The Purity Crusade, as controversial as it was, generally did the work it
intended to, getting rid of the vast majority of Pagan Cults in Europe, and
banishing all the Ethereals off the Corporeal plane, much to Blandine's
Dismay, and to Laurence's contentment. Only a few foolhardy Pagan spirits
or dreamshades continued to defy Heaven's ban, but these were easily dealt
...Until the mid 20th Century.
It's rather ironic that Micheal, Laurence's own mentor, was the one who accidentally provided the tool for the Ethereal renaissance. With the help of Janus and Blandine, he began sponsoring the creation of Nickledime stories and pulp fictions, to promote Good and Heroism amongst the masses around the early 1900s, and inadvertently created a new host of Ethereal spirits in the Marches, born from tales of The Wraith and Doc Bronze. These pulp spirits only rarely appeared on the Corporeal plane, sustained by the "worship" of their novels and comics. But they were vibrant and alive.
It's then understandable that when the surviving Pagan spirits saw them, they were somewhat envious. These newly fledged ethereals were only years old, yet they could collect more Essence in short times then the old gods could in decades of worship under Heaven's Ban. And working for Nightmares only got them a pittance for horrid work. The Pagan Gods looked at the corporeal plane and collectively sighed, begging for a chance to return.
Then, in 1938, Johnson Shubert and Sam Kingston wrote and drew the first "Mr Wonder" story, featuring a hero who was more then mortal, who was nigh invulnerable, had super-human strength and speed, and who could fly. A man, who was like unto a God. A Superhero. Hercules, on a desperate hunch, decided to alter his appearance and took on the identity of Mr Wonder, and immediatly felt the rush of Essence filling him. He was now more then Hercules, the old god of Strength. He was also Mr Wonder, last child of Atlantis, an ancient civilisation with super-science, which had altered him as a baby, and preserved him throughout the ages, awakening him as an adult in the early 20th century as a being who could absorb solar energy to become more then mortal.
Hercules/Mr Wonder, feeling himself invigorated, decided to pop into the corporeal plane and show off, and prevented the sinking of a ship, gaining a lot of publicity in the process. Mr Wonder was now more then a story. He was real.
Other Pagan ethereals, seeing Hercules' success, decided to take on the identity of Superheros as well. The Asgardian Lady Sif became the Valorous Valkyrie, champion of the gods come to earth to fight Evil. Horus became the Black Hawk, a masked vigilante seeking to avenge the murder of his father. They created 6th level Roles for themselves as those Heroes, and went to Earth to interact with the mortals. These three Ethereals became the first Superheroes, paving the way for other Ethereals to follow, becoming heroes as well.
As World War II was beginning, the Americans were more then willing to believe in Superheroes, alive and acting on behalf of the USA's protection, to defend them against the Nazi menace. They bought the comics, and channeled their essence straight towards the Ethereal Superheroes. It's about that time the Celestials started noticing them.
Laurence, of course, was livid, and sent in Angels to deal with this problem. He was somewhat surprised when his Angels came back defeated, either trounced or humbled. In their renewed form, the greatest Ethereal Superheroes were nearly of Superior level, and the rest were nearly so. Laurence demanded that Blandine do something about their menace, but she defended their cause instead, claiming their Heroism was serving Heaven's cause, not Hell's.
Laurence then decided to handle the problem himself, and confronted Mr Wonder in battle. But as they fought, Laurence made a resonnance check, and found that his Superheroic adversary was nearly as honorable as he was, and was now completly fighting on the Side of Good! By becoming Mr Wonder, Hercules had cleansed himself of his previous Olympian flaws, such as his harsh temper and his tendancy for debauchery. Mr Wonder now displayed moral character straight enough to impress even him!
Calming down a bit, Laurence began to talk with the superhero ethereal, and became interested in how, by becoming active superheroes, Mr Wonder and the others had begun to inspire nobility and heroism amongst the humans. He went back to Heaven, and instructed the host not to stop or harm the Superheros, as long as they stayed loyal to Good. That decision baffled most of the Celestials, but they figured Laurence probably knew what he was doing.
Then, Baal heard about that decision and began fuming. It was bad enough he had to contend with Heaven, but now the Ethereals had double-crossed Hell and Beleth, and were working for the Angels? Unacceptable! He immediatly called upon Belial, Saminga and Vapula, and began working on project "Supervillain", to counteract the heroic threat.
Then, in 1940, The Iron Kaizer, Germany's Nazi "Superhero", came into the spotlight, and began to strike at America, home of the Heroes, and protectorate of the Angels. Iron Kaizer was in fact Baal, using a role/6 as a living product of Nazi Science (which had been propelled to great heights thanks to Vaputech), who assembled a unique "Iron Squadron" of Soldiers of Hell and his "SuperSS" cadre of specially selected Demons, with songs and attunements. Beleth, Belial, Malphas, Saminga, Vapula (and, oddly enough, Kobal and Haagenti) joined him in the physical world as Lady Nightmare, Firestorm, The Riotmaker, Dr Death, Dr Eisensturm, Madcap and The Maw joined him to form the first supervillains, collectively known as The Diabolical Knights. They soon began recruiting amongst the Monstrous Ethereals still loyal to Beleth, and began releasing them into the world as villains and monsters of Science!
When Hell threw in their gauntlets, Laurence felt he had no choice, and called upon Heaven's best to help him balance things out. Jean, Janus, Gabriel, Michael, (and, surprisingly enough, Novalis and Blandine) joined him in creating heroic identities of their own, and soon, The Paladin, Dr Lightning, The Whirlwind, Whiteflame, Major Victory, White Rose and Dreamweaver joined the Superheroic community on the corporeal relam, in order to fight off the Hellish menace. Many, in Heaven and Hell, thought this would mark the start of Armageddon, but Gabriel never sounded the horns.
The superheroic rush died down somewhat in the post-war years, and the Essence stopped flowing so strongly. The Demon Princes who had taken on Super-powered roles, no longer seeing the gain in them, began going back to their old forms, and only kept the heroic identities as afterthoughts. The Archangels, seeing that Hell had hung up the parts, did the same and decided to leave the Ethereals and mortals to their own devices again. And so the Golden Age of heroism came to a close...
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