Edited by Robert Beach
Yesterday, I talked about how CW is approaching the question of what to do with Arrow now that it’s been more or less eclipsed by its adjacent series. My suggestion was that CW is modeling Arrow after Daredevil, bringing in 2nd rate villains of more popular heroes like Ras Al Ghul and now introducing violent vigilantes ala Punisher in the form of Wild Dog.
Well, CW seems to be doubling down on this approach by adding a second violent, street-level vigilante to the mix in the form of Adrian Chase, played by Josh Segarra. Much like Wild Dog, Chase is a low-rent Punisher knock-off from the ‘80s with possibly the most uninspired superhero name and gimmick of all time. He’s a hero so lame and non-descript his name is just a synonym for crime buster for he is…the Vigilante.
The origin of The Vigilante is right in the position of peak lameness for a superhero. He’s not quite weird enough in his obscurity to make him a fun novelty or hipster cool like Prez, Wild Dog, or the Witching Hour, but he’s also not impressive or well liked enough to be genuinely cool.
A lot of this has to do with Vigilante’s origin, and he was stuck living in the shadow of a much more popular character with the same name. See, the original Vigilante was a western superhero from the 1940s named Greg Sanders. In his case, the name ‘Vigilante’ made a bit more sense because the idea of masked lawmen was something of a novelty at the time.
Sanders is the exact opposite of his legacy hero: an incredibly weird little offbeat oddity that’s a delight to stumble on. He’s one of the few Native American heroes, though most folks forget that. He was also a famous country singer before picking up the life of a superhero. No joke, his origin is that he was a lawman in Wyoming before moving to New York becoming ‘the prairie troubadour’ and getting rich off record sales. Finally, he then used his musical wealth to finance his masked crime fighting.
He was a lot like a modern revamp of the Lone Ranger, using trick shots and rarely killing his opponents. He preferred to rely on true grit and fisticuffs along with his skill with a lasso. After the ‘40s ended, closing out the Golden Age of superheroes, Sanders pretty much disappeared. Lost in time, he was rescued by the Justice League and Justice Society in a pretty epic team-up adventure. Since then, he’s bounced around the DC universe in various forms without much fanfare. Despite that, Vigilante did enjoy a reoccurring role on Justice League Unlimited and even performed a song on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
caseI had to tell you all of that to highlight what a colossal downgrade Adrian Chase is as Vigilante. Rather than Sander’s western shtick, Chase’s version of Vigilante was a pretty basic costumed crime buster clothed in a fairly simplistic black leotard and visor. Much like Wild Dog or Punisher, he was a normal citizen that ended up mad as hell and not willing to take it anymore after a personal tragedy. In Chase’s case, he was a District Attorney. Once his family got killed by the mob, he decided to don a boring costume and seek justice. He appeared sporadically in the pages of Teen Titans before lucking into a solo series that lasted a staggeringly long time.
Vigilante’s solo series was a weird beast overall and is honestly the major reason why he’s not well remembered. While early writers tried to make it clear Chase didn’t actually kill people, preferring non-lethal weapons and disabling his opponents, that all fell away pretty quickly. One of the comic’s major tipping points was Chase beating an ex-con severely only to realize the man was innocent. That fury and guilt ended up key to his character, but it also made him a villainous madman.
He gave up the role of Vigilante a couple times to become a judge only to find his various friends took up the mantel in his place. First, there was Alan Welles, a fellow judge who basically just was Punisher and whose rogue actions forced Chase out of retirement. Eventually, Chase ended up killing Welles and choose to retire even harder, only for his bailiff and good friend Dave Winston to become Vigilante. Dave got killed pretty quickly, and Chase’s attempts to avenge him failed miserably. The whole series ended with Chase committing suicide in an oppressively grim ending. Seriously, I cannot think of a hero with a worse life than Adrian Chase.
All of this might be where Arrow is keen to adapt Chase as a villain. In many ways, that’s what he always was. He’s most reminiscent of Two-Face in that he’s a good guy constantly being torn down and destroyed by his own demons and misfortune, a tragic figure more than an actual threat or villain. I’m hard pressed to think of why Arrow would need two homicidal vigilantes trying to clean up the streets with bullets. That seems bizarre and excessive, but it could be they’re planning an imitator story arc relating to the Green Arrow.
Setting up a bunch of various copycat heroes adopting Green Arrow’s vigilantism, taking it further by killing bad guys, would be an interesting idea at the very least. It’s not like DC really has a team of street-level crime killers that this could be leading up to, though by the same token, the idea behind Legends of Tomorrow is unique as well, so anything is possible.