Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #116: The Crimson Avenger

Last week’s entry was, to put it bluntly, rather skimpy.  I realized as I was writing that there just may not be much to say about Dr. Mid-Nite.  He has a gimmick, but no particularly memorable supporting cast members, enemies, or solo adventures.  Much of that may be due to the rather disposable nature of many Golden Age superheroes.  Origin stories, such as they were, were often limited to a single page or two at the most where someone, usually a well-off white man, realized he owed the greater society, especially if he had some special skill or ability that most people didn’t, though that was hardly a requirement.  Special skills didn’t even have to be particularly impressive when there were guys with trained bees and the ability to only see in the dark.  Even classic heroes like Superman and Batman didn’t get much.  Superman’s first appearance gave him a one page origin story, while Batman’s only had a panel or two saying Bruce Wayne was Batman.

So, now we have revamped, next generation heroes of these same Golden Age heroes, and sometimes they go really out there with new backstories.  And that brings us to the Crimson Avenger.

The original Crimson Avenger was Lee Travis.  He wore red, carried some guns, and fought crime.  That’s pretty much it.  Before Flashpoint, the Crimson Avenger was treated as the first costumed superhero, and that may be true in the real world too since he premiered in October of 1938 in Detective Comics, three or four issues before Batman would appear in the same comic book.  Superman had only appeared in Action Comics earlier that year in June, but since he wore no mask, he wasn’t really a masked crimefighter.  As it is, Travers was treated as the first superhero in many DC books for a long time in-contiuity.

It takes a real man to make this look appear threatening.

Travers actually died a heroic death.  After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, he went out for one last case and seemed to die in an explosion after saving a bunch of people.  That’s actually the most noteworthy case in the Crimson Avenger’s long career, so we won’t dwell on that too much.  He was a capable man who fought crime in an outfit that actually isn’t too crazy compared to some.

But then time passed and DC created a new Crimson Avenger.  Her name might have been Jill Carlyle.  “Might” is a good word, since she never actually gave her real name out in any of her appearances, but sharp-eyed fans pieced together some clues to suggest who she might be and as a result, took to referring to her as Jill Carlyle.  DC has never said that wasn’t the new Crimson Avenger’s name, so there we go.

This Crimson Avenger is an African American woman who wears a red blindfold, because justice is blind, and she has an ever-bleeding wound to her chest.  She’s also cursed, and that means she probably isn’t much fun at parties.

How does she see to aim well while blindfolded?

In flashback, we learn she once studied law.  She lost a case where an obviously-guilty defendant walked free, so she did what any reasonable person in a comic book universe would do:  she bought some pistols from a pawn shop or something and gunned the guy down.  The problem is, these were Lee Travers’ old guns, and by using them for revenge instead of justice, she cursed herself.  Essentially, she has some teleportation and intangibility powers as some kind of spirit of vengeance.  She gets a vision of an innocent person who died by reliving the person’s death, and then she has to track down and shoot the person who caused the innocent to die.  She can be more or less implacable while stalking a new target, and her guns never need reloading and can injure anyone, including people normally considered bulletproof.  About the only person who survived an encounter with this Crimson Avenger was JSA member Wildcat, who once played with some evidence to send an innocent man to the electric chair (it later turned out the man was guilty of another murder and was just innocent of the one that got him the chair…you’d think whoever keeps assigning this woman her missions would have known that).  Wildcat only survived because he has nine lives.

See the top paragraph for not-particularly-impressive special skills and abilities.

As it is, this Crimson Avenger also outright hates what she’s become.  It takes all her willpower to refrain the guns from shooting sometimes, and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of her curse.  She even turned the guns on herself once and just went to her next mission.

Well, one thing can end her curse:  no one making more stories with her.  The New 52 brought back a woman on Earth-2 who looked an awful lot like Jill Carlyle, but she was actually another Lee Travers.  So, yeah, having the character disappear entirely would be a great way to end a curse.

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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