The Mystery Men of August part 3

This afternoon’s post looks at a gaggle of C-list super-heroes from DC comics, who made their first appearance in August.

Ragman: co-created by Robert Kanigher and the late Joe Kubert,  Ragman was originally a Viet Nam veteran running a junkshop in  a shabby district of Gotham City. In his own short-lived, mid-70s series  Rory Regan was of Irish extraction and had the combined abilities of three men.

Since the 90s, he’s been a Jewish hero with mystical abilities and ties to the Golem legend. A member of the Shadowpact occult superhero team, in some respects, he’s DC’s version of Moon Knight.

Night Force: I think  might revisit this moody DC collaboration by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan from the early 80s. The title has been revived a couple of times; a slow-moving, if atmospheric occult thriller, I felt it lacked the malign personality of Marvel’s Dracula and drifted away from it after the first issue. However, mysterious Baron Winters, the Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid lookalike at the centre of the story, is an intriguing and perhaps familiar character. A time-traveller fond of chicanery who gathers up operatives from all walks of life? How does Wolfman think them up?

El Diablo: DC’s first El Diablo from 1970 was an uncanny vigilante in the Spanish-American West: Zorro crossed with the Thorn. The second version, by Gerard Jones and the tragic cartoonist Mike Parobeck in 1989, was a roots-level Latino mystery man by night and councillor for Dos Rios by day. As a boxer and athlete, El Diablo II was the Daredevil of South Texas but refused membership of the “Bwah-ha-ha” Justice League. The plots about Border politics, drugs and money were a bit too mundane for the time but I’d like to see Maleev draw Sandoval’s adventures now.

Aztek: a mid-90s meta-commentary on  super-heroes from Mark Millar and Grant Morrison.  Aztek is a Meso-American “Ultimate Man” designed to battle a Shadow God.  The series was a commercial failure; I found Millar’s cynicism pervaded  Morrison’s critique of ultraviolence and both men’s penchant for sadism and horror shot through the stories. Aztek, quite unbelievably, was revealed to be a pawn of Lex Luthor and his brief and ineffectual  career ended with his sacrifice to destroy the god-machine Mageddon. The Noh-Varr of the Justice League, I think.

L-R:  Indigo, Grace, Thunder

Grace Choi, Indigo, Thunder: three female members of Speedy‘s Outsiders ( I can’t type the name Arsenal without thinking of Eric Morecambe). This 2003 team, which wasn’t originally related to Batman’s group but spun out of the Titans,  also featured Nightwing (Dick Grayson) Jade  from Infinity Inc. and Metamorpho ( aka Shift, a nondescript 90s -style sobriquet) . Like Bendis’s New Avengers a couple of years later, this was a “proactive”, urban noir team- the direction in which I’d take the Justice League, if I wrote it!

Grace was a bisexual nightclub bouncer and former child prostitute (comics!). She was also a member of the Egyptian tribe of Amazons, despite her Asian ethnicity (comics!)

Indigo was a sweet, naive android revealed to be the malevolent Brainiac 8. Think “what if Jocasta went bad?”

Thunder is the elder daughter of Black Lightning and could increase her own density, like the Vision. She had a lesbian relationship with Grace. Of these three, Thunder seems the most viable as an ongoing character but as far as I know, she isn’t around in the New 52.

Coming soon:  Solomon Grundy vs. the JSA

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners


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