*This article contains a minor spoiler for Heroes In Crisis #3 and #5. You have been warned*
More than 35 years ago DC Comics licensed a handful of characters for an anti-drug comic. One hero was created for that book, but has only barely considered to be part of the DC Universe since then. That is until a couple months ago. He is now officially a part of Earth-1, and it is the worst thing that could have happened to him.
Farewell Protector, we hardly knew ye.
Back in the early 1980s, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans was the biggest-selling team book for DC Comics. Keebler, the company famous for peddling cookies supposedly made in a tree by elves, wanted to use the Titans’ popularity to publish a comic that tied into President Ronald Reagan’s anti-drug campaign. DC licensed the team, including their superstar creators, and New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Giveaway #1 (1983) was created.
Robin was the leader of the Teen Titans, so Wolfman and Perez of course included him in the story and artwork. There was one problem: Robin wasn’t available because Keebler’s arch-enemy Nabisco, makers of dark sandwich cookies with some processed white substance in the middle, had licensed Batman and his supporting characters to promote their products. That included the Boy Wonder.
So, since Robin was unavailable. Perez just created Protector and drew him over Robin in the book. Wolfman wrote in a quick back story – Jason Hart dressing as a superhero to help inspire his cousin to stay away from drugs. Protector joins up with the Titans to fight drug dealers, but since he was taking Robin’s place, he was basically in charge. Pretty impressive for a kid with no powers, no training, and no relationship with the established heroes.
Protector has only made about a half dozen tiny appearances since 1983, including being made an honorary Titan and even getting some training from Nightwing. He also got an entry in Who’s Who Update ’87 #4 (November 1987) and appeared at Beast Boy’s party in Titans: Secret Files #2 (October 2000), but he has not been an active player in DC continuity.
Then comes Heroes In Crisis #3 (January 2019) when Protector appeared with this group of 11 other characters introducing themselves testimonial-style at Sanctuary, an out of the way refuge for superhumans trying to deal with the psychological ramifications of the “job.”
Unfortunately for Protector, Heroes In Crisis is a murder mystery, and just about everyone at Sanctuary at this time was slaughtered.
His death appeared to be a one-panel unceremonious end for a secondary character, but we got to see Protector’s entire video in Heroes In Crisis #5 (March 2019), and that is when it actually got worse. Worse than death? Yep. Take a look.
So writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann took the one thing Protector was known for – his battle against drugs – and turned him into the very thing he was fighting against. Talk about adding insult to injury, or in this case, adding drugs to death.
The idea of bringing a lesser character into a company-wide story isn’t a new one, and the entire purpose of Sanctuary is that wearing a costume doesn’t stop you from having anxiety issues, but giving Protector an actual spot in current continuity only to unravel and destroy every fiber of his being might have taken it a bit too far.
This character could have used, well, a protector of his own. Just Say No.
By Rob Otto