From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
A LONG and Detailed In-Character History
Missouri Territory, 1820
William Evers was born roughly a year before the admission of Missouri into the Union. To his knowledge, and to the knowledge of his parents, he was utterly normal. He wouldn't discover the contrary until years later. His parents Samuel and Abigail were poorly educated sharecroppers hoping to find prosperity in the newly formed state. They believed whole-heartedly every ugly thing said about slaves and immigrants alike. These misguided, hateful views were passed along faithfully and frequently to their son.
Bill spent most of his adult life in the area around what would later become Jefferson City. Though development and trade in the area flourished, Bill's parents died nearly as poor as they had been in life, leaving him with a pittance of an inheritance and no land of his own. It made their belief in prosperity through hard work seem a myth at best.
Bill himself was only marginally more educated than his late parents, but he nevertheless saw a bleak future of hard labor by himself. With relatively few doors open, Bill made a paltry living as a day laborer. He grew angry with the world, turning to alcohol and brothels to soothe his despair in the evenings.
Bleeding Kansas, 1854
At 34, Bill Evers was the kind of person that well-respected citizens shook their head at. He was constantly drunk in the evenings and frequently in jail for the very same--or for fights related to drunkenness. Work began to dry up, which further pushed him into hopelessness. That changed with the Kansas-Nebraska act.
In the new state of Kansas, Bill saw a second chance for himself. And in the tide of abolitionists flooding in to make it a free state, he saw a chance to strike back at whatever invisible force kept him from the river of money which flowed always around him, but never to him. He spent what was left of his savings on supplies for the trip to, and settlement of the neighboring state.
Among his supplies, there was not one, but two Colt Model 1851 Navy revolvers. Bill had never fired a gun in his life, but he assumed a life of labor translated into the kind of dexterity and precision needed to work with the period's often unreliable weapons. The pistols ate into funds better put towards food, and the trek to Kansas was accordingly miserable.
The Sacking of Lawrence
The move did not improve Bill's life as he had hoped. His imprudent purchase of two pistols went unused for the first year of his stay, and he was too proud to sell them. The land he'd purchased was unsuitable for agriculture or development, with only a small cabin of his own making situated upon it. As a result, he once more made a living as a day laborer, despite dreams of wealth long owed to him. It seemed that, as his parents before him had, he would die poor and exhausted.
When the famous abolitionist John Brown came to Kansas in October of that year, Bill resolved to take out his anger upon them--he just didn't know how. Bill was ever a follower, not a leader. In 1856, he found his chance. He joined the surge of Democrats and Missourians in the Sacking of Lawrence. The sight of the Free State Hotel burning to the ground filled Bill with a kind of dark glee that he'd never before felt. It was short, however--a collapsing piece of rubble struck him in the head and killed him instantly.
...But No One's Home
Unbeknownst to any of them, the Netherworld had no pull upon Bill's soul. He was free to simply enter his body after death. He did so, bursting out of a cheaply made coffin amidst cries of shock from the few huckle bearers the local church could scrounge up for the funeral of a drunkard.
Marching with the pro-slavery posse, Bill felt as though he was a part of something, and wanted more. He wanted to be the man who killed John Brown. Another in a long series of poor decisions, Bill decided to pursue the abolitionists responsible for the Pottawatomie Massacre. He did manage to catch up with them. With 12 shots, he didn't manage to hit any. Bill was stabbed to death with broadswords a few miles out from Pottawatomie Creek.
When he came back, he was amazed. This was no mere fluke, and he knew full well he should have died. In his hate-addled mind, he believed he'd been given a second chance. Perhaps even a third. The pain of his wounds was nothing compared to the exuberance he felt at this knowledge, and he gladly made the trek back to the encampment of his pro-slavery allies. They thought they had a secret weapon.
Their 'secret weapon' couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and proved this in the Battle of Black Jack. To the abolitionists, he was no secret, but a joke--called 'Boneyard' Bill for what was perceived as the incredible luck of a hapless buffoon. He was dispatched easily, after he again blew through all twelve of his shots in a blind rage. The sharpshooter responsible for his death had no reason to believe that his shot, placed right between the eyes, wouldn't have done the job.
Abolition and the Civil War
Bill finally realized how out of his depth he was. The realization shattered his fragile ego, and his allies viewed him not only as unnatural, but as bad luck. Black Jack was a decisive abolitionist victory. What was more, the willingness of John Brown to release 22 of his sworn enemies, and his truthfulness in doing so, made Bill question the justness of his cause. Would he have released 22 abolitionists? 22 slaves?
With nowhere else to go, Bill sought out the abolitionists, who were stunned to see him alive. Convinced that he was far from a threat even with his pistols loaded, they agreed to speak to him. For the first time in his life, Bill listened. His meeting with the abolitionists changed his life.
Equipped with empathy for his fellow man and a desire to make up for time wasted under the burden of hate, Bill joined the movement for abolition, and spent as much time as he could practicing. In the years that followed, Bill made a home for himself in Kansas, taught himself how to read, and got a job with the local newspaper.
In 1859, John Brown and 22 men raided the town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Had someone told the William Evers of 1854 that he would proudly fight alongside abolitionists and black men to incite a slave uprising, he'd have laughed whiskey-laced breath in their faces. Bill was among those killed--but he was determined to remember what John Brown fought for.
By the time the Civil War erupted, Bill Evers was firmly on the side of the Union. He enlisted as soon as he was able. His medical examination found nothing wrong with him, save a slight clamminess to the skin. He began to use the nickname 'Boneyard Bill' to his advantage, frustrating the Confederate troops with his stubborn refusal to die.
His condition allowed him to charge recklessly into danger. Practice, both in and out of battle, had made him a better shot. He was rarely afraid to rely on his bayonet. By the time the war had ended, Boneyard Bill had earned himself a commission and the respect of his comrades. He had also lost count of how many times he'd died.
Bill left the war a changed man. It was unlike anything he'd ever seen. Unable to die himself, Bill was still keenly aware of the effect of the carnage and fear of war upon those around him. He lost friends. He'd killed unwilling conscripts. On some occasions, he'd swear he'd seen familiar faces in the advancing Confederate hordes. He felt a profound unease. On the one hand, he'd killed, in the moment, without hesitation, those men in grey with fear and fury in their eyes. On the other hand, he knew that their victory meant the end of free states and the rise of slave power. He became restless. Though his outlook on life had changed radically, Bill still believed he'd been given his immortality for a reason.
It didn't take long for him to find a new crusade. During the early years of his life, the United States had displaced, dissolved and mistreated its native residents, something that Bill had been ignorant towards at the time. Despite having been relocated, many Natives still suffered at the hands of the Union. As something of a war hero, Bill felt he finally had the power to do something good. He attempted to alert his superiors to the mistreatment. That failed. He then took to the tactics of the abolitionists, printing his own newspaper and distributing it to anyone who would read it. His peaceful efforts won him allies, but little progress. No one much wanted to hear that Natives were people, too, when many could barely tolerate the presence of free blacks. Again, Bill became angry, but this time, he tempered his anger with purpose.
He resigned his commission from the Army, and burned his uniform in public. The display outraged the conservative elements of society, but failed to affect lasting policy change. Although Bill began meeting with these more radical elements, even planned use of force could not stop the creeping advance of the Union. They were but one small group against a giant wave. Bill realized then that in order for things to change for marginalized groups, they would need more than scattered, decentralized support. It would take a government willing to accept them, and a culture willing to elect that government.
Bill and his like-minded colleagues did what they could to try and create that culture within the States. They found that changing individual minds was easy enough, but even with trains, newsletters and the telegraph, spreading their ideas was difficult. Nevertheless, it was America's nascent information network which allowed them all to keep an eye on world events. Without ideas for permanent, immediate change, Bill was beginning to lose faith in the American people. The people of the world didn't seem to be in better shape--each country seemed to have its own demons.
The Mexican Revolution
By 1880, Bill believed that he might actually be dying for real--his body had begun to smell, and the smell seemed all too familiar for the war veteran. Frustrated by the lack of progress he and his friends were having, Bill traveled to Mexico to see another part of the world for himself. Only his friends in Kansas knew where he'd gone--he didn't feel as if he owed anyone else an explanation. He drifted between groups of expatriates, always careful to stay downwind of them. The sight of him unnerved horses when he drew too near, and he wasn't keen on the attention that tended to draw. Over time, he picked up bits and pieces of Spanish.
After learning the language, Bill learned the land. When he needed to, he could make money as a crack shot or a laborer. His Spanish was never very good, but he came to enjoy his time in Mexico. What he didn't enjoy was Porifirio Diaz, then-president. Though Diaz's policies brought economic growth to Mexico, that growth was built on the backs of the poor. The story here reminded him of his early years, but here he felt he had the eyes to see the true enemy. As time marched on, the corpse's choice of company grew more and more radical.
1910 and the start of the Revolution were Bill's first exposure to the works of Marx, Hegel, Kropotkin, and Lenin. Though long-since literate, Bill's emotional, salt-of-the-earth sensibilities found the famous intellectuals and their command of language to be dry, dense and intimidating. In short, the Revolution kept Bill too busy to do much reading. This was especially true a year in, when he found and allied himself with the Zapatistas, the agrarian revolutionary movement which sprung up from Morelos around Emiliano Zapata.
As he had with John Brown, Bill idolized Zapata--although he was too self-conscious about his worsening decay to even approach the famous revolutionary, much less share words. In battle, he was far from reserved, much as he was in the Civil War. Without as many familiar faces, the gunfighter found his second war easier. It was, however, still a war--and the sight of haciendados, their hired guns, and the Federales throwing their lives away to keep the poor in poverty was no less disturbing for its familiarity.
The 20s and the Rise of Heroes
By 1920, Boneyard Bill hadn't been seen in some time. This was intentional on Bill's part, as the decay of his had only worsened. He quietly returned to the States sometime after the betrayal and execution of Zapata. Although his idol had been slain, and Zapata's vision for Mexico would never fully be realized, change was happening. The foundations for a strong, centralized government were beginning to form, and that government seemed determined not to leave the poor behind.
Returning to Kansas, a state in a country more or less at peace, was like stepping foot on an alien planet. During his time fighting, he had little time to see the technological advancements the world had developed. Bill, too, had changed. He found his faith in people restored after his time in Mexico. His mind and spirit were willing to try for change in America, but his body was a different story. Though he still had no difficulty reanimating his body, decades of riding it past its expiration had taken their toll. His eyes appeared sunken, his skin pallid and bloated.
The Great Depression
Very clearly dead, Bill could no longer act in public, for the sight of his moldering visage and the stink of him would draw stares that teetered dangerously between mute panic and open aggression. He scarcely resembled himself, and even his good name as a figure of the Old West couldn't fix that. For a time, Bill became a recluse. He shut himself inside his Wichita home, allowing the world inside through letters, newspapers and books. His few remaining friends were elderly, but they gladly corresponded with a friend long thought to be dead. Through the newspapers, the infant radio, and the letters of his aging friends, Bill stayed informed. He finally took to reading the works of the so-called communists, and though he often had to ask his more learned friends for guidance or explanation, he came to understand the ideology.
In 1929, Bill learned, as Americans across the country did, of the stock market crash. The destitution and poverty which spread from what he understood as mere speculation from the rich incensed him. The Great Depression was the straw that broke the camel's back. Through correspondence and covert meetings arranged with the utmost care, Bill managed to join the Communist Party, and began sending letters to newspapers as a way of speaking his mind. For a time, his letters captured imaginations. He hadn't been in the public eye since his disappearance over 40 years ago, and debate raged as to whether it was really him or a hoax. He refused in-person interviews to stoke the flames of mystery. Though surprisingly well-suited to this kind of covert hearts-and-minds campaign, Bill missed the outside world. The warm kiss of the sun, and the sounds of life all around him seemed distant memories.
He searched all manner of obscure, frightening texts for a cure to his condition. He found something better.
Boneyard Bill as a Hero
Fate led Bill to a fledgling cabal of young magical do-gooders. With their help, he at last discovered the source of his power: a rare mutation of the soul. The Netherworld, which normally pulls the departed into its murky depths, had no effect on him. As a result, he therefore required no 'anchor' to stay in the material world, and remained able to think in human ways as opposed to the rote ritual of the departed. With their help and guidance, he began to explore the Netherworld, meeting its denizens. With no risk of being 'sucked in,' Bill found that he could guide souls to the afterlife relatively well. As he ventured further and further into the land of the dead, he learned to call upon its powers. There, he was no outsider, no monster, but a symbol of calm and hope. His time spent there reaffirmed his sense of self-worth, and he learned to look into the mirror with a smile no matter how decayed the creature before him became.
By 1931, that restored self-esteem was just in time. The hero Statesman had made his appearance in Rhode Island, fighting against a new wave of crime and corruption. Heroes sprung up around him, then around the country, then around the world. Even the young mages who'd helped Bill made their appearance as the Wichita Warlocks, Kansas' first magical supergroup. Bill knew it was time to come out into the world and be a part of it again. His final letter to the Wichita Eagle was his announcement that he was indeed still alive, that it was truly him, and that he would lend his aid to the cause of the heroes until he could no longer stand. He felt the capes and cowls were more for the younger generation, but gladly joined in on the hero business. He registered with the FBSA despite misgivings, at the urging of others in the Kansas hero community. He would later come to regret that decision.
As the counter-wave of villains began to arise in response to Kansas' first wave of heroes, Bill had plenty of opportunity for practice, both with his guns and his newfound magic. He found that he could drain the life energy of his foes to mend himself or empower his attacks, and that this same energy could be channeled and used offensively on its own. Advances in technology and in Bill's understanding of the dark arts allowed the Corpse From Kansas to make his now-famous sixguns into magical artifacts in and of themselves. They were still the same Colt Navy models he once bought out of misguided hatred and anger, turned towards protecting the weak and defenseless.
World War II
Having been disillusioned with the United States Army, Boneyard Bill did not enlist after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the surprise Fifth Column attacks on Independence Port, but neither did he sit on his cold, bony hands. Fearing that there might be fascist agents elsewhere in the States, Bill rounded up a group of six like-minded heroes for a cross-country bug-hunt. Encounters with the Fifth Column were rare outside of the northeast, but their crusade nevertheless rooted out Nazi sympathizers in several states, putting minds at ease with their diligence.
The team was broken up when most of the members left for the African Continent after enlisting, but Bill wasn't discouraged. One of his earliest victories, and the first issue of his comic run, was against the Thuleorden, a society of Nazi occultists with a stronghold in Missouri. Bill gathered the young cabal of mystics and urged them to fight alongside him, preventing the Thuleorden from creating a gestalt consciousness to animate a gigantic golem. Though victory was had, Bill still worries that they may be out there, biding their time...
The Might for Right Act
With the war against the Nazis over, thanks in large part to the socialist Soviet Union, Bill and many other Americans in the Communist Party thought that the age of communism could finally begin to prosper. Their despair at the course of history thereafter and the Cold War was palpable, to say the least. Bill was among the first heroes to be pressed into service as part of the Might for Right Act of 1956. To this day, he asserts the decision was political--a ploy for the States to rid itself of another leftist hero. He famously, and quite vulgarly, refused, and for this, was publicly arrested. He was sentenced to five years in a minimum security prison for draft-dodging. For the second time, Bill felt let down by his government, but part of him knew it was coming. It was more like a disappointment than a painful sting, and this time, he endeavored to make it work for him.
One night, between the changing of shifts, Bill called messenger spirits to his cell. He asked them to tell him about the land of the living, and paid them in 'wax,' a currency known only to the dead. He made a regular practice of this. Eventually, he began using them to relay messages to the press, giving them a wealth of statements to make to the press on his behalf. He ordered, however, that the messages be staggered, released not all at once but over the course of several years, spacing them a month at a time or until he was released. The warden of the minimum security prison was furious, searching for leaks that weren't there, constantly having Bill watched. Every month, he would embarrass the correctional facility and mock the very legitimacy of the United States, no matter the methods used to silence him.
The leak was never found, because as one of Bill's messages had said, the prison had closed the barn door after the horses had escaped. The leaks were not constant over his five years, they were a week's worth of covert meetings at best, disseminated over a five year period. Boneyard Bill was released in 1962, but quickly found himself in prison again after organizing a 'stink-in' with several fellow undead heroes and a few necromancers. Forming a wall of putrid decay, Bill and his allies dogpiled a police dragnet, allowing several young draft dodgers to evade capture. In 1967, the act was struck down as unconstitutional, but 'clerical errors' caused Bill to be kept in prison as late as 1969. By 1970, Boneyard Bill had another moniker for his list: 'the Perdition Pinko,' given to him by mocking conservatives in the Bible Belt. Not only did Bill wear this and his other names with pride, he openly threw his support behind the Communist Party's newest member, Angela Davis, barely a year after he was released from prison.
The Cold War's Fever Pitch
By the 70s, Boneyard Bill was on a number of watchlists. His hair had lost nearly all of its color, his eyes glassy, his nose beginning to crumble away--but his spirit was as fiery as ever. Despite falling far out of favor in the public eye, he seemed determined not to leave it. Every protest seemed to carry his cloying stench, every protester armed with a smile and a clothespin for their nose. When the Soviet Union shot down a US spy plane and nearly brought the world to the brink of war, Bill attracted widespread criticism for his refusal to condemn the attack, stating instead that the issue was with American imperialism. His comic was discontinued as sales plummeted, and many Americans saw Bill as a villain.
Even in the era of peace that followed the averted nuclear armageddon, Bill maintained, and does to this day, that the greatest threat to world peace at that time was the United States and the American dollar.
The War on Drugs
While the Regulators fought to tackle drugs at their source, Boneyard Bill and his friends had a different idea of what constituted the 'source' altogether. Though the world was at peace, the same problems still plagued it. Economic exploitation and enforced poverty, they argued, drove people to addictive drugs, and those drugs played a part in keeping them poor. They began to travel to the neighborhoods affected by the crisis, to ask earnestly of community leaders what was needed most. They were received at first with suspicion, for their political affiliations, but in time, they earned the trust of several neighborhoods. The goal was to demonstrate to the American people that a 'War on Drugs' needn't be a 'War on People.'
Though they were successful in cleaning up the neighborhoods and fighting off suppliers on a small scale, their bottom-up approach did not have the support of the American people for the large part, and was unable to get off the ground--most heroes at the time wanted to go after the distribution, or were otherwise engaged. This was especially true when Portal Corp emerged, as minds at that point were not on communities, but on hard philosophical questions about the nature of existence. Bill lists the failure of this ground-up model for rehabilitation as one of his regrets--he felt that, were it successful, such an approach could have radically changed the way the working class viewed itself.
Boneyard Bill was once again in the media--he wasn't the first hero to get wind of Hero Corp, nor was he even among the first. But, as usual, he was one of the louder voices. In public, Bill decried the organization as a privatized police force. Among those heroes who called into question the increase in costumed crime wherever Hero Corp set down roots, Bill was, again, one of the louder voices. Despite the lack of proof of such claims, a debate with Bill in it is a debate where that point gets trotted out. Having long since learned to walk in the spaces between the world's spaces, the Corpse from Kansas was so incensed by the prospect of a Hero Corps building on U.S. soil that he made his first ever appearance in Rhode Island just to join the '99 protest.
It wasn't just the mysterious increase in supervillains that Bill loudly blamed on Hero Corps, however. When superpowered bands of mercenaries began to crop up across the world, this, too, Bill blamed on Hero Corp, stating that their greed had allowed something terrible to come to pass. Again, he entered the media spotlight, a place he had since grown accustomed to. This time, it was for the latest in a number of extra-national actions by heroes. Boneyard Bill, one of America's most stinky and recognizable heroes, was caught on camera in a firefight with a squad of super-mercs sent to a soda bottling plant to break up a union strike. As was usually the case with Bill, public opinion was split.
While it wasn't a good look for an American hero, neither was it a good look for the company--the CCTV feed showed the entire altercation, and revealed that the mercs had initiated the fight, only to be surprised when Bill appeared from ambush to drive them off and corral the striking employees to safety. He demonstrated a new facet of his necromancy, the ability to coat himself in a protective layer of ice. The sight of one of its older heroes in action was enough to rouse the imagination of a small, independent comics firm just starting up, and once again, Boneyard Bill graced the shelves of comic stores--just not to the extent that he once did.
The soda company, which will remain unnamed, was well-known and well-connected enough to evade culpability. Though the famously stubborn gunfighter went on a ten-year crusade to nail them without success, he would eventually have the last laugh when the UN began to regulate such mercenary outfits in 2000.
Invasion and Aftermath
Every hero remembers where they were when the Rikti attacked. Boneyard Bill is no different, and he appeared in a number of specials alongside other heroes of the Midwest to talk about his experiences during the war and remember the fallen. Convinced that the glowing discs in the sky were of magical nature, he traveled all the way to Chicago to study them. He wasn't alone. The Wichita Warlocks, his magical friends from the earliest days of his hero career, came as well. Though their bodies were hoary and frail, their minds were sharp as daggers. None of them knew that day would be the prelude to their finest hour. Through the course of the two year war, their numbers dwindled, one by one, battle by battle, until only Bill remained.
Bill was eager to get back to his home after the war. He found that the aftermath in Kansas was the same as anywhere else. People that seemed fixtures were gone. Places that seemed timeless were dust. Shadows seemed hostile, as if more soldiers might jump out at any minute. He grieved for his friends, for the young heroes cut down before their time, for people left alive with no place to go. The Netherworld was chaos and fear. For two years after the war, Bill soothed the souls of restless, the terrified, the angry, leading one and all to the afterlife. Many times he met friends. Just as often, he was left to ponder their ultimate fate, never having found them.
In the years since the end of the war, Bill has joined many heroes in looking towards the future. It's his hope that the children who now grow up in its wake will not have to fight another before their time--or ever. In 2004, he relocated to Paragon City at the request of the FBSA. Owing to his checkered relationship with the government, the request was explicitly communicated as optional. Bill accepted, and though he still feels America is in need of change, though he is still the loudest voice in the room at the worst possible time, few can doubt his devotion to the future--a future of peace.