In 1967 in a vast underground lab several scientists were working on a project for IO (International Operations) director Miles Craven. Their work was on the Brass virus, a techno-organic substance that turned normal tissue into living machinery suited for war. After one trial involving a fly which resulted in an explosion that killed
several people and destroyed part of the lab, it was the decided that the project was ready to move on to human testing. Craven had the virus applied to four political refugees that wouldn't be missed and though there was no catastrophic explosion that time, things didn't go as planned. As soon as the virus entered their systems, the refugees turned into cyborg killing machines and brutally murdered all the nearby scientists before escaping (and exposing a dead scientist to the virus). Craven decided that the escape was good news as it gave him a chance to test his new technology. He sent large numbers of troops (including Team 7) to capture or destroy them.
After massive loss of life, Craven's soldiers won out due to some experimental weaponry and all of the test subjects were killed. With all the scientists dead though and with little understanding of how to better control the living weapons should the virus be replicated, Craven closed the project and had a sample of the virus from each of the refugees and the dead scientist stored beneath a subway in New York until such a time as something could be done with it. The virus samples would remain there until 1996 when they would be found by Hershel Goldstein.
Before he became Brass, Hershel Goldstein was a janitor that was dying of cancer with a few weeks left to live and that was pretty much all that could be said of his life. One day a crazy man killed the driver of Hershel's bus, which was the start of his transformation.
Hershel got blood on himself and his clothes but didn't seem too shocked as he went home. Later that night the police came to take a statement and noticed that Hershel had blood on him. They got suspicious and though he had done nothing wrong, he ran from them and ended up stumbling upon the area where the Brass virus had been stashed. Hershel unwittingly exposed himself to one of the five vials of Brass virus and after an incredibly painful and disorienting process, found himself transformed into a living war machine. Right as his transformation finished the four cops that had been chasing him found him, and they each got exposed to one of the other samples of the virus.
The cops didn't seem slowed by the changes and they continued to pursue Hershel, now in the form that would become known as Brass. But as Brass, Hershel was more confident and much more capable of defending himself. He was able to kill two of them and while that was happening an automated signal was sent to Miles Craven alerting him that the virus was active. Craven sent teams to retrieve his property and their ships killed a third cyborg cop before capturing Brass and the final cop.While unconscious in a lab run by Craven, Hershel spoke with the Brass virus inside him. The virus told him that Craven was going to inject something in him so he would become Craven's slave and personal weapon.
To prevent the new substance from being able to alter him on a basic level, Hershel and the Brass virus merged to become a single being with even more control over itself and anything in it. Hershel woke up in his human body with Craven standing over him telling him a lie about injecting something to counteract the virus that had made him into a machine and let him go because he was no longer useful, but Hershel knew the truth. He was Brass.
The Truth About Brass (and Further Adventures)
In the second Brass miniseries it was revealed that the techno-organic virus that changed Hershel into Brass was not exactly what he thought it was. A few years had passed and not much had changed in his life. Even with all the power at his fingertips, he'd done nothing more than get a job washing windows. One day though, his job had him on a building above a street where an assassination was taking place. Deciding it was time to really live his life, he jumped from the building into the street below, turned into Brass, and laid waste to the gun-toting assassins.
Unfortunately Brass was too late to stop them from killing their target, and even worse, his presence convinced some of the remaining assassins that their target was still alive and they fired explosives onto the busy street. Brass was unharmed but many civilians lost their lives before he could kill the attackers. As a result of the disaster Hershel got registered as an MHOI (meta human of interest) since he couldn't actually be arrested because he was so powerful, and also lost his job. As he was leaving the police precinct where he had been held and registered, he met a creature that would give him a new perspective on what Brass actually was.
The creature's name was Eryx and she had come to get Hershel to defend her planet. To get him to come with her she explained everything she knew about the Brass virus and why that was important to saving her planet. Everything on her planet was a perfect blend of machine and flesh. The plants and animals were all cyborgs, living machine that grew and existed similarly to how things worked on Earth. And like on Earth, living things on Eryx's planet got sick. There were periodic outbreaks of a virus that turned things violent and caused things to kill everything they could. This was the War Virus that would eventually become Brass.
During one low level infection of the virus, scientists on Eryx's planet isolated the virus so they could cure it. They were never able to, but after a long series of quarantines their isolated sample was the last trace of it. They didn't know what to do with it and instead of destroying it they flushed it out of their dimension and into the dimension where Earth exists. It was then discovered by IO and so began the testing in 1967 that led to Hershel becoming Brass. With the virus gone and violence and war no longer a part of their ecosystem, Eryx's planet became a peaceful utopia.
That lasted for about a hundred years and then a very violent race from another planet came to destroy and take over the planet. That was why Brass was needed. Eryx wanted Brass to come to her planet and defend it. Hershel refused by Eryx used her technology to take him against his will before he knew what was going on, and since the virus didn't see any of that as a threat, it let her do it. Hershel found himself on Eryx's planet while her people were under attack. He quickly realized what he needed to do and destroyed the enemy force.
After that small battle was over Hershel got to see more of the planet but almost everyone was afraid of him because they thought he was contagious. Eryx took him to five other of her people that were willing to talk with him and then revealed that her plan wasn't for Brass alone to fight the war, but to have him infect the six of them so they could defend themselves. Brass agreed and let them take samples of himself with which to infect themselves with.
The six of them transformed immediately and became things that resembled Brass and the other humans that had been infected with the virus. After that, Brass trained the aliens, a task made very difficult by their still peaceful mindsets. Getting them to fight was hard but he managed. As soon as he got them destroying thigs, they took off, being able to do anything he could do as if it came naturally.
Before going off for a large battle, Hershel talked with the aliens under his command. He discovered that since there was no cure, after the war was finished they would be quarantined for the rest of their lives, never to see their loved ones again. This upset him and he demanded they all be able to see their families, even if it was through a barrier. This was allowed and they were allowed a viewing which went well until one of their wives fled at the sight of her husband, taking her child with her. Things were bad, but once they were back in the air, all the aliens were ok. Their emotions were being dulled by the virus. With war on their minds again they went to one of their enemy's camps and destroyed it. The enemy had seen Brass in action and had upgraded their weapons and brought more soldiers, but it wasn't enough for all seven of them.
Unfortunately Brass got overconfident and flew into a trap and was taken captive. Eryx led her group back to her people to seek permission from her leaders to go and find Brass but they said no. This annoyed Eryx and she got very angry, threatening to mutilate the man she was speaking to and beginning to physically transform into a fearsome being. Before she lost control though, she realized that she didn't need to follow orders and then took her group to go after Brass. They found him and destroyed the entire force that was holding him prisoner. Brass was saved but it cost them three of their own. They found out that their enemy had called for backup and was sending more than 10,000 more soldiers with more than enough armament to fight back against Brass and his remaining force.
Eryx and one of the other aliens decided to destroy it in space before they reached the planet and Brass could only watch as they killed thousands of helpless aliens in less than a minute. With that the war was over, and then things started to get bad.Of the original seven only Brass, Eryx, Asubal and Jeq were left. Jeq had lost his brother and was showing signs of depression and Asubal was also suffering emotionally, though showing signs of uncontrollable anger instead of sadness. When they returned home Asubal wanted to see his family but his wife would not see him and someone else had to bring him his son which only made him more furious. Things weren't going well but Hershel didn't know what to do so he prepared to go home.
He was about to leave when news reached him that Asubal had gone insane and was going after his son, killing everyone in is way. Brass went after him after checking on Jeq and seeing that he was so far gone mentally that he was about to die because he wouldn't do anything but cry. He found Asubal but it was too late. He had already killed numerous people including his own wife, and infected his son. When Brass confronted him Asubal attacked and they fought until Brass was forced to kill him. Returning to where he would depart for Earth he found Jeq dead as long as the corpse of Eryx's father with a message written on the wall saying "Come get me." Eryx had escaped to Earth and Brass had to stop her.
Brass returned to Earth and could see destruction around him. He went home and then tried to contact Eryx with his mind. It worked and Brass was able to find her, but what he saw wasn't the Eryx he knew. She had transformed further into an almost dragon-like form. She wanted Brass to be with her because they were the only ones like each other and she promised to keep killing until they were together. When he refused a fight broke out that destroyed much of the city and left Brass injured.
He retreated back to his apartment and waited for her to catch up to him. When she did she found him holding a gun at the head of Asubal's infected child. Brass knew that Eryx wouldn't let the only other thing like them die so he told her he would spare the child if she would leave. She agreed but attacked Brass so she could take the child she now considered hers with her when she left.
Eryx flew off to places unknown leaving Brass as the last of his kind on Earth. Later, when Hershel was being questioned by the cop who had registered him before he was told to talk to the Wildcats but he threw away the card he was given. As he was leaving he was contacted by Eryx and she told him that some day she'd prove to him that they were meant to be together.
Brass' most recent appearance is somewhat of a mystery. He showed up in a dream as a sphere labeled Brass 2.0 that was in the possession of the hero Black Halo. The dream seemed prophetic but exactly what state Brass is in is unclear especially now that the world has ended.
In the Heroes Reborn story line World War 3, the Wildstorm Universe was merged with the Marvel Universe. Here, Brass was a member of The Avengers and was a stand in for Iron Man. He was killed by a Skrull in an Ironman suit.
The armored form of Brass is super-humanly durable and strong, but his real trick is that he is capable of generating any type of weaponry he needs. This includes guns, swords, energy weapons, explosives, and more. Because he has total control of his body down to a subatomic level, Brass can reconfigure himself in many different ways, adding new armor, creating wings and propulsion systems for flight, changing modes to better deal with a threat, etc.
He can also make things that aren't weapons like energy shields and microscopic machines. Brass has amazing sensory abilities and automatic systems. The armor is semi-sentient and responsive to the environment, often responding to threats that Hershel doesn't know about and defending him from them before he realizes he's in danger. He can't even kill himself without the armor saving his life. Because of Brass, Hershel can speak any language because the virus interprets everything as code and can translate for him. It even allows him to communicate with machines and effortlessly hack advanced systems just by "talking" to them in their own language.
The only physical weakness of the Brass armor is that it is vulnerable to EMPs and extremely powerful electrical attacks. Brass seems to have a psychological weakness (or possibly a strength depending on your perspective). When in his armored form Hershel is much more prone to violence and his conscience is muted to where he doesn't feel sadness or remorse for actions that would bother him normally.
For all other hosts of the virus it has been the case that this cold-hardheartedness and willing acceptance of violence eventually reaches the point where the host engages in the wholesale slaughter of all things that are not also infected, but Hershel seems to keep this in check.