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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!

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Everything We Know About the Earth-13 RAGMAN - PART TWO of TWO!

Did the first entry into this short series pique your curiosity at all? Well good because we're back ALREADY with the most significant info dump yet on the Ragman from the 'League of Shadows' of Earth-13!

Oddly enough the information comes from a blink-and-you-miss-it holiday special released in 2021. Holiday specials are interesting publications in comics. They're almost always oversized anthology issues that garner varying degrees of interest from the comics community. We get them around Valentines Day, Halloween, Christmas, etc and the sales can vary wildly. Sometimes they sell based on cover art, sometimes on creative teams, and sometimes simply based on the characters chosen to be featured. Especially if one of the stories launches a new series or features a beloved character with a devoted fanbase that hasn't had the spotlight in awhile.

The 2021 'DC's Very Merry Multiverse Special' was most definitely an assortment of characters that could have escaped the notice of many regular comic buyers. There were the usual bait characters: a Harley story and a Batman story. But then we had Teen Justice, President Superman, Batman Beyond, The Injustice League of Unamerica, Booster Gold, Prez, and Lobo (and of course the League of Shadows story we're recapping here today).

Creator wise the rabid fan appeal wasn't all there, at least for those who primarily only follow trending creators. The Lobo story was written by DC powerhouse Tom King with art by Scott Koblish, which most certainly would have attracted some, but the rest hadn't yet attracted the same attention (though most of them certainly should). That being said our story of the League of Shadows featured a name not unfamiliar for Ragman fans, writer Sholly Fisch.

If you're paying attention, Sholly wrote the only other Ragman holiday story ever told in 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold #14' which is based on the popular animated series of the same name (I reviewed that issue back in 2015 here if you wish to read that). Sholly is actually a huge Ragman fan himself as he told me when I had the pleasure of interviewing him awhile back. So it's perhaps kismet that Sholly was tapped to give us the origin of the latest individual to wear rags in the multiverse in yet another holiday story, this time with art by Vanesa Del Rey, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Ferran Delgado.

Our story, titled NIGHT OF THE MAGI opens on the holiday of Saturnalia in progress on Earth-13. Ragman and the League of Shadows are engaged in what seems to be an annual bought of ritualistic combat against one another, fueled by the Lord of Misrule and Mother Destruction. The League is pitted against one another, seemingly as aware of the strings pulling them as they are of their puppeteers, and are none too happy with this tiresome tradition, though seemingly unable to do anything overtly to prevent it. While engaged in unwilling combat with his peers, Ragman's mind drifts back to ancient Egypt.

There we've met a Hebrew slave named Ya'akov who slips away from servitude as well as family to become another man entirely, passing himself off as an Egyptian named Amun. Time passes and Amun is now among his former persecuters, passing as one of them in Egyptian clothing, forcing the Hebrew slaves to toil beneath him to maintain his new identity. A slave recognizes him and in Hebrew calls out to him...the man he recognizes as his own son.

Back in the "present" the League struggles to stay alive as they unwillingly fight one another. But the Lord of Misrules spell cannot be broken as all must obey during Saturnalia. However Ragman claims he his Jewish and therefore under no such rules as he makes his move toward the Lord of Misrule. When suddenly Mother Destruction strikes at him claiming that he is now "also dead!" To which he retorts, "Yes, I am. For LONGER than you know." And we get another flashback...

Amun/Ya'akov gets to serve the Pharaoh as he so desperately wanted, but in the vein of "be careful what you wish for" as he was killed and mummified to accompany the decently deceased Pharaoh into the afterlife. But coming face to face with the Egyptian Gods of Osiris and Anubis he finds himself turned away from a holy afterlife. Instead punished to walk the Earth, abandoned by Heaven, forced to serve others. "You shall walk the Earth for eons, bearing the weight of your transgressions in the wrappings you wear. Defending those who have no defenders. Delivering retribution to the unholy, until the day your merits outweigh your sins and you earn your final reward."

Back in the present a portal to hell looses fire and tentacles onto the Lord of Misrule and Mother Destruction as the League now stands victorious. As they leave the embers of the fire remaining once the portal is closed, Enchantress asks after the wellbeing of Ragman whom replys, "It is said that saving a single life is akin to saving an entire world. In my youthful indifference, how many worlds did I destroy so long ago? With the lives I saved tonight another bandage dissolves and with it the burden of the sin it represents. Yet so many more remain. Perhaps the New Year that beckons on the horizon will be the one that strikes the balance and brings my journey to its end." And there our story ends.

And so we have learned MUCH more about the Ragman of Earth-13 than we have in any other appearance. Ragman is not modern Rory Regan, descendant of a family of Jewish lineage, protector of the downtrodden wearing a family relic of a suit of Rags cast into being by Rabbi capable of absorbing the souls of evildoers. But instead Ragman is one of the original Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, Ya'akov Ben Shimon who abandoned his people and his family in his own self interest, content with ruling over them instead. Murdered and buried beside a dead pharaoh and judged not by his own God but by the gods of Egypt to walk the Earth until he makes up for the misery he caused. The Rags he wears are the wraps he was mummified in, each now a sin to "work off" as we see flashbacks of him saving slaves from their captors all the way to taking on Nazi's.

Oddly enough his story mirrors more of that of the Phantom Stranger in the New 52 than it does Ragman of Earth-1. The Phantom Stranger in the New 52, as written by Dan DiDio, was revealed not to be a nameless stranger but instead Judas Iscariot, former disciple of Jesus Christ, who betrayed Jesus to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver. Standing in judgement before the council of wizards, Judas becomes the Phantom Stranger, his thirty pieces of silver now wrapped around him in a necklace, only to fall off one by one as he wanders in service to a higher calling. Given my fondness of the Phantom Stranger, I found it comforting to see some of his more recent core concepts adapted into the alternate version of another favorite character, Ragman.

So there you have it everyone! Everything we know of Ya'akov Ben Shimon, the Ragman of Earth-13! For now...

What do you think?! Let me know in the comments below!

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