DC lives and dies by its legendary stable of superheroes, each a mythical figure in their own right. But the last few years have seen DC and WarnerMedia digging deep into the DC archives to revive old heroes and give them new life. Peacemaker isn’t a name most viewers–let alone most comicbook fans–are familiar with. But the same way that Jason Momoa singlehandedly turned Aquaman from a fish-talking dork to a certified badass, John Cena might just do the same for Peacemaker when he appears first in The Suicide Squad and next in his own dedicated HBO Max series. But who the heck is Peacemaker?
Charlton Comics & Watchmen
When Peacemaker was born, it wasn’t as a DC character. The character first appeared in 1966 in Charlton Comics’ Fightin’ 5 #40. He wouldn’t join DC until the company acquired Charlton’s catalog in 1983. At first, DC had planned to let Alan Moore use Peacemaker in his Watchmen series, along with other Charlton heroes. The company decided at the last minute the characters might have marketability elsewhere and revoked the permission. Watchmen‘s Comedian, then, is based partly on Peacemaker. Similarly, Doctor Manhattan and Rorschach are based partially on Charlton’s Captain Atom and The Question, respectively. He wouldn’t appear in DC until Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 as one of the heroes of Earth-Four
While there have been a few different Peacemakers over the years, Christopher Smith is both the original Peacemaker and the one John Cena is playing in The Suicide Squad.
“Douchey Captain America”
Christopher Smith is a classic haunted hero or, as John Cena described him during DC’s FanDome event, “like a douchey Captain America.” The character began in Charlton comics as a peacekeeper who only used non-lethal weapons. When DC revamped him, though, he changed his tune, shouting out “I’m Peacemaker, and I’ll kill to keep the peace!”
The best-known incarnation of the character is born as Christopher Schmidt. He finds out later that his father was a Nazi concentration camp commandant. With The Suicide Squad taking place in the modern day, the timeline for that doesn’t really add up, but it’s not hard to imagine them swapping out a Nazi for some similarly repugnant figure. In the comics, Smith’s father commits suicide when Smith is very young, and the reality of his father’s actions will haunt him throughout his life.
Smith becomes a soldier, and commits some pretty heinous acts, eventually causing him to be tried for war crimes and then forced into an anti-terrorism project called Project Peacemaker, which eventually leads to him becoming a costumed crimefighter.
The Haunted Hero
As Peacemaker, Smith often hears the voice of his father in his head, taunting and goading him, and things only get weirder from there. Smith begins to believe that the spirits of people he’s killed are trapped inside his weird helmet, also speaking to him.
The helmet is high-tech. It contains the kinds of things we associate with Batman such as personal communications and radar, but it also houses an ultrasonic stun beam. The high-tech helmet goes along with Peacemaker’s arsenal of advanced weaponry and bulletproof body armor.
Peacemaker has shown up a few times since, through different reboots and timelines. A man named Mitchell Black took the mantle for a while, only to be killed by Prometheus in Infinite Crisis #7. Someone claiming to be Peacemaker, sans helmet, appeared in Blue Beetle. Peacemaker also appeared briefly in Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come event. He also was seen in 2019’s Doomsday Clock series fighting Doctor Manhattan on Mars.
Cena & Gunn’s Peacemaker
Information about Cena’s Peacemaker is sparse, with Gunn saying on Twitter that “Peacemaker will be live-action and action-packed. his shotgun will be single action. His favorite movie is Action Jackson.” Gunn won’t even clarify Peacemaker’s timeline, just in case the character eats it in The Suicide Squad.
We could see Gunn swapping out the Nazi background for something from the Vietnam or Cold War era, which would match Cena’s age and the time difference a bit better. With Gunn’s tease and Cena’s description of the character as “douchey Captain America,” we can’t tell yet whether or not the unreliable aspects of his perception will be part of the character. Being that he’s in The Suicide Squad, though, we’re willing to bet that he committed his share of war crimes, though.
Lovely gift from my friends at @XBox (of course it’s in the busiest time of my life, between two movies & a TV show). But perhaps I’ll find some down time as I begin my mandatory two-week quarantine here in Canada for Peacemaker. #XboxSeriesX #Xbox pic.twitter.com/ngJhCJy6Nx
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) November 8, 2020
Production on the limited series is set to begin in 2021, and Gunn is already in Canada to prepare. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is in the final stages and mostly just awaiting release at this point.