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The Gray Champion: Freedom's Apparition is a superhero tale concerning the titular character, adapted from the original short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne as mentioned in his book Twice-Told Tales. The adaptation was first envisioned in the year 2001, when the Dozerfleet founder was in an American literature class for his senior year in high school.
It has since become a part of The Gerosha Chronicles of Dozerfleet Comics. It's predecessor, The Gray Champion: Modern Legend, became the first Gerosha continuity tale in existence, in the Earth-G0-designated "Hyper-Uber-Proto-Gerosha" that would lay the groundwork for all Gerosha multiverse continuity to come after. It was left out of Uber-Proto Gerosha (Earth G-1,) which first defined the world of 90 Has No Secant. It was also ignored in Proto Gerosha (Earth-G2, first attempt at Stan and Shalia) and Test Gerosha (Earth-G3.0.) It was considered for inclusion in Gerosha Prime (Earth-G3.1,) which first defined The Battle for Gerosha. It was even considered for Despair Gerosha (Earth-G4,) but was eventually cut out. It was incorporated back in, if only in spirit, for Classic Gerosha (Earth-G5,)when it was to be worked into the side next to the Ciem webcomic and its sequels. The story about the Gray Champion was eventually renamed Freedom's Apparition, and was included in Comprehensive Gerosha (Earth-G6) as a Legacies of the Marlquaan entry. Its production was shelved to make time for the writing of Ciem: Vigilante Centipede. Parts of the narrative for Freedom's Apparition were later revised for inclusion in Cataclysmic Gerosha (Earth-G7) and the Gerosha Gaming Universe (Earth-G7.2.) It was shelved yet again to pursue the development of Sorbet and a novelization of Blood Over Water.
Freedom's Apparition is also the first of two issues in a volume dubbed The Gray Champion: Modern Legends. It begins the super pack of Gerosha volumes known as the Gerosha Legends pack, taking the continuity in a modern direction away from the Origins and Fallout volume. Its time travel events directly correspond with the ending of A So-Called Heretic, and the fallout of events in Freedom's Apparition affect everything from Extirpon to Pilltar.
Main article: Plot synopsis to The Gray Champion: Freedom's Apparition
The setting that opens is a museum of colonial history in Massachusetts in 2012. Korean-American curator and museum director Dae Pang offers tours at her museum to flaunt her new exhibits pertaining to the legend of Kicked Deer. Meanwhile, her daughter Hea Pang is dating Kyle Medsor at school behind her back. Kyle is eager to join SCALLOP and work for Darius Philippine, though he is expected not to share too much information with Hea.
Hea discovers evidence that Boston police are corrupt, and that the police captain Eric Andro is in the back pockets of militant homosexual lobbies. A band of goons chases her for seeing too much when she sees them beating up a protestor named Jared Richen. Richen was under fire for claiming that Marl-Q Industries' intentions of lobbying with the state legislature to mandate "Dwayne Strain" vaccine for all schoolchildren was akin to genocide. Hea manages to escape from her attackers, only to be told by her mother that she should lay low for a while. Meanwhile, the corrupt owner of Marl-Q Industries, Dereck Johnson, is revealed to be using his company's resources to develop a fear toxin that he uses in conjunction with fake wings and a horse-head mask to terrorize his rape victims. He is also revealed to be in league with Andro; and the two plot to unleash weaponized Dwayne Strain on a group of protestors that has promised to meet outside the state capitol. Andro wants to push the homosexual agenda via Dwayne Strain, though Johnson urges Andro to be patient. He claims that his big demonstration of Marlquaan control and possession of a coveted Marlquaanite Ruby must come first.
Hea decides to sneak in to the demonstration at Marl-Q Industries, convinced that even an evil man like Johnson might be on to revealing something dangerous. However, she is thrown out for insinuating that inventing time travel would be unethical. She ends up being chased by the same gay mob that was after her before. Dereck continues with the experiment, but quickly loses control. His containment field bursts, exposing him to the Marlquaan beams. Before he knows what to do next, an explosion takes out the top floor of Marl-Q and sends a surge of read beams and pulsating red waves broadcasting from ground zero to the entire United States and part of Greenland. In the 17th century, Marge Domeck and her father John Domeck are about to be murdered by the Society of the Icy Finger.
A Marlquaan storm erupts, and what appears like a red lightning bolt strikes both John and Marge. A representative of Marl-Q ends up on the beaches in the 17th century, where he is immediately killed by the locals. John awakes to find himself in an alleyway, readily discovering his new Marlquaanite abilities of phantom mimicry. John suddenly witnesses the gay mob having caught up with Hea, and engages them in battle before they can succeed at raping and killing her as they intended to do. They charge at him with all their demonic fury; but underestimate his years of experienced swordsmanship. He quickly learns how to transport himself and others through wires, utilizing the feature to dispose of the bodies of his defeated foes. Hea warns him to avoid excessive exposure to their blood, as it may be tainted.
John returns to the ground, and begs of Hea to explain to him what is going on. She asks him if he's heard of the Marlquaan, and is shocked to learn that he has. She starts taking him back to Dae's house, in order to explain to him their present situation. However, police begin chasing them immediately when they see how strange John's clothing is. The city goes on lockdown following the explosion at Marl-Q. John is able to grab Hea and transmit them through power lines a safe distance away from the police and downtown chaos. Hea leads John to her home, where Dae is immediately suspicious of where Hea has been. Hea explains she was chased, but leaves out the part about John rescuing her while John makes himself invisible.
Dereck pulls himself from the wreckage of his lab. He finds his transformation into a real Eqquibus is complete, as he contemplates the consequences. Andro informs him of the fact that the protestors of the Dwayne Strain are determined to protest in spite measures designed to make such protest as risky as possible. John spies on Eric Andro and Eqquibus to verify Hea's claims that the police captain is corrupt. John goes back to Hea's place, and reveals himself to Dae. Dae is in doubt at first, and confused that John doesn't know what a vaccine is. Hea comes clean to her mother about who John is, and about the need to keep him a secret. Dae closes the museum the following morning, allowing Hea and Kyle to use the museum and entire day to educate John Domeck on the important events that have happened in the passage of time. Of particular interest to John is Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Gray Champion," which Hea reads to him. He immediately becomes inspired to help out his new friends with their common current predicament, deciding is the new Gray Champion and must assume the Champion's responsibility for himself. Eqquibus seizes the moment to prepare his company to load up the helicopters with weaponized Dwayne Strain. He also raids a nearby apartment to test out what kinds of crime he can get away with while employing his new powers. Hea offers to give John an opportunity to train in his newfound powers at the city park, where the two uncover a small mob attacking a woman with her baby. Gray foils the killers' escape plans, only to police decide that the Gray Champion is an even bigger menace than the three murderers he caught. Andro even threatens to arrest Kyle and Hea if they don't leave the area.
As Hea and Gray do some research on the Society of the Icy Finger, Dae alerts them that the day has come to appear downtown for protesting. Hea helps Gray assemble a costume from spare parts in the museum's storage that Dae personally owns. It is not long before the protestors find themselves harassed by Andro's forces and Eqquibus' helicopters. However, Gray throws a vial of toxin right back at the helicopter. This causes the pilot to lose control, and he careens uncontrollably into other helicopters. Andro begins ordering other officers to take aim at the scattering protestors fleeing from all the explosions. However, Gray confronts Andro and prevents him from being the first officer to actually shoot. Other offers defy the order. The National Guard arrives with the help of Darius Philippine and the FBI to haul Andro away. Incensed that his plans are foiled and his Dwayne Strain set ablaze, Eqquibus attacks the National Guard troops and starts causing as much mayhem as possible in the streets while the remaining protestors scatter in terror. Gray battles Eqquibus for the first time, a lengthy battle in the streets proving the two evenly matched. The fight ends when Gray manages to break off a part of the tip of Eqquibus' right wing, uttering that "a fool is partial to the left anyway." Eqquibus clumsily flies away, vowing revenge.
The mayor becomes aware of how out-of-control the situation becomes, and defies public sentiment by declaring the Gray Champion an outlaw in order to protect the LGBTQPIZ militants' causes - out of nothing more than unfounded fear that a popular Gray Champion would interfere with the agenda's spread. In order to avoid a mutiny, he also declares Eqquibus an outlaw. However, he calls the Feds' arrest of Eric Andro a "travesty." The city becomes torn between those who are mindless slaves of political drivel, and those who correctly see that the Gray Champion has come to give the city a fighting chance of restoring a healthy understanding of justice to its halls.
News outlets take sides on the debate, some praising Gray and others seeking to diminish his role. Hea tries to help John make sense of the madness; but he lets her know that it is not that different from the spin of his own day. Criminals all over the city begin seeing their efforts frustrated by Gray's interference, particularly home invaders. Public sentiment begins to sway in the Champion's favor, and the mayor doubles down on his defiance of public will. This leads to the city threatening a recall election. Gray begins expanding his operations to outside of Boston, managing to foil a drug cartel in Mexico and save a family of Coptic Egyptians from being killed and eaten by al-Queada forces dressed as Syrian rebels. Darius contacts Hea to alert Gray to go easy on the international work; as he fears a crackdown on the Philippine family's operations by the Obama regime if Gray becomes too popular in too many places. Hea relays the message to a very confused John that they need to scale back.
Meanwhile, Eqquibus and his followers discuss where they're going to go from there. They have some Dwayne Strain left, but no way to deliver it to the whole city. They also have to worry about the Gray Champion eventually finding out where they are. Eqquibus informs them that they may have to resort to using something so dangerous, the he kept it in storage for fear it posed a danger to himself: a Marlquaanite suspended animation prison container. They decide that he will follow around Gray and look for a way to make him vulnerable. They decide to make their move on October 4th, though they are unable to locate Hea. It's revealed that after an argument with Dae, an angry Hea heads to Kyle's to vent. The two teens, alone and unsupervised, begin consummating their relationship. They discuss how to move Hea out of Dae's residence, so she can be happy - and perhaps reconcile with her mother one day.
Gray discovers a situation below on the early evening of that same day that doesn't quite look right. He sees a young girl being roughed up and brought into her home by her mother, who appears to be drunk. Once inside the drunk mother begins beating her daughter. However, Gray decides to intervene and save the girl's life. Eqquibus charges through the living room window and kills the little girl his way, then kills the mother. He taunts Gray about not being able to see them coming, boasting that he will forever be the city's nightmare come true.
Gray attempts to engage him in a fight, but fails to notice the Marlquaanite prison containers are activated right outside the house. Attempting to track him down, Hea arrives just in time to witness him getting captured. She runs back to Kyle's house amidst a state of emergency being declared in Boston due to the continued chaos Eqquibus has been causing. Gray and Eqquibus both wind up trapped in their respective containers, with Eqquibus' henchmen then freeing him from his. The frozen Gray, studied up close, results in Eqquibus realizing that the only place a Puritan ghost could have come into possession of Confederate soldier attire is at Dae Pang's museum. He and his henchmen immediately make their way there to capture the Pangs.
Hea arrives at Kyle's to give him the bad news, but he states that he already knows. Eqquibus has taken out the tower with which Darius can be contacted, leading to the Medsors fleeing to Maine. Kyle states that he told his family not to wait for him; that he'd get Hea and leave with her. Hea objects to the idea of running, insisting that the two of them need to free the Gray Champion themselves. Kyle is touched by her convictions, as well as her overhearing a henchman mention the seaport. They try not to be noticed traveling there, as Kyle has both of them heavily armed.
Kyle's expertise in combat allows him and Hea to get past the front guard and to the docks. They find a warehouse with Gray and Dae both being held captive. Eqquibus begins giving orders to his men to get a ship ready. Marl-Q Industries is moving operations out of Boston, given that Johnson's condition makes it unfavorable for him to stay in town. Hea sneaks around, looking for a way to get to her mother. Meanwhile, Kyle creates a distraction to lure the henchmen out. He then makes it inside right as Hea is freeing Dae, and deactivates the Marlquaanite prison quickly. He is suddenly grabbed from behind, and his ribs are crushed as Eqquibus hovers him in the air. Eqquibus makes the coup de grace move by breaking his neck, right as Hea and Dae watch. Eqquibus begins taunting Hea about the futility of her and Kyle's plan, but then notices that Hea refuses to show signs of having lost all hope. He turns around to hear the last of his army being transported via wire to Canada. He looks at the Marlquaanite prison and discovers it is empty. Enraged, he charges at Dae and Hea. However, Gray catches up to him and shallowly slices his neck. A fight soon breaks out in the sky, as Eqquibus demonstrates himself to be very efficient at killing pedestrians downtown. The two trade blows until Eqquibus manages to fake Gray out and knock him into a gas truck. Eqquibus moves to blow it up, but Gray gets out of the way in the nick of time. A startled Gray gets caught off guard, and Eqquibus kicks him around. Eqquibus finally rips his hat off and steals his mask, crushing the eyepieces in his hand and grabbing Gray's beard to knock him around.
Gray quickly recovers his senses, realizing that his sword "Fishkiller" is missing. Eqquibus argues that for all Gray's matter phasing, he still can't figure out a way to actually kill off Eqquibus. Gray realizes that even Eqquibus has internal organs, then feigns feeling weak while an arrogant Eqquibus lunges himself at his foe. Gray then phases his hand through Eqquibus' chest, grabbing his heart and forcing it to pump outside the body. He then shares some banter with Eqquibus as he regains his sword and severs Eqquibus' cardial blood vessels. The monster finally collapses, as John beholds the incredible path of violence and destruction left in the wake of their battle. He tosses Eqquibus' heart to the ground in disgust, before fleeing the scene right as the fire Eqquibus started spreads to the building where they had their final showdown.
As Hea and Dae try to put together their lives and deal with Eqquibus' damages to the museum, Darius Philippine launches an unsuccessful bid for the Justice Department to investigate the mayor of Boston. The state investigation is interrupted by Eric Holder at the federal level, for purely political reasons. Even so, the Medsors agree to work with Hea to set up a mission control for John Domeck. The Gray Champion continues to hover over the city from atop a church belfry, patiently waiting for the city to need him again even as the mayor vows to destroy him in defiance of public sentiment.
- John Domeck / Gray Champion: A hero of the 17th century who devoted his life to keeping Marlquaanite power out of the wrong hands. His initial mission appears to have failed. Dereck Johnson's experiments in the 21st century result in a Marlquaan storm that synchronizes with one on the beach where John was about to be killed by his enemies. He finds himself in 21st-century Boston with phantom mimicry powers - and a few additional ones that let him transfer himself through electric wires. When he sees the immoral tyranny that has gained a stranglehold over Boston in 2012, he takes Hea's advice and dons the mantle of Hawthorne's Gray Champion legend in order to give the virtuous in Boston a fighting chance. Little does he realize that the same event that brought him into the year 2012 and made him a superhero has also transformed Dereck Johnson into the horse-headed monster Eqquibus, and that the two would have to fight to the death for the city's fate.
- Marge Domeck: John's daughter, who also gets struck by the Marlquaan. However, she doesn't arrive in the 21st century. She arrives in 1995, and is adopted by the Ramirez family. John doesn't see where she arrives, and assumes her to be dead.
- Hea Pang: An excited, youthful, spirited young woman. She is dating Kyle Medsor, and shares his ambitions of working with or for SCALLOP even though her mother Dae has other plans for her. She is seldom afraid to investigate a situation, backing out only when it looks just a little too dangerous to proceed further. She almost immediately realizes the significance of John's arrival in the 21st century, and goes to great lengths to help him adjust to the new meaning of his life.
- Dae Pang: A museum curator and partial owner of a history museum in Boston. Her museum is smaller than some others, but she maintains hers with pride. She specializes in colonial legends and folklore, as well as the history behind the myths. She tends to be very strict in her parenting of Hea, feeling that she needs to in order to compensate for her husband Joo-Chan's drowning death in a boating accident years earlier. When she begins to realize that she is housing the Gray Champion in her museum, she is ambivalent about the implications of it.
- Kyle Medsor: A young, ambitious man yearning to join SCALLOP. He is also Hea's boyfriend, and a skilled fighter. He is, perhaps, a little too ambitious for he and Hea to get on with their lives. When he discovers that Hea is hiding the Gray Champion in her mother's museum, he immediately realizes that the implications of this are serious.
- Darius Philippine: Frequently alluded to but not seen, Darius is in charge of a special operation between Phaelites and the US military called the Security-Centric Alliance Lending and Learning Of Phaelites, or "SCALLOP" for short. He is frowned upon by the Obama regime, which seeks to have him removed from his position yet lacks a justification. In addition to monitoring the potentially scandalous Phexo experiments in the country and the unethical science which created them, he also takes an interest in Marlquaanite creation and in monitoring the activities of a terroristic secret society known as the Icy Finger. News of Marl-Q Industries having created a new Gray Champion particularly draws his interest.
- Dereck Johnson / Eqquibus: An ideological ally of Eric Andro and the Crooked Rainbow. Dereck is a sophisticated billionaire, building on the fortune of his father Raynold Johnson. They built Marl-Q Industries hoping to capitalize on Dereck's discovery of a Marlquaanite ruby. This also led to him being monitored by the Society of the Icy Finger, which has long been out to reclaim all the rubies for themselves. He at one point enters into a business deal with Seth Lambrelli to give Seth an additional ruby, making Seth also a target of the Icy Finger. Aside from making billions in research, he is also politically active. He plans to have the Dwayne Strain vaccine, even though it is unsafe and poorly-tested, become mandated on all schoolchildren in Massachusetts. He and the Crooked Rainbow begin lobbying aggressively to get the governor to sign legislation or an executive order to get the mandate rammed through, in spite massive protest. He also plans to weaponize Dwayne Strain, and use it to infect and kill all dissidents. His corrupt friends, such as Eric Andro, shield him from criminal investigation.
As a college student, Dereck began dating a non-committal woman named Darla Jennings. She took a huge fascination to horses; but Dereck found himself being twisted by fascination with one specific painting she had. The painting was a variation of "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli. Dereck's obsession with power, the symbolism of incubi, and the Fuseli painting compelled him to envision himself as a horse-headed demon with power over women. Frustrated with Darla's mixed signals, he finally decided to kidnap her one evening. He used a fear toxin he developed to keep her unable to fight back, then raped and killed her while wearing a horse mask. His immediate terror led to him going to great lengths to cover up his crime.
Upon ascension to the ownership of Marl-Q, he had grown powerful and connected. He used those connections with the most corrupt of individuals to grant himself immunity from prosecution, and became a serial rapist utilizing the same method on new victims as used to kill Darla. However, he became more sophisticated about not leaving behind large amounts of DNA evidence of his crimes. It is his arrogant ambition to use his Marlquaanite ruby to master time travel, however, that ends up being his downfall. It transforms him into the monster known as Eqquibus, while also bringing the Gray Champion into the 21st century. Gray immediately sets to work foiling all of Eqquibus' plans, leading the two of them to an epic rivalry that holds the entire city's fate in the balance.
- Officer Eric Andro: A corrupt police captain who is in league with the Crooked Rainbow activists and also with Eqquibus. He has turned the justice system in Boston upside-down, leading to the arrests of victims of the activists' assaults rather than arrests of the activists for assault. He also plans to punish Tea Party and other activists in town for opposing the Crooked Rainbow's overreach, as well as punishing the Dwayne Strain mandate's opposition by letting Dereck Johnson weaponize it and use it on them. He has a name similar to that of Edmund Andros, the Virginia governor who was defeated by the first Gray Champion.
- Stacey Midgers, Brian Slupen, Eugene Steegs, Matt Ridgeway, and Mike Chorus: Crooked Rainbow activists bent on raping and killing Hea Pang for witnessing them and Andro engaging in an act of perversion of justice by having their beating victim arrested instead of themselves. They eventually take their antics too far when they begin stalking Hea mercilessly, and end up at the wrong end of the Gray Champion's sword.
- Travis Menaiaco: The Democratic mayor of Boston, who has forged an alliance with the terrorist Crooked Rainbow and with Eric Andro. He believes that the Gray Champion's conservative origins make him an immediate threat to the special interests the mayor has aligned himself with, as Gray's symbol can inspire a renewed fervor for Biblical faith and American patriotism. As such, he defies public will by declaring Gray to be an outlaw.
- Jared Richen: A whistleblower former FDA employee, who has fallen on hard times for lobbying against the vaccine for Dwayne Strain. He argues both that it is unethical and prone to backfire to force a sexual behavior vaccine on children, and that it Dwayne Strain is particularly lethal. Only two women raped by Dwayne Lloyd managed to escape infection with the deadly disease, one of them being Marissa Hood. The Crooked Rainbow, which is outright forcing deviant sexual lifestyles on a public not interested in forced participation in it, has determined that Richen needs to die for his convictions and for opposing a cause they have elected to support. Also unfortunate for Richen, the corrupt police captain Eric Andro in league with the gay militants. When Hea witnesses his arrest for being a victim of Crooked Rainbow violence, they catch her witnessing the blatant act of police corruption. This leads to a bounty within the militants' ranks on Hea's head.
In late September and early October of 2001, the Dozerfleet founder was enrolled in American Literature Studies class at Holt Lutheran High School. The instructor, Traci Backus, wanted the class to study the literature of Nathaniel Hawthorne. She began by assigning the class to read The Scarlett Letter in its unabridged edition. While parts of the book made for extremely dry reading, the class was alleviated some by the fact that they were allowed to draw their own interpretations of the material. Several class artworks began depicting alternate takes on the universe of Hawthorne's book.
The Dozerfleet founder, however, was not content to take what was in the book and leave it alone. He instead envisioned a version of Hester Prynne that looked more like a Disney Princess than the plain Puritan woman the book depicted. Her new, sultry appearance and dress made her look more like Carmen Sandiego than a true Puritan. One major change made to Hester was that instead of the Scarlet Letter being stitched into her dress, she was given a necklace with the Beamer's Ruby inside its gold-chain pendant. The necklace became known as Hester's locket for that very reason. Little did the townsfolk know that the necklace she was given, which they used to symbolize her act of adultery, was really a disguise to hide the Beamer's ruby from being discovered by the Society of the Icy Finger. Chillingworth was reimagined as a Marlquaanite with freezing abilities, who begins terrorizing the town in search of his wife's alternate lover. When Dimmesdale confesses to being Pearl's father, Chillingworth tries to freeze him. However, the carved letter on his chest and Hester's anger activate the Beamer's Ruby. It reflects a beam off of Dimmesdale's chest and strips Chillingworth of his Marlquaanite bond while he is in the middle of using his powers. This causes the powers to backfire, and shatters Chillingworth into a million pieces of frozen flesh.
The rendering of Hawthorne's work to look and feel like a traditional Disney Animated Canon entry met with mixed reactions from both teacher and classmates. However, the class discovered that when the teacher was in full Hawthorne mode, one story wouldn't cut it. A few more short stories by Hawthorne were discussed in class. These included "The Minister's Black Veil," resulting in the minor supervillain Blackveil. That character is explained in the Timeline of events in Cataclysmic Gerosha as being the reason that John Domeck couldn't stop the Tsarnaev brothers during the Boston Marathon bombings. "The Maypole of Merry Mount" and "The Birth-Mark" were also read, with little inspiration for anyone in class.
However, the idea of creating a universe full of re-imagined Hawthorne characters really took flight when the class was made to read "The Gray Champion." This was around the time that the class was also studying the American Revolution for US history. Many in class were also inspired by Mel Gibson's The Patriot, and stated that it would be cool to write their own Gray Champion fanfics for an assignment. The teacher gave the clear for that. On top of that, 9-11 sentiments fueled patriotic fervor in class even more. The Dozerfleet founder decided to take a brief break from the lengthy writing and development process for Replox: Abstract Foundations in order pen his own story. The original called for a slightly more superheroic version of the Gray Champion appearing to a prairie girl named Chastity. A bloodthirsty Indian out for revenge against white civilization for some unknown reason had taken an entire village hostage. Other Indian tribes the villain didn't like were also at stake. The US cavalry didn't know where the rogue was or how to deal with him. However, Chastity is able to direct and organize them with Gray's help. The assigned fanfic gained bonus grade points in class for attention to style and detail, especially in terms of Gray's redesign. However, it was not the most popular fanfic read in class. Rather, classmate Daniel Kinney's fanfic proved the most popular. He retold the events of the Battle of Bunker Hill with a character that was capable of highly unrealistic merits of heroism, inspired to do so by the Gray Champion.
Success early on with adapting Gray for class inevitably grew into something more. The Dozerfleet founder saw potential in taking the character adaptation even further. It was seen as being similar to how Marvel adapted Thor. Gray was seen as being also similar in concept to Spirit of '76. A draft was soon rendered for what a Gray Champion superhero adaptation might look like and that draft readily evolved during development into the premise for Freedom's Apparition. The original draft read as having a similar plot to Spider-Man; though its plot elements borrowed from that movie are later on lampshaded, ridiculed, or subverted. For example, the early Hea Pang dubbed "Heeshwa Pwong" was kidnapped as a way to bait Gray. Later, it was rewritten that Eqquibus considers kidnapping the hero's friends to be a waste of time. He does attempt so, only after the hero is captured - and only so that they cannot rescue the hero. He succeeds at capturing Dae, deducing that Gray's props are from her museum. Yet, he fails to realize that Hea and her boyfriend Kyle Medsor, the latter of whom has connections to SCALLOP, are the greater threats to his plans. The villain also is, ironically, killed when his (physical) heart is literally aimed for - when Gray finally figures out that his matter phasing allows him to do a lot more than merely dodge attacks and swing his sword in the air. Gray's connections to the Marlquaan in the early version were also different. He was a literal ghost trapped inside it, instead of a Marlquaanite with phantom mimicry powers. This was seen as similar to the S-chip artificial reincarnation process the Xylien Society utilizes in Stationery Voyagers to create Pextel.
In the original Earth-G0 version, Dae was never assigned a name besides "Mrs. Pwong." Hea was known as "Heeshwa," due to a lack of the Dozerfleet founder having had any exposure to actual Korean names. Without at-home cable and wireless web connections, the thought did not occur to go to sites like BabyNames and look up actual Korean names. The rough draft name of "Heeshwa" remained intact until 2011, when research confirmed that "Hea" was a more realistic name for that character. Dae was given her name out of a sense of obligation, as it seemed silly for her to only ever be known as "Mrs. Pang." However, the story about Hea's father dying by way of drowning was drafted in Earth-G0. This component of Hea's origin story has remained intact in every incarnation of Gerosha universe since.
Due to creator provincialism, the Dozerfleet founder was initially going to have the story take place in Grand Rapids. This was changed later to Boston, because it seemed unlikely that a New England-themed character would have a reason to randomly appear in the American Midwest. Although Hawthorne's original story took place in Virginia, the adaptation opted out of having anything to do there. Governor Andros, the inspiration behind the corrupt police chief Eric Andro, was also at one point in his life the governor of New York. However, it is a rule of thumb in Gerosha mythos to never have anything important happen in New York. This is due to the fact that half of everything that happens in Marvel happens in New York. Also, DC's Metropolis and Gotham are based heavily on New York. The Gerosha universe, while allowing Gray to be based in Boston, has always had a Midwest bias. In spite of that, almost nothing mythos-relevant is ever allowed to happen in Chicago. This is due to that fact that Chicago is one of the most-overused metropolitan areas in Hollywood cinema.
Perhaps the most outstanding difference between the original Modern Legend draft and Freedom's Apparition is the villain. Without the inspirations behind including an incubus or a horse head, Gray's first adversary was dubbed "Verdabbin." He was a green-robed figure with an Arab sword and glowing red eyes sticking out of his cloaked-in-darkness face. The villain was very generic, and wanted to spread Arab terrorism generically speaking to Grand Rapids. However, he didn't seem the least bit credible; nor did he have anything to do with Gray other than to be a spirit of Eastern tyranny challenging a spirit of Western liberty. After ideas for Verdabbin were drafted with everything else in 2001 and 2002, the character was left to marinate on the back burner. In 2004, when Enforcement Squad was reimagined as Stationery Voyagers: Final Hope, Modern Legend was dusted off and re-examined. Verdabbin was replaced with Eqquibus, who would not gain any visual depiction until 2006.
Story details still remained scant until late 2010-summer of 2011, when the story's premise would be dusted off yet again and given another look. In late July of 2013, Freedom's Apparition fully took on its current form. The early Gray Champion stories became known retroactively as Hyper-Uber-Proto Gerosha (Earth-G0), as they would be incorporated into almost all later Gerosha media but preceded the first proper use of the term "Gerosha" to refer to any such continuity. The first time that the character and a plan for his intro story were seriously considered for incorporation into The Gerosha Chronicles in a proper sense was in Classic Gerosha (Earth-G5.) Comprehensive Gerosha (Earth-G6) saw the cementing of Freedom's Apparition and its events into Gerosha mythos. Its inclusion in Cataclysmic Gerosha (Earth-G7) can be viewed as a mere transplanting of it from one timeline to another, as very little change was necessary to make the transition.
The Champion suit
The Gray Champion's outfit was one of the first things about him to be defined for use in Dozerfleet Comics. Even before the first-ever story involving Gray and a prairie girl named Chastity had a single word typed, sketches were being made of what the Champion would look like. Also speculated at the time was whether or not more Champions could exist of different colors. Red, White, and Blue Champions were drafted as potential sidekicks for Gray. The Red and White Champion ideas were later scrapped, with the Blue Champion later being revised to create a villain named Chillingworth II.
Per the original assignment, it was deemed appropriate to want to have Gray's next appearance be as faithful as possible to the original Hawthorne short story. "Gray" was interpreted to be the clothing color more than anything else. A gray pilgrim hat and black cape were fairly easy to draw. However, the Dozerfleet founder's first sketch was made without sufficient visual reference at the moment for a Puritan male uniform. Therefore, the sketch that came out looked like a hybrid between a Puritan going to church and a Confederate soldier. It was ruled that each new bearer of the Champion's mantle could update the costume by a few decades if they so chose. The hybrid look worked for the visuals. The hat and cape, complete with Mayflower-style belt buckles, gave a very distinct look symbolic of an embodiment of traditional virtues. The Confederate soldier-like parts of the illustration's suit gave him a "tough guy" look not possible with a more accurate costume. He was given a sword with a golden-and-black handle, made in honor of Inigo Montoya's sword in The Princess Bride. His boots and gloves were colored a distinct blue color to help him stand out more; and this philosophy of a pop in color was applied to the interior of his cape. Black patches on his elbows were to indicate that the suit expected itself to endure some rough use. The grandfatherly/wizard beard became a major statement of Gray's identity, as it spelled out the God-centered and God-given wisdom of his age.
One thing that stands out most about the Dozerfleet Gray Champion, far more than any other interpretation, is his mask. As with Batman or the Question, Gray's mask is meant to distract from his personhood and humanity just enough that those gazing upon it don't see the man. They see what he stands for. The black mask shrouds the man in mystery, so the idea can get to work. A slit for his beard to come through is to respect the beard's function mentioned above. While most natural human facial characteristics are muted, the mask does have one prominent feature that it adds: the yellow eyepieces. They not only add to Gray's ambiguity of personal identity. Their color of yellow is to indicate a lack of something being settled, alluding to the role of a yet-to-be-settled score with anarcho-tyrants - and other manifestations of evil and iniquity. The eyepieces are also not designed to mimic human eye shape and feel natural. They are deliberately made to be rectangles. This shows the "fair and square" justice that has a vendetta against evildoers. The rectangles appear uncompromising, allowing divine judgment to stare into the soul of whoever is staring Gray in the face.
The overall elements used later proved to be a perfect fit for John Domeck's personality type. He is absolutely understanding and curious about his friends and loved ones, going out of his way to be kind to them. Yet, his hard-to-contain hatred for beings of pure evil becomes both is greatest strength and his second-greatest weakness. He is battle-hardened due to his experiences with the Society of the Icy Finger, which has continued its vendetta against him even 400-some years later.
Eqquibus first began to be mentioned as an adversary for Gray sometime around 2004. It was at that time that it was concluded that the original Marlquaan origin as described in Earth-G0 was not sufficient for Gray's character. Likewise, Verdabbin seemed like a very desperate stretch of a character based on using a Spanish word to substitute for lack of knowing Arabic. The original reason for Verdabbin to exist was to capitalize on the War on Terror, showing Gray returning from the pages of old to fight a new threat to the country. The use of Grand Rapids as an original setting was also ruled not adequate; as it served no purpose other than to be a town that the Dozerfleet founder was familiar with. The setting was changed from Earth-G1-onward so that rather than Gray defending Grand Rapids, he'd be set in Boston. More-abstract themes needed to be explored with the character as well, themes that would transcend year-2001 sentiments following 9-11. Capitalizing on those sentiments may have seemed a logical conclusion at the time; but revealed to not hold together well with the passage of time. For example, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man became dated almost immediately due to its 9-11 sentiments.
Instead, the Arab ghoul of Verdabbin was thrown out. The concept of Eqquibus immediately afforded itself as an idea, as a combining of a horse head with an incubus. Two primal fears were being tapped at the same time: fear of being raped/trapped/helpless, and fear of being attacked by an animal. The resultant symbol was one of unbridled passion and a lust for evil for its own sake. The idea of a horse-headed incubus may have seemed doable, but the idea didn't gain any visual traction until a sketch of Eqquibus was drafted in 2004. Research on incubi and drawings of them was conducted in the fall of 2006.
Showing Dereck in a torn shirt and shorts indicates the mess that his life has become; the downward spiral that he has taken by embracing the evil path that made him the equine monster he is. The early sketches all sought to bring that about. A lack of ability to access The Sims 3 in the early winter and spring of 2011 meant that the first working sketch of Eqquibus to be digitally utilized was rendered with UGO's HeroMachine 3 Alpha.
A Sims 3 version of concept art for Eqquibus would not arrive until the spring of 2013. It was decided that he should still have quasi-human hands, but that his legs should completely succumb to being horse-like. The effect of creating a Sim avatar still of Eqquibus was achieved by utilizing a set of demon wings from RoseSims2.net. The demon wing accessories were then put on Dereck as he stood in the scene posing. His head and legs were later edited out with Photoshop. A horse from The Sims 3: Pets was then shot against a green screen, and edited to attach its legs and head to Dereck's body. Post-process touching-up of the scene finally rendered the glowing red eyes and other features that made Dereck's Eqquibus form truly resemble what he was supposed to be.
However, the mystery of Eqquibus and what motivated him to be a horse-headed demon still seemed to be a symbolism pointing to something, with an unsolved mystery of what that something was. In July of 2013, the Dozerfleet founder stumbled upon information about a painting depicting both a demonic horse head and an incubus. That picture was "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli. Since then, Fuseli's painting and variants on it were retconned into the narrative as being the reason Dereck's early crime were committed while wearing a horse mask. This added a level of depth and sophistication to him that made him similar to the Scarecrow, made even more apparent due to a shared affection for using fear toxins on victims. Unlike Scarecrow's fear gas, however, Dereck's toxin merely creates a sense of general panic and helplessness in the victim. It doesn't pin-point their biggest primal fear and exploit it, as there has never been an adequate explanation in the DC universe for how to make that work. Before this, Eqquibus was set to behave more like the Green Goblin. In the end, he winds up being a subversion of that character. Instead of an "aim for his heart" strategy, Eqquibus decides that Gray would not have been in the 21st century long enough to grow attached enough to anyone for emotional manipulation to be an effective ploy. He also reasons that John is too set in his ways as a moral guardian to be easily swayed by "rule together" temptations. Instead, he decides to exploit John's ignorance of Marl-Q Industries' supply of Marlquaanite prison containers. This strategy is initially efficient; though he fails to factor in how Kyle Medsor could interfere with the plan.
Going as far back as 2001, the Dozerfleet founder was determined that Gray's anger over the prevalence of perversion in his world would lead to him having a high-adrenaline song vowing to face that evil. His classical nature meant that it was okay if the lyrics to that theme song were a bit cliché, it'd be no big deal. Around that same time, he was able to purchase Weathered by Creed. The lyrics to Creed's song "Freedom Fighter" seemed to describe John Domeck's feelings the strongest, hence it became the character's official theme song. From there, a hard rock / post-grunge sound became the de-facto sound for every song that had the potential of being on a Gray Champion tie-in albums or digital playlist.
Other songs considered to be good entries have included "Bound and Tied" by Creed, "Typical" by Mute Math, "Burn" by Three Days Grace, and "Rooftops" by Lostprophets. Most music research was done in 2008 and 2009, as some research for a possible tie-in album for Freedom's Apparition coincided with the development of Music for and Inspiration to Ciem 2. In 2013, the Dozerfleet founder's Jango account was set to "Creed Radio" for moodsetter in creating Freedom's Apparitiion-related content.
The desire to merge the "Disneyfied" Hester cartoons into Gray's comic adaptation mythos resulted in the mythos of Hester's locket becoming essential to overall Gerosha mythology. Chillingworth was also viewed as a villain who could be reimagined as an antagonist for Gray to fight. The original planned sequel to Modern Legend was The Gray Champion: End of Decadence. However, plans for that fell apart almost as soon as they were forged. The one good thing to come out of End of Decadence was that Gray discovers his long-lost daughter Marge, who now goes by Mapacha.
All these elements for potential sequels were later reworked in 2011 to become The Gray Champion: Chillingworth's Revenge. Since the original Chillingworth is depicted as having died horribly, a new man named Miles Charleston is revealed to have donned the Chillingworth mantle for himself. With the aid of a special set of gloves that help him direct his freeze beams, the Chillingworth II sets out to assassinate John Domeck in the present day - and also kill off everyone important in the Gray Champion's life. His ultimate goal, however, is to recover as many Marlquaanite rubies as possible. This is believed to be the secret to his Society of the Icy Finger gaining the unlimited power it seeks over the world. It ends up being up to Gray, Mapacha, and Hea Pang to put a stop to Chillingworth after he endangers both Hea and Mapacha's hometowns.
- Gray Champion (comics)
- Hea Pang
- Kyle Medsor
- Dae Pang
- The Gerosha Chronicles
- The Gray Champion: Chillingworth's Revenge
- Sodality: Battle for Metheel