It never fails... if you become a super-hero, there will be super-villains shortly afterward.
And if there are super-villains, sooner or later, one shows up who seems to be more obnoxious than threatening. At least, most of the time, that's the case.
At first glance, he appears to be a threat... floating around on his flying disc, dressed in an imposing costume with antenna on his helmet blasting beams of pure force (or other properties). Even his name insists that he's a force to be reckoned with.
But he's not.
Herman Smith was an ordinary man in an ordinary world. He worked a nine to five job in an office, showed up on time every day, collected his paycheck twice a month, and went home at the end of the work day. Nobody in his office ever took much notice of him... he was reliable, but didn't stand out. Most of the time, if his name was mentioned, the upper management where he worked wouldn't even recognize it. He was that ordinary.
What they didn't know about Herman was that he had plans... big plans. Oh, he'd had plans in the past... he was going to be a famous novelist, but what books he could finish writing went immediately into the slush pile at the publishers he submitted to. He was going to be an actor, but he would always overplay his part, and could not be cast. He was going to be a stand-up comic, but his jokes fell flat. He had dozens of other aspirations that nobody was aware of, and none of them happened.
Then, one day, his life changed. He found a lottery ticket on the ground by the park bench he ate his lunch at every day, and it happened to be a winning ticket. He cashed in the ticket, quit his job (not that anyone really noticed), and went home to plan what he'd do next.
He tried his hand at a business, but proved even more inept at it... his restaurant closed the same day it opened when the second-hand refrigerators he bought for the kitchen broke the day before it opened, and all the meat was spoiled the next day.
He was down to his last ten thousand dollars or so, and was watching TV at home when the news came on, showing the latest story about the Guardians of Justice defeating a super-villain (it doesn't really matter which one). "Those idiot villains," Herman mused, "they can't figure out that if you're going to commit a crime, you have to account for those superheroes! I could be a better villain than they are!"
And in that moment, his life changed. He suddenly realized that this was his true role in life. At his old job, he always figured he knew more about what needed to be done than management did, but they'd never listen to his ideas... so now he could use his ideas in a new area and finally succeed, he was sure of it!
So, how does one start out becoming a super villain? His first step was to do his research. Herman spent days searching the internet on information about super villains, and analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each one. He knew that he needed some sort of imposing transportation, and he needed offensive and defensive capabilities. He needed a costume that would not only strike fear into normal people, but also look imposing to the superhero community. And he needed plans for his crimes.
The costume was easy enough. With the popularity of superheroes, there was an increased popularity in costumes for people to dress up as their favorite heroes. Herman was able to pick up what he needed for his costume in an hour. But the technological aspects of his quest were beyond his capabilities.
Herman was stuck, and he knew it. He needed a partner, someone who could build him what he needed but would also maintain the proper confidentiality. So he did the best thing he could think of: He advertised on Craig's List.
"Wanted: Someone with the technological know-how to create amazing devices with my specifications. Must be discreet."
Soon, his email inbox was flooded with replies... but they were all spam, mostly for porn sites and offering devices for sale he wanted nothing to do with, no matter what they promised.
And then he came across one response that piqued his interest. It was from someone who, like him, felt that he'd been overlooked at his job, and didn't want to consider his innovative ideas.
Herman met with the person who responded to his ad, only to discover to his surprise that it was a woman who responded! From the name Sean Howe, he'd thought it was a man, but it didn't really matter to him who or what his tech person was, only that they could deliver. Sean demonstrated a few items that she'd invented for her job that weren't considered acceptable by her employers, and offered her services. Herman was amazed... many of these inventions could easily be altered!
The first thing was the flying disc. Sean's original intent with this was to make it easier to transport heavy items without needing a wheeled platform, but Herman realized that if the hover technology was adjusted, it could be used to fly. He gave Sean the last of his cash to build a modified version, and she came through a week later.
The first attempt to use it was a resounding failure, as Herman managed to fall off it immediately. The solution for this was to create a set of boots with magnetized soles that would keep him on the disc. A number of test flights later, and Herman had operating the disc down flat.
The next step was providing some protection. The disc could move him fast enough to avoid some dangers, but if a policeman shot at him, or a superhero punched or blasted him, it'd be all over. But Sean needed money to provide that tech, so it was time for Crime-Master to commit his first crime.
As crimes went, it wasn't a huge deal... he'd been watching a number of banks for some time, getting the timetables down for when they'd be refilling ATM machines, or when shipments of cash would come or go, so he knew when there'd be money available. He just had to bide his time... and when the opportunity came, he dove down on his disc, grabbed some cash, and flew off before anyone knew what happened.
He got enough money from this haul for Sean to get to work. She realized how he got the money, but by this point, she didn't care. She'd finally met someone who appreciated her capabilities, and who wanted to continue to use them. Sean was falling in love with Herman, but naturally he didn't have a clue. She quit her job to work for Herman full-time, and increased his capabilities. His original costume was upgraded to be a form of flexible armor that would not only protect him, but had the capability to absorb some energy blasts and use them to power the other devices built into his costume. The gloves were upgraded to be able to generate a destructive force that would cause just about anything to crumble, but had a very limited range. The helmet allowed him to keep in touch with Sean, while also providing other offensive capabilities through the antenna, which could fire a blast of energy (which kind of energy depended on what Herman thought he'd need at the time, so he had a series of helmets that all appeared identical, but which had different weapons). The lenses of his helmet protected him from blinding light, and also gave him other vision capabilities, including a limited form of x-ray vision.
Soon, a regular plan of operation went into effect: Herman would plan a crime, and tell Sean what gear he'd specifically need for it. She would go to work inventing it, and when it was done, she'd stay at home base (as they called the apartment Herman continued to rent) and keep in touch with him through his helmet. Sean would hack into traffic and security cameras to keep track of what was happening around him, and provide an early heads-up as needed.
For a time, it all worked. Herman convinced himself he really was a master of crime, and his ego grew and grew.
But he hadn't encountered any of the super-heroes yet, whether it was through his planning or sheer dumb luck. Until one day...
He first encountered the Ace when he was stealing some high-tech computer chips that were on display at a technology show. The Ace wasn't planning to be there at all, it just happened to be on his patrol route that day. Even though Sean was dutifully checking out all her sources, she managed to just miss seeing the Ace approach the scene, and when Crime-Master burst into the building the show was taking place at, the Ace heard the commotion and went in to investigate.
It didn't take long for Crime-Master to realize that he was in trouble. As maneuverable as he was on the disc, he needed space, and inside the technology show, he didn't have a lot of room to maneuver in, and when the Ace started flinging his spade cards at him (which were weighted, you'll recall), several of them hit their mark. While it didn't hurt, thanks to the suit's armor, one card did manage to hit an antenna of the helmet, causing the helmet to pivot just slightly enough on his head to cut off his vision, and he was flying blind until he could straighten it.
The Ace followed up with some club cards, which burst into smoke, causing some disorientation until Crime-Master could activate his x-ray vision to see through the smoke... just in time to realize he was crashing into a large display.
He was humiliated, and realized he needed to get the heck out of Dodge... and did so, empty-handed. The Ace reported what he'd learned to the Guardians, although he didn't feel that this so-called Crime-Master was much of a threat.
As time passed, Crime-Master's luck started turning sour, as he started running into the Guardians more and more often, barely getting away... and one day, he was caught by Battlestar, who used his armor's capabilities to shut down the flying disc remotely, preventing Crime-Master's getaway. He was stripped of his devices and hauled off to jail, ranting all the time that he'd get his revenge.
As obnoxious as he was, the Guardians figured this was the end of Crime-Master's campaign, but they didn't know about Sean. You see, Herman knew he'd have to have a plan just in case he ever got captured and put in jail, and it was time to put that plan into effect. Remote controlled flying discs were sent to the prison he was being held at (since he had no powers, he was in a standard prison, not in the prison that superpowered criminals were kept in), and when they located him, generated a force field bubble around him and flew him off.
By this point, home base was no longer an apartment (it was getting crowded with devices), but instead had been moved to an old warehouse in the industrial part of the city. To avoid being spotted, the discs flew Crime-Master straight up into the air until he was out of sight, and then set him down in the warehouse a few days later (the discs were equipped with some protein bars and water to keep him fed... we won't go into the "plumbing" solution) at a speed too fast to be noticed.
This set-back gave Crime-Master pause, but it just meant more planning was needed. He decided reinforcements were necessary, and began searching out other villains who would work for him. Admittedly, the villains he found were mostly second-rate one-note villains (you'll see some of them in future installments), but the fact that Crime-Master had faced so many heroes and still managed to eventually get away made them think he would be a good leader. His "Masters of Crime" (as he called them) would prove to be more than any single hero to handle, but of course they had a team!
Crime-Master likes to hear himself talk. He will go on and on at length about what he plans to do, ranting and raving. When he's committing a crime, he doesn't let his capabilities speak for themselves, but he will introduce every gadget he has available and what it's capable of doing. He threatens, announces his victories before they happen... basically the guy won't shut up!
He remains unaware that Sean is in love with him; so far as he's concerned, she's just the devoted scientific assistant. He doesn't treat her badly, except perhaps by being oblivious to her desires beyond having her ideas appreciated. He does think of himself as a bit of a ladies' man since becoming Crime-Master (because, after all, now he's a Big Deal, why shouldn't women want him who wouldn't have given him as second look when he was plain Herman Smith?), but his advances get him nowhere (he writes this off as bad timing, if only _____ hadn't happened, he would've closed the deal).
To his credit, Crime-Master doesn't try to actually hurt anyone when he's committing crimes... well, except the heroes who stop him, anyway. He just wants the money or goods he's trying to steal, and if any normal person really stood up to him and dared him to blast them, he'd probably not know what to do!
Among the super villain community (and yes, there is one), he's considered a joke by most of them, and if you're a villain who's worked with him in the past, you're an even bigger joke. So far as the Guardians go, they tend to take him a little less lightly than they probably should, given the success that he did have in the past, but since they started being aware of him, he's not proven to be much of a challenge to deal with.