22 min read


Sequence

There’s a lot of intricate worldbuilding behind Dr. Grace’s career. So this entry assumes that you’ve already read :

  1. The multi-parts article about the Suicide Squadron, covering the 1940s and most of the 1950s.
  2. The two-part article about the Silver Age Suicide Squad.

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Background

  • Real Name: Dr. Karin Grace.
  • Other Aliases: “The ice doctor”.
  • Known Relatives: Karin had a son, but may not have been aware of his existence.
  • Group Affiliation: Mission X’s Suicide Squad ; Task Force X ; Manhunters cult ; Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’5” (1.65m). Weight: 125 lbs. (57 Kg.).
  • Eyes: Light blue. Hair: Very blonde.

Powers and Abilities

Grace is a medical specialist.

  • In the original take she’s a military nurse specialised in flight medicine and air rescue.
  • In the revised take she seems to be a MD from an Air Force air rescue unit. Then she left the service and joined the NASA to help develop space medicine for astronauts.

In the original stories, her medical skills are seldom demonstrated. Since it’s not a genre with lots of wounds and death.

Grace also serves as Flag’s co-pilot, radar navigator and bombardier. She may have other signature Air Force skills, such as watching TikTok videos whilst drinking coffee.

She is a skilled artist, painter and photographer.

These and getting captured are her most apparent skillsets in the vintage stories. But Dr. Grace also has three more subtle assets.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - checks condition

Three more subtle assets

The first is that she cheers the men onward and motivates them. Presumably because they don’t want to look weak in front of a *girl*.

In DC Heroes RPG terms, she has the Cheerleadership Advantage. She uses it through the Dream Team Advantage, making her the Hero pointsDC Heroes RPG concept expressing narrative importance/immunity. pivot of the Squad.

Like in team sports, her role as a pivot is not to score and do flashy stuff. Rather, she makes sure that the ball ends up in the right hands at the right time. Other Squad members give their Hero Points to Karin so she can bolster them. Then bestow them to the point man so he can save the day.

The second is that she’s gorgeous. Thus, most male things (including giant monsters such as Ancient Greek cyclopes) will get distracted and focus on her. This leaves the men free to do Manly Things™.

The third is that she displayed a quasi-supernatural level of psychic sensitivity in one vintage story. The gamemaster should feel free to have Grace simply sense “telepathic emanations” or some such whenever its convenient to move the plot along.

In the published story she was able to sense hostile intentions from telepathic dinosaurs in another dimensionOther realms of existence that are not our universe.. She then concentrated to transport the entire Squad into that dimension by “riding back” those psychic waves. As you do.

Soundtrack

For an European person of my age, Kim Wilde’s Cambodia is an obvious choice of theme music for Karin Grace.

Ms. Wilde was a popular British new-wave singer of the 1980s. This specific song was released in late 1981.

More than a woman

The original depiction of Karin Grace was a passive character, conservative even by 1959 standards. But whenever the Silver Age Suicide Squad gets revisited (usually during a flashback), she’s portrayed with more agency, more active skills, and heavier training.

Having her graduate to nurse (1959 continuity) to MD (1987 continuity) is typical of this. FWIW, by 1959 there had been female MDs in the US for more than a century. Though they were a tiny minority – Karin would likely have graduated at a point where about 5% of MD degrees were awarded to women.

(Things changed in the US in 1972, with Title IX civil rights. Title IX also meant that White women were the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action laws).

Likewise in the 1959 tales she never wields a gun – which is an important consideration in adventure stories. But with a 1987 flashback we see her wieling a compact revolver. And by The New Frontier, she seems just as trained in weapons operation as the guys.

(Though she and Doc Evans prefer lighter weapons, not being as brawny as Bright and Flag).

One unused New Frontier concept even had a version of Karin who was a Navy SEAL. In 1959, this is technically impossible. But there were Underwater Demolition Teams conducting special operations during the Korean war, making them proto-SEAL operators. So, close enough.

(TMK no woman made it through full SEAL selection until 2021.).

(And yes, it would make much more sense for a “militarized” version of Karin to be USAF Pararescue. But this concept sketch seemed to go with one Squad member for each major branch, and Rick already was USAF).

Game stats impact

Our game stats are set in the “reconstructed Ostrander” continuity. So they correspond to a markedly more capable and active version of Karin Grace, but one who is primarily a physician rather than a soldier.

Having Grace master unusual physical skills doesn’t come out of nowhere. Vintage Suicide Squad stories depict her :

  • Performing precise parachute drops in full US Airborne kit. Which also means that she gets to wear *trousers*. How amazing is that ? Like, trousers, man. Trousers !
  • Operating as a military diver.

One 1987 flashback also depicts doing difficult mountaineering in Cambodia.

Our stats stop shy of adding scientific skills (presumably in biology), since it’s too speculative. But it’s a clear option if you want a version of the Silver Age Suicide Squad that is less conservative than the vintage material – yet doesn’t go “F*CK YEAH ALL THE GUNS !” and still relies on science.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - origin tragedy

History (part 1)

Grace’s known biography only includes one event before joining the Squad. That’s the loss of her lover Steve during an Air Rescue mission.

We *assume* that it took place in the Pacific, and that Steve was USAF. But these are guesses, especially since we seldom trust the military uniforms in super-hero comics to be correct.

Steve dies at the beginning

In the original telling, Karin’s air rescue unit recovers several downed pilots, including her lover Steve. However, the air rescue plane then crashes at sea.

The doctor manages to get on a floating wing debris. But Steve is too badly wounded. He refuses to let her pull him onto the wing, as he realises that he would just drag her to sink with him.

Pushing Karin back, Steve drowns under her eyes, urging her to carry on for him.

New Frontier telling

In the New Frontier version, Karin Grace dragged several wounded men, including two badly burned pilots, onto the wing debris. But lack of medical supplies means that she cannot save any of them. As they spend two weeks drifting, they die one by one despite her best efforts.

When another rescue unit finds the wreck, Dr. Grace is in a state of shock. Surgeons have to cut out the dog tags she has been clenching in her fist for days.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - giant insect monster plane

Timelines

There are four possible dates for this depending on the timeline you use in your stories :

  1. It may have occurred in the Pacific in 1945 (original, pre-Crisis timeline).
  2. It may have occurred during the mid-1950s in Việt Nam (our proposed timeline).
  3. It may have occurred in the mid-1970s during the closing months of American involvement in Việt Nam (the most logical date for the 1987 timeline).
  4. If we slide into the future all the way to the Infinite Crisis, then it occurred in 2007.

Here are additional details in the unlikely case somebody, somewhere ever needs to develop Karin Grace’s backstory.

Original 1959 timeline – Dumbo

Official experiments in search-and-rescue air operations for the US Navy started in early 1943. These were a success, and operations quickly scaled up.

The air rescue aircrafts were nicknamed “Dumbo”, after the 1941 cartoon elephant  . Their deployments became known as dumbo ops.

In the original timeline, Nurse Grace logically would have been a graduate of the very first class at Navy Flight Nurse School in January of 1945. This would also make her a US Navy Ensign.

As a Flight Nurse she would have been both a qualified military nurse and a rescue swimmer, explaining her fitness to serve with the Squad.

One caption describes her war record as “striking”. Perhaps it went along the line of real-world Ensign Jane Kendeigh  at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

So she may have been a Lt. by the war’s end.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - pink giant humanoid bomb

Writeups.org timeline – 33rd ARS

In our proposed timeline, Dr. Grace would have been one of the first female MDs to serve in the Air Force.

She would have joined the earliest form of the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron  , formed in 1952.

The earliest American “consultants” working in Việt Nam came from Okinawa bases. Thus it is reasonable to assume — in the context of a fictional universe — that early, off-the-record aeromedical rescue operations in Việt Nam would have been flown by the Okinawa-based 33rd ARS.

In this timeframe Dr. Grace would presumably have been a 0-1 (2nd Lt.). But given the times it is unlikely that she was ever promoted past 0-2.

With the hostility toward the possibility of female pilots her qualifications as co-pilot, bombardier and navigator would likely have been acquired on the side. See our first Carol Danvers profile for notes about women’s organisations in the Air Force.

This timeline makes it likely that Dr. Grace would have been loaned to NACA  (the precursor of NASA) in 1957 as part of the Special Committee on Space Technology  . *If* we assume that NACA’s SCST was more extensive in the DCU than in the real world, which is reasonable.

She could thus have met Flag — a military consultant to the SCST — in 1958, one year before the Squad was launched.

1987 timeline – 33rd ARRS

In the post-Crisis timeline things would be broadly similar.

Howbeit the 33rd had by then become the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.

The mid- and late 1970s saw the bulk of the legal changes allowing women to serve in an integrated manner. So 1st Lieutenant Grace might have been formally trained as a backup pilot, bombardier (to drop rescue boats), etc. one or two years before joining the Squad.

Dr. Grace might have met Rick Flag during the January, 1978 space shuttle astronaut candidate recruitment. This would be roughly a year before the Squad was formed.

2007 timeline – Gothic Serpent

In the post-Infinite Crisis timeline, 1st Lt. Grace would presumably be a CSAR  -qualified aeromedical crew director attached to the USAF 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

The bad stuff would have happened during the DCU version of Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu  . These 1993 events were made famous by the (historically inaccurate) Blackhawk Down movie.

In this timeline, Dr. Grace presumably meets “Rick Flag” (actually amnesiac soldier Matthew Miller) in 1997. When she is recruited by General Eiling’s men to join a new version of the Suicide Squad.

From context, Grace was probably lied to and manipulated. This conditioning would have exploited her state of shock over what happened in Mogadishu to :

  1. Feed her false information.
  2. Make her exceptionally determined to serve.

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History (part 2)

After this tragedy Grace carried on, working as a physician for aerospace pilots. She was nicknamed “the Ice Doctor” due to her cold aloofness since losing Steve.

She eventually met with Rick Flag, bonded with him over their shared sense of loss and duty, and joined the Suicide Squad shortly after he did.

The group dynamics of the Squad revolved around Grace. Flag was secretly Grace’s lover. But the other two were also in love with her. Thus it was feared that, given everyone’s unusual psychological state, they’d crack if she rebuffed them.

This uncomfortable situation continued for years as the Suicide Squad improbably beat threat after threat and defended the free world.

But then it turned around…

Pre-Crisis, the Squad dispersed right after discovering a strange golden temple in Cambodia. Karin Grace was never heard of again.

Post-Crisis, the mission in Cambodia was even more of a disaster. Jess and Hugh were lost trying to stop a yeti. Karin blamed herself since the men were trying to save her as their first priority. Flag got Grace out of Cambodia, but she had finally reached her breaking point.

Dr. Grace was hospitalised with severe PTSD  . The doctors treating her soon asked Flag to stop visiting her so she could move on and leave her traumas behind her. As a result, Grace and Flag lost contact.

Weeks later the medical staff realised that Karin was pregnant. According to Waller, Grace had a further breakdown upon learning this. Though she carried to term, she blocked the existence of her child from her mind.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - smock team general

Raise the Flag

In the 1987 timeline, Karin’s son isn’t problematic. He presumably was born in 1984, and he does look about 6 in the scenes published in 1990.

In our proposed timeline, however, he’s the one point that doesn’t work. This is because he would have been born in 1965, making him 25 by the time Koshchei sent zombies to capture him.

For those interested in using our timeline in their TTRPG campaign, there’s a fix – see the Rick Flag entry.

… and he began to change

Though Grace recovered her composure over the years, everything was handled disastrously.

Flag abandoned Grace even after it became OK for him to visit her. From dialogue it seems that it was a mixture of him being poorly informed about Grace’s state by the V.A., and a mostly-subconscious wish to avoid her.

Grace blamed Flag for this. She came to harbour a low-key desire to hurt him back, since she had also blocked out the good parts of her history with Flag.

General J.E.B. Stuart arranged for Karin’s son to be adopted by friends of his, the Kanes. However, he never informed Flag that he had a son – since he feared that Flag would also break down. It is possible that nobody ever told Grace either, given her unstable state.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - reach my thoughts

To serve again

Grace presumably ended up rejoining the US Air Force as an air rescue doctor. By her next appearance her skills were again current and reputed.

After leaving the hospital, she met with the adventurer Mark Shaw. He was then known as the Privateer and associated with the Manhunters cult.

After becoming Shaw’s lover, Dr. Grace was inducted into the cult. She became a Manhunters plant within the US Armed Forces.

(It is strongly implied that the Manhunters manipulated Karin’s memories to ensure that she would now hate Flag. But this isn’t clearly stated).

Stop! Waller time

In 1986, Amanda Waller was authorised to create an entirely new version of the Suicide Squad. To hasten operations, Waller procured resources from the previous versions of the team.

One was a mostly intact SS-1 special purpose aircraft. It was retrofitted to become a fast transport airplane.

Another was Dr. Grace, whom she approached to head the emergency and combat medical operations of the Squad – and help fly the SS-1.

Always willing to serve, feeling that she owed Jess Bright and Hugh Evans, and seeing an opportunity to hurt Flag, Karin agreed to join the Squad. She became part of the ground crew in Belle Reve, LA.

Karin Grace was back to her “ice doctor” persona. She did not care whether the ill-defined ends justified the occasionally heinous means the new Squad employed.

For instance, she didn’t bat an eye when it came to using Dr. Moon’s technology to force a washout, Plastique (Bette Sans Souci), to forget the existence of the Squad.

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Grace vs. Flag

Grace was also occasionally active in the field as a support agent. One example was the operation to break the credibility of bigoted “hero” William Hell.

Dr. Grace also flew the team out of USSR after the semi-failure of the Firebird operation. And provided immediate medical attention since most operatives were in a sorry shape.

Dr. Grace occasionally provoked Col. Flag with accusations of having abandoned her and/or Jess and Hugh. She knew that Flag wasn’t her boss – Waller was.

Flag soon cracked and wanted to confront the passive-aggressive Grace to tell his version. But Waller ordered him not to.

Flag refused the order. This led to a fists fight with the Privateer (Mark Shaw), whom Waller had recently recruited. Flag was defeated. When Shaw made a vague pass at Grace, Karin showed clear interest in order to hurt Rick.

Though Karin thought that Mark was just maintaining cover by pretending not to know her, he was sincere. *This* Mark Shaw was not the real one. Unbeknownst to her it was an android double.

Millennium

During the Millennium crisis  , the government was reluctant to activate the Suicide Squad. However, Manhunters cult activities were reported near Belle Reve.

Belle Reve’s warden assembled a team and issued them with a powerful car bomb. Manhunters being androids from outer space, a less powerful explosive charge wouldn’t be effective.

Karin accompanied the team, then faked being captured by the aliens. She then lured Flag into a Manhunters trap to prevent him from detonating the bomb. Flag fell into the ambush, despite the warning from Mark Shaw – the actual, human one.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - cyclops grab stalactite

Confrontation

Karin confronted the captured Rick, telling him that she’d been a Manhunters agent all along. However :

  1. Mark came in and, to her utter surprise, disarmed her. He explained that, whoever the Mark Shaw she had lived with for several years was, it wasn’t him.
  2. The android Mark Shaw came in, claiming to be the real Mark Shaw. He gave Karin his Manhunter baton so she could execute both Rick and Mark.

But as she held the baton Karin realised that something was wrong. She started to remember the good times she had spent with Flag rather than just the bad.

As she refused to fire, the Spectre magically struck at all Manhunter androids. As a result the fake Mark’s circuitry broke down, making it clear that Karin had been deceived by the Manhunters all along.

She tried to trace the past, the way he used to look

In a cold rage, Dr. Grace went behind the wheel of the car bomb. Unlike the other operatives, she knew the layout of the Manhunter’s temple. She therefore had the best odds of delivering the payload.

As she revved up the engine she asked the real Shaw to tell Rick that she now remembered their full history, and that she asked for his forgiveness and for him to carry on in her memory.

Karin discovered that hostages were held in the gigantic facility. But Jim Corrigan and Batman (Bruce Wayne), who had sneaked in, evacuated these.

Damaged Manhunters androids tried to stop Karin from reaching the heart of their temple. But when they finally forced her car bomb to crash, it was too late.

Spotting the android who had duped her, Dr. Grace cursed him. The huge bomb then exploded, dealing a crippling blow to the Manhunters’ plot against the Human race and the Guardians of the Universe.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - cyclops prisoner rockets

Description

In the original stories, Grace is usually dressed in a way completely inappropriate for field work – but appropriate for a late 1950s middle-class American woman.

She usually sports a below-the-knee red pencil skirt and the sort of tight sweater that was a thing from 1937 onward. Plus pumps, and perhaps conservative jewellery such as a pearl necklace.

(How one could possibly run in a pencil skirt and pumps is a mystery to me).

The few shots of the 1987 post-Crisis version have her dress more sensibly. Examples include a black high-necked sweater, red fatigues and hiking boots, or a US Air Force jumpsuit and supple combat boots. She’s an air rescue doctor Jim, not a fashion plate !

When she worked along the Suicide Squad field team she wore a S.H.I.E.L.D.-style black bodysuit. There also was a handgun in a grey-blue shoulder holster.

In the New Frontier continuity, Karin’s hair and features strongly evoke Marilyn Monroe. Historically, Ms. Monroe’s acting career was peaking when the Suicide Squad appeared.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - meet cute flag

Personality

In the original appearances Karin is more an object than an actor. She has but a few lines of dialogue, though she says “You’ve done it Rick !” about three times per story.

But then everyone’s characterisation was minimal and the emphasis was on the weird tales. She was the stock demure feeeemale who got captured and was there for the guys to obsess over.

There’s no sample of her characterisation as a Silver Age Suicide Squad member in the Ostrander-revised continuity.

State of shock

After Cambodia she’s obviously hurt and psychologically crippled. What happened is unclear, but she has blocked practically all her positive memories, perhaps so she could move on.

This leaves her bitter, hateful and passive-aggressive about her past.

Though she wanted to let go and get a life, Dr. Grace was still bound by duty. As a former Squad operative, as a doctor, as an Air Force officer and even as a Manhunter. Her whole life was dominated by the necessity to serve, no matter how badly she wanted to retire.

There was a sort of figurative curse, where Silver Age Suicide Squad members were driven to keep on fighting to honour the sacrifice of their comrades. Karin asking Rick to carry on with their fight was part of this cycle, which Rick didn’t break either.

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - flag cold fight

Quotes

“Rick — you’ve done it !” (The flaming SS-1 pulls up from a firestorm)

Flag: “Release the first stick !”
Grace: “Bombs away !”

“We can’t risk landing on the Moon ! Not with the thing still [clinging to our rocket] ! Who knows what new form it might take ! What new threat ?”

“Look out, Rick ! A monstrous seagull’s attacking us !”

“There’s only one storm when I’m around you, Rick — the one in my heart.“

“We’re all equal… and all expendable in the Suicide Squad, Rick. Our lives don’t matter compared to the lives of millions of others !”

“I owe the Manhunters this. They duped me… I was working for them… helping them… I didn’t realise… So if they hurt anyone else… it’ll be like I’m to blame. I’d take any success of theirs, any harm they do, personally. So this bomb is my way of getting back at them. Personally. If you can understand that.”

(Her last words) “I hope there’s a Hell for creatures such as you.”

Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - hold flag gunpoint

DC Heroes RPG

Karin Grace (merged version)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05
Init: 012 HP: 035

Powers:

Awareness: 02

Skills:

Acrobatics (Climbing): 04, Animal handling (Horses): 04, Artist (Artist, painter, photographer): 04, Medicine: 05, Military science (Demolition): 05, Vehicles: 05, Weaponry (Exotic, Firearms, Heavy): 05

Advantages:

  • Attractive.
  • Cheerleadership.
  • Credentials (US Military, High ; NASA, High ; US Intelligence, Medium ; NATO militaries, Medium).
  • Dream Team (with Rick Flag Jr, Jess Bright and Doc Evans).
  • Expertise (Parachuting, SCUBA diving).

Connections:

Mission X (High) plus those derived from her Credentials.

Drawbacks:

MIA toward Rick Flag, Minor Psychological Instability.

Motivation:

Responsibility.

Occupation:

Mission X agent.

Wealth:

005

Equipment:

See the corresponding Suicide Squad article.


Design Notes

The Awareness APs are more a marker of her psychic sensitivity that something you’re meant to roll. It seemed to be more of a GM’s call sort of ability, use to drive the plot rather than confer an advantage.


Karin Grace - DC Comics - Suicide Squad - last words

DC Adventures RPG

Karin Grace — Averaged PL 4

STR STA AGL DEX
00 01 02 03
FGT INT AWE PRE
01 03 01 01

Powers:

Trained CSAR operator ● 1 point ● Descriptor: Skill
Enhanced Skill (Athletics) 4 (Limited 1 to the Climbing and Swimming Application)).

Sensitive ● 1 point ● Descriptor: Plot facilitation r us
Senses (Mental Awareness (Mental)).

Combat Advantages:

Close Attack 2, Defensive Roll 1, Ranged Attack 2.

Other Advantages:

Attractive, Benefit 2 (Mission X operative, giving her senior credentials with NATO military, intelligence and aerospace agencies), Connected, Equipment 3, Inspire, Leadership, Luck.

Skills:

Athletics 2 (+2) (+6 for Climbing and Swimming), Deception 2 (+3), Expertise (Equestrienne) 2 (+5), Expertise (Artist, painter and photographer) 5 (+7), Expertise (Paratrooper) 1 (+4), Insight 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Persuasion 1 (+2), Ranged combat (Firearms) 2 (+7), Ranged combat (Heavy infantry weapons) 2 (+7), Ranged combat (Odd scientific prototypes) 2 (+7), Technology 4 (+7) (Limited 1 to Demolition and Operating), Treatment 4 (+7), Vehicles 4 (+7).

Offence:

Initiative +2
Unarmed +3, Close, Damage 0
Various ranged weapons +7, by type

Defence:

Dodge 04
Fortitude 03
Parry 03
Toughness 01*/02
Will 05

* Without Defensive Roll.

Complications:

  • You did it Rick! Karin is Rick Flag’s lover, but nobody must learn of it ! Later on, this is replaced by a toxic hatred of him based on mangled memories.
  • Our lives do not matter! The Squad operatives are impossibly driven. They are entirely willing to sacrifice themselves if necessary.
  • Damaged The Squad operatives have been through severe psychological trauma. There are discreet but fragile fault lines in their psyche.
  • Ladylike In early takes Karin is passive and demure, and only gets to do girl stuff. But actually she’s reaping the Hero Points from this constant Complication, and use them via Leadership and Inspire to buffA way to make somebody more powerful – often a magic spell. the others ! The little minx !

Powers Levels:

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 5, Dodge/Toughness PL 3, Parry/Toughness PL 3, Fort/Will PL 4.
  • Points total 70. Abilities 24, Defences 10, Skills 19, Powers 2, Devices 0, Advantages 15. Equiv. PL 5.


Notes

Yes, the “Trained CSAR” Power *is* fiddly. It’s just that I didn’t want her to hop and dash around like Lara Croft.

The Suicide Squad members have fairly good Hero Points total in DCH. So a level of Luck seemed about right to model the story flow. Since in DCH they use their HPs not to miss mission-critical rolls.

Her equipment pool doesn’t include the shared cost for their special plane, which I haven’t M&Mised yet. Also, her Equipment pool will definitely be larger if you go for the New Frontier view of the character, where it’s entirely possible for her to come to the party with a flamethrower or a bazooka.

As discussed in the article these are Frankenstats, smushing together several takes on the character due to the paucity of material.

Her attack PL assumes a Light Pistol.


Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Universe.

Helper(s): Darci, Ethan Roe.

Writeup completed on the 17th of August, 2011.