Wildcat’s getting old

Before Superman, Batman, and the Justice League arrived in the comic book world, another group of superheroes fought evil in their place.  Even though Superman’s 75 years old, in the DC universe, he’s only been fighting bad guys for about fifteen to twenty years (less now that the universe rebooted).  It all works that way — Iron Man originally built his first armor after being kidnapped by the Vietnamese, but because of the updated timeline, that’s been changed to Middle Eastern terrorists.

Well, except for a select few superheroes.  In the DC universe, they make up the Justice Society of America.  We have elderly Green Lantern (Alan Scott, who wears more red than green), elderly Flash (Jay Garrick, with a head full of gray hair), and elderly Wildcat (Ted Grant, who actually got to train teenage Bruce Wayne), among others.  When Superman wore his Smallville diapers, the JSA pummeled Nazis, mobsters, and all sorts of evildoers back in the good ol’ days.  And unlike the Man of Steel, they didn’t get the luxury of an updated origin.  The Flash has grandkids for goodness sake.

Today, I want to focus on Wildcat, who continues to absolutely fascinate me.  Back before you and your parents were born, Ted Grant fought to become the best boxer in the world.  Then he put on a catsuit and fought supervillains.  Imagine Batman with no gadgets, no armor, no money, limited martial arts, and thirty years older.  You have Wildcat.  It’s like if Manny Pacquiao put on a mascot costume and decided to fight crime alongside Superman.  An elderly Manny Pacquiao.

We’re taking a look at JSA Classified #35-37, written by B. Clay Moore and drawn by Ramon Perez. As Wildcat and Green Lantern wrap up a battle, the two senior citizens have a very serious conversation about the future.

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Basically, maybe it’s time for Grant to retire.  Especially because unlike old Green Lantern and old Flash, Grant doesn’t actually have any superpowers.  And thus, Gotham’ll hold the key to whatever future he decides.  Still, back in the day, before “real” supervillains like Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grodd, Wildcat stood tall and feared.

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Whenever Wildcat reminisces, we get this cool color scheme.  Doubted skills aside, Grant should at least check out the whole shady gym stuff. He used to own the place after all.

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Nothing special.  He even gets into the ring to show those young punks a thing or two.  You know how it goes, including this next scene set up:

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We’ve seen this a hundred times before.  Kids attempt to beat up the old guy after he humiliates them on their turf.  Time for lesson two in kicking juvenile butt, just like the old days.

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Or not.  This brawl gets beautifully interspersed with the same type of fight from back in his prime as a sort of nostalgic comparison.

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Ted Grant is Wildcat, a legitimate and proven superhero.  And he just got his butt kicked by five civilians.  Batman, Robin, Catwoman and the other Gothamites wouldn’t have even broken a sweat.  A small group of punks barely classifies as a warm up for Gotham’s finest.  The years haven’t been kind to our hero.  And speaking of Catwoman:

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We’ve all seen Batman Beyond.  When you qualify for AARP, it’s time to hang up the batarangs and pick a successor.  Stubbornness prevails, unfortunately, and Wildcat figures that whole gym thing should still be investigated.  I mean, he did come all this way.

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See what’s going on?  The gym’s a front for a supervillain training program, where they learn to fight by studying all the moves of those pesky good guys.  Plus, cool supersuits.  I imagine that’s not something that should be left alone.

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I love this moment.  Yes, a new group of super criminals running the streets would totally get Batman’s attention and fists in their lawbreaking faces.  Eventually.  Arkham Asylum springs a leak every other week, the Justice League has to fight space gods like twice a month, and that doesn’t include the tons of monitoring, training, and detective work the Dark Knight has to complete. Sure, Batman’ll break up this gang soon enough, but Wildcat has far more time and far less on his plate.

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If there’s any time to prove his worth as a superhero, this is it.  Advantage: Wildcat.

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A gorgeous realization.  Grant’s no dummy — he knows he simply doesn’t have the ability or skills to tackle alien warlords or whatever the big boys fight.  But even for a man a good two or three decades past his prime, Wildcat has a use.  Let Green Lantern, Flash, and the others battle the world threats, there are plenty of gangsters and criminals hiding in the shadows that need a good beating.  A beating Wildcat can happily provide.  Superman’ll defeat Braniac and Wildcat’ll knock out some goons robbing a liquor store — both important in different ways.

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The best part of being in the JSA?  Working with Power Girl, duh.  She’s delightful.

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4 Comments on “Wildcat’s getting old”

  1. Randy Montante says:

    I appreciate the shoutout to my boy Manny. It was an interesting read on a character I knew nothing about.

  2. Ed Novaro says:

    Dem smiles…

  3. bclaymoore says:

    I just stumbled on this tonight, and I’d like to thank you for paying attention. This little story is one of my favorites. At the time, I was asked by Dan Didio to define Wildcat and where he is NOW, and write a story that might set up a new series. The new book never happened, but I’m still really happy with what Ramon, Dave and I did here.

    • Jason Levine says:

      He hasn’t appeared in the New 52, has he? It’s too bad, and you’re right — he would be a wonderful addition to any new series! By the way, I really enjoyed your Flashpoint issues; I’m very honored/starstruck you commented!


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