First Appearance: August, 1979
Shee-Ariel is a humanoid female 6’0” tall and of muscular, but curvaceous build, weighing approximately 175lbs. She has fair, lightly freckled skin, unruly, fiery-red hair, and emerald green eyes often described as “unsettling”. She is prone to dramatic gestures and inflections when speaking, and has little respect for others’ “personal space”. She has no discernible scars, in spite of having suffered numerous serious physical injuries over her long criminal career.
She invariably wears a revealing red costume of silk, velvet, and gold, with a belt of carved ivory skulls. She has altered the style and color of her cape over the years, the latter ranging from black to maroon to crimson, sometimes with a contrasting lining of yellow, white, or orange. She almost constantly employs a light application of her flame powers to make her cape billow dramatically.
Birth and Adolescence
Elizabeth Aylsworth was born March 13, 1959 in Kawambwa, Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia), where her family was accompanying her father, a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist studying central African shamanic practices. Rumors that her father was the subject of some form of curse for having offended traditions of secrecy surrounding said practices remain unsubstantiated.
An unusually bright and strong-willed child, Elizabeth was taught alongside her elder sister at tribal schools run by her mother (M.S. Education, U of Penn, ’53) until both mother and sister died in an outbreak of a still unidentified hemorrhagic fever in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1963. She continued to accompany her father in the care of a succession of governess/tutors for another two years until an incident in Uganda in which she wandered out of a village and survived some 18 days on the wild savannah, not only avoiding harm from various predators, but apparently gaining several pounds on her adventure.
Sent to an exclusive Main Line boarding school, Elizabeth demonstrated obvious intelligence and ability, but was prone to challenging her teachers and bullying her classmates. In the school’s “progressive” academic environment in the ’60s and ‘70s, the former behavior was indulged, and the latter addressed non-confrontationally. Over time her experiences deepened her contempt for the weak, and taught her cunning in circumventing what few limits she encountered. Early to physically mature, by 13 she was respected and/or feared even by some older classmates, but was also learning to utilize her aggressively charismatic presence for psychological rather than physical bullying. At 15 she seduced and blackmailed her mathematics teacher into an affair, and then used that leverage to provoke personal conflicts among the faculty, as well as her paramour’s ultimate suicide, apparently for the sheer nihilistic amusement value. Her headmistress pithily declared her graduation day “the greatest day in our school’s storied history”.
As a student at Penn, Elizabeth encountered somewhat more rigid authority and peers less easily dominated. Instead she focused her efforts on a few careful cultivations of “friends” and “lovers” who could finance her increasingly expensive tastes, punctuated by a series of ambisexual affairs of satisfying emotional cruelty. Her grades deteriorated as they came to depend more on procured research papers of erratic quality than on her innate intelligence, but she persisted, in the expectation that Ivy League contacts and minions would ultimately prove more useful than grades to the fulfillment of her whims.
Her self-absorbed confidence at last proved dangerous when, at age 20, Elizabeth joined her grad student/part-time drug dealer boyfriend Chet on a summer “supply run” to Mexico. On route, Chet noted that their trip would take them close to the ruins at Teotihuacan, and proposed a visit on August 12, when the sun would set in alignment with the sacred cave at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun. Elizabeth was lukewarm to that prospect, but discussion of their itinerary at a Grateful Dead concert in Georgia interested a girl named “Moonflower” in joining the road trip. Her attractiveness, deferential nature, and ample supply of novel pharmaceuticals kept Elizabeth usefully distracted. On the appointed day Chet led his mescaline-addled companions through a secret entrance to a hidden chamber in the Pyramid of the Sun, tying both to an ancient jade altar before they were aware what was happening.
Chet, chanting in Nahuatl and slashing at Elizabeth's extremities with an obsidian blade, commenced a ritual intended to make her body a vessel for one of the Aztec star demons known as Tzitzimeme. With a foul, hot wind that extinguished Chet’s lantern and plunged the chamber into darkness, the being announced its presence. Once it was incarnated, Chet would feed Moonflower’s heart to the beast to bind it to his service.
But even weakened by loss of blood and mind-altering chemicals, Elizabeth was disinclined to submit to a lesser will. The stygian chamber swirled with shrieks and snarls for almost an hour as she fought the demon to a draw, until, all at once, it was blindingly illuminated by rainbow of colors portending the arrival of the goddess Itzpapalotl (“Obsidian Clawed Butterfly”), queen of the fiery paradise of Tamoanchan and mistress of the Tzitzimeme. Elizabeth’s strength and fury had so impressed her that she crushed the Tzitzimitl to the size of a fist and embedded it in the human’s heart, making it her permanent slave.
Itzpapalotl departed, but the chamber dimmed only fleetingly before Elizabeth was wreathed in flames, rising from the altar as her nylon bonds melted and burned away. Cackling joyously, she telekinetically pinned the pleading Chet to a wall, burnt him to cinders, and streaked from the chamber into the night sky. Moonflower, shattered by what she’d witnessed (which was likely far more horrifyingly vivid than she would have seen without psychedelic assistance), was not found for several days, and was committed to an asylum upon her physical recovery.
Elizabeth's first act in her newly empowered form was to keep Chet's planned rendezvous with his drug contact, and brutally extort from him the identity and location of a major regional narcotic supplier. She proceeded to occupy the supplier's villa near Veracruz for almost a week, enjoying its creature comforts and ultimately making off with an estimated $500,000 in US currency and an unknown amount of contraband. Left behind were smoldering ruins and the corpses of the supplier and almost two dozen family members and guards.
It was speculated at first that this incident, and similar attacks in eastern Mexico and Texas, were the work of a super-powered vigilante. In reality, Elizabeth had settled into a routine of profitable robberies punctuated by extended periods of extravagant living under her secret mundane identity. The name “Shee-Ariel” soon appeared in headlines, though its derivation, and whether it was the invention of Elizabeth herself or the media, both remain unclear.
Within a few months, Shee-Ariel's leads to major drug figures had played out. While she recognized the benefits of preying on targets who elicited little public sympathy, the standard of living to which she’d become accustomed required generous funding, and her natural exhibitionism tempted her to more extravagant crimes. While she concentrated on bank and armored car robberies, before the year was out she attacked the box office at a Who concert in Cincinnati, OH. Though she personally killed only two security guards, she also precipitated a stampede that resulted in 11 spectator deaths and many more injuries.
A year later, Shee-Ariel's pyrotechnic temper tantrum during a robbery at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas directly or indirectly killed 84 staff and guests and injured almost 650. Whatever the shortcomings of Federal and State investigators, a loud and demanding Amazonian redhead living extravagantly with no discernible source of income couldn’t have escaped their notice for long. Only a few months after the MGM Grand attack, police had tracked her all the way to a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel about two miles up the Strip. An ill-advised attempt to bring the suspect in for questioning resulted in a brief but fiery skirmish that killed nine bystanders, and made clear to Shee-Ariel that she would no longer be able to live comfortably under a secret identity.
After holing up for a time in an abandoned mine in the mountains of New Mexico, Shee-Ariel actively sought patrons desiring a particularly fearsome enforcer/bodyguard/high-maintenance girlfriend. Fortunately for her, increasing pressure from superheroes on organized crime was expanding the market for at least some of her talents, both domestically and internationally. Throughout the 1980s, Shee-Ariel was employed by numerous criminal enterprises, particularly young and aggressive ones, throughout the Americas, Europe, and Southern Asia. Though she was employed for an extended period by Burmese opium warlord Khun Sa, few armed insurgent groups could provide sufficiently comfortable accommodations to interest her in employment even if her fees were within their grasp. Between displays of unrestrained violence, her various sponsors are believed to have bankrolled clandestine “R&R” time for Shee-Ariel in as low profile accommodations as possible in such locations as Brunei, Dubai, Lichtenstein, Macao, and Rio de Janeiro, as well as various lightly populated resort islands. While she remains an avid recreational user of drugs and alcohol in her down time, she appears to shake off their effects quickly when partaking of adrenaline and violence instead.
Over the course of her criminal career, it has been estimated that Shee-Ariel has been responsible for over 1,800 deaths, including mob boss Philip “Chicken Man” Testa (Philadelphia, PA, 1981), 80 crew of USCGC Blackthorn (Straits of Florida, 1981), over 90 residents of Hoboken, NJ, in six separate incidents, 1981-1982), superheroes Silverwing and Dragon Fist (Liberty Island, NY, 1982), superhero Swiftsword (Chicago, IL, 1982), 117 passengers on Gulf Air Flight 771 (U.A.E., 1983), over 375 Burmese and Thai soldiers (“Golden Triangle” region, 1983-85), superheroes Le Comte and Chatelaine (Marseilles, 1985), over 450 Chadian soldiers (Chad, 1986), superhero Yun Wu (Laos, 1987), 115 passengers on Korean Air Flight 858 (Andaman Sea, 1987), and superhero Nightstorm (Dallas, TX, 1988).
Her flamboyant personality and frequent destructive clashes with superheroes and law enforcement ensured Shee-Ariel a place in popular culture over the years. Her image frequently finds its way onto t-shirts and other novelty items, its popularity further fueled by her effective inability as an outlaw to regulate licensing or command royalties. While many condemn seeming trivialization of her bloody deeds, she remains popular in certain circles as a trendily transgressive sort of gay icon, symbol of female empowerment, and/or embodiment of “smash the state” anarchism. While her ego is eagerly receptive to adoration of any sort, Shee-Ariel’s reaction to her “fan base” (like most of her reactions) has always been inconsistent and sensitive to perceived mockery. She has never granted a formal interview, and individuals seeking one have not always lived to regret their temerity.
In early 1989, Shee-Ariel was employed as a sort of field commander by the supervillain Mass Mind, leading a group of supervillains in several threatening appearances in the Philadelphia area. In the wake of the sudden disappearances of most members of the Adventurers of America and the New York Defenders, Mass Mind’s intent was apparently to flush out any remaining superheroes, determine their capabilities, and eliminate them. A series of clashes with the newly-formed System Four ensued. Following an attack on Liberty One, in which Sybil, the last active member of the New York Defenders, was killed, Mass Mind apparently decided to seize the Defenders’ now undefended headquarters before moving against System Four again. System Four moved quickly to thwart that attack but was sorely tested in the battle. Shee-Ariel, always relishing an opportunity to slay a vulnerable superhero, moved to deliver the coup de grace to an incapacitated Captain Firehawk atop the Defenders’ headquarters. In the process, she unthinkingly moved onto an emergency blowout panel over the munitions locker. Sensing her location, and seeing Mass Mind himself entering the locker, a desperately wounded Psion used PsiBolts to detonate its contents, the ensuing blast obliterating all trace of both villains.
Shee-Ariel was assumed dead thereafter, but when System Four later found themselves in the "Dark Sentinels Universe", they confronted a Mass Mind and Shee-Ariel who apparently recognized them, and who were not recognized by natives of that universe. It is theorized that, given the disturbed state of the temporal fabric at the time, the blast at the Defenders' headquarters tore open an ephemeral portal into the “Dark Sentinels Universe”, through which the villains were propelled. System Four battled Mass Mind and Shee-Ariel again in the vast chamber of the SPIRIT complex beneath Devil’s Tower, WY, as the villains sought to commandeer the facility to make their way back to their native universe, or perhaps to exploit it for more grandiose ends. At the climax of the battle, Shee-Ariel met her postponed end, disintegrated by the searing beam of one of the kilometer-wide inter-rotating synchrotrons by which SPIRIT’s portals were generated.
Shee-Ariel possesses strength and endurance considered to be in excess of normal human limits, though it is not definitely known whether these fully derive from the demon bound to her in 1979, or have been present in some fashion since her birth. She has been observed to be able to lift objects in excess of 1,000lbs in weight.
Shee-Ariel exhibits control over flame in several manifestations: She may immolate, wrapping herself partially or entirely in a curtain of flame without causing any harm to herself. This cloaking fire has generally not been observed to exceed a temperature of 1,000ºF, though jets of flame projected offensively by Shee-Ariel are believed to reach much higher temperatures, and she has fully melted structural steel (approximately 2,800 ºF) with sustained blasts.
Shee-Ariel has displayed heightened regenerative powers, healing damage far more rapidly than would be expected of a normal human. It is believed that she may be able to “cleanse” certain forms of injury by magical means when immolating.
Shee-Ariel can manipulate objects and deliver blows with substantial telekinetic force. She has been observed to move objects of up to 1½ tons weight, at distances of over 1,000 feet, and in excess of 50 MPH.
Shee-Ariel frequently employs a transformational/transmutational power of uncertain nature. Whether a direct manipulation of magical force, or an invocation of the favor of Itzpapalotl, it can significantly alter the physical forms of animate objects, and the substance of inanimate ones. Shee-Ariel typically employs this power to neutralize foes who prove resistant to physical attack. Most commonly she has transformed humans into frogs, though sometimes into pigs, dogs, or occasionally fish. While transformed subjects apparently retain human intelligence and memories, they have not been observed to retain superhuman physical characteristics, and are often highly vulnerable to physical attack (q.v., deaths of superheroes Silverwing, Liberty Island, NY 1982, and LeComte, Marseilles, 1985). Transformed inanimate objects appear to fully take on the material characteristics of their new form, with this power most often being used to neutralize heavy weapons or make barriers breachable by turning them into flammable dry wood. Her capacity with this power is unclear, but has not been observed to exceed approximately 500lbs or 5 cu.ft. Transformational/transmutational effects appear to last until dispelled, either via magical counterspell, or various folk remedies (ritual blessings, “maidens’ kisses”, being touched by first light of dawn, etc.) depending on the specific effect.
Shee-Ariel frequently levitates and travels through the air by indeterminate means at observed speeds of up to 400MPH, whether this is via manipulation of thermal effects by means of immolation, by applied telekinesis, by some combination of the two, or an application of some altogether different force, remains unknown. She has been observed to fly at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet for limited periods, though extended flights seem to be limited to 10,000 feet or less.
Shee-Ariel is believed to speak accented French and Spanish near fluently, and to have phrasebook-level comprehension of Mandarin, Burmese, Thai, and Arabic.
Shee-Ariel is not believed to have received any formal martial arts or combat training, but has extensive personal experience in personal combat and small-unit tactics, including operations with formal military and paramilitary forces. She typically eschews tactical finesse in favor of brute force solutions, but can spring cunning traps on unwary foes when she deems it necessary or amusing.
Shee-Ariel carries little personal gear, but is usually not without a large knife, often with some form of poison coating for the blade. She may also carry small quantities of various recreational drugs, but is not known to partake of them when combat is expected.