Very little is known about the life of Janus Valker in his early years, between his birth (in an unspecified day of 1946) and 1954. All we know is that he's the son of Boda Valker, a ruthless gangster rising in power. Helped by his subordinates and the still young Jan, Boda climbs the ladder of criminality in his country, till the moment he gets enough power to control the government behind the scenes.
Two important events occour when he reaches the peak of his power. The first one is the rise of the superheroes, the only people not accepting the machinations from the government (and consequently from Boda).
The second, and probably most important, is that Boda Valker gets elected by the Shadow as her new host. The Shadow is a dark entity, existing since the beginning of time, with absolute power and knowledge, who fights against the Light to take over the world. To do so, she needs an human host to act on the material world.
It's 1954. While with his son in their flat, Boda perceives the Shadow approaching, and tells the son to run away and don't look back. But as the child starts running downstairs, he stops as soon as he doen't hear his father shooting anymore. He slowly walks back into the dark room calling for him, but he witnesses his father turning into the Shadow. Later the police arrives, and Samuel Krik, an agent of Light, is between them. They find the child, hiding in the dark. He's become an albino, the mark of those elected as potential host for the Shadow. He cannot suffer the sight of light, so wears specific glasses designed to protect his eyes. Knowing that the kid is possesed by the Shadow, Krik brings Jan in a safe house, hoping to keep him separated by the entity and cure him. Doctor Klavius, the man who created superheroes and a member of Light, thinks that it's too late for Jan, already engulfed by the darkness. Ignoring his advices, Krik tries to bring him where he thinks he might be cured, but right outside of the building the Shadow, in the shape of Boda, awaits for his son, and takes him.
Janus Valker was created and developed by the writer and cartoonist Leonardo Ortolani.
Probably the author didn't have big plans for Janus Valker when he first created him. In his first appearance in issue #1 he doesn't look as cold blooded as he will be known later. He has even a goofy comedic scene with Samuel Krik. But already from his second appearance in issue #8, he reveals how ruthless he really is.
However, the character always kept a certain humoristic vein, becoming famous for the black humour derived from how cruel and sadistic he often is.
Mayor Story Arcs
Working For the Government
It's 1965, and Janus, still young, has already become the right arm of the Government, secretly lead by his father Boda. Not only he's the best killer of their organization, but a brilliant scientist too. At the time, his main discovery is a method to save on disk and modify the human mind, composed by electromagnetic impulses. Using this technology, he created the Guardian, a massive robot whose main objective is to track down and kill superheroes, finding them using the usual pattern of their minds.
At first the Guardian was going to be used to terminate the First Secret Team, a team of very popular superheroes bothering the Government, to the point of showing their true identities to prove they're not controlled by anyone. But the Wolf, the younger member of the team, tired of the leadership of the Bat, acts before Janus. Cooperating with George Takros, another governative agent, he organizes an assassination attempt against his own team. Using a thermical bomb, he kill all his team mates but the Bat, who miraculously escapes death and will remain incognito for many years to come. But the accident provokes the public disdain, and the Government is suspected for the execution. As a result, Janus Valker kills Takros, faking a suicide and giving him all the responsibilities.
In 1966, Janus starts working in the "Elsewhere Labs", a facility controlled by the Government. It's main purpose is the "Project Rebirth", aiming to create the Second Secret Team, a team of superheroes working for the Government, under the leadership of the Wolf. In this period Valker meets Jorgesson, his lab assistant, who will help him faithfully for the rest of his life. While in Elsewhere, Janus improves his mastery on human mind, to the point of creating a machine able to precisely erase specific memories from the brain, and even create new ones.
In 1975, he finds out that Deboroh La Roccia, an eight years old orphan, is actually his son. Without any idea how this happened, he still goes by night to the orphanage to retrieve him, and brings him home. Fearing for the safety of his son, he live in a periphereal district of The Very Big Town (the capital of the country), dividing his life between the lab and his new found family.
The following years change deeply Janus. The cohabitation with Deboroh is not easy, as the boy is quite stupid, doesn't excel in studies, and above all, has always been obsessed with superheroes and the idea of becoming one, unaware of the fact that his father's job is killing them. Parallel to this, Janus starts a relationship with Kalissa, a collegue at the lab. This, and the growing (even though unsuspected) affection for Deboroh, give his soul a chance of redemption from the corruption of the Shadow.
In 1979, Janus fears for the Shadow to find out about Deboroh. His only option to cover and protect him is making him taking part in Project Rebirth. Deboroh becomes a member, getting Noctule, another guinea pig for the project, moved away. But in order to don't rise suspects, nobody can know that he's Valker's son.
But, with no surprises, Deboroh reveals to be extremely inefficient, compared to the other children. After one year, the Second Secret Team is ready for action, but Deboroh, who took the name of Rat-Boy, is voted for rejection. Valker tries to convince Dr. Abbard, leader of Rebirth, to take Rat-Boy in. But he refuses, so Valker is forced to use his Shadow powers to scary him, and having Deboroh admitted.
The Second Secret Team
In 1980, the Second Secret Team (Lightning, Spectre, Tresh, Carp, Rat-boy, Wolf) faces many supervillains, unaware of the fact that they're created in Elsewhere as lure for the public opinion. While Abbard creates the bodies, Janus uses his machine to shape their personalities.
As times goes by, things get worst for Janus. The marriage with Kalissa is going downhill, so he starts losing the light inside of him. The Shadow chooses a new host every thirty years, so in 1984, to speed up things, Joba Valker, stepbrother of Janus, orders the Wolf to kill Boda using the Second Secret Team. After this, he reveals to Jan that Deboroh isn't actually his son, and that he used his own machine to implant inside his brother the memories of a non-existing son. All this to be able to manipulate him, giving him weaknesses.
Janus loses all hope. While the Elsewhere Labs get dismantled for the closing of Project Rebirth, Jan brings Rat-boy inside the labs, and uses his machine on Deboroh, and creates a copy of his conscience. He then tells him that within 24 hours he will forget of Valker forever, and that he's not actually his father. But while Deboroh asks for details sad and incredulous, they're interrupted by Joba, who wants to kill Jan to be sure of becoming the Shadow, even though his brother always said not to be interested about it. Joba uses the powers of the Shadow to have an easy win, and for fun starts torturing Deboroh. Janus, in order to save his "son" has to use his dark powers too, and kills easily Joba with a bomb. After the explosion, a non-albino Janus stands before Deboroh. After embracing Deboroh, he perceives the Shadow coming for him, and like his father thirty years befores, tells his son to run away, and then, alone, gets engulfed by the darkness.
Afer this, Valker is seen quarreling with Kalissa about the tape deck with Rat-Boy's memory, that Janus gave her to hide. When she refuses to give it back, he strangles her, but she manages to escape hitting him with a bottle (and causing the famous scar that Valker will bear for the rest of his life), and she brings the tape deck with her. It's November 1984. From now on, Janus Valker will keep working with the Government, being the vessel of the Shadow.
The Awaking of the Guardian
In 1989, the Guardian, the robot Valker created in 1965 to kill superheroes, activates on his own and goes on a rampage. Valker hypothesizes that he perceived the birth of a new superhero. But is later revealed that the robot reacted to the return of the Bat, old leader of the First Secret Team, and now mentor of Rat-Boy, who lives in the Nameless Town, and goes now by the name of Rat-Man. Valker doesn't know yet the existence of Rat-Man, but is worried that somebody might interfere with his plans about creating the Third Secret Team.
The Coming of Rat-Man
The Nameless Town has a new guardian. The city acknowledges Rat-Man as his main superhero, giving troubles to the Shadow, and so Valker. Father and son will meet again in 1995, during the chase of the Spider, a mutated spider escaped from a governative laboratory. They don't recognize each other.
In this occasion Valker shows another of his creations, the Redactor, a powerful cyborg-like creature. Helping them in this operation is Samuel Krik, become in the meanwhile captain of the police in Nameless Town.
The Plot Behind the Second Secret Team
They'll meet again in 1996. In order to install the new Third Secret Team, Valker wants to dispose of the members of the second one. He's helped by the Wolf, by Noctule (who became in the meanwhile the supervillain and Rat-Man's enemy known as the Clown) , and Topìn, Rat-Man's ex-sidekick, turned to evil. In the end Valker manages to kill only Lightning; the Wolf is killed by Janus himself, Noctule disappears (supposingly dead), and Topìn tries to become Valker's sidekick, but we can suppose that he refuses, considering Topìn will never be seen again. He has to let Rat-Man leave because Cinzia Otherside, a trans-sexual journalist, deceives him about some non-existing footage of him killing the Wolf.
Valker realizes from the episode that Rat-Man is actually Deboroh La Roccia, and that he can seriously interfere with his plots. So decides not just to kill him, but to annihilate him as a hero. So Valker starts gathering intel about Rat-Man, but his researches bring to nothing.
When Rat-Man briefly dies, he's helped in hell by the Condemned, a mysterious soul with enough power to be feared even by demons. After resurrecting Rat-Man, is revealed that the Condemned is actually the soul of Janus Valker.
End of All Hopes
Few years later, in 1999, Kalissa, with some colleagues from Elsewhere, tries to create an army of Rat-man clones to hinder Government's power. But the experiment fails, and they decide to ask Valker for help. They don't know that he still works for them, nor that he's the Shadow. After the meeting, they all disappear (probably killed), and Valker retrieves the tape deck with Rat-Boy's memory. He uses Dr. Mung, the last survivor from the Elsewhere team, to scan the memory, and be sure that there's no track of his existence as his father in Rat-Boy's (and consequently Rat-Man's) brain. He then kills Mung, who's useless now.
Being sure that all his bonds with humanity are cut off, he can now use his machine to erase from his brain the memories of the time spent with young Deboroh. Now that he's an empty shell, he can completely fuse with the Shadow.
One With the Shadow
For years Valker floats in the void of the Shadow, being complete in himself, and enjoying what he finally achieved after a lifelong research: absolute knowledge. He knows everything that happens in the world, there are no more mysteries. But after a while, he perceives that someone is observing him in the darkness. He doesn't know who, but he knows he's there. Valker tries to find him between the inhabitants of the darkness, like vampires and the boogeyman, with no results.
Furious, he speaks to the Wall, the core of the Shadow, composed by the faces of former hosts. He claims to have being betrayed, and that he doesn't really have an absolute knowledge. They reply that betraying is in the nature of the Shadow, and that if he really wants what he desires, he has to offer them a son. For instance, the son of the one who observes him in the darkness.
Soon after, in 2005, Valker perceives something that the "hidden one" doesn't make in time to hide from him, and blitzes into this crack between the darkness, and finds Rat-Man sleeping. Now he knows that he has to sacrifice Rat-Man to the Shadow.
Fall of Rat-Man
In order to get Rat-Man in the Shadow, Valker has to destroy any hope inside of him. When Rat-Man looks for a challenger in the Arena (where Rat-Man fought in the past to make a name) to prove once again to the Nameless Town that he's still city's main hero, Valker sends the Guardian to fight him, infused of the Shadow's power. Knowing that he's powerless against the robot, the only way Deboroh finds to send the shadows away from the city is giving up being Rat-Man. As soon as he drops the mask on the floor, the Guardian and the shadows leave the city, safe but without an hero.
Valker proceeds to destroy Fuffa Corporation, the business lead by Deboroh, inherited by the long dead Bat. It's 2008. Poor, now Deboroh moves in a cheap flat with his butler Arcibaldo. Hoping to bring the memory of Rat-Man to his fellow citizens, Deboroh produces an animated series about himself, but the result is a soulless product that only ruins further his image. Returning home, he finds Valker waiting for him, to check how deeply desperate Deboroh is. Seeing that he's almost "mature", he lets him escape, and hide between the tramps for a while.
When at the apex of desperation, Deboroh goes once again in the Arena to fight Valker, who just sends in the Guardian. Not being able to defet the robot, Deboroh decides to abandon his humanity and summon The Rat-Man, his powerful and savage inner self. He now defeats easily the Guardian, but Valker won: having lost all hopes, Rat-Man is an easy prey for the Shadow. Valker waits next to an unconscious Deboroh for the "hidden one" to reveal himself and save his son, but nothing happens. So he leaves Deboroh alone, knowing that his almost taken by the Shadow. But as soon as he leaves, Samuel Krik shows up to take Rat-Man to the same safe house where he brought the young Janus Valker many years ago.
Rise of Rat-Man
Knowing that it's only a matter of time, Valker waits for Rat-Man to challenge him again, and finally bring him to the Shadow. He sends the Guardian to take Deboroh, but it's easily defeated with the help of Chuck Norris. So he unleashes again the shadows in the city, forcing Deboroh to face Valker one more time in the Arena. There he brings him into darkness, but when he thinks to have finally conquered Deboroh's soul, a small light of hope reveals itself in the form of the Bat, stopping Janus from taking Rat-Man. Then a burst of light hits Valker, who's got only the time to realizes that he doesn't have the glasses to protect himself from the flash.
In the white void of light, Valker true rotten appearances are revealed, and he must face the one who's been watching him hidden all this time, revealing to be none other than a non-albino Janus Valker, the part of him who never forgot about his son Deboroh. The rotten Valker must admit that he didn't actually erease his memories about his son, but he hid them in the deepest part of his soul. The still human part of him tries to convince him to give up on the Shadow, asking whether absolute knowledge is worth a son. The corrupted one hesitates, then replies "Yes", and jumps into the shadow his own body casted on the floor, bringing even his human part too. Deboroh for the moment is free, and Valker has finally achieved his goal. He has joined the Wall of the Shadow, and is omniscient. The only person waiting for him is Jorgesson, who till now kept working for him.
In Rat-Man's Memories
We see an old Valker wandering in a wasteland, which is revealed to be Rat-Man's conscience. He goes from place to place, collecting comics strips representing his son's memories and currency of this world, fighting criminals Rat-Man faced in his life, and escaping copies of the Guardian, who track him down to kill him.
He saves Tanya, a girl his son met years ago, from a bunch of thugs. Talking with her, he explains that the Shadow actually won, having Rat-Man believing she was defeated, so that she can operate undisturbed. Then he's caught in a trap prepared by the memory of his stepbrother Joba, who wants his help to escape Rat-Man's mind and spread the Shadow. But Janus uses his powers to kill Joba and his personal army. He still travels till today throughout the wasteland.
This is an elseworld story. Here Valker is still a scientist working for the Government, but his main occupation is personally assassinating superheroes. He's not albino, and the Shadow doesn't seem to exist in this world. Everything seems the same as we know, till the point he meets Topìn. This time he accepts to take him under his wing and train him to kill heroes.
He fears that someone might want him dead, and in fact Reegar, one of the deadliest killers of the Government, is assigned to kill him. He has little time to complete his experiment. He tells the Government that he discovered an equation able to create a "wave" capable to modify reality at will, and he wants to use it to stop superheroes once for all. In exchange, he asks them to stop Reegar, but they tell him that they didn't assigned him any mission.
Running out of time, Valker and Topìn go to the meeting with Kalissa and the others, and after copying their memories, he kills them all. But returning to his lab, he finds out that Reegar killed everybody, and awaits for him. Now is revealed that the killer worked actually for Topìn, who is in fact the Shadow. She was only a seed, who grew on Valker's desperation. He forced him to kill Kalissa to erease any chance of hope, and used Reegar to hurry up Jan. Before getting engulfed by the darkness, Janus activates the Wave, and rewrites reality using Rat-Man's memory as a little shiny hope.
Now we realize that all that happened was actually the reality before Janus changed it. Now Valker has always been albino, the Shadow has always been strong, and he never accepted Topìn as sidekick. We see Janus in the Wall. With absolute knowledge, he recalls the reality as it was before, and this was actually his second attempt. In the first one he lived in a world without superheroes, and used his Wave to create one with them. All this in the attempt to save his mother, killed mistakenly when he was a child by the mobsters who wanted to execute his father Boda. He now regrets being a part of the Shadow.
In the last scene, we see Kalissa waking up in an hospital. When Valker shot her, he missed her heart (isn't sure whether it was a voluntary mistake or not)