Appearing in "The Torture of William Leather"
- John Leather (Flashback only)
- Bret Leather/The Spider (Flashback only)
Synopsis for "The Torture of William Leather"
"I'm William Leather. John Leather was my grandfather." So the story begins as the steely blue eyes of William Leather stare out at us, narrating the history of the Leather family. His Texas Ranger grandfather had inherited, along with his brother, a silver mine, a fact that got the both of them kidnapped and tortured by the villainous Dowling gang. His brother died, but John escaped into the wilderness, there to be found by a renegade Indian from the renegade Potawatomi Indian tribe. To find out what Leather was made of, he drugged him, perhaps driving him insane in the process (if the torture didn't already have him walking that path). Leather survived, returned to his silver mine, and spent eight days casting silver bullets tipped with mercury. Donning a black eye-mask, the lone ranger's first mission was revenge on the Dowling gang, and he got it. He became legend for his criminal-fighting activities in Texas, and sometime later fathered a son - born on January 1, 1900. His birth date wasn't the only thing special about Bret Leather, who used the silver mine to build a fortune and then fight a war on crime in the guise of a terrifying underground hero. So busy was the man dealing death - and then one day joining a team of heroes with similar birth dates and similar goals - he wasn't even around to father William Leather; his wife did that with one of his assistants.
Leather would learn all this in a meeting with Randall Dowling, sometime after 1945, when Bret Leather and his associates met their fate in the Adirondacks. Dowling told Leather what he had missed out on - superhuman abilities, functional immortality - and shared his plans with Leather: "We will punish them all by becoming great." Forty years later, Leather - who we learn has been talking to Elijah Snow the whole time, while bolted onto a table in a blue-lit room - realized Dowling had merely used him. He, Leather, wouldn't stand for it ("I was supposed to be great") and planned to become greater than Dowling on his own. But, he acknowledges, "Now I'm here." Snow shares his lack of sympathy, tells Leather the way of the world - Greene exiled, Dowling and Süskind next - and tells him that while he has been advised restraint, he plans to ignore it, as he now remembers their history, remembers the Nautilus, and remembers who Leather killed. As the issue ends, Leather's torture begins.
- This issue is collected in Planetary Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology.
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