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The Untold Truth Of DC's Vigilante

The name Vigilante isn't exactly the most inventive alias around. It's the equivalent of being called Bouncing Boy — since the shtick is kind of obvious here. That said, the DC character has had something of a career renaissance as a leading character in HBO Max's "Peacemaker." While most people might have expected him to be the silent but violent type, he's anything but, as he's become one of the biggest sources of comic relief on the show.

Vigilante, though, isn't exactly a new hero — or antihero, depending on the time and place. He has a rich and celebrated history in the DC Universe, as he's formed a part of many important arcs and even been featured in his own solo comic book series. Going beyond the visor, though, there's also an untold truth about him that's begging to be told. From the controversial recasting of the character in "Peacemaker" to the big-time swerve in "The Suicide Squad," here's the real story of the man known as Vigilante.

The multiple Vigilantes in the DC Universe

Thanks to the shenanigans on "Peacemaker," Vigilante has become a more recognizable name to the average fan. His latest time in the spotlight is likely to give Adrian Chase a boost in profile for further adaptations down the line. However, Vigilante as a character has been around since 1941 — just not in the incarnation that you might expect.

Created by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin for "Action Comics" #42, Greg Saunders was the original person to use the Vigilante alias. This version of the character was Western-themed and didn't wear the costume that everyone recognizes nowadays. It was only in 1983 that the more familiar Chase debuted as Vigilante in "New Teen Titans Annual" #2 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. Since then, multiple characters such as Alan Welles, Dave Winston, and Pat Trayce have all assumed the mantle at some point. Moral of the story here: If anyone is stuck looking for a superhero name, Vigilante is always available for hire.

Vigilante's shocking recasting on Peacemaker

It's difficult to imagine anyone else but Freddie Stroma as Vigilante. Without a shadow of a doubt, he has left his unique mark on the character in the most hilarious (and awkward) way possible. That said, he wasn't the first choice to play the character. The truth is that Vigilante was recast well into filming the first season.

When "Peacemaker" went in front of the cameras, Chris Conrad, who played Johnny Cage in "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," was cast as Adrian Chase. Five-and-a-half episodes later, showrunner James Gunn decided it was time for a change. "[Conrad]'s an incredibly talented guy," Gunn told ScreenRant. "But we were on different pages about certain things, and I don't think he wanted to continue on the series in the long run." In other words, this was another "creative differences" separation between actor and director. In any case, Stroma joined the party and Gunn reshot all of Vigilante's scenes for the episodes. Judging by Stroma's exceptional performance, it was probably the best decision Gunn made.

His history as a lawmaker

It's always the ones who work in the legal system who distrust it the most, isn't it? In the comics, Adrian Chase was both a district attorney and judge before he became a vigilante. One of the key reasons for him putting on the mask was because he no longer had faith in the justice system punishing those who deserved it. "Arrow" introduced its version of Chase as a district attorney, too; however, he was using his position for more nefarious purposes.

"Peacemaker" flipped the script on the character, turning him into a busser by day. Truth be told, it's a career change that makes sense in context of the character's current personality. Considering how he behaves even when he doesn't have the mask on, it might have been a little difficult to convince the legal bar that he's of sound mind and principle. Still, there's a strong possibility that he might need to quit any job he holds to be Peacemaker's sidekick permanently going forward.

Adrian Chase actually hates Peacemaker

In "Peacemaker," Adrian Chase is Christopher Smith's biggest fanboy. All he wants is to become his best friend (and be acknowledged for it). It's a heart-warming bromance — even if what brings them together is slightly deranged and homicidal. Yet, this version of Vigilante and Peacemaker's relationship is much different from the comics, where they're shown as bitter rivals.

In "Vigilante" #36, by Paul Kupperberg, Denys Cowan, Kyle Baker, and Tatjana Wood, Dave Winston is the masked man using the Vigilante moniker at the time. However, he's killed by Peacemaker in front of a helpless Adrian Chase. It's an event that rocks Chase to the core since Winston was his friend and he feels a sense of responsibility for his death. After that, there's no going back, since the heat between Vigilante and Peacemaker is now nuclear. It'll be interesting to see if the "Peacemaker" TV show follows a similar path and puts the two friends at odds in the future.

Idris Elba was cast as Vigilante?

When Idris Elba was announced for "The Suicide Squad," there was a lot of debate over which character he'd be portraying. At one point, many thought he'd be taking over Will Smith's role as Deadshot, while others even suggested Deathstroke. However, there was one pesky murmur that just wouldn't go away: Elba as Vigilante. Of course, the British actor ended up playing Bloodsport in the movie. Turns out that we have Gunn to thank for spreading that bit of rumor-mongering in the first place, even if it was completely intentional.

Hosting a Q&A session on his Twitter account, Gunn revealed that he even fooled his own crew into believing Elba was playing Vigilante. "To keep [Elba's] character from getting out we called him Vigilante in the script and on his chair back," Gunn said. "We kept it so secret that we were a week away from finishing shooting and the production designer, Beth Mickle, said, 'Wait, he's not Vigilante?" We're pretty certain that Gunn's crew will never believe another word he says until production wraps!

The Arrowverse's different Vigilante

It isn't unusual for the Arrowverse to play with and twist the lore and characters of the DC universe to match its intent. Look at how John Diggle was possibly turned into a Green Lantern as an example. When Adrian Chase was introduced in "Arrow," many diehard comic book fans instantly put two and two together and predicted he was Vigilante. After all, that's exactly how it went in the comics and they were both on screen at the same time, right?

Well, "Arrow" pulled the ultimate fakeout on us by unveiling Chase as the big bad of the season, Prometheus. So who was Vigilante here? That honor fell to Vincent Sobel, a former police officer and Dinah Drake's boyfriend. After surviving the infamous particle accelerator explosion, he used his new powers of regeneration to kick butt and chew bubblegum (and he was all out of bubblegum). Sadly, Laurel Lance as Black Siren ended up killing him softly with a screeching number that fried his brain.

Why Peacemaker's Vigilante is so different

While Vigilante on "Peacemaker" is a hit with fans due to his outrageous and comical nature, this depiction is a major departure from how the usually stoic Adrian Chase was portrayed in the comics. There's nothing cold about this version of the sharpshooter — except for maybe his bloodlust — as he just wants to be Peacemaker's BFF and take down criminals by any means necessary.

Addressing the extreme and unexpected personality change, Gunn explained to Polygon that he first thought of what Vigilante would be like if he was in the real world: "He's very off, and he's a sociopath, but he's got this sort of sweet aspect to him." Gunn added that while it was a different approach to the character from what fans might have expected, it "also made a little bit more sense" that he'd be this sort of person if he actually existed. One thing's for sure: it's definitely the most entertaining version of the character yet.

The chilling connection to Batman

Remember how Lego Batman said that DC is the house that Batman built? He wasn't lying. Even Vigilante can't escape the influence of the man who's obsessed with dressing up as a bat and punching clowns in the face. In this instance, though, it's a deep, personal connection that could rile up or trigger the Dark Knight.

The "Batman Beyond" storyline features its own version of Vigilante. However, the person who takes up the alias is familiar to both Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis: Jake Chill. Yes, from that lineage of Chills. As the great-grandnephew of Joe Chill, Jake was one of the men hired by the dastardly Derek Powers to murder Terry's father, Warren, and pin the blame on the Jokerz. With time and hindsight on his side, Jake comes to regret his past actions and tries to find a way to atone for his sins. He decides to make the Chill family name mean something good for a change and becomes Vigilante.

Adrian Chase's sad fate

There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and no comic book death ever being permanent (guess that kind of negates the first certainty). Adrian Chase is case in point here. Even though the character met his demise in "Vigilante" #50, by Paul Kupperberg, Steve Erwin, Jack Torrance, and Liz Berube, he's appeared in other mediums since then. Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding his death are particularly tragic and traumatizing.

After struggling with who he had become and all of the innocent blood on his hands, Chase can no longer suffer the guilt and turns the gun on himself. It's a heart-wrenching end and a moment that shocked many fans to the core. His sad fate was replicated in "Arrow" when that version of Chase also took his own life. In this instance, however, his death activated a killswitch that set off a host of bombs and destroyed the island of Lian Yu in the process.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Don't call him DC's Punisher

The whole concept of vigilantism isn't new in comic book-related media. Wherever we look, there's a person wielding a large weapon and avenging someone. Usually, the act of vigilantism occurs after a traumatic event, such as the loss of a loved one. In the case of Adrian Chase from the comics, he discovers the way of the bullet after his family is murdered by ruthless mobsters. Sounds an awful lot like the Punisher, right?

Well, not really. Initially, Vigilante is more like Batman. He has no problem using his fists and non-lethal weaponry to deliver a forceful message to the thugs, but he refuses to cross the line and send them to the morgue. Eventually, all the violence gets a stranglehold on him and he snaps, taking drastic measures in his fight against crime. At one point, even the innocent aren't safe from his crossfire, as his constant thirst for vengeance spirals out of hand. He might have even been more out of control than Frank Castle — which seems to be a lot more in line with Freddie Stroma's portrayal in "Peacemaker."

Vigilante's co-creator wanted a Death Wish vibe

Not unexpectedly, the various interpretations of Chase evoke different emotions from the fandom. Some like the goofy character that's clowning around on "Peacemaker," while others swear the comic book version is gospel and everything else is heresy. For George Pérez, he likes the character he co-created with Marv Wolfman, but feels like he could have been something more.

"I think he should have been a lot more of a strong, 'Death Wish' type, as opposed to a character who can keep going back and forth," Pérez told Titans Tower. "I think his potential was a lot stronger than his actual fruition." It's easy to draw parallels between Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey and Chase here, since they both lost their family and took matters into their own hands, even if their initial methods of vengeance differ. Then again, wouldn't "Death Wish" be more in line with the Punisher than Vigilante? If nothing else, Kersey and Castle certainly bought tickets to the gun show.