Minorities in cartoons: Pied Piper

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is longtime DC Comics villain-turned-good guy, the Pied Piper (real name Hartley Rathaway, alias Thomas Peterson). Piper‘s first appearance was in “The Flash” (vol. 1) #106 in May 1959. Hartley was created by writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino.

Background

Hartley’s backstory states he was born deaf, but was cured of his deafness through the efforts/funds of his wealthy father. Becoming fascinated by the world of sound, Hartley began learning all he could about sound, and eventually developed sonic technology that allowed him to create various sound-based attacks, including hypnotism. Bored with his lavish lifestyle, Hartley decided to assume the nom de guerre of “the Pied Piper,” and became one of the classic Flash rogues, frequently battling the second Flash, Barry Allen.

After Barry’s death in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Piper retired from a life of crime and reformed, eventually becoming a close friend of Wally West, the third Flash. Piper would assist West on various occasions with his technological skills and former experiences as a Flash villain.

Piper also came out as openly gay, something new for mainstream superhero comics of the late 80s. The Comics Code had recently lifted its draconian standards on depictions of homosexuality. Eventually, Piper entered into a long-term relationship.

The 2000s books (especially after writer Mark Waid left his lengthy “Flash” run) seemed to (unfortunately) try to force Piper back into his old rogue role (framing him for crimes he didn’t commit, etc.). However, Wally still considered him a friend. There was also some attempt to imply Piper held the long-sought-after-by-Darkseid key to the Anti-Life Equation.

Piper was revamped in the 2011 New 52 reboot. DC’s new continuity features Piper as a close friend of Barry Allen, with Piper now a “reformed vigilante” who’s the conductor of the Central City Orchestra. Piper’s boyfriend in the New 52 is Barry’s superior at the Central City Police Department.

Other media

Piper appeared in “Justice League Unlimited” and in “DC Universe Online.”

He’s also appeared in the live-action 2010s “Flash” series. Actor Andy Mientus plays Hartley.

While a coincidence, Piper was born during LGBT Pride Month. According to the 1976 DC Comics calendar, his birthday’s on June 22.

(Updated 11/18/16)

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