Some information has been lifted whole from Wikipedia, some from the private papers of the Black Centipede. Some of it I just made up. Artwork by Peter Cooper, Sean E. Ali, someone called Public Domain, and me.)
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THE BLACK CENTIPEDE-- Surname unknown; first name is William. Crime fighter, enigma, snarky narrator, etc.
"Bloody" Mary Jane Gallows ("born" 1892) is the Black Centipede's dearest friend and arch-nemesis. Mary Jane is a tulpa (a thought construct given independent life) created by Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper. She is more amoral than outright evil, and has a great fondness for the Centipede, though her criminal antics sometimes pit her against him.
Detective Lieutenant Stanley Bartowski is the head of the City of Zenith police department's Unusual Crimes Division. He and the Centipede are almost friends, though Bartowski often looks askance at the masked man's use of violence against criminals. The two met during the strange affair of Doctor Almanac, an episode chronicled in Creeping Dawn: The Rise of the Black Centipede.
Percival J. Doiley-- A reporter for the Zenith Orator, a newspaper owned by William Randolph Hearst; also writes stories for the TALES OF THE BLACK CENTIPEDE monthly pulp magazine.
Woodrow Wilson Tannenbaum aka Baron Samedi (born April 1, 1903) is a notable African-American Voodoo practitioner and gangster. He was named in honor of Princeton University President (later U.S. President) Thomas Woodrow Wilson. Born into a show business family, Tannenbaum spent his early years on the vaudeville circuit. He became a major gang boss in the City of Zenith in the year 1933, in partnership with the bizarre criminal known as the Stiff.
JACOB RUSSELL MELCHOIR aka THE STIFF-- Once an Assistant District Attorney in Zenith, an attempt on his life by gangster Frenchy Donovan turned him into THE STIFF, bizarre new organized crime boss. Partner of BARON SAMEDI. (Creeping Dawn, Funeral for a Fiend)
Patience and Prudence (birth dates unknown) are an enigmatic pair of young women who worked for the Zenith crime lord known as the Stiff for several years in the 1930s and 40s. They appear to be identical twins, though one is black and the other white. Nothing is known of their origins. They were rescued by the Stiff and Baron Samedi from the despicable Doctor Almanac, who had subjected them to torture and mutilation in an effort (unsuccessful) to bend them to his will. ("Funeral For a Fiend") Patience and Prudence are the ultimate "fixers." They can do anything that is necessary to resolve any situation. It is unknown whether or not they possess any occult or psychic powers. Both girls are mute, having had their tongues cut out by Doctor Almanac.
JUDITH DeCORTEZ-- Former enforcer with the Frenchy Donovan mob; now a freelance thorn in the side of law enforcement; has lost three body parts (so far) in battles with the BLACK CENTIPEDE.
THE REVEREND DOCTOR THEOBALD SCHADELHAUS-- Criminal madman, extortionist; head of the Church of the Immaculate Contagion, a group that venerates or worships disease-causing organisms, germs and viruses. ("The Plague's the Thing")
DOCTOR MAURICE T. ALMANAC-- Former psychiatrist transformed into criminal mastermind by BLOODY MARY JANE; was briefly the ruthless czar of organized crime in Zenith. (Creeping Dawn)
ANONYMOUSHKA-- A faceless Russian assassin with a mysterious past. Possibly schizophrenic. Though she regards the Black Centipede with some distaste, she is convinced that she will one day marry him. ("The Return of Doctor Reverso," Black Centipede Confidential)
THE BLUE CANDIRU-- A mysterious and not very adept crime fighter; identity unknown; first met the BLACK CENTIPEDE in Hollywood in 1933. (Blood of the Centipede)
SERGEANT RAYMOND DAVIES-- Member of the Zenith PD; the BLACK CENTIPEDE'S personal nemesis. He really doesn't know who he's fucking with.
RAOUL DEVEREAUX UNKNOWN aka DOCTOR UNKNOWN-- Failed stage magician, incredibly powerful genuine sorcerer, successful Certified Public Accountant. Lends the CENTIPEDE a hand now and again. Father of Doctor Dana Marie Laveau Unknown aka DOCTOR UNKNOWN JUNIOR.
ADRIAN COUNTENANCE-- A particularly vile super-criminal who will be making his first appearance in the Centipede chronicles next year.
THE BLACK CENTIPEDE EATER-- Freakish minion of Jack the Ripper and the White Centipede. She spent much of the novel Blood of the Centipede attempting to make a meal out of the Black Centipede.
THE WHITE CENTIPEDE is perhaps the Black Centipede's most enigmatic foe. Doctor Unknown Senior recently gave a private lecture on the White Centipede to representatives of several law-enforcement agencies. Here are some excerpts:
"The White Centipede has a connection to the near-mythical Order of the Centipede. Very little is known about the original organization. They were notoriously secretive and left nothing in the way of records. What is known-- or assumed-- is that the Order was subverted by Jack the Ripper in the 19th Century, and subsequently split into two different factions. The leader of the original Order was the White Centipede, a title and position that was passed down from one White Centipede to another by some unknown process. The Ripper enslaved the reigning White Centipede, and kept her alive until he could create and groom his own successor, who would be under his complete domination.
"This White Centipede was a composite being. That is, the Ripper somehow fused two living organisms into one. One of these was the infamous Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the so-called "Mad Monk," who wielded such disastrous influence over Tsar Nicholas II, through the Tsarina Alexandra. Early in 1917, Rasputin-- who was believed to have been assassinated in St. Petersburg in December of 1916-- arrived in the United States. Nothing is known of his activities for the next several years. Certain rumors suggest that he hired himself out as an enforcer and tactician to a number of organized criminal organizations in New York and Zenith. This was part of the training the Ripper required of him.
"But Rasputin comprised only half of this creature that would become the new White Centipede. The other half was... a colossal enigma. Here, rumor veers off into the wildest speculation-- if not outright delirium. This being, so the stories go, arrived in earth in 1897, having traveled here in an extraordinary vehicle-- from another planet. The Ripper had made contact with this being-- whether by scientific or sorcerous means, no one is prepared to say-- and had made what must have been an extraordinarily attractive proposition.
"This creature-- I'll assign it the male pronoun for the sake of convenience, though nothing is known of its gender-- crashed his vehicle into a windmill in a small Texas town, and was presumed dead by the dumbfounded earthlings who found him. In fact, he had only become dormant from the shock of the collision, and the Ripper was on the scene later that day. Posing as a doctor working for the office of the Governor of Texas, the Ripper declared the creature dead and allowed him to be buried in the local cemetery.
"There the comatose being lay until 1903, until he was exhumed by Rasputin. Presumably, whatever abominable process fused the two together took place shortly after that. In appearance, the new organism was indistinguishable from the 'old' Rasputin. When it was stable, it returned to Russia, and Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin strutted and fretted his catastrophic hour upon the stage of world history. By late 1916, the work the Ripper had assigned him was done. His apparent murder and clandestine emigration followed, and Rasputin and 'friend' were free to assume the mantle of the new White Centipede when the time came."
CARLTON "SPUDS" DIETRICH served two terms as mayor of the city of Zenith during the 1930s. He was every bit as corrupt as he was inept, making him the preferred candidate among the movers and shakers in the city's criminal underworld. Dietrich was first elected in 1931, shortly after his release from Winnemac State Prison, where he had served a three-year term for fraud and price fixing while he was a member of the city council. Most observers attributed Dietrich's victory to the unique touch of his campaign manager, Frenchy Donovan. One of Zenith's most prominent racketeers, Donovan took time off from his duties in order to work full-time for the candidate. During a press conference held to kick off Dietrich's campaign, Donovan announced that he had "found the Lord," and was "turning over a new leaf."
Interestingly, Dietrich received 104 percent of the popular vote. When confronted by the press after it was learned that many of the voters listed in the rolls had in fact passed away weeks or months prior to the election, Donovan made reference to the Biblical miracle of Lazarus and thanked the Lord for His good work.
Dietrich's opponent, Morton Beltrane, demanded a recount and vowed to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. He was on his way to the federal courthouse to file the paperwork when he was accidentally run over by an unidentified man driving a car with no license plates. Four times. One of Dietrich's first acts upon taking office was to officially designate February 9 - 15, 1931, as "Beltrane Memorial Automobile Safety Awareness Week."
PUBLIC DOMAIN CHARACTERS
SHERLOCK HOLMES-- Needs no introduction; has had dealings before and after death with the BLACK CENTIPEDE and VIONNA VALIS & MARY JANE KELLY. (Black Centipede Confidential, Vionna and the Vampires)
PROFESSOR JAMES MORIARTY-- The Napoleon of Crime. In 1908 he became Lord of the Undead after killing DRACULA. In 1933, Moriarty launched a rather puzzling attack against the city of Zenith, with the help of a super-criminal task force known as THE ORDER OF THE SUNLESS CIRCLE.
Members of the Circle included Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, John Dillinger, Kate "Ma" Barker, Max Schreck, Dr. Herbert West, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dr. Hawley Crippen, Mary Jane Gallows, Judith DeCortez, Stagger Lee, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Bell Witch. (Black Centipede Confidential)
GREGOR SAMSA-- Protagonist of "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. A man who woke up one morning to find he had turned into a giant bug. Part of the BLACK CENTIPEDE'S support staff at the Benway Building.
J. ALFRED PRUFROCK-- Subject of the poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. A man uncertain about everything. Part of the BLACK CENTIPEDE'S support staff at the Benway Building.
"As an office manager," the Centipede said, "Prufrock was politic, cautious, and meticulous. On a personal level, he was deferential and glad to be of use, though I was endeavoring to beat that out of him. He was trying hard to have what we would now call a midlife crisis, but he was having some trouble getting it off the ground. I badgered and baited him, trying to find or make a crack through which the inner man could emerge. Of course, there was the horrible possibility that he already had, and this was it." (Black Centipede Confidential)
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) -- Business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father. Hearst is credited with the creation of yellow journalism — sensationalized stories of dubious veracity. He created a chain that numbered nearly 30 papers in major American cities at its peak. He later expanded to magazines, creating the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world. Hearst was responsible for the BLACK CENTIPEDE'S public apotheosis from wanted lunatic to beloved national hero; personally despises the CENTIPEDE, a feeling that is mutual.
Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared 1937) was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross,awarded for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was also a member of the National Woman's Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1933, Earhart formed a friendship and informal partnership with the Black Centipede (Blood of the Centipede). She was one of the very few people that the Centipede trusted and respected without any reservations.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) — known as H. P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction. In the 1920s, Lovecraft became friends with the teenage boy would later become the Black Centipede.
Frank Nitti (January 27, 1886 – March 19, 1943), also known as "The Enforcer," was an Italian American gangster. One of Al Capone's top henchmen, Nitti was in charge of all strong-arm and 'muscle' operations. Nitti was later the front-man for the Chicago Outfit, the organized crime syndicate headed by Capone. Nitti owes the Centipede big, and he pays off in various ways.
Lizzie Andrew Borden (July 19, 1860 – June 1, 1927)-- Accused ax murderess; his 1927 encounter with Lizzie transformed young William --------- into the BLACK CENTIPEDE. (Creeping Dawn)
was tried and acquitted in the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. The case was a cause célèbre throughout the United States. Following her release from the prison in which she had been held during the trial, Borden chose to remain a resident of Fall River, Massachusetts, for the rest of her life, despite facing significant ostracism. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected to charge no one else with the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden.
The following passages are excerpted from the private journals of the Black Centipede. Since his meeting Lizzie was one of the watershed incidents in his life, we present his recollections in their entirety:
By the time [my family and I] moved to Fall River, the crime of and for which Lizzie Andrew Borden had been accused, tried, and acquitted, was already decades in the past. As for having been forgotten, though, it was as far from it then as it is now. Lizzie’s awful fame had spread around the world, beginning with its sanguinary genesis on August 4, 1892, and had continued to grow with each passing year. It was not something that would ever be forgotten, even amidst the glut of bloody sensations—including a brutal world war—that rose with increasing regularity as the Twentieth Century gathered speed.
What the world would not forget, Fall River could not. Lizzie was the town’s most famous daughter by far, and on her rested its chief claim to fame. Had she been as well-known for achievements in any field other than murder, her name would have graced every bit of promotional literature put out by the chamber of commerce. In fact, though, Fall River made a cottage industry out of trying to ignore the blood-drenched ax-murderess sitting in the middle of the metaphorical living room. After her acquittal, Lizzie remained in Fall River. She and her sister moved into a newer and much grander house than the one in which her father and stepmother had been done to death.
This was in a day when people gave names to their houses. Lizzie’s was called Maplecroft, a name that was elegantly meaningless. It was right smack in one of the more upscale neighborhoods. Lizzie, it seems, chose to very ostentatiously NOT drift into quiet exile and obscurity, as the town of Fall River so devoutly wished she would.
My family lived a couple of blocks from Maplecroft, and I passed the place almost every day. I caught the occasional glimpse of Lizzie.
I was out much too late one evening, as was my wont, having snuck out of the house to pursue adventures of which my parents would take the dimmest view imaginable. On my way back home, I cut through a series of backyards. I didn’t want to be spotted going down the street by some do-gooder who might inform my parents. When I got to Maplecroft, Lizzie was sitting there alone on her back steps, eating a pear. I didn't see her until I passed no more than two feet in front of her. When I did, I yelped a little because it gave me a turn. I had imagined the yard would be deserted at this hour of the morning. But not only wasn't it deserted, it was populated by Lizzie Borden herself.
She looked up at me with an expression on her face that might have reflected a remarkable serenity or a deeply-rooted mental illness or nothing at all. She didn't yelp, didn't jump, didn't seem all that concerned. I stopped dead and began trying to muster a hasty excuse/apology. Before anything could assemble itself, she spoke.
“Hello,” she said calmly. It was plain that I was the only one who had been startled.
“Ah,” I said. “Good evening, uh, Miss… I didn’t… I was just…”
Lizzie Borden cut right through the tangle. “You know who I am?” she said.
“You aren’t afraid?”
“Do I have any reason to be?”
There was a silence following that, one which I very strangely did not find the least bit uncomfortable. I had seldom been taken quite as off guard as I was that night. And when I had been, I had never recovered from it as quickly as I did then. Curious.
“I told the truth,” she said, ignoring my question, or oblivious to it. “At the trial. Everything I said was true.”
“Apparently someone believed you,” I said, as though this were the continuation of a conversation we’d been having earlier. I had the oddest feeling that it was. “You were acquitted.”
“I was,” she agreed, nodding. “The right people believed me.”
“And those who didn’t were wrong?”
She sighed. “Not entirely,” she said. “Not altogether. There was no way they could have known.”
“Which is what?”
“What really happened.”
In retrospect, this exchange takes on the flavor of an Abbot and Costello routine. Memory allows for these amusing anachronisms. At the time, I didn’t see much humor in it.
Even though I knew better, I went ahead and asked, “And what really happened?”
“What I said happened.” We had circled around the thing, and arrived back at square one. Not caring for the idea of further circumnavigation, I decided to get off the train.
“Miss Borden, I’m sorry I disturbed you. I won’t do it again.”
“Hm? Oh, no. I’m not sorry you disturbed me. I have too few disturbances these days. I feel their absence very deeply. You seem an unusual young man. Might I ask your name?”
“Bill,” I said, feeling no inclination to lie. “William. They call me Bill.”
“That’s very good, Bill. I like that. And you must call me Lizzie.”
“Thank you,” I said sincerely. I found that I wanted very much to call her Lizzie. The bizarre fact was, I found her powerfully attractive. This was odd for several reasons, some of which dare not speak their names. As for the ones that do, chief among them was the fact that she was a bit long in the tooth to inspire lust in a boy my age, even if he were inclined that way. Another one was, of course, that she was Lizzie Borden. A monster. A creature of bloody legend, her name synonymous with murder of the very foulest sort.
Curiously, though, I realized that this didn’t bother me at all.
Were I a different sort of person, and were this a different sort of story, I might say something to the effect that what I saw before me was not the larger-than-life vampire of legend, but a very real human woman, much like any other. But that was not the case. I saw the monster, if that's what it was. I saw something rare and frightening and compelling, something people aren't supposed to have. I didn't flinch. Had she appeared ordinary, I would have been gone almost as soon as I had arrived.
She stood up and looked into my eyes. Her own eyes were of an incredibly pale blue, luminous and fey, and seemed to me to contain things that had no names and could not be imagined.
“Well, Bill, I must go back inside now. I am pleased that you dropped by, and I want you to call on me again, at any hour you care to. Will you do that, Bill?”
“Yes, Lizzie. I will do that.”
She smiled, turned, and started up the steps. On the third one she stopped, turned back around, and came back down. She reached up, placed the palms of her hands on my cheeks, stood on tiptoe and kissed me. It was a very brief kiss, cool and dry. Even so, I felt as though my insides would dissolve and run out of my body through my nether parts. She smiled at me again, said “Good morning, then,” turned back around, and went inside.
“Good morning, Lizzie,” I whispered, after she had disappeared into the house.
Roscoe Conkling "Fatty" Arbuckle (March 24, 1887 – June 29, 1933)-- Disgraced silent film comedian; between November 1921 and April 1922, Arbuckle endured three widely publicized trials for the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe. Rappe had fallen ill at a party hosted by Arbuckle at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in September 1921; she died four days later. Arbuckle was accused by Rappe's acquaintance of raping and accidentally killing Rappe. After the first two trials, which resulted in hung juries, Arbuckle was acquitted in the third trial and received a formal written apology from the jury. Shortly before his death, Arbuckle directed the 1933 feature film "Blood of the Centipede." The CENTIPEDE once lent him a hand, for all the good it did. (Blood of the Centipede)
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. THE BLACK CENTIPEDE once helped Fitzgerald solve a domestic dispute. (Black Centipede Confidential)