Real Name: Kevin Franklin

Identity/Class: Human mutate

Occupation: Adventurer;
former (as Franklin) Aide to Mayor Thomasina Jefferson; (as Payback) operative of the Shadow Cabinet

Affiliations: Heroes, ally of Icon, Hardware, Wise Son;
former Shadow Cabinet, aide to Mayor Jefferson

Enemies: Doctor Nemo (deceased), SYSTEM, Agent Scar, Inner King, John Tower, Traffic Men;
former Icon and Rocket, Shadow Cabinet

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: "The Home of the Heroes," Chrysler Building, Manhattan, New York City;
former City Hall, old Downtown, City of Dakota; later an apartment in Westwood, City of Dakota

First Appearance: Icon #2 (Milestone, April 1993)

Powers/Abilities: Through an act of will, Kevin Franklin can transform into a large reptilian monster named Payback by subconsciously adding over half a ton of unknown, perhaps extradimensional mass to his bone marrow and tissue. Through another act of will, he can revert to his original human form by shedding this extra mass, which returns to its source.

As Payback, Franklin possesses enormous superhuman strength though not at the level of Donner, who is second only to Icon as Earth's strongest being. Payback is also highly resistant to injury though the full limits of his durability are unknown. Payback's superhumanly strong leg muscles grant him incredible leaping ability. He has proven capable of a standing high jump of 100 feet. Payback's claws are extremely sharp and tough, enabling them to tear through virtually every material known to man. Even Icon's otherwise impenetrable skin is vulnerable to these deadly talons.

In human form, Franklin is near-sighted, but his vision is sharpened as Payback so he does not require aids for seeing in this form. Franklin can remain in his Payback form indefinitely even if he is asleep or unconscious.

As Payback, Kevin Franklin wears a special harness that can expand and contract in size as he transforms from human to monster form. Franklin acquired this costume in the dimension where Twilight had attempted to exile him and Starlight.

History: Kevin Franklin was the loyal aide to Thomasina Jefferson, the embattled mayor of the City of Dakota. But their amiable relationship ended when rumor spread about the Big Bang, an impending turf war on Paris Island, Dakota's poorest neighborhood, that would determine which gang was the city's most powerful. Seeing an excellent opportunity to shed her "soft on crime" Democrat image, Mayor Jefferson quickly devised a plan in which the largest police task force in Dakota history would arrest all the gangmembers at the Bang in one fell swoop. Franklin felt such extreme methods were not only immoral, but would backfire on Mayor Jefferson. Despite his protests, the mayor went forward with the plan.

On the night of the Bang, Franklin went to Paris Island to warn the gangs of Mayor Jefferson's intentions. Just then, Dakota police officers arrived and deployed a special tear gas to more easily capture all the gang members. Unknown to the officers, the gas had been secretly laced with "quantum juice," a bizarre mutagenic substance that killed 90 percent of those at the Bang while the survivors or "Bang Babies" became genetic freaks. In Franklin's case, he could now turn into a frightening reptilian monster nicknamed Payback at will. Fearing the political and legal fallout from her disastrous plan, Mayor Jefferson along with certain police and government officials covered up the truth about the turf war.

Believing the system had failed him, Franklin concluded he'd have to force the mayor to admit her guilt to the public. With the support of hired mercenaries, Franklin took over City Hall and held Mayor Jefferson hostage. He promised the mayor that he'd release her and surrender to the police if she publicly admitted what really happened at the Big Bang. She refused.

Franklin believed the mercenaries could hold off SHRED, Dakota's elite police unit, until he got his confession from Mayor Jefferson. What he couldn't have planned for was the new superhero duo, Icon and the Rocket, who easily broke through the mercenaries' defenses and entered the mayor's office. Seeing no other option, Franklin transformed into Payback and attacked the heroes. Though he injured Icon, Payback was forced to flee into Dakota's sewer system after Rocket's stunning counterattack. Rocket pursued Payback and defeated him after a short rematch. Reverting to human form, Franklin decided to explain to Rocket the reason for his recent actions. Sympathetic, Rocket would have let Franklin go if not for Icon who heard the whole story. In exchange for Payback turning himself into police custody, Icon promised to discover everyone connected to the massacre at the Big Bang and bring them to justice.

Icon proved a man of his word since he gathered enough hard evidence to compel Mayor Jefferson to not only publicly admit her part in the Bang, but also give Kevin Franklin a full pardon. Icon discovered other conspirators as well, most notably Dr. Nemo, the creator of quantum juice who was responsible for secretly introducing the substance into the tear gas used at the Bang. Payback joined Icon and two other Bang Babies, the teen hero Static and Wise Son of the Blood Syndicate, to arrest Nemo, who was hiding out in an upscale Paris hotel. In trying to escape from the heroes, Nemo got a just punishment when he overexerted his invisibility powers and died.

Subsequently, Icon convinced Payback to join the covert superhero team, the Shadow Cabinet. The Hero of Dakota hoped Payback's presence would serve as a conscience for Cabinet leader Dharma, whose precognitive abilities alerted him to Nemo's planned field test during the Big Bang, yet chose to do nothing for his own arcane reasons.

At first, Icon's instincts seemed sound as Dharma was less duplicitous and ruthless in running the Cabinet with Payback around. However, the latter soon found himself distracted from his duties by his growing attraction to another new Cabinet operative, the energy-wielding Starlight. Though she initially considered him just a friend, Starlight began to reciprocate Payback's feelings, and they soon became lovers. Starlight even let Payback live in her apartment in Dakota's Westwood neighborhood until he could afford his own place. Despite her assurances, Payback secretly wondered if she felt sorry for him and thus didn't truly love him. The pair also became good friends of another couple in the Cabinet, the superstrong Donner and superfast Blitzen.

It is possible that the Dharma recruited Starlight because he foresaw that she would be an unwitting diversion for Payback. Whatever the case, Dharma was now free to pursue his secret agenda of using the Shadow Cabinet to take over SYSTEM, the malicious global conspiracy that has fought his organization for centuries. Several Cabinet operatives including Payback and Starlight began to suspect Dharma's true plans. However, before they could confront Dharma about their concerns, the operatives were drawn into what became known as the "Utopia Park Riots."

Shortly after Payback joined the Cabinet, Governor Samuel Winter convinced Mayor Jefferson that Dakota's economy would benefit tremendously from Utopia Park, a multibillion dollar futuristic theme park to be constructed on Paris Island. However, the park bred resentment among Paris Island residents, many of whom had been pushed off their land and into hastily built housing projects. Thus, on opening day of Utopia Park, the Blood Syndicate led a crowd of these disgruntled residents to the park gates to peacefully protest their mistreatment. However, the situation deteriorated when fearful security fired on the protesters, causing the riots. Despite the mounting number of casualties, Dharma ordered all Cabinet operatives to not intervene in the riots because he believed the long term impact would be beneficial for Dakota and even the world.

Still, as a native of Dakota, Kevin Franklin simply couldn't sit back and watch his city tear itself apart. Changing into Payback, he breached Utopia Park's defenses and tried to reason with the rioters. Unfortunately, the rioters thought he was a threat because of his monstrous appearance and attacked him. Not wanting to harm anyone, Payback fled the pursuing mob and ducked into a museum where he reverted to his normal form. Franklin thought looking human would make him less threatening, but he was soon chased by another mob that was attacking anyone who "didn't belong" in the park, e.g. Black people. While fleeing from these rioters, Franklin ran into Donner, who along with Blitzen was trying to quell the riot. Donner mistook Franklin for a rioter and clocked him, thus earning his justifiable rage. Having let off some steam, Payback helped Donner and Blitzen as well as the arriving Starlight, Iron Butterfly and Mechanic to implement an effective strategy to break up the warring mobs and end the riots. The Cabinet operatives were assisted by Dharma's sisters, Plus, who used the Shadowslide (the Shadow Cabinet's teleportation system) to speed up the process.

Dharma viewed Payback and his compatriots' latest actions as proof that his Cabinet operatives had too much free will and thus were less effective in his eyes. So, he transmitted a signal to recall all operatives to the Cabinet's headquarters, the Shadowspire, where he announced that none of them could leave except for missions. Realizing Dharma had gone insane, Donner, Blitzen and the size-changing Iota fled the Shadowspire despite attempts to stop them. The trio then pledged to form their own superhero team, Heroes, which would operate publicly, thus earning people's trust and eliminating the temptation to resort to the Cabinet's amoral tactics.

The Heroes made a major splash after saving the city of Iberia, Arkansas from being wiped out by flood waters from the bursting local dam. This widely reported heroism got the attention of Payback and Starlight, who had ignored the Cabinet recall signal. The pair along with Static found the Heroes' idealism attractive and immediately signed onto the team. That's when a Shadow Cabinet strike team led by Iron Butterfly appeared to bring the Heroes back into the fold and kill anyone who refused.

A fierce battle erupted during which Payback and Starlight were sucked into the interdimensional portal of Cabinet operative Twilight. The two heroes found themselves in another dimension which they finally escaped via Twilight after a months-long quest. Payback and Starlight were surprised to learn that mere minutes had passed in their own universe. They rejoined the battle, which was causing major structural damage to the apartment building in which the Heroes and the Cabinet were fighting. Calling a truce, both teams combined their powers to shore up the building and save the lives of its residents. Ashamed that the battle had endangered innocent people, Iron Butterfly promised the Heroes that the were free of their ties to the Cabinet. With that, Butterfly and the other Cabinet operatives teleported back to the Shadowspire.

Though impressed with their valor, Mayor Jefferson politely asked the Heroes to find a new home outside Dakota, which already had enough problems with superhuman activity. After scouring the country, the Heroes began to consider the Chrysler Building in New York. The superhero team were barely into their tour of the office building before they had to go into action to protect New Yorkers from several threats. For example, Payback joined Donner and Iota in catching Neo-Nazis disguised as Muslim terrorists, who tried to bomb the Chrysler Building. On their way back to the Chrysler Building, Payback and Donner had to also stop a runaway subway train. Realizing that New York City needed them as much as they needed a home, the Heroes decided to make the upper floors of the Chrysler Building their new headquarters.

After the Heroes' press conference, Iota learned a shift occurred in the Inniverse, the subatomic universe that was the source of her shrinking abilities. She was convinced that her "late" husband, Albert Wellington-Smythe, was still alive and trapped somewhere in the Inniverse. Payback and the other Heroes agreed to help Iota investigate this mystery. The group piled into an SUV equipped with a dimensional transfer unit (DTU) that, when empowered by Iota's original shrinking ray, transported the adventurers to the Inniverse. The Heroes were promptly attacked by a quartet of Inner Men, elephantine natives of the Inniverse who thought they were being invaded. After soundly defeating the Heroes, the Inner Men learned that one of the "invaders" was Iota, wife to Albert, ruler of the Inniverse. After apologies were made, Iota was happily reunited with Albert, now called the Inner King, and decided to remain with him in the Inniverse. Though saddened to lose a friend and teammate, the Heroes were glad Iota had found her husband and wished them the best before returning home in a new DTU vehicle built by Iota and the Inner King.

Reappearing in the Chrysler Building, the Heroes were shocked to see an unexpected visitor, Plus, who had also left the Shadow Cabinet. But the joy ended when Static noticed the matter/energy buffer for Iota's shrinking ray was dangerously overloaded and would soon explode with enough force to level New York City. The overload was caused by Iota's use of her powers in the Inniverse, resulting in her mass being sent backward to the buffer. To make matters worse, the Inner King informed Iota that his shifting of the Inniverse was his attempt to create a gateway back to his home universe to conquer it. Albert then ordered his huge Inner Men army to enter the portal used by the Heroes.

The Heroes quickly organized their defense against the Inner Man pouring into our dimension. As for the buffer, Starlight used her energy powers to contain it long enough to dispose of it in the Atlantic Ocean. While the Heroes fought valiantly against overwhelming odds, Iota rebelled against her husband and escaped to her original reality along with a special resonator device that amplified her powers. After growing to gigantic size, Iota ordered the loyal Inner Men to cease their invasion and return to the Inniverse. When all the Inner Men had evacuated New York, Starlight tossed Iota's resonator into the interdimensional gateway, sealing it forever. Having saved New York City from conquest, the Heroes were hailed as the Big Apple's most honored sons and daughters. With some prodding from Blitzen, Starlight accepted the role as the Heroes' leader.

From that point on, Payback and the Heroes protected New Yorkers from a variety of menaces, usually terrestrial. However, history repeated itself when the Big Apple was attacked by another extradimensional race, the K'lumnii. While the rest of the Heroes repelled the aliens, Payback, Starlight and Iota began tracking down the source of the portals the K'lumnii were using to invade Earth. Their search led them to a destroyed SYSTEM base in Montana and an unexpected encounter with the high-tech vigilante, Hardware, who also was drawn to the location.

Though Hardware had helped Starlight control her powers in the past, that fact could not temper the dislike between the surly Payback and the equally terse armored hero. The pair maintained the peace enough so Hardware and the Heroes could compare notes. They realized that the K'lumnii were really retaliating against SYSTEM, which were using a captive Bang Baby named Elizabeth Johnson to power an interdimensional portal in an unsuccessful attempt to invade other universes. Just then, a squad of K'lumnii attacked Hardware and the Heroes before they could free Brown. As Payback, Iota and Starlight fought the alien warriors, Hardware entered the portal in order to meet the K'lumnii's rulers and negotiate an end to hostilities.

Shortly after Hardware disappeared, the Heroes and the K'lumnii were confronted by Scar, a monstrous Bang Baby agent sent by SYSTEM to eliminate all traces of their dimension-hopping activities. Though outnumbered, Scar proved more than a match for his opponents until Starlight teleported herself and the SYSTEM agent to a deserted location. There, she unleashed her full power against Scar, who was left seriously injured. When Starlight returned, Payback informed her that Hardware had successfully brokered a truce with the K'lumnii, whose troops promptly return to their home dimension. With that, Hardware freed Johnson from the SYSTEM portal generator with Starlight's aid.

The Heroes' string of successes was soon followed by setbacks. Static quit crimefighting and resigned from Heroes after he failed to save his friend and ally, Dusk, during a rescue attempt. Static was replaced by Gloria Mundi, an alien collective intelligence. A few months later, the Heroes learned that Dakota's superhumans, mostly Bang Babies, were disappearing. The team's investigation of the phenomenon led to a clash with the Traffic Men, mysterious figures who used energy staves to temporarily disrupt Bang Babies' powers and capture them. The superhuman kidnappers proved too much for the Heroes, who lost Donner in battle before they were forced to retreat. With Icon and Rocket off-world and Hardware left disabled by the Traffic Men, the Heroes really needed Static's power and cunning to defeat this new foe. Static was adamant about not being a superhero again until he had to protect Starlight from the Traffic Men, who seriously wounded her while trying to snatch him. Static then decided to rejoin the Heroes.

The Heroes then learned from Hardware that the vials Static lifted from one of the Traffic Men contained a serum derived from Bang Baby blood. The Traffic Men used this serum to boost their abilities. More desperate than ever to crack the case, Static contacted the Shadow Cabinet to see if they knew anything about the Traffic Men's secret base. The Cabinet responded by sending Iron Butterfly, who revealed that the Traffic Men were sequestered in the underground complex of the Tower Family, the world's first public superhero team. The assembled superheroes were joined in the planning session by Hardware, who was operating an armored robot via a telepresence rig. "Hardware" gave Payback and Static special bracelets that would protect them from the Traffic Men's energy staves. Fully prepared, the Heroes, Iron Butterfly, and Hardware raided the base, whose Traffic Men defenders were shocked that their staves were having little effect. During the battle, Static discovered not only the chamber where the captured superhumans were being drained of blood, but also the mastermind behind the atrocities: John Tower of the Tower Family.

Nearly a year earlier, Tower had been seriously injured in battle with the Bang Baby crimelord, Holocaust. Somehow, Tower discovered that ingesting Bang Baby blood not only enhanced his self-healing abilities, but granted him a wide range of additional powers. He organized the Traffic Men to help him get an ample supply of Bang Babies and other superhumans with the promise of giving his agents a cut of the special blood supply they amassed.

Blitzen and Hardware arrived to back up the stunned Static, but were quickly dispatched by Tower. Static retreated to inform the others what happened. Payback and the others thought it would be more prudent to withdraw and regroup, but Static convinced them that they could beat Tower if they followed his plan.

Implementing the plan, Static played "cat and mouse" with Tower as the Heroes, Iron Butterfly and Hardware (operating a spare telepresence robot) mopped up the remaining Traffic Men. Thus, Tower was caught completely by surprise and without any support when he was ambushed by Dakota's captive superhumans, whom Static freed during the moments he had eluded the former superhero. Payback and his allies joined in the assault on Tower, whose inability to renew his powers with Bang Baby blood led to his defeat. As for the Traffic Men, Gloria Mundi absorbed their souls into her collective intelligence.

With Dakota's superhumans safe and sound, Payback and the rest of the Heroes returned to New York, which they defend to this day.

Comments: Payback was created by Dwayne McDuffie.

Thanks to Fred Weaver for providing the much expanded history above, as well as other information.


Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

Back to US Independents Page


All images and characters depicted on this site are copyright their respective holders, and are used for informational purposes only. No infringement is intended and copyrights remain at source.