Just when you thought Peacemaker (John Cena) was out, as The Suicide Squad’s end credits scene revealed, the morally corrupt “hero” will return as part of a newly formed Task Force X on his own spin-off TV show… as soon as he wakes up from his coma, that is. Among those joining him on his latest mission is another deadly vigilante who, aptly, goes by the name Vigilante and has a relatively unique history that spans several decades of DC Comics.
If you are the kind of superhero movies (and superhero TV shows) lover who likes to have a firm idea of what to expect from a certain comic book character before they appear in an upcoming adaptation, you have come to the right place. The following are a few key facts about Vigilante to take note of before the premiere of Peacemaker on HBO Max, starting with a brief summary of the person(s) behind the mask over the years.
Vigilante Is An Alias Passed Down Over Several Generations
When the Peacemaker TV show trailer first premiered, confirming the involvement of Vigilante, a question on most die-hard DC Comics fans’ minds must have been, Which one? The results may vary when it comes to this anti-hero. In fact, his alias has been shared between nine different characters, such as the uncontrollably homicidal former judge Alan Welles (the third to assume the name) and his successor, a bailiff named Dave Winston, who refused to kill until he was, unfortunately, killed by Peacemaker as it turns out.
Rogue Gotham City cop (and lover of Deathstroke) Patricia Trayce would take up the mantle next, followed by Teen Titans villain (and ex-wife of Deathstroke) Adeline Kane, before Vigilante was reimagined in a 2005 miniseries as the subconscious split personality of Justin Powell. The widowed Dorian Chase (the brother of earlier Vigilante Adrian Chase, whom I will talk about later) would first appear as Vigilante in a mid-1990s Nightwing issue and the character was most recently reimagined as former professional basketball player Donald Fairchild in a miniseries part of the DC Rebirth continuity. Each of the Vigilantes I have mentioned above share many of the same characteristics, but are nothing like the very first hero to own the name.
The Original Vigilante Was A Western-Style Hero
Created by writer Mort Weisinger and illustrator Mort Meskin, Greg Sanders (later retconned as “Greg Saunders” in the 1990s) made his DC debut in a November 1941 issue of Action Comics as “The Vigilante.” However, by some, he was also called “The Prairie Troubadour,” in reference to his day job as a traveling, cowboy hat-wearing country music singer who just happened to come across trouble at nearly every one of his stops, which he would do away with himself with his trusty dual pistols and lasso, just like they did in the Old West.
Sanders was not always alone in his heroic exploits, having had a young sidekick (a la Batman and Robin) in the form of Chinese-American teen Jimmy Leong. He first joined forces with Vigilante as Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, when his grandfather was framed for causing conflict within the criminal underworld by a Japanese spy. Jimmy’s heroic reign ended tragically with his own murder (credited to two different perpetrators in the DC Multiverse following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths), which led his brother, Victor, to take up his crimefighting identity as Vigilante’s new ally.
Adrian Chase Is The Vigilante On Peacemaker
To answer a question from earlier, the version of Vigilante that viewers will see on Peacemaker is Adrian Chase, who is actually the second character to honor the mantle, but the first to define the look and tone of every subsequent, modern iteration to follow. Created by writer Marv Wolfman and illustrator George Perez and making his DC Comics in a September 1982 issue of New Teen Titans, Chase’s origin story is sort of like a cross between The Punisher and Daredevil (sans the loss of one sense and enhancement of the rest).
A former New York City district attorney turned judge, Chase would undergo rigorous combat and marksmanship training to become the masked Vigilante to exact vengeance on the mobsters who killed his wife and children. English actor Freddie Stroma, better known as Cormac McLaggen in the Harry Potter movies, joins the Peacemaker cast as what appears to be a considerably lighter version of the character, which is to be expected with director James Gunn running the show. Outside of an uncredited appearance in The Suicide Squad, this will also be Chase’s debut as Vigilante in any screen adaptation, but not exactly his first depiction for TV either.
Another Vigilante Iteration Had A Prominent Role On Arrow
Adrian Chase technically has a role on the fifth season of Arrow, but only as the public alias used by Oliver Queen’s vengeful enemy Simon Morrison, otherwise known as Prometheus (also a dramatic variation from another DC character). However, Vigilante does exist in the Arrowverse, but as the alter ego of Vincent Sobel - a character wholly original to The CW’s shared universe of DC TV shows and originally played by Clayton Chitty in Season 5 before being replaced by Johann Urb the following season. Additionally, Mick Wingert provides the voice of the character when under the mask.
The former Central City Police Detective (and previous lover of Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah “Black Canary” Drake) was presumed dead following the disastrous explosion of a particle accelerator. Eventually, it was revealed that Sobel survived the accident, which instead turned him into a self-regenerating meta-human who kills criminals as Vigilante. He was killed by Laurel Lance, a.k.a. Black Siren (Katie Cassidy), under the direction of criminal mastermind Cayden James (Michael Emerson), whose criminal cabal he tried to infiltrate.
Other Iterations Of Vigilante Have Appeared On Film, TV, And Video Games
Both Vincent Sobel and the Arrowverse interpretation of Adrian Chase would also appear in the LEGO DC Super-Villains video game as playable characters included with the "DC Super Villains: TV Series" DLC Pack. In fact, they currently count as the only iterations of the character adapted for a video game.
As for other forms of media, Vigilante has been a presence in film and TV almost as long as the character has existed, but Greg Saunders has almost always been the one to hog the spotlight. He is actually (sort of) part of the Arrowverse having appeared on Stargirl in a picture of the Seven soldiers of Victory. Earlier than that, he was voiced by both Nathan Fillion and an uncredited Michael Rosenbaum for the animated Justice League Unlimited series on separate occasions and by John DiMaggio on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He also made a brief, wordless cameo in the DC animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier, but he technically made his film debut in a 15-part, live-action serial released by Columbia Pictures in 1947.
I think I can speak for many fans when I say that it is about time that the definitive, modern iteration of DC’s Vigilante is getting a proper introduction on live-action TV. Witness him in the spotlight when Peacemaker becomes available to stream on HBO Max Thursday, January 13, 2022.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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