Guardian (DC Comics)
|First appearance||Star-Spangled Comics #7|
|Created by||Joe Simon (writer, artist, inks)|
Jack Kirby (artist)
|Alter ego||James Jacob "Jim" Harper|
Mal Duncan. James Olsen (Arrowverse).
|Place of origin||Earth|
|Team affiliations||Science Police|
|Notable aliases||Private H.I.V.E. |
Exceptional hand to hand combatant of boxing and other martial arts, with tactician
Wears a golden helmet and carries a shield
Use of customized motorcycle and a set of video-cameras
Enhanced strength and reflexes
Accelerated healing factor
Access to the Whiz Wagon
Guardian resembles an earlier Kirby and Simon character Captain America (first published 13 months earlier by Marvel Comics) where he had no super powers and carried an indestructible shield. When Kirby returned to DC in 1970, he eventually re-established the character as supporting one in the Superman franchise: as a clone who was head of security for Project Cadmus.
In the Arrowverse series Supergirl, James Olsen who was portrayed by Mehcad Brooks became the superhero Guardian. However James Harper appeared in the first season as a marine colonel portrayed by Eddie McClintock.
Fictional character biography
Jim Harper is a police officer in Metropolis' Suicide Slum who becomes a vigilante to catch crooks that the law could not prosecute, describing himself as guarding society from criminals. He was trained to fighting condition by ex-boxer Joe Morgan (the same man who trained two other mystery men, Wildcat and the first Atom). He doesn't have superpowers, but he carries a bulletproof shield.
He's aided by a group of boys known as the Newsboy Legion, to whom he is, literally, a guardian, having volunteered to take them in rather than allowing them to be sent to prison; he does so on the grounds that they're basically good kids who just needed a chance. The Legion grows up to become the heads of the Cadmus Project, subsequently saving Harper's life by transferring his mind from his old, dying body into a younger clone of himself.
Other relatives include his niece Roberta "Famous Bobby" Harper, who is briefly a member of the second Newsboy Legion and Jamie Harper, his grandniece working for the Gotham City Police Department. She works as Robin's personal contact in the GCPD, similar to the role Commissioner James Gordon plays for Batman. After helping Robin and Jason Bard expose two dirty cops in the GCPD, Jamie Harper is promoted to Detective Specialist and transfers to the Metropolis Science Police.
In Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971), Jack Kirby reintroduces the boys of the now grown-up Newsboy Legion as supporting characters connected with the DNA Project (later Project Cadmus), a genetics research laboratory. One of the Project's experiments is a clone of the late Jim Harper, who takes up his predecessor's role, and becomes the Project's Head of Security as the Golden Guardian. Post-Crisis this character is simply known as the Guardian.
Harper remains Cadmus' Head of Security even after the former Newsboys leave. Eventually, he too is killed, although another clone is created and rapidly aged to adulthood, retaining all his predecessor's memories. This Guardian disappears along with the rest of Cadmus following an altercation with Amanda Waller and President Luthor, and his whereabouts are unknown.
Following Infinite Crisis, the Guardian clone's backstory was retconned. As Dubbilex explains to Jimmy Olsen, Jim Harper was not killed in the line of duty, but shot by Cadmus' first head of security, Jonathan Drew, upon discovering the clone was already being created.
It's also revealed that the original Guardian clone had left Cadmus early on, and was now living in the town of Warpath on the Mexican border, where he assisted Sheriff Greg Saunders. Subsequent appearances of the Guardian had been new clones, each of which died within a year.
Science Police team leaders DuBarry and Daniels, along with several prison guards, are killed during the events of New Krypton when a team of Kandorians led by Commander Gor assault Stryker's Island and demand custody of Parasite. The Science Police Control 'Rachel' tasks Guardian to act as a liaison between the Metropolis Police Department and a coalition of superheroes in bringing justice for the fallen science police officers and prison guards. After the Kandorians leave Earth, Guardian is appointed Field Commander of the Science Police, as replacement for DuBarry and Daniels, due in part to his cloned memories of Jim Harper as a police officer and Guardian as a superhero. He is asked by Superman to help Mon-El, offering him a job with the Science Police and mentoring him on how to be a hero.
The issues of Detective Comics published during the One Year Later event, reveals that Harper has a grandniece, Jamie, formerly a detective of Gotham City Police Department and a former associate of Robin III.
The Guardian later travels to the JLA Watchtower to warn the Justice League after finding a teleportation device in Metropolis. While on the Watchtower, the heroes are attacked by Prometheus, who blinds the Guardian. In the aftermath of the attack, Guardian and Mon-El are recruited by Kimiyo Hoshi to join the Justice League. On his first and only mission with the team, the Guardian helps battle Doctor Impossible's gang of villains. After a mere three issues, the Guardian was written out of the book due to writer James Robinson's desire to work with a smaller cast.
In Teen Titans #44 (November 1976), the previously uncostumed Titan Mal Duncan takes the name of the Guardian, wearing the original's outfit and an exoskeleton with strength augmenting abilities. The two Guardians finally meet in Superman Family #s 191-193 (Sept 78-Feb 79), when Mal helps rescue the Harper clone from Adam, an evil clone created using genetic material from both Harper and Dubbilex who have taken control of the DNA Project.
The Crisis on Infinite Earths removes Duncan's career as the Guardian, although he does appear briefly in his Guardian costume during the Crisis itself.
Mal makes appearances in the first two seasons of Young Justice. Mal is shown to be the boyfriend and later fiancé of Bumblebee. He takes the identity of Guardian (after Jim Harper) in order to protect the Hall of Justice from an attack.
Powers and abilities
The Guardian possesses exceptional combat and tactical skills. He was trained in many forms of fighting, and excelled at gymnastics, thinking quickly on his feet, and deduction. His only weapons are his golden helmet and shield. Guardian often used a customized motorcycle equipped with autopilot and a set of video cameras filming from various angles and recorded on videodisc.
The Harper clone possesses enhanced strength and reflexes, and an accelerated healing factor. The Harper clone's exact strength level is unknown but has demonstrated the ability to hurt Superboy (who he trained in hand-to-hand combat) and Kryptonians from Kandor. As an agent of Cadmus, Jim Harper also has access to the wondrous Whiz Wagon. The Hairies (a super-advanced tribe of techno-wizards, originally genetic creations of Donovan, who left Cadmus) built the Whiz Wagon to handle every situation. It can adapt to every terrain, fly, and even go underwater. The Wagon can be remote controlled or pre-programmed and is equipped with a set of powerful weapons and various gadgets.
- In the Frank Miller graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the Guardian is one of the superheroes killed by Dick Grayson. It is implied that he had a daughter with Lois Lane named Lana Harper-Lane, a television reporter.
- The Guardian's golden shield survives to the alternative future of the 853rd century; it is kept by that timeline's Batman.
- A bearded version of Guardian exists on the post-Flashpoint Earth-23 as a member of a predominantly African American Justice League.
In other media
- A teenaged version of Guardian appears as a supervillain under the name of Private H.I.V.E. in the Teen Titans animated series voiced by Greg Cipes. As his name implies, he is a student of the H.I.V.E. Academy (as opposed to Cadmus) and is a member of the show's version of the Fearsome Five. Private H.I.V.E. possesses an identical costume and shield to Guardian's albeit with a H.I.V.E. crest located on his chest, belt and the center of the shield. Like Guardian, Private H.I.V.E is extremely disciplined and militaristic, often ending sentences with the word "Sir".
- Guardian appears in Young Justice voiced by Crispin Freeman. In the two-part episode "Independence Day", he is shown as a member of Project Cadmus but Aqualad mentions that he is a known superhero as well. Guardian ends up fighting Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash in the sub-levels of the Cadmus Building when he is mind-controlled into doing it by one of Dubbilexs' Gene-gnomes on Mark Desmond's orders. He was with Desmond and Dubbilex when they corner Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash in the room where Superboy was being held. When Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash and Superboy end up near the main floor of the Cadmus building, Dubbilex has the Gene-gnome remove its control on Guardian, who then vows to deal with Desmond only for Mark to arrive and drink a formula that turns him into Blockbuster and knock Guardian down. After Blockbuster is defeated by Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash and Superboy and is then taken away by some of the Justice League members, Guardian takes over the Cadmus Building planning to make it into a gentler version of Cadmus along with Dubbilex and Doctor Amanda Spence. In the episode "Agendas", he is questioned as to his resemblance to Red Arrow (Roy Harper) to which Guardian states that he was Red Arrow's uncle. After it is revealed that Red Arrow is a clone of Roy Harper, and that the original Roy had been captured years ago as seen in "Auld Acquaintances", Guardian is mentioned by Batman to be tracking down the original. Unfortunately for the Justice League, the Light compromised Guardian and the other Project Cadmus members to steal their store of clones, including the original Roy Harper—cryogenically frozen and minus one arm. Between seasons one and two, Red Arrow learns that Jim is also a clone of Roy Harper. In the episode "Salvage", Guardian accompanies Green Arrow, Black Canary, Nightwing, and Kid Flash into holding an intervention for Red Arrow (who is still looking for the original Speedy). Jim (clone) tells Roy (clone) that Cadmus policy was to destroy source material and that he has to honor the original Roy. Roy's clone refuses and continues to look for Speedy (original Roy Harper). Guardian even admits that he is not sure who his identity of Jim Harper was. In the episode "Cornered", Mal Duncan officially takes over as the new Guardian after finding Jim Harper's costume and shield in the Hall of Justice during an attack. In Young Justice: Outsiders, Nightwing calls on Jim, the original Roy, and Red Arrow who now goes by Will for help in freeing meta-humans. Each Harper is shown to have a unique personality but fight well together, they even seem to regard each other as family.
- Several versions of Guardian appear in the Arrowverse :-
- James Harper appears in the Supergirl episode "Manhunter", portrayed by Eddie McClintock. In this episode, Harper is a colonel in the United States Marine Corps, and arrives with Lucy Lane to investigate the disappearance of Hank Henshaw and his subsequent replacement by the Martian Manhunter. Harper tries to take both the Martian Manhunter and Alex Danvers (DEO agent and foster sister of Supergirl) to be experimented on at Project Cadmus only to be thwarted by Supergirl and Lucy Lane. At the end of the episode, Martian Manhunter erases Harper's memories of the event and learns that Alex's father is also at Project Cadmus.
- James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) appears in the series Supergirl set in the Arrowverse portrayed by Mehcad Brooks. Due to Olsen's repressed anger towards crimes because of his father's death and because his father was a war hero, he becomes the vigilante called Guardian. He first appears in the series as a former Daily Planet photographer who becomes the new art director at CatCo in the first episode. This depiction of the character is African-American and calls himself "James" rather than "Jimmy". Also unlike most versions of him, he is shown to be more confident, independent, and take-charge. In the pilot, Olsen reveals that he knows Kara's secret, and knows that she is Superman's cousin. Superman actually suggested that Olsen move to National City to keep an eye on her. Unlike his comic-book counterpart for most of his history, Olsen also knows Clark's secret. Olsen also revealed to have a tragic past; he lost his father to criminals when he was a child. James is appointed head of CatCo in National City when Cat Grant moves to Metropolis.In the Supergirl episode "Changing", after Olsen helps battle Parasite while wearing a specially designed suit and wielding the shield created for him so he could be a hero, reveals Guardian as his chosen code name. A vigilante later uses Guardian as a scapegoat to kill murderers let go on technicalities; however, James manages to get the impostor arrested.
- A second, alternate version of James Olsen's Guardian appears in "Crisis on Earth-X, Part 1"; the Guardian of Earth-X is a member of the Freedom Fighters and wears a costume patterned after the American flag. He is tasked with protecting a temporal gateway from the New Reichsmen, but is killed by the Earth-X Nazi Führer Oliver Queen.
- In the twelfth episode of the sixth season of Supergirl, James Olsen's sister Kelly Olsen, portrayed by Azie Tesfai, is set to take on his mantle of Guardian. The episode of her introduction is also penned by the actress. 
In Man of Steel, Colonel Nathan Hardy (portrayed by Christopher Meloni) of the USAF uses the codename "Guardian". He assists Kal-El battle Kryptonian villains Faora-Ul in Smallville earning both sides mutual respect. During the Black Zero's attack on Metropolis, along with Lois Lane and Emil Hamilton, they reverse engineer Kal's rocket into a Phantom-Drive, sending General Zod's forces back into the Phantom Zone. Upon collision, the blast sucks Black Zero, Faora, Hardy and Hamilton into the Zone and sends Lois out of the Helicopter.
Guardian (Mal Duncan) appears in DC Super Hero Girls. He is seen as one of the background students of Super Hero High.
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Joe Simon and Jack Kirby took their talents to a second title with Star-Spangled Comics, tackling both the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion in issue #7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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