This article contains Peacemaker spoilers.
Auggie Smith’s menacing racism somehow gets taken to the next level pays off in Peacemaker episode 7, as Chris’s terrible dad re-dons his White Dragon costume and gets to work. But…the White Dragon of Peacemaker is fairly different from the White Dragon in the comics. And for that matter, so is Peacemaker’s father. What are we talking about? Let’s break it down.
NAZIS. I HATE THESE GUYS.
In the comics, Christopher Smith was born in Austria to an American mother, Elizabeth Lewis, and a respectable German expat businessman father, Wolfgang Schmidt. Except he wasn’t respectable at all. He was Nazi garbage, the former head of a Polish concentration camp who fled when Germany’s loss became clear. And when that information was about to become public, Schmidt took his own life rather than face punishment for his crimes. Of course, being the piece of trash that he was, Schmidt killed himself in front of his five year old son. In his SS uniform.
This caused predictable psychological problems in Christopher, turning him into a vigilante supersoldier dedicated to peace through any means, including killing a whole bunch of people.
White Dragon, on the other hand, has a long history with the Suicide Squad. Maybe longer than Peacemaker’s. While Smith didn’t become an official member of the Squad until DC’s current, Infinite Frontier era, as a member of the late ‘80s DC clandestine universe, Peacemaker and Task Force X had plenty of run-ins. Problem is, White Dragon was one of the first villains introduced in John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell’s definitive run, first appearing in Suicide Squad #4 in 1987.
William Heller posed as street-level vigilante…uh…William Hell (he’s not particularly creative). Despite his costume making him look like a white supremacist Shining Knight, Hell would bust up crimes in Central City and hold the criminals until the grateful police would arrive and finish off the arrest. Only he wasn’t holding all of the criminals – just the Black and Latino ones. The white criminals he caught, he would send to the headquarters of the local Aryan Empire group. It should be noted that the cops were mostly cool with this arrangement – when the criminals the police were arresting tried to point out that there were other people in on the robbery with them, they were summarily ignored.
Heller was an awful person, and he was exposed and brought down by the Squad. Later, he would return with a new identity and a new costume. The White Dragon first came back trying to kill the descendants of the Justice Society before himself being forced into the Suicide Squad. And like any good Suicide Squad member, he got blown up trying to rebel against Waller.
In any case, as far as we know, he didn’t have any kids…and certainly none of them were Peacemaker. But White Dragon’s inclusion here is another way that Peacemaker showrunner James Gunn has found to honor that classic run DC’s Suicide Squad comics.
The DCEU’s Peacemaker seems to be drawing a little from both sources for his backstory. Auggie Smith has a lot of William Heller in him – but between the shockingly comics-accurate costume and the very American white supremacy, Auggie has a lot of William Hell in him.
But there’s a hint of tragedy in the way Schmidt’s death in front of his son traumatized the boy that the show seems to have grafted onto Peacemaker’s dead brother, adding a layer of pathos that doesn’t really exist in the comics character.
Don’t get me wrong: comics Peacemaker is still a monumental disaster of a person, and it’s very messed up that a five year old kid would have to experience that at all, even if his father deserved it. But shifting that burden even more firmly onto Christopher and making the person who died not objectively deserve it makes the already heartily cylindrical John Cena even more three dimensional.
DISTURBING THE PEACE
There’s one other dad Peacemaker had in the comics who we should probably touch on. Comics legend Garth Ennis took a stab, with Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge, at giving Chris a fleshed out origin story. If you’ve ever read an Ennis superhero book (besides Hitman), you can probably guess how deeply screwed up Peacemaker: Disturbing the Peace is.
The book takes us from his parents’ murder-suicide, where a 10 year old Chris walks in on his folks hung and in an oven, with his siblings in the washing machine and the microwave; through his sort of kidnapping at the hands of Slinky and Skooter, the Bonnie-and-Clyde-on-oxy who kill his foster parents in a bank robbery and then become Smith’s first victims when he sics the cops on them; and then into his tenure in American Special Forces, where he takes it on himself to root out all the crooked colleagues who have the misfortune of serving with him.
Smith’s multiple father figures didn’t really factor into the dad on the show, though, as they’re more loose sketches than characters. The first one we find out about (who is later referred to as his stepfather but might just be an editing error) was apparently a disaster – constantly unfaithful, terrible with money, all of the broadly drawn bad Dad stereotypes you’d expect from an Ennis book. The second one was killed off panel by the third: Skooter, a Natural Born Killers parody who has the interiority of a sheet of paper.