Twenty years ago, Ryan Frost was on the fast track to success. A recent college graduate, Ryan had everything he could want: a new apartment in the city, a beautiful fiancee, a dog, a car, and the promise of his dream job just over the horizon. Everything seemed to be going his way - until the night fate took it all away.
In the midst of an unreasonable fight about groceries, Ryan's fiancee walked out of their apartment. They'd had bigger fights before, and they both knew that this was just a bad moment. What neither of them knew was that it was their last.
While she was driving across town, a drunk driver ran a red light as she was driving through an intersection. The police said the other driver was probably doing around 110 when he hit her. Her car rolled six times, and she was dead before the emergency crews even got there. The other driver? He survived. His ribcage was crushed, and his leg was broken. But he survived. A repeat offender, he was sentenced to the maximum time possible: 15 years. With good behavior, he'd be out before Ryan's fiancee would have turned 40.
Ryan Frost died that night, too. His body lived on, but his spirit was torn apart. He would always blame himself for her death, questioning what he could have said to keep her from going, regretting fighting over something so stupid. Frost spiraled into a deep depression. Nights of drinking melted into weeks. When his dream job finally called him in for an interview, he never even showed up. When his money ran out, he took the first job he could find, becoming a janitor at the Pike Cryogenics Laboratory.
For five years, Frost labored in obscurity and depression until fate took another ugly turn. While waxing the floor of the cryolab, Frost was caught in the explosion of a malfunctioning sub-zero atomizer. Miraculously surviving the blast, his mangled body's core temperature was permanently dropped to nigh absolute zero. Temperatures warmer than liquid helium were as fire; room temperature air burned his body as if he were engulfed in flames. The shock of the explosion, combined with the drastic change to his biochemistry sent Frost into a coma. With no known cure for his condition, the lab placed him into stasis until a treatment could be found.
He spent over ten years unconscious and alone in his frozen chamber, until the government took his situation over in the name of the Freedom Five Initiative. He was operated on under the extreme conditions of a cryogenically frozen operating room, designed by Dr. Meredith Stinson. When the procedure was finished, he regained consciousness, but could not leave the tiny cryo chamber. He was offered a choice. Dr. Stinson had created a mobility enhancing suit for him that was capable of maintaining internal temperature of absolute zero. He could have the suit and work to pay it off as the fifth member of the government's team of heroes, or he could spend the rest of his life locked inside his cryo chamber. Frost refused. "Better bored in here than dead out there," he told them. However, after two mind-numbing years, he reconsidered. Ryan Frost accepted the offer, becoming Absolute Zero and fighting for the good of mankind to pay off his debt and attempting to live as normal a life as possible.
- Notes from Letters Page 16:
- Jump forward to Freedom Four Annual #2 and the introduction of the modern Absolute Zero. This is the same issue as the first appearance of The Matriarch, but it also included two flashback scenes. One to Dr. Stinson (pre-Tachyon powers) working on a cryogenic chamber in which a surgeon is working on somebody whose core temperature is near absolute zero and another showing the backstory of this frozen person, Ryan Frost. See the AZ bio for how Ryan wound up in this situation. He's now revived, but has to remain in the cryo-chamber. General Armstrong approaches him with a job offer, letting him use a suit designed by Dr. Stinson that would allow him to leave the room, but in exchange for his working for the Freedom Initiative to pay for it. He turns this down. Back to the present, he's watching TV coverage of this whole bird-lady situation and how many problems the Freedom Four are having. Eventually the TV feed goes out and he knocks on his door and asks to speak to General Armstrong. Cue to this guy in a dark grey and bright blue suit showing up on the battlefield blasting birds with ice, announces himself as Absolute Zero, and joins the Freedom Five.
- The suit is always under development by Tachyon. General features: he can shoot blasts of cold air and generally mess with the temperature of stuff around him - as he learns how to use the suit better he learns more advanced tricks like building structures out of ice and so on.
- He's the "negative Nancy" of the team, sarcastic, probably complaining any time he has to leave his cryo chamber and suit up. This mellows over time, but at first he's "all doom and gloom." Not to say that he's not a good teammate. His friendship with Tachyon is very close (they spend a lot of time in the labs together after all - she's working and he lives there). Ryan asking her about whatever she's working on (because he's bored) was useful to the writers as a means of getting some exposition done, but it wound up being something that grew into an actual friendship regardless of their differences. He's not into magic shows, but he has a good time going to them with her. She's not really into music or movies because it happens at a set pace that you have to pay attention to, but he's a big blues/jazz fan. They do start getting into books together, though (in particular The Count of Monte Cristo was one they both liked). This kind of became the game with the writers, developing an ad hoc "Sentinels book club" for their readers by mentioning whatever it was that AZ and Tachyon were reading in the letters page ("Freedom Fan-mail"). As mentioned in the show notes for this podcast, the current recommendations are - Absolute Zero: The Force of Spirit by Scott Russell Sanders, Tachyon: The Eight by Katherine Neville
- AZ is powerful and a works well with other heroes (not just the FF - he does appear in other books occasionally), but he doesn't have that drive to go off and fight evil on his own and so doesn't really have any solo stories.
Henry Goodman was a lab assistant in a military facility. You have find new ways to beat those Nazis after all; that is, until those Nazis break into your lab in an attempt to prevent you from being able to do so. The ensuing fire fight destroys a lot of the equipment and kills Henry's boss. Henry grabs a prototype Negathermo device and fires it at the Nazis - freezing them in a line of ice across the room. He later refines this device into hand-held "guns" and becomes the hero known as Absolute Zero to fight Nazis.
He didn't have his own book. He was introduced in a b-story in Justice Comics and continued to show up in one-off stories in anthology titles (All-Preferred Comics, Greater Comics, United Men Comics, Fearless Comics), none of which were successful titles that lasted (explaining why the game features no flavor-text from them). Not even characters that appeared in them proved popular enough to be retained for the long-haul - Bunker showed up in them occasionally too, but that specific iteration of the character didn't last either, he wound up being reworked when The Indestructible Bunker launched later. Absolute Zero was popular at first, but was not very interesting as a character (nor was he well-written) and quickly fell by the wayside as more popular/enduring characters got introduced.
This story of the Golden and Silver Age of Sentinel Comics explains the complete rework that Absolute Zero took when Christopher and Adam were first designing him, from basically a cold version of Ra, a blaster, to the more nuanced version in the original SotM box set.
A few issues later he's visited by Wager Master who tells him that his "friends" have been lying to him, using him, and that he doesn't need the suit. He teleports them both from the cryo-chamber to Magmaria with no ill effects. Wager Master then warns him that he can't just leave, because then they'll know that you know and you should bide your time and take your revenge (and, hey, I could use your help in defeating the Freedom Five anyway). Time passes back in the cryo-chamber with AZ resolving that he knows what he has to do, and the readership is well aware that he's now something like a double-agent, just waiting to turn on the heroes somewhere down the line. Delicious tension ensues during subsequent battles. Then the big Wager Master fight happens, showing the culmination of various plots he put in motion, including when he calls on AZ to turn on his allies! AZ then attacks Wager Master, encasing him in ice. He was never planning on turning on his friends (of course, Wager Master was behind the oddity during the Proletariat fight all along). AZ did learn a lot about his powers during this time, though, including dealing with being out of his suit.
- Vengeance: Baron Blade putting together a team of foils for the FF was tricky in that he didn't have anybody really lined up for AZ, specifically, because he didn't have any kind of solo adventures that could have resulted in him developing a nemesis. Blade did know about a Soviet super-weapon that had been put on ice years ago, though. More detail in the Vengeful Five episode, but in short he convinced Proletariat that Absolute Zero was the "bad" version of himself - this unwitting slave of capitalism, etc.
- In one fight with the Vengeful Five, however, he and Proletariat wind up isolated without the rest of their teams nearby. Eventually, AZ's faceplate gets knocked off. Normally this is such a danger to him that he needs to patch it with something or retreat, but this time nothing happens. He doesn't experience the burning that it would normally cause, and is able to defeat Proletariat. He replaces his faceplate and joins up with the rest of the team. He's suspicious of this whole situation.
The heroes known as Bunker, Absolute Zero, and Unity are working to uncover the mystery behind the villain Chokepoint. How did she get so much power? And why was she locked up in a secret bunker in Fort Adamant? What is really going on here? Armed with some new tricks, the heroes have to get to the bottom of this, before it's too late...
When Ryan Frost stepped into Vance's work bay, he could immediately tell something was bothering the two heroes working there. As opposed to the normally affable tinkering that took place when Vance and Caspit worked together, instead, the two were locked in conversation, both so concerned that they didn't even notice Absolute Zero enter the room. They were preparing to go on a reconnaissance mission to an army base that Vance used to be stationed at - Frost had nothing better to do and invited himself along, figuring he was signing up for a leisurely trip with a couple of friends. Instead, they were handily defeated by a familiar and yet different foe, who now went by the name Chokepoint.
Regrouping at their headquarters, the three heroes developed new tech and tricks to take down this new threat. Absolute Zero knows that his entire suit - the only thing that keeps him alive - is a weapon that is all too easily turned against him by their foe. He still had to have the Modules that allows his suit to operate, but rather than housing them in a metal suit, he covered them with a thick layer of ice. This amplified his power by putting his cold power out in the open. However, this ice suit also made him more vulnerable to damage than ever. Knowing that could only be a short-term solution, Absolute Zero is eager to end this fight quickly.
- This plays an important role in the Termi-Nation story given that Chokepoint is able to dismantle Bunker's, Unity's, and AZ's gear. More about this story in particular in the Chokepoint and Freedom Five episodes, but his main development is that he's more able to directly control the moisture in the air around him and he uses ice to protect himself and his modules, minimizing the amount of "suit" he has to wear. It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
The Freedom Five stand together against the onslaught of OblivAeon and it’s Scions. They were seemingly defeated early on in the OblivAeon conflict, but they reappeared in Megaopolis to bring the fight to OblivAeon itself.
Ryan Frost thought this "hero" business was a bunch of nonsense. If he hadn't been so abysmally bored, he would have just stayed in the cryo-chamber and goofed around on the internet for the rest of his frigid life. He certainly didn't plan on staying around any longer than necessary.
But things have rarely gone how Frost thought they would. And now, Absolute Zero is one of the most resolute members of the Freedom Five. No matter how dangerous the foe or how hopeless the situation, he soldiers on, knowing that he has seen worse.
- During Progeny and OblivAeon he's not a main focus. He's there and is a big help in the fight, he helps out Tachyon when she gets hurt for one, but more than anything he winds up being the rock that steadies the team itself as they waver while fighting these dangers from beyond. From his perspective of "everything is always bad" this is just another problem for them to face down together - you can't demoralize him and he's inspiring in his own way here.
This information is from the Miststorm Universe, one of two branching timelines. Products in this timeline are: Sentinel Tactics (and expansions). Prime War (and expansions)
Maia bought out the rest of Absolute Zero's government contract on his suit, allowing him to go free and do as he pleased. When Ryan Frost was informed of his freedom, he stood silently, unmoving. Dr. Stinson reassured him that she would provide regular suit maintenance for him and that they would help him find a way to live that would make him most comfortable. "I am..." the normally frigid man said after a moment, a hint of emotion betraying his reaction. "I am most comfortable with you - my family." And thus, Absolute Zero remained a full-fledged member of the team.
- Tactics - Two Absolute Zeroes to discuss. During the break with the government, when the Wraith buys-out Ryan's (and the rest of the team's) remaining obligations, he sticks around voluntarily given that they're his "family" now. He's slightly more upbeat now. The second person to mention isn't going by the name "Absolute Zero", but in the core game artwork we do see the granddaughter of the original AZ, Henry Goodman.
- RPG - [here's where the guys finally make the "he's dead" joke for all the bingo players and that spurs a short discussion about how he's functionally immortal - as long as he's kept at the right temperature range and isn't subject to sufficient trauma, he's likely going to be around] The FF is now in a more mentor role and the other members all have had their roles described and it largely makes sense given their previous heroics. Ryan is teaching a lot about "what it means to be a hero" - a lot of philosophy and ethics of heroism and "vigilante justice" that's important to understand if you're going to be a superhero - how to stay grounded as a person.