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In the history of the DC Universe, the first superhero team was the Justice Society of America. And the second was the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Much like the Justice Society, the Seven Soldiers were heroes from several DC anthology comics. They were made up of Vigilante, The Crimson Avenger (his sidekick Wing was on the team, but wasn't a member proper), The Star-Spangled Kid and his adult sidekick Stripesy, Green Arrow and Speedy, and the Shining Knight. Appearing in 1941, they had a great many adventures, but eventually died fighting their greatest enemy, The Nebula Man, who was created by their arch-foe, the Iron Hand...
Or Did They?
Years later in the 1970s, during the celebration of the 100th meeting of the Justice League of America (i.e. the 100th issue), the League is summoned to Earth-Two by the JSA in order to help them combat a giant ethereal hand, created by the Iron Hand. Because of the similarities between the hand and the Nebula Man, it was concluded that the team who defeated the Nebula Man would be needed, but it was discovered that in the Soldiers' final battle, they were apparently erased from existence since no one could remember who they were. The JSA and JLA then summoned a mysterious Oracle (who would later be revealed as Aurakles, the 'first superhero') for help. The Oracle revealed that following the defeat of the Nebula Man, the eight heroes were scattered in time, although one had died in the battle. As the JSA and JLA recovered the Soldiers and helped them build a new Nebula Rod, it was revealed that the fallen hero, The Unknown Soldier of Victory, was Wing, who had to sacrifice himself to defeat the Nebula Man. Knowing that whoever used the Nebula Rod would have to die, the android hero, Red Tornado, stole the rod and used it to destroy the hand, but was destroyed in the process.
Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened. Post-Crisis, the Soldiers still existed, more or less. Because the original team were all Golden Age heroes, their history had to be changed: Green Arrow and Speedy were never on the team, Vigilante's sidekick Stuff the Chinatown Kid was officially a member and Vigilante's mentor Billy Gunn was present but was never a member, and the final member was an archer called Alias The Spider. The Spider was really a villain working with the Iron Hand and sabotaged the Nebula Rod, killed Billy Gunn and attempted to kill Wing. The Soldiers still succeeded, Wing died, the Soldiers were scattered through time (Vigilante, however, was found after he spent twenty years in the Old West).
There never was a second Seven Soldiers team, made up of Batgirl, Blackhawk, Metamorpho, Mento, Deadman, Adam Strange, and a new Shining Knight who gathered together only once.... That team only met up in an Elseworlds story. The true successors of the Seven Soldiers of Victory 'formed' much more recently, about one week before the events of Infinite Crisis.
Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers
The "Seven Soldiers" maxi-series, written by Grant Morrison, started in 2005 and ended in 2006. With two bookend issues, the bulk of the series was comprised of seven four issue miniseries, each one focusing on each one of the titular seven members. This series is notable in that none of the members of the team ever meet each other (with one exception).
The series starts with the son of the original Spider, Thomas Dalt AKA "I, Spyder", visiting Slaughter Swamp outside of Gotham City, and encountering the "Seven Unknown Men of Slaughter Swamp" who have chosen him for a certain task. Meanwhile, an about to retire Greg Saunders AKA Vigilante (who was later revealed to be finally submitting to his werewolfism) creates a new Seven Soldiers of Victory team, made up of Spyder, a new Boy Blue, Merry the Gimmick Girl (called Gimmix), Dyno-Mite Dan, and the Whip to defeat a giant spider that was supposed to have been destroyed during Saunders' tenure in the old West. The team kill the spider, but in turn are decimated by the mysterious Sheeda, lead by the Nebula Man, who have come to destroy the world in "The Harrowing".
Each of the miniseries focuses on each member:
- Zatanna: After the events of Identity Crisis came to light and an incident in which she was indirectly responsible for the deaths of several of her friends and caused the release of a mysterious shape-shifting demon, Zatanna has lost all confidence in herself. But after meeting a mysterious young girl who asks to be her apprentice, Zatanna begins to travel down a path to learn the secrets of her father's legacy and regain her resolve. However, she soon discovers that her new apprentice is not entirely what she seems...
- Shining Knight: In the age of King Arthur Dragonhead, young Sir Ystin (pronounced Justin) and the flying horse Vanguard invade the mysterious Castle Revolving belonging to the Sheeda to kill their queen and recover one of the Seven Imperishable Treasures, the Cauldron of Rebirth. In order to ensure its safety, Ystin tosses the cauldron out of the castle and escapes, but ends up in modern times due to Castle Revolving's time traveling capabilities. After coming to terms with the loss of Camelot and all of it's knights, Ystin goes forth to search for a way to end the Sheeda. Meanwhile, Vanguard, who was separated from his rider, is found by a mysterious mob boss, who is placed in a mysterious cauldron when ever he dies...
- Klarion: In the underground Puritan village of Limbo Town, lives the young Witch-Boy Klarion. After the discovery of a Sheeda rider, the elders of the village announced the sealing of the only gate to the upper "High Market", much to the frustration of Klarion who dreamed of seeing the outside world. Upon seeing the elders turning into a vile monster, Klarion escapes and eventually makes his way to the surface world of New York City. Being approached by a mysterious man named Melmoth to join a gang of childish thugs to steal a giant drill, one Klarion eventually discovers is to be used it to enslave Limbo Town...
- Manhattan Guardian: Jake Jordan is going through a rough patch in his life: he's been fired from his job as a police officer after a nervous breakdown and his fiance, Carla, holds no respect for him. After his future father-in-law points him to a job for the mysterious "Manhattan Guardian" newspaper, the paper's founder, Ed Stargard, hires Jake as their "in-house superhero". While being the Manhattan Guardian has brought Jake out of his funk, multiple tragedies occur during the job, and Jake goes to confront Stargard. Upon meeting Stargard in person for the first time, Jake is told the story of the Newsboy Legion of Nowhere Street and their encounter with the Sheeda...
- Frankenstein: The "Spawn of Frankenstein" himself. After fighting against the evil machinations of Dark Melmoth, Frankenstein (The Monster, who is shown to have taken his creator's name) goes into a deep slumber for many years. Upon an invasion of a high school by the Sheeda, Frankenstein revives to continue his work. After coming across his foe on Mars, Frankenstein discovers that Melmoth is the former Sheeda King trying to defeat his wife and that Frankenstein partially owes his existence to him. After defeating his foe in a particularly spectacular manner, Frankenstein is inducted into the mysterious agency, S.H.A.D.E. who send him on a mission to stop the Sheeda-affiliated Nebula Man...
- Bulleteer: Alix Harrower is an average woman, married to a Mad Scientist husband, Lance. Lance is attempting to create a new metallic superskin to become a superhero so he could live out his fantasy life with his wife or hook up with a superchick he met online. Unfortunately he Jumped At the Call, covering himself with his superskin, accidentally does the same to his wife, and dies in the process. Alix, who survives by a mere fluke, manages to stumble into the life of a C-list superhero while trying to deal with the husband's death and infidelity. All the while, she only really wants to be normal, but after a great deal of crushing stress in being a superhero, she decides to no longer accept her role in the greater story.
- Mister Miracle: Shilo Norman, one-time apprentice to the New God Scott Free, is doing pretty good for himself; he has achieved great fame as a master escape artist, just like his mentor. When attempting his greatest stunt yet, escaping a miniature black hole, he encounters the mysterious Metron in the event horizon, who desires to test him. Suddenly he finds himself in an alternate version of his own life, dealing with the problems of his fame while encountering people strangely similar to Kirby's New Gods... particularly one Mr. Dark Side. This series is frequently considered a Stealth Pilot for Final Crisis.
- Justice League Unlimited had a Shout-Out to the original team in the episode "Patriot Act": The Shining Knight, Vigilante, Stargirl, STRIPE, the Crimson Avenger (sans sidekick Wing), Green Arrow and Speedy are the Only Ones who can stop a General Ripper hopped up on Super Serum.
Seven Soldiers provides examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: Sort of. From THE FUTURE!
- Alliterative Name: Helen "Sky-High" Helligan
- Arc Number: In Victory, it's seven, of course. #0 even has a character note how important the number seven seems to be. It's the equivalent of Morrison smacking the reader upside the head and going "Oi! Pay attention!" The things you need to pay attention to are stuff like Zatanna's "-Anonymous" meeting. Notice how there are eight people there. The eighth is Misty.
- Author Avatar: Nobeard of the Subway Pirates who bedevil the Manhattan Guardian is unilaterally considered a rendition of Morrison himself. Nobeard's archrival Allbeard thus represents Morrison's hated enemy Alan Moore. Since Morrison is writing the story, Nobeard is the one who wins. ...Except for the subtext that Nobeard got exposed to radioactive material and got fatal cancers all in his body. But yeah, he came out of the fight alive...
- Badass: Frankenstein, to a deliberately immense extent. He has been described as "making Lobo look like Charlie Brown".
- Badass Normal: Most of the Golden Age team were simply well-trained humans with a few gimmicks. The Shining Knight, however, had a magical sword, magical armor, and a flying horse provided by Merlin. In the modern version, the Guardian follows this trope.
- As does Sky-High Helligan.
- Bifauxnen: The Shining Knight in Grant Morrison's maxi-series.
- Blessed with Suck: Bulleteer. Alix didn't want to be a superhero, her husband did. She was perfectly happy with a normal life, and after she received her powers she had to quit her job as a special needs teacher, then discovered her husband's second life and in a fit of despair tried to commit suicide by running until she hit something strong enough to kill her.
- Breakout Character: Frankenstein appeared in both Final Crisis and Blackest Night, got his own Flashpoint mini-series and has his own title coming up after the reboot, and Sir Ystin appears in Demon Knights.
- Captain Color Beard: The Subway Pirates in Manhattan Guardian - though their names are Nobeard and Allbeard, more all around descriptions.
- Cowboy: Greg Saunders was a singing cowboy in his Secret Identity.
- Boy Blue seemed to have been intentionally written along these lines, as well.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: The Guardian was sponsored by a newspaper.
- Death by Despair: The method of attack of one Sheeda weapon, a sentient ...thing... that torments it victims with painful truths much like a Harpy.
- Developing Doomed Characters: for 22 pages. Seven Soldiers #0 follows a team of fairly unlikeable Z-list heroes who all die at the end, at the hands of the newly introduced main threat. The story of the real protagonists starts after this.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The panel where Lance's smartware begins to spread to Alix and the look on her face.
- It should be noted that the artist for Bulleteer purposefully drew Alix, Sally Sonic, and every other female heroine in poses reminiscent of supermodels in just about every panel.
- Eldritch Abomination: Nebula Man, for starters. The flesh-eating Martian mantis-horses, and many of the Sheeda's 'pets', also probably count.
- Fable Remake: Misty Kilgore's backstory is a retelling of the "Snow White" tale.
- The Fair Folk: The Sheeda were stated to be based on, and In-Universe source of the stories about, the Unseelie Court.
- Familiar: Teekl and the other draaga of Limbo Town act as these to their owners.
- Fan Service: Zatanna goes through a few of her old costumes in Victory, all of which are sexy. She says she "likes to look good".
- Fetish: Bulleteer's husband, in-canon, had a superhero fetish. It turns out that he wasn't exactly unique...
- Genre Savvy: The Sheeda Queen deliberately attempts to kill any superhero team with seven members. The only reason she doesn't do it to the 'right' Seven Soldiers is that the soldiers never actually meet and form a team.
- God Save Us From the Queen: Gloriana Tenebrae, The Queen of Terror, is right up there among Morrison's biggest monsters, and very scary indeed.
- Growing Up Sucks: The absolutely horrible fate of the Newsboy Legion, see Tear Jerker.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Golden Age team has the distinction of being one of the very few superhero teams deliberately assembled by a villain! The Hand, believing he was dying, recruited five criminals (his "fingers") to pull off spectacular thefts he'd planned. And just to show off how perfect his plans were, the Hand sent invitations to five mystery men and their sidekicks to futilely try to stop the crimes. You can guess how it worked out.
- What's even more hilarious in hindsight is that the Hand lived to a ripe old age (till a week before Infinite Crisis in The Bulleteer) and he was killed by Greg Saunders (Vigilante) who was, of course, one of the heroes he had summoned.
- Hot Amazon: Alix Harrower.
- Horrible Judge of Character: The first team let the archer, Alias The Spider on their team (Post-Crisis). Now, Spider was a villain who tried to kill the team (he nearly succeeded too) and managed to get away with his "heroic" reputation intact. Now to be fair, no one knew Spider was evil until he struck and this info couldn't be shared since the Soldiers were either lost in time or dead. He even tricked the Jay Garrick Flash and the Shade until he made his move, but that time he didn't get away.
- The Greg Saunders team in the newer maxi-series did this too; hell they hired I, Spyder, the son of the original! Sheeda Queen Gloriana made the same mistake. Not to mention the "new" Little Boy Blue who summoned the Sheeda to decimate the team...
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: A standard aspect of Morrison's stories but this is probably the best and most deliberate example besides The Invisibles.
- Knight in Shining Armor: The Shining Knights, of course.
- Legacy Character: Bulleteer (based on Bulletman and Bulletgirl), the Manhattan Guardian (based on Guardian and the Newsboy Legion) and Mr Miracle. Shining Knight is an odd case (she's from before the original) and it's not clear if Klarion is meant to be the same character as the 1970s Klarion or what. And all of the Vigilante's ill-fated team.
- Spin Offspring: The short lived incarnation of the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers #0 included the Whip III, granddaughter of the Whip II (a New Old West Zorro wannabe) and great-great-granddaughter of the Whip I (an Old West Zorro wannabe); I, Spyder, son of the original 7SoV member (and traitor) Alias the Spider; and Gimmix, daughter of Merry the Gimmick Girl and, therefore, niece of the first Star-Spangled Kid, who was also an original 7SoV member. In Seven Soldiers #1, the Bulleteer turns out to be directly descended from Aurakles, the world's first superhero.
- Klarion is intended to be the same character as from The Demon comics, though from an earlier point on the timeline. After conquering the Sheeda, he uses Castle Revolving to go back in time to the 70s comics.
- Legion of Doom: Possibly the origin story had the first comics Legion of Doom, called 'the Hand's Five Fingers' and made up of five foes of Soldiers members using plans given by the Hand.
- Let's Split Up, Gang!:
- The formula for the Leading Comics stories goes as follows:
- The first chapter (of seven) features everyone together and sets up the overall story;
- The next five chapters feature an individual member of the team going through his side of the story (Speedy, Stripesy and Wing, all being sidekicks, are paired up with Green Arrow, the Star-Spangled Kid and the Crimson Avenger);
- The final chapter unites the team for the finale.
- The Grant Morrison series was simply the Leading Comics formula, but on a grander, more epic scale.
- The formula for the Leading Comics stories goes as follows:
- Mind Screw: The Morrison version, as to be expected.
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Bride
- Necromancer: All of the residents of Limbo Town use necromancy as a way to survive, which makes controling Frankenstein an easy task for Klarion.
- No Periods, Period: Averted as Sheeda Queen Glorianna discovers Justin's gender by smelling "the blood of the womb."
- Of Corsets Sexy: Zatanna
- Painting the Fourth Wall: There's a sequence in Victory where Zatanna and a few friends go through another dimension, and the scenery shifts to compensate. The panels become cubes, for starters, and--it's remarkably difficult to describe.
- During Zatanna's fight with Zorr, he eventually starts ripping apart other panels, and Zatanna defeats him by falling through the empty space on the page so she can beat him to the future. Immediately following that, she tries to reach out of the comic itself, through a window to the Seven Unknown Men bordered with gears, typewriter heads, and colored ink.
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: The Subway Pirates
- Shout-Out: Bulleteer's fight with Sally Sonic involved the two beating each other with Alix's refrigerator. The entire Bulleteer miniseries seemed to be a nod towards Women in Refrigerators, as Alix is a woman whose entire life has become one tragic mistake because of her husband, same said for Sally Sonic.
- Spiritual Successor: Has one in Demon Knights, which amongst other things reintroduces the cyclic nature of Camelot, as well as the Seven Soldiers version of Shining Knight fighting with six other bad-asses to stop someone from misusing a grail. Sound familiar?
- Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Morrison's Seven Soldiers has a rather unique solution to famous 16th-century mystery of the missing colony of Roanoke Island.
- Stocking Filler: Zatanna
- Take That:
- Zachary Zor might be this to Alan Moore. He takes Zatanna and turns her into a similar, but Darker and Edgier character with a different name and consistently talks about his beard.
Zor: It's a magnificent beard and you know you want one!
- Alternatively, Zor could represent the readers themselves, as we often see events from his visual perspective (and we, like him, are always on the outside looking in) and one of the Seven Unknown Men comments on how he bet Zor didn't think he could bleed. This could apply to the READER not knowing he could bleed in a comic.
- At one point in the Grant Morrison series, Frankenstein says that "madmen have said that the meek shall inherit the earth". Guess where that saying originally came from?
- Time Abyss: The Nebula Man is three billion years old. The Sheeda may or may not count, but Aurakles is certainly another.
- Trauma Conga Line: See Bulleteer.
- Warrior Poet: Frankenstein can lengthily quote Milton or The Bible even - or especially - in the middle of combat.
- Whip It Good: Victory's Legacy Character The Whip (3). She even has a sexy, impractical costume.
- She actually lampshades this, calling herself a superhero fetishist.
- Witch Species: Klarion along with all the other residents of Limbo Town due to being of Sheeda descendant.
- You Fight Like a Cow: "You have a stupid hat!"
- Zerg Rush: Frankenstein at one point has to fight off a huge horde of vicious, chemically-maddened woodland critters.