From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Colonel Grim was born Lou Grimsby in the harsh winters of Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1919.
The depression hit his family hard and his alcoholic father would often abuse his children, (especially when the pantry went bare). A social welfare agency removed Lou from this destitution in 1933, when he was 14 years of age. This led to the despondency and eventual death of his natural mother just a year later. Lou always blamed his abusive father for this.
In his foster home, Lou’s anger and depression over his mother’s death were channeled into academic and athletic ventures. In 1937, at the age of 18, he eventually made it the Royal Canadian Military College and starred on the college’s hockey team. Just two years later, Canada declared war on Germany and World War II had come to all Canadians.
Lou was a star pupil within the academy, and such, was put on a fast track to graduate as Colonel in the Royal Canadian Engineers.
Early War Apparition
For the first years of the World War II, Lou was stationed back around his home in Western Ontario. There he commanded a small battalion of troops teaching them demolition tactics, mine sapping and pontoon building (the typical duties of an engineering corps).
Lou trained his troops hard. His tactics, high-energy work ethic and cold disposition earned him the nickname “Colonel Grim” amongst his troops. It was a name Lou himself was rather fond of, and he often referred to himself as simply “Grim”, in most conversations.
During a training mission in 1940, Grim commanded that a small and little-used bridge in Northern Ontario be destroyed. The exercise would teach his most promising platoon on how to blow up a bridge safely and efficiently. Then he would have another star platoon rebuild the bridge using technology by the allies to quickly repair/rebuild bridges.
What Grim did not realize was that the bridge (and river it crossed) was part of an ancient Ojibwe burial ground. From the start, the exercise was a disaster. Rains began to pound the troops, and it was impossible to keep the explosives dry. Grim refused to relent and just demanded more explosives be used. The resulting explosion was devastating, not only killing a few engineers, but also blowing open an ancient Ojibwe grave.
The rain continued to pour down and Grim’s own Bren Gun Carrier became trapped in the wet muskeg. He began to curse violently and he punched the treads of his carrier in frustration, his blood spilling into the open Ojibwe grave. A strange ethereal mist began to rise out of the unmarked grave, and in a few seconds it appeared to coalesce into some kind of ghostly form. Grim jumped onto his carrier and shot the apparition with this Bren Gun. It appeared to dissipate the ghostly vision, but the two soldiers accompanying him were scared to death, and had to place in the infirmary with “battle fatigue”.
After the incident, Grim found a unique talisman where his blood had fallen onto the grave. Grim snatched it and figured the artifact would give him luck in the battlefield.
Ortona TragedyAt last, Colonel Lou Grimsby was given combat command. He was to command a small battalion of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, during the invasion of Italy. The fighting in Italy for the Canadian troops stalled at a place called Ortona. This place is famous because allegedly, the remains of St. Thomas are buried near the town, and it was a key outpost during the medieval holy crusades.
Colonel Grim decided to execute a bold plan. He ordered a few light armor platoons to drive into some key German defensive positions at Ortona, and then retreat quickly in an attempt to “lure” a counter-attack into positions set up waiting to ambush. Grim himself would lead the light armor attack.
Alas, he had not counted on the fact, that the Nazi’s had heavily mined a 13th century graveyard, not far from where the remains of St. Thomas himself was kept. He had assumed such an ancient and holy placed would not have been mined. When Grim’s light armor team hit the gravesite, massive anti-tank mines decimated the lightly armored Kangaroo and Universal Carriers. It also ripped holes in ancient gravesites that had been left undisturbed for centuries.
A vicious blizzard that had started earlier that day, that turned even uglier and the remaining troops were bogged down at the destroyed graveyard. Strangely, the talisman Grim had collected from the disaster in Ojibwe territory, began to emanate a strange and haunting aura. Frustrated by the weather, the landmines and the freakish luck that always seemed to curse his plans, Grim threw the talisman into an open grave. He was convinced the artifact was in fact a cursed object.
The talisman landed in the grave of a 13th century paladin, and apparently one of the escorts of St.Thomas’ remains into Ortona. Once again, an ethereal apparition began to rise out of the grave and this time, summoned ice and snow so quickly, that all the troops were frozen to death. Grim jumped into the paladin’s graveyard to find the talisman and destroy it, but he himself was frozen to death in a few seconds.
The event, known as the “Ortona Tragedy” was quickly erased from all known war records and chalked up to just a "freak" storm.
However shortly after the tragedy, strange tales began to surface that “ghosts” had risen from ancient graves at Ortona and were now taking sides in the war. They were called the "Ghost Brigade of Colonel Grim" and many soliders who served in Italy still swear to their validity.
Indeed, the German prisoners began to report strange brigades of ethereal troops. Some of them were dressed as paladins and knights and others equipped with Lee Enfields or riding small vehicles and equipped with Bren Guns. These ghosts would raid them at night, and take out their key machine gun nests.
One Nazi soldier discovered after the tragedy, had hatchet wounds over his body. He insisted he had been attacked by “Geronimo” from the American cowboy movies. All these incidents were kept “hush, hush”, but amongst the allied troops, there was a quiet legend spreading that Colonel Grim and his frozen troops were rising up at night, to fight the Hun. The legends were spread like ghost stories amongst the troops at night, as they huddled around campfires to fight the nasty Italian winter.
It was not long after the “Ortona Tragedy” that the tide of the war turned for the allies in Italy, and eventually the 1st Canadian Infantry division was victorious in Italy and moved out to Europe. There they went on to liberate Holland, and yet even during the skirmishes that took place in that campaign, Canadian soldiers reported seeing ghosts of knights and infantry, haunting the hamlets where German snipers and artillery had taken position.
After the war ended, the stories of "Colonel Grim's Ghost Brigade" were largely just dismissed as "old war legends" and simple "ghost stories" to boost the morale of the troops.
The Korean War
When Canada entered the Korean theater in the 1950's there were new rumors of Colonel Grim and his "ghost brigade", and Colonel Grim himself claims he helped Canadian soldiers in several battles during that war.
The legends of “The Ghost Brigade of Colonel Grim” quickly became part of popular culture in Canada. So much so, that a pulp fiction company in Toronto, Ontario began to regularly publish macabre tales of “Colonel Grim” fighting for the Red Ensign and the overall freedom of the Western World. The books became so popular amongst teenage youth, that they continued to be published for some years after the war.
However as the 50’s progressed, and the Korean War ended, interest in “young boy’s fantasy” diminished, and the tales of Colonel Grim were now discounted as simple “comic book fantasy”.
The original legend began to diminish until nobody believed Colonel Grim was real.
Pulp Fiction Covers
Although very few copies of the old "Colonel Grim" fiction created at the end of World War II exist, a few copies have made it to the archives:
Circle of Thorns
Colonel Grim would have probably faded into an obscure Canadian legend, had it not been for the Circle of Thorns.
The Circle of Thorns became interested in the old “legends” of Colonel Grim, shortly after the cult's resurgence during the Rikti War.
Baron Zoria was interested in the bizarre blend of Native American and ancient Christian mythology that seemed to swirl around the strange tales of Colonel Grim and his "Ghost Brigade". He commissioned a secret group of Thorn Mystics and Thorn Casters to visit the old minefield located on the 13th century burial ground in Ortona. There they searched for the Grim's talisman, but could not find it. So while still in the haunted graveyard the Circle fo Thorns set about casting augury spells in an attempt to divine where the talisman was.
The spell disturbed the spiritual forces of the graveyard, and many of the frozen Canadian soldiers from the Ortona Tragedy rose from their graves, and eventually Colonel Grim himself climbed out of his icy grave carrying a Bren Gun. Bullets riddled through the air, and there was a massive battle. The powerful Mystics and Casters were able to dispel most of the ghosts, all except Grim, who simply refused to stop fighting.
So the Mystics captured Colonel Grim in a celestial void, (via some bizarre incantation) and then stored the spirit deep in their secret underground city of Orenbaga. Little did they know, the talisman they were seeking was still contained within Grim’s spirit.
FreedomDoctor North, penetrated the City of Orenbaga with his allies Lunar Claw and Sandstriker, Colonel Grim’s spirit was once again released.
Grim’s new ghostly form found its way to Paragon (by secretly following Doctor North on his way out of the underground city of Orenbaga) and has now slowly begun to coalesce into a corporeal form. Grim is livid at the Circle of Thorns for tampering with his spirit. He also wants revenge for the fact that many of his comrades in the "Ghost Brigade" were dispelled and destroyed permanently by the Circle of Thorns during their visit to Ortona.
So now Colonel Grim wonders a modern 21st Century city, seeking clues to the Circle of Thorns whereabouts and fighting evil and injustice wherever he can!
Colonel Grim has risen from the frozen graves of World War II and once again fights for the Red Ensign and freedom everywhere!
Colonel Grim's unnatural life, comes from direct influence of the Ojibwe Manitou. The Manitou is a concept of the Native Americans of Canada and is best descibed as such:
Manitou is a term used to designate the spirits among many Algonquian groups. It refers to the concept of one aspect of the interconnection and balance of nature/life, similar to the East Asian concept of qi; in simpler terms it can refer to a spirit. This spirit is seen as a (contactable) person as well as a concept.
Colonel Grim's "ice" powers come from an Ojibwe Talisman, that Grim seems to have on his possession and yet nobody has ever found. Grim refuses to divulge its location.
Colonel Grim can never die, can never rest (he can't even sleep), and he can never know physical love. His soul will never be at peace and he must obey and fight for the Ojibwe Manitou, whenever they command it. He must oblige these spirits for eternity, and serve their every whim. He is bound, forever, to be a ghostly "slave" of outraged spirtual forces.
The reasons for Grim's curse are not entirely known. It would seem the combination of the two events that disturbed two very ancient graveyards (the incident in Thunder Bay and the other in Italy), forced the spirits to bind Grim into eternal service to pay for his disrepect of the dead.
The means and method by which Grim is forced into service is not entirely known, and Colonel Grim will not talk about it under any circumstances, even to his closest associates.
Upon his new freedom from the confines of Orenbega, Colonel Grim sought out Doctor North to thank him for his release. Shortly after his visitation with Doctor North, he learned that North had vanished without explanation.
On October 8, 2007 Colonel Grim received a mysterious letter, inviting him to an abandoned church in a secret location in Paragon City. The letter was signed by Grave Bell. Grim visited the location and was greeted by a top-secret meeting of various characters, all of them slightly weird, dangerous and eccentric. He took a liking to them immediately.
The characters agreed to form a coalition called Barnstormers, and Colonel Grim was invited to be a junior member of the group. He accepted this and was rewarded with a special communication pin to contact all other members at whim.
The Barnstormers super-group disbanded in 2008, and Colonel Grin disappeared for several months afterward.
Doctor North Rescued
Cobiness has stretched International laws to their limits, by making each member of Alpha Squad members of their diplomatic corps, ensuring that all members of the group enjoy diplomatic immunity.
Colonel Grim has sunmitted a report to Alpha Squad of a possible ship wreckage, he believes is haunted and can be salvaged to serve Ghost Patrol.
In person, Colonel Grim seems gregarious, good humored and fairly easy going. Although he lacks social refinement (he tends to smoke, drink and spit quite a bit), if you can tolerate his rough demeanor and machismo, you soon learn that Grim is a loyal and trustworthy friend.
The phrase, “gruff but loveable” describes Colonel Grim perfectly in most social situations.
However, when Colonel Grim is alone (and he never rests or sleeps, so he is alone often), he becomes quite somber and morose. He reflects on his cursed state of existence and sometimes writes personal and rather melancholy thoughts into his personal diary. He tends to hang out in graveyards at night, envying the dead for having achieved the eternal rest, he so desperately wants.
He hides his sadness as much as possible, and to most casual acquaintances Grim appears quite content at his existence as a ghost. In truth, Grim has grown tired of fighting, tired of violence and sees his entire existence now as curse, but he never lets anyone know his true feelings.
In the early 1960's, Hollywood toyed with a "Colonel Grim" film titled "Ghost Brigade" the lead was allegedly to be played by Charlton Heston but the project never got off the ground.
COMIC BOOK COVERS
POWERS & EQUIPMENT
World War II Bren Gun
Despite the gun's magical properties, the gun still requires cleaning and maintenance of any normal gun, and Colonel Grim will often be seen stripping and cleaning his weapon. In rare instances he may be scrounging for parts to repair it.
Grim refuses to use more modern weaponry, but the Bren Gun was ahead of its time in World War II, and is still a very useful weapon in combat.
Grim calls his gun, "Paladin" a reference to the nickname of the Royal Canadian Military College's hockey team.
Grim also wields bizarre, celestial ice powers, that are believed to manifest directly from the Ojibwe talisman he discovered during training manuevers in Northern Ontario. He can at will, hold his opponents motionless inside sheaths of ice. With his opponent immobilized, he then steps back and blasts them into kingdom-come with his trusty Bren Gun.
The true nature and origin of the talisman is still unknown. Colonel Grim found the talisman, after his blood dripped onto an ancinet Ojibwe burial ground. The talisman appears as a small circular hoop, where numerous feathers of mysterious origin are attached to the base of the circle.
Rye Whisky Flask
During the liberation of Holland, Colonel Grim's Ghost Brigade were instrumental in turning the tide in the western provinces of the Netherlands, that lead to the final surrender in May of 1945. In reward for his service, the Ojibwe Manitou rewarded the Colonel with a magic canteen. Whatever substance he placed in this canteen after its creation would magically refill itself after drinking it. Colonel Grim chose to fill the flask with Canadian Rye Whisky, and as such always has an eternal flow of the liquor available to him at all times.
During the Korean War, Colonel Grim's Ghost Brigade made a brief appearance during the capture of Hill 532, just south of the 38th parallel. Again, Grim's service was rewarded by the Manitou spirits, this time he was allowed to ensure one personal item, would never disappear. He chose, a Cuban cigar, handed to him by a dying Canadian soldier on the Korean front. The cigar now reappears in Grim's vest pocket, shortly after he stubs the cigar out. Grim smokes the cigar constantly, as a reminder to the "forgotten" veterans of the Korean war.
- Colonel Grim is really just an homage to the old DC "Weird War" comics from the seventies, which I confess, I collected and even dressed up as a "Ghost Soldier" in Halloween one year as a kid. Examples of these now forgotten comics exist here:
- The bones of St. Thomas really do lie at Ortona, although I have no idea whether the bones were escorted by Paladins, although I do know the remains were fought over frequently during the Middle Ages.
- The vicious fighting in and around Ortona during World War II, is well documented. The Canadians were eventually triumphant in the fighting, which was fierce, and at times, hand to hand.
- Colonel Grim also pays tribute to the Canadian war effort during World War II, including my maternal grandfather (still living) who served with the Canadian Royal Engineers.
- A gruff, young Charlton Heston (from the early 60's), would have been the perfect actor to portray Colonel Grim (both when he was alive and after he rises as a ghost).