TIM: Hello loyal listeners! It's Thursday April 11th, 1996. You're listening to Tim and Maura in the morning.
MAURA: On today's show, we're celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Unveiling Day.
TIM: All week we've been teasing a big surprise.
MAURA: The time has come to reveal how we plan to commemorate this momentous anniversary. Tim, would like to do the honors?
TIM: I'd love to. Maura and I are excited to introduce today's guest. He's an accomplished hero and a senior member of the Vindices Catholicus of the United Americas. Without further ado, calling in from an undisclosed location, Maura and I welcome to the show The Caiman.
CAIMAN: Hey Tim, hey Maura. Happy to be here. I'm a big fan of the show.
MAURA: Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is your first radio interview, isn't it?
CAIMAN: Why, yes. I did a couple magazine interviews when I first joined the VCUA, but this is my first time on the radio. I'd be hesitant to do a television interview, so radio seemed right up my alley.
TIM: Why the hesitation about being interviewed on television?
CAIMAN: Not to get too serious, but I've got a lot of enemies. If they saw me on TV, they could study my movements and mannerisms, making it easier for them to identify me.
TIM: Very smart. I could never cut it as a hero. I'd never think of stuff like that.
MAURA: Caiman, I've always wanted to know how you choose your superhero identity? Why the name Caiman?
CAIMAN: I'm small and mighty so it just seemed appropriate. [Laughs]
MAURA: I've seen footage of some of the fights you've been in. You may not be the tallest or strongest, but you sure are agile. Like a caiman leaping out of the water to bite its prey.
CAIMAN: Exactly. You know, it's funny you bring up the animal's hunting habits because that was another reason I chose the name. Caimans blend in with the water and then strike. I've always been inspired by the first generation of heroes and the idea of blending into society until you’re needed has always resonated with me. Looking like a normal person one minute, then leaping into action the next.
TIM: Along those same lines, is that why you choose to wear a helmet shaped like a caiman's head instead of a Halo to hide your identity.
CAIMAN: That's right. Halos are a fantastic invention. Using holographic images to conceal the wearer’s identity is great and it's obviously faster than putting on a costume, but I believe in paying homage to the heroes who came before me. They didn't have Halos and so I honor them by not wearing one either.
MAURA: Speaking of costumes, I notice you're sporting a new one. Was it just time to update your look?
CAIMAN: I loved my old costume, or should I say costumes. I think a lot of people assume heroes only have one that they wear until it finally wears out. This is a bit of a trade secret, but I actually have several identical costumes that I wear in rotation.
TIM: What brought about this new one?
CAIMAN: Changing times, Tim. This new one is lighter while offering an advanced level of protection. The Church scientists who developed the fabric it’s made of say it should be more durable. When you're a regular guy fighting against villains with superpowers, any advantage helps.
TIM: You bringing up superpowers is the perfect opportunity to segway! ["Vroom" SFX]
MAURA: Tell us Caiman, what does Unveiling Day mean to you?
CAIMAN: Well, just like everyone else in the country, that was the day my world changed. Though my personal revelation differs from most people.
TIM: How do you mean?
CAIMAN: For most people, Unveiling Day marks the first time superpowered individuals revealed themselves to the world. Supervillains stepping up to flaunt their abilities and denounce the Lord. Heroes of all stripes coming forward to oppose them and show that faith will always be stronger than malice.
TIM: And of course, the day we were all introduced to Father Gabriel, the United Catholicity of the America's first superhero.
CAIMAN: Father Gabriel is an amazing man and truly an inspiration to us all, but he's not who I think of when I remember that day. It's the first-generation heroes that spring to my mind. They'd been active for years. Working in the shadows to fight crime in the streets and corruption within the Church. They were the first to step up that day. They were in the thick of things even before Father Gabriel appeared. Seeing the first generation up close, and I mean within a few feet of where I was sitting, as they risked their lives to protect us. That's what I find most inspiring.
TIM: [Record Scratch SFX] Wait. Are you saying you were there in the cathedral that day?
CAIMAN: Yes. I was pretty young, but the experience is something I'll always remember. The clips they replay of the live broadcast hardly do justice to what happened. Even those who watched it live miss out on the sense of life and death that prevailed within that sacred space.
MAURA: I'm sure all our listeners would love to hear the events of Unveiling Day from your perspective. It would be a great way for all of us to mark the anniversary of such an important day in history.
CAIMAN: Sure, though I don't know what I can add that hasn't already been said.
MAURA: I doubt that. Hearing about Unveiling Day from someone who would go on to join the heroes who were there that day will be something really special.
TIM: For our listeners and for us.
CAIMAN: Well alright then. So... [Flashback Music SFX]
The first thing I'll always remember about that day is the Basilica of Saint Louis Cathedral itself. It looks like a castle, complete with turrets and a spire. I imagined that the Lord himself might sit on the cross at the top of the spire. Concealed in a curtain of clouds as he looked down at the congregation below. I'd heard my dad mention that it was the oldest cathedral in the nation, and I imagined knights riding up to the building on horseback. Their armor reflecting the light and their horses the same white color as the outer walls. Returning from some great crusade. Eager to thank the Lord for their success. It's appropriate that the cathedral reminded me of a castle, since it was about to come under siege.
It was Easter Sunday, 1971 in the city of Nuova Orlean. The Saint Louis Cathedral's Easter mass was the grandest and most famous in the entire nation. Dignitaries, Church officials, and clergy came from all over the UCA to attend the mass.
This was the first time my family and I had been invited to attend the Easter mass. I don't want to give too much away about myself, but my father had been steadily working his way up through the ranks of the Church for many years. In 1971, he’d finally climbed high enough to earn himself and his family a seat at the prestigious service.
The next most vivid memory I have of that day is walking into the building and entering the nave for the first time. Even from hundreds of feet away, the beauty of the apse and high altar mesmerized me. I froze, my eyes wildly scanning the room as my brain tried to process everything I was seeing.
The cream-colored walls of the apse were awash in the rainbow light streaming through the stained glass windows. The gilding on the altar and the tops of the columns behind it shone as if God himself had polished them with heavenly light. The gold so bright, I imagined it would have lit up the room, even if the sun weren't shining. The lifelike statues of Saints Peter and Paul on either side and the figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity along the top looked so real, I expected them to come to life and start greeting parishioners. I was so transfixed, my mom had to pull me by the hand, guiding me through the crowd of people waiting to sit down in the pews.
Once we got to our pew, I stood on the seat and turned around and around, taking in the rest of the room. The stained glass windows were like a gorgeous picture book, depicting the life of Saint Louis. The murals on the walls and ceiling contained such detail that they could have been snapshots taken of the events they depicted instead of paintings. The mural on the back wall depicting Saint Michael fighting a dragon once again conjured images of knights, quests, and castles.
Overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur all around me, I was grateful when the mass started, and my parents made me sit down. My young brain needed a break. Unfortunately, the over-stimulation wasn't over yet.
The venerated Cardinal Volpe was leading mass that day. He made his way down the aisle to the altar and then led us in the sign of the cross. Next, he began his greeting, briefly explaining the history of the cathedral and its famous Easter masses. In the balcony that ringed the room, camera crews focused in on him, broadcasting his words to homes all over the nation. Then during the penitential act, right in the middle of the moment of silence, chaos broke loose.
It was that moment that the supervillain Altarnate chose to reveal himself to the world. I looked up to see him holding a gun to Cardinal Volpe's head. Altarnate's superpower allowed him to make doubles of himself. Before the mass had even started, his doubles were scattered within the gathered worshipers. I watched as these doubles multiplied further. A new body would split off from the first. An exact copy of the original, complete with the same clothing and weapons. Soon, a small army of Altarnate's doubles surrounded us, all armed with semi-automatic guns.
Up at the altar, the double holding the Cardinal at gunpoint split into two bodies. The newly formed double stepped up to the microphone and began speaking. Now, I've seen footage and heard other firsthand accounts, so I know what Altarnate said that day and I'm sure everyone listening does too. Yet, I was so terrified that my actual memory of Altarnate's speech is hazy.
I do remember my disbelief as he denounced the Lord. My bewilderment as he claimed that people like him were the new Gods of our nation. My head swum and tears welled in my eyes as his blasphemy rolled over the crowd. Next, I felt a small spark of hope light up in the center of my chest as Altarnate began to talk of ransoming us back to the Church. That calmed me down a little. My parents always said that the Church would protect us and that the Lord would always provide for the faithful. I tried to shove down my doubt and find solace in these promises.
The next thing I remember with crystal clarity, were the heroes emerging, seemingly out of nowhere. The heroes each fought alone but moved as a unit, striking the Altarnate doubles simultaneously in different parts of the nave and the balcony above our heads. These tactics ensured confusion among Altarnate's doubles, breaking the villain’s concentration and making it harder for him to control so many duplicates at once. The heroes wove quickly through the room, taking out duplicates and making themselves targets to ensure that the other doubles didn't begin firing on the gathered parishioners.
The Altarnate duplicate at the microphone fell silent as Gazelle leapt down from the apse and knocked him out with a single blow. Then Gazelle turned and kicked the double holding Cardinal Volpe. My head ping-ponged from side to side as I watched the heroes in action. Guy of Gizbourne's retractable grapple sailing down from the balcony to snatch guns out of the hands of the doubles. Alley Cat taking down two doubles at once. Kicking one in the jaw as she swung her head, slinging the weight at the end of her long braid into the temple of another. Justiciar blocking bullets with his cross-shaped shield. The bodies of duplicates slamming into walls as Brawling Bishop smashed his way along the side aisle.
After five minutes, that felt more like five hours, the real Altarnate was defeated and all of his doubles vanished. However, the ordeal wasn't over. Suddenly, a blast of heat roared through the room as Iron Works stepped out from the ambulatory. The heroes came together in the center aisle, ready to risk it all against the iron skinned villain. It was at that moment that Father Gabriel burst through the nave door.
Most people who were there have said that when Father Gabriel flew into the room, they thought he was an angel. Not me. The plasma extensions that grow from his back are a glowing crimson color. I stared up in horror as he flew over where I sat cowering in the pew. Between the blood red incandescence of Father Gabriel's wings and the molten heat radiating from Iron Works, I thought demons had invaded the cathedral. I buried my head in my mom's side and wept. I didn't even see Father Gabriel defeat Iron Works.
[Triumphant Trumpet SFX]
TIM: What a thrilling recounting. I still can't believe you were there.
MAURA: Will you talk more about how that day inspired you to become a hero?
CAIMAN: I wanted to be able to live up to the bravery I saw on display that day. Something I've always found interesting is that histories and documentaries about Unveiling Day focus on Father Gabriel and the emergence of superpowered individuals. The courage of the first-generation heroes is always mentioned but their actual contributions are often downplayed or overlooked outright.
TIM: That may be true, but superpowers changed how we view the world.
CAIMAN: Sure, but the first generation of heroes laid the groundwork for fighting corruption and injustice. Guy of Gizbourne and the Venescan Detective had spent years seeking out the other first-generation heroes as well as Peace Officers and clergymen who were not corrupt. Together these righteous individuals formed a network they called the United Crusaders.
MAURA: That's obviously an important part of our nation's history too but what does it have to do with Unveiling Day?
CAIMAN: Most people think that Alley Cat, Guy of Gizbourne, Brawling Bishop, Gazelle, and Justiciar were at the Easter mass because they were respected members of the Church and had been invited to attend the mass. That's not the case. They were all just normal people, standing up against evil. Those five heroes infiltrated the cathedral that day because the Venescan Detective had stumbled upon Altarnate's plot.
TIM: Really? I've never heard that part of the story.
CAIMAN: The Venescan Detective is rarely mentioned outside of footnotes when people recount Unveiling Day. He was the one who organized the heroes caught on the camera that day fighting against Altarnate's doubles. He was the one who found the floor plans for the cathedral and mapped out the air ducts and subterranean tunnels the heroes used to get inside the building. Ultimately, he's the one who stopped Altarnate.
MAURA: Wow. Most people, including me, attribute that day's victory to Father Gabriel.
CAIMAN: I'm not saying that Father Gabriel doesn't deserve any credit. The heroes would have had a hard time taking out Iron Works on their own. Plus, Father Gabriel has gone on to do amazing things. However, the Venescan Detective was the key to stopping Altarnate. He’s the one who tracked down where the real Altarnate was hiding. Deep in the meditative state that allowed him to create and control the duplicates inside the cathedral. The Venescan Detective is the one who knocked out the real Altarnate, causing all the doubles to fade. Without his courage, intelligence, and leadership, in conjunction with the efforts of the first-generation heroes, that day could have gone a lot differently.
TIM: Earlier you mentioned a personal revelation that stemmed from Unveiling Day. How did the first-generation heroes inspire that epiphany?
CAIMAN: We all grow up learning the teachings and doctrines of the Church. Trust in the Lord and have faith in His works was always a concept I thought I understood. Unveiling Day showed me that I only grasped the surface meaning of that lesson. That day showed me what it truly meant to put one's faith in the Lord and trust Him to guide your actions. Despite not having superpowers, despite the odds against them. Despite not having the support of the Church leaders, the first-generation heroes put their trust in the Lord and used their faith as the backbone of their fight against injustice. They didn't let fear of death stop them. Even before Unveiling Day, they stepped up to help people because it was the right thing to do. That's what ultimately inspired me to become a hero myself.
MAURA: That’s amazing!
TIM: I hate to cut you off Caiman, but we've got to take a short break. When we return, we'll go to the phones and take some calls.
MAURA: If you have questions for the Caiman or want to share your own memories of Unveiling Day, give us a call at 1-800-667-6464. You're listening to Tim and Maura in the morning --
TIM: -- and we'll be right back.