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Katharsis (DC Comics) (The Movement)

Katharsis


Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Katharsis appeared in comics Gail Simone  wrote for DC, from 2012 to 2014. Since most of the stuff I’ve been working on recently has been from the 1940s and 1950s, I fig’red something from the 2010s would be a good change of pace.

I have no idea where she fits in DC’s continuity, if there’s still one. About 90% of my favourite characters vanished during Flashpoint, so I’ve read little DC material since 2011.


Background

  • Real Name: Kulap Vilaysack.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Mother (name unrevealed), father (presumably deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Former operative of the Disgraced, member of the Movement.
  • Base of Operations: Coral City.
  • Height: 5’7″ Weight: 135 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black.


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Powers & Abilities

Katharsis is a trained police officer. She clearly had further training in unarmed and melee combat, since most departments don’t teach swordfighting.

She’s an aggressive, nasty fighter with good pain tolerance and a remarkable power of recovery. She can take on a trained boxer well above her weight. However, she’s clearly not as good as Batgirl (Barbara Gordon).

She has a gift with mechanics, and perhaps more advanced tech. She thus built herself a pair of artificial wings in her garage. What actually allows them to defy gravity is unclear.

Gear

Her wings are fully functional, and there are additional control surfaces along her boots. The latter fold back behind her calves when she’s not airborne.

The articulated “arms” of the wings are stronger than Katharsis herself. They can be used in sweeping movements to bash opponents back when outnumbered.

Early on she was armed with a spiked club. This later evolved to a sort of scimitar, albeit one with an elongated handle. This weapon varies from page to page, and is sometimes closer close to a dao, a glaive, a naginata or some fantasy broad-curved-blade-on-a-haft.

She also carries a balisong and a cellphone.


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History

Kulap Vilaysack is originally from Laos. Her mum managed to flee to Thailand when Kulap was very little, and ended up in a refugee camp. Her father, apparently a policeman, wasn’t with them.

The Vilaysacks likely fled Laos during the 1980s. The country was in horrible shape  caused by Communist mismanagement. There also were bloody purges – particularly of Hmong folks .

“Kulap” is a Thai name, not a Lao name. Written “กุหลาบ” and more precisely transcribed as “Kuh̄lāb”, it means “Rose”. I have no idea whether having a Thai first name would have been unusual in Laos back then.

The character’s name is taken from the homonymous indie media type . But how much Katharsis’ roots resemble real-world-Kulap-Vilaysack’s origins  is unrevealed.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…

Little Kulap and her mum were taken in by a Baptist family in Minnesota. Eventually, Mrs. Vilaysack saved enough to do the traditional thing and open a small “Thai” restaurant serving Lao cooking. Kulap helped in the kitchen, chopping meat.

Katharsis (DC Comics) (The Movement) challenge

As a teenager, she didn’t fit in well – likely because of her temper. But she was determined to become a cop. Her father had been one, and Kulap’s first memory of America was a sympathetic policeman who helped the Vilaysacks with their arrival. She applied to the Police Academy ASAP, and was proud of graduating and joining the force.

Her time with the fuzz was short. A man was taken in for the murder of an immigrant girl, whose ghastly trials to reach the US had resembled Kulap’s. But he had money, and Officer Vilaysack thought he could afford enough of a legal defense to walk.

Blowing a gasket, she attacked him in his apartment with a kitchen knife, barely leaving him alive.

Then she ran.

When I was young I was invincible

With her police career gone, Vilaysack went vigilante. She seemingly patterned herself after Hawkman, with a similar combo of wings and large melee weapons.

Taking the name Katharsis , she joined the Disgraced — the core enforcement team of Knightfall (Charise Carnes). The filthy rich Carnes may have provided what allows Vilaysack’s wings to actually fly.

Knightfall’s plan was to launch a literal war on crime in Gotham, killing tens of thousands with massive collateral damage.

Though Katharsis seemed to be a true believer, she actually dropped out not long after the Disgraced clashed with Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). Though she liked all the rhetoric about rivers of blood, an-eye-for-an-eye and utter ruthlessness, seeing small-time thieves get their limbs hacked to satisfy Knightfall’s sadism crept her out.

Katharsis left for Coral City (possibly in New Jersey). One assumes she hit the mattresses in the ‘Tweens neighborhood, a badly dilapidated no-go zone. Meanwhile, Batgirl and her allies (such as Batwoman) foiled Knightfall.

Reach for the sky

Katharsis was recruited by Virtue (Holly Fields) to join the Movement. This was a grassroots political movement in the ‘Tweens, spearheaded by young superhuman protectors.

Katharsis (DC Comics) (The Movement) flies over the city

One of the Movement’s main issues was abuse from corrupt police. This is likely what convinced Vilaysack to join, as she loathed bad cops. But Virtue forbade her to kill anyone.

However, Katharsis didn’t get along with Virtue or the rest of the Movement. She was frustrated by their refusal to use torture and disproportionate violence. Out of anger and after nearly having a fight with Virtue, she stormed the penthouse of one of the town’s powers-behind-the-throne.

This reckless move ended under the truncheons and tasers of riot police. However, Virtue led the Movement in an attack on the precinct house where Vilaysack was held, and they busted her out.

Though she recovered from the beatings, Katharsis soon got into another internecine fight. This time it was about showing clemency to a captured corrupt policeman. She got into a brawl with Movement member Tremor (Roshanna Chatterji).

Classier warfare

After Virtue broke up the fight, she ordered them to go bond over sundaes. To Kulap’s and Roshanna’s surprise, this childish and caloric approach worked. Appreciating that Roshanna was trying to save her from becoming a murderess, Kulap agreed to calm down and be more cooperative.

This more or less worked, and helped the Movement gain much-needed cohesion.

However, Katharsis’ rashness soon led to more problems :

  • When Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) came to Coral City, Katharsis attacked out of reflexive anger and was painfully taken down.
  • When the Movement came after superhuman vigilante Reese Cahill, Katharsis was the first to find him. She empathised with his situation, and impulsively ended up shagging with the remarkably handsome Cahill.
  • When she learned that Cahill had killed two cops in Coral, Katharsis lost it to confusion and anger. She attempted to execute Cahill. After getting punched some, the despondent Katharsis agreed to go with Virtue’s least-bad solution. She hugged Cahill until the cops arrested him.

Despite these travails, the Movement’s superhumans did manage to coalesce as an actual team, which the lonely Kulap appreciated.

They also considerably improved their relationship with the CCPD, as they gained allies within and some of the most abusive officers were taken down.

The Movement, including Katharsis, once came to Gotham City to help Batgirl take down Knightfall’s final assault against the city.


Soundtrack

I’m old hippie scum so you’re absolutely getting some Neil Young. The dirty, low-fi sound of Crazy Horse and the jumbled pile of urban thriller snippets of Crime in the City is a good fit for Kulap.

 

Available for download on Amazon .


Description

The depictions of Ms. Vilaysack vary a fair bit. In particular, there are panels where she seems unusually tall, and others where she seems about 5’5″. The vitals in the Background section are thus a vague average.

Her hair will often be dyed dark purple. As a Movement member, she used lighter shades of purple, some pinks, and only dyed specific locks.

Early on she wore light brass knuckles over the back of her hands. That was presumably to imitate Hawkman, who sometimes had similar weapons. She stopped using these as a Movement member.

The back harness that supports the nacelle for her wings wraps around the sides of her torso and hips. It is fastened in the front using three straps with hiking backpack-style clip-on fastenings.

For some reason she wears a flimsy, spirit-gummed-on mask that doesn’t conceal her feature. Perhaps she wanted something costume-like but couldn’t bring herself to wear a Hawkman-style avian helmet.

Vilaysack sports an abstract tat on her right shoulder, and seems to have a thing for push-ups with +2 enhancers.


Personality

Katharsis is mean, impatient and aggressive. She favours bloody solutions relying on force and intimidation, and favours satisfying violence over considering its realistic consequences.

Katharsis (DC Comics) (The Movement) vs. Batgirl

During her time with the Movement and after she and Tremor become buddies, she realises that she’s too far gone and agrees to wind it back. Though she remains the team’s Wolverine, she does succeed in using better thought-out escalation policies. She also becomes a friend to Virtue and her team, considerably dropping the antagonism.

Katharsis doesn’t want to be considered a super-heroine. She’s a vigilante. This remains true even as she steadily evolves toward being an heroine. Even her acting friendly and supportive with her Movement team-mates feels more like she’s part of a gang.

Kulap has a problem with Batgirl, who repeatedly outfought her. If a vague reason to get into a brawl with Batgirl scampers into view, she’ll likely seize it.

Other traits

Vilaysack is among the Movement members who seem to attach the most importance to the Presbyterian Church in the ‘Tweens. The pastor there is a key ally to the Movement. Perhaps she associates Christian churches with the Baptist family who helped her and her mother settle in the US. Though she doesn’t sound religious, she does attend the services.

Living mostly in clandestiny and having a terrible temper, Kulap sometimes feels lonely and sexually frustrated. This may lead to impulsive one-night stands.

In general, her mores aren’t too civilised. She wants freedom, blood justice, sex, violence, to kiss the sky, and maybe some good donuts or a sundae. She should have been born back during Conan’s time. Though admittedly they didn’t have sundaes.

As befits her aggressive temper, Katharsis likes threatening and insulting her enemies. She has zero reluctance getting into fights. Even when she’s going against people who have clearly beaten her before, all she thinks of is getting even. Challenging her to throw away her sword and get into a fistfight has a 100% success rate.

Katharsis occasionally does that tribalistic thing where she loudly complains about her teammates being liberals, even though they all want the same thing. Though Virtue’s bleeding heart sensibility annoys her, Katharsis gradually comes to consider that it’s working well enough – so meh, whatever.


Quotes

“Okay? *Maybe* I am a little hotheaded sometimes. But I was a cop, Roshanna. No one hates a bad cop like an honest cop. There has to be justice *somewhere* on this stupid planet.”

“Call Virtue. Tell her to get her skinny ass down here.”

“Well. Heaven help us if at least *one* person in this crew gets laid, I guess.”

“RE-DAMN-MATCH, BATGIRL !” (charges)

“Maybe I wanted to look at the moon with a smile on my face and a beast in my heart.”

Batgirl: “You bargain-basement Hawkman !”
Katharsis: “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me !” (punches)


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Katharsis

Dex: 06 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Justice
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 05 Occupation: Vigilante
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Wealth: 003
Init: 016 HP: 040

Powers:
Regeneration: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Regeneration is Form Function.

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics): 05, Gadgetry: 04, Martial Artist: 05, Medicine (First aid): 03, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Firearms): 04, Weaponry (Melee): 06

Advantages:
Familiarity (Police work, Restaurant work), Language (Katharsis likely speaks Lao), Local Hero (Coral City’s ‘Tweens ‘hood).

Connections:
The Movement (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward Aggression (formerly a SIA), Mistrust.

Equipment:

  • WINGS [STR 05 BODY 05, Flight: 06]. The STR isn’t /STR/ – it’s vehicular STR. It has no manipulative ability, a limited movement range, she can’t see her movements, there’s no tactile feedback, etc. etc.. It was only used in combat for Planned Knockback against people piling up on her, though she could hit them all without penalty given the circumstances.
  • Big Arse Blade [BODY 05, Enhance (EV): 02 (cap is 08), Descriptor: Slashing, Bludgeoning, Recommended STR 02]. Katharsis seldom cuts people with it (she’s not really a killer), though she can slice through firearms.
    The pommel sports a huge, heavy ring. Still, Bludgeoning attacks can only use one AP of Enhance (cap is unchanged).

Design Notes

It is possible that she has the Stroke of Genius Advantage. If she designed whatever allows her wings to actually fly, and it’s something exotic like Nth metal engineering.

I am *assuming* here that Batgirl (Gordon) is about DEX 07 Martial Artist: 06 or 07 in 2014.

Movement members do not quite have Mistrust by the end of the series, but it’s close enough for private sector work. And Vilaysack herself is a wanted criminal in any case.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Comics’ The Movement.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 11th of November, 2018.

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