July 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #278: The Protector

A licensing dispute between a pair of cookie companies led to a new hero's creation. Seriously.

In the 1980s, the War on Drugs was in full swing, and it wasn’t uncommon for fictional characters to make PSAs condemning the use of any and all illegal drugs, all in promotion of programs and laws that encouraged kids to “just say no”.  Comic books were not immune to those sorts of messages and licensing, and DC’s best selling team book New Teen Titans was involved in a couple such special issues.

And, for reasons that are both simple and unbelievable, these books couldn’t use Robin/Nightwing, so a new character called the Protector was whipped up in his place.

So, what was that simple and unbelievable reason?  Well, in a nutshell, the anti-drug special was produced by Keebler, but the rights for any and all Batman-related characters for cookie-related publishing was held by Nabisco.  And even though this was for an anti-drug special issue, distributed to schools across the country, Nabisco held the copyright, so the only thing to do was make a substitute character.

That would be on Jason Hart, AKA the Protector.

Now, it should be worth noting that these books weren’t just some slapped together mess.  The work was done by the New Teen Titans regular creative team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez.  Wolfman himself did a lot of research and interviewed recovering teenage addicts for the work, and these interviews were worked into the story as testimonials.  The stories themselves may have had to have been toned down a bit as Wolfman had way more than he needed and some of them, despite being true, sounded far too unbelievable to be seen as anything but fiction for many readers, and given the target audience, a lot of them may not have been all that suitable to kids anyway.

And in there was the Protector.  Basically, he was a non-powered vigilante teaming up with a Titans team composed of Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, Speedy, Raven, and Wonder GIrl…or possible Kid Flash instead of Speedy.  There appears to have been more than one of these, but neither of them had Dick Grayson. Anything DIck could have done, the Protector took care of.  And really, there isn’t much more to say about the character.

Except DC did own the rights to him, and they did give him some more backstory, mostly to say he’d been personally trained in the art of superheroing by the missing Nightwing.  Beyond that, he pops up in group shots and that’s about it.  He had those anti-drug specials in 1983 or so, and then that was it.

Until the more recent Heroes in Crisis mini-series, where an unexpected attack on a superhero rest home for heroes in need of therapy resulted in a number of dead heroes.

The Protector was there…as a patient and as a victim.

Yeah, he says he was against drugs, and it looks like he might have been hooked on a few for what little time he got in Heroes in Crisis.

Ultimately, he was the Protector.  He had a problem with drugs no matter how you slice it.

And if it weren’t for Nabisco, he wouldn’t exist.