Earth Omega was the setting for a tabletop role-playing game series.
One conceit is that Earth Omega is the product of the fictional Omega Comics line. Thus a number of my notes refer to such things as scripts and copyright. But other than the usual intellectual property stuff its just me being weird. If I tread on anyone else’s intellectual property, its a homage, okay?
Anyway this is going to take a while so I’m writing this as a history of of each of the three phases of the setting, including historical notes of Omega Comics, as individual emails. Oh and just for the record my family are writers not publishers but if they were…
Earth Omega has its three phases, based loosely upon the three distinct phases of the DCU. Indeed on the one occasion I ran the setting the players became convinced that Omega Comics was a company in the DCU but that’s another tale entirely.
Phase 1: The Glory Age (Pre-Regenesis)
Peter Calder bought the Dundee Publishing Company for a pittance in 1935. A fan of scientific romances and a good friend of HG Wells he became fascinated with American comics and pulps buying the British publication rights for a number of them. These were published in anthology as Heroic Comics.
Their first original publication was with Heroic Comics #4 in October 1937. It introduced Omega Man, a super powered crime fighter who was “The ultimate example of human evolution” to the world.
Omega Man’s origin and abilities were poorly explained and sometimes inconsistant. However one of the most memorable early stories featured him fighting off an invasion of Venusians. These used an “Evolutionary Ray” to evolve humans to a pacifistic “Eloi” state to make them easier to enslave.
At the end of the story Omega Man, who until that point had appeared to be little more than a costumed vigilante, uses the evolutionary ray to restore the Venusians victims. But it explodes on him. The general consensus is that he was caught in the backwash of the slaves devolution and at that point gains his superhuman powers.
From this point on Omega Man begins to demonstrate truly superhuman strength, invulnerability and the power of flight.
Calder’s stated philosophy was that the emphasis of “superhuman” should be “on the human not the super”. Superhuman was being “more human not more than human”.
While Omega Man frequently seemed to have a different set of powers with every story his flaws remained the same. While a predisposition towards self-sacrifice, humility, and an absence of the darker passions can be seen as positive things in most people in Omega Man they were carried to the extreme of being flaws.
Not only would he underestimate his own abilities but he’d also rather throw himself on the grenade rather than use something better suited to the task. Not only did he lack such things as rage and lust but he was unable to understand them in others. While he could feel anger and fear they were intellectual rather than emotional.
In the modern era he’d be a poster boy for Asperger sufferers the world over.
His practical vulnerabilities to toxins. While he could shrug them off quickly their initial effects would be rapid and more effective than on ordinary humans. That made him something of a running joke; a big strong man who couldn’t hold his liquor.
We do need other heroes
Omega Man proved even more popular than the graphic serialisations of the H.G. Wells’ work. It was rapidly followed up with such characters as:
- The Greene Knight. A botanist, later a soldier, who has power over nature.
- The Promethean. A police officer resurrected via an unspecified serum who in his new life gained super human abilities.
- Monsieur Fantôme. A French mystery-man type crime fighter in the mold of the Shadow. He never expressly had any super powers instead relying on his great skill in fencing and savate as well as Holmesian deductive abilities.
- Villains such as the Invisible Man and Kommandor Donnashlag.
It was these early stories in which elements of Wells’ works, from the Martian invaders from War of the Worlds to the future evolution of mankind from The Time Machine and The Shape Of Things To Come became cannon elements of Earth Omega. They inspired future themes up to the present age.
During the war the publisher worked with the Political Warfare Executive. Copies of Omega Comics (as the company had become known) were thus air dropped into enemy occupied territories.
Great care was taken to distinguish the German Vermacht from the Nazis up to creating Kapitan Kruger-Schmitt. He was a Vermacht officer with mesmeric powers and a strict sense of honor. He frequently crossed swords with Monsieur Fantôme and enjoyed making the SS look like idiots. Much of Kruger-Schmitt’s panels were cut from the comics sold in Britain but were included in the propaganda drops over Europe.
(The publishing house was using and/or believing in a common historical fallacy, the “clean Wehrmacht myth” — Ed.)
After the end of the war, Kruger-Schmitt became more heroic. He was retconned[glass] as having helped Jews escape death with aid of the Golem, another secondary character from the Fantôme books. Kruger-Schmitt even had his own brief stories in which the ravages of war torn Europe are expressly depicted as he journeys to testify against his superiors in the Nuremberg Trials.
These stores began the rehabilitation of the German people in the eyes of the world. They allowed people in Britain to feel that no matter how hard things were at home they were worse on the continent. Later Kruger-Schmitt becomes Captain Breaker (Kapitan Unterbrecher). He opposed the blockade of Berlin, smashing Soviet spy rings and later spiriting people over the wall.
Recently it has been revealed that much of the comics dropped into Europe contained coded messages to the resistance, including accurate maps and details of enemy emplacements.
Once rationing began to relax the Omega Comics line exploded in the last of the War Era stories. Those were the famous multi-issue epic and original crossover event Trail Of The Ubermenchen.
Monsieur Fantôme, Captain Breaker and the Golem each continue their independent investigations into Nazi war crimes. They follow their separate threads, Fantôme is looking for missing gold from a Parisian bank, the Golem is following sightings of a Nazi scientist and Unterbrecher is hunting the killer of a Nazi war criminal in prison as well as a number of other strange crimes.
However before long they discover they are on the same trail. The missing scientist is trying to complete his insane project to create the ultimate superhuman.
The famous cover of Heroic Comics #100 “Who Is The Ubermenchen?” from March 1949 has been reproduced and homaged a number of different times down the years. The story within, wherein our trio of heroes discover that the Ubermenchen is a resurrected Adolph Hitler, is equally explosive. And so was the victorious Unterbrecher’s closing statement that “It is the duty of all good men everywhere to guard against the evil of the past— even from within our own hearts.”
The story marked the beginning of Omega’s boom in popularity. It crossed the Atlantic, and they began to compete with the publications of National Periodicals, Timely and Fawcett.
Busy seducing innocents
In 1954 when the CCA was created Omega refused to submit their books for approval. They created their own grading system of:
- Young. Totally safe for all ages, real kids stuff.
- Child. Simple four colour super hero stuff with educational elements, including the Marvel Family which were licensed for UK publication from Fawcett.
- Heroic. Their prestige stories including most of their super hero characters.
- Adult. Their Horror titles and ultra violent war stories.
Calder’s speech denouncing the censors as “The sort of fiends we fought to get rid of” while impassioned fell on deaf ears. Omega’s sales in the states dropped while they continued to soar back in Europe.
The Captain Marvel trials
By the time of the DC vs. Fawcett court case Calder wrote an powerful letter to both companies. It reminded them that “We are in the business of making heroes not destroying them”. He also reminded them that Omega Man predated both Superman and Captain Marvel.
While there was a brief debate over which had been the first true super human, the glory eventually going to Omega Man who was “The first to fly”. Eventually DC dropped the case. Fawcett sold the rights of their super heroes to Omega. The new publisher made them the core of their Child line, which they renamed Marvel in honor of their acquisition.
In 1960 they signed a deal with Timely/Atlas to allow the Marvel line to be published in the US. Part of the agreement allowed Timely to use the Marvel name while Omega gained access to the talents of the likes of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby .
By the late 1960s Calder, now Lord Ritchie Calder, had passed control of the company onto his children. His sons, one of whom was an editor for New Scientist, seemed to feel it was their duty to correct what they saw as poor science instead of maintain editorial quality.
It was about this time that the late Albert Einstein, who had granted the use of his name and likeness to Omega in perpetuity for the purposes of education, stopped being a background character and advisor to Omega Man’s team, Safeguard. He became a superhero.
The idea behind “Crazy Al” was to make science “hip” and fun. But trapping the elderly physicist in a “standing wave of high energy tachyons” to explain his longevity and superhuman abilities was somewhat self defeating.
Under the brothers’ fickle supervision the writers and artists almost had free reign. Despite the new hard science rules one of the best selling comics were the Adventures of Agent 75. These surreal tales of a psychic secret agent are memorable both for their alleged drug allegories and psychedelic storylines.
Another popular title was the Annwn Patrol, a group of superpowered misfits operating out of a haunted house.
Omega’s grip on the market began to slip allowing the growth of Titan and Fleetway. By the 1980s, after Lord Ritchie Calder’s demise, the rot was fairly set in. Critics were predicting Omega’s own death.
But all was not lost because one of the late lords grandchildren had a cunning plan.