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Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) classic costume

Man-Killer

(Katrina van Horn) (Profile #1 - 1973-1981)


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

Context

Man-Killer is a minor, dated Marvel villain. She was chiefly seen in 1973 and 1981.

Man-Killer returned in 1997 but with a modified appearance, modified powers, *far* more screen time, more modern character development, etc.. Thus, her 1997+ material is better covered in a separate profile.


Background

  • Real Name: Katrina Luisa van Horn.
  • Note: Spelled “Luisia” at first, but “Luisa” since.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: De facto leader of two terrorist cells. Has ties with AIM, Hydra (Silvermane splinter) and Justin Hammer.
  • Base of Operations: Mobile.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Red


Tall order

Van Horn’s apparent height varies widely from panel to panel. Sometimes she looks like a giantess, sometimes she’s about Spider-Man’s height. And while there exist official numbers, these are for later appearances with an altered body. As an arbitrary compromise, let’s go with :

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 210 lbs (w/cybernetics).


Powers & Abilities

Van Horn originally was an Olympics-level alpine skier. However, she was permanently crippled and terribly scarred in a fall. She remains in constant pain.

She is entirely fluent in English, and has an excellent eyesight and hearing.

Van Horn apparently became a decent demolitionist during her years as a terrorist.

Man-Killer is a dangerous hand-to-hand fighter. She has excellent odds of hitting such agile fighters as the Cat (Greer Nelson) or Spider-Man (Peter Parker), as long as they’re not focusing on evasion. However, this seems to come at the expense of her defense. This may be because of her temper, but instead one gets the impression that she’s fast but not nimble.

That works against her when facing a sufficiently strong opponent, such as the She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters).

Exo, part 1

Katrina was issued an exoskeleton . This and years of physical therapy allowed her to move again. It further endows her with superhuman strength. With it, van Horn could punch through foot-thick concrete or crack Spider-Man’s ribs.

She presumably has “Class 25” strength, though it could be as high as “Class 40”.

Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) (van Horn classic) vs. Spider-Man

She once stated that she was seven times as strong as Spider-Man. Yet, that she’d have an accurate estimate of Spidey’s strength seems unlikely.

Over her exo she wears a special suit of body armour. It is proofed against common calibres and could withstand low-superhuman-strength blows (assuming the Spider-Man still pulled his punches to a degree). However, it lacks a helmet or faceplate.

The exo also required specialised, costly maintenance – and upgrades to keep up with the curve. Thus, if van Horn is to remain physically active, she needs backing from a high-tech organisation. In DC Heroes RPG terms, this is considered a series of Subplots rather than a Drawback.

It seems likely that the exo has basic cybernetic controls.

Exo, part 2

In 1981, she had a new exo that was stronger and, reportedly, faster. We do see her throwing a large van at a range of about 60 metres, which would be at least “Class 55” strength. However, Spider-Man can still take some of Man-Killer’s blows without serious damage. And her combat speed doesn’t actually seem higher.

The simplest hypothesis is that the exo is indeed much stronger, and its greater flexibility allows Man-Killer to use attacks that favour speed over power. This is an appropriate tactic when fighting Spider-Man, and would explain why he can take some punches from Man-Killer.

Our game stats *assume* that the “Mk. II” exo allows Man-Killer to sprint faster, albeit not superhumanly so. This means that her statement about it being faster is true, without contradicting her observed combat performance.

Discs

To make ranged attacks, Man-Killer uses edged discs. These are likely made of solid steel. She’s proficient with them, and with her exo’s strength they fly at great speed for long distances.

Their trajectory is thus flat enough that she can make low-to-mid-range “sniper shots”. One example was over 150 metres or so.

They’re carried on her belt, but could easily be mistaken as ornaments (especially in the context of 1970s fashion).

Flying battering ram

This impressive AIM assault vehicle was used during both her main appearances. You can simply use the stats for a main battle tank, except that it flies and has different armament. It can carry at least eight persons – possibly up to a fire team.

The main gun is turreted. It is an energy weapon with unknown capabilities, with about the bulk of a 30mm autocannon and at least as much destructive power.

The front features a spiked ram mounted on a large piston, to punch at buildings. The vehicle may have a vectored thrust technology. Or another method to punch with the ram without simply being pushed back with equal force and thus achieve little.

Troop-her

In 1973 Man-Killer had four allies. These militants had AIM energy rifles and knew how to use them. But they did not seem to have that much of a taste or talent for violent action.

Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) (van Horn classic) with tank and troops

In 1981, she had a cadre of six women called task Force Alpha. These were a different story – they were clearly trained in the martial arts, were fit and aggressive, and had robust morale. They did stuff like attacking armed cops in hand-to-hand combat (perhaps to avoid a stray shot hitting their kidnapping target).

They toted various AIM guns. Their biggest one was thick carbine called an “electro-magnetic discharger”. It seemed about as powerful as a WWII bazooka.

These gals may have been early graduates of Taskmaster’s Academy, given their skills. The Academy was already in business back then.


History

During the early 1970s, Katrina van Horn was an European champ in alpine skiing. She qualified for the Winter Olympics – presumably the 1968 edition in Grenoble, France .

During the Games, van Horn got in a tiff with a male chauvinist alpine skier, Karl Lubbings. He insisted that women couldn’t be real athletes. The incensed van Horn challenged him to a skiing race to prove him wrong. This took place clandestinely – at night and off-piste.

As he realised that van Horn would beat him, Lubbings pridefully and recklessly cut her off. This stupid move resulted in a collision atop a cliff. Lubbings was killed, and van Horn was crippled for life.

Quick contextual notes

Van Horn will much later be clarified to be German, rather than a vague “European”.

The Man-Killer origin story was published in 1973, the same year as the much-hyped “battle of the sexes” tennis matches . But there presumably isn’t a direct inspiration, since it was written months before the matches.

Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) (van Horn classic) ski accident

The date given in-story can only be a year without Winter Olympiads. Grenoble and Sapporo are two workable possibilities if we ignore this, but Grenoble is more reasonable.

Plus, the 1968 Games had a controversy about gender (with disastrous reporting, as the notion of intersex folks  was poorly grasped by most). This helps explain how the dispute with Lubbings occurred.

We have the technology to rebuild her

Van Horn was then contacted by an… odd women’s lib group from New York City. They had ample money (!), access to comic book technology, and paramilitary trappings.

These women operated in brown uniforms (resembling the 1950s US Army men’s uniforms, but the collar more strongly evoke 1940s Soviet uniforms ). They had some soldierly training, though it did not seem to be their forté. Their leader was one Ms. Cartwright.

The money and technology was actually coming from Advanced Idea Mechanics, not an organisation known for progressive ideals. The details are unknown. Perhaps Cartwright was an AIM officer who splintered off but retained good relations with the organisation. Or perhaps she was an outside activist whom AIM backed for some reason.

Van Horn was brought to the US and became Man-Killer thanks to this group. But they soon found her a loose cannon, as she refused *any* collaboration with males. Van Horn likely suspected that her exoskeleton and therapy came from AIM, but it was never confirmed to her and she preferred not to know.

Down with chauvinistic pigs !

In 1973, Man-Killer publicly assassinated Chicago’s Mayor Samuels, who virulently opposed women’s lib. She likely was acting on her own rather than working for Cartwright.

Local heroine the Cat (Greer Nelson) attempted to stop the assassin, but Man-Killer took her down with one slap. Nevertheless, the Cat tracked Man-Killer to New York City. Greer feared that further political killings would harm the feminist cause.

As it turned out, Man-Killer’s next scheme wasn’t a killing. She wanted to trigger a blackout in New York City by destroying a Con-Edison power plant in Harlem. For this, she and her accomplices would use an AIM flying assault vehicle.

Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) (van Horn classic) hovercraft flying tank

The strike had actually been ordered by AIM paymasters, as a cover for stealing a small prototype nuclear generator. Though the militants were stopped by the Cat and Spider-Man, Man-Killer did grab the generator and evaded pursuit. However, Spidey eventually found her using his spider-sense.

By that point, the Cat had pieced together the AIM connection. She caught up with Spidey and accused van Horn of working with men. This triggered a breakdown in van Horn, who froze. Presumably, she no longer could focus enough to operate her exoskeleton.

Correcting her A.I.M.

That van Horn suspected all along that it was AIM backing Cartwright’s group is *not* explicitly stated. But it does help explain her breakdown at the end of the story by having spent a good while in conflicted denial.

Still, it is also reasonable to assume that she didn’t know and was shocked by the Cat’s sudden revelation. If that ever becomes important, both interpretations work.

Hydra-ther be somewhere else

In 1975, Man-Killer was working with Hydra. She seemed much more stable psychologically, and Hydra had the resources to keep her AIM exo running.

Howbeit, it wasn’t quite Hydra. It was a splinter that had been taken over by a veteran Maggia don, Silvermane (Silvio Manfredi). Silvermane had recruited other C-list villains to be his lieutenants – guys such as El Jaguar, Blackwing, Mentallo or Jackhammer. Man-Killer reportedly was “head of assassination”.

But being Hydra led to strong attention from S.H.I.E.L.D.. Which meant that Silvermane and his staff were out of their depth. S.H.I.E.L.D. stormed Silvermane’s hidden headquarters underneath Shea Stadium. Ivan Bezukhov and the Contessa de la Fontaine took Man-Killer down using a slap-on jammer that immobilised her exo.

Hammer time

Man-Killer then resorted to a common support source for high-tech villains back then – Hammer Industries. She thus was among the stable of leg-breakers during the famous 1979 battle at Justin Hammer’s floating villa.

Man-Killer (Marvel Comics) (van Horn classic) bursting in

Iron Man (Tony Stark) kept her busy with decoy holograms, then dazed her by hitting her in the head with Constrictor.

Man-Killer was not seen again during the battle. She may have focused on finding a vehicle to evacuate once it seemed that the villa would sink.

Social-traitors

In 1981, anti-war and anti-government terrorist Hildy Dawes went on trial, as defended by attorney Jennifer Walters. Dawes had been on the run for years, but was now exhausted and arranged for her surrender. However, Man-Killer and a half-dozen militants swooped. They publicly kidnapped Dawes despite the efforts of the NYPD and Spider-Man.

(Man-Killer was using the same flying vehicle as in 1973, and her exo had been upgraded. It is thus possible that she returned to having AIM backing.)

The core of van Horn’s plot was to detonate an enormous bomb under an official ceremony in Manhattan. She’d then use Dawes’ reputation to make this terror strike even more of a sensation. However, Man-Killer and her squad were overwhelmed by Spider-Man and the She-Hulk.

As Man-Killer was about to escape, Hildy Dawes sacrificed her life in an attempt to kill van Horn. At that point, it seemed that both Hildy and Katrina had been slain.


Description

The Cat and Spider-Man throw various insults about van Horn being disfigured. This is after all what heroes do – mock accident victims. Captions also give the impression her mug is damaged. Yet the art depicts Man-Killer as being comic-book-pretty, albeit with a near-constant snarl.

It is possible that thin scars from reconstructive surgery are visible on her face if one is looking right at her. That wouldn’t show up in comic book art, but would explain the captions and insults.


Personality

Van Horn was traumatised by her near-death experience, crippling, and pain. She generally behaves in a competent, determined way. But this seems to be papering over the damage.

Man-Killer, as her name suggests, is driven by pathological hatred of men. She becomes physically violent if she has to associate with one, and employs terror to strike at the patriarchy. Though she could keep her fanatical hatred in check to work with AIM (via avoidance and denial), it overcame her once she was forced to face it.

By 1975 she seemed to be doing better. She was loudly dismissive of men and insisted that women were always more dangerous. But she could cooperate even with a macho macho man such as El Jaguar.

By 1981 she was back to a political motivation, and wanted to spark the creation of a radical misandrist movement. Somehow. It seemed that her criminal activities had allowed her to amass enough money. Which meant that the maintenance of her new exo wasn’t keeping her busy anymore, and she could return to her misandrist agenda.

Van Horn doesn’t seem to be a fan of taking orders, and prefers to be in charge. But that seemed to recede as she had to make a living as a mercenary.


DC Universe History

She would have fitted right in as an early 1970s encounter during a Black Canary/Green Arrow team-up.

Followed by a late 1970s Supergirl/Green Arrow team-up. In this latter encounter the strength and durability of her exo could be amped *a bit* further.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Man-Killer (early)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Psychopath
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Terrorist
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Wealth: 004
Init: 015 HP: 020

Skills:
Martial Artist (AV): 08, Military Science (Demolition): 04, Vehicles (Land, Air): 04, Weaponry (Thrown): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:
Martial Artist is Contingent Upon wearing an exoskeleton or power armour she’s extensively familiar with.

Advantages:
Expertise (Competitive skiing lore), Language (German), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Disarmer (Weaponry (Thrown))), Sharp Eye.

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:

  • Creepy Appearance (Heavy scarring, most of which can be hidden by clothing and gloves).
  • Minor Irrational Dislike of associating with men.
  • Minor Rage (Only vs. male opponents, 3 points).
  • Serious Physical Restriction (Moving likely is very slow, painful and difficult without her exo).
  • Minor Physical Restriction (Chronic pain).

Equipment:

  • EXO SUIT [BODY 06 /STR/ 11, Enhance (Kinetic RV): 04 (cap is 08), Drawback: MPR (a tad bulky and heavy, and some parts have armour-like rigidity)].
  • EXO SUIT Mk. II [BODY 06 /STR/ 13, Enhance (Kinetic RV): 05 (cap is 08), Running: 04, Conditional Soaking (Bludgeoning and Unarmed damage), Drawback: MPR (a tad bulky and heavy, and some parts have armour-like rigidity)].
  • Edged discs (x8) [BODY 05, Drawback: Limited Penetration. EV and Range are both User-Linked to (STR/2, round up). This gives Katrina in her EXO an EV and Range of 06.]

Trauma and money

During her first appearance, Man-Killer also had :

  1. A Traumatic Flashback (being confronted with the fact that she’s been working for men).
  2. A Minor Physical Restriction (can’t operate her exo’s cybernetics during a Traumatic Flashback or similar).
  3. Her Irrational Dislike was Serious rather than Minor.
  4. She didn’t have Military Science, that came years later.

During her last appearance, she had at least Wealth: 006 (and prolly more) and did demonstrate Military Science.


Henchwomen

For the 1973 lot, use gun-toting gangsta stats from the Stock Criminals article. The guns would be Energy blast: 06 or some such, nothing to write home about.

For the 1981 lot use Professional Henchperson stats from the same article. However, they had Weaponry: 04 and Martial Artist: 04. They were pretty good, really. Maybe they later went to work for Superia ?


Design notes

Man-Killer is well-aware that she has high EV, so she tends to focus on AV when fighting agile people.

Against agile women she’ll do Flail Attacks, since she wants to stun them but seems reluctant to hurt them. Against agile men she’s more likely to pump HPs into her AV, which can take her higher than Spider-Man expected.

With her 1981 exo, she has even higher EV, so she’ll tend to Flail against everyone.

Man-Killer wasn’t much of a threat against She-Hulk. But by 1981 their strength levels shouldn’t be *that* different, given how Man-Killer throws that van. Really, they should have been much more evenly matched given their known strength and prowess.

The simplest explanation is that Man-Killer was almost out of HPs by that point, and had to burn what was left to soak up some good opening rolls by Shulkie.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Comics.

Helper(s): Andrew Lee, Jackson, Darci, Maficklin.

Writeup completed on the 23rd of October, 2017.

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