Category Archives: History

The Day I Killed Hitler

Stargazing was a bit different in 1944

Sniper Elite V2 casts you into the role of a rugged, chiseled, surprisingly well-coiffed sniper at the end of WW2. With an emphasis on stealth, long-range shootouts and setting traps, this game is beautifully detailed and far more satisfying than the majority of WW2 shooters I’ve played.

It’s always the one in the middle.

With a spring in your step and a song in your heart, you traipse through the rubble of Berlin with your trusty sniper rifle, utterly annihilating any opposition that stands in your way. Most of your kills will result in a slow-motion presentation that follows your bullet from the barrel of your gun on its merry journey into the body of the least-fortunate nazi in the world. This is combined with an x-ray display of exactly how horribly your victim died (in the same vein as Mortal Kombat 9), just before a score is presented on your screen, rating any given kill you make.

Now he’ll never be head nazi.

Being both English and Jewish, I can tell you that I always feel a bit of smug satisfaction when I blow a Nazi’s tonsils off, but it’s rare that a gaming system tells me how well I did at snuffing out his life. And while it might seem arbitrary and pointless to congratulate a player on the act of killing a nazi (an average gamer could kill fifty per day and still not find it worthy of boasting about), it’s an immensely satisfying feeling when I get a high score for a beautifully-rendered, often gruesome kill. It feels a bit like getting an outstanding mark on my report card, or winning a cheap prize at a boardwalk game booth.

The game plays smoothly, and the graphics for the PC version are extremely detailed. In all, you receive a very deep, gratifying gaming experience for your money, with only a few real gripes about it.

For one thing, almost every encounter ends in a firefight. And while that’s half the point with most WW2 shooters, it somehow feels as though you’ve failed as a sniper when the entire population of the Nazi Germany turns on you after your very first shot. And while the game offers you chances to conceal your activities while sniping (timing your shots with the explosions of bombs or the chimes of churchbells, for instance), you usually don’t have too much stealth to your advantage afterward. At this point it stops being about killing a specific target, and more about killing Everyone.

Thankfully, they haven’t yet discovered the concept of Nazi zombies.

As you assassinate every Nazi in the world and deal with Soviet soldiers on your mission to kill a group of Nazi V2 Rocket scientists all by yourself, you get the distinct feeling that not only are you winning the War single-handedly, without an Ally in sight.

The multi-player experience allows for less stealth, as a team of two is far easier for the enemy to spot, but it’s nearly as satisfying as the single-player mode. Using teamwork and a shared hatred of nazis (but sadly no baseball bats), your partner takes the role of an anonymous, somewhat generic fellow soldier as the both of you engage in a wholesale slaughter of the Third Reich.

If you’ve beaten the campaign, however, and your craving for goose-stepping aryan blood isn’t sated, you can kill Hitler for a little extra in the game’s only current DLC.

Some experiences may vary.

Sniping Hitler sounds more satisfying than it is, however. For one thing, the DLC is single-player only, in the form of a Challenge-level. Here, you’re thrown into a parallel reality in which Der Handlebar arrives at a train station by motorcar, and you are there to take the shot that ends his life.

Your objective is to sneak to a vantage point before Hitler arrives, and snipe him on his way to the train. You’re spotted, however, and it becomes a Nazi shootout with the Fuhrer darting from one bit of cover to the next. Once you’ve killed every nazi in the level, Hitler rushes to the train itself, and you have a window of about five seconds to snipe him in mid-sprint.

Before I played this, I wasn’t sure if any game company could ever take the gratification out of the possibility of blowing Hitler’s moustache off, but Rebellion Games has succeeded. Killing Hitler is something that should be savoured. It’s something that you should take your time doing, and enjoy it as long as you can.

While I can appreciate that it’s a CHALLENGE map, the challenge should have been getting into position and getting away with killing the Nazi leader–not in the assassination, itself. This could have been done in any venue: Sneaking into a building overlooking one of Hitler’s speeches, or shooting him through the window of his estate, or a diner. The fact that he knows its coming and does everything he can to evade it completely eliminates the point.

As a game, I can’t recommend Sniper Elite V2 enough. Despite a few minor flaws, it’s an amazing romp through the second World War and I’m happy that I got to experience it.

As for the Kill Hitler DLC, there are two additional rifles that it offers aside from the three available in the Campaign mode that you may enjoy, and despite the linear, joyless method in which you have to complete the mission, you can still glean some satisfaction in killing the greatest monster of the 20th century.

I give the game 8/10, and the DLC 6/10.

Happy sniping!

Calvin Coolidge: Mummy Slayer!

In the spirit of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes this spirited, low-budget parody trailer starring no one ‘s favorite president, Calvin Coolidge. “Keep Cool with Coolidge,” as Abe Simpson once said. Especially if there are mummies around! Made by The Sketchersons.

This is also a good time to tell everyone that my car is likely dead after a freak ‘check oil light’ catastrophe yesterday afternoon. Sooooo…I’m probably going to be worried about that for the foreseeable future. But I’ll try to keep posting fun stuff if I can.

FDR v. Nazi Werewolves 4 Hire

This is absolutely wrong, but so, so deliciously right in so many ways. We have so many memorable quotes (and Doctor Who appearances) from Churchill, and I think it’s only right that Roosevelt should be immortalised in some special way across the pond.

And in flamboyant American fashion, I like to think this is it.

Shit Goblins.

6 Unsung Patriotic Superheroes

Everybody knows about Captain America. He’s a living legend! Plus he had that big, fancy movie earlier this Summer. But you don’t come here to Henchman-4-Hire to read what you already know. You’re here for greater depth in your comic book knowledge. So in honor of Labor Day, I decided to write up a quick list of 6 America-themed superheroes that you probably never heard of.

Some successful. Some not.

6. Uncle Sam:

Kicking ass for America!

Yes, the actual and literal Uncle Sam come to life. Starring in DC Comics alongside Superman and Wonder Woman, Uncle Sam was even a supporting character in the Justice League. He’s got a whole host of general super-powers, like super strength, speed, agility and the ability to just plain kick ass. His origin is that the Founding Fathers performed an occult ritual to give the ‘Spirit of America’ a physical form. He served as various guises over the years until finally emerging as Uncle Sam in the late 1800s. Nowadays he’s the leader of the Freedom Fighters, a badass team of super spies and secret agent superheroes working for the U.S. Government.

5. Iron Patriot:

Evil in the name of America!

You’re right, that does look like a cross between Iron Man and Captain America. That’s the point. In reality, it’s the Iron Patriot, the ‘heroic’ guise of Norman Osborn! Remember him from the Spider-Man movie? He was the villainous Green Goblin. Norman Osborn is a crazy man, but he’s also a businessman. And in that capacity, Osborn stayed sane long enough for certain government people to start trusting him. Then he was put in charge of the Thunderbolts, a government team of super-villains being used as heroes.

When he helped repel an alien invasion, Norman was seen as such a hero that the American government put him in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was America’s top cop, and as such, he formed his own team of Avengers, all of whom were secretly villains posing as heroes.┬áNorman took on the identity of the Iron Patriot, repainting some of Iron Man’s old armors. Stark was on the outs with the government at the time, viewed as a bad guy. For a few months, Norman led the ‘Dark’ Avengers on a few heroic missions. They actually helped people, despite being super-villains in disguise.

In the end, though, Norman bit off more than he could chew by leading his Dark Avengers against Thor and Asgard. He was revealed to be the psycho that he was, and got locked up. Though there are hints that he’s soon to be free and troubling the heroes once again.

4. The Spirit of ’76:

Old timey and fun, I suppose

Now that’s an exciting superhero name! He was created in the 70s as a patriotic hero for Marvel Comics, and his history is that William Naslund wanted to do more for the war effort in World War II. So taking Captain America as an inspiration, Naslund became really athletic and created this costumed identity. He served as a member of The Crusaders alongside a bunch of other random heroes. So basically a poor man’s Captain America serving at around the same time.

When Cap was frozen in the Atlantic (like at the end of his movie), the U.S. Government recruited Naslund to replace him. They gave him a costume and a shield, and Naslund was Cap for a few years before being killed by a robot. Comcis, everybody!

3. Mister America:

Possibly the lamest superhero costume ever

There’s a whole line of superheroes in the DC Universe who go by the name of Mister America. The first one, Tex Thompson, actually debuted in Action Comics #1 in 1938, the same comic that was the first appearance of Superman! As the costume implies, he’s just a dude in some patriotic-colored clothes who has a whip that fights crime. Thompson went on to become the Americommando during World War II.

That picture is from the modern day Mr. America in the pages of Justice Society of America. Similar to the Justice League, the Justice Society is made up of heroes that debuted before Superman and Batman in the comics timeline. It’s a little bit complicated, but essentially the heroes in the Justice Society are all old men in their 50s and 60s, whereas Superman, Batman and their generation are all in their 20s or 30s. In Justice Society, these old heroes are training and working with the next generation of heroes, composed of descendants of old heroes.

Thompson’s descendant debuted in the first issue of a recent JSA relaunch, only to die in that same issue. Dumbass. Then his FBI partner Jeffrey Graves took up the costume and whip and has had a much more successful superhero career.

2. Isiah Bradley and Patriot:

The black Captain America

Did you know there was a black Captain America? In a somewhat controversial comic released a few years ago called Truth: Red, White and Black, it was revealed that after Steve Rogers was given the super soldier serum, the U.S. Government tried to recreate it and conducted secret, often-fatal experiments on African-Americans. It treated them like lab rats. Something akin to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

The only survivor of the experiments was Isiah Bradley. He was taken overseas during WWII, and using a stolen Cap costume, he stormed the Nazi’s own attempts to recreate the Super Soldier Program. He successfully defeated the bad guys, but got kidnapped and brought before Hitler himself! Eventually Bradley was saved and returned stateside, only to spend nearly 20 years in federal prison on a court marshal. He eventually got pardoned in the 60s and spent the rest of his life at home, since the experiments had failed to recreate the true Super Soldier Serum and instead left Bradley with a deteriorated mind.

But throughout the years, he became a living legend as the ‘black Captain America’, but that legend only seemed to exist in the black community. He was visited by many important black icons. And eventually, Bradley had a grandson named Eli Bradley.

He's like a tiny Captain America!

Eli is the hero known as The Patriot. He’s a member of the Young Avengers. It was a surprise hit series from a few years ago. The idea was silly (kid Avengers?) but the writer hit it out of the park and the Young Avengers became a popular success! They’ve had a few series, since the writer hasn’t exactly been reliable, and they appear now and again in big Marvel stories. Eli was on a short list of young people that the Avengers were keeping track of, and the young version of Iron Man got ahold of the list and put a team together to fight Kang the Conqueror, a time traveling super-villain.

Eli led the team to victory, though it was later revealed that he didn’t have any super powers. He was actually using a recreational drug that gave people super powers. When his friends found out, they turned their backs on him until he cleaned up. Later, Eli was injured and had to get a blood transfusion from his grandfather Isiah Bradley. The super-powered blood from grandpa finally gave Eli powers for real.

1. U.S. Agent:

100% American Badass!

The man who would be Captain America! Picture the Captain America you know, now imagine him as far more conservative, badass and something of an arrogant jackass. That’s John Walker! He’s a second-rate Captain America, copying him in powers, costume and shield. But he’s stuck around for years, and has served as both an Avenger and a member of Alpha Flight. He’s a legitimate hero, not just some chump joke. Whereas Steve Rogers is more heroic, good-natured and inspirational, John Walker is just a hard-nosed, brutal ass-kicker. I’m a big fan.

Walker debuted in the 80s as a soldier who, after he was discharged, decided to get some super powers. There’s a villain out there called the Power Broker, and he gave Walker super strength, speed and agility. Powers similar to Captain America. Walker became the Super-Patriot to pay off the Power Broker, and then went around challenging Captain America while also doing good for the country. Eventually, Steve Rogers stepped down as Cap because the government wanted to turn him into something of a lapdog. Cap wasn’t about to be used, even by the U.S. Government, so he resigned. The government then scooped up Walker to be the new Captain America. Much like The Spirit of ’76 once served as a fill-in Cap. But then Rogers eventually came back, and Walker switched to being the U.S. Agent.

Eat hot patriotism, motha'fuckers!

He continued to serve the U.S. government, and eventually joined both the Avengers and the West Coast Avengers, who were based on the west coast. Yep. He made a few costume changes now and again, jumping in with different teams and organizations, but most recently he returned to his more well-known red, white and black Cap knock-off costume. He was a member of the good guy Avengers again when Norman Osborn led his assault against Thor and Asgard. During the fight, Walker got his arm and legged ripped off. Most people would retire when that happened.

But not John Walker! He just went ahead and got a robotic arm and leg and became the warden of a super-villain prison!

That's just a flesh wound!

Honorable mentions: There are a ton of random American superheroes. I chose some of the main ones from Marvel and DC comics, and that’s not a full list. There’s still Battlestar, Liberty Belle, Major Victory, S.T.R.I.P.E., American Dream, American Eagle; plus heroes from other comic companies like The Shield, Captain Flag, Yankee Girl, American Maid and many more!

The Man Who Would Be Emperor

Gather ’round, my readers, and I will tell you the tale of an unsung American legend. About a man who would be king and the city that played along. His name was Joshua Abraham Norton, and he was the first and only Emperor of these United States.

Fear not the fall of democracy, for Emperor Norton I was a self-proclaimed monarch. Penniless, homeless and more than a little crazy, Norton ruled only so far as the citizens of San Francisco in the mid-1800s would indulge. But therein lies the magic of this one man’s life: the people did indulge. This story is all true. The man was very real.

And all of it’s amazing.

Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico

In September 1959, Joshua Norton issued a royal proclamation on the streets of San Francisco that declared him Emperor of the United States. The written proclamation requested that the heads of all the states meet downtown to discuss where the country would go from there. Craziness, sure, but some rather influential people decided to take it a bit further. Seeking a bit of humor in the face of frequent bad news, an editor at the San Francisco Bulletin decided to print the proclamation in full on the front page.

And so an emperor was crowned.

Norton was no one special. Born in England, he spent much of his life in South Africa before coming to California and losing all of his money on rice. He disappeared for a short time, then returned to San Francisco as the Emperor. Following his initial proclamation, Norton continued to issue royal decrees. He ordered the Army to forcibly remove Congress, since the country no longer needed a legislature under his rule. And he ordered the Catholic and Protestant churches to ordain him Emperor. He forbade further use of the nickname ‘Frisco’ for the city. And he demanded they build a bridge across the bay between San Francisco and Oakland.

That last one, at least, came true about 100 years later.

The people came to love and regard their emperor. If one passed him on the street, they were to greet, “Good day, your highness,” and he would respond in kind. He ate in the finest restaurants, free of charge, and was reserved the nicest seats at shows and plays. When he started printing off his own money, it was accepted as real currency by local bars and shops. Now it’s a collectors item. A nearby Army unit gave him a uniform, and Norton wore a hat adorned with a peacock feather. He wandered the streets inspecting public buildings and transportation features, and gave lectures to anyone wandering by in earshot.

In one more famous encounter, Emperor Norton positioned himself between innocent Chinese citizens and anti-Chinese rioters. Legend has it that he simply recited the Lord’s Prayer until the violence dispersed.

What about the authorities? Why didn’t they arrest this crazy man? Well they tried. In 1867, Police Officer Armand Barbier took Norton into custody to try and get him committed for his craziness. So outraged were the people and newspapers of San Francisco that the police chief dropped all charges and issued a formal apology to the Emperor, writing, “that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.”

From then on, all police officers saluted Emperor Norton when he passed. And the Emperor graciously pardoned Officer Barbier.

But all good things must come to an end. Emperor Norton died in the gutter on Jan. 8, 1880. Those nearby rushed to his aid, but he passed before he could be hospitalized. Word spread far and wide: “The King is Dead”.

Between 10,000 and 30,000 people lined the streets of San Francisco for Emperor Norton’s funeral. Funds were raised to give him a proper, respectable coffin rather than the pauper’s grave he would have otherwise received. Eventually the Emperor’s body was moved to a nearby town, like a lot of cemeteries at the time. I visited the grave recently on my trip to San Francisco.

A friend of mine once wrote a story on the Emperor for the San Francisco Chronicle, interviewing several people about the man and his ongoing legend. The article is available here. He ended it with a quote that he called the greatest quote he ever received as a reporter.

“He marched to his own drummer. And everybody else pretended they could hear the music, just because they wanted to be part of the band.”

%d bloggers like this: