Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Black Superheroes: Night Thrasher

Because "Black Thrasher" sounded too 1970s-ish

Name: Dwayne Michael Taylor

First Appearance: Thor #411 (1989)

History: Son of wealthy philanthropist and former soldier Daryl Taylor, Dwayne saw his parents gunned down at an early age (although he strangely does not recall all of the details). The event traumatized the boy and he swore that he would wage a war on all criminals. Supported by his legal guardian Andrew Cord and housekeeper Tai Dwayne trains for years in the art of fighting, mastering several forms of martial arts and hardening himself as a weapon becoming one the toughest hand-to-hand combatants in the world. Deciding he needed an even bigger advantage over the criminal underground he uses his keen intellect to design and build an advanced body armor with an assortment of gadgets. Along with his trademark twin Battle Staffs and…um…his high tech skateboard Dwayne becomes the pragmatic hero known as Night Thrasher. Not content with doing it on his own however Night Thrasher forms a team of young heroes, modeled after the Fantastic Four, to help him in his vendetta against evil and the press soon dub them The New Warriors. Dwayne now divides his time between super heroics and managing the Wayne Taylor Foundation.

Beta Says: As you can probably guess from the year of his first appearance Night Thrasher is an early product of the Dark Age of Comics. That would likely be obvious just by looking at him; on paper he’s a very unsubtle Batman rip-off that uses a goddamn skateboard as a weapon. The only way he could be a bigger embodiment of the 1990s would be if his name was Nyght Thrazer or Blood Thrasher or something like that. Credit where credit is due; I often complain about some of these black heroes being very stereotypical. You know, “from the ghetto”, “criminal past”, etc. But Night Thrasher is actually a rich boy which is a completely different circumstance than the majority of black heroes before him. Of course he has a serious anger problem which has some unfortunate implications but, you know, baby steps.

More on Night Thrasher after the jump.

Uh yeah, I'm going to go ahead and put money on the Hulk
Hilarious skateboarding aside there is a lot of interesting stuff to this guy. Good fighter, really smart, beats criminals half to death with sticks; that all sounds good to me. His origin isn’t even 100% rip-off as it was later revealed that Dwayne’s parents were actually murdered by his legal guardians (they covered up their involvement and made him think his parents were killed by random thugs) and the whole thing was part of a convoluted conspiracy that reaches back well before he was even born. I’m honestly unsure whether this was a retcon or a storyline that was planned all along since the big reveal came under two years after Night Thrasher’s first appearance. If it was a retcon it was kind of a necessary one so to alter the undeniable similarity to Batman’s origin. If it was planned all along then it actually is a very clever bit writing there. Being only around five years old at the time I sadly don’t really know which one it was.

Night Thrasher does have a lot of good points but he’s not a very popular character; I’d say he probably falls into the C-List category. He did have an ongoing series at some point (as well as a Miniseries) but not recently and the book didn’t make it to two years. Clearly he didn’t take off the way Marvel may have been hoping. I’m unsure why. Maybe everyone assumed the guy was lame because of his costume (though I think its charming). Maybe the origin change came too little too late and people just saw him as a third-rate Batman clone. Maybe the audience wasn’t interested in a comic starring a black guy (but seeing as this was the same era of the rise of Milestone Comics I assume there must have been some demand for a black lead). Maybe the book was just terrible. Being the Dark Age of Comics I’d say there’s a pretty good chance of the latter. In addition as far as I’m aware he’s never appeared in any media outside the comic, not even a cartoon, so that really lowers the chances of you having heard of this guy if you’re not a big comic fan. Is there no room for a wealthy black teenage superhero armed with big damn sticks and a skateboard? I dare you to re-read that question and tell me that didn’t sound awesome.

You can’t talk about Night Thrasher without talking about the New Warriors as he founded the team in his first appearance and was their traditional leader for two decades. If you are unfamiliar with this team I do not blame you as, like Night Thrasher, they are not exactly A-List characters. The New Warriors are a team consisting of teenage/young adult heroes most of whom had previously been seen in their own titles or guest starring somewhere throughout the 70s and 80s with the exception of Night Thrasher who was the sole original character of the first squad. The team consisted of Dwayne, of course, telekinetic mutant Marvel Boy (later known as Justice), former Amazing Friend and animated canon immigrant Firestar, Green Lantern rip-off cosmic hero Nova, Namorita the teenage clone of the cousin of Namor the Submariner (f**king comic books) and Speedball, a lighthearted character who I’m sure will never ever become an overly cynical angst filled version of himself. The team was different from the Teen Titans due to none of them being sidekicks. It’s interesting that I should bring this up now because the New Warriors will be playing a crucial part in a blog I’ll be posting very, very soon (hint for the 300th blog post) . Anyway the book lasted a good while and gets brought back every decade or so but overall it’s not a very popular franchise. Firestar, Justice and Speedball have somewhat broken out from the team to be recognized by a wider audience (Firestar and Justice eventually joined the Avengers for example) but Night Thrasher never really did. If I were to make a real guess why the character’s solo stuff never worked out I’d say it’s because he’s so associated with the New Warriors that no one takes him very seriously as a lead in his own title. This is a problem many X-Men characters have had, including Storm who has had all her own solo titles canceled despite arguably being one of the most popular female heroes in the all of comics.

"Heroes for the 90s" has a more dubious connotation these days
 Also I should probably mention that Night Thrasher at some point became the legal guardian of another black superhero named Rage who also eventually joined the New Warriors. I don’t care for Rage. I will probably have to talk about him soon.

So if you read this and thought “Gee, I think I’d like to see this Night Thrasher guy in action” then prepare to be disappointed because he is dead as hell and has been dead as hell for about six years. He and a team of New Warriors were killed after screwing up bringing down a super villain and getting a bunch of civilians blown up in the process which pretty much made them all Persona Non Grata within the Marvel Universe. In fact not only is Dwayne Taylor dead and has his name tarnished he was almost immediately replaced as Night Thrasher by his former super villain half-brother Donyell Taylor aka Bandit. I don’t want to talk about him too much because he probably deserves his own profile but I will say that his revived version of the New Warriors wasn’t super good and I don’t really miss it (well, there’s some things I miss about it but that’s another story). The point is that Dwayne was killed off in a really shitty way for really shitty reasons but his death was so important that I’m not sure when/if Marvel will bring him back.

But I think we’d be a bit better off if they did bring him back. If they hired a really good writer and set him up with a really good book we could all benefit with a revived Night Thrasher. The idea of a black street level hero who himself is a privileged upper class rich kid intrigues me and I’d like to see something like that play out in a modern setting where the divide between the rich and the not rich seems more clear than ever. But I have to say if Marvel does bring him back make sure he has the skateboard. Otherwise what’s the damn point?

If nothing else I think the New Warriors would make an awesome cartoon series. Get on it, Disney!

Night Thrasher and Spider-Man
Bonding over being screwed over by Marvel circa the 2000s
For more on Night Thrasher click here. If you mistakenly assumed this was an article about Batman click here. Next time we’ll be looking at a character who isn’t really a superhero but often associates with them and is easily one of the most intimidating figures in the DC Universe.

1 comment:

  1. Night Thrasher: RAVE (Film)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...