts
- Be bold and confident in their thought process, as well as be willing to engage in "maverick" ways of thinking
- Have a clean criminal record and be assessed by the Academy as having a high moral standing
Upon being hired by the Academy, each Spitzenkrieger receives a badge indicating they are acting lawfully. Only the Spitzenkrieger have a license to kill, but standards must be met before any Spitzenkrieger can resort to violence. Should any Spitzenkrieger be found to have contravened their legal obligations or the standards set by the Academy, they can be brought before Academy lawspeakers who can strip the Spitzenkrieger of their badge for any amount of time or send them to prison.
Officially, the Thing are the sole determinants of the amount of Spitzenkrieger that are needed within the Vandal Kingdom, with the Academy charged to uphold that total. In practice, the Academy and the Thing work in conjunction to determine the needed total, with situational requirements often resulting in membership fluctuations.
According to the Vandal Constitution, the Spitzenkrieger are given sole authority to investigate whatever crime they believe is necessary, with their authority overruling the local police force. In practice, the Spitzenkrieger restrict themselves to crimes of "high importance", like a high-profile kidnapping or murder, a bank holdup, a hostage crisis or some other crime that the local police forces have difficulty solving. If the local population believes the Spitzenkrieger has overstepped their authority, they can complain to the Academy, which will then investigate.
If two or more Spitzenkrieger are (or could) be involved in a single case, it is up to the individual Spitzenkrieger to reach an agreement on each member's role in the investigation. The only time a Spitzenkrieger's authority can be overridden is if the Spitzenkrieger of national significance get involved, in which case all other Spitzenkrieger are subordinate to the national Spitzenkrieger. Despite this, disagreements between Spitzenkrieger are rare, as most know each other from their Academy days and have thus developed a camaraderie amongst each other.
Spitzenkrieger are known for their elaborate costumes, although it is not required that they wear one or even create one. Almost always, though, the Spitzenkrieger wear their outfits only during ceremonies, press conferences and other kinds of public gatherings, with the Spitzenkrieger wearing more practical clothing when on the job.
That said, the Spitzenkrieger are not beholden to any kind of dress code, although being in the public eye, the Spitzenkrieger try to maintain a "clean" image, including refusing to wear anything that could be construed as an overt political statement. Nevertheless, some Spitzenkrieger have worn pins or other types of garments that indicate a political affiliation or leaning.
Contrary to popular belief, the Spitzenkrieger are not required to create a nickname for themselves or to conceal their identity to the public. In fact, in order for a Spitzenkrieger to be hired by the Academy, their identity must be known and registered with the Academy, with their full names printed on their badges. The Academy has long stated that anyone who dresses as a superhero but refuses to reveal their identity is an indicator that the person in question is not a "legal" superhero and is thus likely a criminal.
Notable Spitzenkrieger Edit
- The Sorceress, Heather Geisera (1867-44), known as the first person given the title of Spitzenkrieger.
- The Mallet, Klaus Brian (1902-70), an independence figure known for his weapon of choice.
- Frogman, Hector Prinze (1944- ), the first officially hired Spitzenkrieger who patrolled the Vandal coasts.
- Dragonette, Henrietta Baden (1960- ), known for her skills with fire weaponry and intense endurance which allowed her to defend Hippo Regius, the Vandal capital, all by herself during the 1980s.
- Band of Misfits, a group of citizens whose prowess at handling the crimes in Granada led to their hiring by the Academy in 1994 and led to the Hollywood movie Mystery Men, based on their experiences.
- The Leopardess, Vanessa Redgrave (1989- ), whose prowess led her to becoming the Vandals' first "national" Spitzenkrieger.
- Alaric Gijon (1993- ), a graduate handpicked by Redgrave to join the national team who became known for his incredible strength.
- Rugera, Roni Sadat (1995- ), a prodigy of Casaran descent who became the youngest Academy graduate at just 17 years of age in 2012, handpicked by Redgrave for the national level.
- Pale Force (2005- ), consisting of Conan O'Brien (1963- ) and Jim Gaffigan (1966- ), the first official foreign-born Spitzenkrieger. They were enlisted after successfully defeating the Vandal criminal Lady Bronze in their native New York in 2005, and, using their wits to defeat criminals, continue to patrol New York to this day.
Unofficial Spitzenkrieger Edit
Because the Spitzenkrieger did so well to capture the world's attention, others outside of the Vandal kingdom have attempted to associate themselves officially or unofficially with the Spitzenkrieger with varying degrees of success.
Main article: Batman
The earliest and most successful of these "unofficial" superheroes was Bruce Wayne, better known as Batman, who gained fame patrolling the streets of Las Vegas during the Great Depression. Wayne took up the mantle of the superhero when his father, Thomas, contacted Ra's Al-Ghul, who received training from Geisera herself and became an accomplished crime fighter in his native Morocco. Although Wayne was never officially licensed as a Spitzenkrieger, his training and his methods were the closest anyone outside of the official Spitzenkrieger circle came to the actual training that the Spitzenkrieger received, with many claiming that Batman was better than many who actually received official training.
Batman did most of his work based out of his corporate conglomerate, Wayne Enterprises, which created a crime-fighting division in affiliation with the Las Vegas Police Department in 1930. His successes soon gave rise to a comic book series called Gotham that Wayne officially licensed, using a fictionalized version of Wayne and placing him in an entirely fictional setting. Wayne commented on the series many times, often praising the series, although he would often tell fans of the series that his own life wasn't as glamorous as the comics made it seem. "I'm often in street clothes because the costume becomes cumbersome to fight in," Wayne said in an interview with the New York Times in 1952, "and, though I've dealt with some difficult criminals, we never had the 'colourful' gallery of rogues the comics had. We were far more successful keeping them in prison."
Wayne retired as a street crime fighter in 1970 on his sixtieth birthday, though by that point his many recruits- including his son, Thomas, Jr.- did most of the actual field work. In 1990, amidst the collapse of California due to the Third World War, Wayne Enterprises effectively took control of Las Vegas, operating a paramilitary force and overseeing the elections of municipal officials in addition to its law enforcement responsibilities. In 1997, Bruce Jr. permanently retired the Batman costume, opting instead to create more conventional military and law enforcement forces to provide order in Las Vegas.
The centrepiece of this operation was the Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) unit of assorted law enforcement and forensic personnel, with their work eventually inspiring the creation of the eponymous TV series in 2000. The unit was part of a broader attempt by Wayne to capitalize on the collapse of the superhero industry (which had competed with more traditional law enforcement methods) following the Third World War, as Wayne sought to restore "more traditional law enforcement agencies" and end what he saw as "the culture of vigilantism". Part of this program saw Wayne investing the needed money to save many of the Foederatio Borealis Indigatores Imperiale (FBII, formerly the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)) programs when they were threatened with collapse in 2003, most notably the Behavioural Analysis Unit, which inspired the hit TV show Criminal Minds in 2005. This led to a sharp decline in jurisdictions seeking superheroes within North America (but not in Europe), causing many superhero companies to collapse as a result. Commentators praised North America's renewed interest in "traditional law enforcement", but the praise was short-lived. In 2013, the CSIs themselves came under intense criticism from the Milner Report, admonishing the CSIs for "relishing in their fame" and using the "pursuit of glory" as a motivating factor in their job decisions, instead of truly serving the interests of the public.
Mercenary Spitzenkrieger Edit
Main article: Mercenary Law Enforcement Agent
"Our situation was special in Vegas. The Great Depression gutted the resources of the police, and I couldn't stand to let my city suffer because of it. I had to spend my own money to save the city I loved because it needed me, and that should be the only reason why anyone should become a superhero. This isn't 'fun' or 'glamorous' and there are certainly better and easier ways to gain fame, and if you're only doing this for your own selfish reasons, you are no better than the criminals you claim to fight." -Bruce Wayne, The Roman Free Press (1962)The success of Wayne Enterprises led to those who called upon Wayne to pass along his training to other jurisdictions so that they may have a superhero unit of their own. Wayne, often with the backing of the Las Vegans, refused. The Las Vegans did not wish to have their weaponry and methods exposed to their enemies, while Wayne believed that the proliferation of superheroes would create a belief amongst the populace that they could take matters into their own hands and thus create superheroes who are simply upholding a moral or political agenda. The Americans and Romans, though, saw the value in having elite crime fighters, so they studied Batman as best as they could. They also desired superheroes of their own, especially in Rome, as their culture was already full of revered legendary figures so the thought of superheroes intrigued them.
Prior to World War II, public interest in creating superhero units- which came to be more formally known as "mercenary law enforcement agents" (MLEA) wasn't high, but following the war, reports- many of which were later proven to be unfounded- by President Joseph McCarthy that many Soviet agents were leading large, elaborate crime syndicates in order to throw the U.S. into chaos changed public opinion. In the 1950s and 1960s, many companies began offering MLEA services, with some specializing in specific aspects such as training or logistics while others took an "omnibus" approach and became, in effect, "superhero factories". Many became affiliated with the Spitzenkrieger, although the Academy did not allow foreign MLEA companies to call their agents "Spitzenkrieger" until 2005.
The adoption of MLEAs across worldwide jurisdictions was not universal, with MLEAs often being controversial. Supporters touted that MLEAs gave police departments a "face" and thus could act on a more personal level with neighbourhoods as opposed to "faceless cookie-cutter police officers back at some far off police station", and touted that licensed MLEAs can be equipped and trained depending on whatever specifications a police jurisdiction needs. Detractors stated that MLEAs were often "bullies" and that, despite being elite individuals, they were still human and prone to mistakes and the stresses of their workload, arguing here that large police units can better handle the workload since they can "divide it up". Nevertheless, in the 1970s and into the 1980s, in most developed countries MLEAs were overwhelmingly used in conjunction and alliance with their requisite police department, though some jurisdictions opted not to use them (particularly within the Virtue Family) and some jurisdictions used a small team of MLEAs in place of a police department, often to cut costs (this kind of practice became prevalent in poor communities and even poor countries).
After several incidents where MLEA were shown to engage in abhorrent behaviour, in 1964, Rome instituted a license system for any MLEA within its borders, outlawing anyone from engaging in law enforcement operations without this license. This soon led to the Academy instituting its own licensing program in consultation with the Romans, Americans, English and other world powers, culminating in the Superhero Licensing Agreement (SLA) in 1973 which created standards of training, equipment and oversight for the MLEAs. The cornerstone of the agreement for the major powers was that all MLEAs operate under the laws of the jurisdiction they are in, with local administrators given the power to hire and fire them at will. The vast majority of known MLEA operations, as of 2017, carry the SLA license, with many local law enforcement agencies refusing to work with MLEAs unless they have this license.
In 1995, following the Third World War and a North American revival in traditional law enforcement agencies (fuelled by Wayne Enterprises), many MLEA corporations collapsed, causing Stark Industries to acquire them and incorporate them into the Stark corporate umbrella. Though several smaller MLEA operations exist, due to Stark's size and prestige, Stark Industries has, in effect, a monopoly on MLEA services.
Stark Industries Edit
Main article: Stark Industries
In 1958, 19-year-old child prodigy Tony Stark was captured by a Polish gang who wished to use him to secure a ransom from his family, Howard and Maria, who owned the very profitable Stark Conglomerate. McCarthy soon used the kidnapping for political purposes, wrongfully declaring that the gang were "Communist operatives" (they were really American citizens who had denounced Communism many times). Stark himself heard these news reports and came to believe his captors would use him for political means, so he devised a plan to escape. Using what materials he could- the gang housed him in an industrial warehouse where one of them worked- Stark built the first "Iron Man" costume which he used to free himself and apprehend his captors, which he did after seven months of captivity.
Upon freeing himself, Stark learned that his parents died in a car crash, which he learned truly was politically motivated. Stark inherited his parents' company, rebranding it Stark Industries in 1959 and reorganizing and reshaping the company into a "superhero factory" that trained and supplied qualified superheroes. Right away, Stark hired The Mallet, retired Spitzenkrieger Klaus Brian, to scout and train potential recruits, many of whom developed into competent Spitzenkrieger in all but name. By 1965, Stark's program, the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) had recruited over 70 agents, all assigned to different jurisidictions across North America, expanding across the Roman Empire with 300 more agents via an agreement in 1968. Stark himself would lead an elite group of agents he called "The Avengers" who were effectively mercenaries. This group, now led by Stark's son, Tony Jr., renamed itself The Sentries in 2008.
SHIELD was subject to criticism right from the start, with Bruce Wayne its most vocal critic. Wayne contended it was nothing more than a "vigilante factory" and cautioned that, "left unchecked, we will be producing figures who will start different kinds of crime syndicates." The Vandals, too, criticized SHIELD and even disowned Brian for a time, but, after reviewing the program- and owing to Brian's ill health in 1970- the Vandals began to work closer with the program. In 1973, on the heels of the worldwide Superhero Licensing Agreement, the Vandals and Stark reached an agreement where the Spitzenkrieger Academy and SHIELD could be affiliated with each other and would work together, sharing resources and intelligence, with actual Spitzenkrieger providing the training.
In 1984, Stark began an ambitious expansion program in the hopes of securing markets beyond the North American shores, buying up several different MLEA companies in the process. Following the Third World War, many major MLEA companies collapsed, a collapse that was exacerbated by Wayne Enterprises funding a revival of traditional law enforcement agencies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This left Stark to acquire what was left of the MLEA industry in its wake and have, in effect, a monopoly on worldwide MLEA operations. In 2002, recognizing this change, Stark changed the name of his crime fighting program to the Worldwide Activity Response Department (WARD), with their agents known as Wardens (Worldwide Activity Response Department of Enfranchised Nobles). With the creation of the Mundiali, the WARD, along with the Sentries, became affiliated with the Mundiali, but their operations are still separate.
After the Milner Report destroyed public trust in traditional law enforcement agencies, Stark Industries experienced a massive revival in fortunes as demand increased for MLEAs almost overnight, especially in North America and in Virtue territory.
Monopolization controversy Edit
Stark's monopolization of the MLEA industry has been controversial, with many security experts contending that Stark has created, in effect, "a worldwide government for himself". "Since so many countries and cities come to reply on Stark to provide defence and protection," said renowned Roman security expert Licinus Pontus to the Roman Free Press in 2005, "there is nothing stopping Stark from becoming an effective dictator and withholding his services if countries do not do what he likes". Pontus cited as evidence Stark's decision in April 2004 to delay the processing of Hammerman- assigned to the City of Bergen in Norway- until Bergen officials agreed to fluoridate its water. Stark contended he had to play a role in "promoting the health of the Norwegians" but several critics believed he went too far. Since the incident, Stark has largely steered clear of attempting to influence policy, saying in a 2014 interview that it was "a learning experience".
Stark himself has responded to such criticism first by pointing out that he had to "save" the industry following its collapse in the early 2000s (later saying he felt "vindicated" when the Milner Report came out) as well as by asserting that "worldwide security benefits when there is no competition":
"Without having to worry about competitors, I can better facilitate the needs of jurisdictions without all the pressures that competition brings. When you have competitors, they become your primary focus and not your clients because, subconsciously, you continuously think about ways you can stay ahead of your competitors. While that might sound oxymoronic (sp), in a competitive environment, you try to focus your energy on obtaining new customers, not in keeping the ones you already have. This may be a beneficial thing in a market for a hand dryer or a video game console, but when it comes to worldwide security, you have to place the needs of your client first because worldwide order depends on it, and you can't do that if you are constantly worried about what 'the other guys' are doing."- Tony Stark, Jr., interview with Edmonton Journal (2010)Other security experts have sided with Stark, suggesting that with Stark effectively controlling all MLEAs, there can now be actual uniformity within MLEA standards and operations, instead of different standards of operations because other companies "feel the need to be different". "There was a lot of confusion with what you got from some superhero firms," said Welsh security expert Maria Dawson in a 2009 interview with The Swansea Times, "since many of them tried to find that 'edge' that could make them appear better than Stark. With only Stark around, we now know what we're getting and can better prepare for that."
Others note that Stark is still bound by the SLA, meaning that his agents cannot break any laws even if his company does not agree with a certain law. "Countries retain the power to arrest MLEAs if they run afoul of the law," said Colton Rasmus, a security professor at the University of Texas, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in 2012. "So Stark cannot let his men run around and be vigilantes and not face repercussions. Besides, Stark risks his business if his agents become too much of headcases- jurisdictions ultimately pay his salary and for his operations, and if too many jurisdictions find his agents are too difficult to work with, they will withhold their money." Rasmus also stated that he "personally knows Stark" and believes him to be an "outstanding character", so he's confident that the Industries will not run too afoul of its obligations under him.
Pontus, though, counters by stating that "Stark will not live forever" and the deterrence of the SLA is only as strong as its enforcement capabilities. "If Tony Stark wanted to create his own army," said Pontus to The Toronto Star in 2008, "he could, with his combined forces likely too much for many countries to handle. He might worry about what the Romans or the English might think, but if a small country tries to defy him, what obligation does he have to acquiesce to their demands? He has the resources to squash it like a bug- he can choose to ignore them and impose his will on them if he wants to, and there will be nothing they can do."