Shiv was an early, recurrent enemy of the modern Star-Spangled Kid (Courtney Whitmore). She’s a killer cyborg martial artist type, first seen in 1999.
Though the character had potential and pathos, and her creator went on to have a number of senior positions with DC Comics, she wasn’t used much beyond Star Spangled Kid and minor JSA appearances.
(This unfortunately means that we are left with Shiv, a victim of demented parental abuse, being depicted as evil and with her suffering played for rubber-necking yucks. But since you may be using writeups.org as a resource to create your own stories, you don’t have to use the character this way.)
- Real Name: “Cindy Burman” may or may not be her actual name.
- Known Relatives: Dragon King (real name unrevealed, father).
- Group Affiliation: Her father’s organisation.
- Base Of Operations: Blue Valley, NE.
- Height: 5’5” (1.65m) (eventually 5’7”) (1.70m).
- Weight: 105 lbs. (47 Kg.) (eventually 115 lbs.) (52 Kg.).
- Eyes: Greenish brown. Hair: Black w/white streaks.
Powers & Abilities
Shiv was heavily trained in the Japanese martial arts since before she could walk.
She fights savagely and mercilessly, but with good acumen. In DC Heroes RPG terms, she manages her decent stock of Hero pointsDC Heroes RPG concept expressing narrative importance/immunity well.
However, after her father’s death, she loses much of her focus – and becomes a markedly less deadly opponent. She still has Hero Points, but doesn’t really use them. Though a sudden spurt is always a possibility. She seems to have, in game terms, the Guilt Drawback.
Furthermore, she was subjected to numerous treatments and painful experimental surgeries to make her more than human. She is thus abnormally strong, fast and agile for her age.
Shiv seems to have sub-dermal armour grafted in. She could therefore take hits that should result in serious wounds, without apparent tissue damage.
There are also retractable blades implanted along her forearms and legs. Cindy once mentioned these as “work on her armour” despite the blades emerging from her bare forearms. Which us another hint about her having subdermal plating.
Her more prominent weapon is the dragon-headed staff that she often carries. It is not normally used as a melee weapon. But it can belch flames, or… be thrown away.
When it hits the ground, the staff breaks into articulated segments, slithers toward the target, wraps around it like a constrictor snake and releases a powerful electrical shock that will electrocute organic beings and fry electronics. The shock also releases ample heat, and once welded shut the access hatch of the S.T.R.I.P.E. armour as collateral damage.
Though this attack takes time, in DC Heroes terms it occurs at her full Initiative rank. Since onlookers are usually surprised and confused by what is happening.
… another dream…
Other weapons include :
- A spiked ball, or more rarely a sabre-like blade, braided into the tip of her queue. Somehow, she can “wield” it as easily as she would kick or punch someone.
- Five large throwing stars. These shuriken are exceptionally deadly – they can punch through a layer of hard ceramic and concrete. They will thus routinely embed themselves into whatever they hit, preventing reuse.
- A red glove that can extend and rigidify its steel-bladed fingers. This essentially turns Shiv’s gloved hand into a large spear head.
- A powerful revolver, seen once in 2010. From context and general appearance, it might have been a .454 Casull Ruger Super Redhawk. She kept it in reserve and preferred to unexpectedly produce it at point-blank.
- (Personally I’d have gone with a rechambered Nambu 14, but shockingly nobody asked for my opinion. This keeps happening !)
- A compact that includes a hidden video uplink to the Dragon King’s base.
…another truth, installed by the machine
After she started clashing with the Star-Spangled Kid (Courtney Whitmore), Shiv received further surgery, including cyber-arms.
It is likely that her skeleton was also reinforced at that point.
She was later seen kicking with superhuman force. So it’s a good bet that her legs are cybernetic, too.
Shiv could lift and throw cars without visible effort, and even ripped an arm off the S.T.R.I.P.E. armour. Howbeit, that last one seemed to require extraordinary effort.
Plenty of great fits readily come to mind, but they’re all off by a handful of years.
Oh well, let’s go with 2002’s Christina Aguilera’s Fighter, since a toxic misreading of its lyrics matches Shiv’s baggage.
Fighter is different from most of Ms. Aguilera’s dance-pop hits. It’s closer to an arena rock anthem with both R&B and hair metal elements.
Cindy Burman is the daughter of the Dragon King. Who was a major Japanese occultist and scientist, active during World War Two.
A leader among the Black Dragon Society (no relation), the Dragon King used major Western artefacts such as the Holy Grail to erect a mystical barrier around the Axis countries.
This barrier prevented most Allied superhumans, such as the Spectre or (in the pre-Crisis continuity) Superman, from winning the war.
The mysterious, hooded Dragon King survived the war. He secretly moved to Nebraska. His daughter was apparently born there.
Cindy’s mother is unrevealed, but presumably had a Southern Asian heritage.
Power, force, motion, drive
The hateful Dragon King treated his daughter like less than a thing. To him, she was but an asset and a future agent. From birth, he cruelly moulded her into a fanatical fighter.
Cindy underwent constant gruelling training regimens. She also was tortured for any or no reason to “toughen her up”. Furthermore, she was subjected to various surgeries and cybernetic implants to make her deadlier. Occasionally without anaesthesia.
Between this and psychological conditioning, the girl ended up much like a beaten dog. She was broken and pathetically eager to please her father.
Despite living in constant dread of the King’s cruelty, she could hide the abuse. Thus, she became a neurotically overachieving teenager.
In her hometown of Blue Valley, the manically-driven Burman became queen of the high school. She also seduced one Josh Hamman, whom many other girls were pining after.
When a new girl, Courtney Whitmore, came to Blue Valley, Cindy manoeuvred to have her ostracised. In case she was a potential rival.
In 2000 the Dragon King had his daughter graduate to wearing a costume, wielding special weapons and using the code name “Shiv”. Bursting with pride, Cindy relaxed her vigilance. As a result, Josh came to realise how damaged and toxic she was. He dumped her.
A mix of teenage emotions and terror of failure led Shiv to support her father’s master plan, about which she previously had reservations. It involved killing all adults in Blue Valley, and billions worldwide.
Accompanied by loud commands
Shiv launched the Dragon King’s plan in Blue Valley. She invaded the halftime of a football match and wrecked everything.
New local hero the Star-Spangled Kid (secretly Courtney Whitmore) responded along with S.T.R.I.P.E. (a suit of armour secretly worn by Pat Dugan, Whitmore’s stepfather).
Shiv took out S.T.R.I.P.E. with her dragon staff and nearly drowned the Star-Spangled Kid. But Courtney ultimately defeated her after a brutal fight.
Still battered and bleeding, Shiv was dragged away screaming by servants of her father. A new round of invasive surgery reinforced her skeleton. Her limbs were hacked away to be replaced by super-strong cybernetic prosthetics.
On joyless lanes…
The lab of the Dragon King’s head scientist, Dr. Graft, was then invaded by the Star-Spangled Kid, S.T.R.I.P.E. and the Shining Knight (Sir Justin). Seizing the occasion, Cindy escaped from her cell. She then forced Graft’s assistant to tell her the real name of the hated Star-Spangled Kid.
The war between the three heroes and the Dragon King escalated, with Shiv leading her father’s troops in the field. Eventually the Shining Knight, Shiv and the Dragon King were caught in an explosion. It hurled Burman away – and seemingly killed the King.
By the time Shiv recovered from the blast, the battle was over. In shock, she swore that she would avenge the death of her father.
At this point, the horrific Johnny Sorrow appeared and recruited her for his Injustice Society.
…we walk in lines
Shiv served in several versions of the Injustice Society. With the exception of the roster led by Legacy (actually a disguised Wizard (William Zard)), these were Johnny Sorrow’s footsoldiers.
Her colleagues included the likes of Geomancer, the Icicle, Killer Wasp, Blackbriar Thorn, Rival or the Tigress.
Though Sorrow was clearly inhuman and murderously insane, the damaged Shiv adopted him as her new father figure. This made it trivial for the cruel Sorrow to manipulate her.
Agent of Sorrow
Shiv performed well as an Injustice Society field operative, repeatedly clashing with the Society’s designated enemies the JSA.
However, she eventually discovered that Courtney Whitmore (now Stargirl) had grown more powerful than her. Burman attempted to murder Whitmore with a large-calibre firearm despite Sorrow’s orders to take Stargirl alive, but he had her stand down.
Burman soon understood why. The insane Sorrow wanted to elope with Whitmore, and to that end he betrayed Shiv and the rest of the Society. This forced Shiv and her colleagues to ally with their JSA foes to fight mystical principality the King of Tears, which Sorrow had just summoned.
The King of Tears was repulsed, but the unconscious Injustice Society members were arrested and imprisoned.
Shiv hasn’t been seen since this 2010 incident.
Shiv seems to be half-Japanese and half-Desi.
However, her skin was erroneously coloured Caucasian-ish in her JSA appearances. And in the fine comics tradition it varied a lot even before that.
The neurotic Shiv is a compulsive overachiever. This is mostly a futile attempt to please her father and make him proud. Plus a way to compensate for her horrific upbringing by gaining safety through a complete control of her environment.
To please her father, Cindy owns every aspect of the archetypal good American girl :
- Straight As.
- Fit and attractive.
- Captain of the cheerleading squad.
- Dating the most popular boy in town.
- Involved in all the prestigious extra-curricular activities.
She is creepily obsessive and ego-ridden about this. Yet nobody can guess that it’s a desperate attempt not to be tortured.
Cindy is wretchedly overcontrolling. She :
- Manipulates every school clique.
- Treats the cheerleading squad and her boyfriend as her property.
- Dresses in tiny tight skirts and tight white blouses to ensure that most boys are looking at her and most girls are jealous of her.
- Struts around like she owns the school and is the coolest and most assured human being ever.
While this is all motivated by neurotic fear, she acts as a control freak with a gigantic ego. She’s also a bully who will use the whole arsenal of high school girl harassment to assert her dominance.
If her father can see her in battle she will fight like a cornered rat. This is again out of fear of torture. She will use any tactic available to her and fight with manic brutality, doing everything she can to win.
She’ll also insist that this is all out of love for her father.
With the apparent death of the Dragon King, Shiv lost direction and focus. She didn’t know what to do on her own.
She’s a dysfunctional mess of neuroses, hatred and fears – and doesn’t have anything to guide her. Presumably even she knew on some level that considering Johnny Sorrow her new father was as demented as it was unworkable, and bound to end in abuse and disaster.
“I baked a whole batch of my special cupcakes, Josh. Do you like the decorations ? I was the coordinator, you know. Interior decoration must be a natural gift. Like my singing. And cheerleading.”
“Oh, my hair’s a mess. Josh, did you see my brush ?”
(As Courtney tries speaking to Josh, Cindy points at her dental braces) “Nice metal wear. You could crack a walnut with those choppers. Now go sit in the back. Those seats are taken.”
“They all listen to me. Jocks, geeks, burn-outs… and whatever group you’re in, darling.”
(Shoving Courtney aside) “Watch it, Barbie girl.”
“First blood !” (Slash !)
“No matter how many soldiers you summon, we’ll win !”
(Yelling and struggling as her father sends her to be tortured again) “No more tests ! No more needles ! No ! I’m a good daughter ! I am !”
(As her forearm’s skin gets shredded she proudly shows her cybernetic limb with an insane grin) “[My dad is proud of me !] He loves me now !”
(Crying after the seeming death of the Dragon King) “F-father. I failed you. What do I do now… what do I… I’ll kill her. And everyone she cares about… I’ll…”
“When you and that knight slayed my father, I didn’t know what I would do. He was the only one that ever loved me. The way a father should. But I found a new family. Sisters, and brothers. A new father. And after we’re through with the JSA, Sorrow’s promised me a trip back to Blue Valley… where I’ll tear S.T.R.I.P.E. apart and feed him piece by piece to Pat.”
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Shiv (with cybernetics)
|Dex: 07||Str: 08||Bod: 06|
|Int: 05||Wil: 04||Min: 05|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 04||Spi: 05|
|Init: 020||HP: 035|
Claws: 07, Skin armour: 01
Acrobatics (Athletics): 05, Artist (Cooking, Dancing, Singing): 03, Martial artist*: 07, Weaponry (Japanese bladed weapons (both wielded and thrown))*: 07, Weaponry (Firearms): 05
Attractive (usually only works on boys her age), Lightning Reflexes.
Dragon King (Low), Injustice Society (Sorrow/Legacy version) (Low).
Age (Young), Guilt (see below), SIA toward pleasing her father or a father figure, MIA toward being a control freak, MPI, Minor Rage, SIH of the Star-Spangled Kid/Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E..
Make daddy happy.
- Dragon staff [DEX 04 STR 00 BODY 05, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 06, Descriptor is Bludgeon), Bomb: 09, Flame project: 06, EMP: 12, Lightning: 12, Bonus: EMP is Combined with Lightning, Limitations: Bomb is self-destruction ; EMP has No Range (it only affects something touching the staff) and Ammo: 01 ; Lightning has No Range and Ammo: 01 ; Flame Project has a Range of but 02 and Ammo: 06].
- Golden compact [BODY 02, Radio communications (incl. video): 08, Limitation: Radio communications only with the Dragon King’s base.]
- Large shuriken (x5) [BODY 04, EV 04, Sharpness (EV): 01, Dart Bonus, Grenade Drawback].
- CLAWED GLOVE [BODY 08, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 09), Descriptor: Piercing, Slashing].
- Large bore revolver [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 05, Ammo: 06, R#02].
Before she received cybernetic limbs and a reinforced skeleton, Shiv had a STR and a BODY of 05.
Furthermore, she developed Guilt after the Dragon King was seemingly slain. Her HPs total then eroded as she lacked direction and struggled with her neuroses. Her HP total as an Injustice Society member was about 020 – or perhaps even 015.
Ninja High School
Shiv occasionally operated with the backing of the Dragon King’s young, costumed and hypnotized servants. Those are no longer available after the destruction of the Blue Valley base.
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03|
|Int: 02||Wil: 01||Min: 02|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 02||Spi: 02|
|Init: 009||HP: 005|
Regeneration: 01, Ultra-vision: 02
Martial artist: 03
CIA to serving the Dragon King.
Some have smoke grenades to cover their escape.
DC Adventures RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Shiv — Averaged PL 9.2
Cyberdaughter ● 12 points (Subtle) ● Descriptor: Cybernetics, surgery
– Protection 2.
– Enhanced Advantages (Close Attack 2, Ranged Attack 3).
– Enhanced Defenses (Fortitude 2, Parry 2).
Dragon arsenal ● 16 points ● Descriptor: Technology
- Dragon staff – flamethrower mode — Ranged fire Damage 5.
- Dragon staff – self-destruction charge — Burst Area 2 explosive Damage 7, Limited 2 (destroys the dragon staff).
- Dragon staff – snaking attack — Close electrical Damage 12 Linked with Close Affliction 14 (Dazed/Stunned/Incapacitated — Limited 2 to electrical systems). Limitation 1 – this requires the staff to attack by itself in “snake mode” (Offense, Dodge, Parry and Toughness all at +6), but there’s often a bonus due to surprise.
- Golden compact — Feature 1 (Radio uplink with the Dragon King’s base).
- Large shuriken — Ranged slashing Damage 4.
- Clawed glove — Close strength-based piercing Damage 1.
- Heavy pistol — Ranged ballistic Damage 4.
All-out Attack, Chokehold, Close Attack 2, Defensive Roll 2, Improved Initiative, Improved Smash, Improved Trip, Power Attack, Ranged Attack 2.
Attractive (normally only works on boys her age), Benefit 1 (Well-off), Instant Up.
Acrobatics 3 (+7), Athletics 1 (+8), Deception 2 (+3), Expertise (Creative high school hobbies) 3 (+5), Insight 4 (+5), Perception 4 (+5), Persuasion 1 (+2), Ranged combat (Thrown Japanese weapons) 3 (+11).
|Unarmed +11, Close, Damage 7.|
|Weapons by type +11 (except for the revolver), by type.|
* Without Defensive Roll.
- Underage Shiv is still of high school age.
- Daddy issues Shiv is pathetically, self-destructively eager to please a father figure. And she’ll pick the most toxic, evil, cruel one. Without such a person, she’s aimless.
- Control freak Cindy must have power over everything around her who isn’t her father.
- Volatile Cindy’s terrible mental health and aggression levels may lead to breakdowns and rages. But it’s rare.
- Nemesis Shiv feels a murderous hatred toward Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore) and S.T.R.I.P.E..
- Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 9, Dodge/Toughness PL 10, Parry/Toughness PL 10, Fort/Will PL 8.
- Points total 130. Abilities 58, Defences 18, Skills 11, Powers 12, Devices 16, Advantages 15. Equiv. PL 9.
Before she received her cyberlimbs, Shiv had 3 fewer Ranks of Strength and one less Rank of Stamina.
Back then her Claws were more useful – Close slashing Damage 2, part of her Cyberdaughter Power. But the cyberlimbs obsoleted these in most circumstances (except for visuals). Ditto for her Dragon Staff, which had a Close blunt Damage 1 application.
Shiv used to function with a respectable Hero Points total. But since the death of her father she started operating with a below-average amount, making her markedly less redoubtable.
Shiv used to operate with hypnotised high school students. Not the greatest, but Offense/Parry/Dodge at +3, and Benefit 2 (recovers well from wounds, sees better than normal in low light). They were also brainwashed into unquestioning obedience, and some carried smoke grenades to cover their escape.
Attack/Effect PL is based on her best dragon staff attack, so it’s arguably highballed.
Source of Character: DC Universe (primarily the Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. and JSA series by Geoff Johns.)
Helper(s): Danielle Mendus, Darci
Writeup revised on the 3rd of December, 2013.