Grant Emerson is just another kid trying to make it through high school before discovering that he possesses hard-to-control superpowers of mysterious origin. With his adoptive parents dead and every day of his complicated new life presenting some new crisis, Grant reluctantly struggles to adopt the mantle of hero, even as he fears that his newfound power makes him a menace.
In the parlance of the superhero and Dungeons and Dragons afficianado, Damage is your classic “brick” character: super-strength and invulnerability are his very basic power set (complemented by accelerated reflexes). But in Damage’s case, all these powers work on a sliding scale. Once he begins using his powers, his internal energy builds gradually. He gets stronger, he gets harder to hurt but eventually, unless he finds a way to expend this energy (hitting bad guys works), the energy releases in a single, explosive event that usually results in a lot of . . . well, you get it. Immediately after this . . . release . . . Grant is weak, virtually powerless for a time. (And yes, we were well aware of the metaphor we were playing with by giving powers of this kind to a teenage, male superhero).
Over the run of the series, Damage gains some control over his energy release. He learns, for example, to channel the energy through the ground in a straight line to strike enemies from a distance and, in an appearance in another title, he is able to propel himself through the air in a great leap assisted by energy blasts from his hands.
We introduced Damage in 1994 and got him into a whole mess of trouble over this first six issues, introducing some supporting and recurring characters along the way. At the end of issue #6, after his first encounter with the super team the New Titans (formerly The Teen Titans), he disappeared in a flash of light. Turns out, he was being dragged away to participate in the big cross-over event in the DC Universe that year, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time.
Damage didn’t have a big role to play in the main action of that mini-series, but he did end up providing the spark for the Big Bang that restarted the Universe after the Big Bad destroyed it. (You don’t really want to know, and if you do, I’m sure you can find the back issues somewhere, or check out the summary at the other end of the Zero Hour link above.
This gave us a chance to relaunch the title with issue #0 (every title in the DCU had a “0” issue that month as part of the aftermath of the Zero Hour “event”). We dropped some major clues to Damage’s origin and ended with him making a huge mess of downtown Atlanta. He was arrested, tried, and “sentenced” to a kind of superhero community service — he had to join the New Titans, a new incarnation of that group of young, costumed superhumans he encountered just a few issues earlier. Damage continued to appear in the Titans title as a semi-regular as well as his own book.
He left the team to pursue an understanding of his own origins in a multi-part story called “Fragments,” followed by a multi-issue sequence,”Picking up the Pieces,” in which Grant sought to come to terms with what he’d learned about where he came from. The short version of what he discovered: Grant’s actual parents were Al Pratt, the original Atom (a Golden Age hero who’d been around since the ’40s as a member of the Justice Society) and his wife Mary, but that he was also infused with “metagenetic” material taken from more than a dozen members of the Justice Society and Justice League. (This volatile genetic fusion is part of the explanation for Damage’s hard-to-control powers).
Shortly after we started our last story arc, we received word that Damage had been canceled. We only had, I think, three issues to wrap things up and several plot threads were left dangling.
Here’s a cover gallery: [slideshow]
Over the course of his short twenty-issue run, Grant met old-line DC characters like Iron Munro, Phantom Lady (Dee Tyler), Vandal Savage, Sarge Steel, and most of the original Justice Society of America, interacted with new DCU characters like Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern and The Ray, and fought some classic villains including Baron Blitzkrieg, Metallo, Steppenwolf of Apokolips, Doctor Polaris, and Copperhead. He also confronted some villains and other super-characters original to the series: Troll, Wyldheart, Steelhawk, Bounty, and Proteus, an inhuman bi-product of the experiments that created Damage. Our boy Grant even went into outer space once with the New Titans, in “The Siege of Zi Charam” story arc that spanned issues of the New Titans, Green Lantern, and Darkstars titles, as well as an issue #16 of Damage.
Damage continued to appear in Titans for a time after his solo title was canceled, though with no input from Bill or me. He was eventually written out of the team and sent into minor-character limbo, before returning to the DCU some years later and eventually being incorporated into a new incarnation of the Justice Society, an appropriate affiliation, considering his legacy.
Damage became embroiled in the Blackest Night storyline that swept through the DCU in 2009-10. If you’re interested, you can read more about his post-solo title career and eventual demise on Damage’s Wikipedia page, which also includes a very nice Alex Ross painting of his last costume.
Of course, Damage’s seventeen year history, even his very existence, was wiped away in 2011’s complete reboot of the DC Universe, The New 52. However, in an episode of the CW television show The Flash that first aired on November 25, 2014, Grant Emerson’s name is mentioned as one of the people affected by the same superscience accident that gave Barry Allen his superspeed powers so…maybe Grant’s dead in that universe too, but then again, perhaps there is hope for another incarnation of Grant and his explosive alter-ego to make an appearance.
Bill Marimon was the primary penciler on the series, with Jason Armstrong contributing some fill-in issues and a three-part back-up series featuring Iron Munro that ran during the “Fragments” story arc. Inks on the first couple of issues were by Tom McWeeney, before Don Hillsman stepped in for the remainder of the series. Bill Kaplan was the original editor for the series before leaving DC go to work for Image Comics in California. Jim Spivey stepped in while we were working on issue #3 and remained with us for the rest of the run.
If you’re interested in a different take on Damage, including a much more extensive review of his career after the cancellation of his solo title, check out iFanboy’s DC Histories page on our boy here.