Ragman, from the 1990 series. Artist: Pat Broderick.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creators: Robert Kanigher (writer) and Joe Kubert (artist)
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The early-to-middle 1970s were a lean time for comic book superheroes, which a couple of times in the past, had totally dominated the medium. But at DC Comics, publisher of Superman, the first of the genre in comics, they never did fade away completely. Even during the early part of that decade, new ones like Manhunter and The Sandman were turning up from time to time. In the middle part, they did Ragman, who didn't stand out from the crowd very much. In fact, it looked like they didn't have

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… much of a reason for doing him at all, unless you count the fact that it had been a couple of years since they'd launched a new, never-before-seen superhero.

Before he assumed the "Ragman" persona, the hero had been Rory Regan, a Vietnam veteran who had for the past several years been helping his father run a second-hand store, "Rags'n'Tatters", in a seedy part of DC's Gotham City. In the course of dealing in other people's cast-offs, the elder Mr. Regan fell into possession of a fortune, Without bothering to ascertain its provenance, Pop and three drinking buddies who were with him at the time decided to hide it for Rory's benefit.

But the crooks who had put the money there showed up, and used an electrical wire to torture the men into revealing the money's location. Rory returned, and took immediate steps to free them — but his efforts resulted only in the current suddenly surging, killing them and rendering Rory unconscious. When he woke up, the criminals were long-gone. He put on an outfit made from rags in the shop (originally intended for a costume party) and gave chase.

Taking care of the murderers was surprisingly easy, as Rory found the electrical shock had transferred all the strength and ability of the victims into him, including world-class acrobatic prowess, the fighting ability of a heavyweight boxer and, of course, the strength of four men, including a circus strongman. After accompishing the task, Rory kept the Ragman outfit, and put it on to help maintain order in the neighborhood. While Batman was dealing with Gotham's high-profile menaces like Two-Face and The Joker, Ragman made life better for its ordinary people.

This happened in Ragman #1, dated September, 1976. It was written by Robert Kanigher, the co-creator of Viking Prince and Metal Men, and drawn by Joe Kubert (Sgt. Rock) and the Nestor Redondo Studio (Swamp Thing). Only the Redondo Studio received art credit in the actual story, but Kubert was credited as the character's co-creator.

Ragman wasn't exactly an instant hit. In fact, he lasted only five issues, the final one dated July, 1977. And that seemed to be the end of Ragman.

But he was revived in 1991. In the meantime, Crisis on Infinite Earth had wrought havoc on the entire backstory of the DC Universe. His revivers (writers Kieth Giffen (Ambush Bug) and Robert Loren Fleming (Aquaman; and artist Pat Broderick (Captain Atom)) took that as their cue for a wholesale retcon.

In the new version, the Ragman costume dated back to World War II, when Pop had worn it in Poland as the first Ragman; and he was super-powered when wearing it because of rituals related to the creation of The Golem of Jewish folklore. And Pop's name at the time was Jerzy Reganiewicz — he'd changed it to Gerry Regan, de-emphasizing his Jewish origins, when he moved to America.

The costume's powers included absorbing the abilities of people whose souls it had incorporated, in the form of rags added to it, when Ragman neutralized their evil. The plethora of absorbed souls, like to those of Peacemaker, has been known to cause problems. Also, Ragman has become a skilled practitioner of the mystic arts.

This time, Ragman achieved a little more reader acceptance. He lasted eight issues, from October 1991 to May 1992, instead of just five; and they were followed by a 6-issue mini-series, Ragman: Cry of the Dead, in 1993-94. And from there, he went on to regular appearances as a denizen of the DC Universe.

In 2005, he and several other DC heroes, mostly magic-based. got together in opposition to The Spectre's plan to destroy all magic. They went on to bash evil under the name Shadowpact, which had its own title for a couple of years after the Spectre adventure. Shadowpact's other members include Blue Devil, Nightshade, Nightmaster, The Enchantress and Detective Chimp.

Being involved with a group like Shadowpact doesn't quite make Ragman a superstar. But he's come a long way from the obscure neighborhood superhero he started out as.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.