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Bengal (Duc No Tranh) over a white background

Bengal


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

Context

The Bengal (who has no link to the Indian subcontinent as far we can tell) is a martial arts and assassin type in the Marvel Universe. He first appeared in 1988.

He’s had a somewhat odd, though always low-profile, career since. He’s not a bad choice for stories that need a non-powered, fighty, good-ish guy.


Background

  • Real Name: Duc No Tranh
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Known Relatives: Unidentified wife, Minh Tranh (son)
  • Group Affiliation: Former agent of the Initiative and Shadow Initiative
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile
  • Height: 5’9” Weight: 175 lbs
  • Eyes: Dark blue Hair: Black (shaven bald)


Powers and Abilities

Bengal is a very proficient martial artist. He was able to match the early Night Thrasher in combat, but was outclassed by Daredevil. His training includes a host of warrior-monk-like skills, and he’s very good with those, too.

The Bengal is skilled at pain management. For instance he was still fighting after Daredevil shattered both his ulna and his radius to stop him. He hits hard enough to shatter parts of Night Thrasher’s armour – provided that he wields sufficiently hard melee weapons (in DC Heroes RPG terms this is Martial Artist EV, plus the Paired Weapons bonus shunted to EV).

Bengal armed with a pair of sai

The Bengal carries two knives with broad, leaf-shaped blades. Those can spring open in a sai-like configuration. Those later became ordinary sai, though this was probably an artistic mistake. He also occasionally uses a bow, which seems made of bamboo, and carries a few throwing stars as an extra option.

Bengal is also superiorly stealthy and an accomplished adventurer and assassin. He can generally be considered to be a ninja-type, though of course he has little association with medieval Japan.

Despite being a stranger in a strange land and not speaking the language, the Bengal seems to be extremely perceptive. He could understand complex situations (such as Jane’s redemption and asking for pardon) without any verbal communication.

In DC Heroes RPG terms, this perceptiveness is modelled by his high INT/WIL and his Empathy power. It was later confirmed that Bengal is a superiorly observant and intelligent man.

Phantom powers of the Bengal

It is possible that the Bengal is a low-level superhuman. But the evidence is hardly conclusive. These abilities are demonstrated in a single Initiative issue. At first glance they seem to come out of the blue. On a second glance, there’s arguably some precedent for them.

Bengal once demonstrates Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 05. This is never really mentioned before or after. But it is worthwhile to note, that at one point Night Thrasher thought that the Bengal could “smell” the blood of Tai on his hands, as he somehow knew Thrash had killed before.

Given the context, however, it is almost certain that it was metaphorical (and the result of an excellent Empathy roll facilitated by Thrasher’s guilt).

Bengal leaping

Bengal once punches through the head of an alien Death’s Head cybernetic trooper. Secondary sources indicate that Death’s Head robots have an entirely metallic body (though Bengal was not punching through the atlasium faceplate). Such a feat would clearly indicate superhuman strength.

This may stem from a generous reading of Bengal’s duel with Night Thrasher, where Duc No Tranh could shatter bits of armour with the pommel of his daggers.

Official Marvel data doesn’t list any super-power (or even superior strength, for that matter).

The strength in DC Heroes RPG terms

Individual GMs may wish to up his STR (perhaps to 06) and add some striking power – perhaps the Iron Fist Schtick, to take a conservative approach. Both this STR score and the presence of one of these Schticks would remain compatible with other appearances by the Bengal.

It would also match this specific scene, where he knew that he couldn’t take on a number of Death’s Head robots after felling one.

Those taking the interpretation of low superhuman strength can also raise Bengal’s BODY to 06. A higher score would not match the material.


History

The man who would become the Bengal was born in the early 1960s in the central highlands of Việt Nam, near Buôn Ma Thuột . It is likely that he’s from one of the Montagnard cultures .

In 1968, his village was “visited” by an exhausted American fireteam. One of their member, Sgt. Janes, was cracking under combat fatigue. A grenade was thrown at the Americans. The unit’s Lt., Lincoln, managed to throw it away but was grievously wounded in the explosion, eventually losing his sight.

Janes snapped and opened fire, immediately followed by the others. Dozens of villagers were indiscriminately massacred before the fireteam would retreat, carrying Lincoln. The Americans emptied pretty much everything they had, slaughtering everything they saw in the village and lighting up trees they thought served as cover for VC troops.

Part of the carnage was seemingly caused by indiscriminate return fire from the jungle from Viet Cong soldiers. If so these likely were the same men who had thrown the grenade at the patrol.

Chronologic

Bengal is one of the Marvel characters with clear ties to the Việt Nam invasion by the US. Since the dates of that war are historical and well-known, it makes his biography increasingly problematic as these events recede in the past. Bengal appeared in 1988, when it was still workable for him to be in his mid-20s. But that was 22 years ago as of this writing.

The two usual fixes are :

  • In the Marvel Universe, the US were involved about 20 years ago in a war in the fictional South-Eastern country of Sin Cong . It somehow was loosely comparable to the Việt Nam invasion, including a draft. This is a sliding time scale event, and thus always has happened about 20 years ago. This approach is favoured by our Marvunapp  colleagues.
  • Many characters in the Marvel Universe do not age at anything resembling a normal rate, and this has always been the case. See the writeups.org article about the Leon Genetic Sequence for more about that. This approach is favoured by the Worgmeister.

The Edmon Dantès of the Degar

One child escaped from the carnage, and went berserk. The six-year old charged the Americans with an empty gun as they were being evacuated by a Huey piloted by James Rhodes, USMC. Despite being shot in the leg by someone in the woods, he managed to jump and grab a skid. Shellshocked, Janes started stomping his face and hands until the kid lost his grip and fell back into the jungle.

The kid survived the fall. Traumatized by both the events and survivor’s guilt, he decided the reason he was still alive was that he could be the agent of vengeance for his village. He dedicated his life to training, and to get to the US when he was ready to find the soldiers. When he did so, he was wearing a costume and calling himself (in Vietnamese) the Bengal.

(Why a Vietnamese man would name himself after an area in India and Bangladesh is unclear. But the Lee Falk comic strip The Phantom has been released in many countries as The Phantom of the Bengal. It is very popular in some areas of India and further East, and it is reasonable to suggest that Duc No Tranh may have been inspired by the Phantom.)

Did the jungle breathe?

Meanwhile, the American soldiers went on with their lives. At least one of them, Janes, was court-martialed and found guilty. During his 25 years in prison at Quantico , Janes craved redemption for his actions and found God, then studied to become a priest.

When he got out he was ordained, and started his ministry in a series of poor and violent urban areas, where he tried to bring peace and understanding.

Meanwhile the Bengal started by murdering Chin Fong, who had been one of the soldiers kicking him off the helicopter. He then killed former private Samuel Birulin in his home as he was sleeping with his wife. The avenger then moved on to kill the former Lt. Lincoln.

Bengal and Constrictor

Lincoln realised what was going on, as he had been on the phone with Birulin, discussing their traumatic flashbacks, when he was executed.

Willie Lincoln had encountered Daredevil and Matt Murdock a few years earlier. He was a former client and ally of Murdock, saved his life once, and knew Daredevil would sometimes “assist” Murdock. Thus, he contacted him for protection.

The devil and the wolf

The Bengal clashed unsuccessfully with Daredevil. He then came back to challenge him to a fight among the trees of Central Park, where Daredevil defeated him. When the Bengal woke up, Daredevil forced him and Lincoln to face each other. Seeing Lincoln’s empty eye sockets, the Bengal reacted with horror.

Now unsure about his vengeance, he crashed through the window and jumped away.

The Bengal eventually resumed his path of vengeance, this time targeting former private William Talltrees. Talltrees, the most level-headed of the group, had tried to oppose Janes and private Fong from kicking the boy away from the Huey, but not strongly enough.

Talltrees had become a high-rise construction worker, then the newest bearer of the mantle of the Red Wolf. But was still wracked with guilt over what he did.

When the Bengal confronted him, Talltrees did not really fight back due to his guilt. He ended up hospitalized in a critical state ; his pet wolf Lobo was killed by the Bengal.

While dying in the ER, Talltrees underwent a series of vision and a dialogue with the Wolf Spirit. Understanding that his constant guilt was what had helped forge him into a better man and a hero, the Red Wolf eventually mustered the will to survive his wounds.

Night Thrasher

The Bengal then moved on to the former Sgt. Janes. However, the superhuman Silhouette was present in his church when the Bengal attacked, being part of Janes’ flock. She fought the Bengal off until Janes could flee, then shadow-melted away. Her former lover, Night Thrasher, decided to protect Janes and intervened during the Bengal’s next attack.

Bengal vs. Night Thrasher in New Warriors comics by Marvel

The fight was interrupted by the Punisher, who was tracking Silhouette for her criminal past. After two clashes between the Punisher and Thrasher and Silhouette, the Bengal made another attempt on Father Janes’ life, fighting with Thrasher a second time. Again, the fight was broken by the Punisher, and the redeemed Janes and Bengal made a sort of peace.

Janes and the Bengal apparently tried to stay in touch and communicate – likely through an interpreter from the local Vietnamese-American community. Janes gave his version of the incident, mentioning that many of the shots (including the one that had hit the future Bengal in the leg) did not come from them but from the jungle.

Gai No Don

Investigating, the Bengal grew to suspect that Li Pan, a North Vietnamese general with a reputation as a mass murderer, was responsible for some of the deaths at his village during the crossfire. He also discovered that Li Pan was now known as Gai No Don.

The Bengal confronted him, but Gai No Don did not appear to speak Vietnamese. Determining that he was guilty, the Bengal moved in but was stopped by Night Thrasher and Silhouette. They had been warned by Father Janes, and had investigated to determine that Gai No Don and Li Pan were two separate persons.

The Bengal then attacked the Poison Memories, a Vietnamese-American street gang involved with Gai No Don. But Thrasher and Silhouette intervened again and Bengal accepted that Li Pan and Gai No Don were not the same man.

A possible impostor

The Bengal was later seen as a henchman for Tombstone, opposing the “Marvel Knights”. The characterizations during that episode were quite off, with the Bengal being a violent mercenary speaking fluent English and familiar with American and Chinese adventurers.

Much like with Big Ben Donovan (who also was completely out of character during this appearance), I’d suggest disregarding this appearance when it comes to the character’s continuity. But officially, for Marvel, this episode did feature Duc No Tranh.

Bengal fighting along the Shadow Initiative

A likely hypothesis is that this man was just a mercenary wearing a replica the Bengal’s costume. It is a pretty cool and striking costume, after all. This person seemed trained in Kung Fu and very interested in confronting Shang Chi, and may thus have been Chinese.

If the man see during that incident was indeed an impostor, it is likely that Bengal was at that time in Việt Nam to track Li Pan down.

Drafted into the Initiative

His life’s mission being done, the Vietnamese warrior decided to retire from fighting and violence. He came to live in the US and soon married an American woman, who may have been the reason why he decided to establish himself there. They had a son. The former Bengal learned to speak and write English, reaching full fluency.

When the Superhuman Registration Act went live in the 2000s, Duc No Tranh was drafted by the Initiative despite not being American, not having any powers and being retired from his life as a fighter. Considerable pressure was exerted on him since he was married to an American national and the father of an American son.

Using the Bengal costume and identity again, he was processed along with a batch of young super-powered cadets. He then was pressed into service with the Shadow Initiative, the special operations arm of the project.

Bengal’s wife and son came to live on Camp Hammond, with little Minh being raised with the other kids at the day care center – implying that Duc No Tranh’s wife was assigned to some sort of job on the base.

Drafted into the Shadow Initiative

When the Bengal joined the Shadow Initiative, the roster was made up of three Scarlet Spiders (secretly clones of Michael Van Patrick), the Constrictor, Trauma and Mutant Zero (secretly Typhoid). The Shadow Initiative was deployed early on during the project, to rescue a group of cadets who had engaged the Hulk and his alien Warbounds against orders during the so-called World War Hulk.

The operation, in which Bengal served as a field leader, was a success. Its one failure was that it established that team member Trauma couldn’t take down the Hulk with his mental powers. The Shadow Initiative was later scrambled to protect Henry Gyrich from insane clone KIA, which they did.

Along with other Initiative troops, Bengal fought Skrulls  during the Secret Invasion  in its least secret stages. When Camp Hammond was invaded by Skrull troops led by their Queen, the Shadow Initiative decided to take the monarch out as a strategic strike.

This nearly worked, but the Skrull the team assassinated turned out to be a ringer and they were taken down in return by Skrull trickery. Still, this strikes allowed their associate Ant-Man to escape with strategic plans held by the Skrull Queen, facilitating Earth’s eventual victory.

The Shadow Initiative was held and briefly tortured for intelligence. But the Skrull invasion was soon defeated and the prisoners recovered before any serious damage was done.

Mission in Madripoor

The Shadow Initiative, with a slightly changed roster still including Bengal, was then sent after Hydra plant Hardball. Hardball was a former Initiative cadet, who had returned to his actual employer. They parachuted over Madripoor for a commando mission, but were located by Hydra first and surrounded.

Hardball produced a SPIN powers-neutralising weapon and captured Initiative member Komodo, his ex-lover. This forced the unit to retreat without her to regroup. As they did, they learned that the Initiative had been disbanded – which likely meant that there would no exfiltration flight from Madripoor.

Bengal and his wife at home

Taskmaster, who was leading the commando, decided to scuttle the mission and have the team switch sides. It was a ploy — for starters, Bengal was not leaving Komodo in Hydra hands — and enabled the team to briefly infiltrate the Hydra headquarters in an attempt to abscond with the SPIN weaponry.

The Shadow Initiative eventually prevailed and secured the weaponry and Hardball, also recovering Komodo.

All work and no play, part 1

When they came back, HAMMER liaised with them and made them offers. The job was to take over and reorganise the remnants of the Initiative. A new Shadow Initiative was created under the leadership of Taskmaster, but it was an expendable goon squad packed with superhuman criminal nobodies.

The 42 prison in the Negative Zone  was then taken over by local aliens. This new Shadow Initiative (including Bengal and Komodo) was thrown at them to absorb the casualties and soften the opposition.

Bengal and Komodo were essential in preventing a massacre and limiting the casualties. They took command and made the situation clear to the troops. Their expendables breached the prison and held until the more valuable troops could be safely sent in to mop up.

All work and no play, part 2

Since Bengal had made it clear to the Shadow Initiative that they were all just being used as cannon fodder, the handful of smarter and less tractable members were kept under armed guard. Meanwhile the more easily manipulated mooks were deployed to storm Asgard. Though HAMMER had Bengal’s wife and kid under their thumb, they kept him with the dangerous ones.

Along with minor superhuman Butterball II and Batwing, Bengal was freed from this headquarters by Penance when he rebelled against his masters. The foursome engaged HAMMER’s close underworld ally, the Hood, just as the Avengers Resistance attacked the facility.

The former Shadow Initiative agents essentially joined the Avengers Resistance on the spot, though the Hood magically escaped. Bengal and his ad hoc allies then fought the Hood’s army of minor supervillains and HAMMER agents. They eventually prevailed, and as the news that HAMMER was over spread the troops surrendered.

A free man again

In the wake of the fall of the Osborn regime the former Captain America, Steve Rogers, took over the superhuman assets of the US and started fixing things. Bengal was freed from his obligations, as were his wife and kid. The family moved to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where Duc No Tranh opened a martial arts school and put the Initiative part of his life behind him.

Bengal hasn’t been seen since, and likely intends to keep it that way.


Description

The Bengal is shaved bald and has very strong muscle definition. He fights powerfully, gracefully and in complete silence.

He originally knew but one sentence in English, which he speaks with a strong Vietnamese accent — “did the jungle breathe”. The “breathing jungle” was a slang phrase used by some American troops to describe a patch of jungle full of Viet Cong soldiers silently waiting in ambush.


Personality

The Bengal is a dedicated avenger, but sometimes seems conflicted when it comes to actually killing in revenge. I suspect he’s a Buddhist to some degree, and has trouble reconciliating his mission of vengeance with his faith. He rarely speaks, even in Vietnamese (since most people would not understand him anyway).

Despite the language barrier, he finds tricks to roughly communicate. To defy Daredevil, he gave him a piece of a map of Central Park (wrapped around an arrow), and he unmasked himself so he would be identified by his targets.

Drafted into the Shadow Initiative

Bengal has been through some important evolutions since this profile was written. Those aspects have been worked into this entry’s Background and History sections but not in his Personality notes or his stats, which describe the earlier stage of the character.&emps;The personality changes are :

  • The modern version of Bengal speaks in an articulate, slightly formal manner. He’s obviously a smart, observant, experienced, calm operative and behaves like a genuine professional. Somehow he always knows what’s going on, usually though observation and deduction, as reflected through his heightened scores.
  • He’s generally heroic, looking to save lives and being loyal to his current team, respecting their qualities even if they’re otherwise less than savoury.
  • Bengal obviously cares about little children, and enjoys spending time with them and raising them.
  • Bengal was very proficient at understanding the political manoeuvring of his superiors in the Initiative. He always understood when the mission was rotten and why. It may seen surprising that a man raised as a martial artist in (presumably) a Vietnamese temple has such an understanding of large organisation office politics.
    But it is reasonable to assume that the information actually came from his uncanny ability to understand non-verbal communication. This would give him a few RAPs of information, later confirmed by events and allowing him to reach a correct conclusion.

Quotes

“Leencon… deed the jungle breat ?”


DC Universe History

The Bengal would most likely be a Batman or Nightwing encounter in the DCU.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Bengal (original stats)

Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Revenge
Int: 06 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: Assassin
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 023 HP: 020

Powers:
Empathy: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Empathy is a Skilled Power
  • Bengal may have further powers – see “Phantom Powers of the Bengal” below

Skills:
Acrobatics: 07, Detective (Legwork): 03, Martial artist: 08, Military science (Tracking): 04, Thief (Stealth): 07, Weaponry (Martial arts weapons, archery): 08

Advantages:
Familiarity (Survival), Language (Vietnamese and likely a Montagnard language such as Jarai), Lighting Reflexes, Schtick (Paired sai ; Pain Management (Low))

Connections:
None

Drawbacks:
Exile (Voluntary), Misc.: Bengal does not speak or understand English, though he seemed able to read some bits of it, such as the name of his targets. Even then he probably just recognized the shape of the letters. In his later appearance, he could speak a few basic words and more or less understand simple sentences with the help of his Empathy.

Equipment:

  • Spring-open daggers (x2) [BODY 09, EV 03 (05 w/STR, 08 w/Martial artist), /STR/ 05, Limitations : /STR/ only for the Disarm maneuver (-2) ; Note : when Blocking melee weapons, this weapon is considered to be the size of a shield (-1 AP to OV/RV for the Block)]
  • Self bow [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 02, Ammo: 01, Rec. STR: 02, R#03, Bow Advantage (EV is 03, Range is 04), Limitation : Low Penetration]
  • Quiver [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 02, Ammo: 06, Limitation : Ammunition load for self bow]
  • Shuriken (x3) [BODY 03, EV 03, Dart Bonus, Grenade Drawback]

Drafted into the Shadow Initiative

Bengal has been through some important evolutions since this writeup ; those aspects have been worked into this entry’s Background and History sections but not in his Personality notes or his stats, which describe the earlier stage of the character. The stats changes are :

  • INT and WIL become 07, Initiative is now 23.
  • Hero Points are now 030, his Motivation becomes Unwanted Power.
  • Bengal loses the Exile Drawback, and his Misc. Drawback about not speaking English. On the other hand he acquires Dependants (his wife and son).

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Marvel Universe

Helper(s): David Johnston, Pufnstuff, Jack, Capita_Senyera, Chris Cottingham ; first banner probably from rapsheet.co.uk .

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