Nathan Spencer

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Captain Nathan "Rad" Spencer is the bionic arm-sporting hero of the Federation. He is the playable character from the NES, Game Boy, Rearmed, and 7th Generation releases of Bionic Commando, and features as the main character in the online comic, Bionic Commando: Chain of Command.

Name Controversy

Famicom

Nathan Spencer's name has undergone many changes throughout the Bionic Commando series. The first mention of his name occurs in the Famicom release of Top Secret in Japan. In Top Secret his name was ラッド (which in romaji is "Raddo"). The name is written in katakana which means it's not Japanese in origin. It is presumed that the Japanese design team meant for the name to be a shortened version of 1980's American pop culture slang "radical" in order to find favor with their target audience.

NES

In the English translation in for the North American the name is changed to "Ladd". However, when translating Japanese to English there is a common error of confusing the letter R with the letter L. This is because the Japanese doesn't have the letter L in their alphabet. It is assumed that the translators were not aware of the intended use of "Rad" as a name, and therefore simply mistranslated it. The large amount of mistranslations in the game makes this hypothesis seem likely.

Worlds of Power

The Worlds of Power novel, uses the name Jack Markson. However, none of the Worlds of Power book series are considered canon by any of the fans or game producers. The name was made up by the author.

Game Boy

Also, the Game Boy version uses the name "Rad Spencer" (note the loss of a D). This gives more weight to the idea that the intent was to use the name Rad, and that Ladd was just a translation error.

2007

As news of the Bionic Commando remakes came to light, the development team decided to change the hero's name to Nathan Spencer. As a means of retroactively altering the series continuity they have explain that "Rad" was a codename. The team that developed the bionic arm called their test subject "Research and Development #1", or RAD #1. The reason stated for this change was that in today's videogame market, a name like "Rad" is too hokey.

So now, with a finalized decision, the birth name of the main character of the Bionic Commando series is Nathan Spencer.

NES

NES-Radd.png

The NES version gives the playable character the names "Raddo" and "Ladd" for the Japanese and English version respectively. He sports a military green uniform, spiky red hair, and dark sunglasses in this version of the game. His bionic arm is depicted as an attachment to his regular arm, not a replacement. He is part of the Federation and a minor mention of the FF Battalion is noted in a conversation with Wiseman.

Spencer is sent in by the Federation to rescue Super Joe from the Imperial Army and stop Wiseman from resurrecting Adolf Hitler and completing the Albatross. He succeeds in his mission, which is supervised by HQ, with flying colors, destroying the already-operational Albatross and blowing the cockpit out of Hitler's escape helicopter with the newly-developed Hyper bazooka, receiving it from a comrade named Hal. In the end, both Joe and Spencer narrowly escaped the explosion of the Imperials' base- thanks in no small part to Radd's bionic arm.

Worlds of Power

Jack Markson is the name of the bionic arm-wielding hero in the Worlds of Power Bionic Commando book. He was created by the book's author, Judith Bauer Stamper, to fit the character.

In the book, Jack Markson's arm is injured in a ninja ambush and is then replaced with a bionic arm.

Game Boy

GB-Hero-RadSpencer.png

In the Game Boy version the playable character's name becomes "Rad Spencer". The more futuristic theme gives him a more science fiction look. His hair is even more spiky--in an anime style. He still wears glasses, but they're no longer sunglasses, and he wears an armored body suit. His bionic arm is now an actual cybernetic replacement of his regular arm. Several times he is mentioned to be part of the FF Corps--the Bionic Commando division of the Federation.

Chain of Command

CoC-NathanSpencer.jpg

The Chain of Command comic is our first official look at the new Nathan Spencer. His old wild red hair is now in a crew cut, he's no longer sporting sunglasses, his bionic arm is massive compared to the previous styles, and he wears TASC fatigues and steel boots. He also, of course, has a lot more dialog in comic than the previous games giving him much greater depth as a character. In addition, by this point in the storyline, Spencer has been promoted from Captain to Major.

In the comic, Spencer is depicted as something of a "wiseass", to use the term Joseph Gibson uses to describe him (for instance, how he continues to call him Super Joe instead of his correct title of Supervisor, Joint Operations Executive), and is shown to be both incredibly indebted to the Bionics Department in general and Gibson in particular. He is also shown to be somewhat philosophical about the path his life has taken, musing about how he's lost everything, and that looking out of windows hurts because it's "too much freedom"- though he ends that train of thought by thinking about how, although his whole world is so enclosed, after he'd lost everything, it was all he needed.

After the craft he arrives in lands, he is greeted by Gibson and a soldier named "Miller". After Miller leaves, Gibson asks if they pulled him off of R&R, to which Nathan replies that he was on "recruitment detail", pep-talking the walking wounded at Walter Reed, telling them that TASC's Bionics Division could patch them up and give them a new lease on life. He then asks if he was lying, and it is implied by both that comment- and Gibson's reply that, while he HOPES not, that Secretary of Defense Armstrong is already looking to pull the plug on them, and may soon have justification for doing so- that by this point, military-grade bionics technology is already a highly-controversial subject.

Spencer replies that whatever it is he needs to do, he's up to it- after all, as he himself says, "I owe my life to Bionics Division". He is then taken by Gibson to the debriefing room, where it is revealed that despite his codename- "Research And Development #1", or "RAD1", he is not, in fact, the ORIGINAL test subject for military-grade bionics. Instead, he is told about the TRUE first guinea pigs, codenamed Forge and Shrike. As Gibson puts it, they were not only their first PROTOTYPES, but ALSO their first FAILURES- falling prey to the psychological difficulties that plague users of bionic implants and unable to live with what they'd become, they likewise found themselves unable to live WITHOUT their bionics, they became highly unstable and dangerous and thus unfit to return to civilian life, either. Thus, TASC had them locked up, possibly in suspended animation, in a secure facility.

The two rogue bionics broke out four days prior, and had headed for Alaska. Gibson feared that they were about to sell bionics technology to the Alaskan Seperatists, and in order to prevent the seperatists from gaining the FSA's bionics secrets and giving them an edge in their bid to fight for a free Alaska, Gibson tasked Spencer to take them out without a trace before they could do so. He further mentioned that the mission would be "black-on-black; total deniability", to which Spencer replies, "Isn't it always?".

During the trip, Nathan muses about the Alaskan Seperatists, their reasons for fighting, and the reasons that the FSA couldn't afford to allow a free Alaska. Dropped into the midst of an Alaskan border patrol in the Chugach mountains, he takes them out with his Death From Above maneuver, musing about how his bionic arm is more than a weapon- in his words, "MUCH more"- before using it to make his way to the old uranium-mining facility the Alaskan Seperatists were using for a base in order to make contact with TASC's double-agent planted among the Seperatists, Lieutenant Jayne "Mag" Magdalene. However, Mag didn't make the rendezvous, only to contact Spencer later and explain that she'd pulled guard duty.

However, when Spencer asked for the coordinates from which he could take out Forge and Shrike, Mag initially refused, pointing out that Gibson's intel was in error- not only had Forge and Shrike not told the Seperatists ANYTHING, they didn't even WANT the rogue bionics there, having summoned an ex-Russian army chopper to come and pick them up, after which they intended to wash their hands of the whole affair. Spencer was skeptical, but Mag pressed her point, pointing out that Forge and Shrike had only gone AWOL in order to stay ALIVE- when the Secretary of Defense requisitioned their bionics, he was signing their DEATH WARRANT. Furthermore, Mag asserted that the pair didn't deserve to die.

To this, Spencer pointed out that she should know better than to second-guess their orders, that there was a "chain of command", and that it wasn't their decision to make. Mag's reply likened Spencer's statement to the old Imperial standby, "Just following orders". Unamused, Spencer demanded the coordinates, and Mag finally relented.

The next morning, Spencer made his way to the mining station's old mass driver, which was used to send huge hunks of uranium into low orbit, and coincidentally made for the perfect sniper's nest. He readied the tool TASC had given him to finish the task- the SCRAM ammunition, which would vaporize the pair of rogue bionics without a trace. However, when he had them in his sights, he hesitated- when he looked at them, he saw in them HIMSELF: soldiers who had given everything.

Thus, Spencer called to abort the mission and let the pair go, but he was spotted by Seperatist Gunpods and flushed from his sniper's nest, resulting in a skirmish with the Seperatist forces in which the chopper carrying Forge and Shrike was shot down by a missile fired from a Stalker, which soon pinned down Mag. Nathan swiftly dispatched with both the Gunpods AND the Stalker, prompting Mag to joke that he was "showing off".

After that, Spencer and Mag got a fix on the downed helicopter's transponder signal, meaning that the chopper was at least in one piece. He mused that Forge and Shrike could still be alive- no thanks to THEM. As he was thinking this, Forge and Shrike emerged from the wreckage of the downed helicopter and ambushed the pair.

After a brief scuffle, however, Forge and Shrike convinced Spencer even MORE that they didn't deserve to die, and in fact, he and Mag began to try to convince them to come back to the FSA to seek justice. Though, the two only agreed after Nathan gave them his word.

On their way to the extraction point, Spencer seemed confident that the right thing would be done- after all, he had saved Gibson many times, and he felt Joe OWED him. These optimistic thoughts were cut short when Miller raised a pistol to fire upon Forge and Shrike, stating that if Spencer wasn't man enough to finish the job, Miller WOULD be.

Rearmed

Official art of Nathan "Rad" Spencer as he appears in Bionic Commando: Rearmed

While Nathan's abilities remain fairly similar to the NES version, his look is different. He appears more as a typical soldier would, with his red hair now in a crew cut and bearing dog tags. In addition, he bears the same bionic arm as in the 7th Gen title; however, the shades and green soldier fatigues from the NES version will return.

Purchasing Rearmed will allow you to unlock the classic skinlook for the 7th Generation Bionic Commando title. The main difference is that Spencer sports a bionic arm far closer in look to the 7th gen title than the NES version- the main difference being that the wires and pipes are green rather than orange.


In this incarnation, Nathan Spencer was originally a member of the Federal States of America's armed forces, but his military career was cut short when he lost his left arm to a grenade. While on rehabilitation leave, he accepted a position as the first test subject for bionics technology by T.A.S.C., the FSA military's intelligence division.

He was given the codename Research and Development #1, or RAD #1, and the name stuck; many continued to call him "Rad" Spencer for years.

Under the supervision of TASC agent and supervisor of bionics technology Joseph Gibson, Nathan was the first human subject to be fitted with and control a bionic limb--the bionic arm--a much-needed breakthrough for the technology. Though the technology was still in the prototype phase, the fascistic Imperial Army attacked, and TASC's first operative, Super Joe, was captured. Nathan was activated early and sent into the field, given the field rank of Captain, and sent to rescue Super Joe and stop the Imperials.

Though details on plot changes aside from this are slim, due to the game not being released yet, it is already known that Spencer was ferried around during his mission by the FSA's most skilled helicopter pilot, Haley. Also revealed is that Gibson was being guarded by the only other bionic in the field- the insane Imperial Gottfried Groeder, resulting in a battle of the bionics when Nathan went to rescue his mentor. In addition, it is known that, just like his NES counterpart, Nathan Spencer dealt the final blow against The Leader by blowing the cockpit out of his helicopter, leaving Spencer and Gibson to escape the base.

Also of note is that videos showing the multiplayer gameplay mode have revealed that Nathan Spencer is one of the four playable characters, alongside Super Joe, Generalissimo Killt, and Gottfried Groeder. In order to keep the game fair, all characters- even those without bionic arms, such as Killt and Super Joe, will also feature swinging gameplay, along with Spencer and Groeder.

As can be expected from his role as the main hero of the game, Nathan Spencer is your basic no-frills, all-around character in Rearmed's Multiplayer Mode, sporting a perfect balance between Ammo, Damage, and Health.

7th Generation

Nathan Spencer, Bionic Commando

Appearance

In the 7th Generation title Nathan Spencer looks much more intimidating. Instead of cartoon graphics he is rendered to look photo-realistic. The bionic arm is a full cybernetic replacement, and it is much larger and more powerful looking than ever before.

The retro skin, that can be unlocked with Rearmed, looks very similar to the NES version with red spiky hair and sunglasses. The difference is that the skin uses a fully replaced bionic arm instead of the attachment used in the NES version.

Stats

  • Name: Nathan "Rad" Spencer
  • Age: 34 (notably, as the game takes place 10 years after the NES title and its remake, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, this would make Spencer roughly 24 at the time of the Federation-Imperial war)
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 233 lbs (without bionics)
  • Hair: Brown, dreadlocks
  • Rank: Major: FSA Armed Forces (inactive), TASC Special Ops (dishonorably discharged)

Voice

Nathan's voice is provided by Mike Patton, the former lead singer of the rock band Faith No More.

Story

When Nathan "Rad" Spencer was activated early and sent in to fight the Imperials, he succeeded with flying colors, and his statue, along with Super Joe's, now decorates the Avenue of Heroes in Ascension City's Memorial Park, along with other heroes of the conflict. Super Joe was promoted to Director of TASC, and he and Spencer oversaw the training of the TASC Special Ops--new "bionic commandos", just like Spencer. This unit would come to be legendary as the deadliest fighting unit in the world.

However, bionics technology proved divisive, and the populace grew weary of being normal humans in a world of super-powered bionics. Demonstrations and riots followed, coming to a head when a group of rogue bionics was accused of aiding a rebellion against the FSA.

The investigation found Nathan Spencer the sole perpetrator of all crimes, and he was convicted and sentenced to death by a military tribunal. The problem being, he was innocent of all charges. And despite proclaiming this, his appeal was denied. He was stripped of his bionic arm and placed in the TASC Military Disciplinary Facility in Fort Leavenworth to await execution.

The anti-bionics sentiment came to a head, and a new executive order known as the Bionic Purge was passed almost overnight, outlawing bionics technology. Merely BEING a bionic became against the law, and bionics were forced to hand in their implants or face prosecution. As a convicted criminal on death row, Nathan could do nothing to oppose the move, and became despondant.

On the day he is scheduled to be executed, however, an experimental WMD known as the Witherer is detonated in Ascension City, annihilating it and its citizens, and Nathan is given a chance at a pardon in exchange for tracking down and apprehending the perpetrators, known only as BioReign.