Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #311: Orpheus

For all that Batman is portrayed as a loner, he has a lot of sidekicks and associated vigilantes in and around Gotham City, starting with various Robins and working outwards.  Many of them hang around and come to Batman’s aid whenever he needs them, and even ones like Azrael that die in the line of duty seem to have worked their way back in the Rebirth era.

But that doesn’t hold for Orpheus.

Orpheus was one Gavin King, an African American from Gotham City.  His mother was a former professional dancer, and Gavin showed some aptitude there.  However, his interest in dance attracted bullies, so he also learned martial arts to protect himself.  His parents didn’t mind as long as he went to college.  He did, and then went on to join a famous dance troupe, seeing a lot of evil in the world.  His efforts to help people often went badly, and he was eventually found by a secret organization that gave him a stealth suit and some more training.

Now, as Oprheus, he decided to go back to Gotham to protect the Hill Street neighborhood.  And yes, he did run afoul of Batman, but he did have a good reason to go to Gotham and represent his neighborhood in one way that Batman himself couldn’t.

Yeah, that would be something to set Orpheus apart, and it does mean there’s some representation in the Batman family.  This was in 2001, so how much did Orpheus get done?

Er, not much.  He was killed off in a 2004-2005 crossover storyline called War Games.

See, that particular storyline gets a lot of hatred because of what happened to former Spoiler/Robin Stephanie Brown.  Batman had taken her in as a Robin, but she wasn’t working out or something, so Bruce fired her.  Determined to prove her value, she decided to enact some plan she found on the Batcomputer to unite the Gotham mafia under Matches Malone…without knowing Matches was also Batman.  Without Matches, the plan went way wrong, leading to a violent gang war.  There was an attempt to get the plan back on track using Orpheus as a sub for Matches, but just as Spoiler finished explaining that to Gavin, Black Mask popped up and slit his throat.

Now, granted, Orpheus wasn’t the most prominent member of the Bat Family, but what might have been noteworthy–killing off the African American vigilante–was somewhat overshadowed by how the story ended, namely with Stephanie seeming to die because pacifist Leslie Thompkins, Batman’s maternal figure, a doctor who would treat Arkham escapees if they appeared in her clinic…decided to let Stephanie die as a punishment to Bruce for taking kids under his wing.

Admittedly, that is really messed up and out-of-character for Dr. Thompkins, one that would later be retconned as a trick and Stephanie was alive and well with Leslie doing mission work in Africa, but it still happened.  And as much as Orpheus may not been the most popular character in the Batman Family, there weren’t too many POC in the group back then.  There are a few more these days, but back then?

And somehow, Orpheus hasn’t come back.  We live in a world where someone made lesser foe Catman cool, so I would think someone could make something of Orpheus too.

Then again, it took Catman a couple decades to get cool, so I might just have to wait a while.

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