From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
American Express is a well respected hero in Paragon City and a member of the highly respected American Legion Super Group.
Thomas “Tommy” Law was born on July 4, 1976 in the US Army Clinic at Torii Station on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Two years previously, US Army Captain James Law had met civilian Nurse Mary Franklin and within a year they were married. Tommy grew up in the military going to on-base schools for children of military personnel. At age eight, Tommy’s father was reassigned to United States Forces Korea in Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, Korea. It was there that Tommy was introduced to the Korean martial arts Taekkyon and Tae Kwon Do and trained diligently until his family’s departure from South Korea in 1990.
When Tommy was 14 years old, his father was promoted to Major and transferred to Paris, France as part of a NATO –US Army G-2 attache’. In Paris, Tommy found a traditional Korean dojang to continue his training in Korean karate as well as cross-training in the French martial art, Savate. It was in Paris where Tommy met Sebestien Foucan, one of the founders of Parkour [Free Running]. During his teenage years, Tommy spent his time in the American School in Paris, training hard in martial arts and spending his evenings and weekends free running with the ‘Les Traceurs’ around Paris. Tommy had become such an accomplished Traceur that he had the reputation of being one of the fastest free runners in Europe earning the nickname, American Express. In 1994, Tommy graduated the American School in Paris with honors and was accepted to New York University. Although Tommy had often visited the United States with his parents on frequent vacation trips for the holidays, this marked the first time Tommy would live in the United States. Tommy continued to train in Korean martial arts and Parkour throughout his undergraduate education graduating with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law from NYU. In 1998, Tommy was accepted into NYU Law School and, three years later in 2001, graduated with a law degree with honors.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Tommy enlisted and accepted a commission in the United States Army as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Office. Because of his ability to speak Japanese, Korean and French, Tommy was often assigned in various bases around the world. Ironically, Tommy was assigned to the JAG Office, United States Forces Korea in Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, Korea in January of 2002. There Tommy was reunited with his Korean karate masters where he continued his training. In May 2002, Tommy watched in horror with the rest of the world as the Rikti Invaded Earth and celebrated and mourned the victory achieved by the heroes of Paragon City. Several years passed uneventfully for Tommy in the JAG corps going from assignment to assignment around the world. Although he was proud to carry on the tradition of service in the US Army, Tommy felt something was missing. Around the time he was promoted to Captain in May of 2007, Tommy was contacted by the US Army Office of Special Operations. Apparently, Tommy’s DNA profile made him, along with 100 other soldiers, an ideal candidate for the Top-Secret US Army’s Bio-Force Infantry Enhancement Program. Tommy readily volunteered not knowing that Crey Labs was secretly running the program from behind the scenes. Tommy was subjected to a seemingly endless stream of medical tests and physical examinations. In July of 2007, Tommy underwent painful injections, radiation, and chemo-shock treatments that put him into a coma for three months. When Tommy recovered out of his coma, he was shocked to discover that his hair had turned snow white and his body had underwent significant physiological changes [see below]. He also learned that the Rikti World Invasion had transpired while he was in his coma.
Although the US Army’s Bio-Force Infantry Enhancement Program was successful in his case, other soldiers were not so lucky. Ninety soldiers who underwent the procedure either died or suffered severe neurological damage. With a ninety percent casualty rate, the US Army’s Bio-Force Infantry Enhancement Program was a catastrophic failure. Then the media discovered the Crey Labs connection to the program. An official investigation and a senatorial hearing exposed flagrant disregard for safety measures and misappropriation of resources by Program leaders that resulted in the court martial of several high-ranking US Army officers. Despite indictments of several Crey Labs personnel, lack of evidence and credible witnesses resulted in little meaningful convictions.
Disillusioned by his experience, Tommy resigned his commission in the US Army. Struggling to master his new found powers, Tommy moved to the” City of Heroes”. Taking on the moniker of his Traceur nickname, Tommy created a star-spangled costume and registered himself as the newest hero in Paragon City, American Express. Almost immediately upon his arrival, the Paragon City press would refer to him as the Star-Spangled Speedster or simply, AmEx. A chance encounter with Synapse during his first weeks as a hero resulted in an introduction with American Wonder, one of the founders of the one of the most respected supergroups in Paragon City…the American Legion. Soon after, American Express was invited to join the American Legion Academy. In December 2011 and after over a year of service in the American Legion Academy, American Express was promoted into membership with the main American Legion supergroup.
American Express is a friendly and reliable hero. Although he resigned his commission as a Captain in the US Army, he still conducts himself as an officer and gentlemen. On numerous occasions, the paparazzi of Paragon City have caught American Express fighting crime out in the field with either American Passion or American Rayne. Although they are team mates in the American Legion together, it has not stopped the tabloids to infer a love traingle at work. Although not a 'party animal', American Express has been known to party hard and can sometimes be found dancing in the Pocket D to the music of the DJs of Cape Radio. American Express is equally comfortable in leading a team of heroes or assuming the role of teammate with equal skill. American Express has an understandable mistrust towards Crey Labs and will go out of his way to expose or disrupt their activities from time-to time.
Due to the mutagenic effects of the drug and radiation treatments administered by Crey Labs in the US Military’s Super Soldier Program, American Express was endowed with superhuman reflexes and speed. Interestingly, all ten successful subjects of the Super Soldier Program were granted amazing powers but they manifested differently for each. It is theorized that the Bio-Force Enhancement treatments dramatically had enhanced and developed the areas of the body or mind that each subject was considered to be gifted in prior to treatment. For example one subject, an avid competetive power lifter, developed super strength and invulnerability while another, a military psychologist and therapist, developed telepathy and the ability to empathically heal wounds. In Tommy Law's case, because of his martial arts and free running training, his naturally fast reflexes, and the hyper-development of his legs, the Bio-Force Enhancement treatments seemed to orchestrate Tommy's mutation along these lines.
American Express possesses superhuman strength in his lower body as part of his body's adaptations for running. With his upper body he can lift (press) approximately 300 pounds while his legs can press approximately 1400 pounds under optimal conditions. Because of the significant strength and physiology of his legs (see below), American Express has extraordinary leaping ability as well. With a running start, American Express can leap a distance of over 300 yards and can vertically leap 50 yards straight up.
American Express’ body is adapted towards the rigors of high-speed running. With a resting heart rate of 400 beats per minute, American Express’ cardiovascular and respiratory systems are many times more efficient than those of a normal human being able to function 15 to 20 times that of normal. The chemical processes of American Express’ musculature are so highly enhanced that his body barely generates fatigue poisons which force his body to rest. Instead, his body constantly expels waste products during his accelerated respiration through exhalation. When he is at his maximum energy reserves, American Express is capable of running at his top speed for about three hours, whereupon he must reduce his speed, or replenish his body’s store of energy, or both. American Express must consume enormous amounts of food to maintain optimal energy reserves. With eight meals a day, American Express often consumes upwards to 10,000 calories at each meal. He metabolizes an estimated 97% of the caloric energy content of foodstuffs (normal human use is about 25%). His joints are smoother and lubricated more efficiently than those of a normal human being. His tendons have the tensile strength of spring steel. His bones have mutated and contain a naturally occurring carbon fiber that is significantly more durable and flexible than calcium to withstand the dynamic shocks of his feet touching the ground at speeds of near Mach 10. American Express’ practical reaction time is several times faster than a normal human's and the speed at which his brain processes information is heightened to a level commensurate with his bodily speed, enabling him to perceive his surroundings while traveling at high velocities. American Express’ lachrymose is more viscous than normal preventing the rapid evaporation of surface fluids on his eyeballs due to high wind velocity that would otherwise occlude his vision.
Superhuman Speed & Reflexes
American Express has been clocked at a running top speed of near Mach 10. However, because of the havoc wrought by running at such high speeds through populated areas, American Express safely adjusts his running speed to no greater than 200 mph. American Express has used his powers of acceleration for various feats. He has dodged an arrow fired at him from 10 feet away. American Express has dodged machine gun fire by being able to see the path of the bullets change as his assailants attempt to track him. American Express can also swim at super speeds attaining upwards around 100 knots. American Express has the ability to rotate his body around its lengthwise axis at great speeds creating a cyclone-like gust of wind that is able to knock a man off his feet. Although he rotates at subsonic speeds, American Express’ inner ear mutation permits him to see, speak, and interact with his environment.
Abilities & Training
During his life, much of the knowledge and skills that Tommy acquired was before the Crey Labs/US Army’s Bio-Force Infantry Enhancement Program. Although there was some adjustment, Tommy's mutation has elevated his skills and training to superhuman levels.
Tommy has spent over 20 years training in Martial Arts in particular Tae Kwon Do and Savate, the French form of foot fighting. Due to the mutation brought on by the US Army’s Bio-Force Infantry Enhancement Program, Tommy can no longer train in conventional dojang or salles. The physiological mutation in his legs and his reflexes[see above] makes it impossible for Tommy to train with ordinary people. Rather, Tommy must continually hone his skills through sparring with other super-powered martial artists within the American Legion Supergroup Network and in actual field missions.
Tae Kwon Do
Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from martial arts such as karate or southern styles of kung fu. The rationale is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Historically, the Koreans thought that the hands were too valuable to be used in combat. Taekwondo also is noted for testing the union of mental and physical discipline through the breaking of wooden boards, bricks or tiles. It requires both physical mastery of the technique and the concentration to focus one's power. In his early years, Tommy had the opportunity to train at the famous Kukkiwon Dojang with some of the great Tae Kwon Do masters of our time. Tommy has continued his training uninterrupted since his childhood and has achieved a rank of Yuk Dan (6th degree blackbelt).
Savate, also known as boxe française, is a French martial art which uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques. Originally a set of French street fighting techniques from the beginning of the 19th century, it is conjectured that this kicking style was developed by sailors in this way to allow a fighter to use a hand to hold onto something for balance like that on a rocking ship's deck. A male practitioner of savate is called a savateur. Tommy discovered Savate through his Traceur friends. The nature and origins of Savate complimented well the free running style Parkour and Tommy has modified his own fighting style to take full advantage of this.
Parkour is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. Parkour practitioners are known as Traceurs. They train to be able to identify and utilize alternate, more efficient paths. Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but areas dense with obstacles offer many different training opportunities. There are fewer pre-defined movements in parkour than in gymnastics, as there is no list of "moves". Each obstacle a Traceur faces presents a unique challenge, committed Tracuers tend to shy away from defining movement. The ability to overcome the challenge depends on multiple factors, for example, on body type, speed, angle of approach, and the physical make-up of the obstacle.
Within days of moving to Paris, Tommy saw a demonstration of Parkour by the great Sebestien Foucan and was instantly hooked. Invited to train with him and the Parisian Tracuers, Tommy quickly mastered the ability to move through his environment and earned a reputation as being one of the fastest Traceurs in Paris. Meant as a humorous tease, the Parisian Traceurs gave Tommy the fateful nickname, American Express. Along with his martial arts training, Parkour and the Traceurs became Tommy's only social outlet. Often, Tommy would only find time to practice Parkour either in the early morning hours or very late at night.
Military & JAG Training
Tommy began his military career first by attending the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS) located on the North Grounds at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Judge Advocates from all five armed forces of the United States attend the annual Judge Advocate Officer Graduate Course. Tommy’s first position was as a subordinate judge advocate assisting in the prosecution of courts-martial. Later, Tommy worked for the independent United States Army Trial Defense Service serving as a defense counsel. Next, Tommy served as a Staff Judge Advocate advising commanders on the full range of legal matters encountered in Government legal practice and provides advice on courts-martial as required by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Tommy also provided legal assistance to soldiers, adjudicated claims against the Army, advised commands on targeting decisions and other aspects of operational law, and assisted the command in administering military justice by preparing non-judicial punishment actions, administrative separation actions, and trying criminal cases at court-martial. Tommy had performed these duties in Japan and South Korea.
Due to his extensive life of living abroad, Tommy can speak three additional languages. Tommy has a passable knowledge of Japanese but can speak, read and write fluently in both Korean and French.
American Express, in his civilian guise as Thomas Law, is a partner in a small boutique law firm specializing in representing heroes in various matters. Additionally, the law firm does represent ordinary citizens in civil matters particularly personal injury cases against villains and negligent heroes. Thomas’ law firm is one of a few firms that provide legal counsel to the American Legion Super Group.
American Legion Supergroup Network
The American Legion Supergroup Network is a fraternity of heroes that strive to end villainy in all forms and drive those who seek to do harm out of Paragon once and for all. The American Legion have pledged to dedicate themselves to the establishment, growth, and preservation of peace, liberty, equality and justice under law.
American Legion has a strong sense of duty and love for country which is evident in every aspect of his persona. Possessing an offbeat sense of humor and a sense of what he feels is right and wrong, he can come off as arrogant at times but is known as someone who will treat others with respect and compassion.