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Spider - Death Reign of the Vampire King - vintage cover

The Bat

Earl Westfall


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

Context

The Spider was a pulps  vigilante, who first saw publication in 1933. He was meant as a competitor for the Shadow. The novels sold well, though not as much as the Shadow or Doc Savage.

The luridly titled Death Reign of the Vampire King was a 1935 Spider novel. It is one of the notable ones, and features an enemy called the Bat.

I filled in a lot of blanks on the history. Most of the facts are out of the book, but the timing, and some of the “connective tissue” aren’t quite sufficient. I also completely fabricated eye and hair color, stealing the “Batman Family standard.”


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Background

  • Real Name: Earl Westfall.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile, with primary HQ in U.S. Rockies.
  • Height: 4’9” Weight: 90lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

The Bat is a genius in the fields of biology, chemistry, aeronautics, and anthropology, at a bare minimum, and at least a fair hand at disguise.

His greatest successes are his armies of bats, which respond to his calls and carry a deadly poison to their targets, and a costume which serves as an aircraft far more agile than any other known aircraft of the day.

He also has a series of locations throughout the nation which can serve as a headquarters, in addition to the vast set of caverns where he breeds his bats.

Finally, large numbers of fearsome Jivaro Indians have committed their lives to protecting and assisting the man

.


History

Earl Westfall was one of the top jockeys in the United States, his horse nearly rivaling those such as the mighty Omaha. Like many successful athletes, rather than stretch out his career past his peak, he chose to retire and raise horses. He returned to his home town of Hoot-Owl Center, not far from Hooligan Pass in the Rocky Mountains.

Also like many successful athletes, though, Westfall was occasionally harassed by gamblers and mobsters whose bottom line his retirement had affected. Eventually, the heat died down, and Westfall also took to vacationing around the world, sometimes able to take advantage of his celebrity status. In a jaunt to South America, however, Westfall became stranded in the mountains.

Desperate, he fashioned a makeshift glider, and made for a finger of smoke in the distance. Far from the civilization he was expecting, though, Westfall found himself in a village of Jivaro Indians. Far from the dangerous savages he was expecting, however, he was heartily greeted and even worshipped by the dark-skinned natives, even though he certainly could not speak the language.

Safe for the time, Westfall began to live among the Indians, learning their language and culture. Finally, he realized the reason for his survival : Because of his glider, he had been mistaken as an agent for the Jivaros’ bat-god.

Further researching his situation, Westfall learned of the local vampire bat population. He learned first to disperse them, mimicking their signal for danger, and then to draw them through their signal for food. He also quickly realized the need for a way, once drawn, to prevent the creatures from interpreting him as food.

Noting the similarity in scent to a perfume he favored—Chatou’s Oriental— Westfall found that the ingredients performed as a synthetic bat musk. Amazed at his power over the bats, and drunk with his power over the natives, Westfall found he craved yet more power. Like the Barbary pirates almost a century before, he would threaten the world with death, should they not turn power over to him.

When the Barbary made their threats, the nations of the world paid them protection. Only the United States stood against them. Therefore, Westfall reasoned, the United States should be his proving ground, decimated as evidence before he announced his presence to the rest of the world.

Making his way back to civilization, Westfall chartered a plane back to Hoot-Owl Center, taking a group of Jivaro assistants, and many cages of bats. Upon reaching home, he began his preparations. The bats were set to breed in nearby caverns, full of hot springs that greatly approximated the natural habitat of the flying animals.

He also began work on another glider, this one integral to a bat-like costume, and with a tiny motor for thrust. To hide his identity, the costume was completed with face makeup that made him appear to be a bat-like creature, or a human that had mutilated himself to resemble a bat.

Finally, since his costume/glider would only be able to support fewer than a hundred pounds (and assuming this would be obvious to anyone with a scientific background who saw the thing), Earl Westfall began to slowly alter his “civilian” appearance, eventually making himself appear to to weigh nearly twice his original weight.

Westfall then set to work building a group of assistants who, unlike the Jivaro, could be trained in the use of modern technology, and who could more readily blend in with modern American society. Various men were recruited, but one in particular—a Mr. Calvert—had all the skills necessary and had worked at a stablehand. Unfortunately, the man was interred in a sanitarium for drug addicts.

To gain his trust and help, Westfall posed as a recovering drug addict, himself, and infiltrated the hospital, bribing and springing Calvert, nominally hiring the man as his stablehand. Alas, this proved to be a bad idea. While Westfall was experimenting with poisons that would not kill the bats, Calvert—still on the path of recovery—stumbled into the lair of the bats, unprotected, and was killed instantly. With everything else in readiness, however, Westfall concluded that the time to strike had arrived.

He started small, going after the same mobsters and gamblers who had so tormented him when he had left racing. Dozens were killed, and the police were unsure how seriously to take the threat, considering that it might be another vigilante purging the cities of crime.

The vigilante known as the Spider, on the other hand, was convinced otherwise, and began a campaign to stop the bat attacks. Ready for interference, though, Westfall recruited Calvert’s sister June, claiming that the Spider had killed the man. June then had the Spider framed for the bat attacks, hampering his efforts.

Over the days that followed, the vampire bats killed well over a thousand people up and down the eastern seaboard, always a step ahead of the Spider, and then inland to the amusement park at Michigan City, Illinois.

At Michigan City, things began to go badly for the Bat, as the Spider not only arrived in time to save lives, but also managed to find clues as to the Bat’s identity and headquarters.

The final battle, appropriately, occurred near Hoot-Owl Center. The Spider bombed a convoy of the synthetic bat musk and bats, and scattered many of the Jivaro. He then pressed the attack with a glider of his own, and fought the Bat in his own domain, outside the very caverns he worked.

While he fought well, the Spider managed to get a good shot in, collapsing the glider, and sending Westfall plummeting to his death.


Description

The Bat appears as a short man with wide, leathery wings stretching from his shoulders, which he languidly waves when not flying. His face appears very much like that of a vampire bat—his nose apparently sliced off, and the skin from elsewhere across his face drawn to the wound. Long, pointed ears also adorn his head.

To add to the illusion, the Bat speaks in a squeaking, rasping voice, almost indistinguishable from the noises he uses to summon and disperse his bats.

Westfall, by contrast, is a decent-looking, well-dressed man, though short and (apparently) dangerously overweight. As Westfall, he speaks well and clearly.


Personality

Westfall keeps to himself as much as possible, even when in the spotlight of celebrity.

The Bat, however, is a very different story, bordering almost on the stereotypical “evil genius.” Deathtraps abound (most of which involve feeding his bats), and are frequently accompanied by gloating over his enemies.

In battle, though, he is far more likely to let others (the bats, the Jivaro, and his local confederates) fight for him, while he watches from far above, in his glider. He will, however, make ample use of the glider’s spine-mounted rifle, should he see any need.

The Bat does, however, appear to like to keep to his schedule, even when security surrounding those plans has been compromised.


Quotes

“You are wondering why you are alive. It is not our habit to kill such prisoners as come our way—that is, not at once. You were shot with a narcotic instead of poisoned darts. You see, our bats must have food.”

“Unless you return at once the way you came, you will forfeit the lives of three friends and the woman you love. Furthermore, I shall shoot you down, as I am in a position to do at this moment. Consider, Spider, the lives of four people against a strategic retreat. Which do you choose ?”


DC Universe History

Westfall’s activities in the DCU’s Golden Age were mostly based out of Gotham City. Rather than the Spider, it is likely that the Crimson Avenger put an end to the Bat’s activities.

Decades later, when Bruce Wayne appeared on the scene in Gotham as Batman, the police hunted the new hero, fearing that there might be a link between the two.

And, of course, Batman’s appearance also caused one of Westfall’s descendants to become unhinged and take on the identity and methods of The Bat, himself, challenging Batman for the name.

Jay likes the idea of Westfall using Wayne Manor, and what will one day be the Batcave, as the Gotham City staging ground, capturing young Thomas Wayne and Alfred when they’re snooping in the area. The caves, by necessity of the story, need to have been remodeled before the Civil War to serve as part of the Underground Railroad, thus making them (potentially) warm enough for the tropical bats to survive in the Gotham climate.

I don’t particularly care for the idea, but it does seem rather DC-ish, and at least deserves mention.

See also the DCU History section in my writeup for Marie “Le Tocsin” LaSalle, for a potential character using who might use Westfall’s gadgets.


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The Bat

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Power Lust
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Mass Murderer, ex-Jockey
Inf: 04 Aur: 05 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 010
Init: 013 HP: 025

Powers: Animal Summoning (Vampire Bats): 04

Bonuses and Limitations: Animal Summoning is actually a Skill – the Bat has practiced the call of his charges, and can duplicate it at will.

Skills: Acrobatics (Climbing): 03, Animal Handling: 07, Artist (Actor): 06, Gadgetry: 07, Scientist: 08, Thief (Stealth): 06, Vehicles (Glider): 09

Advantages: Expansive Headquarters, Leadership, Scholar (Vampire Bats), Scholar (Jivaro Culture and Language), Schtick (Weapons Stash)

Note: The Weapons Stash Schtick is used exclusively to set traps behind him. It otherwise works as described on the Schtick List.

Connections: High Society (Low), Equestrian Community (High)

Drawbacks: MIA (Schedule), Secret Identity

Equipment:

  • GLIDER [STR 01 BODY 01, Flight: 02, Gliding: 10, Projectile Weapons: 04, Thief (Stealth): 08. The Bat’s glider is what would today be called an Ultralight Aircraft. It consists of wings just large enough to provide him with lift, controls for excellent maneuverability, and a dorsally mounted rifle facing front.
    It is noteworthy that such a glider is nearly impossible to guide without the appropriate abilities ; Reconsider using Unfamiliarity Penalties for the situation, if you don’t already]
  • SYNTHETIC MUSK [Animal Control (Vampire Bats): 03, Power Reserve (Animal Summoning): 03, Misc. Drawback (distinctive and strong smell; -2CS to OV/RV of Tracking attempts). To enhance his control over the bats—and to protect himself from their attacks, the Bat wears a synthetic musk extracted from an obscure perfume. The bats thus treat him as one of their own. It, however, is far stronger, and easily detectable by humans from a distance]

Vampire Bats

Dex: 03 Str: 00 Bod: 01
Int: 00 Wil: 01 Min: 01
Inf: 01 Aur: 00 Spi: 01
Init: 004

Powers: Claws: 00, Flight: 02, Poison Touch: 08, Radar Sense: 03

Drawbacks: CIA (Attacking)

These bats have been starved for some time, so that they will attack even humans. Their teeth have also been coated with a poison which has no effect on them, but is instantly deadly to humans.

They are typically deployed in lots of hundreds, either from the air, or inside buildings with preprepared traps.


Jivaro Indians

Dex: 07 Str: 04 Bod: 04 Motivation: Following Orders
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 07
Init: 016 HP: 005

Skills: Martial Artist (Techniques): 05, Military Science (Camouflage, Tracking): 06, Thief (Stealth): 04, Weaponry (Melee, Exotic—Blowguns): 06

Drawbacks: Misc (Native Language Only)

Equipment:

  • Knife [BODY 05, EV 03 (05 w/STR)]
  • Blowgun [BODY 01, Projectile Weapons: 00 (Range: 03), Paralysis: 08, Poison Touch: 08, R#2]

These squat, dark-skinned men were found in South America by Westfall, who they believed was their bat-god, due to his ability to fly. They follow his orders without question, and will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in the way of those orders. They are proficient with their blowguns and knives. Typically wearing red and gold tunics (ceremonial garb), they are entirely capable of wearing localized clothing when it is required or convenient. Similarly, some will have additional training for particular missions.

The Bat tends to have anywhere from four to twelve Jivaro on the ground when he attacks, to ensure things run smoothly. As many as thirty might be found in the Bat’s headquarters.

The Jivaros warriors are truly fearsome fighters – each could pose a serious threat to the Spider.

By John Colagioia

Source of Character: Death Reign of the Vampire King (Spider)

Helper(s): Jay Myers

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