I first found out about good old MF quite a few years ago. Definitely one of the most interesting and bizarre-looking public domain characters out there. Here's what the PDSH website has to say about him:
"Tom Wood was a factory worker and a failed inventor. Years ago, he invented a "Micro-Mask" - a full-face mask that contained a built-in microphone (which allowed hm to amplify and throw his voice), a hearing amplifier, and "photoelectric lenses" that gave him x-ray vision. He could also attach telephone wires to his mask to make phone calls. Tom offered the invention to the U.S. government, only to be turned down.
When his brother, Jim Wood, was shot by gunfire of gangsters, Tom promised to avenge his death.To that end, he decided to use his invention and an old masquarade costume to costumed crime-fighter known as Micro-Face."
Now, clearly, the most important and therefore interesting thing about this character is his mask and costume. A piece of high-tech spy-ware, mixed with a gaudy masquarade costume. Just look at it for a second. Isn't it the most deliciously kooky outfit ever? How could I resist redesigning him?
Step one was the tech behind the mask. What would it look like? Certainly not as streamlined as it looks in that picture. Surely all the wires and doo-hickeys must be hidden beneath that deceptively simple exterior. So, I did some sketches of what I imagined all the layers of Tom's invention would look like:
I tried to make the under-layer of Tom's gear look like a hodgepodge of all the different technology needed to afford him his abilities (top centre sketch). We have a set of night-vision/thermal/telescopic goggles (no x-ray), two augmented hearing aids with high-powered microphone sensors positioned at various angles all over the head to pick up noise from any location and distance, and finally the mouthpiece, which would contain a microphone, speaker and voice distorter. All the wires and cables draping down from the mask terminate in a power-pack belt (see sketch in the bottom left-hand corner) which carries all the batteries and chargers necessary to keep all the tech going. In my revised origin of Microface, I can picture this bare-bones version of the mask being the one Tom pitched to the government, before being rejected. It would only be after the murder of his brother that Tom would attempt to cover all the tech with a more stream-lined and resistant casing (see sketches to the right-hand side)
I wanted to keep the homemade aspect of the original Micro-face, which definitely affords it most of its charm. Instead of a masquarade costume, I figured Tom would base his look on basic comic book lore. And so he puts on a jumpsuit, pair of shorts, knee-high doctor martin-style laced boots, gloves and, complete with a bullet-proof vest, knee and elbow pads, his super-hero outfit is complete.
On his first night on patrol, fittingly, he uses his equipment to track down the mobsters who killed his brother to an abandoned warehouse where they are holding a secret meeting. He records all the incriminating dialogue he can, before using his new powers of ventriloquism and voice distortion to frighten the gangsters into running outside where, unbeknownst to them, the police have already been summoned by Tom. A skirmish ensues, wherein Tom intervenes to save a police officer and some passers by, before disappearing into the night. A child witness claims their saviour 'looked like a robot with a microphone face. A micro-face!" The name sticks, and Micro-Face is born: a hero to some, a common crooks to others, another bizarre vigilante is unleashed, to wreak justice upon the criminal underworld!
And there you have it :) Let me know what you think!