Director James Gunn is leaving a big mark on the DCEU — not only did Gunn direct The Suicide Squad, but he’s also heavily involved in the HBO Max spinoff series Peacemaker, which explores the more of John Cena’s goofy but murderous character. But aside from Peacemaker, another wacky introduction to the DCEU will be Vigilante/Adrian Chase, played by Freddie Stroma.
Fans of the classic Vigilante comics or The CW’s Arrow will no doubt recognize that name. But if you don’t know Vigilante or have trouble making sense of the many different incarnations of the character, maybe we can sort things out.
Here’s everything you need to know about Vigilante and how he may factor into the larger DCEU.
Who Is Vigilante?
As his name suggests, Vigilante is an anti-hero who targets street-level criminals and mob bosses rather than superhuman villains. There have been no fewer than nine incarnations of Vigilante in DC’s comics. The original version, Greg Saunders, was a Wild West-era hero who dates all the way back to 1941’s Action Comics #42.
However, the second Vigilante, Adrian Chase, is easily the most famous of the bunch. Chase is a former district attorney who turns to a life of violence after his family are killed by mobsters. Though Chase is initially more Batman than The Punisher in terms of avoiding lethal force, one of the main focal points of writer Marv Wolfman’s ongoing Vigilante comic is the way in which Chase slowly becomes corrupted by his bloody crusade. Chase’s actions also directly inspire several other characters to take up the Vigilante mantle, including Judge Alan Wells, a bailiff named Dave Winston and even Chase’s own brother Dorian.
Vigilante’s Powers and Abilities
Not all versions of Vigilante have superhuman powers, but all are masters of armed and unarmed combat, including (in a throwback to the original cowboy version) the lasso. Like Wolverine, Adrian Chase possesses superhuman healing abilities and can recover from nearly any injury. However, he can be killed if the initial injury is severe enough.
The Arrowverse’s Vigilante
While it remains to be seen just how faithfully (or not) Vigilante will be portrayed in Peacemaker, if Arrow is anything to go by, we may be looking at a very different take on the character.
Both Adrian Chase and Vigilante made their Arrowverse debuts in Arrow: Season 5, but as completely separate characters. Chase was played by Josh Segarra, with the character being portrayed as Star City’s new DA and a man with a deep grudge against Oliver Queen for killing his father years before. Rather than suit up as Vigilante, Chase instead became Prometheus. In the comics, Prometheus is basically an evil, high-tech version of Batman, but in Arrow he was portrayed more as the dark antithesis to Green Arrow.
Josh Segarra plays a very different version of Adrian Chase on Arrow.
The actual Vigilante, meanwhile, was eventually revealed to be a brand new character named Vincent Sobel. Sobel was an undercover cop and partner to Dinah Drake before being caught in the STAR Labs particle accelerator accident that created the Flash. That accident is the source of Sobel’s superhuman healing powers.
We don’t necessarily expect the Arrowverse versions of Chase and Vigilante to inform The Suicide Squad’s take on the character. That series reinterpreted those characters in a way that made them better mirrors for Green Arrow and Black Canary, respectively. But just like Arrow, we wouldn’t be surprised if the new movie takes a very loose approach to the source material and draws from several different incarnations as it introduces Vigilante into the DCEU.
How Vigilante Fits Into the Peacemaker Series
On the other hand, the Peacemaker series may not need to revamp Vigilante. Vigilante and Peacemaker have a preexisting relationship in the comics, and it’s one that could well set the tone for their dynamic in the DCEU.
Though Vigilante and Peacemaker are both ostensibly devoted to fighting evil and protecting the innocent, they eventually become mortal enemies. 1986’s Peacemaker #36 lays the groundwork for that rivalry. At this point in the series, Adrian Chase is attempting to leave his life as a costumed killer behind him, and Dave Winston has taken up the vigilante mantle instead. However, when the new Vigilante and Peacemaker both show up to stop terrorists from hijacking a plane, Peacemaker kills his “colleague.”
That tragedy spurs Chase to resume his old ways, fearing his loved ones will never be safe otherwise. He even attempts to take revenge on Peacemaker, though he winds up losing their duel and having his identity revealed on national TV. The destruction of his personal life sends Chase deep into despair and mental illness, culminating in a very tragic end for this troubled but well-meaning character.
The Peacemaker series looks to be pretty wacky, so we’ll see if any of that rivalry will actually play into the show. We may not see the Dave Winston version of Vigilante specifically, but it stands to reason Vigilante could be positioned as a rival of Cena’s character. If the comics are anything to go by, Vigilante is a cautionary example of what happens when a person’s commitment to justice winds up destroying them. We could see the series initially portraying Adrian Chase and Christopher Smith as friends and like-minded soldiers for peace whose paths ultimately diverge. And based on the tone of The Suicide Squad and Gunn’s work in general, we suspect the HBO Max series will play their rivalry for laughs much more than the comics ever did.
While waiting for Peacemaker, read about HBO Max’s Justice League Dark series and then read about HBO Max’s Green Lantern series. Also, be sure to get even more info on the show from our DC FanDome coverage!
And for more on The Suicide Squad, check out our in-depth explainers on John Cena’s Peacemaker, Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and Nathan Fillion’s TDK.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.