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I started reading comics regularly after 'Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns'. Since then, I've become a co-host on 'The LanternCast' (a podcast dedicated to Green Lantern that's been on the air since 2008), started a new podcast covering the late 1980's DC series Action Comics Weekly (appropriately titled The Action Comics Weekly Podcast), and have been the curator of THE blog on the internet dedicated to the character of Ragman, created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert published by DC Comics starting in 1976 and currently appearing on The CW show 'Arrow' as portrayed by actor Joe Dinicol. I'm an avid fan of comics, classic rock, and speaking my mind. Welcome!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ragman - Ripped to Shreds!

"The man forget not, though in rags he lies, and know the mortal through a crown's disguise. " - Mark Akenside

Alright folks, as if my 'Corps Conjecture' post wasn't enough to convince the worldwide masses that I was going to put in a tremendous amount of work for this 'Ghosts' annual themed Halloween cross over, I decided to involve my new blog about DC's Ragman. Or rather, I made the mistake of informing all my other cross over participants about the creation of my new blog and then was strong armed into posting something for the cross over on this site. But hey, the more content the merrier and let's face it, Ragman himself DOES suit the theme.

First of all, how do you like that mock up cover?! You better appreciate that damn thing. Took me forever to make it (I'm not that steeped in photo editing). Just to give credit where credit is due, the main image is taken from a cover from the 'Shadowpact' series. I won't be covering that issue. I'll actually be covering the Ragman one-shot from late 2010 entitled "Suit of Souls".

This one-shot was written by Christos Gage with art by Stephen Segovia. Rob Leigh manned the lettering duties followed by David Curiel on colors. Jesus Saiz did the original cover (not featured here) and Chris Conroy and Joey Cavalieri served as assistant editor and editor, respectively. Also featured in the credits are the words, "Ragman created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert". It always makes me happy to see the correct individuals given credit for their work in such a way. Good on you DC.

But anywho, we open up the issue with Rory Regan entering the office of a local Rabbi. The Rabbi asks Rory why he has come and Rory responds cryptically with a story of a KKK member who killed himself with The New York Times revealed that he was Jewish. He asks the Rabbi how an individual could hate himself so much. Confused, the Rabbi asks why Rory is troubled by this story and, as Rory attempts to explain himself and falls short, he decides to dispense with the pretenses and reveal his secret to the Rabbi.

As the patches swirl around Rory and attach to him, forming the suit of the Ragman, a look of shock combined with recognition washed over the Rabbi. Being an individual steeped in the history of his people, the Rabbi is familiar with the legend of the Ragman. Rory tells the Rabbi that he didn't know growing up that he was Jewish and wonders, "What kind of father doesn't tell his son where he came from?" Confused but willing to help, the Rabbi asks Rory to tell him more about himself and his father.

Rory proceeds to relay the entire history of the Ragman suit to the Rabbi. In the 1500's when the Jews were going through another round of persecution, a Rabbi named Loew created a Golem to the protect the Jewish people but, without a soul, the Golem tended to go too far, straying from it's original intention.So a council of Rabbi's was called and, using a variation of the spell that brought the Golem to life, the Rabbi's endowed a shuit of rags with power that could only be weilded by a human. The Rabbi's chose an individual and thus began the history of Ragman. We're then given a montage of moments throughout history where the Ragman was involved: a fight against a vampire in London, alongside Jonah Hex in the old west, etc. The story picks back up once more at Hitlers rise to power when Rory's father Jerzy Reganiewicz first wore the suit. Jerzy went across Europe helping where he was needed until 1943 when he was in the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Once the occupants of the Ghetto learned what was really going on at the Nazi concentration camps, they formed a resistance. The order was given to wipe out the ghetto before an uprising could organize. So they razed the ghetto, burning it to the ground and Ragman fled on May 15th, 1943, presumably because fire was the suits only weakness. The Rabbi stops Rory at this point and informs him (and the reader) that the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto didn't end until the 16th of May. It turns out, this is the information that has been plaguing Rory. He didn't know about the Ragman until after his father died so he could never ask him what happened. All of the history of the Ragman Rory learned secondhand. Rory said, as far as he was aware, his father never put on the suit again. He left europe and migrated over to America where he changed his name to a more Americanized Gerry Regan. Gerry opened a pawn shop in Gotham City and for years helped the people of the tough neighborhood by buying junk that no one needed and that Gerry could never sell. But he did it anyways to help those around him. Rory's mother died when he was a baby and Rory grew up just him and his father. Eventually he left home and lived his life for a little while, eventually returning home. One day, some thugs walked into the shop and asked Gerry if they could buy the store, and use it as a front to sell drugs. Gerry refused and they left, but they came back later and killed Gerry and beat Rory half to death.
By the time Rory got out of the hospital, they had already taken over the shop via some bogus paperwork so Rory snuck into the back lot of the shop to root around. He stumbled upon an old box containing the Ragman suit.

That's when everything changed for Rory. He became the Ragman and learned of it's special abilities. Among many other things, the suits main ability was to absorb the souls of evil individuals. By becoming part of the patchwork suit, they could lend their knowledge and strength to the wearer of the Ragman suit and thus hopefully earn their way into the afterlife. The suit is essentially a super-powered purgatory.

With hit story done, Rory finally asks the Rabbi the question that has been weighing on his mind for years, if his father was never ashamed of being a junkman, or poor, or old...then why was he ashamed of being a Jew? The Rabbi tells Rory that there is no point dwelling on this past becuase he should take solace in the knowledge that his father was a great man. Rory can't accept that. So the Rabbi bites and asks Rory if he can communicate with the souls in his suit, to which Rory responds in the affirmative. Then the Rabbi asks if any of the souls currently in the suit, were in there when Rory's father wore the suit.

Rory ducks into the astral realm of the suit and speaks with one of the souls in his suit named Jaegar Brandt, a Nazi who was present at the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising when Rory's father took him into the suit. Rory puts the question to Brandt and suddenly the truth of that night on May 15th, 1943 is revealed. Rory's father didn't flee Warsaw. The suit did. You see, occasionally the souls in the suit can override the wearer of the suit. That night, the souls sensed that Gerry was willing to stay to the end and die if he must but the souls, not wanting to be deprived of their possible redemption's, forced Gerry to flee. Gerry never knew the suit could exert such control and as a result, lived his live thinking he had failed the Jewish people. The explanation from Brandt sums up in one line about why Rory's father never again became Ragman, "Your father wasn't ashamed to call himself a Jew, he didn't feel worthy."

With his story told, Brandt begins fading into the ether having earned his redemption with this one final and simple act for the benefit of Rory. Satisfied, Rory "returns" back to his state in the "real world" and the office of the Rabbi. The Rabbi asks if Rory had learned any information, to which Rory replies...

And the end.

Typically, I'm not a fan of these origin retelling/exposition heavy stories in comics but this one was amazing. If you've never read a single appearance of Ragman, it is absolutely THE issue to pick up to become acquainted with the character. It also fits right along with our theme of the cross over and I just HAD to cover it. I mean they guy literally talks to a soul, only one of the hundreds that make up the suit he wears. It's tailor made for this kinda stuff.

But anyways, there you go. If you can find the issue, pick it up.

Don't forget to comment on the post or subscribe to the blog. And be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the cross over! Happy Halloween!!!

1 comment:

  1. Swell write-up, but everything I read confirms the prejudices that keep me from reading Post-Crisis Ragman stories. When I was introduced to the character, what resonated with me was the traumas that haunted Rory Regan and his motivation to defend the slums without any special powers, hence RAG man. Once he becomes Cloak/Moon Knight, and his identity hinges on Jewish mysticism, it's an entirely different premise. I'd be fine if this was a new guy credited to Keith Giffen, but the liberties taken with a creation of Kanigher and Kubert that is so far afield of their intent offends me.