Gravel, also known as Sergeant Major William Gravel is a British SAS soldier and one of the best at that. Due to some shady activity though (namely, taking numerous unsanctioned jobs for cash) he has earned the punishment of working as a "K" agent on deniable operations. He could leave if he wanted to but he knows that would only lead to the British government trying to kill him, so he does his job, but not happily. He serves as a constant annoyance to his superior officers which leads to them putting him on more and more dangerous missions. He also continues to take black market jobs not only to make money, but to buy friends and favors for when the day comes that his people start coming for him. Aside from his military involvement, William Gravel is best known for being a combat magician. At one point in time he was one of 8, but presently, he is the only one around. Not much is known about the magical side of Gravel's past other than that he's been a practicing combat magician for about 20 years.
In Strange Kiss, William Gravel's only friend in the world, a man named Bull, was killed. It wasn't by normal means though, and that was why Gravel got involved. He met up with Bull in a hospital right before hundreds of lizards exploded painfully out of him, and from there things just got worse. It took a lot of killing, but Gravel eventually learned that the lizards were the children of an enormous being from another realm that was nearing death. He was the last of his kind so he had been impregnating people in order to start a new generation before he died. But, as a favor to Bull (who had begged Gravel to avenge him right as he died), Gravel had killed all of his children. After having killed his way to the Lizard, a creature as old as the solar system, Gravel regretted having to do what he would have to. He didn't want to kill the creature, but he had promised Bull he would, so he had to.
Gravel next showed up in LA, this time taking a job from a washed up actor. The man, John Weston, had a plan to catch some snuff film-makers in the act of selling their product, turn them in publicly to the police, regain his lost fame, and become mayor of Los Angeles. William's job was to act as his bodyguard so he wouldn't get killed if anything went wrong when the cops got there. Gravel accepted the job and the next day they met up for the bust. Things went wrong when the videos turned out to be something other than what Mr. Weston expected, something unnatural. Weston freaked out and began shooting a gun no one knew he had and wound up getting killed. Meanwhile, Gravel had snatched the tape and gotten away, threatening to show it to important people if he got any trouble. Of course, he got trouble. The movie maker/thugs chased Gravel and ended up taking him to the place where the films were made. Gravel found himself cornered in the warehouse with the unfortunate men and women that starred in the movies, while the thugs and a number of corrupt cops were outside trying to find a way in. Things escalated when the cops started shooting and crashed their way into the building, but Gravel used some magic to escape unharmed and with all the evidence needed to get a lot of people in trouble.
Some time later, Gravel returned to Britain and was given a real mission. A prison had been taken over by supernatural forces of some kind and he was the only one capable of stopping it. He was sent in alone and discovered that a single inmate had magically taken control of the prison, killing everything in the surrounding area and turning the guards and other prisoners into zombies. Gravel, armed with his normal two handguns, a pair of assault rifles, and his magic, slaughtered everything that moved once he gets inside and worked his way to the prisoner in charge. By killing all the zombies, which were functioning basically as batteries for the spell doing all the damage, Gravel was able to stop everything that was going on. After killing the last inmate, Gravel left the prison and went outside to see his commanding officer. Gravel told him that the threat might not be completely gone, but the officer wouldn't hear it. To make sure things went as he wanted, Gravel claimed the man was a zombie and killed him in front of all his troops before going on his way.
Strange Killings: The Body Orchard
Strange Killings: Strong Medicine
Strange Killings: Necromancer
Exactly what a "combat magician" is and can do is vague, but through his different books Gravel has done a number of "tricks".
Illusions: One of Gravel's most common tricks is making people see and hear him when he’s no longer there. He usually does this to get people to look one way while he goes elsewhere, or in the middle of fights to get people to kill their own allies or just not pay attention to him. The illusions don't just make it look like things are there when they aren't, they can also make things look like things are gone when they're right in front of a persons face. His illusions are so good he once made another magician think he was slitting his [Gravel’s] throat when really he was cutting his own without realizing it. If his illusions are normal illusions or something else is unclear. He once killed a man outside his house while at the same time being in the basement of his house setting off bombs. Either one was an illusion plus some telekinesis, or he was actually in two places at once.
Bullet control: Possibly a use of his telekinesis but the control is so much more fine that it might be its own trick. Gravel makes his bullets go wherever he wants, even places he can’t see. It takes a little concentration, enough so that he doesn’t do it all the time, but so little that it’s easy for him to do it at a moments notice. (Some examples of it: He has shot multiple bullets that went through walls and found enemies as they ran around, has shot a single bullet into the path of a firing squad and had his bullet block every bullet fired by the enemies, has had a gun fired at him and made the bullet fly back through the head of the shooter and then go on to kill all his friends.)
Reflexes: Gravel dodges bullets at close range, can do his magic tricks in the time between a gun is fired and when the bullet hits, and has even dodged bullets while holding another person and making sure they don’t get shot.
Telekinesis: Used to kill people (blow their brains out, other horrific things), break locks, blow stuff up, fire weapons independently of his body, move objects etc.
Wall running: Gravel can walk on any surface whether its solid or not (he can run up hanging fabric) and whether it’s horizontal, vertical or even upside down.
Teleport: Gravel can teleport normally (even into moving vehicles like jets) as well as into the Body Orchard dimension which is basically an environment that grows weapons, so it's the perfect place for him to get armed quickly and also cover very large distances in a very short time. (He can’t go to the Body Orchard when injured because the strain on his physical body would increase any damage already present.) He can also teleport things remotely but has only shown this with small objects.
Phasing: Gravel can phase through other matter at a moments notice.
Pyrokinesis: Used for lighting his smokes mostly but he can light other things on fire as he wishes.
Memory erasing: Sort of like hypnotizing someone, Gravel can make people forget he even exists as well as all the time they were with him. He can be selective with what he erases if he wants. People are left in a daze afterwards.
Strength: He’s naturally stronger than a normal human, but not superhuman. He's easily capable of punching through walls and breaking people's bodies.
Levitation: Gravel can walk over water as well as jump much higher than a normal person and stay in the air longer.
Psychic/Divination: William is able to know things through some form of ESP.
Durability/Strength: William can temporarily increase his strength and durability to undefined levels. (He once ran through multiple walls of a building without slowing down.)
Invisibility: Gravel can make himself and others he is in physical contact with invisible.
Artifacts: Gravel carries and uses artifacts that allow him to do things he may not be able to do on his own. For example, he can use his lighter to make solid things intangible, he has used a special stick to teleport large objects into the Body Orchard, he carries around a substance that can empower his guns to kill god-like beings, potions that can heal him, etc.
Magic Guns: Gravel can turn normal objects (beer bottles, other guns) into magical guns with a touch. These guns are capable of being used normally (their bullets are much more destructive than normal though) but can also kill magical creatures.
Magical Horses: In his search for the pieces of the Sigsand manuscript Gravel stole another magicians magical horses (and killed her with them). He is able to summon them from a mystic stable with a clap.
Other Skills: Not all of Gravel's abilities are from magic. As a trained soldier of the SAS, Gravel is a skilled fighter both armed and unarmed. His usual weapons are guns, knives and his own body. Gravel is also a fairly skilled occult detective.
Gravel was created by Mike Wolfer and Warren Ellis in 1999. Each has their own take on the character.
"William Gravel is a soldier in the British SAS, the crack Special Air Service," Ellis said. "He is also a Combat Magician: a student of magic as it applies to the art of war. This has been something of a plague on his professional life. He also has a tendency to moonlight, taking on illegal security work and the like for extra beer money. Because soldiers aren't paid very well, and Bill Gravel likes a bit of extra cash in his pocket. That's how you define William Gravel: he's not a big spooky look-at-me magician, and he's not a gung-ho soldier. He's just a bloke who wants a bit of extra folding in his pocket and who wants to be left alone to enjoy it. That's all. He's a very simple man. It's a shame that it's not a very simple world."
"First, dispose of everything you know of comic book anti-heroes, their weaknesses, their angst, their personal codes of morality and their inner demons," Wolfer said. "This isn't that book. Now: Picture the hardest bastard you can imagine, a man who wants nothing more than to be left alone in a world that seems to be eternally dragging him into the hell of its political and societal woes. William Gravel is a Combat Magician. But this is not the fuzzy, wand-waving, broomstick-riding kind of magic. It's brutal, it's bloody and it springs from the blackest pit of the occult ever conceived."