COMMANDER BARAN

Real Name: Unrevealed (possibly Baran)

Identity/Class: Extraterrestrial (Dire Wraith)

Occupation: Unknown;
    formerly head of Baran Labs and commander of local Dire Wraith infiltration forces

Group Membership: SciWraiths (a subdivision of the Dire Wraith race)

Affiliations: His wife and son;
    formerly SciWraiths, including Gorton and the rest of his war council

Enemies: Dire Wraiths;
    formerly Rom, Spaceknights of Galador, humanity

Known Relatives: Laura Paula Baran (wife), Jon (Jonathan?) Baran (adopted son), Volx (alleged mother)

Aliases: Michael "Mike" Baran

Base of Operations: Baran Labs, Reading, Pennsylvania;
    formerly unknown

First Appearance: Rom#25/2 (December, 1981)

Powers/Abilities: As a Dire Wraith, Baran presumably possesses all the standard powers of his species. Baran possesses the ability to change his shape, color, size and mass so as to become any physical being he may desire (within certain limits). By transforming into an appropriate creature, Baran can then use that creature's physical abilities (like flying while in the form of a bird) but he cannot alter his brain/body structure enough to replicate any psionic or paranormal abilities which the being he's imitating may possess.

    As a Dire Wraith, Baran has some ability to manipulate mystical energy and, in his natural form, has a barbed, razor-sharp tongue which he could use to absorb the brains of victims, thereby gaining their memories. However, his mystical ability is minimal (since he's male) and he avoids using his brain-eating ability (since SciWraiths consider that ability repugnant).

    As a Dire Wraith, Baran was hatched from an egg and has a lifespan of well over 200 Earth-years (but there is no indication that he is anywhere near that old).

   Baran possesses a knowledge of the advanced technology of the SciWraiths.

History:
(Rom#1 (fb) - BTS / Rom#17 (fb) - BTS) - Beginning in the 1940's, members of the alien race known as the Dire Wraiths began to secretly arrive on Earth. Using their shape-shifting abilites to disguise themselves as human beings, these Wraiths infiltrated Earth's population and began to secretly lay the groundwork for their conquest of Earth. Their ultimate goal was to use Earth as a base from which they could conquer other worlds.

(Rom#25/2 (fb) - BTS) - As part of their plan for conquering Earth, the Wraiths sought to advance human technology (so that it would be available for them to later use for their own purposes). Towards that end, a number of SciWraiths were chosen to seek jobs in the field of scientific research so that they could secretly use their knowledge of SciWraith science to "develop" advanced technology. One of these SciWraiths created for himself the human identity of "Michael Baran."

Seeking to improve his disguise as a typical American businessman, "Baran" decided that having a wife and child would be the perfect camouflage so he set out to find and marry a woman with whom he would then adopt a child. Baran carried out his plan by finding a suitable woman, Laura, and (presumably) courting her until she fell in love with him. He and Laura were married and then adopted a young boy, Jon, to be their son. All of this was according to plan but at some point Baran was shocked to realize that he truly DID love his family. Since Dire Wraiths consider the ability to feel love to be a dangerous weakness, Baran kept his true feelings for his family a secret and allowed his fellow Wraiths to believe that he was still just using his family as camouflage.

At some point Baran and his family moved to a new home in Reading, Pennsylvania, where Baran started his own business, Baran Labs. However, Baran's newfound humanity had an affect on him. Instead of developing technology solely for the use of his Wraith masters, Baran also aided and advanced some Earth technology that could only help humanity. His fellow Wraiths began to notice that his devotion to the cause was less than single-minded and some suspected that he might have "gone native" but they didn't confront him...yet.

(Rom#1-20 - BTS) - Eventually the Galadorian Spaceknight Rom arrived on Earth. Landing near Clairton, West Virginia, Rom began hunting down disguised Wraiths and banishing them to Limbo. Mistakenly believing that Rom was killing innocent humans, the local populace was initially terrified of him but once the truth about the Wraith presence was revealed most came to support Rom and his mission. Wraith operations in the area were decimated and Wraiths were given orders to avoid confronting the Spaceknight.

(Rom#25/2) - One night, Baran was at home when he received a telephone call from Gorton, one of his subordinates, who reported that he was under attack by Rom...and then the line went dead. Baran realized that Rom would soon be coming for him. When his wife (Paula) asked if the call was bad news, Baran said that he had to go out of town for a few days and suggested that she take Jon and stay at her mother's while he was gone. While getting his son ready, Baran recalled why he had originally wanted a family and how he now felt about them. After watching his wife and son drive away, Baran returned to his house and made some phone calls to gather the remaining section members together.

    That night, Baran hosted a war council at his house. He tried to rally his fellow Wraiths against Rom but they confronted him with their suspicions that he had "gone native." As he tried to reassure them that his sole interest was to serve their masters and aid them in the conquest of the universe, a Wraith brought in Laura who had been caught listening outside the window. When Laura begged her husband to tell her that he wasn't an alien invader, Baran replied, "Heaven help me, Laura - - I am!" Since calling on Heaven demonstrated that he was further gone than they had suspected, the Wraiths decided that he would have one last chance to prove his loyalty. They gave him a gun and told him to kill his wife because she knew too much. Baran tried to psyche himself up to do the deed by proclaiming "I am Commander Baran of the Dire Wraiths and human life means nothing to me," but it soon became clear that he just couldn't do it. With this proof that he was a traitor, Baran was sentenced to death by the Wraiths.

    And then Rom arrived, having used a telephone book to track down Baran. In the ensuing battle, Rom banished five of the seven Wraiths before their polarizing pistols damaged his cyborg systems so much that he could no longer defend himself against the lone remaining Wraith's weapon. As this last Wraith prepared to use Rom's own weapon on the fallen Spaceknight, Baran shot him, thus enabling Rom to regain his Neutralizer and banish the Wraith. When Rom asked who had saved him, Baran said that he had had no choice because the Wraiths would have killed Laura once they were through with Rom. Knowing that Rom was going to banish him, Baran threw down his gun, saying that too much damage had been done "that afternoon" and that he wouldn't be a party to more. As Rom prepared to banish him, Laura began to cry and Baran turned to comfort her. Rom then announced that it had long been his duty to distinguish Wraith from human and that he, Michael Baran, surely was human (since humanity is a quality of soul and not a bi-product of biology). Saying that the Wraith called Commander Baran had been banished by Michael Baran's learned humanity, Rom departed.

    Initially delighted at having a second chance for a life with his family, Baran was dismayed when he realized that Laura (understandably) wasn't as sure as he was. When Laura told Baran that she loved him and didn't want to forsake him but was so confused that she needed to think things out alone, Baran accepted her decision and resolved that, for better or worse, he would continue to try to become truly human to balance the scales for the humanity that Rom lost when he became a Spaceknight.

Comments: Created by Steven Grant, Greg Larocque and Steve Mitchell.

    The one problem with this story is that Baran calls his wife "Paula" four times on pages 6-7...but he calls her "Laura" ten times on on pages 12-13 and 16-17.
    I'm a believer in the Robert Bruce Banner policy for this sort of thing. I'd make her name Laura Paula Baran.
--Snood.

    Somehow, for over twenty years I believed that Michael was Jon's adoptive father but that Laura was actually his biological mother. It was only last year that I realized that the story doesn't actually say this.

    Dire Wraiths are not "born evil", they are "made evil" by the Wraith Elders who use various brainwashing techniques to condition the minds of their offspring when they're young and vulnerable. Incredible Hulk#262/2 revealed that the SciWraiths used their technology to program the minds of their young while they're still infants. Since Baran was born a SciWraith, he presumably underwent this conditioning process when he was an infant but his later close exposure to humanity enabled him to overcome it.

    I've listed Volx as Baran's "alleged mother," but I STRONGLY believe that Volx's claim of being the mother of ALL Dire Wraiths was nothing more than a delusion on her part and that Baran's true biological parents are unrevealed.
    Agreed. It might just be a figurative note, or perhaps she is an early ancestor of most if not all of them, but not their direct mother
--Snood.

    I once wrote in to Space Notes asking (among other things) if Michael Baran and his family were ever going to come to Clairton.  The editorial response was, "Well, we haven't seen Baran and his family since ROM #25, but their return to these pages is certainly worth considering."

    After the female WraithWitches took over the Earth infiltration program they were reported to have killed off all (?) of their Wraith-brothers. As a male SciWraith, Baran presumably would have been targeted and killed, along with his family. However, if the Baran family was already hiding from the SciWraiths, then they might have been able to avoid being detected and butchered by the female Wraiths.

    I wonder what Laura Baran's reaction would have been to her husband if she had ever seen him in his true form. The Official Handbook's claim that "Female Wraiths look radically different from males" is (at best) unconfirmed since what the Handbook calls the "male form" was actually just the "transitory shape" between their true forms and their human shells. While no male Wraith has ever been depicted in their true form, I've always felt that pages 7-8 of ROM#48 indicated that both genders had the SAME body shape but that the males preferred to appear in their transitory shapes because they were ashamed of the way they appeared in their "true Wraith form."

    Baran, if he had lived long enough, would have been trapped in his assumed human form when all the other Wraiths (except Volx) lost their shape-shifting powers.  The idea that the Wraiths all lost their shape-shifting powers when Rom "Neutralized" Wraithworld was unfounded (since their powers were NOT magical in nature); a better explanation was that the destruction of Wraithworld had only caused them to TEMPORARILY lose those powers, but that they didn't truly lose their powers until soon after when they were affected by the same Hyper-Wave Bomb which locked the Skrulls (with whom they shared a common ancestry) into whatever form they were in at the time.

    Aside from the fact that he appeared human throughout the story, Baran was not shown using any of his powers.

    An editorial footnote in Rom#25/2 states that "This story took place before Rom's galaxy-spanning quest recounted elsewhere in this book".  This would place it sometime before Power Man/Iron Fist#73 and Rom #23 (when Rom went into New York City to seek help from the FF) but the fact that Rom was able to accept the possibility that Baran had learned humanity means it must take place after Rom#17-20 (in which Rom met his first ever "reformed" Wraith, Jacob Marks, but was then briefly trapped in Limbo).

Profile by Donald Campbell

Clarifications:

Commander Michael Baran has no known connections to

Gorton has no known connections to


Laura Paula Baran

 

    The wife of Michael Baran, Laura had lived with him for five years and had never even suspected that he was an alien invader. When her husband suggested that she take their son to her mother's for a few days, she did so but was so worried about him that she returned home and found out more about what was bothering him than she had ever imagined. Feeling stupid and violated, she told her husband to shoot her because it would "be cruel to let me live -- now" but later, when Rom was about to banish him, she began to cry. Once Rom left, Laura admitted that she still loved "Mike" but was so confused by her feeling that she needed to think things out alone.

--Rom#25/2 (25 (fb) - BTS, 25

 

 

 


Jon Baran

    The adopted son of Michael and Laura Baran, Jon (short for "Jonathan"?) seemed to be asleep throughout the entire story so almost nothing was revealed about him.

--Rom#25/2 (25 (fb) - BTS, 25

 


sub-entry image"Gorton"

 

    "Gorton" was one of Baran's subordinates. While riding in a car with three other Wraiths, Gorton panicked when he spotted Rom flying above them and mistakenly assumed that the Spaceknight was chasing them. After his comrades betrayed themselves by attacking Rom with their Wraith weapons, Gorton changed into a bird and escaped. Unaware that he was being followed by Rom, Gorton flew to a truckstop on the outskirts of Clairton, assumed the guise of a truck driver and telephoned Commander Baran. Just as he reported that they were under attack by Rom, the Spaceknight entered the truckstop, used his Energy Analyzer to determine that Gorton was a Wraith, and then used his Neutralizer to banish him to Limbo.

    It was the fact that Gorton was screaming the name "Baran" into the telephone as Rom banished him which let Rom know that there was a Wraith named Baran out there for him to track down...which he promptly did.

 

--Rom#25/2

 

 


sub-entry imageBaran's "war council"

 

    The seven section members who remained in the area. Baran called them together to plan how they were going to deal with Rom but they were more interested in questioning Baran's loyalty to their Wraith masters. When Laura Baran was caught spying on them, they ordered Baran to prove his loyalty by killing her and sentenced him to death when he couldn't do it. Taken by surprise when Rom suddenly appeared, three of them were banished before the other four were able to counter-attack. A damaged Rom banished two more but one Wraith continued to attack (while the other one fled?) until he was shot by Baran and then banished by Rom.

 

--Rom#25/2 (Rom#25/2 (fb) - BTS, 25

 

 

 


images:
Rom#25/2, page 13, panel 2 (Baran)
Rom#25/2, page 12, panel 5 (Baran)
Rom#25/2, page 11, panel 6 (Laura)
Rom#25/2, page 12, panel 9 (Laura)
Rom#25/2, page 7, panel 2 (Jon)
Rom#25/2, page 3, panel 2 (Gorton)
Rom#25/2, page 11, panel 1 (war council)


Last updated: 01/08/05

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