From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Frank ‘Knuckles’ LaRusso was once one of Kings Row’s most prolific mobsters, believed to have personally murdered over forty people and to have ordered the death of hundreds more. As the figurehead of the Knuckles Crew, a group that once controlled organised crime in Kings Row, Knuckles found himself the target of many attacks by the City’s heroes. Knuckles’ criminal activities particularly put him at odds with vigilantes working in and around The Row, and he developed a particularly volatile rivalry with Charon - a vigilante Knuckles had a hand in creating - and his crack team of skilled crime fighters, Bone Squad.
Frank LaRusso was born in Independence Port, Paragon City in 1958 to Tony and Henrietta LaRusso. Growing up he was a member of the Black Mask, a street gang made up of Irish and Italian-American immigrants who were largely involved in extortion, racketeering and low-level drug trafficking. As he got older, LaRusso found an interest in boxing and for a time was tipped to be the next big thing on the boxing circuit. His matches often carried heavy pressure; many former members of the Black Mask became high ranking members of organised crime operations, and often had large amounts of money riding on his fights. After an early, patchy career, the late seventies saw LaRusso begin to rise through the international ranks and by 1979 he was being tipped as a future Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In 1980, Frank was banned from boxing when it was discovered that he had had his knuckles replaced with impervium implants in 1978. Even from beneath a boxing glove, LaRusso's impervium fists were capable of taking out some of the world's best fighters in the first round, and his sudden streak of success in the previous two years was discovered to be entirely the result of cheating. All of his previous titles were stripped from him and he was banned from boxing professionally for the rest of his life. His ban was surrounded by controversy; not only had LaRusso cheated, but his connections to organised crime became public knowledge in the press when it was revealed that Harry Frost, figurehead of The Family, had fronted the money for his knuckle implants to make sure all the bets he and his crew laid on LaRusso's fights were a sure thing.
Returning to Paragon City, Frank found himself at a loss for a job or a purpose in life. He had no formal education and was unable to fight; taking pity, Harry Frost offered LaRusso a job as a low level enforcer, putting him to work as a legbreaker on the Independence Port docks. LaRusso saw an opportunity to prove himself in the summer of 1981, when a vigilante by the name of Crescent made it his personal mission to put a stop to The Family's activity on the docks. One August night, LaRusso faced off with the vigilante man to man, and savagely beat him to death. His body was dumped in the Port and discovered two weeks later by the authorities.
In light of this triumph over the City's heroes, Knuckles became one of The Family's most infamous enforcers, and was put to work driving heroes and vigilantes away from Family turf until 1982, when Harry Frost was killed by The Regulators during a drug bust. In the wake of his father's death, Sebastian Frost had become head of The Family. In awe of Knuckles' dedication to his father's criminal empire, Sebastian promoted LaRusso, giving him his own crew and racket, collecting and distributing shipments of narcotics from a front operation underneath Valor Bridge, away from the watchful eye of Back Alley Brawler. He became a close friend of Sebastian's, and one of his most profitable Capos, and it was at this time that he met and married his wife, Brandy. Knuckles now had a trophy wife, a profitable racket and a crew all his own, but he still hungered for something more; a slice of Paragon City's pie that was all his own.
In early 1984, the assassination of The Don – a mob boss working underneath the Frosts who had been running organised crime in Kings Row since the early seventies - left a power vacuum in one of the most important areas of Paragon City for drug trafficking, prostitution and other rackets. LaRusso suddenly saw an opportunity to seize real power, and with Sebastian Frost's permission, he passed the Valor Bridge racket to another Capo and moved in on the Row; unfortunately for him, other organised crime figures from around Paragon City and the Rogue Isles had also recognised the opportunity left in The Don's wake.
Knuckles arrived in Kings Row to find that three other gangs had started to take over The Don's rackets: Snakeyes' Crew, the Undead Mafia and Cosa Nictus, headed by Snakeyes, Vegas and Mr. Void respectively. Unwilling to stand for Family territory falling into the hands of other gangs, Knuckles led by example and personally firebombed the newly founded Cobra Club, Snakeyes' base of operations in The Row. What followed was one of the bloodiest gang wars that Paragon City had ever seen, a year long campaign of bloodshed, assassinations and bombings that have come to be remembered as The Gish Wars.
The Regulators became involved in The Gish Wars when an innocent was killed by a ricocheting bullet during a firefight on Industrial Avenue between Knuckles' men and members of the Undead Mafia. With the Regulators involved, Knuckles knew he needed to put an end to the fighting, lest he was killed or imprisoned before he could take control of The Row. In a desperate attempt to send out a strong enough message to drive away the other gangs, Knuckles effectively put an end to The Gish Wars in December 1985, when he acquired the services of assassin-for-hire Rabidus, infamous for being a completely unpowered individual who had been involved of the death of over twenty superheroes during the course of his career. On Christmas Day that same year, Mr. Void – or what was left of him – was found in his bedroom by his wife and children, dismembered and mutilated. Knuckles attempted to organise a sit-down between the four gangs not long afterwards; whether the sit-down was an intended ambush was never discovered, as all of the other gang leaders declined Knuckles' offer and retreated from Kings Row. Knuckles was finally victorious.
To celebrate his victory, Knuckles bought the ruins of the Cobra Club and built a new base of operations where it had once stood. In 1986, Knuckles opened the Cloud 9 Bar, from which he orchestrated all of his criminal activities, and in 1987 Brandy LaRusso gave birth to Frank's first and only child legitimate child, Joseph. Throughout the late 1980s, Knuckles lived an extremely affluent lifestyle, collecting protection money from almost every business in The Row while simultaneously running lucrative drug trafficking and prostitution rackets. He had several run-ins with The Regulators during this period, but a conviction was never made; neither The Regulators or Paragon City's District Attorney could find concrete evidence that connected Frank 'Knuckles' LaRusso to drug trafficking or distribution. Even a charge of aggravated assault against vigilante Blue Steel was thrown out of court when Knuckles' lawyer, Henry Jameson, proved that Blue Steel was trespassing on private property – The Cloud 9 Bar - at the time of the incident and that Knuckles had acted in justifiable self defence.
With Rabidus as his personal enforcer, LaRusso spent 1989 cracking down on the few businesses that had refused to yield to his demands for protection money. One particularly stubborn business owner was one Salvatore DeMarco, owner of Underworld Antiques, on the surface a humble antiques dealership; underneath, DeMarco was truly dealing in rare, powerful and sometimes dangerous magical artefacts. Knuckles knew what DeMarco's real business was, and he knew that it was making a lot of profit; profit that he wanted his share of.
After sending several agents to lean on DeMarco, no protection money was forthcoming. Knuckles didn't want to destroy his business; after all it'd be more profitable to kill DeMarco, loot his store and sell his stock on the black market than to bomb the store. But first he wanted to send a message. So on a cold November evening in 1989, he sent Rabidus and a team of heavies to go and teach old Salvatore a lesson: they were to kill Salvatore's daughter, Maria, and leave her lying on the doorstep of Underworld Antiques.
What should have been a straightforward hit ended up being one of the most fateful nights of Frank LaRusso's life. While he was sleeping in his town house on the outskirts of Kings Row with Brandy beside him, his men closed in on Maria: but she was not alone. A man was with her, a man who fought for her life and lost. Later that night, the Cloud 9 Bar was razed to the ground by an unknown assailant with several of Knuckles' most trusted and loyal henchmen inside. When LaRusso awoke the next morning, his prized bar was nothing but a smouldering wreck and his closest lieutenants were dead; only Rabidus and three others from the party sent to kill Maria had survived. But the worst ramifications of the hit Knuckles had ordered on young Maria DeMarco were yet to come, and would leave an impact on the rest of his life.
Initially, Knuckles believed the firebombing of the Cloud 9 to be Salvatore's revenge for his daughter's murder, but Salvatore was no where to be found. Both he and the entire contents of his shop had completely disappeared by the morning after the Cloud 9 fire. Even if DeMarco had been responsible for destroying Knuckles' headquarters, there was no way LaRusso could make him pay; he was gone, and there was seemingly no way to trace him.
For the next year Knuckles set about rebuilding his operation, promoting and training new lieutenants to replace those lost in November 1989. Just as he was getting his operation back on its feet in early 1991, his operations suffered the first of many attacks by a masked assailant. This new vigilante called himself Charon, and had a particularly damaging modus operandi: he would not only systematically beat Knuckles' men within an inch of their lives, but was careful to make sure they were delivered to the PPD with enough solid evidence to convict them. That was, those he let live. In his first year of activity, Charon murdered three of Knuckles' men – the only criminals Charon is known to have willingly killed. It was only when LaRusso realised that these three men were the last surviving members of the party sent to kill Maria DeMarco that he made the connection between Charon and the Cloud 9 fire: beneath that costume was either Salvatore DeMarco, or the unknown male who had fought for Maria's life.
Over the next few years, Charon's attacks on Knuckles' operations became more frequent and more damaging. To protect Brandy, the young Joseph and himself from Charon, Knuckles removed himself from the public eye completely in 1993, moving out of his townhouse and into a new residence, and dealing only with his lawyer, Henry Jameson, who would pass on orders to his men. His first move was to send Rabidus to discover Charon's true identity and to kill him. He achieved neither. By the time Rabidus caught up to Charon, he was working with another vigilante: Mr. D, a radioactive anti-hero. In a two on one fight, Rabidus lost, and the battle ended with Mr. D channelling radiation into Rabidus' skull, leaving the assassin catatonic. He was taken to an asylum, where he remained for many years before he regained some semblance of lucidity.
For the next few years Knuckles spent all of his profits on superpowered musle-for-hire, tasking all of them with protecting him and attempting to stop Charon by any means necessary. This continued throughout the nineties; Knuckles operated only through Henry Jameson, and relied on supervillains to protect and maintain his operations as much as he did his crew. As Charon put together a team of vigilantes to tackle crime in Kings Row - chiefly Knuckles – called Bone Squad, Knuckles' LaRusso put together a team of prolific supervillains who became hired help for his operation: costumed criminals such as Mr. Mud, Mindswipe, Volcanaut, Uppercut, Nightstick and Spikeman.
Knuckles, his crew and their superpowered muscle-for-hire spent most of the 1990s at war with the Bone Squad, and Knuckles and Charon had two bitter face-to-face battles over those years, in which both of them barely escaped alive. It was during this time that Knuckles finally found out who Charon truly was: Robert Black, Maria DeMarco's fiancée; a man bent on violent revenge. While fending off the Bone Squad, Knuckles did his best to keep his family safe by moving them around as much as he could, and living in residences held under pseudonyms. However, his on-going battle with the Squad had a great impact on his criminal operations, and soon enough the Knuckles Crew was losing money, and struggling to kick back tribute to the Frosts.
By the late 1990s, Knuckles' criminal organisation was nearly at breaking point. Knuckles himself was no where to be seen, his crew's morale was crushed by the fact that their boss trusted capes and masks more than he trusted them, and other mobsters had noticed that the Knuckles Crew was falling apart at the seams. Seeing his opportunity for revenge, Snakeyes expanded from his base of operations in Brickstown and declared all out war on the Knuckles Crew in a revenge plot that been brewing since the night Knuckles burnt down the Cobra Club. Snakeyes' men flooded the streets of The Row in the winter of 2000, and Knuckles' Crew broke into two factions: those few who remained loyal to Knuckles, and those who defected to Snakeyes. It was at this point that Sebastian Frost lost all faith in Knuckles, and left him to fend for himself. Snakeyes managed to all but destroy Knuckles' operation by 2002 and took control of Kings Row.
With little left to lose, Knuckles went out to find Charon himself, and found him lurking around a betting shop Knuckles was using as a front for an illegal gambling operation. In a bitter battle that raged onto the streets of Kings Row, Knuckles and Charon fought; Knuckles lost. He retreated to the temporary home where he was hiding his family, thinking he had shaken Charon off his scent. He had not. Charon burst through a window and beat Knuckles within an inch of his life and, instead of killing him, broke both of Knuckles' legs and called 911, leaving him in a pile of incriminating files, photos and ledgers, largely collated by the mysterious Joe, who had dedicated the early years of his membership in the Bone Squad to putting together an unbeatable case against Frank LaRusso. Knuckles was arrested that night.
In one of the most high profile trials Paragon City had ever seen, Henry Jameson did his best to make a case for Knuckles, but there was nothing he could do. Although the court agreed that Charon himself was a menace to society, the evidence that he had left proving Knuckles' guilt in several conspiracy to murder, racketeering and extortion cases was proven to be entirely legitimate. Frank 'Knuckles' LaRusso was sentenced to life without parole.
During his time in prison, Knuckles managed to run a small scale criminal operation from within the walls of Ziggursky Penitentiary, but nothing substantial. During his time in prison, his son disappeared and his wife moved back to Italy. By the time Frank LaRusso apparently succumbed to lung cancer in 2009, he left behind one and a half million dollars and a few loyal lieutenants. Knuckles' criminal empire had finally fallen to pieces. A small gang war ensued in an attempt to seize what was left of Knuckles' assets; assets which eventually fell into the hands of an unknown supervillain. Following this final war in Knuckles' name, his reputation is all that remained of him.
Knuckles reappeared in Paragon City in 2011, his apparent death a ruse to escape from prison and return to the streets, where he put into action a masterplan to once and for all destroy his arch-nemesis, Charon.
Having escaped from prison, Knuckles set about on a three-stage plan to discredit Charon’s newly-found reputable image, to drive him to the edge of sanity and finally to kill him. The first stage of his plan involved framing Charon for the murder of the remaining members of Blood Atonement, a team of vigilantes that once counted Charon amongst their number. Knuckles had Kodiak, Malice and Echo - three of Blood Atonement’s most infamous members – assassinated by a Charon doppelganger, later revealed to be the costumed con-man, Scam. Forensic evidence gathered from one of Charon’s safehouses was littered across the crime scene, leading the PPD and, eventually, Charon’s close ally Xanatos – who had begun to investigate the murder following Charon’s implication – to believe that Charon had indeed committed the murder in a moment of madness.
Wanted by the PPD and the majority of Paragon City’s heroic community, Charon went on the run, and Knuckles executed the second phase of his plan. Utilising the talents of the criminal mastermind Shroud, Knuckles encased Charon in a nightmarish dream world. In this waking nightmare, Charon was led to believe that Maria DeMarco had been perfectly resurrected by The Orphean. However, rather than returning to him as Charon had always dreamed, she blamed him for her death and proclaimed that she had never loved him. Truly, Charon had been captured, drugged and imprisoned inside one of his own safehouses in Brickstown by Knuckles’ hired muscle: Mr. Mud, Uppercut and Mindswipe.
After bringing Charon to the point of near madness by making him believe his crusade of over twenty years had all been for nothing, Charon was released from his binds and led by the ghostly Maria to Knuckles’ mansion on the outskirts of Kings Row; a building reduced to ruins in the years since Knuckles’ incarceration.
Inside, Charon – still suffering in a nightmarish world of Shroud’s creation - was beset by some of his most prolific villains, including Fracture, Showtime and Vegas. Using his own vast willpower, Charon was able to break free of Shroud’s illusions and bested his aggressors, making his way to the mansion’s penthouse, where he had his final battle with Knuckles. When the smoke cleared on the hardest battle of both men’s careers, Knuckles was dead and Charon near-fatally wounded. Charon disappeared, while Knuckles was found – finally dead, once and for all - on the front steps of his mansion with three words written above the small throwing knife imbedded in his heart: ‘My life’s work’.