First Appearance: September, 1984
Starstrike is a humanoid male 6’0” tall and weighing approximately 160lbs. He has blue eyes and short light brown hair, and shaves daily. He habitually maintains a formal posture when standing or sitting, and seldom looks truly comfortable. He is fastidious about his dress, with even his off-duty casual clothing showing few signs of wear.
Starstrike usually wears contact lenses to correct mild myopia, choosing not to rely on the optics of his battlesuit to correct his vision, though it can do so if necessary.
The Starstrike battlesuit generally displays a starfield image, though it is capable of projecting other images for camouflage purposes, and can produce limited background reactive “chameleon” effects. Non-fiber optic surfaces of the suit are flat black, while the boots have a glossy black polycarbonate coating.
Birth and Adolescence
Russell Benedict Madden was born September 7, 1961, at the hospital of Myrtle Beach AFB in South Carolina. The eldest of three children, and the only boy, Russ grew up idolizing his father, Dan, an Air Force Captain and pilot, in spite of seeing him progressively less frequently over the next decade. After two unsuccessful applications to the Air Force Test Pilot School (with an eye toward entry into the US astronaut program), Dan shifted gears in search of professional challenge and distinction. The family moved to Eglin AFB in Florida in 1965 when Dan began “Wild Weasel” training, remaining there during his tours in Vietnam beginning in 1967.
Dan was declared MIA in July 1972, having failed to eject when his F-105G was hit by a North Vietnamese SA-2 during Operation Linebacker (his remains were repatriated by the Vietnamese government in 1986). His widow, Sandy, moved the family to Brooklyn, NY, to live with Dan’s parents while she went to work as a secretary. Russ, while a brilliant student, had always been somewhat socially awkward, and considered overly serious and “intense” by his peers. He was even more uncomfortable in a new environment with which he felt culturally and politically at odds. While he involved himself in scouting and youth baseball in his leisure time, he made no lasting friendships through them.
Russ' neighborhood featured an ostentatiously left-wing radical-themed bookstore, which he regarded with distaste and suspicion whenever he passed it. By his early teens he had begun semi-regular surveillance of the shop, taking note of its regular customers (imagined to include several Weather Underground members) and the groups that met there for poetry readings, films, and lectures. At 15 he commemorated the anniversary of the day his father was shot down by sending his meticulously organized files to the FBI/NYPD Anti-Terrorist Task Force. His gift was never acknowledged, though some months later a drug investigation discovered a substantial quantity of marijuana and some weapons at the shop, and the arrest of its owner and several staff resulted in its closure.
His detective career seemingly over, Russ increasingly concentrated on academics, pursuing interests in astronomy and science, in hope of one day following his father into the Air Force and ultimately achieving his dream of becoming an astronaut. Unfortunately, by the time Russ entered college his eyesight proved poor enough, even though correctable, to disqualify him from fighter pilot training. Viewing an aviation career that didn’t lead to space as a mere distraction, Russ dropped out of ROTC. Recognizing the shifting emphasis of the US space program toward scientist astronauts, and with grades impressive enough to obtain alternative scholarship funding, he ultimately graduated from Columbia University in 1983 with a summa cum laude degree in electrical engineering.
Still living with his family in Brooklyn while pursuing his Master’s degree at Columbia, Russ also began a side project – applying various cutting edge theories, and some of his own devising (still not sufficiently developed to command assistance or funding at school) to create devices that might one day allow astronauts to work and maneuver more freely in space… or possibly, he even dared hope, to dispense with spacecraft entirely! In an abandoned Brooklyn warehouse he spent what time he could possibly spare, and much he could not, on interconnected projects encompassing high-energy coherent plasma fields, fiber optics, and parallel multi-microprocessors. The junkyards of Brooklyn, and some further out on Long Island, yielded invaluable discards from Sperry, Grumman, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and others, and Russ' extracurricular work progressed rapidly, even as his thesis fell behind.
Russ was assisted in his endeavors by an elderly and well-educated homeless alcoholic man named Reggie. Claiming to have worked on the Manhattan Project, Reggie had a knack for spotting equipment in his travels that met Russ' specifications, and sometimes supplied components Russ didn't even realize he needed yet. In late 1984, Reggie made passing mention of the disappearance of a number of vagrant acquaintances. Only when Reggie himself went missing a few weeks later, however, did Russ take notice. Well before he had intended, Russ combined his various system prototypes into a workable suit, and began a systematic nighttime reconnaissance of Brooklyn.
Encountering and intervening in a number of crimes in the course of his nightly patrols, Russ found himself operating as a superhero before he’d formed any real intention to do so, and greatly enjoying the role. He soon adopted the name “Starstrike” as his public alias, expanding his patrols to encompass the entire New York metropolitan area, though always returning to the search for his friend.
Patrolling in the predawn hours of Christmas morning, 1984, Starstrike encountered a frantic streetwalker who described how she and a co-worker had been attacked by a hulking, disfigured man, from whom she had only narrowly escaped after stabbing him repeatedly to no effect. Starstrike used his suit’s thermal vision and other surveillance equipment to track the assailant to a desolate industrial area. Entering an abandoned factory, he came under attack by several of the “bioautomata” of Dr. Galen Ash – a brilliant scientist whose research into reanimation and regeneration of tissue based on Reichian Orgone theory had proven horrifyingly successful. Harvesting his “raw materials” from the streets and cemeteries, Ash assembled selected parts into a growing army of organic robot laborers that he intended as a stable workforce to replace the suffering and crime-ridden human underclasses, and neutralize the threat of global overpopulation.
Starstrike proved unwilling to sit still for Dr. Ash’s lecture on the genius of his vision, and seemed also to welcome the target-rich environment on which to demonstrate his own technological innovation. While Ash’s bioautomata ignored pain and regenerated damage rapidly, Starstrike’s plasma firepower was able to keep them at bay while inflicting massive damage on Ash’s less resilient lab equipment. Ash and his student assistant were caught in the explosion of the facility’s main Orgone Capacitor, which transformed Ash into a mass of highly bio-energetic undifferentiated protoplasm. The Ash-blob absorbed the completed bioautomata to grow rapidly, becoming a truck-sized mass that shrugged off Starstrike’s power blasts. Breaking free of the lab, it threatened to engulf Brooklyn, and possibly the world. Fortunately, Starstrike was able to collapse a nearby bridge as the Ash-blob crossed it, plunging it into the grievously polluted Newtown Creek. The creek’s contaminants proved rich in what Reich would have termed “Deadly Orgone Energy”, and proceeded to dissolve the Ash-blob even before Starstrike ignited the persistent petrochemical sheen on the water for good measure.
Searching the lab’s rubble for signs of Reggie, Starstrike found only some personal effects making it apparent that his friend had been “utilized” by Ash. The only other survivor of the battle was Ash’s student-assistant, Victor, who had been partially shielded from the capacitor blast, and was taken, comatose, to the hospital. Victor would remain in his coma for many months, only to awaken one stormy night, escape custody, and resurface still later as the villain, Dr. Pestilence.
Starstrike operated independently as a superhero, primarily in the New York City area, for several more months before interacting publicly with the newly formed Defenders organization. He formally joined that organization in March 1985, and began to be publicly described as co-leader of the group in the summer of that year. He maintained a high-profile in the Defenders throughout its history, his calm and courtly presence at press conferences contrasting with a noted lack of restraint in the use of force in combat. Dr. Pestilence, Shee-Ariel, Dreadlord, Imhotep, Skylon, Quasar, and Implacable number among his most notable foes.
While never proven to have caused the deaths of innocent bystanders, Starstrike’s use of deadly force against both superhuman and mortal foes, tendency for heavy collateral property damage to occur in his presence, and willingness to be associated with conservative political causes (in contrast with the Defenders’ otherwise carefully “apolitically patriotic” public stance), were ongoing sources of controversy. That he was also the focus of substantial internal friction for the group was always, perhaps somewhat too strenuously, publicly denied.
The fate of his friend Reggie appears to have encouraged even greater emotional insularity on Starstrike’s part. Immersing himself fully in his superhero identity, he cut most ties with his family for the sake of their safety and thereafter had even less of a discernible private social life than he did before. In 1986, when Sybil approached the Defenders with insights regarding the kidnapping of the daughter of Italy’s UN ambassador, Starstrike was instantly attracted to the beautiful and courageous young psychic, and any effort he made to conceal his feelings was clumsy at best. When the Defenders’ investigation culminated in a battle against the light-controlling hermaphrodite Elagabalus and a latter-day cult of the fertility goddess Cybele Magna Mater, Starstrike protectively hovered over Sybil with a single-mindedness that arguably jeopardized the Defenders’ mission and annoyed some of his teammates. Only when Sybil threw herself in harm’s way to shield the sacrificial hostage from attack was Starstrike inspired to go over to the offensive with his trademark abandon and fell Elegabalus with a power blast barrage.
Sybil soon formally joined the Defenders. Though some members of the group predicted that Starstrike’s clumsy attentions would soon drive her away from the group, Sybil instead seemed flattered, and a romantic relationship ensued. Well-liked by the rest of the team, Sybil became something of a mediating influence between them and Starstrike, though conflicts persisted.
In 1989 the Defenders mobilized in response to a distress call from an alien civilization in the Tau Ceti star system, apparently under attack by forces unknown. While at first ambivalent about the mission, Starstrike soon accepted the importance of traveling to the system to assess any potential threat to Earth. He insisted, however, that Sybil not join the mission, feeling that she was too vulnerable to hostile environments compared to the rest of the team. While other Defenders, such as Peregrine and Jaguarundi, would arguably be no more at home in hard vacuum, there proved to be little disagreement on the issue. It has been speculated that the consensus was due as much to a desire that Starstrike be as undistracted as possible on the mission as by specific concern about Sybil’s safety.
Starstrike is believed to have been at the controls of the Defenders’ space shuttle (the Defending Angel, or more commonly Angel I) alongside Captain Defender when it left the Solar system on its way to Tau Ceti. The last reported voice transmissions from the shuttle were Starstrike’s voice reporting “FTL systems nominal” followed by Captain Defender’s order to “Engage”.
Starstrike’s IQ has been rated at over 180 by Stanford-Binet and other standardized testing systems.
Starstrike has a BS in Electrical Engineering and is “ABT” (“All But Thesis”) for a Masters Degree in the same field. Like most members of the New York Defenders, he is a New York State-certified EMT and has completed courses in various professionally relevant topics such as fire-fighting, hostage negotiation, and demolitions. He has also trained in hand-to-hand combat techniques, but practices no formal martial art.
Starstrike has high school-level mastery of French and German.
Starstrike’s battlesuit is primarily composed of a layered blend of advanced textiles, including various para-aramids, electro-active polymers, and synthetic diamond thermo-optical fiber. A pair of micro-synchrotron plasma generators are worn on the forearms, connected through the suit itself to a shoulder yolk mounting phased field emitter arrays and the primary CPU. These rigid structural components are chiefly composed of titanium-whiskered advanced polyceramics. A head-encircling module houses vision enhancing goggles, a HUD control/display interface, and secondary distributed processors. Additional control elements are mounted on an articulated belt.
The suit’s electro-active polymer structure augments the wearer’s strength and reflexes. Its electro-optical fiber network acts as a collector of not only solar power, but other incidental ambient EM energy such as cosmic rays, broadcast TV, radio, and microwaves, fields surrounding power transmission lines, and even lightning. It can also absorb and usefully store directed energy attacks, such as laser and charged particle beams.
The suit’s micro-synchrotrons store power in relativistically accelerated plasma streams. These can be drawn upon to generate EM fields for the suit’s protective and propulsive systems as well as simple electrical power for suit operations, and also can be tapped directly as a directed energy weapon. Suit systems can detect high velocity objects as they interact with the suit’s own EM field, and direct a plasma energy counterpulse to the anticipated point of impact, destroying or deflecting the object. Originally intended as a defensive measure against micro-meteoroids, this feature is also highly effective against firearms and other projectiles, and is a fearsome combination defense/counterattack against hand-to-hand assailants.
The principles underlying the suit’s motive systems are poorly understood and, contrary to his original intentions, have not been made public by Starstrike. Whether this is due to concerns about possible misuse of the technology, or the potential for it to be neutralized by hostile forces, is unknown. The suit is believed to generate an electromagnetic flux tube that feeds back upon itself, effectively forming a hyperspacial Dirac string structure and acting as a magnetic monopole. Commutation and modulation of the generating field permits the suit to direct and effectively “ride” this string structure in normal three-dimensional space, possibly as a special-case application of the Aharonov-Bohm effect. In tactical applications, the suit has an effective maximum flight speed of 480MPH, though it is capable of straight-line hypersonic speeds in excess of 7,500MPH. In vacuum, unconstrained by atmospheric and gravitational friction, the system can apparently accelerate the suit at as much as 48,000 MPH2. While it is not believed to be capable of faster-than-light travel, its effective maximum velocity is unknown.