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Wail

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Wail AKA Keith LaMarr

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DC 10: The veteran hero Wail has apparently become active again in Freedom City, taking part in the city's defense against the last Grue Invasion and appearing with increasing frequency since.

DC 15: Although obviously aging, Wail's sonic scream abilities seem as strong as ever, while his super-dense musculature makes the broad-shouldered man an imposing sight.

DC 20: Out of costume, Keith LaMarr teaches civics at Joseph Clark High School in Lincoln.

Knowledge: Civics

DC 20: Wail is a noteworthy case for several reasons. His team, 1-800-JUSTICE, operated both without secret identities and without AEGIS supervision, legally functioning as a combination of private investor practice and independent security contractors. Wail himself was an early example of a prominent African-American superhero, and in the 90s came out as openly gay, living with longtime teammate Javed Randeep, AKA Jive.

DC 25: Keith LaMarr was sentenced to prison time at the age of eighteen, but only served a few months before the accident of science which gave him his powers caused his case to be reopened. He was subsequently cleared of all charges.

Knowledge: History or Popular Culture

DC 15: 1-800-JUSTICE was a group of superheroes for hire who operated out of Freedom City's Lincoln district in the 70s and 80s.

DC 20: Members included the Ukrainian teleporter Jump, the martial artist and polyglot Jive and the super-strong sonic screamer Wail. For a brief period they were popular icons, particularly among Freedom's lower income neighbourhoods, with a reputation for helping the little guy and taking on cases the Freedom League would ignore. Unlike many heroes, their civilian identities were publicly known.

DC 25: Yelena Vostok, AKA Jump, was one of the many heroes who sacrificed their lives in the 1993 Terminus Invasion. In the aftermath, LaMarr and Randeep officially retired, settling down together in an openly gay relationship. LaMarr eventually became a civics teacher at Joseph Clark High School while Randeep found work as a translator for many high-profile dignitaries.

DC 30: Randeep succumbed to cancer in 2009, with Terminus radiation cited as the likely cause. Despite being in his mid-50s, LaMarr resumed active hero work soon after.

Characters born before 1970 may lower the DC of the History/Pop Culture checks by 5. If the character was also living in Freedom City between 1970 and 1990, they may lower the DC by an additional 5.

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Keith LaMarr's hand dwarfed the porcelain cup as he sat waiting in the coffee house's open-air section, sipping casually. The broad-shouldered man supported most of his weight on his feet, despite his reclined posture, a precaution that his surprising mass had made into a necessary habit for several decades. It had been an eventful life, he reflected, stroking his grey streaked beard thoughtfully with his free hand as he set his cup back down, and despite an all-too-brief period of calm, it seemed to have turned eventful once more. Which, of course, was the entire reason Joan Collier, of the Ledger, had contacted him for an interview in the first place. The man better known as Wail hadn't always had the best relationship with the press, but he'd also found that the best defense against the worst of it was a policy of forthrightness. That wasn't to say he was entirely comfortable inviting Collier into his home, however, so the cafe had been a good compromise.

Joan Collier had been forthright and direct on the phone, with a hard smile on the pictures inside her dust jackets. The lady in question turned out to be tall and solidly built, a downright giant next to the thin, weedy-looking barista (though of course not as big as Keith himself.) With her short black hair and floor-length peasant skirt cut in silver, she was obviously dressed in expectation of spring. "Hello, Mr. LaMarr," she said with that same fierce smile. "I'm Joan Collier. A pleasure to make your acquaintance." She took her seat with some care, folding her skirt up beneath her legs as she pulled her chair up to the table. "Lovely weather we're having. Thank you again for agreeing to my interview, I'm sure someone with your long and storied reputation has plenty of demands on his time."

With a light tan sport coat with darker elbow patches over a dark blue turtleneck, LaMarr himself was still dressed for colder months, looking decidedly scholarly as he extended a hefty hand to the journalist. "Ms. Collier. It is beginning to warm up, yes." His voice was a resonant bass, rumbling in a deep, rich register. "Frankly I was surprised by the request, but you've piqued my interest. I'd think a young professional would have little time to spare herself."

"Oh, you flatter me," said Joan with a little smile. Her handshake had been strong, though maybe a grip like that was no surprise on a woman built like that. She liked to think so, anyway, it helped her give the impression she preferred to project. "I actually do a lot of work with superheroes for the Ledger. I've covered supers in Freedom City for the last year or so, and I was a stringer for the Ledger back when I worked in the Pacific Rim. I take an interest in heroes like yourself whose work has been important to people beyond their super-accomplishments; the ones who've had causes beyond just crimefighting and the like." She reached into her purse and pulled out a standard recorder, her wedding ring shining briefly. "Do you mind if I tape this?"

"Go ahead, I suppose that's the way it's done now," LaMarr nodded easily enough, silently noting the ring and her failure to correct his presumptuous honorific. Years of private investigation had him idly filing the insights away. "Mmh, read that piece on the new Scarab and her lady." The high school teacher's tone suggested that Joan shouldn't be too quick to think that was a point in her favour. "If you're looking to make it a pattern, you're out of luck. This cat's been out of the bag for ages."

That got him, well, not really a hard look, but a considerably sharper one than the easy chatter he'd been getting from Ms. Collier since she took her seat. "Mr. LaMarr," she said without apology, "Unless you're planning to tell me that you and the infamous Magpie are involved in an intimate relationship, I don't see any parallels between yourself and the Scarab. Neither the Ledger nor myself are interested in sensationalizing your sexual preferences for publicity." She set the recorder down on the table and pressed the button. "But that's a good place for us to start, if you would like. How would you say your sexual orientation shaped your role as a superhero?"

The comment about Magpie drew a brief, booming chuckle from, who shook his head. "Stand by your work, anyway." Where his earlier tone had turned a neutral statement into one of wary judgment, there was now a note of faint approval. "Short version? It didn't. Like you said, I wasn't sleeping with the fools I tangled with. Hell, most of our big cases were over and done by the time I was being straight with myself, let along anyone else, pardon the pun." His delivery had the clipped smoothness of a punchline he'd delivered more than once.

"John Rocket has said that he thinks the gay community doesn't need superpowered leadership, that it's better for minority groups to be uplifted by individual members rather than by top-down example. Do you think that's true, or would you prefer to take a more active voice in shaping that community?" She hmmed and added, "I suppose the same question could apply to the African-American community. Even with Cassandra Vale and Sonic on the Freedom League, there have been calls for a more politically-active spokesman, akin to the Black Avenger in the 1970s."

LaMarr paused thoughtfully for a moment before responding. "I think Rocket has a point. It's about leading by example. You belong to a minority, your actions reflect on that minority. That's not always fair to the individual or the group, but it's true." His eyes crinkled a little in the corners, looking old despite how well he'd aged. "You start claiming to speak for a whole group, though, well... People need to realize what worked in the 70s isn't necessarily what we need now. Back then, a black man with powers, destructive ones, made a lot of folks nervous. That's one reason I never wore a mask on top of it all. I also never went by 'the Black Wail,' despite what some of your predecessors might have written." A slight upturning of the corner of his mouth suggested amusement that had come only after years of distance. "In those days, we needed the Black Avenger. Believe that. Now? Well. 'By the content of their character'."

"I have some experience dealing with reporters who don't understand what it's like to be on the outside looking in," said Joan wryly. "Believe me, I'll make sure to give you the credit you deserve. Having seen so much history, what are your thoughts on the new generation of heroes? I see that you've worked with Freedom League reservists like Fleur de Joie recently?"

At that, the small twist at the side of LaMarr's mouth turned into a legitimate smile. "Heh. Have to admit I was surprised to see her active, but I don't envy the sucker who tries to give her or that kid grief." His expression soon returned to somber consideration. "As for this generation... There's always been good people willing to stand up for others that way, but never so many, I think. I have kids come into my classroom who've never lived in a world without e-mail, and for them that's just the way it is. They can look at John Rocket, at Sonic even and say, 'that's possible'. Changing the world in very real ways, and at a rate I think you have to have been around for a while to really appreciate. It's humbling to be returning to that."

Joan liked the cut of this fellow's jib, and sorely wished for a chance to talk with him about the dialectic of feminism interacting with minority representation in the superhero community in his generation. But unfortunately, her readers at the Ledger weren't likely to embrace that kind of conversational agenda. "So just to confirm, you are officially out of retirement? What prompted you to resume your career?"

"I am," LaMarr nodded shortly. "When the Grue attacked last year, well, it was all hands on deck, obviously, and I suppose I realized I wasn't quite so old as I maybe thought. Still, it was going to be a one hit wonder, until I started thinking." The big man was silent for a few beats before continuing. "There are more heroes now, but there's no less need. If we'd had the numbers we have now eighteen years ago... Well. I lost a lot of friends when the Terminus invaded. I lost family. Don't know how many years I've got left in me, but I'm not wasting them."

Satisfied with that answer, Joan was about to shift gears when the waiter finally brought her the black coffee she preferred. She thanked him and sipped it before resuming, "I'm sure the general public is grateful for your continued work and sacrifice on behalf of the community. But enough about that for the moment. What are your thoughts on our city's educational policies? I know there have been some controversies about which schools in the tri-county area receive state funding through the Mayor's office."

LaMarr folded his arms across his broad chest in an unintentionally intimidating gesture, grimacing. "School funding is a sad joke, but that's nothing new," he stated bluntly, clearly having arrived on a topic he felt no need to mince words over. "There's not enough money to go around, end of story. It's no surprise some areas see more of it that others, and it's the students who are being cheated. Education needs to be made a budgetary priority for the city, across the board."

They talked about educational funding for a while, Joan letting slip that she and the Ledger also favored more money for Freedom's schools. From there she moved to, "Do you regret having a public identity?" Joan asked him seriously. "As I recall, it made sure a lot of attention was paid to you back in the 1970s by various groups, though that may have eased some since your retirement?"

"Not really," the again teacher replied, shaking his bald head. "There was some advantage to knowing they were coming for you, 'stead of just worrying about the possibility." Again, the tinge of humour in his voice was that of a man looking back on difficult time long past. "1-800-Justice, we did things a little differently. We might have set our rates to what any given client could afford, even done plenty of pro bono work, but we were making a living. That means cashing cheques and filing taxes." He shrugged his heavily muscled shoulders. "It was a question of practicality as much as anything else."

"Do you think there's a future in commercialized heroing?" Joan clarified, "As you mentioned, there are a great many young new heroes active today, some of whom lack other sources of income. When you were active with 1-800-JUSTICE, the contemporary Freedom League was, er, focused on more cosmic threats like Hades, Set, the Grue, and of course the first Terminus Invasion some years earlier. Do you think the current League's priorities allow for that kind of work?"

"Hnm. I think it would be difficult," LaMarr decided after some thought. "In those days, the Freedom League was dealing with crises almost back to back, because most of the time they really were the only ones up to it. It meant a lot of things fell under their radar, naturally, so there was a need there, on a street level. Making a full time job of it meant we could be available when we were needed." He raised one hand slightly above the table, palm upward. "Nobody really knew what to make of us initially. These days I imagine you'd be looking at a legislative nightmare just getting off the ground. I also think the public might balk at the idea. With the kind of backing the League, AEGIS and so on have, people take it for granted. You don't think about the flying guy in tights paying off his mortgage, but unless he's independently wealthy, he's working a normal job, too."

Joan hmmed at that, taking another sip of coffee. "Yes, I imagine balancing two kinds of professional life, especially when you add a personal life to the scales, is a very difficult affair. It's enough to make you wish for extra arms!" She laughed, then added, "Do you find your students have a different relationship with you now that they know you're an active superhero? I'm sure they must have many questions, since Lincoln hadn't had a public-IDed superhero in many years before your recent comeback."

"Not so much as you might think," LaMarr admitted with a casual shrug. "As I said, the number of heroes in the city is just business as usual for this generation. All those rumours still have a lot of them convinced that Sonic was a student there; that's a lot more exciting for them than one of their teachers having powers." Allowing himself a small smile, he added, "They're a little more reluctant to make me raise my voice, though."

"Do you still have a good working relationship with other African-American superheroes of your generation, like the Black Avenger? I know many retired in the 1980s as you did, and the new generation like Sonic often has different goals and expectations than their predecessors."

"Hmm. Haven't spoken to the Black Avenger in... well, it'd be decades now, really," LaMarr noted with a small amount of surprise in his voice as he recalled the intervening years. "We did work together more than once back in those days, and even if we didn't always see eye to eye, I had a tremendous amount of respect for him. You couldn't talk to him for two minutes and not. Still, we certainly didn't keep in touch, anything like that." The large mans eyes grew heavy with weariness. "There aren't that many of my generation still around, period."

"Yes, I'm sure that's a very difficult subject," said Joan gently. "I don't want to reopen any subjects you may wish to remain closed. Now that you're active again, what are your plans for the future? Do you want to found another version of your old team, join the new League, go your own way?"

LaMarr shook his head slowly. "No plans, no. Very much taking it one day at a time." Inwardly, the aging hero wasn't sure how long he'd be able to remain active before age really did catch up with him, let alone any of myriad dangers that went hand in hand with the vocation. "As for... 1-800-JUSTICE is gone. Has been for a long time now; I'm just making sure the house is in order before it's time to leave myself."

"As someone who's had a very personal relationship with Freedom City's justice system, what are your thoughts on the new Project Freedom team? You yourself were a very different case, of course, but do you think that superpowered criminals can be rehabilitated through community service?"

"I think it's... optimistic. And I don't mean that as a mark against it," LaMarr clarified, absently stroking his beard again in thought. "All it takes is one mistake, one bad decision, even a misunderstanding for someone to get labeled a 'criminal' and it takes a lot of time and effort to wash that stink off. I think it speaks to the kind of change we've seen over the past decades that we've reached a point where we're willing to offer that second chance. If they're willing to take that opportunity, to work for it, I say more power to them."

"Some in the press, including those at, ah, our rival newspaper, have suggested that the O'Connor administration is too friendly towards Freedom's heroes; that cooperation has at times shaded too far towards deference. As someone who has been active under several of Freedom's city governments, what are your thoughts on the current administration?"

"I think it's the job of the people, especially those in the press, to question and examine their government, anyone with power, really. It's something I encourage in my students and something I think is very much to the good," LaMarr explained, spreading his broad hands in front of him. "Do I think I think the current administration is too friendly towards heroes? No. I think we've seen what works and what doesn't work and what happens when those gifted with the ability and drive to make a positive difference aren't allow to. So, I disagree with that sentiment, but I can't fault anyone for asking the question."

"You're an impassioned spokesman for justice, Mr. LaMarr. Have you ever considered a run for political office?" Joan asked Wail with perfect seriousness. "Superheroes have run for office before, and with your unique record you could speak to a great number of constituencies in and around Freedom City." Joan liked Mayor O'Connor well enough, but the man had been in power for over twenty years!

LaMarr laughed aloud once more at that, the noise loud enough to rattle his empty coffee cup. "Run for office? Ha, no, I can't say I've ever thought about it." Folding his hands, he gave the reporter an amused look that brought a measure of youth back to his eyes. "Never say never, I suppose. Who knows, you may have just planted the seed for something, Ms. Collier."

"The Ledger feels that the news should be in the hands of the people who make it," said Joan with a little smile, glad she'd gotten that reaction from Wail. She had to admit, she'd been a little nervous about interviewing someone she found as admirable as Wail, but it seemed to be going quite well. "Let's go back a few years," she said seriously. "It would have been easy for a young man in your situation in the 1970s to turn to crime. You'd been victimized repeatedly by a corrupt system, and now you had the power to do something about it. Why did you become a hero?"

The big man made a low sound resonating deep within his broad chest before answering. "My father had a... motto, I suppose. Words he lived by. 'Anything worth having is worth working for, and any work worth doing is worth doing right'. I could have gone down that road, sure, but letting some turkeys who didn't know me decide what I was?" LaMarr shook his head emphatically. "Easy way out. Showing them who I was, proving it 'till they had to admit they were wrong? That was the work worth doing."

"That's a fine sentiment, Mr. LaMarr," she said honestly. "What do you think of Freedom City's current police department? Barb Kane has been famous as much more a 'people's cop' than her predecessor, but in your experience has that translated successfully to street-level?"

"Commissioner Kane has done a lot of good," LaMarr agreed with a slow nod, "but I think the mistake people often make is thinking of the police as a single entity. See the uniform, forget the face." The big man spread his hands slightly. "In my personal experience, some people rise to the responsibility of that uniform, some, sadly, do not. I will say there was a time in my youth when I believed a cop was crooked 'til proven otherwise, and that is certainly no longer the case."

"I'm sure we're all glad of that," agreed Joan. "Mr. LaMarr: you're a respected hero and a long-time educator; a teacher and inspiration to others for many years. But I've noticed much of your work has been with other adult heroes. If a young hero came to you looking for advice, what would you say?"

"I'd like to tell them to wait until they're older but I can't think of any time that argument has actually worked," LaMarr chuckled with a rueful tilt of his head. "I'd suggest taking advantage of the community Freedom offers. Find a more experienced teacher, a mentor. Mistakes are inevitable early on, but in this line they can be catastrophic. Better to have someone to point you in the right direction, catch you if you fall." The aging hero let out another short laugh. "Literally and metaphorically."

Joan hmmed. "Do you think there's a future for heroes in Freedom City?" It wasn't asked in the tone of someone looking for a depressing answer; Joan had certainly asked it in that way with others. Rather, she was looking for Wail's idea of what that future might be.

"Very much so, and if I might be allowed a touch of unrepentant optimism, a bright one," LaMarr responded with a slow, sage nod. "In the old days, we were... firefighters, of a sort, overtaxed and largely reactionary. Now? We've reached a point where we can be builders as well. This is a generation of heroes who can see very appreciably and very immediately the difference they're making." He leaned forward slightly, folding his arms before him. "As someone who's witnessed firsthand the changing timbre of the years, I can say we're living in a time characterized by hope."

"Those are very inspiring words," said Joan, thinking again what a fine public speaker this man would make. "If you could talk to that young man you were back in the 1970s, do you think you'd approve of him? Or he'd approve of you, the man you've become?"

"Hm." LaMarr's eye unfocused slightly as he let his mind drift backward in time for a few moments. "I doubt anyone gets to my age without making a few decisions they regret or wish they could make again," he admitted, "but after all this time, I don't think either of my selves would be in a position to judge the other, one way or the other."

Considering that answer with a thoughtful expression, Joan moved on to her next question. "Now that you've come out of retirement, do you regret retiring in the first place?" she asked him, folding her hands on the table in front of her.

"Not for a moment," the big man responded without hesitation. "If I hadn't retired, I'd never have had time to complete my degree and become a teacher. Those years saw a lot of new heroes on the scene, and at the time, making way for them was the right decision. Those years were..." LaMarr trailed off for a moment, apparently having some difficulty finishing the thought aloud. "They were the happiest in my life, for more than one reason. I can't say I reget any of them."

Giving her subject a few moments to regain his composure, Joan decided to wrap up the interview with a more light-hearted question. "Do you have any advice for aspiring vocalists in Freedom City given your famous sonic powers?" the reported queried with a small smile.

With a chuckle, LaMarr shook his head. "Haha, well, they should stay away from coffee, for one thing!" he laughed, raising his cup wryly. "Luckily my vocal chords are as tough as the rest of me, but it still wrecks havoc some days. Beyond that, it's like anything else: it comes down to practice and dedication." Stroking his greying beard around a broad smile, he added, "Oh, and don't be afraid to really belt one out!"

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