ASH/SOURCEBOOK: The Flagsuit Memo

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Mon Jun 28 16:20:18 PDT 2010

     [The following document is a private email sent by a mid-level manager
within the Department of Super-Human Affairs' Public Relations division to
their immediate supervisor.  Intercepted September 13, 2026, forwarded to
Analysis Division along with attached images.] 

     Okay, a lot of this is going to sound stupid, but I got pretty badly
burned in my previous department by a mismatch between what I thought was my
job and what my boss thought I was supposed to be doing, so I want to make
absolutely sure we're on the same page now that you've had time to settle
into your position.

     I'm running Project PR342-SH, nicknamed Project Flagsuit.  The goal is
to find or create a patriotic hero for the Combine, someone like the
Minuteman was back in WWII, or the first Brightsword in the Sixties.  We'd
settled on a slow and steady approach under your predecessor, but Walters has
leapfrogged the hell out of us with his new Freedom Alliance, so we've been
burning the midnight oil trying to decide what to do.

     First thing, the difficulties we're facing.  I doubt you have any
unrealistic expectations, but like I said, most of this email is about
erasing my doubts.

     The Combine, to put it bluntly, is in crappy position when it comes to
flagsuit potential.  As a nation, we're not even a full generation old, we're
a mishmash of older nations, and we lack much in the way of defining national
legends.  Add to that the fact that we managed to get put together without
the benefit of a charismatic leader like the EU had in Duvalier, and we
didn't get invaded by Khadam like the EU did.  Okay, that invasion happened
before the EU really started to come together, but it's part of their
national mythology anyway.  Slow, boring nationbuilding may be better in the
long run for most people, but it does mean we don't have much interesting
history to draw on yet.  Montreal's too new to have resonance, and having it
end up mostly alive on Venus rather than a Lost City tends to blunt that

     That pretty much leaves us having to mine individual national legends if
we want to go that route for hero-making.  Walters managed to grease the
right palms to grab a big chunk of that territory, at least with the American
legends, although we did hang onto a few of the better IPs.  The problem is,
if we rely on American heroes or Canadian ones, we alienate everyone who
isn't represented.  We'd need a whole team of flagsuits, which dilutes the
impact of having a single National Hero.

     Given all of that, last year we worked out three main paths and decided
to run with the most conservative of them.  Those paths could be called the
organic approach, the prefab approach, and the...I really wish no one had
thought of this name...the Marshal Plan.

     The organic approach is pretty simple.  We have a bunch of heroes out
there, doing hero things.  Eventually one of them will become a pretty
obvious hero of the people, and we grab onto that and promote the hell out of
him or her (or it, I suppose...can never tell with some of these people).
Sal Napier's been one of our leading candidates for that, and he seems to be
taking the initiative in a few ways without our help, but I'm worried he's
become too identified as a Mexican Hero to broaden his base.  Taking on the
Centurion identity recently does seem to be helping him in the polls,
though.  At least among Americans.  Canadians aren't really changing their
minds about him, and Oceanians are actually a little miffed for some reason.
Unfortunately, we may not be able to just wait to see if Napier can buff his
image in the Minor States.

     We've had the prefab as a backup for a while now, which is part of why
Walters wasn't able to pry the Minuteman ID loose.  The fact that several
people were the Minuteman already makes him a bit more of an everyman.  The
WWII legacy will sell him to America and Canada easily enough, we could have
him hang out with Centurion to improve his image in Mexico and the two
Spanish States, and there's a few promising Marshals and Academy students of
Oceanic origin to make it a sweep if we put one in the suit.
     I've attached some designs my people worked up for a modified Minuteman
suit, trying to work some more Combine symbolism into it and make it a little
more superhero-y and less military.  Option 3 is a little too much of a Black
Opal ripoff for my tastes, but I'm told it tests well.  And bringing in Black
Opal's legacy a bit might remind people that we still think of Manhattan as
part of the Combine...or it might rub their noses in the deal we made with
Umbrae.  Your problem to deal with, though.  Or maybe even above your
paygrade.  I just provide the ideas.

     Finally, and I swear I didn't come up with the name, we have the Marshal
Plan.  At last count, I believe we had something like a hundred and fifty
active duty Marshals around the nation, plus a few on Venus or on embassy
duty in other countries.  Attached are some potential uniforms for what we're
currently calling Marshal One, a new field rank we'd create mainly for PR
purposes.  The idea would be that Marshal One would be the best of the best,
the top Marshal we have, kind of like the top ranking NCO of the Marines.
One of those hundred and fifty is bound to do something flashy and positive
soon, and have powers and personality that lend themselves to being the face
of the corps.  At that point, we promote that person to Marshal One.  Since
Marshals get rotated...what, twice a year, usually?  Anyway, Marshals are
seen as Combine-wide heroes, rather than tied to any one State, and they're
one of the new icons of our nation.
     We've had a few Marshals distinguish themselves already, including that
one in Florida that saved the whole sector from tidal waves, but none that
really screamed "Marshal One" to us.  But while this option is also reactive
like the organic approach, the odds are a lot better given that there's more
Marshals than members of ASH by an order of magnitude or two.  And it does
have a bit of the pre-fab stench to it, but not as badly as if we drop a new
Minuteman and look like we're style-biting on Walters.  Also attached are
some sub-plans for ways to get the public involved in this, although no one
seriously thinks the game show idea is a good one.  

     Oh, and I've also attached some designs for a "Captain Combine" costume
that is literally a Combine flagsuit.  That idea never really got anywhere,
it felt too cornball.  But the public mood is shifting a bit, cornball might
sell in a few months, the way things are going.  We'd probably draw from the
Minuteman candidates if we go with Captain Combine, since the ubermensch
power set seems to fit best in the public imagination with the flagsuit style
of hero.  Take someone who's mainly just physically enhanced, give them a
simple gimmick like a sword, an axe, or even a shield, and the public accepts
that they'd wear a flag.


                              "The Flagsuit Memo"
                      copyright 2010 by Dave Van Domelen


     Who intercepted the memo, and what will they do with the information?
Ah, but that would be telling....

     After I posted the Superscientist taxonomy, my comment about there being
no real Captain America character spurred a reply to the effect that they
thought Grind filled that role.  And yes, Grind has the Captain America
powerset, for the most part.  But Captain America is more than the pinnacle
of human ability...he's also the archetype of the "flagsuit" hero, embodiment
of a nation (usually embodying legendary qualities that may not ever have
really existed) in both ideals and costume.  Grind isn't much of a patriotic
type, at least not overtly, and he doesn't wear a flagsuit.  Grind is a lot
more like Nick Fury than like Steve Rogers.
     The ASH-universe character most like Captain America would be the
original Brightsword.  Strong, tough, wears red-white-and-blue, has been a
soldier, holds somewhat old-fashioned if not exactly "man out of his decade"
views.  And Captain America's even had a "successor" who was a professional
baseball player, although the Fourth Age Brightsword is doing rather better
than Bob Russo, whose one appearance was Captain America & Falcon #178 and
ended with a broken arm.
     Other nations have flagsuits, of course.  Rechtigkeit for West Germany
in the Second Age, his successor for Germany in the Third, and Justice
marginally fills that role in the Fourth.  Vencedor for Brazil in the Second
Age and Vencedora in the Third.  Onslaught for Khadam.  Commando for Myanmar
in the Fourth Age.  And no doubt others.  But the Combine has yet to have a
proper flagsuit in the Fourth Age, at least a national level one (as opposed
to the American state-level ones on the new Freedom Alliance).
     And that has GOT to be worrying more than a few PR flacks and

     At the time I wrote this, I hadn't drawn any of the designs, although I
had a few rough ideas.  While poking at this file in editing, though, I went
ahead and did a concept piece of Tsukiko Crowley as Captain Combine.  Yes,
it's a deliberately impractical outfit, although it probably has some minor
pocket space under the red mini-poncho or in the armbands.  The staff breaks
down into four segments that attach to the thighs.
     Oh, and Crowley has a minor power she doesn't like to talk about: she
can control the growth of her hair, retract it slowly, or even make it go
instantly sessile so it pulls out easily.  So her long hair in this outfit
wouldn't be as big a liability as it might seem.  (Anyone else, though, would
probably use a wig like Red Widow does, or extensions.)


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