Here’s a great example of the fact that you never know what’s going to become a successful property over time. This issue of Charlton’s FIGHTIN’ 5 comic–a series that featured the adventures of a group of Blackhawk-like non-powered adventurers–also showcased, unheralded, the first appearance of a character who remained a footnote in comic book history for decades, but one who is now poised to become well-known on the international stage through the twin mediums of film and television. I’m speaking of the Peacemaker.
The Peacemaker was another attempt during editor Dick Giordano’s tenure running Charlton’s editorial department to come up with a super hero concept (or “Action Hero”, the term they would use) with some legs to it. And The Peacemaker was at least successful enough to knock the Fightin’ 5 out of their own series. Just a few issues later, the 5 would be relegated to being the back-up strip in PEACEMAKER #1. Sadly, though, PEACEMAKER would only last for five issues as a series itself.
The Peacemaker was a weird concept for a series, especially in the mid-1960s. it was the brainchild of prolific Charlton writer Joe Gill and artist Pat Boyette. The Peacemaker was an American envoy, a man who loved and cherished peace and non-violence, and strove in his day job to make it a reality. But when war or violence broke out, he would gear up in a high-tech suit brimming with futuristic weapons and give it back to the aggressors. There wasn’t any Jekyll/Hyde thing going on here–Christopher Smith wasn’t crazy (although later DC revivals from the 1980s would choose to play him that way.) He was quite simply a hypocrite for peace. As the tag line said: “A Man Who Loves Peace Enough To Fight For It!”
So the Peacemaker was, in effect, Hawk and Dove in one man–and while he made that dove his personal insignia, he definitely wasn’t above unleashing with all of the force of his military arsenal that the hawks loved.
Over the course of his long career, Joe Gill wrote a mountain of colorless and virtually indistinguishable stories in a myriad of genres. This is due at least in part to the fact that he was getting paid only $2.00 a page for his efforts. So there wasn’t any question of inspiration striking, he needed to pound the keys and put out a mountain of pages of something, anything, in order to afford to live. But somehow, the Peacemaker feels like something that Gill is a bit more invested in than his usual fare. There’s a feeling that there’s something in the duality of this character that truly interests him, and he’s being a bit more considered than he might ordinarily have been in his script.
Some of this too is down to the artwork of Pat Boyette. He was another journeyman artist who produced a fair amount of work, most of which flew under the radar of at least the fan community. But fans did pay attention to super heroes, and so the Peacemaker got Boyette a bit more attention. He’s got a very nice style, a bit reserved perhaps, but with a certain ambiance and mood to it. His work here is very nice and different from most other series around it.
With John Cena set to star as the Peacemaker in the upcoming James Gunn THE SUICIDE SQUAD film as well as lending voice to an animated series on cable television, the Peacemaker’s profile has never been higher. So despite his obscure roots, Christopher Smith may have his day after all.