January 21, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #130: The Manhattan Guardian

A rehash of an old Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation that got the news while making it.

DC Comics has done the Guardian many different ways.  Originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the character looked a lot like their most famous collaborative effort Captain America.

There has been more than one Guardian since then, but the weirdest may have been the Manhattan Guardian.

The original Guardian was Jim Harper, a policeman who donned a blue-and-gold costume and fought crime he apparently couldn’t as a cop.  Kirby would revive the character years later while working on the Jimmy Olsen book as part of his Fourth World stuff.  This time he was the Golden Guardian, a clone of the original working as head of security for Project Cadmus.  Both Guardians dealt with the kids known as the Newsboy Legion, but the second had both the originals (now adults employed by Cadmus) and cloned kid versions, so that sure is confusing enough.

The Kirby original.

Additionally, Teen Titan Mal Duncan used the identity before the original Crisis, and the live action Supergirl TV series saw that show’s version of Jimmy Olsen try out the identity.  So, point is, there’s been a few guys with a big gold shield running around.

Enter Grant Morrison.  Morrison was starting his audacious experiment known as the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  Based loosely on a largely forgotten Silver Age superhero team from Earth 2, Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory were a superteam where each member would have a separate four-issue mini-series to introduce (or re-introduce) the character to the DCU, with a pair of bookends telling one long, weird story involving an invasion by the Sheeda.  The biggest twist to the concept was, though there were seven members to the team, an auspicious number for superheroes we’re told, the Seven Soldiers would, for the most part, never meet.  Each would have a job to do to save the day, but for the most part they’d be acting independently of each other.  Only two of the Seven ever actually had any meaningful interaction, while another pair were sharing a panel at the end of the main series.

Who were the Seven Soldiers?  A new version of Shining Knight, longtime Justice Leaguer Zatanna, a newer version of New God Mr. Miracle, previous Misplaced Hero Bulleteer, Etrigan the Demon’s longtime foe Klarion the Witch-Boy, the literary-minded Frankenstein, and…a new version of the Guardian, this one renamed the Manhattan Guardian.

Who was the Manhattan Guardian?  He was Jake Jordan, a disgraced former cop who needed a job.  On an interview for a tabloid-style newspaper called the Manhattan Guardian (Morrison having been partially inspired by the British newspaper The Guardian), Jake beat back an attack by armed goons and a golem to impress the newspaper’s owner.  Said owner had set up the attack himself to test Jake’s skills.  He passed and became…the Manhattan Guardian.

See, while some superheroes are newspaper reporters in their secret identities, Jake as the Manhattan Guardian was a reporter and a superhero at the same time.  Any adventures he had as the Manhattan Guardian would later be written up for the newspaper.  He made the news and reported it at the same time.  That actually seems a lot more honest than, say, taking photos of himself to sell to tabloid newspaper while claiming to just be friends with the hero, Spider-Man!

As it is, for whatever reason, the Manhattan Guardian never got too far off the ground after the original Seven Soldiers story was over.  That’s actually too bad.  Jake had the single most creative bad guys in the entire mini-series, namely…subway pirates.

Yes, pirates who rode around the city in subway cars, looting and pillaging stations while looking and talking like, well, pirates.

You will never have an idea as cool and weird as subway pirates.  Neither will I.

There was even connections made to the original Guardian.  The newspaper’s owner was, it turned out, an elderly baby genius who was part of a different Newsboy Legion in his youth, and he likewise claimed to have bought the rights to the Guardian name and costume from Cadmus.  Jake’s role in the final battle with the Sheeda was to lead the Newsboy Army in defending the streets from marauding fairies, but aside from a few cameos here and there, Jake hasn’t been seen much since in favor of the original (or cloned) version, but maybe there’s hope for the guy yet.

You never know when the subway pirates will return.

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