Oh, basically I ran with the notion of "Combat active WWII superteam based and formed well out of America."
Eh, here, from the last time, the whole shmear of em:
The Vanguard Brigade
A coming together of metahuman resistance fighters and frontline warriors in their nation’s militaries, the Vanguard Brigade took its name from several sources. The first and most obvious, its membership was regularly involved in the thickest areas of fighting in the war from near its inception, often going in ahead of entire military operations to prepare the way, or being a lone force covering evacuation and retreat. The second was that they had an actual brigade’s worth of troops seconded to them on a regular basis, reflecting that several of their membership were considered to hold active military rank and expected to make use of it.
Of the various World War II superteams, the Brigade was generally the most heavily involved in direct combat and commando operations across multiple fronts, and generally the most nationally diverse from its origins as an early joint Allied effort to marshal any and all available superhuman resources (which tended to make them somewhat more famous in Europe and Asia than North America as a team, however individually renowned any of them might be). The team generally followed a cycle of weeks focused on individual efforts, only for Zephyr’s speed and Maugris’ teleportation to bring them together for greater extended effort across Europe, the Pacific theater and North Africa.
As a team specifically created to fight in the war, at war’s end, and particularly with Caliburn’s seeming death, they drifted apart fairly quickly. Several memorials exist to them throughout Europe, Hong Kong , Taiwan (mainland China attempts to pretend the team never existed.. see below) and Israel.
Centered around Caliburn, the membership of the team would fluctuate with casualties, recruitments, the rise of resistance movements and the joining of nations to the Allies. There was generally a core membership for most of the war all the same that beyond Brigadier Somerset, consisted of the following:
The Dragon Knight
A mysterious figure to most, encased in red plate armor chased in golden sigils, with a helm in draconic shape, the dragon knight was touted as a mysterious champion from the oppressed peoples of Eastern Europe. An expert swordsman, physically potent and durable, seeming capable of flight, and control of the weather. Lesser known abilities were his hypnotic gaze, control over swarms of vermin, ability to shapeshift into a wolf, bat, and hybrid form, a knowledge of ritual magics and ability to turn to mist.
Which is to say, the Dragon Knight took his title from one he held by ancient right. Which is to say, the Dragon Knight was Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Count Dracula. The armor was not just a disguise, it seemed to allow him to operate at full strength during the day, instead of being weakened by it, and had a practical use against stake and silver. The sacred was still a problem of course, but how often did that crop up amongst the Axis?
His identity was a military secret, but Dracula sought to make common cause with the Allies fairly early into the war, objecting apparently to rising Nazi influence over lands and people he viewed as personal property, and being in some kind of vendetta with the Thule Society. He would later admit to Caliburn there was some kind of ornate political game going on amongst the undead, the challenge of which required Tepes to take the side of the Allies.
Gareth’s objections to his presence were frequent and culminated in a brawl between the two where the Lord of the Vampires apparently agreed for the rest of the war to only feed on already fallen Axis soldiers and animals. Fortunately for the Count’s sense of taste, the former were all too frequently available.
Tepes’ moderately perverse sense of dignity and honour allowed him to otherwise function within the team. He didn’t even stoop to needling them over moralistic differences, feeling that “beneath his presence”. He seemed even to (very one sidedly) admire the young Briton as a fellow warrior aristocrat, even if Gareth was a nascent immortal with priorities just tragically out of whack. His regard for the others ranged from lust to respect to contempt.
After the war Tepes withdrew back to into his own shadowy world, seeming content to rule over his night-kin. There were rumours of course of a plot in the 1970s to plunge the world into eternal darkness that was foiled by a rag tag band of mystics and monster hunters (“Everyone in my social circle tried to conquer the world at least once, I began to feel left out”, opined he, lightly), and that he holds unseen political and financial influence over much of Eastern Europe, yet otherwise Tepes and the world have touched each other but little. As if he has no care to.
He did sent Gareth a “welcome back” fruit basket on hearing he was alive, mind you, with no traceable return address. The blood oranges were an unsubtle touch.
When the Metaxas Line fell, several fortresses held out for days longer on sheer spiteful defiance and courage. As they were mopped up one by one, a particularly ragged garrison of Greeks opted to burst forth from their walls for one last glorious stand. The metahuman awakening of one of their number made this decision stunningly literal.
Whether from latent metagenes, ancient gods and heroes heeding a cry to them or, look, who knows really, but unless the Trojans sent it, why look a gift horse in the mouth, hey? (this was Megas’ cleanest joke about his origins and his utter lack of concern for what they might be, the rest were usually inventively crude variants about not wanting to see how they make the sausage). Whatever the reason Megas found that he now had a prodigious baseline of strength and durability, with the ability to further increase it by being able to grow in size, to a maximum height of some fifty feet.
The oldest son of an impressively sizable family of shepherds, Dimitrios Sarganis enlisted cheerfully, fought with unflagging energy and never once wavered in morale. This was not out of some sense of patriotism exactly, but a belief in fighting to protect his family, which became an empathy for all the families of his countrymen besides.
He moved seamlessly into the Greek resistance after the fall of his nation and was recruited into the brigade not long afterwards. A simple, kind hearted, earthy man, he had a ready smile and crude joke or filthy story for most situations. He was one of the few who could get a slight embarrassed blush out of Caliburn over the years (who he viewed as a brother) and was held in thorough contempt by Dracula, who regarded him “as a peasant who has managed to learn a useful trick. Like a dog who can clap their forepaws together entertainingly.” Self aware of his own limitations, he was amenable to take orders from such as he respected.
After the war, Sarganis refused to take sides in the waves of civil strife that would grip his nation, fighting instead to keep his countrymen from suffering overly during their span. For that he was even further beloved in his homeland, and the statue to him in the capital is almost as tall as he could get. He died peacefully in his early 90s, surrounded by children, grand children and great grandchildren. One of those great grandchildren looks to have inherited Megas’ abilities, and has been the national superheroic champion of Greece for the past several years.
Caliburn looked the fellow up on his return. They shared stories of Dimitrios, several bottles of ouzo and Gareth told the man what few dirty jokes and stories his great grandfather had not yet managed to share.
“That’s right, that Maugris,” he would say with an expectant smirk, only to have it turn into a disappointed, dark scowl to the inevitable “who?” and mutter something in response that sounded like “fucking Merlin.”
For he was that Maugris, sorcerer and warrior who sat proudly amongst the Peers of Charlemagne. Not that all the stories of him were accurate, but what did it matter, he would remark bitterly, no one remembers them anyway. Though his sorcerous might had grown over the years, his sense of morality, honour, conviction, his strength of spirit had much fallen. By the 20th century he was a cynic, a rake, and a dissolute vice addled sybarite. Perhaps because of the pain of having outlived his own heroic age and glorious friends to watch the progress of lesser ones. Perhaps out of bitterness for all of them sinking into obscurity. Perhaps because he simply became just that bored.
All the same, he never degenerated quite so far into outright amorality, or at least any crime beyond petty theft or cheating at cards. He even, just rarely, performed a small act here and there that might have been called good, or at least of aid to another. “The most egregious of all my hypocrisies,” as he would put it.
Still, but for the conquest of France and the energetic pursuit of the Thule society, hunting him for his knowledge and agelessness, he would have sat out the war as he had so many others. Instead he was backed into a corner with the Nazi regime where it was kill or be killed. Maugris grudgingly made his mystical lore and skill available to the Free French Forces, and the Allies through them.
He got on well enough with Dracula, the two previously knew each other in the way immortals in the mystical world have some awareness of one another, and both at least had a certain sense of manners. And Tepes could hardly condemn a man for his vices, he had been quite the sensualist himself in that whole debacle in Victorian London that Stoker somehow got wind of (though the debacle did break him of that behaviour, for his part). Megas found him a touch off putting, for while Megas was earthy, Maugris was a degenerate, and there is a certain difference between that, even if a matter of nuance.
Initially infuriated by Caliburn as an actual proxy of the Round Table that condemned his own companions to the dustbin of historical obscurity (“the peers of who?” was always a good way to get Maugris to start a bar brawl), in the end he simply found Gareth’s company painful. He was too much like Maugris’ old friends. He was too much like Maugris himself once was. And seeing Gareth’s spirit untarnished despite being mired in the most unspeakable deep hells of the war made the old sorcerer feel a shame he had not been capable of for centuries. It made things worse that through it all, and the worst of his own behaviour, Gareth remained supportive as a teammate, and loyal as a comrade in arms.
Somehow this translated into what would evolve into a violent sense of protectiveness for the young lord, to the point of having once recklessly and brutally confronted Morgan LeFay in his place. A deep friendship evolved between the two, even if flavoured in heavy sarcasm on Maugris’ end. Americans knowledgeable of the situation would make Wyatt Earp/Doc Holiday allusions.
Maugris was hardest hit by Gareth’s seeming death, and he embraced his old, terrible habits with a vengeance. Ultimately he fell in with the counter culture movements of the 60s, eventually dying of a drug overdose in a filth encrusted apartment in San Franscisco. His body was shipped back to France, where he was given a hero’s funeral he would have hated, his tomb more popular than Jim Morrison’s grave for the young to sneak about, fuck and get high around.
“So beautiful a name, for so bloody a warrior,” Dracula was known to comment, with no small admiration and obvious desire. Rivka Abramowicz was a Polish Jew and partisan, of an age with Caliburn, but with a ferocity and acumen that left the ragged band she joined up with unable to deny her. From a rural family impoverished enough that she took up the skills of a hunter for herself rather than see them die, that sort of knack translated easily into the stalking and killing of men. In that she never otherwise spoke of her family, her motivations seemed clear enough. She rarely spoke at all, when not on task.
Finding the young girl with her guns and knives comical even for a moment was a good way for her targets to end up dead. On a raid to destroy what seemed like some kind of Nazi research outpost, Rivka and what was at that point her followers disrupted a Thule Society effort to create a cadre of superfast fighters (Project Blitzkrieg was the somewhat on the nose name). The wild energies let loose amidst explosions and gunfire seemed to all coalesce into Rivka. She was empowered with force intended for several men, and her sheer coldly burning will was such that she took full control of it, instead of being consumed (the risk of that outcome why it was intended for several men in the first place).
While superheroes were new enough that being the fastest woman in the world was not necessarily a huge benchmark of itself, that Rivka could hit speeds in excess of 10,000 mph, and actually fly at similar speeds besides was remarkable by any standard. She refined a host of tricks and related abilities with guerilla cunning and the inspirations of a life of necessity. The Thule were hellbent on capturing her and reclaiming all their work, and while she was almost gleeful to send back the heads of their agents, a need for support in the face of the situation all the same lead her to Vanguard.
Her relationships with the team were, generally speaking, professional and quietly polite, if slightly and intentionally distant. As though the losses and traumas of her life left her unwilling to let herself get close to people again. As a moderately devout Jew, she regarded Dracula as a walking abomination, but like the silent appreciation and gratitude she had for (most of) the rest of the team, it was something she largely kept to herself. She let her guard down and smiled warmly just the once, on meeting Megas’ youngest siblings, who were children at the time. She even played with them.
She otherwise served as something of Gareth’s second as a tactical leader, and sometimes guided Vanguard to raid trains transporting Jews deported from their homes in the later stages of the war, when she could, evacuating them to Allied territory. She went so far as to give them each a somewhat stiff and awkward embrace when they aided in the liberation of some of the camps at the end of the war. Even Dracula.
She emigrated to what would eventually become Israel at war’s end, splitting her efforts between helping to found that nation and relentlessly and ruthlessly hunting escaped members of the Nazi regime. Affiliated ultimately with the Mossad, her successes in that arena were many and notable. She died in the mid 60s, unmarried, of long injuries sustained after explosively destroying a central operating Thule Society headquarters. She was given a state funeral attended by thousands. It is said by some that every few years a dark and forbidding figure can be seen at her memorial. Others deride the idea of the Lord of the Vampires having that much sentiment in him.
Reignlief, The Valkyrie.
“It’s Reignlief. Or The Valkyrie if you must. Not ‘Valkyrie’ Would you like it if I called you ‘Soldier’ as your name? Or you ‘Politician’? Or you ‘Fat Hunched Wrinkly Jowl-Face In A Ludicrous Hat’?” the last was to Winston Churchhill himself. Reignlief could get a bit tempestuous when irritated.
The Valkyrie’s problems in the world dated well back to her heyday as a chooser of the slain. Unlike her sisters, she did not simply choose, she listened. To the cries of these dying, heroic men, to the last gasps around them. No few times it was not some paen to Odin that was the last words on their lips in satisfied valor. Many died in fact bemoaning loved ones, family, spouses, friends, homes. Many died pleading for one last moment. The light she could see going out in their eyes was not looking to some promise of Valhalla, but one last vision of everything they held dear on this world, had fought for, and would never see again.
It taught her to value these seemingly small human things herself, to question her warrior ethos, and very simply, it struck at her heart. But there was little she could do, bound to her purpose as she was. Which made her moody and irritable. And in a land where ale flowed freely, sometimes her mouth ran off with it. Punishment from on high was not infrequent in her experiences. She began to sneak away from her duties besides, to spend time trying to see to the orphaned children, defenseless families, to give some comfort or protection to bereaved loved ones. She did not always succeed, but when she did, the sense of reward in that work was undefinably sublime, to feel connected to humanity in this way. And this was a dereliction of her sworn purpose, there were already gods tasked to aid man, so again, punishment from on high was not infrequent. It was almost a relief when the gods largely withdrew from overt meddling in the mortal world. At least she no longer had to do her hated job.
Still, she was a Valkyrie, and an awareness of the dead and dying in the lands bound to the Norse was worked into her very existence. Which was painful at times, and at times she still snuck off to benignly meddle in response. The time afterwards locked up in some tower was a small price to pay. When Norway and Denmark fell in the opening moves of the war, it was more than she could bear. She went before Odin and proclaimed furiously that if he did not allow her to walk in the world and defend it from a spreading nightmare, he had best simply kill her now, for it would destroy her spirit anyway. Perhaps the gallows god was impressed with her spirit. Perhaps the looming tragedies to come moved even him. Perhaps he was simply in a fit of pique at the Nazi regime using the trappings of his people as though they did not belong to Odin alone and inclined to handwave permission to anyone looking to go mess with the Germans.
Either way, for the duration of the war, Reignleif was allowed to fight for the people of Earth, which she did with vigor, conviction and even compassion. Her time spent connecting with humanity on a level of their own existence meant for doing so besides without the incidents connected to, say, the more boisterous of the mythologically active in the war (who generally she rolled her eyes at and groaned at their occasional “flirting” attempts with her). A skilled warrior and flying physical powerhouse affiliated to the Scandinavian resistance movements, Reignlief also had peculiar abilities relating to the spirits of the dead, influence over intangible worlds and movement within them.
She largely pitied Maugris, which made him crabby and brusque with her. She loathed Dracula as a walking atrocity, who seemed lightly bemused in response. Megas treated her with an outright reverence and actually kept his language (mostly) clean around her. Well, relatively clean. Clean-ish. Well he certainly never told that one story about the nuns and the stablemaster around her. You don’t do that around a lady! Zephyr was basically as distantly polite as she was with the others, Reignlief’s ebon black hair and ice blue eyes at least helped avoid feeling like she was fighting alongside the embodied ideal of the master race.
There was an immediate connection between Reignlief and Caliburn. Their hearts were noble, their purpose true, their wars fought in an effort to have might, suborn itself to right. And also, you know, they were both very, very pretty. Reignlief’s permissions to Earth were only temporary however. At the end of the day, she was still a Valkyrie, sworn to Odin. Their mutual crush was a painfully unrequited one. Rather than be wracked by their passions, they managed an impressive display of maturity in trying to work through them.
They were able in the end to bypass momentary infatuation towards a deep, even familial affection and friendship as the months and years passed. Gareth after all had not seen his parents since the war began, and was more or less raising himself on the battlefields of the world. Reignlief had felt for centuries as an outsider from her sisters and divine race entire. They became something of a surrogate family to each other, something almost pure in the contentment and support they found in each other’s company. (“I’d like to be clear on this. You gave away your chance to fuck an actual magical divine vagina, to intentionally pick friendship. I am going to be sick, and not just because of how much I had to drink last night,” quoth Maugris, before indeed puking)
At war’s end, Reignlief was recalled to Asgard, her permissions ended. While her long experience with death and the dying allowed her to handle Gareth’s passing without being consumed by grief, she has all the same not been seen again on Earth.
The Steel Sage
Cai Yue had been fighting her own war well before the rest of the world decided it was being left out. In fact Cai Yue had been outright leading her own war as a third faction in the clash between the Kuomintang and Communists over China’s destiny. A patriot and nationalist in her own way, she viewed either faction as nothing but the promise of corruption or tyranny, or even both. In another age, the sheer brilliance of her intellect- well, no, she was a woman, in another age, there's any chance society would have squandered or ignored her potential that much harder. It was almost perversely fortunate she was born into the time of the warlords. Desperate men in need of an edge over their many enemies will listen to almost anyone, even a woman with reams of incomprehensible schematics.
Coups are exceptionally simple matters once an army is in staggered, grateful awe over the technology provided to them, and you yourself are encased within explosion proof superalloy flying armor, Cai Yue would later observe. Did she feel badly for such treachery? Do you feel badly when you fumigate termites out of a house? The Steel Sage could be somewhat ruthless pursuing goals she felt were in her people’s name. Still, her love of her nation was evident, and time and resources actually spent tending to their despairs and traumas was a comparative handicap over her many enemies and their ultimate lack of regard for any beyond their own people.
She made up for that split focus, and her smaller forces, and her humble origins, with sheer personal brilliance and relentless willpower. Self taught simply for quickly outmatching any school’s capability to teach her instead, by 16 Cai Yue had skulked and sneaked and begged her way through library and university halls, taking in knowledge with effortless ease. She was hellbent on bringing peace, prosperity and some form of democracy to a China whose chaos had taken her family from her at an early age, even if she had to do so at the point of a sword, or rocket powered mega wrist explosive crossbow bolt barrage, perhaps.
By 26, she was her third front in her nation’s civil wars, and had a slim, but legitimate chance of coming out ontop for all the (sometimes quite strange, in response to her own prowess) foreign backing, or necromantic pacts, or, Buddha, is that some sort of ridiculous multiplying one man army man the communists just desperately belched out? And then Japan invaded, and in sheer forces along with their own private metahuman enforcers, they simply smashed apart all opposition, seizing mass territory. They advanced to the point that former enemies had to ally for survival, or at least take a break from actively trying to kill each other.
She joined the Vanguard Brigade with no small reluctance, chiefly for viewing the peoples and nations of the West for having a large share of blame in the miserable state of her people, but in the end, there was no choice. It didn’t stop her from making the occasional insulting crack about it, of course. Dracula tended to find such things hilarious, and his penchant to wax philosophical in response about the history of any nation’s particular potential for brutality to other nations was a fairly potent conversation killer as far as her going any further than brief remarks.
It wasn’t that she didn’t respect Caliburn as a leader, find that Megas reminded her of a particularly incorrigible, adorable uncle, or feel Zephyr was a kindred spirit in their sense of loss, but their world, was antithetical to hers. It outright bothered her that she felt anything positive for them at all. Fortunately Dracula was eminently hateable, she felt her technological mastery and self control made her superior to Maugris’ dotty, drunk magics, and Reignlief just offended her on a conceptual level as someone who at the end of the day could go back to her perfect heaven while the rest of us lowly mortals bled out into the muck.
It didn’t stop her from functioning within the team, or prevent her from trying to keep her relationships with them functional besides, but it was a source of stress, and she already had so many.
Worst of all, her rivals in China almost gleefully held themselves back from full commitments in the war, leading her to have to expend her own forces down to near nothing to save what of her people she could from suffering, atrocity and misery, and yet still contribute to the weakening of the imperial Japanese armies. That she was actually grateful to Vanguard to fighting alongside her in such moments lead to a night of heavy drinking, waking up beside a naked Maugris, and each swearing to never speak of that again.
She died not long after the world war ended, and her original war resumed. She was killed in a three way urban warfare clash she abandoned to hold up a hospital long enough for it to be evacuated. She would have found ironic her enemies declaring a truce long enough to strike it as she did with the most powerful munitions at their disposal.
Chang Kai Shek would later try to co opt her as having been a Nationalist heroine all along (hence the memorials to her in Taiwan and to the Vanguard generally), while the Communists would simply attempt to excise her from history, and where they could not, refer to her as an expatriate who fought in Europe for the Allies.
It would turn out that Cai Yue, while still ruler of her own territory, secretly gave birth to an illegitimate child from an affair with one of her subordinates, who would grow up and start a family of their own. Her modern day descendant not simply demonstrated much of her mother’s brilliance, but found some of her secreted journals and a hidden laboratory. As the new Steel Sage, she is active in Taiwan as its local superhero, and strongly advocates in her off hours for the return of an accurate accounting of her great grandmother to the pages of history.