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Who the #@&! Is Peacemaker?

Who the #@&! Is Peacemaker?

By Joshua Lapin-Bertone Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Some people champion peace by promoting unity, understanding and common respect. Others do it through diplomacy and conflict resolution. And then there's Peacemaker...

What happens when you combine a strong sense of pacifism with a heavy armory? You wind up with Peacemaker, the gun-toting “hero” who loves peace so much that he’s willing to kill for it. This might sound like an unusual description for a so-called good guy, but Peacemaker isn’t your typical crimefighter, as you’re about to discover. The world’s biggest pacifist (his words, not mine) made his big screen debut this summer in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad and will be returning next week in HBO Max's much-anticipated spinoff, Peacemaker, where he’ll once again be brought to life by the iconic John Cena. It’s guaranteed to be crass and violent—you know, the way most pacifist-based shows are.

If your only exposure to Peacemaker has been through The Suicide Squad, then you might be curious about who he is and what kind of hero proudly talks about eating…cough…“a beachful of dicks.” Well, if that’s you, then read on. It’s time to meet the ‘Maker.

Comic book readers were first introduced to Peacemaker in Fightin’ 5 #40, published in 1966 by Charlton Comics. Christopher Smith was an envoy to the Geneva Arms Conference where he used his skills as a diplomat to work for world peace. Smith was constantly describing himself as a pacifist and talking about how much he loved peace—even though he kept a heavily stocked armory in his chateau.

That chateau was known as the Peace Palace, which seems like an appropriate name for a base filled with weapons. Smith’s thought balloons at the time revealed that he had sworn never to use the weapons, but it does make one wonder why he was collecting them in the first place. Maybe he was trying to take them out of circulation?

Smith’s occupation as a peace envoy put him face to face with international threats and he soon realized that the only way to protect peace was to fight for it. “I detest violence, but because of my inadequacy, thousands of innocent people may die! I must do what I have sworn never to do,” he said.

Christopher Smith donned a jumpsuit, jetpack and a special weaponized helmet (that yes, kind of looks like a silver toilet seat) and became Peacemaker. His superhero glyph was a white dove, symbolizing his pacifist nature, which sure contrasted with the weapons in his hands and on his head. His helmet could fire laser beams, but every time he fired them, he would remind readers how much he hated violence.

After appearing in two issues of Fightin’ 5, Peacemaker was given his own title which lasted for five issues…and then nothing. After his comic ended, Christopher Smith slipped into comic obscurity until the decade of glorious American excess that was the 1980’s. By then DC had acquired the rights to the Charlton Comic characters, which led to Peacemaker appearing in Crisis on Infinite Earths before getting integrated alongside his Charlton counterparts into the main DC Universe. In 1988, Peacemaker was reinvented with a four-issue limited series…and that’s where things got a bit crazy.

As we’ve mentioned several times, Peacemaker’s violent tendencies are a contradiction to his pacifist nature, so writer Paul Kupperberg leaned into that and wrote Smith as a lunatic. In this take, Peacemaker was being haunted by the ghost of his Nazi father. Wolfgang Schmidt had killed himself when Smith was a young boy and his father’s death traumatized him. How bad does it get? Peacemaker hallucinates his father’s ghostly voice criticizing his every move during his missions. Imagine having a DVD commentary of your life, only it hates everything you’re doing and is a fascist psychopath to boot. Is it any wonder that Peacemaker is a bit nuts?

Peacemaker also believed that his helmet contained the souls of everyone he had ever killed, which is kind of horrifying. Is it really safe to let somebody like this around weapons? Still, proving that there’s no depth to which she’s unwilling to sink, Amanda Waller recruited Peacemaker to join an elite covert ops group known as…the Shadow Fighters? (Maybe Waller thought Peacemaker wasn’t Task Force X material.) Waller sent the Shadow Fighters to take down Eclipso, but the villain slaughtered the entire team in 1993’s Eclipso #13. Maybe Suicide Squad would’ve been an appropriate name after all.

After dying, Peacemaker was sent to purgatory alongside other fallen DC heroes. He was briefly seen in Day of Judgement #3 where he fought alongside a group of dead and living heroes against a purgatory army before he mysteriously returned to life and spent some time as a mentor to Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle.

So, what’s he up to today? Recently, Peacemaker began working for Amanda Waller again, proving that the guy never learns from his mistakes. In 2019, Smith was given his own backup feature in Inferior Five where he went on missions for Waller as his mental state continued to deteriorate. He spent most of the story arguing with his helmet, which really makes one wonder if Waller needs to improve her vetting process. Still, he can be effective every now and then. At one point, Peacemaker used his helmet to fry KGBeast’s face off, calling the move “the vision of peace.”

Peacemaker currently appears in Suicide Squad, where he and his Task Force X teammates conduct secret missions for Amanda Waller. In other words, pretty much doing the same thing he was doing when you last saw him on screen. Christopher Smith has clearly come a long way from his Geneva roots, but the dove on his chest is a clear reminder that above all else, he’s a champion for peace—and he’ll kill every man, woman and child to protect it.

Peacemaker, from James Gunn and starring John Cena, debuts January 13 on HBO Max. Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.