Sooooo….  I have my backdrop: Chicago.

And I have my antagonists: The REDACTED!

Now I just needed my heroes.

In City of Heroes, you teamed up with your friends in teams of eight (not counting trials!).

Eight players. Eight heroes.

It was also generally CoH basics to stack your team with a mixture of Archetypes. Players who had overlapping powersets that complemented each other. 

The basic game had five sets originally (they were expanded on later).

You had:

Blaster – Long range, very high damage output, low defense.
Defender – Team buffs/enemy debuffs, low damage output, medium defense.
Controller – Long range mob control, medium damage output, low defense.
Scrapper – Short range, high damage output, high defense.
Tanker – Short range, medium damage output, very high defense.

Now, that is VERY broadly generalizing, but you get the gist. 

I needed eight heroes to kick off my first book. I settled on these…

  • Gayle Knightley – Knightingale  (Defender)
  • Lana Fordham – Fordith  (Scrapper)
  • Eleanor DeMontfort – Ecstatica  (Controller)
  • Famke TIllman – Famke  (Defender)
  • Michael Reynolds – Rogue (Blaster)
  • Stefan McLoed – Coin  (Blaster)
  • Kara Matthews – Pyra  (Blaster)
  • Honsou  (Tank)

All of them were played by either myself, my wife, or friends in the game at the time. Unfortunately, that list presented a few problems.

  • Knightingale, Fordith, and Rogue are all characters I’d used in my Songbird books.
  • Ecstatica, Famke, and Pyra were all created by friends I’d lost contact with.

Only Honsou and Coin were still fair game as I was still in touch with Marcus and Steve, their creators.

I needed a solution. So here’s what happened…

Lana Fordham – Fordith became Abi Blakely – Reflex

My wife’s character. She was a martial arts scrapper in the game, with a ‘Willpower’ secondary. She changed completely, becoming a new character. Abi Blakely, codename ‘Reflex’. She’s still a scrapper, but now one with SuperReflexes.

Eleanor DeMontfort – Ecstatica became Jada Demario – Ecstasy

It didn’t feel right using a character when I didn’t have the permission of the creator to do so. Thus the change. Plus I had too many scrappers in the story already, so a change was in order. Also, all the original characters were white European, reflecting the players that created them, and I felt like I needed a little diversity in the story. So Eleanor became Jada, an African American hero with the ability to create mental projections in someones mind.

Famke Tillman – Famke became Elena Torres – Shield Maiden

The powersets remained the same. She’s a Forcefield defender. But, just like with Jada above, I also wanted a little diversity change here too. We decided to go Latin American for Elena, and went looking for reference pictures to give to Marlena the type of look I was going for. It was actually my editor (and book-wife) Nikki who came up with the perfect person. Alice Braga, an amazing Brazillian actress I’d seen in a bunch of films (including one of my guilty pleasures – Predators!). Casting complete.

Kara Matthews – Pyra became Samantha Jayne – Kasai

At first, this was nothing more than a name change to the character. I was considering what to call her, but the working name was Pyra. At this point I was already working with Marlena to bring the cover art into effect, so she wanted reference pictures for both the new.

So, currently I had Gale (who is a kind of English rose type), Reflex (who my wife insists looks like Gemma Chan), Jada (who is African American), Elena (who has a Latin American look)… where to go next?

After some thought I wanted to run with a character the opposite of Gale. So where Gale has the vibrant candy-floss coloured hair, I figured I’d go with someone with raven locks. And as Gale is a shy, reserved, kind of introverted young girl, I figured Pyra would be more outgoing. Maybe alternative. Tattoo’s and a confident attitude. So, I went looking for reference art. 

As it happened I had a (VERY) loose connection with a model on facebook. She’d once been recommended to us back in the day when wifey and I were running a Zombie themed obstacle race. We had big plans for models and volunteers being zombies, but never quite pulled it off. Anyway, that person was alternative model, Samii Jinx, and her look was PERFECT for what I was going for. I ran a picture of her past Marlena, and she was totally on board. 

But, I figured I really should run it past Samii, to make sure she was okay with me sending her pictures to Marlena as a basis. I really didn’t want to be accused of stealing her image. 

Samii, it has to be said, turned out to be an absolute delight

She not only said I could send some piccies to Marlena, but also provided a bunch of pictures as reference, saying she’d be honored if the actual cover art LOOKED like her too. Blown away at her generosity, I asked her if she’d like to have a hand in crafting the background of the character. 

It was Samii who came up with the name KASAI (which was inspired. I would probably have ended up calling her FlameGirl, or something equally awful!). She also came up with the back story for Kasai being a voice artist. It was a wonderful example of artistic collaboration!

So… thanks a million, Samii!  😀  I owe you one!

Here’s the original Samii, and her superheroic counterpart, side by side…

Samii in REAL LIFE…
…and as KASAI

Quick Note: Photo above, credit to ARKANGEL. Samii is not just a spectacular Alt and Cosplay model, and a lover of cats, she also works for Wild River Comics and is the biggest geek you’ll meet! If you go and follow Wild River Comics on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / TikTok, then it’s often Samii’s face you’ll see doing all kinds of interesting vidoes about all manner of geeky things. You can find links to her own sites on my Links page here: HaiJinxx


Gayle Knightley (Knightingale) and Michael Reynolds (Rogue) were a considerably more tricky problem…

Gayle and Michael already exist in the Songbird books. What’s more, they are the central couple in that series. A fact that I figure might be confusing to any readers who flick between the two series.

BUT, Gayle especially was an absolutely CORE part of my City of Heroes history. Writing these books without her at least was an absolute none starter. It would rip my heart out not to include her.

The answer came to me…


Marvel’s MCU has populated this concept lately, but I can lay claim to this back in 2006. The Many World Theory had always been a part of the original books due to the fact that when you logged into City of Heroes, you were given a choice about which shard (server) you wanted to play on. Here in the Europe we had a choice of four.

Defiant and Union were English speaking servers. Vigilence was for French speakers, Zukunft was for German.

In the US, players had the choice of eleven different servers.

It wasn’t unusual for a player to create copies of their characters on ALL the servers. For example, I had a Knightingale on both Defiant AND Union. In the books I explained this away via the use of the Many Worlds theory, or a multiverse. It plays a KEY role in the third book, THE FEMME FATALITY, which sees the heroes hopping dimensions.

Why couldn’t the Songbird Universe exist alongside the new Femme Fatales Universe?

It even gives me an exciting opportunity for cross overs in the future! 

So, I tweaked Gayle. Same name…different character.

  • The Gayle Knightley in HUNTERS is a 29 year old, foul-mouthed, sexy, soldier with elemental powers.
  • The Gale Knightley in THE SCORCHED SKY is a 17 year old, empath and healer, and a bit of an introvert. (Note: This book is a prequel, the main continuity will leap forward in time by ten years, which will make her age 27 in the main series)

So, Gayle sorted…but Michael was even more tricky.

Here’s what happened to him…

Rogue, in HUNTERS is a 37 year old soldier who goes by the name Michael Reynolds.

Rogue in THE SCORCED SKY is a 25 year old ex-Basketball player, who goes by the name Alex Anderson.

They ARE parallel universe versions of each other. Why the different name? I’m not going to go into it in detail here, because it would massively spoil the Songbird books. But if you’ve read HUNTERS, you may be able to work it out… (Clue: He’ll have a sibliing called Mikaela. That’s all I’m saying!)

So that brings you up to speed on the characters (you’ll find little fact files on there here: FEMME FATALE INTELLIGENCE FILES)

If this has whet your appetite, then go pre-order the book here:

Till next time,

Love and Books

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  1. Liz B

    So the model wanted the backstory of the character made in her image to be a voice actress. That’s an interesting twist. Sounds like an interesting game, too.

    • Jon Ford

      Samii has been amazing. She’s such an inspirational character. I was more than honored to have her collaborating on the project. 😀

  2. Ethan

    This artwork is amazing! I love it! It is actually what drew me to read this blog entry. I’m interested now in these books. What a great idea! I played the game back in the day and it will be cool to read books that remind me of my game-playing days.

    • Again, I can take zero credit for the art. All that goes to Marlena (LenamoArt) who brings the characters to life. She’s amazing.
      I’ve really enjoyed writing the Femme Fatales books, they’ve really returned me to my roots.

      • Ethan

        I’ve had a chance to poke around your blog. Very interesting! I just bought Hunters on Amazon. I’m not a fan of reading on a tablet or Kindle so I will have to wait for the book to come in the mail. I’m excited to get it. Marlena did a great job on that artwork too. I love how you said each book in that series will be a different color. I’m sure it will catch eyes on a bookshelf.

        • That’s the plan. It’ll be a rainbow theme, so Hunters starts that off with red, Blood to Earth is orange… and so forth. Each cover also notes the duality of the character front and back.

  3. Sean T

    Alice Braga…….yeah…..I’ve seen her in film. I can’t remember the movies or shows, but she is a beautiful choice for a model to animate. She could play a romance movie or action. She just has that look.

  4. Sarahh

    This is an awesome idea. I love everything about the book and game. The other’s are spot on too about the artwork! It is awesome that so many people are into the idea too.

  5. KTReed

    What an interesting concept. The look of Elena Torres kind of resembles that of Selma Blair during her Cruel Intentions Days. I like it!

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