When you talk about The Midnighter, it’s easy to buy into the Batman comparison wholeheartedly. His and his husband, Apollo, were introduced in the pages of Stormwatch as one more set in a long line of Batman and Superman facsimiles. It has been almost two decades since he first appeared in Stormwatch #4 though. In the interim Midnighter has evolved into being one of the most fascinating characters at DC Comics and, since the launch of the New 52, within the DC Universe proper.
While his debut in the most recent iteration of Stormwatch was unheralded, Midnighter appears to have found his niche within the publisher in the past couple of years. Both in the pages of Grayson and his own, self-named series he has cultivated a devoted fan following. That’s why he is back once again in the newly launched mini-series Midnighter and Apollo written by Steve Orlando and drawn by Fernando Blanco. The first issue features just about everything you could want from a superhero comic with some killer action sequences, passionate romance, and subway pirates a’plenty.
And yet the Batman comparison persists. In a world where Batman flies around the world with the Justice League, what need is there for another surly individual dressed entirely in black and capable of kicking butts ad infinitum? Well, the truth is there’s a great deal of need for it, especially in the form of Midnighter and here’s why that is...
The Midnighter is Batman Minus Angst
Rather than ignore the Batman comparison, let’s address it before anything else. These two characters do have a lot in common: manner of dress, fighting ability, bad attitude. However, while all of those affectations are obvious and recognizable, they don’t actually form the core of either character. When you compare what makes these two crime-fighting individuals tick, you notice they have much less in common than you might expect.
For starters Midnighter is not bound up in tragedy in the same way Batman is. It’s difficult to discuss Batman without mentioning his origin. His family name, his wealth, his choice to become a superhero, and even the symbol he chooses are all wrapped up in his heartbreaking origin. From the pearls hitting the ground to a bat crashing through the window, it’s this sadness that defines Batman in many ways.
Midnighter doesn’t have the weight placed on him. While his earliest days are far from perfect, his pursuit of justice isn’t rooted in any one terrible act. He is not bound to a family name or city in the same way as his counterpart. Rather than an obsession, crime fighting is a job or passion to Midnighter. This allows him to have a lot more fun doing what he does, and does he ever. Cracking skulls and overcoming incredible odds isn’t something he does with grim determination, it’s something he does with a smile and wisecracks. It’s no wonder that Midnighter plays off Dick Grayson so well, because both of these vigilantes genuinely love what they do.
Nobody Fights Like The Midnighter
While there are comparable characters in superhero comics, there’s nobody quite like Midnighter hitting the streets these days. You might point there are plenty of martial artists (e.g. Lady Shiva), brawlers (e.g. Wildcat), and all-around combat experts (e.g. Batman, again), but that would be missing the point. Midnighter isn’t just great in a fight, he’s the absolute best at being in a fight. His enhanced brain allows him to perceive every possible response and outcome to any scenario and plan accordingly. Before an enemy can throw a punch or pull a gun, he knows it’s coming.
That’s an important distinction because in the hands of a talented creative team it allows for some wonderful storytelling. When you look at the most recent Midnighter series written by Steve Orlando and drawn by ACO, there are some truly incredible fight sequences. The flow between each action as he battles a herd of Multiplexes or the equally well-programmed Prometheus is always impressive. It’s not just about looking cool either. In Midnighter #7 of his first ongoing series, Midnighter engaged in a story that was told backward page-by-page. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Darick Robertson, this astounding issue showed off how his powers could be translated into unique stories as well as cool fights.
There are a lot of superpowers on display at DC Comics, but not all lend themselves so naturally to storytelling in comics. Both the violence and cognitive nature of Midnighter’s powers enhance the stories he is in and make them more visually compelling. That’s not something to be taken lightly. It makes action more exciting and creates great opportunities for every comic Midnighter is featured in.
He’s One of the Most Notable Queer Characters in Superhero Comics
While superhero comics have made big strides in looking more like the world that reads them in recent years, there’s still a long ways to go. Midnighter is one the biggest successes in the genre and medium in presenting a popular queer character. That success is founded both in his massive popularity specifically among queer readers and within superhero fandom as a whole. No matter who people love, readers of both Midnighter and Grayson have embraced this one particular character as being one of the coolest and toughest guys in the entire DC Universe.
In addition to being an example of representation, Midnighter is a great example of representation. He understands his sexuality and embraces it. The first arc of his newest series features a subplot in which the character actively pursues dating with more confidence than just about anybody on planet Earth. For most of his career he has been associated with his husband Apollo though, and together they represent one of the healthiest and most sex-positive relationships in all of superhero comics today.
Whether you identify as queer or are seeking to understand other’s experiences and lives, Midnighter provides an entertaining and positive perspective. He is not just notable for having a husband, but for being a caring and loving partner. This is a character that all of us in relationships could afford to learn a thing or two from, truthfully.
Why We Need Midnighter
Now consider all of those reasons together: Midnighter is a fun spin on Batman with one of the coolest superpowers in comics and who provides great representation for the queer comics community. Any segment of that sentence would be an argument for keeping this character at the forefront of DC Comics publishing line, but together it’s an undeniable home run. The truth is that if you’re a fan of superheroes, love great comics stories, need someone who resembles you in your favorite stories, or any blend of those three then Midnighter is for you.
In the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to have something of a Midnighter renaissance. His guest appearances in Grayson led to one of the breakout series of the DCYou initiative. Now we have been blessed to receive Midnighter and Apollo, one of the best new series of DC Rebirth (what other comic has subway pirates?). So if you’re looking for a superhero recommendation, then look no further. Midnighter is all the caped crusader any of us could hope to handle.