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Doc Horror of the Nocturnals (Dan Brereton comics)

Doc Horror


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

Context

Doc Horror leads the Nocturnals.

If you’re not familiar with these painted comics, you should first check our “base camp” Nocturnals article. It explains the things.


Background

  • Real Name: Dr. Nicodemus “Doc” Horror.
  • Marital Status: Married (possibly widowed).
  • Known Relatives: Evening “Eve” Horror (daughter), Abyss Horror (wife, status unclear).
  • Group Affiliation: Nocturnals.
  • Base of Operations: The Tomb, Northern California.
  • Height: 6′ Weight: 185 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue. Hair: Black.


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Powers & Abilities

Doc Horror is the most pulp -ish character among the Nocturnals. He’s a two-fisted scientist/adventurer/vigilante with two blazing .45s and strange inventions. Something of a Doc Savage/Shadow mix.

Doc is a large, strong man in terrific shape. He’s a skilled and experienced gunfighter with nerves of steel, and a solid hand-to-hand fighter. He’s also familiar with organised crime operations, and an excellent physician.

As can be expected from a pulps science hero, he has superb observation and deduction skills.

Doc knows the Old Tongue, an Akkadian weirding language used to command the undead. He also seems to speak some Italian, but this could be limited to everyday phrases that the Zampa family likes to use. And he could recognise Sanskrit and Sumerian scripts at a glance.

Black Planet

Doc is a near-Human alien, though the differences are minor. Mostly, he has excellent (likely superhuman) low-light vision and superior (possibly superhuman) sense of smell.

He’s also bullet-resistant, and can take .45 ACP impacts without serious wounds. Doc also seems to have borderline superhuman strength, sufficient to tear a Crim tentacle in two.

Horror’s species is heliophobic. Doc has been unable to shake this. Though he’s otherwise fearless, he cannot abide the sun and daylight. And his physiology is meant to operate in low light conditions anyway. So, like the rest of the Nocturnals and unlike lumberjacks , he works by night and sleeps by day.


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Weird science

The tech level on Doc’s native Black Planet may not have been that different from XXth century Earth’s, albeit with a more 1940s sci-fi vibe. Doc wielded highly advanced technologies such as a raygun, but these may have been his prototypes rather than a general-issue tech.

His main invention is a tiny gateway generator, which he can wear as a pendant. The portals it creates can cross intergalactic distances within seconds, and even allow for transdimensional  travel.

Doc’s other technology is much more low-key. He’s known to work with cybernetics (to repair the Gunwitch), or with ectoplasm (to allow Polychrome to remain on Earth). But these are slow, difficult projects – not something he can suddenly produce during an adventure. His weird science skills are, during field missions, more about knowledge than about gadgets.

An important asset is that Doc built special .45 ACP ammunition with silver tips and some sort of — possibly magical — “charge”. These are deadly against creatures that are normally bullet-resistant, such as vampires, werewolves or the Crim.

However, these apparently take time to make, and the Nocturnals do not have unlimited stocks. Having but one or two clips loaded with these is the norm.

Another design is .45 ACP bullets that have a gateway effect, blowing parts of what they hit back to the Black Planet. This was used against major, adult Crim, who are exceedingly difficult to destroy.

In the field, Doc carries a number of tools and supplies on a utility belt.

When will you rage

Mr. Horror was infected with lycantropy  – though he’s not sure when that happened. This specific strain of the dreadful disease doesn’t seemed keyed with the Moon, with transformations coming more when under stress.

Doc Horror of the Nocturnals (Dan Brereton comics) pondering

Though Doc is stronger and hardier when furrier, this form is difficult to control. He can be asset in the right circumstances, but in the vast majority of cases it’s a recipe for complete disaster. The werewolf personality is apparently both animalistic and evil.

Doc regularly injects himself with an inhibitor serum that blocks the possibility of transmogrification . However, he cannot produce it on his own. He uses stocks of serum that were developed by the Narn-K corporation. Presumably, brewing it requires large, ruinous lab facilities.

A stroll in the woods

There are curious sequences in several Nocturnals stories where the characters seem to travel from place to place on foot. Now, it is possible that such places were all close by. But that’s seldom the case in California, land of driving everywhere.

Eve lampshades  that by suggesting that the Nocturnals should have a car. And Doc once states that for discretion’s sake, Eve will take “the backroads” rather than ride a train.

From a DCH perspective, one suspects that what’s happening is similar to the “synchronicity highway” in the DC Universe (Magic DCH supplement, p16). But these paths do not require the Sorcery Power, or high levels of synchronicity energy.

It seems likely that they allow fast travel between locations of mystical significance/activity, based on an Occultist Skill roll. The roll likely is easy – say 02/02. Since it’s just an aesthetic convention to keep mundane tech and logistics out of the story.

(None of the Nocturnals ever operate a vehicle. Hence the lack of a Vehicles Skill for the Nocturnals (outside of Firelion, who inherited his from stock police stats)).


Soundtrack

First thing that comes to mind is gloomy gothic rock classic Black Planet. This is from the Sisters of Mercy’s first album in 1984, and it’s a pretty good tonal fit.

 

Available for download on Amazon .


History

Doc Horror is originally from another planet, in a distant galaxy. His species is curiously Human-like, and it is possible that they are colonists rather than natives. This world was named the Black Planet, as heavy cloud coverage and a weak sun meant that there usually was little light.

The Black Planet’s other sapient  species were the malign Crim, who looked more like red squids. The Crim weren’t originally sapient, and were uplifted  by the humanoids. They eventually attacked, starting a millennia-long war with the humanoids.

The Crim benefited from the rare sunlight, which presumably allowed them to grow and multiply faster. This reinforced the humanoids’ fear of their sun. In their culture the sun was a god of evil, scorching their eyes and giving strength to the enemy.

The Crim had a deadly mix of science, technology and physical resilience. Their hatchlings could also be discreetly attached to people to turn them into Crim puppets. Between all these assets, they eventually won this war of extermination.

(The 2004 Nocturnals RPG has some additional data about Doc’s past. As with Eve I’m not quite using it here. In part to avoid what feels like pillage, and in part because some of the material seems contradicted by the 2014 and 2017 Nocturnals collections.)

Meet the Horrors

As with most Black Planet humanoids, Doc served on the Crim War frontlines. When rotated out of active duty, he worked as a scientist at the Horror Clan’s chemical plant. This is where he met Abyss ; they would soon marry and have a daughter, Evening.

Doc Horror of the Nocturnals (Dan Brereton comics) fighting Crim tentacles

Abyss was eventually slain or taken by the Crim. Doc is extremely reluctant to talk about Abyss, even to Eve. Mostly he said that she was extraordinarily courageous. There’s also an implication that Abyss had paranormal empathic powers, explaining part of Eve’s supernatural abilities.

In the final days of the war, Doc developed a prototype raygun that made it much easier to slay the Crim. But it was too late. The tide had turned so strongly that some humanoids, such as Doc’s colleague Fane, had even sold out to the Crim.

However, Doc had also just achieved another invention – a teleportation portal generator. With everything lost and Fane having come to confront him, Doc used this tech to evacuate little Eve to another galaxy – specifically, Earth. After fighting Fane off he followed, but the Horrors had been separated.

First and last and always

Doc’s priority was to locate Eve, but he ran into a big problem – sunlight. He had to hide in a dumpster until it was night time. Once he could walk away, he ran into three heavies attempting to kill an old man. Doc reflexively intervened, then carried the wounded elder home to treat his wounds.

This is how Doc Horror met Don Lupo Zampa, the powerful mob boss of Pacific City. The two allied, with Doc serving as Zampa’s star enforcer and medical doctor. He fought other mobs so Don Lupo could reassert the traditional Zampa family control.

The old man had grown dissatisfied with his life of crime and worried for his soul. These enforcement strikes thus became a weeks-long crusade to suppress criminal activities Zampa now deemed unseemly. Though Pacific City remained in the mob’s pocket, Lupo and Doc’s action made it safer and cleaner-feeling.

During these three months, the influential Zampa mob had also been looking for a lost little girl with pointed ears. They eventually located Evening Horror in the foster system, and arranged for her transfer to Pacific City. Doc was thus reunited with his beloved daughter.

The Nocturnals

Though Doc remained the Zampas’ “special guy” and Don Lupo’s private doctor, his priority was now to care for Eve. He thus moved just outside of Pacific City, to an abandoned complex called The Tomb. This had been built decades before by a crazed tycoon obsessed with the occult.

Doc Horror of the Nocturnals (Dan Brereton comics) with a bottled Crim alien

While the Black Planet had been lost to the Crim, Doc wanted to fight to protect his new home from other dark forces. And since he had left part of his tech behind, it was likely that the Crim would attempt a recon foray on Earth to follow him.

During the early 1990s, Doc turned The Tomb into his lab and base. He and Eve also assembled a close-knit team of operatives. Since everyone on this crew operated at night, they were dubbed the Nocturnals.

The covert elimination of paranormal threats to humankind was their goal, and they were quite good at it. In fact, it seemed possible that their efforts might, over decades, eliminate these entirely.

Doc also established a loose alliance with hybrid mobster the Raccoon, which grew closer over the years.

We are the dead of night

Lupo Zampa’s son Tony rose in power as the old man gradually retired. But the P-City underworld, including the Don, saw him as a dangerous toerag. Tony Zampa even turned against Doc and kidnapped him.

This is when Doc realised that his traitorous colleague Fane had been sent to Earth, along with Crim hatchlings. Fane used those to turn Tony into his puppet, and ally with the sinister Narn-K corporation. But the Nocturnals, allied with the Freelynchers (a group of hybrid criminals led by the Raccoon) managed to destroy Fane, the hatchlings, and a large chunk of Narn-K real estate.

In 2000, Doc dealt with the remains of Narn-K. The handful of scientists still with that outfit were hiding in the woods, in an abandoned mining camp. Mr. Horror had run out of inhibitor serum to control his lycanthropy, and getting some from the Narn-K remnant was a necessity. Though an attempt was made to simply offer money, Doc had little doubt the deal would degenerate.

This was sadly correct. The remnant’s leader, Dr. Fletcher, tried to capture the Horrors when they came. It also turned out that they had been experimenting on runaway kids. As Polychrome feared this became a battle to the death, with other Nocturnals and the Raccoon pitching in.

Fletcher and the scientists were slain, Doc walked out with several gallons of inhibitor serum, and Eve took the young mutates to Miss Nightshade’s school.

Up all night to get lucky

In 2001, Doc discovered the vast prehuman ruins right under The Tomb. The amphibian humanoids who had built it had died aeons ago, but a fair few of their ghosts were still around.

Doc Horror of the Nocturnals (Dan Brereton comics) .45 gunfight

The ruins had been taken over by monstrous Skerrl necromancers. These subsisted over stolen souls, and were attempting to corrupt the ties that the lost amphibian civilisation had with undersea leviathans. In the end, the Nocturnals were able to expertly destroy the necromancers, ferry the stolen souls to the afterlife, and calm down the summoned leviathan.

(There are multiple implications that the amphibian ghosts are the ones who guided the recruitment of the Nocturnals so they would have a specific roster. Several of Eve’s ghost friends likely were amphibians, and could easily have been the ones who explained where to find Polychrome and Starfish. What they had waited for for millennia was a person they could interact with – namely Evening Horror).

In 2017, the elderly and bed-ridden Lupo Zampa died. His heart gave out during a confrontation with two of the late Justice Hemlock’s witch children.

His nephew Rocco (himself in his 50s) had been increasingly running the famiglia. Like the old wolf, Don Rocco is on excellent terms with Doc.


Description

A tall, dark stranger. Also, handsome and muscular. Like Eve, Doc has pointed ears and fingers, and more such angles are visible with his pointy beard, Luciferian eyebrows and animé-grade widow’s peak.

Doc is usually wearing rugged field clothing with a trench coat, black leather gloves, big boots, a utility belt, etc.. He often wears a sort of short tunic or surplice – perhaps a common article back on the Black Planet. And he apparently gave several to Firelion.

His favourite tunic has something of a 1950s sci-fi look, with a big “H” logo on the right breast, and big matching leather gloves. These seem to have been regulation work clothing at the Horror Clan’s chemical plant.

During his months of work for the mob, Doc often wear a full 1940s business suit complete with tie, hat, overcoat and black shoes.


Personality

Doc is a kind, calm, resolute protector. He’s good with words, and almost always comes across as wise, measured and respectful. He’s charismatic and has obvious competence and authority.

He’s usually in Gentle But Serious Dad mode, since Eve is very important to him. Raising his daughter and ensuring that she’s happy and properly educated, are his #1 priority. Though he occasionally lets his hair down a bit and makes a small quip. This aspect of the character is one of the few that isn’t a callback to the 1930s and 1940s.

Being an old-fashioned Man Of Science, Doc can get obsessive about his research and discoveries. This is much like the characters who inspired 1960s Reed Richards. When working, he’ll often talk aloud to help himself think and analyze what he’s investigating.

Being a Grim Avenger Of The Niiiiiight, Doc has zero code against killing when it comes to his enemies. This occasionally leads to friction with Polychrome, who is opposed to any killing that’s not strictly necessary.

Perhaps because the action if often seen more or less seen from Eve’s point of view, his ethical disputes with Polychrome have a “mum and dad are arguing” vibe. Especially since they’ll try to have these debates outside of Eve’s earshot.

Small unit tactics

Back on the Black Planet, Crim infiltrators were a constant issue. Thus, Doc’s people avoid large organisations, where a Crim puppet is much more likely to go undetected. Instead, they favour clan-like polities. These have mechanics of familial loyalty, and a wariness about infiltrators, that are similar to Earth mobs.

Thus, to Doc, the Zampa mob felt much safer than conventional authorities. And his natural organisational model for the Nocturnals is more akin to a family. However, Doc’s authority derives from his intelligence, knowledge and competence, not from patriarchal dominance.

Doc does give orders in the field, but otherwise it’s more based on discussion and trust. This too may have been developed on the Black Planet to multiply chances of noticing odd behaviour caused by Crim possession.

Mr. Horror insists that the Nocturnals follow his “three Bs rule” – Brains Before Bloodshed. But this has limits since the Nocturnals often deal with monsters, violent imbeciles and people with wrong opinions as to which Final Fantasy game is the best.

Other traits

Doc seems to still be grieving Abyss Horror, and is secretive about her. Though he would be a dedicated monster-hunter in any case — he was forged during the Crim War — the loss of his wife seems to have contributed to his quiet fanaticism. Doc wants to eliminate all predators, for good.


Quotes

“I’ve had enough graveyard for one night. Let’s get him back to The Tomb.”

“As for my child… go ahead, honey. Show them who’s ‘helpless’…”

“I should have taken care of you a long time ago, Fane. It’s high time I corrected my mistake.” (BLAM BLAM BLAM)

Eve (fixing a damaged toy): “Sorry ’bout your fin, Posey. I’ll have it fixed in a jiffy.”
Doc: “You’re a wonderful nurse, Eve.”

“Strange — the architecture is mismatched. The original architects didn’t build these stairs, which suggests these caverns originally held seawater. Someone came along after them, several millennia later, sealed it off and drained it, added steps — a few other things. And it wasn’t men. It’s all too old. I doubt a single human has ever stepped foot here.”

(Looking at a sinister mansion) “Despite the look of this noble pile, we aren’t hunting entities. Though if you do happen upon any spook, Eve, ask for directions to the judge’s repository.”

“It’s OK Gunwitch, they don’t seem much of a threat. Don’t forget to switch off the lights – they seem to prefer the dark.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Doc Horror

Dex: 05 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Vigilante, scientist
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Wealth: 006
Init: 019 HP: 045

Powers:
Analytical smell: 03, Ultravision: 04

Bonuses and Limitations:
Analytical Smell has no Tracking component.

Skills:
Gadgetry: 05, Martial artist: 05, Medicine: 06, Occultist: 04, Scientist: 07, Weaponry (Firearms): 05

Bonuses and Limitations:
Doc likely uses realistic rules for Gadgetry.

Advantages:
Expertise (Biochemistry, History, Physics), Familiarity (Mob lore, Snooker), Genius, Headquarters (Expansive), Language (Weirding tongue, at least one Black Planet language, several older Earth languages), Schtick (Paired .45 pistols).

Connections:
Nocturnals (High), Zampa mob (High), Street (Low), Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
Distinct Appearance, MIA toward Solving Mysteries.

Equipment:

  • Death-dealing .45 pistol (x2) [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 08, R#02].
  • Gateway medallion [BODY 03, Dimension travel: 09, Miniaturisation: 05]. The medallion also has a Warp Power with intergalactic range, but the destinations apparently need to be programmed and there isn’t much data about range. The APs of Warp likely are 75+.
  • UTILITY BELT. It includes basic tools (such as a screwdriver), some vials (one has simple tap water), a survival knife, and presumably other stuff.
  • THE TOMB. It has a number of Labs, though there’s no data to evaluate AP levels. The Tomb also has surveillance systems monitoring key spots of Pacific City.
  • Silver-tipped .45 bullets.
  • Gateway .45 bullets. From what scant information, the Crim simply seem to have high general BODY. This would allow for giving these bullets Sharpness (Projectile weapons): 04 and EV 06, give or take.

An alien werewolf in California

Yep, nothing in the stats block about lycanthropy.

As it happens, spending Hero Points models the werewolf scenes fine. Doc produces a burst of higher EV (and likely AV), but this can only be sustained for so long, it leaves him drained and morally costs him, it’s something he normally does as a last recourse, etc..

The Nocturnals Genre seems to be Mock Real, which still allows HPs to produce impressive bursts of power. Especially since Doc will only let loose for a Phase or two. If you’re going for a more restrictive Genre, Doc may need a Genre-shifting mechanic.


Linguistics, schminguistics

As a minor note, Doc and Eve never speak in a Black Planet language. Which isn’t unreasonable, since Eve was very little when she was sent on Earth.

They also both were able to become entirely fluent in English within, at most, three months. It is thus possible that Doc, Eve and perhaps the rest of their species can learn languages quicker than most. At least outside of these hilarious Internet adverts (“A 1930s mom learned English in two hours with this one weird trick !”).

(The signs during the flashbacks to the Black Planet are in English. Whether this is diegetic  or a translation is unrevealed.)


Design notes

Doc seems to have several Genius-level inventions to his credit, so he has more than the Stroke of Genius advantage. But he doesn’t seem to have full-on Genius either – for instance he couldn’t synthesise the inhibitor serum.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Nocturnals comics and RPG.

Writeup completed on the 8th of May, 2019.

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