a Project 1983 post
a Feature Friday post
New Teen Titans Annual from DC Comics. Written by Marv Wolfman. Layouts by George Perez. Co-plotters Wolfman and Perez. Pablo Marcos, finisher. John Costanza, letterer. Adrienne Roy, colorist.
NYC district attorney Adrian Chase is close to taking down the Mafia. He has seen criminals go free on technicalities. While he originally saw the actions of super heroes as lawlessness, he is starting to see the appeal of vigilantism. This moral turn puts him on the side of Robin and the rest of the New Teen Titans. When the Mafia attempts to kill Chase he is seriously injured but worse, his wife and child are killed. Now, Adrian has disappeared and Robin wonders why heroes have to follow certain rules when other ways get results.
This month’s feature is going to focus on vigilantes but as this idea progresses I think it can also encompass a certain Do It Yourself attitude of the time. Whether it’s the music of the time that birthed whole new genres. Or movie heroes taking the law into their own hands. There is an attitude without faith in anyone but the self.
Adrian Chase feels this as well in this comic and the story continues through his own series. While Robin has heated debates with the rest of the Titans, Chase is a solo act. His activities are so far in the shadows the Vigilante character isn’t revealed until 3/4 through the issue and the mask removed nearly at the end. As Robin’s moral compass begins to fail his friends tether him to the unwritten code of super heroes. Stay within the law, no killing, act as an example. Meanwhile, the Vigilante is murdering bad guys in secret.
His costume is predominately black which assists the clandestine revenge. Vigilante takes out henchmen with his sniper rifle and leaves dead muscle at the front door. While Robin appear in public in his bright primary color short pants costume, and even talks to the press. They’re all bad guys, but only one hero is finding a permanent solution to the problem. Batman’s (and thus Robin’s) credo against killing doesn’t lead to safer streets. It leads to a Rogues Gallery that can always come back.
While the Vigilante story gains more depth and twists in his solo series, the moral debate plays throughout this comic. Robin comes so close to going over the edge. Past where Batman stops and into the executioner role. His teammates remind Robin of all that they have been through before. Of all the times Robin was the voice of reason. It breaks down to showing one’s true self. If morals go gray when times are tough is that an excuse, and exception, or a reveal of an inner truth? Robin going too far ‘this one time’ makes it easier to do the same one more time, and another, until it’s common.
In the end Robin’s friends hold him back from the edge before he falls over. But Robin was the only one holding Chase back. While the Boy Wonder was busy with his own crisis of conscience that left nothing for Vigilante. He falls into the DIY justice of the time. In comics and the real world. Much like the savior of the subway, he will gain a certain amount of support. But it is easier and easier to kill someone who is a murderer, a kidnapper, a super villain, but then what of a mugger or a shoplifter? It’s actually overall easier to have a hard rule that killing is wrong, than to debate the line on when it is and is not justified.
As the series (and this feature) progresses the Vigilante will discover that difference and the new problems caused by his permanent solutions.