The idea of masked vigilantes leaving a calling card or marking their enemies is as old as superheroes themselves. The most famous instance of this in modern culture is Zack Snyder‘s Batman branding criminals, as in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A prospective member of the Justice Society of America is continuing this tradition, but with a new twist.
Justice Society of America #7 by Geoff Johns, Marco Santucci, and Ivan Plascencia opens with a scene featuring the Harlequin’s Son. A self-proclaimed guardian of Los Angeles, Michael Mayne is the son of the original Harelquin, Molly Mayne. Like his mother, Michael is more anti-hero than hero, using questionable tactics to deliver his harsh brand of justice. However, rather than branding those criminals who escape legal punishment, Michael tattoos a domino clown mask onto their faces.
A Brief History of Heroes’ Marks And Calling Cards
While Batman’s branding criminals in the Snyderverse is the most famous instance of a vigilante marking their prey, it is far from the oldest. Indeed, the concept predates even the Justice Society of America. The idea originated with the stage play The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. The play codified the idea of the costumed crimefighter, with a hero who left behind a literal calling card with his symbol.
This idea was further developed by Johnston McCulley in 1919 with his character Zorro. The dashing swordsman famously cut a letter Z, the Mark of Zorro, into the clothing or flesh of his enemies. Frank Miller referenced this in his Dark Knight Returns comics, having an elder Bruce Wayne cut the Mark of Zorro into his foes. Miller also began the tradition of having Bruce Wayne see a Zorro movie on the night of his parents’ deaths, in honor of this legacy.
The same idea was also used by Lee Falk in the 1930s with his costumed hero, The Phantom. The Phantom marked his enemies with a skull-shaped ring, coated with allergenic berry juices. This left his enemies permanently tattooed with a Skull Mark.
This history places Harlequin’s Son in good company. However, it seems unlikely the Justice Society of America will approve of his tactics. This may make it difficult for him to earn a place among the World’s Finest heroes, though the JSA does have a history of redeeming former enemies.
Justice Society of America #7 is now available in comic shops everywhere.