Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Strange and Storied History of Silence Do-Good, part 9: The End

In the wake of her visit to the Senate (in what Chicago Tribune reporter Max Fairfield called "The Constitutional Clobbering"), Silence avoided politics* to concentrate on what she did best: Doing Good.

*With one exception: She became the figurehead for repealing prohibition, not only because she felt it would reduce crime but also because, according to her father, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." However, her duties in this vein were limited to appearing at various functions and giving interviews; at no time did she engage in any active campaigning or politicking.

Without access to the government intelligence reports which had previously made her nearly omniscient, she was forced to take a different stance when it came to fighting crime. Her ability to act as role-model and figurehead was not lost upon her, and so she concentrated her efforts upon becoming the most effective symbol of justice and integrity possible. In this endeavor she was quite successful, and her popularity rose with her recognition. When she was not fighting crime, averting disasters, or rescuing people from harm (which she could do on a near-constant basis because as a construct she had no need for food or sleep), she was promoting patriotism, civic awareness, and the importance of selfless contribution to society.

She soon became the All-American Golem Girl, and the people loved her. One could hardly go a week without seeing her face on a magazine (she was especially beloved by The Saturday Evening Post and LIFE, appearing on their covers at least once a month), hearing her interviewed on the radio, or seeing young girls emulate her. In cities across the country, she was granted ceremonial keys and honorary police officer status; elementary schools and libraries were named in her honor. She frequently appeared at military and patriotic functions (had the USO existed at the time she would surely have been involved), and her 4th of July appearances in Boston, Washington D.C., and other Revolutionary War locations were the stuff of legend.

In 1934 she even threw out the first pitch of the New York Giants' home 
opener. Needless to say, it made it across the plate.

She was equally beloved by crime-fighters, who by this time had started organizing into groups that were part civic association, part fraternal order, and part neighborhood militia. Calling themselves "Silent Partnerships," they assembled to pool their resources and aid one another in taking down organized crime. In most of these organizations, Silence Do-Good was elected to an honorary position such as Sergeant-at-Arms or Chief Librarian. In this manner she became a constant but subtle reminder to "fight the good fight".

The rest of the 1920s passed without significant historical alteration. The Great Depression still happened, albeit slightly earlier due to the economic downturn of the First World War; similarly early was the repeal of prohibition. The 1930s, however, saw a booming population of costumed characters on both sides of the law. Inspired by the actions of El Capo, many criminals adopted fantastic aliases and outlandish costumes. Not only did this grant instant recognition and help quell resistance during the commission of their vile deeds, but it also allowed them to move freely among the population in their secret identities. Some of the more popular villains of the time included:

As this tide of villainy rose, so did the number of heroes who dedicated their lives to fighting it. The decade saw a change in heroes as well, as the original World War 1 veterans retired or died in the line of duty, and others --who had not been soldiers -- took their places. Some were stage magicians who used sleight of hand and the power of suggestion; others were scientists or mechanics who exploited the fringe ideas of the day to gain an upper hand. Gentleman adventurers and death-defiers replaced grizzled veterans; science and showmanship became the order of the day.

Silence, however, did not change one whit. Stoic as ever, she stayed the course, the only change in her life being what she did in her off-time. When not fighting super-villains, she was using her knowledge of agriculture and earth-moving abilities to combat the devastation of the Dust Bowl (a super-catastrophe if ever there was one) or planting trees alongside the Civilian Conservation Corps

When a reporter asked her which task she thought was more important, she answered "That is like asking which is more important, water or shelter, when you are in the desert. Clearly a man needs both. Do not think that because I fight crime I am just a crime-fighter. I am the defender of this nation, and will do whatever is necessary to protect its present and safeguard its future."

Unfortunately, all of this changed in 1941.

On December 7, Imperial Japan declared war on the United States by bombing Pearl Harbor. Silence, through her magical connection to American soil, instantly knew of the attack the moment the bombs began detonating, and immediately transited to ground zero of the disaster. While unable to aid the burning ships along Battleship Row -- they were in the water, after all -- she was able to do something about the bombs still falling on the naval base. Assuming her Golem Form, she began extinguishing fires, shifting rubble, and swatting bombs out of the sky with her gigantic stone hammer.

Unfortunately, the Japanese were waiting for this exact event, because lingering high overhead was a dive bomber carrying an extraordinary payload. When it was reported that the American hero had arrived, this Aichi D3A began streaking towards it target: Silence Do-Good.

It detonated as she was directing the fall of a water tower towards an out-of-control fire. The experimental weapon -- designed by Nazi science, and built by the Japanese -- was specifically designed to destroy golems. It emitted an intense, high-frequency vibration which temporarily liquefied Silence Do-Good's armored form and melted the Jewish word "Emet" which, inscribed upon her brow, animated her and gave her life.

The magic disrupted, she dissolved into her component parts. A secondary charge obliterated them. Silence Do-Good, America's first super-hero, was dead.

It was well-known at the time that Silence Do-Good's strength came from her country, and Japan felt that link could work both ways: by destroying the beloved figure, the tragedy would compound the major tactical defeat, and America would be both weakened and demoralized.

They thought wrong. Americans were heartbroken at their loss, but also angered at her murder. As one people, they rose up to avenge her death. Costumed Crusaders enlisted alongside their civilian counterparts and were placed in elite, free-roving units as super-commandos. Their battle-cry of "Silent No More!" was heard on the battlefield as often as "Remember Pearl Harbor" and "Give 'em hell, boys!"

Surprisingly, it was during the Second World War that other super-powered individuals began to emerge. It is thought that, as the magic which animated her drained away, Silence's last remaining wish -- to protect the United States -- was absorbed by the earth of Hawai'i and transmitted across American soil, imparting a portion of that magic to all who would stand up and defend their country.

The first super-hero was dead, but the era of the super-human had begun.

The character of Silence Do-Good is copyright Erin Palette 2011. All art in these sections is either public domain, or machinima from the City of Heroes MMO. I do not claim any ownership of art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License


  1. *applause*

    I really like this one. There's something about Nazi mad science and experimental weaponry that shifts it into pure pulp, and that's excellent; the thematic gear-changes in this saga have been small, but just noticeable, and this is the best one yet.

  2. Thank you, Von! One of my goals with this project -- once I realized it had spiraled out of control beyond a single post -- was to try to explain and account for certain comic-book conventions that are just taken for granted. I think I was able to account for everything except the underwear on the outside.

    There IS an explanation for that, though, and it's simple: while men like having a nice big bulge, they don't want details of their junk showing through, and tights are notoriously bad for doing just this -- it's why male ballerinas (Ballerinos?) wear dance belts. So the simple answer is to add another layer on top to give everything a smooth, well-rounded look. From there it's a simple step to making the trunks a different color from the leggings for added visual appeal.

  3. What I liked about this series was how the changed circumstances in the alternate history time line might have shifted 'when' something happened or 'how' something happened but kept the essential outcomes and the motivations and/or personalities of the main historical figures fairly close to or congruent with what we know in our universe. Gives it an internal consistency you don't get in a lot of alternate histories :-)
    There are far too many factors at play for even an extraordinary occurrence to avert or alter world changing events entirely.

    I haven't read up on prohibition so I'm not sure if that's how American historical texts refer to him and you were staying true to the source material of the time but in standard Italian it would be 'Il Capo' unless Al Capone was using a regional dialect.
    My only other comment would be that you use the term 'maternal' a few times and whilst it's definitely in keeping with how you're portraying the character you could have replaced it with 'protective' or another synonym in some of the later uses as her actions speak for themselves on that count :-)

  4. Cheeky Disqus changed my name just before I posted :-/


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