Stargirl pays homage to DC's weirdest, forgotten superhero team
Stargirl is doing what even the DCEU isn't bold enough to do: Pay homage to the pulpiest of pulp heroes that originated the medium.
"We called ourselves the Seven Soldiers of Victory."
"There were eight of you, Pat."
"Yeah, we always argued about the name."
I could end this week's recap of Stargirl right there. Because while there is a lot of plot movement with Brainwave's son unlocking his father's psychic powers, it's the beginning of Stargirl's ninth episode, aptly titled "Brainwave" that is noteworthy in its loving tribute to the really old days of the DC Universe. The moment further cements Geoff Johns' ambition to spotlight the more obscure heroes of the DCU, which is the very thing that makes Stargirl so unique and special.
Warning: Spoilers for Stargirl Episode 09, "Brainwave" ahead.
Last week on Stargirl, Shiv (Meg DeLacy) failed to kill Stargirl (Brec Bassinger) when they were interrupted by Henry Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), who is only just getting a hold of his psychic powers inherited from his father. Shiv's disappointed father, the Dragon King (Nelson Lee) imprisons her as punishment, which leaves her out of commission for the foreseeable future.
That's a good thing, because now it's time for Henry Jr.'s story to finally get somewhere. After weeks of Henry Jr. moping at his father's hospital bed, Henry Jr. discovers his father's old video diaries that chronicled his handling of his psychic and telekinetic powers. In a very fun montage set to Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Membrane" (a throwback for any aging millennial), Henry Jr. graduates to possibly succeed his father as the new Brainwave — until his father wakes up.
Elsewhere, after a very tense dinner set up by Courtney's mom and her boss, who happens to be the ISA villain Icicle (played by Neil Jackson) the episode ends with Courtney's mother finally discovering her daughter's secret identity. It's a cliffhanger teaser that Stargirl will address next episode, but for now, there's no way of explaining the existence of a sentient cosmic staff without saying, "Yeah mom, I'm a superhero."
That's the plot stuff Stargirl takes care of this week. A fun Easter egg is the reveal of a superhero team that predated the Justice Society of America in the canon of Stargirl: The Seven Soldiers of Victory. Imagined as a B-team of superheroes who fought crime before the JSA, Pat (Luke Wilson) tells Courtney all about his and Starman's membership with the Seven Soldiers.
"Sylvester and I were part of a team when we fought Dr. Ito," Pat tells Courtney in their basement. "This was before we joined the JSA."
As Pat explains to Courtney, the Seven Soldiers of Victory were a ragtag team of superheroes that, to Courtney's 21st-century eyes, look like a bunch of bad Halloween costumes. Robin Hood, a cowboy, a knight — just who are these guys?
Meet the Seven Soldiers of Victory
In real life, the Seven Soldiers of Victory were a team of superheroes made up of DC's less popular characters, all of whom appeared in DC's anthology comics like Detective Comics and Action Comics. They first appeared together in 1941, in the first issue of Leading Comics by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin. (That's how old this team is, they were created by guys named Mort.)
Unique to the Seven Soldiers was that, aside from the Shining Knight — a time-displaced medieval knight with a mystical sword, who may have already appeared in Stargirl — the Seven Soldiers were non-powered vigilantes who relied on specialized training and weapons to fight crime. And yes, there were eight of them. The Crimson Avenger's sidekick Wing was never made an official member but frequently took part in their adventures.
Pat doesn't name every member of the Seven Soldiers, but based on the photograph and knowledge of DC Comics history, we can identify the entire team roster:
- Green Arrow (which confirms an Oliver Queen has existed in Earth-2)
- The Crimson Avenger (named by Pat)
- Wing (named by Pat too)
- The Vigilante ("You had a cowboy?")
- The Shining Knight
- Starman (or at least, a younger version of him)
- Stripesy (Pat Dugan himself)
Obviously the Seven Soldiers never made it past being obscure comic book trivia. The team was heavily eclipsed by the Justice Society, the team that debuted alongside the Seven Soldiers. They had sporadic appearances over the years, but it was in 2005 that the concept returned under the direction of Grant Morrison in a limited series. His series, Seven Soldiers, saw the return of some original members, like Vigilante and Shining Knight, and newcomers like Zatanna and Mister Miracle, as the heroes teamed up against the villainous aliens, Sheeda.
That Stargirl is paying tribute to the Seven Soldiers is just one more example of the show celebrating the more obscure corners of the DCU. As Johns told Inverse, "Our goal is to present characters that don't get a lot of love and present them at the top of the food chain. The JSA and Golden Age of DC is so ripe for exploration. Stargirl is a great doorway into that untapped universe."
Is the janitor the Shining Knight?
Throughout Stargirl, one minor character who has been hinted to be more important than he seems is Justin the Janitor, a quiet middle-aged man with a strong Celtic accent. After coming to Stargirl's rescue with a medieval sword a few weeks ago in the homecoming battle against Shiv, Stargirl again teases there is more to Justin than being a lonesome school custodian.
It also happens that the Shining Knight, who debuted in DC Comics in September 1941's Adventure Comics, is also named Sir Justin, a rookie in King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Indeed, it seems Stargirl isn't done with the Seven Soldiers of Victory just yet.
Stargirl streams Sunday nights on DC Universe and at 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.
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