'Heroes in Crisis' #5 Reveals Another Surprising Death From Sanctuary

Last week's Heroes in Crisis #5 revealed another hero who died during the massacre at Sanctuary -- although this one was significantly less famous than standouts like Wally West and Roy Harper.

Appearing in one of the "confession-to-camera" pages that writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann use for framing devices, The Protector reveals his darkest secret: that while he was living out his superhero fantasies as an anti-drug enforcer, he was secretly into drugs.

If you do not remember The Protector, you can be forgiven: the character has only appeared in a few comics.

His real name is Jason Hart, and he first appeared in New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special #1 in 1983. He was a normal high school student, until his cousin became a drug addict; Jason then donned a costume and became The Protector, first in order to try to lecture his cousin into going straight and later by going toe-to-toe with the drug dealers.

After that, Nightwing made him an honorary member of the Titans and trained him in hand-to-hand combat. Overall, Hart would appear less than a half-dozen times before turning up in Heroes in Crisis, only to die.

So...why even make up a character for a done-in-one (although it did have sequels later) PSA comic? That's a good question.

As detailed in an episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, the anti-drug comic was sponsored by Keebler. That meant that when Marv Wolfman and George Perez turned in a comic featuring Robin, who was a member of the Titans at the time, that turned out to be unexpectedly problematic.

You see, while Robin is a key part of the Titans franchise, he is really more closely associated with Batman in the public imagination. That means that Batman's licensing deals often include ancillary characters like Batgirl and Robin, and at the time of the Keebler giveaway, there was apparently a tie-in going on between Batman and Nabisco. This meant Robin had to be removed and redrawn from the whole book, because Nabisco was not willing to allow one of their competitors to use a character they had licensed. Enter The Protector, who basically just took Robin's place in the comic.

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Given his low profile, it is surprising to see The Protector turn up at all, and both surprising and unfortunate to see the way his story ended.

Booster Gold and Harley Quinn will get back to solving the mystery of The Protector's murder in Heroes in Crisis #6 on February 27.