The year was 1938. The world stood at the brink of the most terrible and bloody struggle in brutal history. One of the key players in that upcoming conflict was Major Kraven Christianson of the SS, Hitler’s right hand man. Unbeknownst even to the Nazi High Command, this dashing young major had a secondary allegiance as a high-ranking member of the Thule Society, accomplished practitioners of occult magic!
A lifetime of arcane rituals guided Kraven into the desert wastes of Libya, where his destiny lay. Spilling the blood of a dozen of Germany’s finest soldiers to empower a ritual including his own brother Frances, Kraven caused a dead city to rise out of the sand. It was the lost city of Seti-Ab, burial site of the legendary sorcerer Tan-Aktor!
Pronouncing ancient Egyptian curses none had dared to speak aloud for millennia, the vile Nazi opened the wizard’s tomb. As the final seal was broken, a black vulture descended from the desert sky and settled on the major’s shoulder. This vulture was a ka, repository of the old sorcerer’s perverted soul, only capable of returning from death to join the reincarnation of Tan-Aktor, Wilhelm Kantor himself!
Thousands of years ago, the sorcerer Tan-Aktor tried to murder Prince Heru-Ra and seize the throne of Egypt. The mortally wounded prince thrust a dagger into the sorcerer’s heart, and they died together. Presented for judgment before the gods, Tan-Aktor was transformed into a demon and banished to a hellish plane of chaos. But part of his soul was trapped in the mortal realm.
Armed with that accumulated occult knowledge, Kraven vowed to succeed and become master of the world. He looked at the long shadows of the city etched in the sand, and vowed the world would fall under his khebit, his mighty shadow.
After blasting Seti-Ab to rubble to protect its secrets, Kraven returned to Germany. As a high-ranking Nazi who embodied the grandest ideals of Aryanhood, Wilhelm used his position to build his own empire of evil. He was appointed Undersecretary of Special Military Projects, giving him access to Germany’s first superhuman, Nacht-Krieger. Sometimes directly, sometimes through intermediaries, Kantor commanded him along with hundreds of other subordinates.
Only one fell outside his authority: der Übermensch, the ultimate champion of Nazi might! Conducting investigations through mystical and mundane means, Kraven learned der Übermensch was in fact named Kal-Zed and was a member of the Ultima race that had been discovered by the Thule Society. He was not even Aryan!
Kraven had the knowledge to potentially discredit and humble the mighty der Übermensch, but why engage in petty rivalries when one has an opportunity to gain the knowledge that can change the world? Kraven pretended to abase himself before the mighty hero of the Reich. Gradually, he wrested the secrets of the Ultima from him, and those things he could not learn through guile were unveiled by sorcery. By 1944, Kraven was in full command of the knowledge of the Ultima, but it was already too late. Kraven realized even if he could exploit those secrets, the Allies would seize them before they could be fully implemented.
In 1945, leaving Germany in flames and ruin, Wilhelm Kantor fled to South America, determined to build a new empire, an empire that would learn from the mistakes of Nazi Germany and Tan-Aktor, an Overreich that would never fall, enthroning him as the Master of the Earth for all time.
The Lengthening Shadow
Only one thing could sway Kraven Christianson away from the path of his destiny: the calling of his heart.
In 1945, Kraven fell in love with a young German medical researcher, Dr. Hannah Guten. Hannah was one of the most brilliant minds working on Kraven’s Projekt Zeugung, his first-generation cloning experiments. As a gift for his beloved, Kantor wanted to give her super-powers, performing the same ritual that transformed Ingrid Hildebrandt into the mighty Nazi villainess, the Valkyrie.
Unfortunately, the powers of the Aesir would not permit a second Valkyrie to walk the earth. They did transform Hannah into one of the Choosers of the Slain, but they declared she must pay a price, and promptly snatched her away to serve the Aesir in Valhalla.
Kraven was enraged at himself for his weakness. He had allowed himself to fall victim to love, and for what? Love was a quality for lesser men, he decided, and devoted himself fully to his plan to build his new Reich. By 1948, his cloning experiments began to bear fruit. He grew hundreds of duplicates of himself and placed them in a huge incubation factory, all but one.
In 1950, Kraven rapidly aged one of his clones to adulthood and trained him as his successor. Dressing him in the garb of Imperial Germany, and christening him “the Killer Kaiser,” the Nazi mastermind presented his doppelganger as Kraven gone mad. The hapless clone flew into Germany in a “Battle Blimp” and activated a conditioning protocol Kraven used on thousands of ex-SS soldiers, transforming them into the brainwashed “army of the New Reich.”
In spite of his madness, the “Killer Kaiser” possessed enough of Kraven’s cunning and intellect to terrorize Europe for two years, far longer than even Kraven anticipated. Some of Kraven’s old foes finally destroyed the Battle Blimp in a spectacular dogfight over Dresden. The Kaiser perished in flames and the world breathed a sigh of relief, believing Kraven Christianson dead at last.
While the outside world wrestled with the Cold War, the amoral monster was left free to plot and scheme in peace. With the power of his sorcery weakened by the counterspell cast at the end of the war, Kraven turned to technology and the secrets of the Ultima. His clone army matured in vats beneath the Andes, but he had time to develop other projects.
The Monarch, a flying fortress three times the size of anything else in the world in its day, bombed factories on the east coast of the United States before a squad of air aces shot it down. Despite grabbing the headlines, it was only Overshadow’s field test in terror.
During the 1950s, Kraven began training units of soldiers using mental conditioning and primitive genetic engineering to fight the “upcoming struggle.” These men would be the Umbra, the vast darkness that would swamp the world, and the entire organization would be called SHADOW (Secret Hierarchy of Agents for Domination Over the World).
Kraven delegated his authority when he recruited his “command staff,” the Penumbra. First among them were the survivors of the Thule Society, led by an ancient, shriveled Rumanian sorcerer, the Crimson Mask. Colonel Jargon Reinholdt, the Nazi colonel who had been his aide-de-camp since the earliest days of the war, commanded its military wing and was bolstered by a pack of bright young South American military officers. These men would lead Overshadow’s forces in Operation Inundation, the day when SHADOW would overwhelm the unsuspecting West and finally take control of the world! To increase the agency’s influence, Overshadow incorporated the survivors of the Invisible Empire, a movement of American fascists of the 1930s and ‘40s. The Invisible Empire’s secret bases provided SHADOW with a network of headquarters in the continental United States that would have taken years to build on their own.
Like a chess grandmaster, Kraven planned to build up his forces slowly and carefully, waiting until his first generation of clones became fit for duty before he struck.
Operation Inundation and Its Aftermath
Giving his Penumbra less than a week to gather their forces, Kantor ordered Operation Inundation to commence. Around the world in Paris, France, New York, Washington DC, Independence, and thirty world capitals, SHADOW mobilized its troops and attacked major government, commercial, and media centers. It was an audacious plan, and for a few hours, the free world was plunged into chaos. Several major European cities were forced to surrender to SHADOW. In America, three of the largest military bases were in flames, and more than two-thirds of the country’s major military resources were disabled or destroyed.
Unfortunately for Kraven, SHADOW’s Independence cell had already been compromised by an anonymous member of the Black Syndicate, who tipped off the newly founded AEGIS organization. Kraven had dismissed AEGIS as a band of troublemakers and misfits. The “contraterror cowboys” (as the first generation of AEGIS agents were called) proved him wrong. As a result of their actions, SHADOW was unable to gain control of America’s nuclear arsenal, the one thing that would have ensured success.
In the end, SHADOW captured less than 15% of its intended targets; of those it captured, it couldn’t hold any for more than a few days. The unexpected intensity of the counterattack forced a retreat on all fronts.
Overshadow didn’t have time to brood over his defeat; sensing a moment of weakness, one of the Penumbra, a disgraced British noble named Jonathan Ellis, seized his opportunity. Formerly second-in-command of the Invisible Empire, Ellis believed it was his destiny to rule SHADOW (and through it, the world). He mobilized the surviving SHADOW forces and launched an attack on Kraven’s headquarters. With his back against a wall and a gun against his head, the Overshadow survived only by transferring his mind into one of his immature clones at the exact moment that Ellis pulled the trigger.
Displaying Kraven’s body as a trophy, Ellis seized control of SHADOW. Unfortunately, there was no recovery from the failure of Operation Inundation, and Ellis’ victory proved to be a Pyrrhic one. Within a year, AEGIS demolished Ellis’ version of the organization, and AEGIS Director Riley Walker declared, “there are no more shadows left for these creeps to hide in.” Nearly everyone assumed Jonathan Ellis was the mysterious “Overshadow” who headed the organization, and with his demise, the world believed SHADOW could never recover.
The SHADOW Golden Age
The “Corporate Period” of SHADOW was arguably its most successful. The practical men of the Penumbra bought munitions plants, trucking and shipping networks, communications companies, banks, even security firms, and it was this “infrastructure of evil” that allowed the organization to expand, virtually unchecked, to a level beyond anything Kraven ever imagined. For obvious reasons, Overshadow preferred the centralization of power. A new attitude brought SHADOW new prosperity.
A key to SHADOW’s goals was to develop its teleportal technology. Overshadow used it to connect his bases so they could secretly transfer goods and materials without being detected. The efficient transport of goods reduced SHADOW’s need to commit open robberies, allowing them to plunder resources in remote locations, away from the public eye.
During the 1980s, SHADOW had drifted from its world-conquering roots, becoming a group of thieves. Because thieves were a lower priority for law-enforcement agencies than overt threats to national security, it served Overshadow’s purposes to perpetuate that façade. However, SHADOW still needed a terror arm, so he gathered various European terrorist cells and combined them into a new organization, Overthrow. In the guise of a high-tech anarchist group, Overthrow would perform actions that advanced SHADOW’s goals, but wouldn’t lead AEGIS or UNISON back to their door. Overthrow would distract the world, allowing SHADOW to advance its goals in secret.
Fall of SHADOW
SHADOW’s golden age didn’t last. Realizing the danger their newest recruit, Nikolas Christianson posed, The Overshadow attempted preceded to eliminate him. His plan was interrupted when another organization called the Black Syndicate. The Syndicate eventually overpowered SHADOW in a skirmish that lasted several days. Seemingly destroyed, The Syndicate retreated. This ended SHADOW’s prosperous age.
Operation Solution-X (Year One)
Unknown to the Black Syndicate, Kraven had transferred his mind into the body of one of his clones. Seeing the increase in Meta Human activity, Overshadow gathered as many resources as he could manage and began to create an army of 347 meta humans. During the experiments, there were several test subjects that escaped. To protect his plans secrecy Kraven sent other SHADOW Metas after them. While his army is being created Overshadow attempting to rebuild his Reich.