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The Answer (Marvel Comics) (Spider-Man character)

Answer


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

The Answer is a criminal with intriguing powers and hooks. He’s primarily associated with Spider-Man, and first appeared in 1984. He hasn’t been seen much.

As usual, we use publication date as the year for the events, since we cannot use a sliding time scale.


Background

  • Real Name: Aaron Nicholson.
  • Marital Status: Presumed single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of the Hood’s army ; former employee of the Kingpin.
  • Base Of Operations: New York City.
  • Height: 6’ Weight: 170 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black (occasionally blond)


Powers & Abilities

The Answer is an unusually smart man. He excels at solving problems through deduction, induction, lateral thinking and flexible planning. He’s also an experienced criminal and killer, greatly extending the range of solutions he’s able to implement to overcome problems.

He has stated that he was a former hitman. Our game stats thus assume various torpedo skills such as simple demolition and professional marksmanship.

The Answer displayed the speed, reflexes, accuracy, strength and stamina of a good hand-to-hand combat expert. This may be a product of training, or these attributes may have been slightly increased as a side-effect of getting powers. However, his willpower is markedly inferior to Doctor Octopus’.

The Answer might have some engineering skills. But this profile assumes that the equipment he used was built by the Kingpin’s staff.

The Answer’s costume is coated with a frictionless material. It prevents Spider-Man’s webbing from sticking. Of course, the palm of his gloves and the soles of his boot are not frictionless. The Answer has been known to use this coating on other objects he needs to confront Spider-Man, so Spidey can’t neutralise these with his webbing.

Rapid response

The Answer’s super-power is to develop any power or ability that he needs to confront danger. Typical examples include becoming capable of rapid flight to get away from an explosion, or superhuman durability to endure physical assaults. This is nigh-instantaneous and low-effort. Thus, he can flow from one ability another as the situation evolves.

He can also choose to focus his ability on a problem that doesn’t pose an immediate danger. However, that seems more draining and he doesn’t casually does so.

The powers of flight and super-power analysis seem to always be available, even if he’s not in immediate danger or isn’t strongly focusing.

The Answer can be taken cold by a sufficiently rapid ambush, and will normally concentrate his superhuman energy into one or two powers at a time. Of course, the power of the Answer has an upper limit. For instance he knew that he couldn’t directly defeat Silvermane during his 1984 rampage.

The Answer evading Spider-Man

The Answer once stated that his powers lasted for five minutes, and that he couldn’t alter them before they expired. This is amply contradicted by the material. He can change them much faster, and his powers seem to last for much longer than five minutes. Perhaps this “set in stone for five minutes” limitation is something that came later, as his powers weakened.

Furthermore, his Lethal Foes of Spider-Man appearance gives the impression that he will run out of juice if he’s forced to manifest too many powers without rest. In DC Heroes RPG terms, the events matched the use of Omni-Power well. The Answer simply ran out of Hero Points, then underperformed due to this.

Nicholson is capable of analysing superhuman powers by watching a person in action. He can then use his smarts to devise countering strategies. This can gain critical information through super-powered observation. For instance he knew that the Black Cat’s bad luck power would only trigger if he attacked her, or could understand the properties of Dagger’s light.

Demonstrated abilities

Here is his first fight against Spider-Man in DC Heroes game terms :

  1. Flight (used for OV) until Spider-Man Flails to land a weak blow.
  2. Switch to +4 APs of Flight and +8 APs of BODY to take blows.
  3. Switch to +4 Initiative and +8 Flight to catch a surprised Spidey and fly him away.
  4. Pumps everything into Super-Speed (his first HPs expenditure) and overwhelms Spidey.

Other examples (in plain English) have included :

  • Augmenting his hearing range.
  • Turning his body into lifeforce energy.
  • A large force shield that could also be used as a battering ram.
  • The power to make inert objects explode.
  • Forming anti-gravity bubbles to make people fly alongside him.
  • Energy blasts.
  • A camouflage mode making him invisible to natural and artificial detection.
  • Gusts of wind to clear knockout gas.
  • Kinetic manipulation to neutralise hails of bullets by depriving them of momentum.
  • Probability manipulation to short multiple power armours  at the same time.

Unquestionably so

The Answer was formidable during his early appearances (Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man and to a lesser extent Lethal Foes of Spider-Man). Then he sharply suffered from super-villain decay . During most of his later appearances he merely was an easily-dispatched super-thug, barely demonstrating any super-power. Or just a mask in the crowd.

The DC Heroes game system suggests an explanation. His lovelorn fixation on his one-time lover Ruby Thursday (Thursday Rubinstein) denies him the ability to built up the reserves of focus and willpower he needs to fuel his Answer power. In other words, he’s clinically depressed and this cripples his abilities.

Though this explanation is made-up, it matches the material quite well.

An alternative No-Prize hypothesis  is that the mental control Doctor Octopus put Nicholson under permanently damaged his ability to channel energy into his powers. Since this is the point when he goes from being redoubtable to being a nobody.


History

Aaron Nicholson was a prized consigliere for the Fisk family. Meaning both Wilson, aka the Kingpin, and Richard, who would become the Rose.

Nicholson apparently started his career as a hitman. But his speciality became solving difficult problems through deductive and creative thinking. He mentioned that he was with the Fisks during their ill-fated attempt to control a HYDRA splinter, in 1971-1972.

Years later, Nicholson agreed to use experimental equipment designed by Harlan Stillwell to become a super-powered enforcer for the Kingpin. The procedure seemed to have no effect, and he resumed his normal activities.

However, when he was cornered by rival hitmen, he suddenly developed super-strength and rock-hard skin to defend himself. These powers vanished as soon as the situation was over. As more accidents occurred, Nicholson deduced what his powers were.

Spider, mobster, Dagger

In 1984, the Kingpin paid the Answer to engage Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and the Black Cat (Felicia Hardy), the latter of whom had recently received bad luck powers. The Answer defeated the couple, and provided the requested intelligence about their abilities to the Kingpin.

Satisfied, the Kingpin then agreed to the Answer’s plan. Thus, Fisk had Nicholson steal the cybernetic corpse of Silvio “Silvermane” Manfredi and help with his reactivation as a hitman. The field test with the reanimated Silverman very nearly killed Spider-Man. However, the Kingpin had reservation about this new agent’s lack of subtlety.

When Silvermane became uncontrollable, the Answer deduced that the creature was looking for Dagger (Tandy Bowen), whose light projectiles had previously slain the cybernetic mobster. He tracked Silvermane down and observed Cloak and Dagger in action, analysing their powers.

Being a close collaborator of the Kingpin, Nicholson knew about the coma in which Fisk’s beloved wife Vanessa had sunk. He realised that Dagger’s light could revive Vanessa/ Upon hearing this report, the Kingpin had the Answer bring Bowen to him. But the unstoppable Silvermane invaded the Kingpin’s HQ as he continued chasing Dagger.

With Silvermane about to kill the Kingpin, the Answer discerned the only way to save his boss. He turned into pure light and lifeforce which was absorbed by Dagger, who then freed Silvermane from his compulsion. Dagger also revived herself and Cloak, but the pair refused to help Vanessa Fisk.

Reincarnation

The Answer had been reduced to unconscious energy floating in Earth’s atmosphere. But the destruction of the Multiverse Matrix at the hands of Meggan (Meggan Puceanu) restored his awareness.

As an immaterial being he mentally contacted Dr. Octopus (Otto Octavius) through cybernetic circuitry. Nicholson offered an alliance. In the proposed deal the Answer would regain physical existence. In return, Octopus would be freed from his Vault cell and receive help in recovering his cybernetic “arms”.

Octopus successfully had the Answer return to corporeal form. Nicholson’s plan was to abandon him, but Octavius enthralled him using the mental link they had developed to communicate. The Answer eventually escaped as Octopus fought Spider-Man.

The Answer then came back to take his revenge – but Octopus defeated him. Octavius had to flee before he could finish the diminished Nicholson, though.

The Answer apparently spent 11 years imprisoned in the Raft. This is presumably where he developed broad but shallow connections with other super-criminals operating in New York and beyond.

During the big 2005 break-out, he got out and started operating in New York City to rebuild his rep. But Toxin (Patrick Mulligan) arrested him after consulting with him about how to get rid of his alien symbiote. During this time, the Answer employed a costumed sidekick — the Sidekick (Joe Self) — as a helper.

Outlaw love, part 1

Nicholson soon got out. He teamed up with Ruby Thursday (Thursday Rubinstein) to run a successful scam in Paris. During this time they fell in love. But once the scam was over Rubinstein dumped Nicholson due to her peculiar psychological issues.

Depressed, the Answer moved to Cleveland. That was in part due to the absence of super-heroes there, and in part because Rubinstein was then based there. Nicholson worked as a consultant for other super-criminals. He continued pining after Ruby, sensing that she still had feelings for him.

Bullseye then tried to kill the Answer. But Nicholson soon realised that he wasn’t the real target, and that Bullseye was using him to locate Ruby Thursday. He struck a deal with Bullseye and let him kill Ruby, but kept her artificial head in return.

Outlaw love, part 2

Though Rubinstein had spread a rumour that her back-up brain was now in her torso, it was still in her head. And as long as Ruby’s head was intact, Nicholson could save her.

The Answer then deliberately flubbed a number of consultations to make it look as if he had lost it. This gave the impression that his mistake about Ruby Thursday’s backup drives had been an honest one. He lowered his rates accordingly. This was his solution to the conundrum of having both himself and Ruby survive the assassination, without getting hunted down for double-crossing Bullseye.

Nicholson apparently managed to restore Rubinstein. But she inevitably left him again.

New York, New York

On 2007, the Answer returned to New York City to listen to a pitch by Hammerhead to organise a new counter-power to the Kingpin. The place was raided by Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. based on information provided by the Kingpin. But the Answer (who might have been a Kingpin plant) apparently escaped.

Nicholson continued to frequent Bars With No Name. That presumably was to sell low-priced advisory services as he let the heat pass after the Bullseye encounter.

The Answer was one of the early joiners when the Hood (Parker Robbins) took over organised crime on the East Coast. However, he mostly kept to the background. One gets the impression that he was working his way toward becoming a key advisor of the Hood.

As a Hood operative, the Answer took part in the war against the Skrulls during the 2008 invasion . He also was part of the forces that attempted to storm Asgard as Osborn’s dark reign  came to a close and the Hood was arrested.

Who could hang a name on you ?

In 2010, Wolverine (James Howlett) hired the Answer to formulate a plan against the machinations of Romulus. Part of the plan was to free Ruby Thursday from prison. But though the Answer’s plan was generally successful, Romulus forced Ruby to betray Wolverine’s team by threatening her daughter.

Wolverine realised that the Answer knew all along that Rubinstein would turn against them, and confronted him. Nicholson readily admitted to it. He said that he needed some way to get her out of prison in the faint hope of being reunited with her.

Empathising with the lovesick Nicholson’s and his obsession toward a woman whose damaged psyche made her unable to love him back, Howlett left him alone.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

This section ignores the characterisation seen in Toxin, which did not match any other appearance before or since.

The Answer was originally a smart, disciplined, articulate man. He always proceeded in a rational, methodical manner. He enjoyed showing off his intelligence when speaking, but wasn’t particularly prone to overconfidence. Though he could be voluble with his opponents, he was very matter-of-fact and laconic when discussing with his employer.

The Answer could be ruthless, but he wasn’t pointlessly evil. He was usually reluctant to kill. In his view, a dead person is of little use whereas a living one can be manipulated.

His usual goal was to advise other criminals, preferably highly-placed ones such as the Kingpin or the Hood. This sort of position combines enormous income and influence with the ability to shape the risks he takes. But it is also possible that he needs guidance and is at heart a follower and dutiful adviser, not a leader.

Super-villain decay

In later appearances, Nicholson was a shadow of himself. Though still very sharp when planning, romantic depression left him with little interest in anything. He didn’t really further his career, and was mostly hanging around other criminals to sell relatively cheap consulting services to meet his costs.

He had no special goal or strategy beyond obsessing over Ruby and vaguely carrying on with his day-to-day life.


Quotes

“Though I have taken the opportunity to study you before now, this first encounter between us allows me to focus what I have learned ! Hands-on training is always more instructive than mere observation — don’t you agree ?”

“You really should be more careful about using a weapon that can be turned against you, Spider-Man ! I knew about your webbing and theorized that the answer to it would be an ultra-slick material that it could not cling to.”

“Already the Answer begins to formulate a solution — one which should solve our problems at once. I will not fail you, Kingpin.”

(To Wolverine, about Ruby Thursday) “Because I love her. Because I want us to be together again. I had to get her out of that prison. You were the answer. Again… I’m sorry. You just don’t know what it’s like, loving someone who is… incapable of loving you back.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

The Answer

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Consultant
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 020 HP: 045

Powers:
Detect (Powers): 12, Enhanced Initiative: 06, Flight: 00, Omni-Power: 00, Power Reserve (any score): 12

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Detect is Discerning, and allows him to use his Scientist (Observation) Skill within a single Phase and without equipment.
  • Detect’s Range is limited to 2 APs.
  • Power Reserve is Minor Marginal unless his life is in danger.
  • It is possible that a Limitation where Power Reserve cannot be modified for five minutes after being set developed during his career.

Skills:
Accuracy (Analyse data): 07, Military science (Demolition): 02, Scientist (Observation, Research): 05, Vehicles (Land): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 04

Advantages
Expertise (Underworld lore).

Connections:
Underworld (Low), Street (Low).

Drawbacks:
Guilt (love for Ruby Thursday).

Equipment:
FRICTIONLESS COSTUME [BODY 06, Misc.: the AV/EV of any Power that requires sticking to the COSTUME (say, Spider-Man’s webbing) is lowered by 4 CS].


Not a good Answer

The 045 HPs are for the Answer at his height, during his early appearances. During most of his later appearances he was just a faceless, easily dispatched goon. For these lower his HPs to 010, which is a double whammy as it essentially locks him out of his Omni-Power.

This entry rationalises this through the Guilt Drawback, matching his lovelorn behaviour in Outlaw Love and Wolverine Origins.

For his appearances as a goon, it is further suggested to reduce his Enhanced Initiative to zero and add a Limitation to his Power Reserve, preventing him from increasing any given score by more than 6 APs. Even with few HPs, he would still otherwise be too formidable to represent his dismal performance in the material.

A typical “loadout” in this state would be +6 STR, +2 BODY and 4 APs of Flight, making him but a minor battlefield presence against experienced heroes.

By Sébastien Andrivet and Andrew Lee.

Source of Character: Marvel Universe.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 27th of January, 2014.

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