DC Comics loves its legacy heroes, second or third generation heroes taking the name and often the abilities of a often forgotten hero of the past.
That leads to the case of Damage. Grant “Damage” Emerson discovered his parents weren’t really his parents, and he was a legacy hero. But which Golden or Silver Age hero was Grant’s real mom or dad?
As it turned out, all of them. Sort of. Allow me to explain.
Grant was a normal high school kid growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta when he discovered he had some powers. What sort of powers did he have? Well, his body could absorb or build up various types of energy that would allow him various levels of superhuman strength and invulnerability. But the big power he got, the one that more or less supplied his superhero name, was he could explode. Like, he’d just go boom and destroy stuff in the surrounding area. He’d be fine, but until the energy built back up again, he’d be somewhat powerless, so his powers weren’t even particularly reliable.
Now, most people learning they were adopted can probably manage. Grant couldn’t. Not because he hated his parents for lying to him for years, but because it turned out his “parents” were just raising him for the money they earned watching a future metahuman. As soon as Grant knew what was up, they split. And got killed. Pretty much in that order. Grant got to watch the whole thing. Then he learned his “uncle” was really the villainous Dr. Polaris and then he blew up a big chunk of Atlanta while investigating the mystery of his parentage with an older hero he thought might have been his dad, one Iron Munro.
Munro, for what it was worth, was not Grant’s father. His long-lost daughter was Kate Spencer, one in a long line of Manhunters.
As if it weren’t bad enough Grant blew up a good chunk of Atlanta, he also managed to kill his love interest and was barred from entering the state again. The only thing keeping him out of jail was he got put on the New Teen Titans where he could be under something like constant supervision.
That’s some reward for the guy who more or less restarted the universe during the Zero Hour story.
So, who were Grant’s real parents? As it turned out, Grant’s birth was a long running science experiment from immortal bad guy Vandal Savage. Savage had, it turned out, been collect DNA from various Justice League and Justice Society members for quite some time, and with the Martian Manhunter’s shapeshifting DNA as a catalyst, merged the various genes together to help create Grant. He did have some birth parents in the form of the Golden Age Atom, Al Pratt, and his wife, but in terms of genetics, he got a little something from all kinds of superheroes without their knowledge. And, of course, Pratt and his wife were both dead by the time Grant learned they were the closest he had to birth parents.
Damage was actually a bit popular around this time. He was the second of two DC heroes to get a photo cover with a live model posing as him, the other being previous Misplaced Hero The Ray.
But for whatever reason, Grant gradually faded into the background. It probably didn’t help that that Titan run was terrible. Grant would find a new team in the form of the Freedom Fighters, a group that featured a bunch of legacy heroes some of whom have been covered in past Misplaced Hero files like the Ray, Phantom Lady, and the Human Bomb. During the Infinite Crisis, the team was ambushed by some high powered villains. Most of the group were killed aside from Ray and Damage. Ray was taken away. Damage’s face was apparently a wreck of Dr. Doom-level proportions. That actually made him a lot moodier and he took to wearing a mask all the time to hide his disfigurement.
From there, he joined the Justice Society that was more or less made up of legacy characters with a handful of surviving originals. Damage even struck up a romance with teammate Judomaster, but alas, it was not to be. Just as Grant was getting used to being the Man Without A Face, he was killed in the Blackest Night storyline, the last sacrifice needed to revive the master villain to the living world, and came back temporarily as a Black Lantern. Yeah, he wasn’t even among the lucky 12 Black Lanterns who got to live again when the story ended.
Methinks if your superpower is exploding all the time, that might be the best you can hope for.