In Brief: Clayface, AS A HERO! Or Kamala Khan, as a Ukrainian-American boy.
Alternate Identity: Davyd “Dayv” Ocheret Palahniuk (pau-lah-nik)
Birthplace: Freedom City, USA
Legal Status: American citizen (minor) with no criminal record
Base of Operations: Claremont Academy
Residence: Claremont Academy Dorms, or his parent’s apartment (in Riverside)
Occupation: High School Student
Affiliations: Claremont Academy
Family: Father (Vyacheslav), mother (Kateryna), grandmother/babusya (mother’s mother, Oksana), uncle (father’s brother, Aleksandr/"Sasha"), paternal grandparents (Yuriy & Larysa)
Age: 16 (Date of Birth: July 26th, 2002)
Species: Human Mutate
Height: 5 ft 9 in. (1.75m)
Weight: 225 lbs. (147kg)
Skin: Caucasian (variable)
Hair: Dark Blonde/Light Brown (variable)
Eyes: Gray (variable)
When not actively using his metamorphic powers, Davyd appears as an unassuming young Eastern European/Russian male, with short dark blonde/light brown hair and gray eyes, usually in fairly simple but sturdy clothing. Thanks to his powers, he can look like anyone (or anything), though he has little experience in mimicry or infiltration. In combat, and if out of the public eyes -- that is, in someplace where he can terrify criminals without worrying about scaring civilians -- he adopts a more terrifying "War Form," which is about a foot taller, covered in sleek dark green insectoid carapace, with a lashing alligator tail, raptor’s claws on the hands and feet, and piranha fangs. When he alters his form, he can have the shift go smoothly (like Martian Manhunter in Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and or Miss Martian in Young Justice, or Mystique in the various X-Men cartoons and films), or do it in a more disturbing manner, with shredding flesh and audibly popping bones (like the Things in John Carpenter’s The Thing and the 2011 prequel).
Occasionally, whether in his human form or that of someone he’s imitating, Davyd’s eyes will shift to an indistinct, muddy hue, but on closer inspection is really a scattered, glittering swirl of every color that eyes can come in. This probably just means he needs to practice more.
Davyd Palahniuk had a fairly uneventful early life, the son of immigrants who had been moved to the States from the Ukraine in 1986, shortly after the Chernobyl disaster. Clever and imaginative but painfully shy, and able to effortlessly blend into crowds (actually an early subtle manifestation of his mutant powers), he preferred the company of books and movies -- especially horror and science fiction -- to that of other people. Growing up in Freedom city exposed him to all manner of weirdness -- the worst being the 2010 Grue Invasion, where the building he was in partially collapsed due to a rampaging Grue!Kaiju -- but that eventually became just so much background noise.
He had an unassuming time in school, with plans to become a secluded hermit of a writer. That is, until he enrolled in Franklin D. Roosevelt High School’s theatre arts class (mainly because the girl he had a crush on was in there), which helped him come out of his shell and learn to appreciate being around people. He still preferred working behind the scenes, though, and his love of weird things translated into a knack with makeup effects and costume work. He had plans to study makeup effects, but couldn’t decide between Freedom City University (where some of his friends had already gone or were planning to go) or the Freedom School for the Arts (which offered a more intense program).
One night, while on FCU campus, he heard screams coming from one of the biomedical engineering labs. He was on campus visiting friends and attending a late night monster movie marathon, and, still pumped from having seen normal human campers fighting off machete-wielding maniacs and oozing blob-monsters, Davyd rushed into the building, towards the screams. He found Fear-Master, terrorizing a group of grad students who had been working late on a project. His sudden appearance provided a distraction for the students, who tried to run, but Fear-Master recovered and leaped upon them. Frantic to get away, some of the students started hurling beakers and flasks at the fearmonger, but he managed to deflect most of them, and many instead hit Davyd. Through the cuts and scrapes caused by the shattering glassware (and one near-miss from a knife Fear-Master had hurled), over a dozen different serums -- experiments with stem cells and extracellular matrices, human and animal, intended to fix bone, regrow skin, and repair muscle -- entered his bloodstream, and rapidly spread to every cell in his body. Davyd’s body began to melt, and swell, distending into an amorphous horror that scared the students more than Fear-Master had, and captured the crazed musician’s perverse fascination, who wondered if he’d be able to get this new monster to work with him.
But Davyd’s mind was still intact, so he picked up Fear-Master and slammed him about like a ragdoll. He then slithered out after the fleeing students, calling out to them that he was okay, that he meant them no harm, that he was a good guy -- but in his panic (and rearranging brain matter) he’d switched from English to Russian. "Ya khorosho" ("I'm good") sounds very much like "yeah, horrorshow" in English, and that’s the name the campus security used when the students reached them. After things were sorted out (and they realized Fear-Master had bolted), researchers were able to stabilize Davyd and give him some control over his form. Remembering the lessons from his parents who grew up in Soviet-dominated Ukraine -- the interdependence of humanity, and how those who possess much have a responsibility to give to those without -- he realized he could do much to help people, especially against the real monsters that plagued the world. Monsters like Fear-Master, who is still very interested in forcing Horrorshow to work with (or for) him, and SHADOW, who would very much like to study him and replicate his powers for their agents.
Headmistress Summers soon approached Davyd, and offered him a place at Claremont Academy.
PERSONALITY & MOTIVATION
Since gaining powers and entering Claremont, Davyd has had a noticeable shift in personality. He’s become more outgoing and energetic, and he loves using his powers in ways both subtle and gross. His grandmother often told him tales of people in her home country who had powers but kept them hidden, though doing so often had a negative impact on their health; Davyd has no desire to hide his abilities.
Davyd Palahniuk loves being a superhero, almost as much as he loves having superhuman powers. He rarely angsts over whether or not there’s more he could be doing, as he knows there are many other heroes out there who are also fighting the good fight. It does upset him that so many people who become gifted with powers seem to turn to villainy, showing the same selfishness that ruined his parent’s home country and caused it to be seen as so corrupt for so long. But he just keeps trying to do the best he can, stopping what criminals he can catch, saving whatever innocent he can reach, and (if able) taking time to entertain children with his powers. Since his powers make him so adaptable, he’s willing to take on any challenge, no matter how dangerous, if it means he can be of some help.
Since gaining his powers and stopping a few criminals, his self-esteem has received a considerable boost. While still not interested in taking the spotlight, or sticking around afterwards to take credit or be interviewed, his confidence has grown. He’s also become an advocate for those bullied or oppressed for the way they look or for other body issues, including the transgender community. His experiences with them, as well as in taking on so many other forms, male and female, has also caused him to begin examining and questioning his own sexuality and gender identity. He has no particular romantic interests at the moment, though, focusing on his heroic work… and his school work.
POWERS & TACTICS
Were it not for the accident, Horrorshow’s mutant powers -- caused by his parent’s exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster -- would have fully manifested in a year or two, and he’d be able to assume the appearance of any humanoid form, though not quite down to the genetic level. The accident supercharged these abilities, giving him almost total control over his shape and substance. He can’t assume energy or gaseous forms, or any form that involves moving parts or chemical reactions (he could become something that looked like a motorcycle, but it would have no moving parts), and he cannot greatly alter his density or opacity, but beyond that his form is limited largely by his imagination and personal preferences. He prefers sticking with purely organic forms, mixing and matching parts from anything in the animal kingdom, and forms inspired by all manner of horror movies and sci-fi television shows he’s seen. The one major drawback to his powers is that sometimes his body is too adaptable: effects that transform or otherwise involuntarily change his body are especially effective against him. He'd like to learn more subtler tricks like pheromones, adrenal alterations, or toxin secretions, but he's not (yet) knowledgeable enough to do that, which he intends to fix by enrolling in some biology and zoology courses.
In combat, Horrorshow prefers to open with something spectacular, following his initial attack with an intimidating pose to terrify criminals into submission. (Or even opening with a Fearsome Presence or Startle, if able to catch them off-guard.) If straightforward attacks don’t cut it, he’ll go for more subtle tactics, trying to keep foes off-balance until he can work out a weakness. He's started taking some self-defense courses, and is working on adapting their lessons to create his own personal style of shapeshifter combat, which looks something like a cross between Aikido and professional wrestling.
His powers are very similar to those of a Grue metamorph, something that the scientists noticed when they were called in to help stabilize him. In fact, they found that part of Davyd’s genetic structure has had Grue genetic material grafted to it, though this has not yet been shared with him. They theorize that at least one of the researchers at that FCU laboratory had gotten hold of some Grue biological material (perhaps taken from Roswell, or the 2010 Gruevasion) for use in their regeneration experiments, which may be why Dayv got powers instead of a messy death.
His family: father Vyacheslav (wyah-cheh-SLOW), mother Kateryna (kah-teh-RI-nah), uncle Aleksandr (aka Uncle Sasha, Vyacheslav’s younger brother), and babusya/grandmother Oksana (Kateryna’s mother). His paternal grandparents, Yuriy & Larysa, are still alive, but remained in Ukraine.
Longtime friend James “Jimmy” Gray, who plans to enter HIT for mechanical engineering.
Claremont classmates, especially Crystal Gazer (Lulu), Forever Boy (Pan), Lady Liberty (Monica), and Specimen (Adam). And to a lesser extent Sun Dragon (Leroy) & Dio, Salvo (Nicole), and Zenith (Corinne).
Grimalkin (Lynn) and Miss Grue (Daphne) have been helping him train with his powers. Miss Grue has also been teaching him about Grue and other extraterrestrials.
Fear-Master (Blume), and anyone who treats others badly due to their appearance (including transphobes).
Uncle Sasha has done work with Freedom City's Mafiya, which could cause complications for Davyd & his family.
Horrorshow is an all-purpose shapechanger, a solid jack-of-all-trade "backup" character able to fill most roles but nowhere near as good as a dedicated character. He can be a Brick, a Martial Artist, a Speedster, an infiltrator, a 'face,' and more, but he's there to support, not overshadow. (He could hypothetically be an ersatz Mentalist, with behavior-altering pheromones or touch-range Mental powers -- meshing his nervous system with another's -- but he’s avoiding the latter out of fear of damage to his own mind and also because it’s gross.) He still prefers to work off-stage rather than center stage, so is more than willing to let others take the limelight (as long as his contributions don’t go unacknowledged -- he does have some pride).
How the FCU researcher got their hands on Grue biological samples -- and if there are more such samples in other laboratories -- could be an interesting mystery (and source for more superhumans!).
Davyd learned (from Miss Grue) that he is part Grue, and was quite upset at first. He fears he may become more Grue-like, or dominated by the Meta-Mind.
Behind The Scenes
I’d been toying with the idea for a Claremont character for some time. My initial thought was some sort of gadgeteer, with ties to Ogoun (loa of metalworking & rum-making). But nothing quite gelled, so I decided to go with my other favorite superhero archetype, shapeshifters. I happened to see John Carpenter’s The Thing and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange around that time, and an idea started taking root.
I’m not sure if I’m going to eventually give him any psionic abilities (as he unlocks more of his Grue-ness), or just stick with the shapeshifting ones.
Though Davyd fears this, I do not have any plans for Davyd to “lose himself” to the Meta-Mind, or develop some sort of secondary Grue personality. I already ran that type of story with Herr Doktor Viktor Archeville, and I’ve no desire to repeat that.
Bad Powers, Good People / Lovecraftian Superpower: Davyd has a good and kind heart, and would never dream of harming anyone who didn’t thoroughly deserve it. He loves using his powers to entertain and thrill people as much as he does using them to spook criminals. But given what Freedom City had gone through with shapeshifters -- both from the Grue and things like ArchEvil -- some people may react in an extremely negative way to him when they see him using his abilities. The GM may give him a Hero Point if someone reacts negatively upon witnessing his transformation, such as fleeing from him, trying to drive him off, and/or attacking him.
Enemy (Fear-Master): Melvin Blume still hasn't forgotten the boy who spurned him. He feels Horrorshow would be a perfect accomplice, or, failing that, an unwitting pawn. The GM can give him a Hero Point in exchange for Fear-Master or his minions attacking or otherwise disrupting him at the worst possible times.
Involuntary Shapeshifting: While Davyd is capable of transforming in a controlled fashion, and usually turns into what he intends to, his powers also occasionally activate without his conscious input. If talking or hanging out with someone for an extended period, his appearance may subtly shift to become more like theirs. If interacting with someone he really likes, his body may shift to become more like what he believes they would find most attractive. When his attention wanders, one eye might start roaming around his head. When hungry, one of his limbs may sprout a serpentine head and stretch out looking for something to eat. A concentration skill check can usually get these manifestations under control, once he’s made aware of them, though not always right away. The GM can give him a Hero Point if his involuntary shifting causes a severe breach of etiquette or otherwise makes others uncomfortable, which could result in a penalty to (or automatically failing) certain interaction skill checks.
Obligations (Family): If Davyd’s family calls for his help, he'll drop everything and run to their aid. The GM can give him a Hero Point in exchange for having them request his aid at the worst possible times.
Secret (Identity): Davyd has a loving local family, and any adversaries who learned about his double life could threaten or harm them.
Character Sheet [link]
Claremont Team (2019/2020): Orange (teammates: Arcana, Crystal Gazer, Soliton, and Sun Dragon [and Dio])
Oksana Kunis born in Korosten, Ukraine.
Vyacheslav Palahniuk born to Yuriy Palahniuk & Larysa Oistrakh.
Aleksandr Palahniuk born to Yuriy Palahniuk & Larysa Oistrakh.
Kateryna born to Mykola Chornovil & Oksana Kunis in Korosten.
April 25-26: Chernobyl disaster. The city of Korosten, 90 km away, was declared a zone of voluntary evacuation, as it had suffered considerable fallout. Vyacheslav Palahniuk, Kateryna Chornovil, and her mother Oksana all evacuate and head to America; Vyacheslav & Kateryna meet and fall in love along the way. Yuriy & Larysa move east, but remain in Ukraine, settling in Kharkiv. Mykola remains in Korosten.
July: Davyd Ocheret Palahniuk is born to Vyacheslav Palahniuk & Kateryna Chornovil, in Freedom City.
April 18th: Davyd is changed. He lets his Uncle Sasha know (since the authorities needed a parent or guardian to contact), but not his parents or babusya Oksana.
April 22nd: David is brought on to the Claremont Academy campus, and meets several students (Watchdog & Daystar, Zenith, Sun Dragon, Lady Liberty, Crystal Gazer, Salvo, Red Lynx, and Veronica Danger). Will this Mud Pack hold?
April 23rd: A routine tour of the Claremont Campus sends Crystal Gazer, Horrorshow, White Lioness, and Zenith on a strange Nostalgia Trip.
May 6th: Davyd meets Grimalkin and Miss Grue, who wish to help him with his powers and see if he's interested in Lynn's Body Doubles service. He learns he is part-Grue!
June 24th: Summer Vacation! Davyd goes with Adam "Specimen" Lanchester, Pan "Forever Boy" Barrie, Louise "Crystal Gazer" Beaumont, and Veronica Danger to the British Virgin Islands. But what's this: a sunken ship off the coast? (Dead Men Tell No Tales)
July 1st: Horrorshow goes into SPAAACE! He, Crystal Gazer, Gauss, and Salvo go to CoVic Station, where the newly-joining worlds of Xix (around the nearby, undiscovered star of Lia) is hosting an open celebration around their union with the interstellar alliance. The hope is that observing a peaceful transition between isolation to community will provide a safe, helpful means of understanding the galactic neighbors they might encounter later in life. (Stellar School)
August 28th: David (with help from his parents, uncle, and babusya) moves in to Claremont, and meets his roommate, Ben "Octoman" Wang. (It's Mov[in]g Day!)