June 1, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comics Hero Case File #22: Tasmanian Devil


In American comics, for obvious reasons, most superheroes are Americans.  If other countries even have superheroes, they tend to be few enough that you can count them on the fingers of one hand, and many are blatant weird stereotypes to boot.  Big crossovers will show teams of superheroes going all over the world, but local heroes often seem to be missing.

As a result, every so often, DC or Marvel will attempt to create more international heroes.  Some of these efforts are more successful than others. While the original X-Men line-up was entirely American, the “All-New, All-Different” team was composed of mutants from Africa, Canada, Japan, Ireland, Germany, and Soviet Russia. The two Americans there were a leftover from the original team and a Native American.  Half of those characters would stick around.  Marvel has also introduced a couple international superteams, most notably Alpha Flight and Excalibur, with special mention made to the Soviet Winter Guard.

One of DC’s attempts to follow suit was the Global Guardians.  They were a team of international heroes, most a stereotype of their native country, and among their number was the Tasmanian Devil.

Now, I know what some of my readers are thinking.  First, the shock that I might have more than one reader (hi, mom).  Second, that the Tasmanian Devil probably looks like this:

He could probably save the day, too.
He could probably save the day, too.

Hey, I love me some Looney Toons, but this Taz isn’t the Taz I’m talking about.  I mean this guy:

Actually, he's both these guys. It's a Hulk-like thing.
Actually, he’s both these guys. It’s a Hulk-like thing.

Now, it should be worth noting that the Tasmanian Devil (the taller one) was not the most successful of the Global Guardians.  That honor falls to the Brazilian Green Fury/Flame and the Norwegian Icemaiden, later redubbed “Fire” and “Ice” who were longstanding members of the humorous version of the Justice League.  Actually, technically, it was a different Ice, sort of, but that’s another mess for another day.

The Tasmanian Devil hailed from Australia, where he gained werewolf-ish powers that allowed him to change into a tall, hairy guy with fangs and claws and, for some bizarre reason, a white patch of fur on his chest in the shape of a “T”.  I know superheroes often have chest emblems, but that’s a bit silly.  During the Justice League’s “International” period, the League had embassies around the world used as a headquarters for various team branches.  The American team, the JLA, was stationed in New York.  The European branch, the JLE, famous for having hardly any Europeans on the team, was stationed in Paris first, and then London.  The hilarious one-time adventure of Justice League Antarctica (seriously, if you read only one Justice League adventure from this era, track down that annual…you will not regret it) had an embassy on the South Pole or thereabouts.  Well, they also had an Australian embassy.

Tasmanian Devil was the only member there.  And he rarely joined the other teams for missions.

I’d really like to know the creation process for this character.  Did some comic book writer or artist get inspired while watching Bugs Bunny with his kid and think, “Hey, that Tasmanian Devil would make a cool hero if he were taller and more articulate!”

Taz was the go-to guy if you needed to show a hero fending off some threat in Australia.  Considering how big that island/continent/nation is, you’d think he might have gotten some help at some point, but it was always just him.  I do wonder what happened when Taz joined the London-based Justice League International.  Did Aussie superhuman crime skyrocket?  Was a single screaming furball enough of a deterrent to crooks to leave things in peace?  Or is Australia so laid back that the only time Taz needed to do much of anything were when global threats and alien invasions occurred?

Taz was also openly gay.  That didn’t come up too often.  It occurs to me that making something like that no big deal is probably the best way to handle such things.

Taz was actually killed and skinned by the villainous Prometheus, but then found and revived by a Lazarus Pit.  That’s probably a better end for the character than being used as a rug by a supervillain proving his street cred by using a hero for his own personal decor.

This is a thing that actually happened.
This is a thing that actually happened.

I’m not sure where the guy is now, but I suspect since he’s in the neighborhood of six foot four and full of muscles that he’ll probably gladly dispense with a Vegemite sandwich to anyone claiming to come from a land down under wherever he is.

Yeah, back to Australia for you. Someone needs to keep an eye on the place.
Yeah, back to Australia for you. Someone needs to keep an eye on the place.
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