Have you ever wondered why there is a cowboy on the Watchtower in Justice League Unlimited? I did. Obviously, it was DC’s way of showcasing one of its older and forgotten about characters on the show, but little did I know that the cowboy in the white hat and blue shirt with a red bandana covering his face was one of DC’s oldest and most popular characters of yesteryear. His name is Vigilante (alter ego Greg Saunders), and he debuted in the pages of Action Comics #42 in 1941 alongside Superman.
Saunder ’s gunslinging, motorcycle riding version of Vigilante has been sidelined in recent years only to make a few appearances in animated form. But, the character has had many successors over the years in the form of the Punisher-like version: Adrian Chase, Alan Welles, Dave Winston, Pat Trayce, Adeline Kane, Justin Powell, Dorian Chase, and the most recent is Donald Fairchild. Oddly enough the version most people would be familiar with is the version from Arrow that is none of the people listed above. Sure, Adrian Chase’s name is familiar since that character was the big bad of season 5, but the character that was revealed to be the vigilante was Vincent Sobel, former lover of Arrow’s version of Dinah Drake and a meta human with regenerative powers.
The more modern version of the character celebrated a resurgence in popularity in the 80’s and 90’s and recently on television, but the original version was quite popular in his day. As stated earlier, Saunder’s version was created in 1941 and lasted until 1954. During his publication run, he was one of the first DC heroes to be adapted for the screen. He beat Batman to the serials by two years and Superman by six!
The Saunders version was reintroduced in the comics in the mid 70’s and appeared randomly over the years in various stories but found new life with Grant Morrison’s run of Seven Soldiers of Victory in 2005. Aside from the comic run Saunder’s Vigilante appeared on Justice League Unlimited for several episodes and was voiced by Nathan Fillion.
With so many incarnations floating around, and the character’s long history with DC, why hasn’t at least one version caught on to be a more popular character? I can see how the darker version from the 80’s can be seen as a rip off of characters like the Punisher, but after Justice League Unlimited it would seem like Saunder’s version could be adapted for screen again into a fun Lone Ranger type adventure film. This character is what DC needs on screen and in print at the moment; a fun swashbuckling hero fighting to save the day.
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