6060 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Sickle of the People's Heroes (DC Comics)

Sickle

(Natasha Ulyanov)


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

Context

Sickle appeared in 1986 as part of the People’s Heroes, a generic Reagan-era comic book Soviet baddies. She later returned as a cyberpunk -ish crazy criminal combat cyborg, which was more interesting but still forced.


Background

  • Real Name: Natasha Ulyanov.
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed.
  • Known Relatives: Boris (aka Hammer, brother).
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of the People’s Heroes I.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 137 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde


Advertisement


Powers and Abilities

Sickle is a superior melee combatant, with solid athletic capabilities and moving very quickly. She specialises in the use of a special double-edge sickle, both as an offensive weapon (she can do non-lethal if needed, by hitting with the pommel) and as a defensive weapon (its shape make it quite suitable to parry melee weapons, and she is fast enough to parry missile and thrown weapons in mid-air).

Sickle had demonstrated an ability to engage fighters in the very top tier, such as Katana, for a short while. But she had no apparent powers or enhancements during her initial appearances.

Cyborg

Sickle later received cybernetic augmentations to make her a more dangerous fighter. The augmentations were apparently wired reflexes and speed, and subdermal armour. I suppose she also started wearing a costume with a few layers of Kevlar, in order to prevent her skin from being shredded by attacks hitting her.

The only description we have from the augmentations is Catwoman stating “I don’t know all the details, but they did things to her. Things you can’t imagine. She received enhancements that her brother didn’t. He was built for power… but she was built for anything.”


Advertisement


Obviously, this description leaves room for extending her capacities if that fits your campaign, though this writeup covers everything she was seen doing.

After she gets enhanced, she uses a jagged, knife-like piece of broken metal to deftly decapitate a man a 40 paces. How much of that is training and how much, if any, stems from cybernetic is unclear. With full enhancements, her performance is superhuman and she is a very serious threat even against world-class fighters such as Catwoman.

She can ignore gunfire from handguns, through a surprise direct hit from a short-range missile took her out. A world-class fighter going all-out can also keep beating Sickle back… until they run out of steam.


History

The People’s Heroes were one of the main known superhuman field team in the USSR. Their first documented appearance took place in the mid-1980s. This corresponds to the early Gorbachov  years and thus the last years of the Cold War.

Their first appearance occurred on the behalf of the president of Mozambia, an African country aligned with the Communist Bloc. The manipulative local tyrant, Edward Bentama, had ended up kidnapping an American citizen, Lynn Stewart. Stewart was Black Lightning’s ex-wife, and thus the Outsiders (who, at that point, were no longer operating with Batman) came to Mozambia.

Knowing that he lacked the means to handle superhumans, Bentama requested help from his Soviet patrons. He argued that the Outsiders were likely to discover some schemes implicating the USSR. The People’s Heroes were sent in, with the international mercenary known as the Bad Samaritan acting as an adviser and strategist.

Mozambia

Being much better prepared and getting a few lucky breaks, the People’s Heroes handily defeated and captured the Outsiders. In particular, Hammer beat Geoforce in a brawl. However, Black Lightning narrowly managed to escape.

Black Lightning arranged to ally himself with the underground opposition and free his comrades. The People’s Heroes were caught flat-footed and defeated while scattered. Sickle was hit by a blast from Looker before being defeated by Katana ; Hammer was apparently knocked out by Geoforce after a rather destructive brawl.

This defeat hurt the credibility of the People’s Heroes with the Soviet government, in turn boosting the profile of the rival Rocket Red corps.

птица огня

The next documented mission of the People’s Heroes occurred during the covert tug-of-war between US and Soviet intelligence. The goal was to score propaganda points using the dissident writer nicknamed Firebird.

The Heroes clashed with a Suicide Squad team and their reinforcements. Sickle clashed with one of the reinforcements, Captain Boomerang. He incapacitated her when one of the various boomerangs she blocked with her weapon turned out to be an explosive one. Hammer was sent away by Black Orchid, who used the fact she could fly and he could not.

The operation proved to be largely a failure for both sides, and the dissident was killed before she could be exfiltrated.

The People’s Heroes disbanded for a while under unknown circumstances when the USSR broke down. Apparently, the Ulyanov siblings parted ways with the rest of the Heroes – and the Russian intelligence community. They started getting involved in the international crime scene, at some point during the 1990s.

Metal is better than flesh

They started receiving significant cybernetic modifications, enhancing their already solid abilities. From intelligence accessed by Catwoman, it would seem that the enhancements implied abominable and dehumanising torture.

Not only did they become considerably tougher but they became even meaner with a significant psychotic vibe. Over the decade they developed a reputation as almost inhumanly ruthless killing machines, with a long string of heinous deeds in the files of various intelligence agencies.

Sickle was briefly seen in 2001. She was still wearing her Heroes uniform, which seemed to still have its Soviet motifs. Ulyanov was part of the small army of female costumed adventurers and criminals assembled by Circe to conquer New York City. Hammer was not with her at this point.

East End blues

A few years later, Hammer and Sickle reacted to a strong rumour spread by Hush among the underworld. It said that the East End of Gotham was now open turf. The area was actually under the protection of Catwoman, but a much stronger group of super-criminals, led by Dr. Hugo Strange and including Hammer and Sickle, moved in.

Vaguely suspecting the true situation one of the newcomers, Captain Cold, offered Catwoman to join the crew and rule over East End turf. Instead, Catwoman used elaborate deception and a large helping of luck to disrupt and defeat the plan. Hammer and Sickle were both incapacitated by Catwoman and arrested by the GCPD.

Sickle, Hammer and Catwoman

From there, the siblings ended up in Federal custody. Eventually, an ambitious American civil servant and his Russian equivalent agreed to a discreet and unofficial exchange of superhuman operatives. The goal was to take credit for recovering prisoners and advance their respective careers.

The Ulyanovs were traded against a dozen of special operatives with muscular enhancements. However the swap went awry when the former People’s Heroes unexpectedly broke away from the heavy contraptions holding them immobile. They slaughtered everybody present and commandeered a Russian gunship.

Out of control, part 1

Since there was little point in flying to Russia, that country no longer being home, Sickle decided to instead go back to the US and visit some revenge on Catwoman. Apparently, they arranged to have a second round of cybernetic augmentation done somewhere on the way, using “Russian science” – perhaps meaning a renegade Russian cyberneticist.

They also further modernised their costumes – and made them redder in case anybody was missing the point.

They hit Gotham’s East End and soon found and subdued “Catwoman”. But the pair then discovered that their prey was actually Catwoman’s teenage friend Holly. Holly was wearing the Catwoman costume in order to save a baby who had been taken hostage by a Z-list supervillain, Blitzkrieg.

Before they could kill her and move on, the real Catwoman came to the rescue. She used a number of grenades and weapons stolen from a nearby SWAT team to stun the pair, grab Holly and run away. The Russians ran right into the SWAT guys when they recovered and gave chase.

Out of control, part 2

Sickle and Hammer ploughed through dozens of cops, barely slowing down. Catwoman blew up Boris using Blitzkrieg’s weapons. Hammer fell from 15 stories high, but that did not stop him. Having smelled baby powder on Catwoman, Sickle then sent her brother to Kyle’s apartment to kidnap her infant daughter. Meanwhile, Ulyanov engaged Catwoman.

Sickle then stopped fighting Catwoman, telling her that they were now after her daughter. The psychotic killer knew that her opponent’s only choice was to rush out, commandeer a car and speed to her apartment to save her daughter. She correctly assumed that Catwoman wouldn’t realise that Hammer, moving at a superhuman speed, had already invaded the flat and seized the kid.

Thus, the sadistic Sickle’s plan was to have Boris leave the baby in the middle of the road after an angle. This way, Catwoman would run over her own daughter.

However, this cruel plan underestimated Catwoman’s peerless reflexes and agility. Not only did she manage to flip her car over her daughter instead of smashing her, but she also bailed out in mid-air and grabbed her. Even then, the Ulyanovs easily tracked her down, knocked her out and dragged her back. Sickle now wanted to kill her daughter before Catwoman’s eyes, then kill her.

Catwoman managed to stun and defenestrate Boris using one of her special high-powered tasers. Nevertheless, she was about to be killed by Natasha when Holly came in and shot Sickle by surprise with a special GCPD SWAT shotgun, also knocking her off a window.

Holly and Catwoman then ran away with the infant as an army of cops rolled in. They were apparently able to arrest Hammer and Sickle this time.

Extraterrestrial gulag

More recently, Sickle and Hammer were part of the second wave of costumed criminals deported to an alien world. This was a reaction to the World War III and other catastrophic events, including the murder of the Flash. They sided with the Luthor camp among the super-criminals, and seem to have been among those who eventually made it back to Earth, largely thanks to Luthor’s genius.

For a brief time, Catwoman allied with the Ulyanov siblings. They were the people most likely to kill her, so she’d rather keep them close to her. Catwoman arguedthat Luthor had the means to go back to Earth, but would certainly not accept to save two Communists. Nevertheless, the alliance over that lie broke down pretty quickly.


Description

The costumes in the images sidebar are in chronological order from 1986 to 2007. Several illustrations show Sickle with bullet impacts over her face, after Catwoman unloaded a pistol into her.


Personality

The characterisation of the People’s Heroes in their initial appearance was very thin. Sickle seemed to be some sort of bully, confident most of the time but quick to collapse and surrender when it becomes evident she is faced by a superior force.

The Ulyanovs undergo considerable changes off-panel during the 1990s. Honestly it seems straight out of a cyberpunk  role-playing game, where getting cybernetic implants will make your empathy proportionally shrivel and die and you become a cyberpsycho.

Both are now stone-cold killers with a psychotic, sadistic streak and a cold, machine-like efficiency. They seem to channel Ivan Drago (the Soviet bad guy played by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV) as well as being clearly in the vein of the psychokiller, metal-is-better-than-meat solo or street samurai from RPGs of the 1990s.

A new edge, part 1

While Hammer seems to have gotten slower and dumber, Sickle is now even more vicious. She no longer displays any deflating courage when faced by superior opposition. In fact she seems to be actively but coldly bloodthirsty and evil, acting with deadly efficiency. She’ll sport a faint smile if it means she gets to kill something.

Her arrival is somewhat likely to be marked by some poor guy getting suddenly beheaded from nowhere and without a chance to react. Either because it advances Sickle’s plans or because she just felt like it.

From what I can discern from her dialogue, Scythe still holds fast to her Cold War beliefs, where ’capitalism‘ is without nuance an exploitive and criminal system. With the fall of the USSR and the Ulyanov siblings becoming organised crime enforcers in the capitalist world, they are now very clearly on the side of the “bad guys”.

Being foot soldiers and executioners for what amounts in her view to an evil empire and a vicious mechanic of destruction and alienation plays havoc with her self-respect and self-image. She compensates by being extra-vicious and taking pride in amoral, technical efficiency viewed in a way that is disconnected from the results of that efficiency.

Another way to cope is to blame all the carnage and bloodbaths she and her brother create on the logic of capitalism, and to blame capitalism for making them greedy and amoral black hats.

Catwoman managed to stun and defenestrate Boris using one of her special high-powered tasers. Nevertheless, she was about to be killed by Natasha when Holly came in and shot Sickle by surprise with a special GCPD SWAT shotgun, also knocking her off a window.

A new edge, part 2

Sickle is the most greedy of the two. She is likely when working to establish a few side rackets and steal a few things on the side to get more money. Having succumbed to “evil” in her worldview, she is proud to proclaim that she is an out-and-out criminal.

Channelling all sorts of Soviet characters from 1980s Hollywood, Sickle of course seems convinced that Russian methods, weapons and attitudes are much more effective, serious and more hardcore than Western stuff. For this bit you should refer to Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in Red Heat) rather than Ivan Drago. It’s Ivans all the way down.

It’s a safe bet that, like her brother, she takes very badly and very personally any insult directed at the old USSR.

Boris and Natasha (yes, yes, I know ) have this weird thing where, if one does a formal statement about something (say, they are asked to report about their progress on a contract), the other will never add anything even if requested to. The statement has been made, and it stands for both Ulyanovs.

This detail can help establish how creepy they are – though my conclusion that they communicate telepathically considerably helps explain this oddity.

A new edge, part 3

As Catwoman became keenly aware, the Ulyanovs are not your typical Gotham costumed freaks and maniacs. They are closer to highly professional international political assassins or commandos, they strike very hard and without hesitation, and only leave corpses behind.

However, when she and/or her brother is about to deliver the deathblow to a known and hated enemy, Sickle is very likely to pause to talk a bit, normally to cruelly mock the opponent or gloat.

After her new enhancements, Sickle seems to be increasingly psychotic and sadistic – in fact, I got the impression that the bio-enhancements were pumping unreasonable quantities of combat drugs into their system, resulting in a wild eyed and manic, hyper countenance after they started kicking in.


Quotes

Sickle (early)

“Surrender, woman ! Your skills can be no match for mine !”

Sickle (enhanced)

“Now… time to add two more bodies to the mountain of capitalism’s victim !”

“No matter. Our weapons are not toys. The wounds they caused will prove fatal before long.”

“When I was a girl, the Party officials taught us that capitalism was a crime. They were right. It is. But since I am a criminal… I don’t care. You make large profits here, no ? Good. Now half will go to me.”

(With a manic stare and an insane grin) “Do it, Boris… DO IT !” (her brother throws a Blackhawk on top of a group of soldiers)

“The Russia we grew up in is gone, Boris. Red Square is full of golden arches.”

(After suddenly beheading a cop) “Now… before you start screaming, child, be honest… You wanted him to shut up as much as I did.”


Sharing



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Sickle (Early)

Dex: 07 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Soldier
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Agent
Inf: 04 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 017 HP: 020

Skills:
Acrobatics: 04, Martial artist: 06, Vehicles (Air, Land, Water): 04, Weaponry (bladed weapons – both wielded and thrown): 07, Weaponry (Sickle): 08

Advantages:
Credentials (Soviet gov’t, Low), Language (Russian), Lightning Reflexes, Rank (Captain with either the GRU or the KGB), Schtick (Flashing Blades (Sickle), Make-do Equipement (Weaponry (Melee – edged weapons only))).

Connections:
Hammer (High), People’s Heroes (Low), Soviet military (Low, from Credentials), either the KGB or GRU (Low, from Rank).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.

Equipment:
Double-edged sickle [BODY 06, EV 04 (07 w/Martial Artist)].


Harder better faster stronger

Hammer and Sickle seem to have gone through two rounds of augmentation since their first appearance – one during the 1990s, and one somewhere between 2002 and 2007. Those cybernetic systems were seemingly built and implanted in Russia. Here is my best guess for Sickle’s stats after the first round of enhancements:

Sickle (enhanced)

Dex: 09 Str: 04 Bod: 05 Motivation: Power/Psycho
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 05 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 029 HP: 035

Powers:
Enhanced initiative: 06, Skin armour: 02

Skills:
Acrobatics: 05, Charisma (Interrogation): 05, Martial artist: 09, Vehicles (Air, Land, Water): 04, Thief (Stealth): 05, Weaponry: 08

Advantages:
Language (Russian), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Flashing Blades (Sickle), Make-do Equipement (Weaponry (Melee – edged weapons only))), Misc.: can suspend her brother’s Uncertainty as long as she can speak to him and give him orders.

Connections:
Hammer (High), International underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
Minor Rage, Exile.

Equipment:
Double-edged sickle [BODY 06, EV 04 (05 w/STR, 10 w/Martial Artist)].


Combat evolved

The Ulyanov siblings have something called a “self-evolving mode”, which allows Hammer to break free of a cage that previously could hold him. Being generally conservative with writeups, I see nothing here that cannot be done with HPs (either Pushing or Character Advancement).

However if one wants to get fancier, I suggest giving them a Misc. Advantage that lowers the OV by one CS when Pushing a Physical Automatic Action.


Technologic

Sickle and Hammer then go through a second round of enhancement. Natasha mentions that she and Hammer are now stronger, faster and smarter, and the Calculator mentions bio-upgrades and artificial evolutionary responses. A conservative estimate for Sickle is to add two APs of Enhanced Initiative, two APs of Thief (Stealth) and one AP of STR and DEX to the stats just above.

She also demonstrated Analytical smell/Tracking Scent: 06, Telescopic vision: 03, and mentioned she had other enhanced senses, likely around the 3 or 4 APs level.

Some bits only make sense if they could silently communicate with each other at a distance. In game terms this would be Telepathy: 06, only with each other, but it is possible that these communications are jammable using the usual ways to break up a wireless link.

The simplest interpretation of one scene is that they can precisely relay olfactory data over this link – for instance Natasha seemed to have picked up the smell of her daughter on Catwoman, and relayed this data to her brother so he could sniff the kid from several blocks away and rush there.

It is also mentioned that, the longer they fight, the better they get against that opponent. No such effect is clearly demonstrated, but people wanting to include something along the lines of Defensive Adaptation: 02 and Power Reserve: 02, with each AP taking five minutes or so to unlock.



Non-continuity version

For a while our Sickle entry was one only loosely based on continuity. It was my old campaign notes (described as such, obvs). Since it has been suggested to keep it, it has been appended to the ’real‘ entry for Sickle.

This section is no longer maintained.

Knife (formerly Sickle) v1.1

By Sébastien Alexandre Andrivet (v1 by Steve Crow and Doug Franks for Mayfair)

The People’s Heroes are nearly forgotten, cookie-cutter Communists from the 80s. Here is a modernized versions with various non-continuity details added by me.

Knife

Dex: 08 Str: 04 Bod: 06 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Military advisor
Inf: 06 Aur: 04 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 023 HP: 040

Skills:
Acrobatics: 05, Charisma: 06, Martial artist: 09, Military science: 05, Vehicles (land, water): 05, Weaponry (firearms): 07, Weaponry (melee): 11

Advantages:
Lightning Reflexes, Language (Russian, German).

Connections:
Russian military (Low), People’s Heroes (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward alcohol.

Equipment:

  • Vibro-knife [BODY 08, EV 05, Sharpness (EV): 04].
  • Bizon 2-01 submachinegun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 13, R#02, Advantage : Autofire].

Background

  • Real Name: Irina Eiermann Korjev.
  • Marital Status: Married.
  • Known Relatives: Filipp Korjev (aka Hammer, husband).
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of the People’s Heroes.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: About 5’8” Weight: About 130 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde

Powers and Abilities

Irina Eiermann is one of the few people in the world who has nearly matched the legendary Batman in close combat – and that says it all. She’s suspected of being a low-level metahuman, with borderline superhuman speed, coordination, strength and physical resilience.

She’s a gifted special agent and commando, and her formidable skill in hand to hand combat is only surpassed by her world-class skill with all kinds of edged weapons. Although she long used a sickle for ideological reasons, she now prefers less awkward combat knives.

History

Although the People’s Heroes abilities are said to derive from careful analysis of the captured agents of the American Force of July, it is likely that Sickle’s combat prowess is entirely home-grown.

The People’s Heroes were a covert force under the direct command of the Soviet Premier, and their first known mission was to capture Batman and the Outsiders in Mozambia. They managed to defeat the Outsiders, but they escaped and later won a rematch. When they managed to go back home, they found their aura had tarnished and they were eclipsed by the all new Rocket Red brigade.

They later were seen intercepting elements of the Suicide Squad, which had infiltrate the Soviet Union, but their successful trap was broken at the last minute by an armored gunship assault and several Suicide Squad reinforcements. They later attempted to capture Red Star in the United States, but where opposed by the New Titans. Most of their missions – domestic security details and black ops – are undocumented.

During Mikhail Gorbatchev’s mandate, the People’s Heroes became strongly tied to him, and faded into obscurity when he left ; they unofficially disbanded in the late 90s, although they often have drinks together when they can fit a rendez vous in Moscow in their schedules.

Both Korjev and his wife stayed close to their Navy roots, and went back to the Russia’s military to act as special advisors. Currently, their activities are mostly as mercenary advisors, the Russian armed forces selling their services as a way to procure cash.

They have served along a variety of forces, from the downright criminal and despicable (to their dismay) to more palatable and possibly honest freedom fighters. A recent, and widely publicized mission was in Afghanistan during the US-led war to overthrow the Taliban regime – where they were a very active symbol of the Russian participation to this operation.

Description

See top illustrations for Sickle’s old People’s Heroes costume. Nowadays, it’s is more likely to find her in combat boots and military fatigues, proudly wearing the traditional striped blue and white T-shirt of the Russian marines. She generally wears her T-shirt two sizes too small, exposing her navel and emphasizing her buxomness – she enjoys the effects it usually has on soldiers in the field.

Personality

The Knife has a rather destructive and self-destructive personality. She has long played the part of the domineering cold bitch, but is now truer to herself. Although she has a great sense of humor, she tends to be moody and aggressive and has recurrent episodes of depression and alcohol abuse, that occasionally lead to outbursts of anger. The military life fits this, and gives her the necessary structure.

The Knife is often described as somewhat manic-depressive, her alcohol binges alternating with episodes of extraordinary skill and efficiency – it’s almost as if she’s storing up energy during her down phases to release it later in the field.

As part of her self-destructive side she enjoys nagging Hammer and openly provoking other men in his presence, which does little to dent Hammer’s stony calm and self-discipline. She’s actually deeply in love with him, and he is by far her strongest emotional anchor.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Universe.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

You can learn more with the writeups.org FAQ.