The Crimson Avenger introduced in 2000.
Cover to JSA #52 by Carlos Pacheco
Detective Comics #20
World's Finest Comics #131 (February 1963)
Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #9 (April, 2000)
|Alter ego||Lee Walter Travis|
Skilled martial artist
The Crimson Avenger is the name of three separate fictional characters, superheroes who exist in the DC Comics Universe. The character debuted in 1938 and is notable as the first masked hero in DC Comics.
Fictional character biography
Lee Walter Travis
The original Crimson Avenger made his first published appearance in Detective Comics #20 (October 1938). He was a wealthy newsman named Lee Walter Travis who took up the identity of the Crimson Avenger to battle crime.
Travis initially dressed in a red trenchcoat, a fedora, and a red mask covering his face; except for the red coloring, he was visually similar to The Shadow. He had an Asian chauffeur/crime-fighting partner, and used a gas gun to subdue criminals, similar to the Green Hornet. The Green Hornet, who debuted in 1936, was also a newspaper editor who donned a disguise to fight crime. Later, when superheroes became more popular than costumed vigilantes, his costume was changed to a more standard superhero outfit, consisting of red tights, yellow boots, trunks and crest, and a "sun" symbol which was recently stated to have been a stylized bullet hole.
In a retconned origin story appearing in Golden Age Secret Files and Origins #1 (February 2001), Travis trained in hand-to-hand combat in Nanda Parbat after World War I. While there he saw the future and witnessed an "unnamed hero" (Superman), and the man's selflessness and death at the hands of a monster (Doomsday). This inspired him to return to America and combat crime, first as a corruption-free newspaper owner and later as a masked crime fighter.
In his costumed identity, Travis used both conventional handguns and a special pistol that dispensed a bright red smokescreen.
Years later, Travis comes down with a rare incurable terminal illness. However, Travis managed to meet an end of his own choosing when he died rescuing his city from an explosives-laden freighter about to detonate in its harbor; after convincing the crew to abandon ship, he piloted the ship to a safe distance.
The Justice League of America always has a version of his first costume present whenever they are inducting new members as a homage to the Crimson Avenger's status as the world's first masked crimefighter (Superman was the first superhero, and the world's first unmasked crimefighter, making his first appearance in June 1938 in Action Comics #1).
Albert Elwood made a single appearance as the Crimson Avenger, in World's Finest Comics #131 (February 1963), in a story entitled "The Mystery of the Crimson Avenger". Eccentric inventor Albert Elwood adopted the guise and attempted to help Superman, Batman and Robin thwart the robberies of the Octopus Gang. After the requisite identity confusion when one of the gang members assumed the Crimson Avenger's identity, Elwood did help the heroes capture the gang, and retired right afterward. He had many sophisticated gadgets, but his efforts often proved counterproductive, more a hindrance than a help. He did mention that he had "taken the name of a former lawman," meaning the by-then long defunct original Crimson Avenger. After the introduction of the DC Comics multiverse in the 1960s, the original Crimson Avenger (Lee Travis) was explained to have lived on Earth-Two; Albert Elwood's Earth has never been specified.
Since then, another Crimson Avenger has appeared. This character, like the original El Diablo, serves as a minor Spirit of Vengeance. She is an African-American woman who possesses the powers of teleportation and intangibility. In a flashback sequence, we see that she studied law but apparently lost a case in which the defendant was clearly guilty. She obtains a pair of Colt pistols originally owned by the first Crimson Avenger and uses them to exact vengeance upon the unknown criminal. These guns are cursed such that, if the possessor uses them out of revenge, he or she will be cursed to track and kill those who have taken innocent life. As part of the curse, an ever-bleeding bullet hole appears on her chest.
Upon gaining a new "assignment," she mentally relives the death of the victim, and then is teleported to their place of burial. She then gains the memory and skills of those whose deaths she is avenging. Her guns never miss, never run out of ammunition, and have no triggers. The bullets are capable of penetrating any substance, and can wound invulnerable heroes such as Superman and Power Girl, as well as crack the armored shell of Captain Atom. The guns seemingly have a mind of their own, as she speaks of having to restrain them from shooting those who come between her and her target. Her intangibility does not function against her own weapons or other magical forces. Unless/until the curse is lifted, she is seemingly immortal. She once attempts to kill herself with her own weapons, but this merely results in ending her current "assignment" and delivering her to the next one.
She was a member of the JSA during the "Stealing Thunder" storyline - the group at the time being short on heroes after the Ultra-Humanite used the Thunderbolt to take over the world - where her mission is to avenge the death of Lee Travis, revealing that the explosion that killed him was caused by the Ultra-Humanite. She returns later in JSA #52-53, tracking down Wildcat for framing a man called Charles Durham for a crime he didn't commit. She learned that Wildcat only framed Durham after Durham killed his brother, sister-in-law and nephew. Durham did this to avenge his fiancee after his brother killed her. Durham was innocent of the crime he was convicted for, but Wildcat only framed him for the death of his fiancée because he couldn't prove Durham had killed his brother's family. Realizing that she is not always contacted by the spirits of the innocent, the Avenger attempted to escape her duty by shooting herself. She argued that she had already taken two of Wildcat's nine lives and hence punished him for his 'crime', but found herself simply moving on to her next target.
Though attacked by the Spectre in a 2005 issue of JSA, the Crimson Avenger is seen at Blackgate Prison, fighting escaping inmates during the worldwide supervillain breakout the Society engineered in Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special #1. The Crimson Avenger later appears, alongside the current Vigilante and Wild Dog, on a rooftop in the great Battle of Metropolis, raining bullets down on the Trigger Twins, the Madmen and Spellbinder. She appears as one of the dozens of heroes and villains kidnapped by aliens in Action Comics #842 and 843. Other heroes free everyone trapped and Vigilante is seen fighting the security forces.
This version of the Crimson Avenger is referred to by fans as Jill Carlyle, a name taken from the headstone of a victim the character was shown avenging in an early appearance. Whether the Avenger is Carlyle herself is unclear. Following DC Comics' 2011 reboot of their publishing line, a similar character appears in the series Earth-2 under the name Lee Travis.
In Kingdom Come, Alex Ross portrayed the character as a giant demon imprisoned in the Gulag. Naming him "King Crimson" in a nod to the band of the same name, his look owes more to his standard superhero look than his previous pulp fiction costume.
In the pages of L.E.G.I.O.N., Garv assumed a masked identity after quitting the team, calling himself the Crimson Avenger. He dropped the identity when he returned to the team near the end of the series.
In Blue Griffin Comics, a short lived comic endeavor, the forerunner super hero was to be named Crimson Avenger. His suit was more closely related to typical super hero style with bright red boots, gloves, trunks, and cape; while the rest of his outfit and mask were a darker shade of red. He sported a "C" crest on his chest and had energy manipulation powers similar to the Green Lantern, however he could not turn his energy projections into objects.
In other media
The Lee Travis version of Crimson Avenger is a member of the Justice League in Justice League Unlimited and has several short, non-speaking appearances aside from a very minor one in the episode "This Little Piggy", where he is voiced by an uncredited Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman). He also appeared in the episode "Patriot Act" as one of the reinforcements sent to help Green Arrow. For specific information on Crimson's Avenger's appearances on Justice League Unlimited, see Crimson Avenger (Lee Travis)#In other media.
In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, the Crimson Avenger is briefly mentioned as having met with Allan Quatermain and Mina Murray during their self-exile from Britain during the years of the Ingsoc government.
- DC Comics Presents #38
- Wells, John (May 2013). "Flashback: Whatever Happened to...?". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (64): 51–61.
- Wallace, Dan (2008), "Crimson Avenger II", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 90, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Infinite Crisis #7
- Justice League: Cry For Justice #5