DC Histories: Vibe

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about Paco Ramone, the short lived hero known as Vibe.

From Who's Who: Update '87 #5 (1987)

From Who’s Who: Update ’87 #5 (1987)

The Justice League was in a sad state in 1984. After a battle in which several core JLA members didn’t show up, Aquaman decided to dissolve the League, claiming that anyone who couldn’t devote their full attention to the League didn’t deserve to be a member of it. He then reincorporated the Justice League in the heart of urban Detroit, a drastic change from the League’s previous headquarters in a satellite high in Earth’s orbit. The idea was that this new League would be closer to the people. It would be more focused on community activism and less on world crises. Towards that end, the new Justice League of America was made up of veterans Aquaman, Zatanna, Elongated Man, and the Martian Manhunter alongside relative newcomer Vixen. Also in the mix were the brand new characters of Steel (not the John Henry Irons version), Gypsy, and Vibe.

Paco Ramone was a Puerto Rican-American native of Detroit. The leader of a gang named El Lobos, Paco was also a metahuman. He had the natural ability of sending out vibrations from his body. These shock waves shook his targets, causing them to become confused and could even lift them off their feet if focused correctly. Paco used these abilities and his gang to keep his neighborhood safe. He earned the nickname “Vibe” thanks to his powers.

Justice League of America Annual (Vol. 1) #2 (1984)

From Justice League of America Annual (Vol. 1) #2 (1984)

Though Paco was in a gang, he appeared to be cast as the League’s resident cool, young member. He was supposed to be the character closest to the real streets. Towards that end, not only did he speak with a bit of an accent but he was also a master at breakdancing, an art form he demonstrated in his first appearance in a regular issue of Justice League of America.

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #233 (1984)

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #233 (1984)

Feeling that the League was better for the community than his gang, Paco left El Lobos to fight alongside his fellow heroes. Not everyone in his family understood his decision. Armando, Paco’s older brother and a longtime member of El Lobos, took his gang lifestyle a little bit more seriously than his brother. He didn’t understand Paco’s reasons for leaving the group and nearly got into a fistfight with his sibling.

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #233 (1984)

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #233 (1984)

Not every reader was enamored of this new character. George Pérez, comics artist on the insanely popular New Teen Titans and who is of Puerto Rican decent himself, wasn’t a fan. In a 1985 interview, Pérez said that he felt like Vibe was an ethnic stereotype whose breakdancing was a fad that had passed several years earlier. Being the only character in comics who was of the same ethnicity he was made Pérez want something more out of the character than what he was getting.

Years later, Pérez made his feelings be known about Paco. When he and Kurt Busiek created the massive JLA / Avengers book, the laws of time and space were bent enough so that every single past member of each team spent at least some time on the page. Vibe’s only appearance in this event was a brief glimpse of him buried beneath a mound of rubble. It was pretty telling.

From JLA / Avengers #4 (2004)

From JLA / Avengers #4 (2004)

Though not universally beloved, Paco was truly a hero. Alongside his fellow Justice League members, he took on the likes of Amazo, Despero, the Cadre, and even Brimstone, a flaming giant sent by Darkseid. It was this latter villain that defeated the League in the pages of Legends, the first big DCU crossover following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. During that miniseries, this version of the Justice League made a brilliant entrance before they were handed their largest defeat.

From Legends #1 (1986)

From Legends #1 (1986)

The loss splintered the group. The Martian Manhunter wondered if the League had too many rookie members to continue and decided that putting the League on hold was the right thing to do. In an effort to clear his head, Paco took off into the streets of Detroit by himself. There, he saw a young boy who claimed to have been inspired to do good in the community after seeing Paco in action. After the boy left, an android sent by the mad scientist Professor Ivo strangled Vibe to death in the streets.

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #258 (1987)

From Justice League of America (Vol. 1) #258 (1987)

Paco was the first member of the Justice League to die while a member of that organization.

After he and Steel were both killed, the already fractured League completely crumbled. From its remnants, the Justice League International rose up and completely overshadowed the so-called Justice League Detroit. Paco was mostly forgotten, except by the Martian Manhunter who saw Paco’s death as a personal failure on his part.

Though he lived for less than three years of real time and a mere blip of comic time, Paco did occasionally reappear. During one of Felix Faust’s attacks on the Justice League, the ghosts of various dead Leaguers appeared to take the magician on. Paco was the first ghost to hold Felix back.

From JLA Annual #2 (1998)

From JLA Annual #2 (1998)

A more substantial Paco showed up during the Blackest Night event. There, a Black Lantern ring resurrected him and brought bad memories back to Vixen and Zatanna when he sought to eat their hearts.

From Justice League of America (Vol. 2) #39 (2010)

From Justice League of America (Vol. 2) #39 (2010)

In the years following Paco’s death, a member of his family did step up and attempt to fill his shoes. Armando, Paco’s brother and fellow El Lobos member, discovered that he had very similar powers to his deceased brother. Driven by a desire to do better in his life, he signed onto a group called the Conglomerate, which was headed by Booster Gold. There, Armando went by the code-name Reverb, which he eventually changed to Hardline.

From Justice League Quarterly #1 (1990)

From Justice League Quarterly #1 (1990)

Apparently, the Crisis on Infinite Earths caused Armando to go from being the older sibling to being the younger one. Or it was just a minor continuity error.

His time in the limelight was brief. Eventually, Armando left the Conglomerate to open a nightclub in Metropolis named Reverb. Mon-El visited the establishment when he took over protection of the city while Superman was busy on New Krypton. It seemed that the former hero was actually using his ability to create vibrations to aid his turntable skills.

From Superman Annual (Vol. 2) #14 (2009)

From Superman Annual (Vol. 2) #14 (2009)

Paco was dead for 27 years when the New 52 hit. There was really no reason for anyone to think the new continuity would bring back a mostly forgotten character like Vibe. However, the Free Comic Book Day comic that DC put out in 2012 changed all that. With a single small cameo in a giant four page spread, Paco was shown to once again be in the land of the living.

From DC Comics - The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1 (2012)

From DC Comics – The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1 (2012)

Even more surprising, it was soon revealed that Paco would be getting his own solo series the following year. It seems that this character who was once thought of as a joke was getting a bit of respect in the New 52.

That respect didn’t fully translate to Paco’s first foray into animation. In a 2012 two-part DC Nation Short, which aired between Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice on Cartoon Network, Vibe made his debut as a moving character complete with a voice. The shorts played the character’s kitschiness to the hilt and presented Paco as he first appeared back in 1984. He was once again wearing his original outfit and entering breakdance competitions.

However, Paco’s redesign in the comics and the fact that he’s getting a solo series suggests that DC is taking the character more seriously than the short would indicate. Here’s hoping that he’s not moved too much in the other direction and is turned into a dark, dour character. Still, a bit more dignity wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Justice League of America's Vibe #1 (2013) Cover

Justice League of America’s Vibe #1 (2013) Cover

Fingers crossed on this new series. I’m certainly hoping for the best.

 


Jeff Reid thinks that Vibe’s new look has potential. Jeff occasionally shows off his new looks on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Hmmm….I wonder if he will do the gangnam or harlem shake this time around.
    I like Vibe, tho the only comic(s) I have with him is from the JLA Blackest Nights>dead Vibe.

  2. Good work as always, Jeff.

    I’ve never had any affection for the character, and I’d be lying if I said that I thought the solo series had any legs, but who knows?

    It would certainly be nice to see an Hispanic character come to the front lines. I’m just not sure if Vibe’s the man for the job. They would have to strip away a lot of his original characterization and start from scratch. Guess we’ll find out.

    Why would you introduce an ethnic character and have him be a gang member?! What were you thinking, 1984? Way to respectfully diversify.

    • Doesn’t the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle count as a character on the front lines? His latest series got canceled but his popularity has grown alot since “Infinite Crisis”. And about making Vibe a gang character; DC probably thought “We need a hip,edgy, modern, ethnic youth, make him a gang member. Its 1984 for pete’s sake!”. That doesn’t excuse it, but I don’t think the ’80s is known for its political correctness.

    • If there’s one thing that comics have taught me, it’s that middle aged white guys rarely have their finger to the pulse of anything cool, trendy, or hip. See also the Justice League of America issues featuring disco and DC street toughs of the 80’s who consistently wore vests and looked like extras from “The Warriors”.

      Sincerely,

      A Middle Aged White Guy

    • @Itho: That’s true. I forgot about Jaime. He’s definitely a fan favorite, but nowhere to be found on the public’s radar (unless that CW series ever happens). Still, the more the merrier when it comes to diversifying the universe. Each ethnicity/minority can and should have more than one popular representative.

      @pyynk: Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, when you have a monster talent like George Perez walking your halls, ya might do well to bend his ear on what he (as being of Puerto Rican descent) would consider an accurate and respectful representation.

    • The world would be a much better place if it was still the 1980’s. We now live in a United States of the Offended. People just need to learn to lighten up!!!

    • Eh, I gotta point to Jaime again @Wheelhands, he’s been a (leading) character on “Young Justice” since this season started. And I think (No, I’m positive) he was on “Smallville” in one episode (not a great one admittedly). So if he’s still not on the public radar it’s because 1: DC does not market their characters as heavily as Marvels, 2:He doesn’t have a popular enough name (Supergirl, Batgirl are well known b/c they’re part of a brand), 3: Being hispanic is not enough to shake up the blogosphere. I’ll point to Miles Morales (Biracial, took over/replaced a Very Well known hero and assumed his mantle), and Batwoman (A lesbian character given her own book, and part of the Bat brand). The only other ethnic character I can think that made a shakeup was Simon Baz (A gun carrying middle-eastern guy a hero?! In America?! After 9/11?! And he’s part of the Green Lanterns?). I wanna point out I have no problem with Muslims, or Miles Morales, I just wanted to add context as to why they’re introductions caused a stir. Maybe the thing to take away from all that is if you want a minority character to get attention, give them a brand and something else besides a skin tone or SSA.@Pyynk, maybe some stuff is easier to grasp than others. Alot of writers are good at writing high school characters (I graduated 3 years ago), and I’ll say it comes across as natural enough. Maybe some stuff just doesn’t age well (disco), but I’m sure there’s a decent handful of writers out there (today) that can be hip and modern.

    • @Wheelhands It does say something, I think, that one of the nicest guys in comics HATED the character and I can’t say I blame him.

      @Itho Thus my caveat of “rarely”. I can think of a good number of writers who ARE able to write “young” well, but I could easily name even more who can’t. It also is, in my opinion, a lot easier to be current on youth culture currently than it was in the 80s. What are kids listening to? If it’s 2013 you hit up Google or YouTube. If it’s 1983, it’s more of a crapshoot. For a visual example of this, take a look at the Marvel Architects picture from a couple of years ago. Then find a picture of the Marvel Bullpen from the 80s.

      As for bringing Vibe back as opposed to promoting Jaime more, I totally understand it. Don’t like it, but understand it. In his costume, Jaime can be anyone or anything. Maybe he’s just a bug of some kind. Who knows? In or out of his costume, Vibe is NOT another white guy. If you’re trying to broaden your fanbase, do you want to chance that on a cover that features the “maybe a bug” or Vibe?

  3. I have a hard time taking his original costume seriously, I know it was the ’80s but still. The Blackest Night costume is actually pretty boss. Did anyone else notice that the Vibe short used the fight between him and Prof. Ivo’s android and had him win? It looked like something that would play along “Captain Planet” but the DC Nation shorts are pretty diverse I gotta admit. I probably won’t buy the new Vibe series but Geoff Johns as made a habit of making lame/under-appreciated characters cool again so maybe this is his next Aquaman.

    • Or Booster Gold. After Johns’ run on Booster Gold, the character became one of my favorites. I’m tempted to check the series out based solely on that pedigree.

      As for Vibe’s outfits, they’re notable for being consistently bad in every appearance. So much so, in fact, that Tom Katers describes Vibe’s clothing in vivid detail on Tom Vs. The JLA.

    • I thought Aquaman was a joke (like many others) until Johns got hold of him. Actually Bruce Timmy mDe him pretty BA too, but beside that I didn’t see much appreal in Arthur Curry. He seemed like a less cool version of Namor. Johns might be remembered as the guy who made characters cool again.

  4. Vibe rocks the boom box!!

  5. He had on MC Hammer genie pants in that dancing segment.

    GENIE PANTS!

  6. I don’t know why, but I saw that pic of Vibe breakdancing and immediately thought that he would be amazing in a comic version of Step Up 2: The Streets. Or does that already describe Vibe’s appearances?

  7. he breakdances? for real? why the fuck is dc giving this ass clown of a character his own book and cyborg and martian manhunter get nothing, and hawkman , frankenstien , and firestorm get canceled.

    • He was a breakdancer in the 80s when it was hip. Did you read Vibe #1 this week? Very solid comic.

      Cyborg & Martian Manhunter are being developed in the Justice League books first rather than being farmed out to mediocre writers & artists.

      Oh, and Hawkman, Frankenstein (a great book) & Firestorm were canceled because they sold for crap.

    • im just giving examples, i think we all know that vibe is not going to sell even as well as hawkman or any of the other examples i gave. dc could at least give us a book that people like , but doesnt sell well, like frankenstien. but oh well thats buisness i suppose.

  8. The reviews (and general reception) for Vibe have been very good. And i’m sure Geoff John’s name and the hype about the final page will give this book a bit of a boost.