There is no official record of when Johann first appeared. Conspiracy theorists can trace a series of arsons and unexplained bombings back more than two thirds of a century, but he certainly seems extremely spry for someone who’s lived that long. Most guesses put him down as starting twenty years ago at the earliest, but they all have conflicting ideas of where, as well as his exact methods. What the evidence does confirm is that for some time, a man in a black trenchcoat appears at the sites of major fires, always accompanied by explosions, and miraculously survives unharmed. Some witnesses report that he’s spoken to them, usually warning them to run, and he has been connected to the confirmed deaths of two experienced Slashers.
Theories as to his origins abound, including: him being the product of a decommissioned supersoldier program, an alien invader now stranded on earth, an angel sent to punish mankind for its sins, a fallen angel, a former bomb disposal technician on a crusade against crime after his family was killed by the mafia, a high school chemistry teacher in desperate need of a hobby, a displaced volcano god, Death, a wannabe superhero, a freed Prometheus, a time traveler, a mercenary, and the former partner of Slasher Academy’s headmaster. One or two of these is probably true, if only due to the sheer variety of guesses, and the multiple sources stating his chosen name has only added to the metaphorical fire. Nevertheless, his past, and his personal details, remain a mystery.
As a social phenomenon he is almost more interesting; he is an established part of urban myth across north America and parts of Canada, but too much fairly reliable evidence exists to all be faked, and therefore his popularity has stayed consistent and even grown, rather than forgotten with the next fad. It also provides a number of interesting case studies in the genesis and spread of urban legends, as the reliable evidence can be compared with the retellings fairly easily, and both the speculation and even the unmentioned facts can be isolated and tracked.
The most consistent details are listed as follows:
- A man in a black trenchcoat, sometimes closed but never buttoned. The coat is sometimes described as moving oddly, and seems quite a bit less flexible than it first appears.
- His hair is dark, as are his clothes, but the exact colors vary for each. His shoulders are a bit too broad to be feminine, as is his jaw, but his build is neither slight nor stocky.
- An apparent sense of extreme ease in the presence of fire, likely related to the fact that it never seems to burn him, even when he walks through it.
- Some significant expertise with explosives and incendiary compounds. This is less often reported, but widely believed, as there would naturally be fewer things that witness it and survive to tell the tale.
- Moderate benevolence toward bystanders. There are a number of reports of him warning unaffiliated people to leave or going out of his way to save them.