Monday, February 17, 2014

Peacemaker: Why Peace, Love, and Understanding Seemed Funny

I'm no expert on Charlton comics, I have fairly limited experience with their material and even most of their characters -- most of my knowledge comes directly from Who's Who. Not that that's much help in this case, as the Peacemaker had two profiles, one pre- and one post-Crisis, that are completely at odds with each other. His big claim to fame, as with most of the more notable Charlton heroes, is that he inspired a Watchmen character (namely the Comedian)

The thing about the Peacemaker is that, as a kid, I thought the concept as lined out in Who's Who was pretty laughable; a guy who digs peace and thus fights for it. It doesn't help that he has what is in my opinion the most unenviable costume in comics, bar none, with special mention going to the toilet bowl-esque helmet. I'd go so far as to say he was the world's lamest superhero until DC's Bloodlines event introduced a whole score of new crappy all-stars.

Peacemaker is Christopher Smith, a US peace envoy living in... Europe... somewhere, who is always solving trouble caused by never-named Soviet states (usually vaguely implied to be Eastern European or one of the Soviet -stans). His origin is all but non-existent, but check out hisr. arsenal of weapons.

First off, let's make this clear -- the Peacemaker is not a pacifist, and isn't even close. He basically never shoots anyone with a gun, this much is true, but he's culpable in hundreds of deaths by the end of his five-issue run. He knocks a frogman out and breaks his breathing apparatus before leaving him to drown; he uses his forehead-mounted laser to block off a rocky mine passage only to cause a massive explosion that kills dozens.  He even intentionally ruptured a nuclear sub's reactor, dooming most of its crew and all sea life within a 50 mile radius. There's nothing this man will not do in the interest of peace; he'll attack you in bed, he'll use chemical weapons... He's the worst peace-lover ever. 

His primary weapon is the laser mounted on his stupid helmet, as well as a jetpack on his back. None of that other crap in the diagram above is ever used, though he has an annoying habit of pulling just-the-right-gadget out of his Peace Cavity (such as a knock-out pellet intended for sharks, or a freeze gun). The laser is the worst peaceful weapon of its kind since Dr. Venture's Oo-Ray -- in the first two issues both times he uses it there are massive casualties

Peacemaker is an odd duck because he was clearly created in response to real-world fears of World War III, but his adventures quickly turn fantastical -- in the final issue of his series, he's fighting lava monsters and sporting an even worse helmet.

And, I'm just noticing, a different chest insignia. I suspect this was some attempt to retool Peacemaker into something other than a murderous, jackbooted thug; the villain of that piece was, after all, a more direct supervillain than any of the characters he'd faced before. Alas (or who am I kidding, thankfully) 'twas not to be. Peacemaker went on to make zero appearances of note in DC, except I hear for one of the Final Crisis Aftermath minis or something. Which is just as well, since nobody was clamoring for an encore with this guy.

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