DC Comics loves a good legacy hero. What better way to explain how the same superhero name has been used by different people? Names are passed along like Grandma’s most worthless paperweight that no one really wants and no one is willing to throw away either. And while some hero names are famous for this, with many Flashes and Green Lanterns, even obscure heroes are sometimes legacy heroes.
That would be where Ragman comes into play.
Ragman started off as Rory Regan, a Vietnam vet living in Gotham City. This was back in the days where, basically, lesser heroes would usually be found working out of Gotham or Metropolis rather than get a city of their own, and also to let readers think Batman or Superman might show up. Usually they didn’t.
Anyway, Rory was working with his old dad out of a place called Rags’n’Tatters. Rory’s dad and some buddies found two million in cash one day, and rather than get suspicious and alert the police, they decided to leave it for Rory. I guess the other two guys didn’t have kids of their own. Anyway, it turned out the money was from an armored car heist, and the crooks showed up and tortured the old men with electricity that somehow gave off a collective shock into Rory, granting him the strength of the dead men. Now, with the sort of strength and agility normally reserved for circus performers, Rory put together a costume made of multi-colored rags and so, Ragman, the “Tatterdemalion of Justice,” was born.
I have no idea what a Tatterdemalion is.
He was also Irish, as stated in a letter column.
Now, that was pre-Crisis. Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, he was more or less a throw-away character from the 70s. Post-Crisis, they made him a legacy hero, a very old legacy.
And now he was Jewish.
Ragman, still Rory Regan, was now a mystical hero of the Jewish people. Only now, he also had a bunch of magical powers. The rags in his suit were composed of the souls of evil people. Ragman could channel power from them for added strength and self-protection, as well as knowledge possessed by the souls in question. The cape could be used as a weapon. He could also teleport after a fashion by letting the rags separate and fly off, reforming with him inside in another location. Ragman was the ancient protector of the Jews, and the souls in his rags could work off their sins to earn their way into heaven instead of hell. The rags, you see, were a form of penance for wrong-doing. Individuals who may have even partially paid for crimes they committed could not be absorbed by the rags. Oh well.
I find that part about penance interesting since Jews don’t really believe in hell last time I checked.
So, Ragman would suck up the souls of the evil and add them to his suit.
The Ragman legacy was supposed to be an old one. There were Ragmans (Ragmen?) going back centuries, all basically charged with protecting the Jewish people. His archenemy was a very old Golem someone made as a replacement when there wasn’t a Ragman, and the Golem apparently didn’t work out so well.
The Rory Regan Ragman mostly bounces around the DCU. He did join a super team, the Shadowpack, whose whole membership probably could be used in this column. There he made good friends with characters like Blue Devil.
Sometimes writers even remember he’s from Gotham City and stick him in a Batman comic.
Ragman is one of those auxiliary magical heroes that get called up when magical heroes are needed, or just some guy to knock some heads. Unlike other magical heroes, his powers are a lot better defined than, say, Madame Xanadu’s. But he’s also unlikely to get a solo series or anything along those lines, and there are always other more recognizable mystical heroes, like Madame Xanadu, that can be tossed out when a group of them is needed. But hey, at least he’s no longer some guy who got the strength of three old men after a bad electric shock. That’s dumb even by Silver Age standards.