Before his accident Mitchell Hundred was a civil engineer working for the city of New York. Called one night by his friend Rick Bradbury in Harbor Patrol to investigate a strange object on the, Mitch found a device submerged under water emitting green light attached to one of the bridge's foundations. The device detached itself from the bridge and started floating upward and as Mitch reached out for it he saw a symbol in the light and then the device exploded, tearing off half of his face and one of his ears. Immediately after the explosion Mitchell found that he was able to "hear" Bradbury's watch as well as voices from other electronics within the city. Disoriented, bleeding, and not understanding what was occurring Mitchell screamed out "Shut up!" accidentally accessing his new powers and causing a city-wide black out. Whatever the device was it had transferred a power into him that allowed him to communicate and command any machine.
As a child Mitchell grew up in with his single mother. He spent much time reading comics as well as bonding with a Russian immigrant who helped maintain the theme park rides named Ivan "Kremlin" Tereshkov. All these elements helped Mitchell foster the idea that he could use these new abilities he adopted to help people much like the heroes in his comics had. After much persuasion from Kremlin, Mitchell decides to become the world's first and only costumed hero which he calls The Great Machine. Kremlin and Ricky Bradbury act as sidekicks in his endeavor. The name Mitchell uses actually comes from a quote by Thomas Jefferson where he uses the term "great machine" to describe society.
Realistically Mitchell's escapades are met with much criticism and hostility by both the public and law enforcement. More often than not Mitchell's actions as the Great Machine cause more harm than good as he finds the repercussions for doing the right thing can have a domino affect that negatively impacts more people. For example, one of his first outings as the Great Machine involved him trying to "save" two young men who were surfing a subway line. When Mitch yelled for them to climb down from the train one of the young men fell and Mitchell had to command another train to stop in order to save his life. Mitchell was actively pursued by Police Commissioner Angotti and was commanded to reveal his identity to the public and turn himself in for prosecution.
After a short career as the Great Machine, Mitchell made a deal with the National Security Agency where he wouldn't be held accountable for any crimes he might have committed as the Great Machine in exchange for cooperation in evaluating Mitchell's abilities as well as analyzing fragments of the device which exploded and gave Mitch his abilities. Agent Georges was Mitchell's contact for the NSA and worked on trying to translate the symbols found on the fragments of the device.
The NSA discovered something remarkable with the fragments of the device. When a fragment was left by a radio the radio would start broadcasting a strange unrecognized language. Periodically a song would start broadcasting called "The Stars Are Down" by Kurt Cobain, lead singer from Nirvana. What made this interesting was that by this time Kurt Cobain had been dead for years and this song had never been released, recorded, or by any account ever written. Essentially the radio was broadcasting a new song by a dead rock star and no one could account why this was occurring.
After going public Mitchell decides to enter politics and runs for mayor of in the upcoming election. He runs as an independent and in relatively unknown by anyone even with his recent media fame as the Great Machine. Shortly after he starts running for mayor the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. Mitchell suits up as the Great Machine again and is able to use his powers effectively, commanding the second plane to not hit the second tower and forcing it to land. His actions and bravery during the terrorist attacks help him win the election in the months following and he becomes Mayor of New York City. Regardless, Mitchell is still wracked with guilt over not being able to prevent the first plane from hitting the tower believing that if he hadn't retired he would have been aware of the first incoming plane.
As Mayor, Mitchell tries to make changes and help civilians in the ways that he wasn't able to as The Great Machine. He is constantly tackling "hot-button" political issues such as gay marriage, medical marijuana, and abortion at the detriment of his cabinet staff: Wylie, Candace, and January Moore.
Mitchell's personal life is only subtly alluded to. Beyond Wylie, Bradbury, and some of his cabinet staff, Mitchell has relatively few friends and does not have a wife nor is he seeing anyone. He and Kremlin had a falling out over Mitchell's decision to reveal his identity, not realizing that Kremlin needed him to be the Great Machine more than even Mitchell realized, and since Kremlin has made efforts to try getting Mitch to resurrect his super hero alter ego while at the same time finding ways to force Mitchell out of office. Mitchell's sexuality is kept ambiguous even though there's been a sub-plot involving him and Suzanne Padilla which link them romantically. Mitchell is an advocate and user of marijuana which helps him control and moderate his abilities when he's having trouble tuning out the constant barrage of voices from machinery.
As the series progresses, the reader experiences many changes in Hundred: personal, political, and psychological. Through the use of flashbacks, the reader sees how Hundred changes from a costumed do-gooder into a politician, realizing that lasting change will not come with stopping polluters or chasing drug dealers. This creates a lot of tension between Hundred and Kremlin which lasts for the remainder of the series.
Politically, Hundred becomes more moderate as the series progresses mostly, according to other characters, because of his desire to run for the White House. Whereas Hundred would actively support something like gay marriage at the beginning of the series, he is hesitant to use funds to back the morning after pill at the end of the series. Likewise, as much as he is outspoken on his beliefs in the first few issues, he begins to be more secretive later, leading to a small rift between himself and Wiley.
Throughout the series, Hundred is very careful about how much he will share about his personal life with the public. It is hinted at by several characters that Hundred could be homosexual, especially when he decides to marry a gay couple at city hall. In issue number 43, Hundred leaves a recording for Kremlin in the event of his death, and, one of the last things he says before shutting off the recording is "Tell Bradbury I loved him." Years later in issue number 61, when Hundred is about to announce his candidacy for president, Bradbury unexpectedly visits him and professes his love also. The couple almost kiss before Hundred turns Bradbury away, stating that he is too drunk. He is never shown to have a confirmed relationship with anyone else in the book.
Powers and Abilities
So far his abilities are limited to communicating and commanding machinery. This includes but is not limited to cell phones, guns, telephones, watches, televisions, and radios. It should be noted that just because he commands and communicates with a machine doesn't necessarily mean that a machine will obey or tell the truth.
In one issue we see that Mitchell bluffs a group of criminals believing that a shotgun "told him" it wasn't loaded only for him to find out a few panels later that the gun was indeed loaded and had lied to him. Mitchell has also had problems commanding guns which have been illegally modified.
As a result of the explosion under the Brooklyn Bridge Mitchell's face is permanently scarred. The scars have developed into something similar to the designs on a circuit board and whenever Mitchell accesses his powers these scars will glow with a green light.
We've also seen that Mitchell has had visions which guide him in developing some of the technology he used as The Great Machine. This includes the jetpack he wore when fighting crime as well as some of the electrical weapons he carried on his person. Some of the inventions he has created have had a dangerous or hidden nature which he was unaware of. He has also had visions of inventions which can reduce of disable his powers. These inventions he's entrusted to both Rick Bradbury and Kremlin in the event that Mitchell ever misused his powers.
The Origin of Mitchell's Powers
Just recently an automaton arrived in possessing the ability to control animals, the same ability which was possessed by Mitchell's arch-nemesis Jack Pherson. The automaton used these abilities to command the city's rats to start killing civilians in an effort to draw Mitchell into a confrontation.
Following the rats, Mitchell went down into the city's sewers and was told by the automaton that his powers were part of a spectrum of four colors, each color having the ability to control something particular in our world, so that our planet could be prepared for an invasion. What this invasion is has not been revealed yet. The automaton keeps referring to Mitchell as "Carpenter" and explains that the purpose of Mitchell's powers was to enslave humanity prior to the invasion in conjunction with the other three colors. Registering that another individual, Suzanne Padilla, had just received the white color the automaton self-destructs in an attempt to take Mitchell's life for failing to fulfill his duties. Mitchell barely survives unaware that Suzanne has now contracted abilities similar to his.
The four colors of the spectrum are violet, red, green, and white.
Mitchell is in possession of the green light which allows him to command and communicate with machines.
The red light is possessed by a gardener currently incarcerated for murder. This bystander was in his greenhouse when the Great Machine crashed through the ceiling, spilling his blood on the bystander's vegetable garden. Unaware of how his vegetables were tainted the gardener ate these vegetables and in doing so gained the abilities of the red light which allows him to communicate with any plant life.
The violet light was possessed by Jack Pherson before he was killed in an explosion at a veterinarian hospital. He received the violet light after a parrot mimicked Mitch's voice powers giving Pherson the abilities to communicate and command animals.
Suzanne Padilla controls the white light which she received after being assaulted by Rick Bradbury with a device created by Mitch which contained the white light. Mitchell was unaware that the device he created contained a light which could grant someone similar abilities. Suzanne has the power to command and modify the memories of any human who hears her voice.