First Appearance: April, 1989
The Adaptor's at-rest form is that of a humanoid Caucasian male, 6'1" tall, and weighing approximately 200lbs. His hair is coarse and dark brown, normally worn short, with a full, but trimmed, beard and mustache.
He invariably wears a costume made of Adaptex material. The styles of these costumes have changed frequently over the course of his career, though they have generally involved some combination of white and vivid, dark green, and somewhere display his personal "arrows in all directions" emblem. The Adaptor wears no mask as part of his costume, but alters his facial appearance in such a way as to thwart connection with his secret identity.
Genetic mutations and various environmental factors are believed to have contributed to The Adaptor’s development of superpowers, but the immediate trigger seems to have been a PET scan to which he was subjected in the late 1970s. Technicians on the scene noted that the scanner, installation of which had been completed that very morning, made unexpected sounds when activated. Electronic devices throughout the hospital were disrupted, and magnetic media were apparently damaged or wiped clean at the same time, though no ill effects were noted among patients or staff. Technicians from the scanner’s manufacturer disassembled and removed the machine that very night, claiming, without elaboration, that the wrong unit had been shipped.
On one or more occasions in adolescence, Adaptor experienced incidents in which his body appeared to stretch unnaturally. As these incidents always coincided with his awakening from sleep, they were written off at the time as misremembered dreams or hypnagogic hallucinations. In late 1988, however The Adaptor’s previously repressed powers manifested unequivocally. While on an evening stroll, he witnessed a drunken college student topple from a third story window, and stretched his body some 25 feet while lunging to catch her.
As a long-time fan of comic books and real-life superheroes, The Adaptor responded to his discovery with amused excitement. Assessing his capabilities, he determined that in addition to being able to stretch almost 800’, he also possessed superhuman strength and intelligence, as well as the ability to conduct sizeable voltages of electricity through his body painlessly. This last ability inspired him to coin the name “The Adaptor”, and he had soon fabricated a suitable costume from the hospital gown he’d worn during his PET scan, which seemed to have acquired remarkable elasticity of its own.
Becoming a Superhero
The Adaptor toyed with the idea of introducing himself to and seeking to join the Adventurers of America, but the mysterious disappearance of the group in early 1989 threw a wrench into that plan. With some apprehension, The Adaptor decided that he had an obligation to rise to the occasion and become Philadelphia’s new guardian.
On his first night striding across rooftops in search of crime, The Adaptor encountered Cestus patrolling the skies over the city. After the customary caution of superhero introductions, violence was averted, and the two became close friends. After a few more nights of apprehending muggers and lecturing petty vandals, the two responded to a police call about an attack on the Navy Yard, and found themselves locked in combat with a group of nefarious villains, including Shee-Ariel. Not only did The Adaptor and Cestus drive off the villains, they rescued Captain Firehawk and Psion, who had been turned into frogs by Shee-Ariel. Recognizing the need to pool their talents in the face of a mounting supervillain threat, the group quickly agreed to unite as System Four.
The Adaptor was thrilled with the opportunity to work and fight alongside Captain Firehawk, whom he had admired for years. He found associating with the “cold” and “arrogant” Psion to be less salutary. But since the psychic enjoyed a close relationship with Firehawk, Adaptor could accept that in the small, collegial environment of System Four, everyone had a contribution to make.
Over time, however, his opinion further soured. After the attack by Mass Mind’s minions on Liberty, Psion’s futile attempts to resurrect the nearly decapitated Sybil, instead of trying to save the less obviously mutilated Quasar, frustrated Adaptor greatly. When Adaptor grabbed Psion in an effort to get his attention, the desperate psychic removed the annoyance by mind-grabbing his colleague. The Adaptor was outraged by such treatment, regarding it as disrespectful at best, and arguably a form of psychic rape.
Firehawk and Cestus, themselves troubled by the tragic outcome of the battle, attempted to smooth over the conflict, but while a veneer of cordiality was restored, The Adaptor remained bitter. In Adaptor’s estimation, Psion had gone from being a nerdy brunt of jokes on the margins of the Adventurers to being Firehawk’s right hand man, merely by virtue of seniority and the process of elimination. The others’ deference to Psion’s arrogance made System Four something less than an alliance of equals, and perhaps jeopardized everything the group was trying to protect.
In retrospect, it can be said that The Adaptor’s bitterness was fed in part by creeping self-doubt. It has been speculated that his efforts to maintain a mundane secret identity (the only member of System Four to do so) may actually have worked against him psychologically, fostering an “imposter complex” in his role as a superhero. In any event, a tendency to be his own harshest judge had only deepened as the responsibilities of a superhero’s life weighed on him. Adaptor would dissect every battle, every investigation, every decision, with 20:20 hindsight. Psion’s seeming arrogant refusal to do the same was galling.
Later, when an attempt by Psion to psychically heal Firehawk turned fatal, Adaptor’s horror at the loss of his friend and hero was perhaps tempered by a hint of bitter satisfaction – here then was a failure that might put Psion in his place. But in their desperate quest, there was little time for mourning, and Psion’s grief seemed to pass all too quickly. Worse, he was now claiming to be the vessel for Firehawk’s “katra” – the same hokey, contrived “solution” cooked up to placate the Spock-worshipping fanboys after Star Trek II! Psion seemed sincere about the explanation, but The Adaptor had little doubt that the already unstable Psion had subconsciously fabricated a “Firehawk” personality within his own rather than face the gravity of his failure.
The discovery of Starfire, and his addition to System Four, was heartening for The Adaptor. While their new colleague was far more cynical than Firehawk, and arguably lacking in the role-model department, he was tough, no-nonsense, and worked as the charismatic center the team needed to function. While his opinion of Psion remained unchanged, The Adaptor at least felt that some sort of balance had been restored to System Four.
Yet his internal conflict deepened. The bloody battles the team fought in the Space Opera Universe weighed on him, as did the alliance of convenience with “Space Nazis” to reach their goal (a compromise that Psion made all too easily -- as if Firehawk’s “katra” would ever have stood for such a thing). And whatever sense of accomplishment might have been drawn from the defeat of Mundelein, there was precious little time to enjoy it before the team’s return to the corrupted Dark Sentinels Universe. The Adaptor drifted half-heartedly into a romance with Anastasia Doom, perhaps hoping that her enthusiasm might stimulate some of his own, but dark discoveries culminated in the Sentinels’ betrayal of System Four, and their betrayal, in turn, of Anastasia’s trust in order to defeat the Sentinels’ plans for world domination. Whether The Adaptor’s psychological state by the time System Four returned home was the result of a crushing psi-depression attack by Crack of Doom, or purely the work of his own demons fueled by demoralizing events, may never be known.
The Adaptor made a certain bitter peace with himself for a time, and ultimately proved vital to the rescue of Starfire from possession by the Algolian vampires. His attitude on the mission to thwart the cross-dimensional invasions of the Dark Fold, however, particularly in the “Violet Zone” of Nineveh VI, demonstrated deepening cynicism.
With the creation of System 4ce, The Adaptor’s psychological state reached its nadir. With Anastasia now an apparently permanent fixture, whom he felt was both openly contemptuous of him and better liked by the rest of the team, his harshest self-critical voice seemed to have achieved a physical incarnation. Adaptor tendered a formal letter of resignation from System 4ce, expressing his belief that the rest of the team no longer supported him. Psion, Starfire, and others questioned the letter’s assertions, however, pointing out Adaptor’s importance to the team generally, and the need for his support in the current, multi-pronged crisis involving Hecate, Dr. Pestilence, and the “Rutabega”. The Adaptor shook off his depression in favor of his enduring sense of responsibility, and withdrew the resignation.
How long The Adaptor would have remained motivated will likely remain a mystery. In the final assault on Dr. Pestilence’s laboratory on Vozrozhdeniya Island, Adaptor was tasked with knocking out the lab’s power supply to prevent the villain from transmitting a global signal that would activate the cybernetically enhanced “Gossimer Plague” virus. Attacking a bank of nuclear reactors barehanded, The Adaptor destroyed them, but was consequently engulfed in their 500°C liquid sodium coolant – the highly reactive metal being a destructive force to which the hero was all too vulnerable. No trace of The Adaptor was ever found, though the scorched remains of an SSC-2 watch were recovered, and he has officially been declared dead.
Heightened Intelligence – The Adaptor possesses superhuman, though idiosyncratic, intelligence, which most strongly manifests when focused on a particular task, such as engineering design or scientific problem-solving. Outside of such contexts, his reasoning and recall abilities more typically seem to fall within human norms. Similar to what has been observed with regard to his Adaptation powers, it is thought that The Adaptor may subconsciously suppress elements of his intellectual capacity as a means of retaining a hold on his pre-superpowered identity.
Heightened Strength – The Adaptor can carry weights in excess of 2 tons, with few restrictions in terms of leverage or distribution, owing to his elastic physiology.
Stretching Powers – While Adaptex has been heavily researched and is fairly well understood by scientists and engineers, The Adaptor’s personal elasticity is of a somewhat more enigmatic nature. Formal study has been limited, and there has been ongoing debate as to whether it operates at a cellular, chemical, or possibly sub-atomic level. What is understood is that The Adaptor’s apparent external form, internal musculature, and overall physiology, are purely aesthetic artifice. His essential matter is inherently plastic, and expandable to an 800’ length, a 450’ flat diameter, or a 250’ diameter sphere.
Heightened Expertise – The Adaptor’s enhanced control of his physical form enhances his effectiveness in hand-to-hand combat.
Adaptation – The Adaptor is able to endure an enormous range of temperature and pressure variations, as well as extreme radiation and other hostile environmental forces, indefinitely. He finds such conditions distinctly uncomfortable, however, experiencing significant pain under extreme heat and shivering in extreme cold. It is believed that his retention of these reflexive responses may be connected to the psychic process by which The Adaptor retained his at-rest humanoid appearance and such habits as breathing and eating after the acquisition of his powers. Whether they might be overcome by means of operant conditioning has not been determined. His physical resilience, in any event, does not extend to chemical reactions of either a destructive or pharmacological nature.
The Adaptor speaks the Höhenschar and Dark Fold languages of the Space Opera Universe, fluently though with moderate accents (though these would be difficult for native speakers to place). This education was achieved via advanced RNA-assisted neurolinguistic programming techniques during the visits of System Four to that universe.
The Adaptor is a talented artist. His comic strips “System Farm” and “System Farce”, gently parodying the superhero groups of which he was a member, both were syndicated nationally under an alias. The run of the former was disrupted by the group’s extended absences from their home dimension, and that of the latter by the artist’s demise.
Inventions and Discoveries
The Adaptor carries no standard equipment beyond his Adaptex costume and an SSC-2 “wristwatch” communicator. While always professing to find the use of guns distasteful, The Adaptor has used a variety of firearms and directed energy weapons in battle, typically examples recovered from his opponents.