Another exposition-dump scene – issue #2 seems to have a few of these! – this time focusing on Zena Zarthos, who she is, and some of the figures around her who will play into the narrative as it further develops.

Today I thought I’d begin sharing a series of articles I originally wrote for back in 2011, chronicling the life story of Alex Thomas and how he changed the face of superheroes in the fictional history I established as background for my comic.  I’ll post up one a day for the next 6 days or so.

The Trouble With Fabu-Lad

Pretty much as soon as Gilbert Graham introduced The Standard to the world, people started making jokes about him hiring a sidekick.  That’s what the heroes in the comics had, after all.  But it wasn’t until early in 1981, some 14 years after his heroic career began, that a sidekick arrived.  His name was Fabu-Lad, and he signalled the beginning of a whole new era for The Standard.

Even now, little is known about how Alex Thomas and Gilbert Graham first crossed paths.  Alex was an orphan that Gilbert adopted, but there are no records of Alex’s parents, or any institution he was housed in, or indeed how Gilbert came to adopt him in the first place.  It’s a topic Alex himself has been famously reluctant to discuss in otherwise candid interviews, so the story of his early life may remain secret for the foreseeable future.

With how Alex became Fabu-Lad a mystery, our starting point must then be the point when he first donned the costume.  There was no grand public spectacle, no press conference called to unveil him to the world.  He was a teenage boy that just showed up alongside The Standard one day, with little fanfare.  Quite a few people were critical of this, condemning The Standard’s recklessness in endangering a young boy with his crime-fighting exploits.  However, it soon became clear that Fabu-Lad shared the same powers as The Standard, proving to be near his equal in strength, speed and endurance.  As such, it seemed that Fabu-Lad was in a lot less danger battling criminals than your average adult.

Over the years, The Standard had come to almost be taken for granted by the people of Sky City, but the introduction of Fabu-Lad gave him a refreshed lease of public enthrallment.  The thought that The Standard wasn’t a single, unique entity, but rather that his power could be shared with others, created quite a stir amidst various interested parties.  There was a surge of people making public appeals to be allowed to join “the Standard family”.  But no new “family members” materialised.  It seemed like Gilbert was less interested in making more Standards than he was in making sure there would still be one Standard once his time was up.

But as it turned out, Gilbert’s time would not be up for another decade.  Alex Thomas grew from a boy into a man as Fabu-Lad, and by the end of his tenure he had gone from being the little kid some worried about being endangered to being more muscular and physically imposing than even The Standard.  By this point an adult in his early 20s, close to the age Gilbert Graham was when he himself first became The Standard, some suggested that Fabu-Lad was too old to still be playing the part of kid sidekick.  In those latter years the role seemed to sit uncomfortably with Alex, and many predicted that there would be a split between the two and Fabu-Lad would strike out on his own.

In later years, fuel was added to this speculation by Alex’s own comments.  When one interviewer asked him why, as the current Standard, he had never brought his own Fabu-Lad into the fold, Alex replied that a life living in The Standard’s shadow, unable to be normal but unable to truly stand out as special either, was not an existence he’d wish on anyone else.

But whatever tensions there were, the rumoured split never happened.  In April of 1991, Gilbert Graham retired.  After 24 historic years of fighting crime, The Standard walked into the sunset.  This also marked the end of Fabu-Lad, for Alex Thomas had been given a new role to fill.  As shall be discussed further tomorrow, the departure of one Standard would mark the arrival of another!