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Howard Chaykin's Midnight Man (Pasternak) (Epic Comics)

Midnight Man

(Barnett Pasternak)


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

Context

Midnight Men was a 1993 mini-series by Howard Chaykin for Epic, a Marvel Comics imprint. I think that it had originally been pitched as the script for an action/thriller movie, then became a comic book.

In any case, this vigilante story has a definite cinematic flow to it, though it stays relatively realistic and low-powered.

This profile includes S P O I L E R S.


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Background

  • Real Name: Barnett Pasternak.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Buddy Pasternak (father, deceased), Estelle Pasternak (mother).
  • Group Affiliation: Midnight Men, Inc..
  • Base Of Operations: Los Angeles.
  • Height: 5’11” Weight: 175 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

Pasternak is a top-flight cat burglar. As such, he’s able to circumvent expensive security measures and to crack open even highly secure safes. Since he often operates at a height, he is quite skilled with climbing and rappelling techniques and equipment.

He’s also a charming, handsome, witty, personable guy. He likes to be liked and possesses a certain aplomb — or, rather, chutzpah — and grace under pressure. He’s a social animal. Even in the dangerous spheres he works in, people trust him to an extend. He also uses his talents for social engineering and investigation.

Though he never seemed to consider himself a good fighter or man of action, Barnett handles himself well in a fight. He is surprisingly good and resourceful in combat. He knows when he has bitten off more than he can chew, though, such as trying to take on three persons or on a much bigger person.

When adrenaline starts flowing he’s quite athletic. In this state he may pull off some stunts that look mighty dangerous.


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History

Barnett Pasternak is a professional safecracker and cat burglar from the Jewish New York City mobs. His two parents, however, came to live in and around LA. These were his father Buddy, himself a thief, and his mother Estelle, a seemingly full-time liberal activist.

The Pasternak family has been damaged by issues of alcoholism. Buddy was a heavy drinker and, emulating him in many ways, Barnett hit the booze for years. Likely as a reaction to this, Estelle ran an Alcoholics Anonymous-style support group. Barnett eventually became a member. This was successful – by the beginning of the story, he has been dry for a year.

In 1993, Buddy was killed by a serial murderer. The killer had been dubbed “the Surgeon” by the tabloids. This was due to his habit of extracting the thyroid gland off of his victims.

Distraught by the loss of a father he greatly respected and in whose path he had always walked, Barnett, now in his 30s, flew to L.A.. Once there he was reunited with his mother and with common acquaintances he and his father had. These chiefly were operators and gonifs  in the much smaller Jewish underworld scene in L.A.

California

Although he was to fly back to NYC for a job within days, Pasternak was hired by his local friend Lorraine (his father’s ex) for a job in LA before he left. One hundred grands to crack a safe and steal a Fabergé egg . The end client was Dwight Youngblood, the illegitimate son of ex-movie star and influential power broker Noble Youngblood. Youngblood claimed that he owned the egg.

The theft was successful. But as the three criminals were about to leave one of LA’s urban legends, the black-clad vigilante the Darkangel, burst into the room. Running away with the egg, Pasternak accidentally defenestrated himself. Throwing a swingline, the Darkangel swept in and grabbed Pasternak in mid-air.

But in doing so, the rescuer accidentally impaled himself to death on a broken flagpole.

Shocked, Pasternak fled to safety after taking the mysterious vigilante’s special vest.

Darkangel

As a New Yorker, Barnett did not know about the Darkangel urban legend. And most Angelenos thought that the Darkangel was a legend. But the crime fighter was a part of a of an unbroken tradition of urban vigilantes, trained and equipped by the manager of a trust fund called Midnight Men, Inc.

The Midnight Man (Barnett Pasternak)'s predecessor Midnight Men

MM, Inc. had been set up in the mid-1800s by a gold rush miner who had struck it rich. The man wanted to pay his debt to society by becoming an independently wealthy vigilante and ensuring there would always be such a Midnight Man. Successive vigilantes include :

  • El Hombre Del Medianoch (1850-1865).
  • El Sombra (1865-1880).
  • El Lobo (1980-1905).
  • Don Coyote (1905-1920).
  • Nighthawk (1920-1935).
  • Darkangel I (1935-1950).
  • Darkangel II (1950-1965).

Methods of modern justice

Kevin, the man who had been killed, was either the third or fourth Darkangel. I assume he operated from 1980 to 1993. His death was largely a result of his alcohol habit, as he had been drinking before going into action as Darkangel.

The 1965-1980 Midnight Man had been Virgil Lockhart. This gentleman lawyer had to retire from being a Midnight Man when one of his leg was crippled. Afterwards, he operated the base and fund of Midnight Men, Inc.. Whilst it was not clearly stated, I assume he operated as the third Darkangel.

Lockhart was the one who recruited and trained Kevin, his successor. Coincidentally, he was also Barnett’s mother’s boyfriend. Estelle had divorced Buddy Pasternak at least 15 years before, and knew Virgil as a fellow liberal activist helping her in the fight for various neighbourhood causes.

Estelle, Virgil and their progressive friends often clashed with Youngblood corporate interests. Several Youngblood companies were involved in unethical and/or socially harmful activities and projects.

Lockhart

Lockhart, in his Darkangel costume, briefly kidnapped Barnett – thanks to a tracer in the stolen Minight Man costume. He wanted to determine what had happened during the night of the death of the latest Darkangel.

His own investigations showed that the Fabergé eggs had been used as containers for microfilms with information in Russian. Pasternak escaped, but later overheard Lockhart say something he had also said as the Darkangel.

“You can’t kill the Midnight Man.”

Breaking into Lockhart’s legal help clinic to confirm his suspicion that Lockhart was the Darkangel, Pasternak found stockpiles of equipment. He could also inspect a lot of memorabilia about the century and a half of Midnight Men, Inc. activities. Lockhart came back and they fought. The older man eventually managed to hold Pasternak at gunpoint.

By that time, Lockhart knew a fair bit about the plot around the elder Youngblood and the Fabergé eggs. The microfilms this set was holding was information about an experimental anti-ageing treatment that highly unethical Russian doctors had researched. They smuggled it out, then themselves, using Youngblood’s fanatical interest in a treatment that could stop him from growing old.

The Surgeon serial killings were part of this. One of Youngblood’s enforcers was procuring thyroids as research material for the ex-Soviet medical torturers. Thus, Noble Youngblood was responsible for Buddy Pasternak’s death.

Furthermore, Barnett’s current romantic interest, Kim Ryan (whose mother Rosalyn was a regular of the Jewish underworld Angeleno scene), ended up involved in the plot. As an INS official, she had been approached by Youngblood to facilitate the immigration of the Russian doctors.

However, she had turned him down and launched an investigation of Noble Youngblood’s activities. This meant a high likelihood that she would be killed by the Surgeon.

Midnight Man

Knowing this and having witnessed Barnett’s abilities, Lockhart’s tried to enlist Pasternak to become the new Midnight Man on the spot. He offered 50 grands. Surprisingly, even to himself, Pasternak was more interested in rescuing Kim than in the money.

Clad in the Darkangel costume (but not calling himself Darkangel), he saved Kim in the nick of time. Then they fought off the Surgeon and his accomplices. Pasternak took Ryan to the Midnight Men, Inc. base, where Lockhart explained the truth.

However, in the meanwhile, Dwight Youngblood eliminated Pasternak’s friend Lorraine. He then turned the murder into a Surgeon killing.

The Midnight Man (Barnett Pasternak) breaking in

Finding Lorraine dead, Pasternak went ballistic. Wearing the Darkangel body suit and he distinctive El Lobo bandanna over his lower face, he assaulted Dwight Youngblood at a bar. The physically powerful Youngblood took him out instead, and dragged him to his father.

Seeing that the elder Youngblood did not trust his son, Pasternak pretended it was all about the payment for the Fabergé egg theft. Dwight had never paid Barnett or Lorraine. Disgusted by his son’s poor business manners, Noble Youngblood gave Barnett the money plus what had been owed to Lorraine.

On the other hand, he made it clear that what he wanted was the microfilm that had been in the Fabergé egg Pasternak had kept.

Pasternak tried to negotiate. But Youngblood was all too willing to murder Pasternak’s and/or Ryan’s relatives and friends.

After the McGuffin

Thus, Pasternak caved in and took the Youngbloods to the Midnight Men, Inc. base, where the microfilm was. He then grabbed Kim to run away with her. But Barnett could not entirely betray Virgil, and flung a shuriken into Dwight’s wrist as he was about to gun Lockhart down.

The couple ran away, whilst behind them the situation degenerated into a running gun battle between Lockhart and the Youngbloods. Dwight eventually produced a disposable rocket launcher from their car and blew up the legal clinic.

Lockhart was reported dead. But the corpse the authorities found was actually Kevin’s, which Virgil had been keeping in cold storage until he could dispose of it. Kim was recaptured, though Barnett managed to escape.

Pasternak decided to become the new Midnight Man to honour Virgil’s memory. He also chose to emulate his mother rather than his father. After giving his mother an airplane ticket and the cheque from Youngblood, the Midnight Man stormed Youngblood’s place.

Showdown

He managed to rescue Kim, then destroy the two copies of the formula. The Midnight Man also killed off the Russian doctors, whose track record had been compared to Mengele’s . Kim and Barnett fought their way out. They were nearly stopped by Dwight Youngblood… until Virgil came to the rescue.

Estelle Pasternak, who had not left the country and now worked for Lockhart, then got everybody away. Meanwhile, her son was reflecting on his new life, his newfound conscience as he was stepping away from emulating his father, and what it meant to be the Midnight Man.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Originally Pasternak was a smooth rogue, suave operator and witty thief. He was fascinated by making very technical, very illegal pursuits look easy just like his father did. He enjoyed showing off his B&E and safecracking-fu, and being a highly reputed professional who could acquire whatever he wanted.

He did not consider himself to be a crook, though. In his view he was much more an artist than a squalid and violent criminal. He seemed proud of doing his job with no collateral damage.

Though he pretended that it had not affected him, Pasternak was hurt by the sudden death of the father he idolised. He was left without a role model, making his criminal activities a tad meaningless.

Then he gravitated more toward his mother’s humanitarian ideals. Discovering the virtues of being a hero in her and Kim’s eyes, he started developing a conscience fairly quickly. This is when he decided to start using his skills as the new Midnight Man, and to be a full time hero.

Barnett is not a killer, and will almost never engage in cold-blooded violence. He still sees himself as an artist, not a thug.


Quotes

“I’m not a criminal. I’m a thief.”

“What the Hell am I doing ?”

“I watched [my father] boost that [toy] sword — in broad daylight. That’s when I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

“You can’t kill the Midnight Man.”

(Ogling at Kim’s cleavage) “Y‘know, when I look at you — I know how Genghis Khan felt, with Western Europe laid out in front of him.”

(Reusing Lockhart’s chatchphrase) “Do not mistake honour for weakness.”


DC Universe History

Pasternak is fairly low profile, and can easily be inserted in most universes.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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The Midnight Man

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Formerly Mercenary, now Upholding the Good
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Former thief, vigilante
Inf: 05 Aur: 05 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 016 HP: 020

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics, Climbing): 04, Evasion (Ranged only): 05, Martial artist (AV, OV): 05, Thief (Stealth, Locks and Safes, Security Systems, Pickpocket): 07, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Thrown, Firearms)*: 04

Advantages:
Buddies (Virgil Lockhart, Estelle Pasternak, Kim Ryan), Familiarity (New York Yiddish culture), Expansive Headquarters (Lockhart’s facilities), Rich Friend (Midnight Men, Inc.), Sharp Eye.

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
Mistrust, Misc.: Pasternak is a former alcoholic and has to be careful around booze.

Equipment:
Barnett almost always wears the COSTUME and packs a half-dozen Pellets, but his Gadgets loadout varies from outing to outing.

  • MIDNIGHT MAN COSTUME [BODY 04, Invulnerability: 05, Skin armor: 02, Limitation : Invulnerability and Skin armor only vs bullets and slashing and piercing weapons ; Real Armour].
  • Smoke pellets (x2) [BODY 01, Chemical attack: 01, Fog: 04, Bonus: Chemical attack is Combined with and active throughout the Fog ; Grenade Drawback].
  • Choking gas pellets (x2) [BODY 01, Chemical attack: 03, Fog: 02, Bonus: Chemical attack is Combined with and active throughout the Fog ; Grenade Drawback].
  • Flash pellets (x2) [BODY 01, Flash: 04, Fog: 02, Bonus: Flash is Combined with and active throughout the Fog ; Grenade Drawback].
  • Glock 17 [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 17, R#02].
  • Knife [BODY 05, EV 03 (04 w/STR)].
  • Light amplification goggles [BODY 01, Ultra-vision (darkness only): 04, Do nothing: 06, R#02].
  • Water pistol loaded with an ammonia solution [BODY 01, Range: 01, Flash: 05, Ammo: 05, Note: Flash is not opposed by some forms of Shade that do not physically protect the eyes – and it’s also opposed by Systemic Antidotes and Sealed Systems, and needs to be squirted onto an unprotected face. Flash has No Range – use the listed Range instead.].
  • Shuriken (x3) [BODY 02, EV 02, Dart Bonus, Grenade Drawback].
  • Lots of climbing, rappelling, B&E, safe-cracking, etc. equipment as a crack cat burglar, and many weapons and police/paramilitary gadgets at Virgil’s place.
  • Undernail blade [BODY 01, Claws: 01, Miniaturisation: 02]. This very small blade can be hidden under Pasternak’s thumbnail, and is useful for cutting through bonds and the like.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Epic’s Midnight Men Limited Series (1993), which take place on a slightly cinematic version of our Earth.

Helper(s): capita_senyera.

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