“Thank you for joining us.”
“Thank you for having me. I know both my schedule and my security requirements can be difficult to work with.”
“We’re more than happy to make accommodations. You are, after all, the world’s greatest hero.”
“I certainly wouldn’t characterize myself that way, but I do appreciate your willingness to take the steps to make this possible.”
“The security is obviously for our benefit. And, well, you missed our last appointment because you were, what, stopping an alien invasion?”
“The Pulsar Knight Accords prevent me from going into details, but it was a situation involving non-Terrans, and yes some military options were being explored before it was resolved.”
“But you’re here now! So… Anthem Lass?”
“That’s the first question. Your name. Why ‘Anthem Lass?’ Is that the kind of name you think all female masked heroes should take?”
“I think heroes of any gender should take names that are meaningful to them, and speak to what they stand for. As for why I took Anthem Lass, I’d think that would be obvious.”
“Yes, but you took it in the late 1960s. Times have changed, our culture has changed. Many women in public venues have suggested it’s not appropriate for you to have a name that makes you seem like a lesser version of a male hero. That as a role-model for young women, you should identify as you own, unique person. Do you not worry about that?”
“I worry about how my actions will influence people, young women especially, every day. It is one of my greatest concerns. I have had the remarkable privilege of being given the power to help people in ways very few can, and society as a whole has largely embraced my doing so. I think that’s part of a social contract, and part of upholding my end of it is that I need to be mindful of how my words and deeds may impact what is considered normal, and right, and reasonable.”
“And yet you still present yourself as the female version of Anthem, rather than your own person.”
“I like to believe I present myself as much more than a name.”
“But you acknowledge that your name is an homage to Anthem?”
“Of course I do. Anthem was my mentor, and friend, and a great role model in his own right. And when I first started taking public action, in many ways I was a lesser version of him. He was older, more experienced, wiser, and better-known. When Eddie and I first got costumes…”
“You are referring to Eddie Throne, better known as the masked hero Power?”
“Yes, Eddie Throne. When Eddie and I first got costumes, we were both just trying to live up to Anthem’s example. He became Anthem Lad, and I become Anthem Lass. We were pretty clearly inspired by the ‘Science Heroes’ radio dramas of the 40s and 50s, with Atom Lad and Atom Lass, and similar characters. But we also really wanted to identify ourselves with Anthem.”
“Because he’s your father?”
“No, but nice try. Even Eddie doesn’t talk about our exact connection to Anthem, and I don’t expect we ever will. But he was an important part of our lives, and we wanted to honor that.”
“But in the 90s, Anthem Lad became Ultimate. You don’t think it’s time for you to make a similar change?”
“When we lost Anthem, it hit us all very hard. Eddie had to handle that however he felt best, though I’m never going to call him ‘Ultimate.” That shouldn’t be what our public roles are about. So no, I don’t think it’s time for me to make a similar change.”
“A lot of heroes other than Eddie Throne changed their names in the 1990s.”
“A lot of heroes did a lot of things in the 1990s I think were mistakes. In many cases, they’ve reversed those decisions. I think many of them wish they’d never done some of those things. But as I said, having Anthem die, having the one hero who never failed, never gave up, and always fought the good fight, fall… it hit us all. I don’t blame anyone for making bad decisions right after that, though I also don’t forgive those I think went too far.”
“Like Ultimate?”
“Eddie deserves to have me say anything I have to say about him to his face, and nowhere else.”
“Okay Anthem Lass, but you changed your name too, didn’t you? In the early 1990s, just a few years before the Battle of Hell Gate…”
“Mill Rock.”
“… sorry?”
“The island is officially named Mill Rock, so it should be the Battle of Mill Rock. I don’t believe in allowing murderous tyrannical demonic invaders to name Terran historical events. And I don’t like the idea of saying ‘We lost Anthem at Hell Gate.’ I’d appreciate it if you’d use the location’s actual name.”
“Okay, we can do that. The point is, even before the battle when Anthem died, you changed your name for more than a year.”
“You mean the Aurora Angel identity? Yes… and no. While that was me, in a sense, it was the mind of a version of me from an alternate reality, where everyone but her has super-powers, inhabiting my body in this reality.”
“… Seriously?”
“Absolutely. During that same time, I was living the life of ‘Normal Lass,’ the only person without powers in Reality-AACX1. I was there for roughly 18 months. I switched back to Anthem Lass within a few weeks of returning. Mostly because it took that long to get new costumes.”
“Why have we never heard about this before?”
“Mostly because I took legal responsibility for all the actions of Aurora Angel. I think an alternate version of myself, in my body, is close enough to me that I’m not going to hide behind transdimensional drift to avoid some citations and lawsuits. But my statement about the event is on file with the Masked Alliance legal registry, and has been vetted by both Professor Phoenix and Dr. Athens.”
“So… you’ve never considered a different hero name?”
“Of course I have. Every time I change costume, if nothing else. But I always conclude I am still proud to be Anthem Lass, even if that seems a bit out-of-place for a woman now in her late 70s, however young I still look. But there was only one Anthem, so I can’t take his exact name, and Anthem Lady sounds terrible. At least Anthem Lass has a history of actions I am proud of behind it.”
“What do you say to women who feel you are undermining gender equality with that name?”
“Only that I encourage them to continue to fight for what they believe is right. Gender equality is an incredibly important issue. It’s one I have spoken out on, despite it still not being the norm for masked heroes to address social issues. And there’s no doubt that some institutions and organizations have a double standard when it comes to female masked heroes, and women are taken less seriously than men in many fields of endeavor. I do think how we act, and how we demand others treat us, is more important than what names we use, but I won’t pretend the issues might not be related. I think it would be different if most female heroes these days felt the need to identify as distaff versions of male heroes. I think Hexen made a powerful statement when she stopped being Gargoyle Girl, Nemean made a good choice when she switched from Lady Hercules, and Tech is a stronger name than Tech Woman. I applaud those choices, and I am glad we’ve come far enough that most people accept them. But all you have to do is read the comments section of any online article about those heroes, and you’ll see that societally we still have a lot of sexism and gender bias, and there’s a long way to go. I may even be making a mistake to decide to continue to honor my mentor this way. I’m far from perfect. But I have to do what I think is best. With the influence and power at my disposal, I very rarely have the luxury of doing anything other than what I think is wisest.”
“There’s a rumor that the Masked Alliance won’t let you change the name, for marketing reasons.”
“That is totally, unequivocally, untrue.”
“But there are rules about the names of heroes in the Alliance?”
“Yes, there are now. There didn’t used to be, but a few juvenile stunts forced the organization to ban names that are obviously inappropriate.”
“Like what?”
“One member claimed to be switching his name to Goat Porn Man, pointing out there was no rule against it.”
“You’d have to ask Troubleshooter, he’s the one that pressed the point. And unfortunately, that’ll have to be the last question. An alert just went up on a volcano in Ecuador, and I need to leave now if I am going to be sure to be there if it erupts. Thank you, again, for your patience.”

About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on March 19, 2015, in Short Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I now want this as a novel owen.

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