Greg Saunders

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Vigilante
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAction Comics #42 (November 1941)
Created byMort Weisinger
Mort Meskin
In-story information
Alter egoGreg Saunders
Team affiliationsSeven Soldiers of Victory
All-Star Squadron
PartnershipsShining Knight
AbilitiesBrilliant marksman
Superb hand-to-hand combatant
Master of the lariat
Excellent horseman

Greg Saunders is the first fictional character known as the "Vigilante" that appeared in American comic books published by DC Comics.

The character was one of the first DC Comics characters adapted for live-action film, beating Superman by one year.

Publication history[edit]

Created by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin, Greg Saunders first appeared in Action Comics #42 (November 1941).

Fictional character biography[edit]

The original Vigilante was a western-themed hero who debuted in Action Comics #42 (Nov. 1941): originally named Greg Sanders, the spelling was changed to Greg Saunders in the 1990s. Grandson of a Native American fighter, and the son of a sheriff in Wyoming, Saunders, as a young man, moved east to New York City and became a country singer, radio's "Prairie Troubadour". Greg returned to his home after his father was killed, bringing to justice the gang of bandits who killed him.[1]

The Vigilante, like many heroes of the era, acquired a sidekick to aid him in his crime fighting. Stuff the Chinatown Kid, was introduced in Action Comics #45. He assisted the Vigilante when a Japanese spy known as the Head framed Stuff's grandfather for provoking a Tong war.

The majority of the Vigilante's solo adventures were against non-powered, costumed criminals. He was an excellent brawler, trick shooter, sharpshooter, horseman and motorcycle rider, and an expert with the lariat. These skills gave him advantage over his adversaries in his adventures, which centered primarily in New York City.

The Vigilante fought few foes that could be considered real "super-villains". His arch-foes were the Dummy, a brilliant weapons inventor and professional killer who resembled a ventriloquist's dummy in both size and facial features, and the Rainbow Man, who committed crimes with a color motif. The Vigilante also encountered The Rattler on several occasions, as well as The Fiddler and The Shade, though the latter two villains are not the same foes that battled the Flash.

The Vigilante was also a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory (also known as the Law's Legionnaires), one of the earliest super-hero teams (appearing in Leading Comics). In these adventures, his sidekick Stuff never appeared, being replaced by an old, somewhat crotchety man named Billy Gunn. The Vigilante was also one of the few super-hero features to survive the end of the "Golden Age" of super-hero comics, lasting as a solo feature until Action Comics #198 (1954), when he was permanently replaced by Tommy Tomorrow.

The Vigilante was revived in the seventies in the pages of Justice League of America, when the Seven Soldiers of Victory were brought back into active continuity. Like Green Arrow, his Earth-2 counterpart was a lost member of the Seven Soldiers, but he did not participate in the JLA/JSA quest to rescue them. All the members were hurled through time after defeating Nebula Man (except for Wing who was killed). The Silver Age Green Arrow, Black Canary and Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt saved the Vigilante from a tribe of Native Americans in the Old West who felt that eventually the white men would take over their land. The Earth-1 Vigilante's contact with the League was limited to a two-part story where he aided the JLA against aliens determined to over-pollute the Earth. He remarks in his first appearance in Adventure Comics that the League did help him re-establish his career, even providing him with a new motorcycle. He later teams up with, and saves the life of Superman (his marksmanship allowed him to shoot a silver bullet at the shadow of a werewolf who, being a magical creature, was about to kill the Man of Steel).[2] He also received a periodic feature in the pages of Adventure Comics, drawn by both Mike Sekowsky and Gray Morrow, and also in World's Finest Comics.

The short-lived series in World's Finest culminated in the Vigilante coming to Gotham City to meet his old partner Stuff, only to find his friend murdered by his old enemy, the Dummy. At the end of this series, The Vigilante rode off with Stuff's son (who had been trained by Richard Dragon).[3]

Vigilante continued to sporadically appear as a superhero in DC Comics, having been established as running a dude ranch in Mesa City (the former home of Western hero Johnny Thunder).

Seven Soldiers[edit]

In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers #0, the Vigilante establishes a new Seven Soldiers of Victory to battle the monstrous spider of Miracle Mesa. He is apparently killed alongside the rest of the team,[4] only to re-appear as a ghost in Bulleteer #3 (also part of the Seven Soldiers series). He attempts to recruit a new team of seven to further battle the threat of the Sheeda. He claims Bulleteer's actions will allow him to 'rest'.

Return[edit]

In Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen Greg Saunders appears, alive, as the sheriff of Warpath, a town on the Mexican border formerly known for supervillain activity. Olsen's narration notes that Saunders has been dead and came back to life, but does not go into detail. Olsen also notes that Saunders appears younger, though he clearly retains all of his past experience. Saunders and a mysterious version of the hero known as the Guardian beat back a villainous invasion from Mexico.[5]

Powers and abilities[edit]

The Vigilante is a superb hand-to-hand combatant, a brilliant marksman, and a master of the lariat.

Other versions[edit]

Multiverse[edit]

Pre-Crisis, there were both an Earth-1 and an Earth-2 Vigilante. Both were Greg Saunders from their respective Earths. Earth-1's Vigilante was shown for the first time in the pages (and cover) of the JLA issue where the superteam moved to their classic headquarters on an orbiting satellite (Justice League of America volume 1 #78).

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

Animation[edit]

Greg Saunders / Vigilante in Justice League Unlimited.

Film[edit]

  • In 1947 Columbia Pictures released a 15-chapter serial loosely based on the original Greg Saunders character, called The Vigilante. It starred Ralph Byrd in the title role but changed several aspects. In the serial, The Vigilante is a masked government agent undercover as a playboy actor starring in Westerns. His mission in the serial is to investigate the disappearance, and possible smuggling into America, of a string of rare blood red pearls. The costume has been slightly changed as well but The Vigilante still rides a motorcycle and wields a gun. This serial makes Vigilante one of the first DC Comics characters adapted to live action film (along with Congo Bill, the same year). Batman was adapted into a serial in 1943 and Hop Harrigan in 1946, but Superman was not made until 1948. The Fawcett Comics characters, Captain Marvel and Spy Smasher, which were later bought by DC, had serials in 1941 and 1942 respectively.
  • Vigilante makes a brief cameo appearance in Justice League: The New Frontier.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vigilante (1941) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived 2015-07-19 at WebCite from the original on July 19, 2015.
  2. ^ World's Finest Comics #214
  3. ^ World's Finest #247 (October/November 1977)
  4. ^ Seven Soldiers #0 (June 2005)
  5. ^ Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1 (December 2008)

External links[edit]

← The first Green Lantern series was debuted. See Green Lantern (comic book) for more info and the previous timeline. Timeline of DC Comics (1940s)
November 1941 (See also: Vigilante (comics))
The characters Green Arrow and the first Speedy was debuted by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. See Green Arrow, Roy Harper (comics), Speedy (comics) and Queen Industries for more info and next timeline. →