- There has to be a better way.
- — The High src
The High was a mysterious hero of the 20th Century, next to nothing is known about John Cumberland except from the few people who knew him. As the adventurer Axel Brass stated, "Most people thought him a myth, or a trick of the light."
The High was brought across from a parallel America at war on a parallel Earth by a shiftship in 1910. He was found and raised by American farmers (Mr. and Mrs. Cumberland). Thus he was adopted and raised as an American from this planet in which his idea of what America was framed by them. As such, he grew thinking that America cared and that it was great and good.
By the year 1938 he was a grown man and entered into a life of super-heroism. The government convinced most people that he didn't exist, that the sight of him finding both "bunds and corrupt isolationists" was mass hysteria. His career as a superhero was only three years long before he became disillusioned and quit. In that time he was a member of "The Big Three," consisting of himself, Mr. Majestic, and Maximum Man. During his time in semi-retirement he would resurface in times of political unrest, but mainly he went around the world talking to people of different cultures and nations to gain an understanding of ideas.
He was an utter idealist, the ultimate Boy Scout, but after years detached from society (including a decade spent seated atop a throne of stone in the Rocky Mountains, contemplating his plan) he was left with a somewhat naive apprehension of others, their motives and ability shrinking in the face of his noble plan. He was overly trusting of his cohorts, quick to mistrust anyone who stepped in their way, and eager to force the world to change and be done with it—and he ultimately learned, as Jenny Sparks said, that people only want change on their own terms.
Change or Die
In modern time The High became the leader of The Changers seeking to make the world a paradise free from authority. Knowing that Stormwatch would try to stop them, his teammate Blind chose to attack Jenny Sparks and to torture Malcolm King (a.k.a. Strafe, a former member of Stormwatch) in order to obtain some information, without the knowledge of the other Changers and much to the outrage of John Cumberland. Sparks narrowly escaped, and eventually both teams fought and the battle came to its climax in the Changers' headquarters. During this confrontation, it was revealed that both Blind and Wish had their own, private and horrific agenda. Most of the Changers died thanks to a Hammerstrike Deep Sanction Missile (a payload and tailored acid bomb) ordered by Henry Bendix. However, High survived and, furious, went to attack Stormwatch's base, Skywatch. The Stormdoor (Skywatch's force field) was activated, and The High gruesomely died in the collision.
Number of the Beast
However, The High in fact had survived, albeit as a liquefied mass of his former self, due to the collision with Skywatch's Halo shield. Despite giving The High a hero's funeral as strongly insisted by Jenny Sparks, he was passed around and studied by I.O. then Department PSI, and was used by the American government as the base material to produce superhuman clones, all of which have so far repeated the phrases "Change or Die" and "Reap What you Sow" over and over, known as Reapers under the "Reaper Initiative" before being taken to the top secret U.S. Military Bunker 1, the foremost site of the Number of the Beast program. While in a stasis tube his body reconstituted itself and he later succeeded in freeing all the heroes and villains that were trapped in the high tech scenario's being played out. He then vowed to make whomever was in charge pay and flew off to the Skywatch station again, and this time throwing a nuclear bomb at the Halo shield and then comets, and attempting to push the station into the sun or force its Halo shield down. Weatherman Jackson King conceded to a talk with Cumberland.
Both The High and King later learned of the intentions of Number of the Beast and the Reaper Initiative, in which Cumberland sensed his clones being activated and use to kill the escaped metahumans from the NOTB Bunker 1. The High, on advice from Jackson, traveled to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and demanding General Somerset, the founder of the Reaper Initiative, a way to stop his clones. But upon learning from Somerset and the Daemonite Slyxx there was nothing to deactivate the Reapers and that they, having their original programming compromised from entering into the Bleed, were intent on destroying every superhumans with the cost of harming the Earth. After swearing to Somerset that he and others involved with Number of the Beast will pay for their crimes, The High attempted to stop his clones that were encircling the Earth and preparing to create a massive explosion via self-detonation, and fought a Reaper (and in the process shattering Earth's moon). Despite his efforts it became in vain from preventing the cataclysm known as the "World's End".
Having survived Armageddon, and as a penance, The High, having shed every bit of his hubris, helped Earth's remaining survivors by escorting them to Finland, one of the last few havens on the planet. On one of his escorts, he confessed to a little girl named Ava that he felt alone and guilty, but finally gains purpose and self-fulfillment by pushing himself hard to help as many people as he can. Before leaving The High was discretely given a note from Ava with the message: "help us". This deeply perturbed Cumberland and grew suspicious of what's happening behind Finland's Masking Wall. The High later made his way to his old home in the Rocky Mountains, where he has rendered himself temporarily human in order for him to bypass the Masking Wall. Once inside, The High discovered that a Kherubim militaristic force led by the Knights of Khera had conquered the nation and were using Earth's refugees as either slave labor or quisling followers. The High quickly escaped with his life to Skywatch and alerted Jackson King and Stormwatch about the new threat that posed to eradicate all of Earth's lifeforms in order to conquer the planet. However, the Knights of Khera soon launched an preemptive attack on Stormwatch, and Skywatch was severely damaged when it was deliberately setup to damage the Kheran's warship The Red Blade. Afterward The High took King and the other members of Stormwatch to his Rocky Mountains base as temporarily refuge.
The High, still partially depowered, was slowly dying. At some point her adopted River Baldwin, a Century Baby who can control information. He and River left Earth on the Authority's Carrier. On board, Cumberland watched over River during the civil panic that occurred among those who boarded the Carrier after its takeoff and later having River defending the Carrier from the Daemonites while passing Daemon. When the Carrier was threaten by stowaway vampires of the Night Tribes, Christine Trelane convinced The High into becoming a hero once again, and his powers were reactivated by her.
Following the eradication of the vampires, Cumberland learned from Christine that after regaining his powers he is no longer dying. Also, Cumberland gained the unexpected attraction of the sentient Carrier. The Authority later came upon a ship graveyard. When discovering that there was a single life sign on one of the wreckage, The High volunteered in investigating and rescue a comatose Aegean. However, this was a trap as the Aegean was being used as a puppet host by a predatory being known as Mondregon, which it is made up of the destroyed ships that 'feed' on other spaceships, and attacked the Carrier. As the Carrier was being defended by both the Engineer and River, Cumberland decided to solely distract Mondregon and allowing the Carrier to escape. Before his heroic act, he asked Christine to take care of River. The High collided Mondregon, and in the process creating a blinding flash of light. Cumberland was feared to be dead but in fact was alive. He hid from Mondregon right after hitting the creature for four days in space before he was founded and regrouped with the Authority. During his time after fighting Mondregon, Cumberland regained his hope that Earth can repair itself from its catastrophic state as it is part of experience which he compared it to the Authority's enduring odyssey and giving hope to Jack Hawksmoor, who had considered that his team's journey was all for nothing.
- Flight: Through an act of will, the High can fly without the aid of wings or other navigational devices. He can fly beyond supersonic speeds.
- Genetic Reconstruction: This ability allows his body to rebuild itself back together from its most basic building blocks. It is not likely he can be killed as his body can be deconstructed and then reconstruct itself.
- Immortality: The High hasn't aged a day from the 1930's, he maintains the physical and mental abilities he has always had well into the present day.
- Invulnerability: The High possesses high resistance to physical injury. He is nigh invulnerable and can survive bullets, explosions, lasers and the like without any injury. This is demonstrated by his ability to survive within the vacuum of space for extended periods of time.
- Self-Sustenance: He can survive in anaerobic environments indefinitely (he flies in space, possibly even all the way to the moon and into deep space), by the simple method of not breathing. He also does not require food or drink, though he apparently enjoys both.
- Enhanced Senses: The ability to see in a spectrum far beyond what normal humans can see.
- Superhuman Speed: The High is unbelievably fast. Able to travel far faster than a stealth jet plane, he's outraced them and reached his destinations even before their missiles did. It is unknown exactly how fast he is.
- Superhuman Strength: The High is incredibly powerful, being able to easily lift well in excess of 100,000 tons effortlessly.
- Vulnerability to Bleed Gas: The High is weak against a substance known as "purple gas", which is connected to the Bleed somehow, and whose effects range from short-duration physical mutations (for short exposures) to the total loss of his powers (for longer exposures).
- Allergy (Formerly): The High was once fatally allergic by a substance called Highnium, though he claims to have dealt with this somehow in 1972.
- The High's emblem was five arrows in a circle, much like the symbol for recycling—he wore this on his costume's belt and on a t-shirt he wore when out of costume.
- The High was an acquaintance of Axel Brass and Elijah Snow.
- The High is good friends with Jenny Sparks, Mr. Majestic, Maximum Man, and an ally to the Paladins.
- 30 Appearances of John Cumberland (Wildstorm Universe)
- 11 Images featuring John Cumberland (Wildstorm Universe)
- 5 Quotations by or about John Cumberland (Wildstorm Universe)
- Character Gallery: John Cumberland (Wildstorm Universe)