Where do Metahumans come from?
In an age of history where people with extraordinary powers fly through the air and fight grandiose battles in our cities, the question of where they all come from is a pertinent and reasonable one to ask. At no time in living memory have Superheroes been so prevalent in our society; it almost seems impossible that they could have all appeared as quickly as they did. Is it due to environmental change? A general increase in radiation? Aliens? Gods? GM foods? The simple answer seems to be that the increase in Metahumans is down to two main reasons.
The Twentieth Century saw an unprecedented explosion in the human population worldwide; after the mass slaughter of the Second World War, the Earth’s population looks to be growing at the rate of a billion people every few decades. Even if a Metahuman is only one in a million, their population must be steadily growing as well.
In ages past, those with extraordinary abilities may have hid their gifts for fear of persecution. Ancient Civilisations and the Dark Ages hunted “witches” and killed them. Renaissance, Enlightenment and Industrial Europe exhibited and exploited the freakish for profit. Even until the vaccine and communications revolutions of the 20th Century, “different” people were regarded with, at best, suspicion. With the spread of Scientific Rationalism as the prevailing doctrine of humanity, being Metahuman has never been safer.
How long have Metahumans been around?
It is reasonable to assume that Metahumans have been a fixture of the human race since prehistory. Extraordinary feats attributed to heroes in Mythology could well be an ancient attempt to explain early Metahuman activity. The first, suspected, but yet to be confirmed, Meathuman on record is Sir John Fallstaff, also known as The Anachronism, who claims to be a Crusade Knight, though this cannot be verified. Tenuous evidence exists for, if not actual Metahumans, costumed adventurers during the period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.
Concrete evidence and eyewitness accounts confirm that Methumans were active, in limited numbers, during the Second World War for both the Axis and the Allies. It seems that some of these Methumans were even created in laboratories, though the same methodology was rarely successful twice. Due to their limited numbers and a need, from a command perspective, to preserve such a resource, no single Methuman ever had much impact on a battle of the War (the final Battle for Berlin being the exception) and because of this (and the secrecy that developed around Metahumans during the Cold War) most of these Heroes were airbrushed from history.
The 1980s marked an important phase of Metahuman history; fifty years after the advent of the Superhero comic, costumed heroes started appearing in limited numbers. Less than fifty confirmed Metahumans operated between the period of 1982 and 1994, most were dead or in self-imposed retirement within five years of their first public appearance. Law enforcement had no idea how to deal with Superheroes or Supervillains, so many were quickly incarcerated or killed. The 1980s also marked the first major appearance of Mutants, a group who would come to define events in the 21st Century.
Mutants and Mutation
Mutation has caused a great deal of tension and confusion, both in the public and scientific arenas. After years of research, Professor Robert Cox was the first to isolate the Gene responsible for Metahuman Mutation as a recessive trait on the X chromosome. This gene causes drastic changes in the way in which proteins are coded from other chromosomes, resulting in startling physiological changes in the developing fetus. It is hypothesised that these changes are most often so drastic that the fetus will fail to survive, as this would account for the limited number of mutants in the world (about 12 publicly known, and a suspected 60 in total).
As many more humans may carry the recessive trait but do not express it, gauging mutants accurately is difficult because some may not manifest Metahuman abilities in the way that most mutants do. Changes should manifest physiologically, such as Edward Caan’s increased agility or “Helia’s” increased body temperature. However, sometimes the mutant change manifests in ways that cannot, by conventional science, be linked to a physical change (“Tempest” and “The Machiavellian” fall into this category). This becomes more puzzling when we consider that the Mutant Gene can be introduced artificially into adult cells and cause changes of an even more drastic (and often lethal) nature (see “Counter Culture”).
A bit text-heavy this time, but I had a bit of fun putting it together.