Skip to main content

COMICS REVISITED: Vigilante by Marv Wolfman and George Perez


In the early days of my comic book collecting as a young man there are books that stay with you. Sure, the big books like Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, and others easily stand out but it's the guilty pleasures, the books whose short shelf life don't really reflect the impact they had good or bad as a fledgling comic book reader. In 1983, DC Comics released Vigilante created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and I was hooked. 

It was one of the titles back then that used a "prestige" format to justify the higher prices. Thicker, higher quality paper stock with glossy pages and more mature content. On it's surface Vigilante was a Batman derivative. Adrian Chase was a New York district attorney tired of the bad guys getting off on technicalities. His family is murdered by a mobster he was prosecuting that leads to him to seek justice as the ski goggled, track suit wearing vigilante. Chase started off as the blond haired version of the Dark Knight. 


The wealthy avenger also had a custom RV with machine gun equipped motorcycle created by his assistant J.J. Davis, the tech wiz, and his other partner was research assistant Terry Gomez. He even had his own utility belt but did carry a gun. The goggles actually used infrared and he also carried a sniper rifle on occasion. His non-lethal methods of dealing with New York's criminals and other costumed baddies didn't last long. 

Vigilante took a quick turn into Punisher territory as Chase was compelled to use more violent means to neutralize the villains that he encountered. This is where he began to separate himself from just another costumed do-gooder into a guilt-ridden arbiter of street justice. And the stories began to get darker and darker. 

Topics like prostitution, pedophilia, religious fanaticism, rape, and domestic violence began to permeate the pages bringing the starkness of the real world into comics. The mid-1980's was a breeding ground for new voices like Frank Miller and Alan Moore to create some of the medium's legendary works of graphic storytelling. 


Before he wrote the seminal Watchmen, Moore's two-parter entitled Father's Day, in issues #17-18, told the bleak story of a sociopathic abusive father pursuing his fleeing daughter leaving a trail of dead bodies along the way. He meets a bloody end under the wheels of the car of the prostitute who was hiding her. 

Other stories involved a mad bomber, kidnapping, sex trafficking, and throughout the fight for what he considered justice his mind began to feel the weight of his actions. After brutally beating  an ex-con only to find out he was innocent he hung up his goggles. 

A friend and fellow judge Allan Welles took over as the Vigilante unbeknownst to Chase. His methods were even more violent than Chase's resulting in deaths of even minor thieves. Chase tracked him down and killed his replacement only to find he had killed his friend. Unfortunately, it would not be the last Vigilante to die. 


Chase's bailiff, Dave Winston, soon took on the Vigilante mantle and went back to using non-lethal methods to intimidate crooks. He was killed by the Peacemaker leaving Chase more depressed and guilt-ridden than ever. He donned the Vigilante mask once again to avenge Winston's death. Out of shape and beaten, Chase was exposed by the Peacemaker in front of a news crew unmasking him to the public. He spiraled even further into depression and paranoia. He became mentally unstable as the sins of his actions and those he hurt along the way gave way to fits of anger and insanity.


As the Vigilante he had lost control and even policemen didn't stand in his way. It was then that he reflected upon his life and realized his initial intentions became warped and sullied by his use of violence the deaths of those around him. A broken and regretful man, Chase killed himself in the last issue of the series, #50.

Not a feel-good ending of course but considering the nature of the mature themes of the series it was quite fitting to end on a down note. 

What was the attraction at the time? What made this resonate with me? It was a time when the industry was beginning to grow up in some ways and the format of the book, the mature content, the stories that weren't being told in the mainstream books was exciting. Having legends like Marv Wolfman and George Perez names on the first issue didn't hurt either (although the majority of the series was written by Paul Kupperberg with Tod Smith providing much of the art). 

It was the idea that what if Bruce Wayne used violence against the bad guys as Batman and where would that lead him. Adrian Chase began as that and slowly deteriorated into a vengeful psychopath at times. It was a deconstruction of the noble hero grounded in the real world with real consequences. Sure, he has his share of costumed baddies like the Electrocutioner and Black Thorn to deal with but it was his closest allies that often felt the brunt of his actions. 

In the end, his "heroism" cost him his sanity as well as his loved ones. There was a moral dilemma in every story and it wallowed heavily in the gray areas. This was different than most books on the shelf. Was it perfect? No. Was it popular? Not so much. Did it break boundaries? Absolutely.


A pair of villains, Cannon and Saber, were the first ones I can remember reading that alluded to their homosexual relationship. This was 1984. A formidable pair of assassins that almost killed the Vigilante. It was progressive for it's time. 

The themes themselves were pretty heavy and adult and that was a rarity in a big publisher like DC Comics. It was not kiddie fodder for sure. The hero who becomes an anti-hero had its allure at the time and still resonates now because the current atmosphere of "dark" and conflicted superhero material out now. I mean Mark Millar has made a career of taking the themes of a book like Vigilante and ramping it up a hundred times higher. 

Vigilante may be a footnote to most and a forgotten Batman/Punisher hybrid in the annals of comic books but it holds a place in my heart as a symbol of transition, a period of adolescence for me as a young man, a fledgling comic book reader but also for the medium that I still love and I saw grow up before my eyes.  

- E.R.

Sources: Wiki, Comic Vine

  




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

All-New Mythological Thriller GOD COMPLEX Coming from Top Cow

Writers Paul Jenkins (Inhumans, Wolverine: Origin) and Bryan Lie team up with artist Hendry Prasetya (Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) for an all-new mystery thriller in GOD COMPLEX, an ongoing series launching from Image/Top Cow this October.


GOD COMPLEX is set in the futuristic city of Delphi where a young digital-forensics investigator named Seneca finds himself embroiled in the bizarre murders of three church acolytes. Guided by his cryptic mentor, the Ruler named Hermes, Seneca uncovers a stunning conspiracy and a mystery that will turn his entire world upside down. 

Join the GOD COMPLEX team on a unique vision of a digital future powered by mythological gods. GOD COMPLEX is the first original toy line-up from Jakarta-based GLITCH. It features sci-fi and high-fashion reimaginings of mythological gods from various beliefs/regions like Greek, Egypt, China, and Japan. The toys first released in 2012 and are available for purchase at www.glitch-store.com. GOD COMPLEX is created by Brya…

REVIEW: 'Crosswind' #2 by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs

Chicago hitman Cason Bennett and mousy Seattle housewife Juniper Blue have inexplicably switched bodies and lives. A mysterious stranger has called them each to tell them they have to play the game. 'Crosswind' by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs is a juicy satisfying crime fantasy that sizzles with intrigue.


CROSSWIND #2 Story: Gail Simone Art / Cover / Variant Cover: Cat Staggs Published: July 26, 2017 Diamond ID: MAY170671 Digital : $3.99 Print: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
The mind-breaking crime fantasy continues! Slick Chicago hitman Cason Bennett and mousy Seattle housewife Juniper Blue have inexplicably switched bodies and lives, and a heartless, relentless killer seems intent on killing them both. Don't miss this edge-of-your-seat thriller by fan-favorites GAIL SIMONE and CAT STAGGS!
Cason and Juniper are forced to play their new roles in their new bodies. Juniper has to clean up a bloody crime scene from the end of the last issue and Cason has to make a killer dinner for Jun…

RAVEN YEAR 2 Begins: The Teenage Lesbian Pirate's Quest for Love and Vengeance

RAVEN is a pirate revenge adventure, a soap opera full of messy teenage love stories, and about a dozen coming of age stories set on the high seas. Think "Legend of Korra" at sea with an all female cast.


This series has one of the most diverse and exciting casts of any comic on the market. It's full of action, adventure, and revenge - but even more full of love stories and soap operas. RAVEN is one of the first YA comics with an openly gay leading lady. But on top of that, it has a cast of women who represent a wide spectrum of the LGBTQ community. It's equal parts soap opera and actual opera.
Writer Jeremy Whitley hopes readers experience "Joy, connection, and love" when reading this book. He goes on to say that "It's a book where different types of people are heroes than what we're used to, especially in YA fiction. I feel like everybody should be able to find at least one character they either relate to or fall in love with in the pages of t…

KICKSTARTER SPOTLIGHT: 'Death Metal Zombie Cop' Issue #1 by Felipe Smith

A Superstar LAPD Rookie (Marco Miranda) & his disillusioned Training Officer (Rhonda Riley) discover that a corruption-plagued Justice System and the tightening stranglehold of the Drug Cartel are just the tip of the iceberg when L.A.'s deadliest Urban Legend reveals itself to be very REAL.


The creator who brought Robbie Reyes, the All-New Ghost Rider, back to life for Marvel is back with another high-octane adventure with his Kickstarter passion project, Death Metal Zombie Cop. If the title alone doesn't grab you then check out the amazing art. 


DEATH METAL ZOMBIE COP is an Action/Horror comic originally conceived in Japan (shortly after ending serialization of PEEPO CHOO with Kodansha) & now made in Los Angeles. It's infused with Dark Humor, real LAPD situations, West Coast slice-of-life antics, and over 5 years worth of development and HEART! 

ABOUT THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
"All pledged funds will go towards DEATH METAL ZOMBIE COP #1 production costs and bac…

REVIEW: 'Postal' #21 by Bryan Hill, Isaac Goodhart, and K. Michael Russell

This wouldn't be 'Postal' without a major scheme in the works by someone in the criminal haven known as the town of Eden. The fact that it's coming from Mark and Maggie is the surprising part. Meanwhile, Laura has her hands full trying to maintain her grasp on the town. Bryan Hill and Isaac Goodheart bring another exciting chapter in this briskly paced issue.


POSTAL #21  Writer: Bryan Hill Artists: Isaac Goodhart, K. Michael Russell Letterer: Troy Peteri Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: July 26, 2017 Cover Price: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Watching Mark and Maggie coupled up is a little weird but feels right. After all the drama they've been through it would only seem just for them to finally come together. They've had a seemingly unbreakable bond amid a neo-Nazi attack, the murders of the psychopathic daughter of the FBI director, and a near rebellion against Mark as the interim mayor. With all that out of the way, Mark and Maggie can finally decompress. How…