Twenty-six years ago an alien space ship crashed onto planet Earth changing how humanity viewed itself for ever. Some of the aliens were captured alive and it was discovered that the aliens were coming to consume us.
At that time the nations of the world put aside their petty differences and using the authority of the UN formed the United Nations Voluntary Earth Defence Force, (UNVED). Thousands of volunteers from all nations converged on a high tech lab where alien technology had been fused with human ingenuity to produce startling results.
The process developed at this lab was used to genetically improve the volunteers and turn them into the superheroes of legend.
When the Alien fleet landed, their hideously varied hordes were met by an equally varied array of super-powered warriors with truly incredible powers.
Perhaps the most powerful of them all was 'Manhattan' - who laid down his own life to destroy several alien motherships. The six mile-wide glassy crater he left behind is, to this day, a potent symbol of the sacrifices that were made in this struggle for humanity's future.
With these magnificent warriors humanity defeated the alien force and drove them from our planet.
After the war the UNVED were universally acclaimed as conquering heroes. However once the plaudits died down, life went on - some of the UNVED chose to continue to serve in the UN forces, but many returned home trying to return to the lives they had left. A small minority saw in their newfound powers an opportunity to profit - and several 'supervillains' were born. For a while the authorities found themselves struggling to contend with criminals who were capable of incredible feats, but soon they were joined by equally incredible allies.
Several groups of UNVED veterans who were finding peacetime a little boring announced they were creating 'Vigilante' groups with the stated aim of bringing their erstwhile brothers-in-arms to justice. Though technically illegal the authorities turned a blind eye. The Vigilantes were already heroes - they had literally saved the Earth, so arresting them was not going to be a popular move - and it was clear that they needed help controlling the 'supervillains'.
For nearly five years the exploits of the super-powered Vigilantes and Villains made headlines - but their days were numbered...
It soon became clear that something was 'wrong' with the new superheroes. Damocles, Adolphus-Casey Syndrome (ACS), the curse - it has many names. It cut a swathe through the genetically engineered humans, even as they rose victorious on the field they died; heart attacks, brain aneurysms, multiple organ failure, the list was endless. It was soon apparent that the bioengineering procedure was a death sentence. It appeared that the most powerful heroes died first but it was unclear whether it was because they were too powerful or because they used their power too much. The more powerful the heroes the shorter their lifespan. The cause is still a matter of hot debate - some believe the Aliens unleashed a virus as a final act of revenge on the defenders who drove them from Earth, others claim some inherent flaw in the genetic transformation process.
The true cause of this tragedy may remain an unsolved mystery, as the lab in which the process was performed was destroyed during the final days of the war against the Aliens.
Whatever the cause, the effects have been an ongoing tragedy for the last 25 years. Most of the UNVED died within 5 years of the invasion, bringing to an end the 'Golden Era' of superpowered villains and vigilantes. By 5 years after the war none of the remaining UNVED criminals had powers strong enough to provide a serious challenge to traditional law-enforcement.
Worse - the brief, but horrendous experiences of the few children born to UNVED caused an outcry dwarfing that caused by thalidomide... Official UN advice is now that no UNVED veteran should have children.
Over the years there have been many, many deaths - the doom is never far from the UNVED members' minds.
In the 25 years since the end of the war the UNVED have faded from the public conciousness - where once their activities were a source of daily news, now only a few well known celebrities occasionally make the headlines.
However with the approach of the 25th anniversary of the end of the 'Great War' against the aliens public interest has once again been roused, and a special celebration has been arranged in Florida by the Vice president of the United States, a Veteran herself, where the last few surviving veterans will be Honoured for their sacrifices on behalf of the planet.