Who's Baron Winters?

Who's This? Will search out evil... for a fee.
The facts: The only Night Force character to get his own entry, he's the Amanda Waller to their Suicide Squad, he's a sorcerer who, from the comfort of his manor which he doesn't seem able to leave, assembles a team to fight supernatural threats. The mansion was located in a special juncture of time and space, allowing him to send his team to different places and times. Though the team members are expendable, Baron Winters was a part of all three volumes of the series (the original started in 1982, the second in 1996, and the third in 2012). He was created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon.
How you could have heard of him: Well, the 2012 series is relatively recent - it lasted all of 7 issues. The equally short-lived Constantine TV series references a Jasper Winters who seems loosely based on the Baron, but he's never seen.
Example story: Night Force #13 (August 1983) "Past Tense!" by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Bob Smith
Quite clearly, when you look at the original run of Night Force for Baron Winters material, it's the penultimate issue, with its striking cover and promise of telling The Origin of the Baron, that comes to mind. So let's look at it.

I read the series years ago, so I can't be sure what's happening as the story starts, but some of the Baron's team members want answers before they help him save Vanessa Van Helsing (Marv, you're just bringing attention to the fact Baron Winters looks a lot like the Dracula you and Colon worked on at Marvel). He's gonna have to tell them - and us! - his story. He tells them Van Helsing or no, Vanessa is HIS daughter. It's a lie, but it does the trick, and they save Vanessa from evil spirits.

And then things get weirder. A client spontaneously combusts due to psychic influences, which gives Baron Winters the chance to get in on the action, even if it's futile.
On the next page, the dude's wife, in Winters' arms, says "I don't understand any of this". The ghost killers return victorious, but I guess the spirits did strike at Harry Carter after all, and Winters claims they are power well beyond his own. I think he feels cancellation coming on.
His "friends" (they hate him) aren't about to let him give up and leave them to clean up the mess. Katina brings Winters to "the temple", which he fears returning to. In this instance he does leave the manor, but he doesn't like it.
Inside are Aztec priests, waiting for him. He bolts, the threshold returning him to his mansion where he can hopefully stop whining about stairs, but his son by Katina's womb, Gowon, stops him, and insists he go through the mind-journey with his mother. Unable to fight, the Baron strips down and jumps into the Memory Pool.
Memory, you say? Are we finally going to get that origin we've been promised? At first, it's a lot like a high school yearbook...
...and then he gets attacked by someone wearing a superhero costumes, intent on separating the two lovers. Whether this is memory or happening now, I don't know, and the origin is to be continued, and we haven't even gotten to the Nazi element, and I'm all like, WOLFMANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!

Well. Taking one issue out of context yields poor results. The issue is confusing and for 1983, surprisingly recap-less. The Baron is a manipulative bastard, sure, but also a whiny crybaby. And with only one issue to go, revealing his secrets feels like too little, too late. The Baron would return, but always under Wolfman's pen, so while I remember giving volume 2 a try, I know it didn't stick (and lasted only 12 issues, in its case). I didn't even realize there'd been a third series until I did my research for this article. It strikes me that Night Force, though it had Gene Colan's art going for it, never really achieved its potential. It could probably thrive divorced from its creator. What do you think?

What's Next? The final days of the planet Earth.



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