When the Justice League was funny, it was supposed to be tied to the United Nations. That meant it actually had to have some foreign members instead of the usual collection of Americans. Oh yeah, some of those Americans were aliens, and Aquaman probably had duel citizenship with Atlantis at the time, but when the closest you can come to a foreign member is Wonder Woman from Paradise Island, then you need to try a little harder and maybe pull out a good guy from a real country instead of a fictional one.
So, yeah, we got ourselves a Russian hero in Rocket Red.
For starters, there was no Rocket Red per se. The idea was the Soviet government basically wanted an army of Iron Man types to be its own personal superhuman military squad. The armor was designed and built and given to a group of men collectively known as the Rocket Red Brigade.
I think that sounds familiar…oh yeah. Marvel called that character the Crimson Dynamo and let him try and slap Iron Man around from time to time.
So, there’s been a few Rocket Reds flying around. One turned out to be a Manhunter robot. The one in the New 52 was a revamped one that was still a hardcore Commie. The Rocket Red battle suits are occasionally used as weapons for different purposes in the DC Universe. The original suits themselves, designed in part by the Green Lantern Kilowog between ring-wearing gigs, allowed the wearer to fly, shoot energy, be more or less invulnerable, and have great strength. You know, the usual.
For my purpose, we can focus on the best known of the Rocket Reds and go with Rocket Red #4, Dmitri Pushkin.
Dmitri was, basically, a good family man and a humble human being. When the JLA went to JLI to get UN approval, they had to add a couple members from the two big superpowers at the time. The United States got Captain Atom on the team, while the Soviets sent Dmitri. And it turned out Dmitri knew the League since during an early mission the League had come to Soviet Russia, got in a scuffle with the Rocket Red Brigade, and Black Canary had kicked one of his front teeth out.
Dmitri, being the guy he was, actually didn’t mind that so much, saying his wife liked the gap and he was just glad to make some new friends. Because, seriously, that was the kind of guy he was. He wasn’t a show-off. He wasn’t there for the greater glory of Mother Russia. He had a wife and two kids he adored and was basically a good family man whose job happened to be Communist Iron Man.
As a member of the League, albeit one who had a lot of trouble speaking English, Dmitri started off in the American branch before being transferred to the European one. He lost his original armor on Apokalips, but then got a niftier, newer version from that hellhole planet. The various pictures with this article are of the Apokaliptan version that must have been reverse engineered, since soon the other Rocket Reds were wearing them as well.
Much like other characters added to the League during this period, Dmitri wasn’t served very well when the humor period ended. If he popped up at all, it was either as a generic hero, or he was being brainwashed.
That said, he went out like a hero. During the lead up to the Infinite Crisis storyline, one of the mini-series involved was The OMAC Project. The concept here was that Batman, paranoid about superheroes going rogue, invented the Brother Eye supercomputer to keep an eye on things. Brother Eye was acquired by anti-metahuman billionaire Max Lord (himself a metahuman, so I’m guessing his main superpower was self-hating), who used Brother Eye to create OMACs, sleeper cells of people who would get nano tech to take over their minds and bodies and make them fast-adapting mindless warriors whose sole purpose was to find and kill super humans. The worst part was people who were OMACs didn’t even know they were OMACs.
Booster Gold had jumped into action early to find and stop Max Lord and gathered up as many of his old Justice League allies as he could, namely Martian Manhunter, Guy Gardner, Fire, Mary Marvel, and Metamorpho. Part of the point of the mini-series seemed to be to show the old humor League was filled with highly competent heroes, and they started off fine…until the OMACs adapted.
Where was this taking place? Russia. Who stopped the three OMACs? Dmitri did. How? He got them close and caused his suit’s power core to overload, killing himself and the three OMACs present. His last words were to tell his wife and children that he loved them very much.
On the one hand, that seems like a waste of a decent character, someone who could have been of better use if anyone had cared to try. On the other hand, that was actually a good way for that guy to die. Dmitri never cared about anything more than the well-being of others, and he loved his family. He would have sacrificed himself to save the others, and he would have made his family his last thoughts. I actually really liked the character, but felt the death oddly appropriate. There was no glory. There was only duty.