Who's Blackbriar Thorn?

Who's This? An evil druid.

The facts: First appearing in DC Comics Presents #66 (February 1984) to fight Superman and the Demon, Blackbriar Thorn probably got an entry thanks to co-creator Len Wein being part of the Who's Who staff, because that first appearance, and a cameo in Crisis, is all he had under his wooden belt. Though he was destroyed at the end of his first appearance, he was resurrected in Swamp Thing #70 (1988), possessing a female druid. Getting his form back at some point, Geoff Johns used him as a villain in his JSA comics (though never as a solo threat), and like a lot of mystical characters, he would continue to make cameos and small appearances whenever the DCU faced mystical shenanigans.
How you could have heard of him: In the New52, he appeared in Justice League Dark and a few other books, again usually as only one of many magic villains in bigger magical storylines. He also faced Young Justice on television as a member of the Light.
Example story: Justice League Dark 12-13 and Annual #1 (October, December 2012) by Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin

There is only one true Blackbriar Thorn story and it's DCCP #66. Thing is, I've already covered it, in podcast form, in my FW Team-Up show. So I thought it's be interesting to check out a much more recent appearance by the Master of Druids. Yes, I'm going to the New52.

The story in progress: War for the Books of Magic (I see we're mining all of the I.P.s). Basically, Felix Faust convinces Dr. Mist to turn on his allies and help him find the Books of Magic, promising they can resurrect his late wife. Justice League Dark splits up to try and stop them and their mysterious third confederate, with Deadman and Zatanna heading to Peru to Faust's temple, where they encounter Blackbriar Thorn...

Since he survived as a wooden statue, it makes sense to present him as a citizen of the Green, though there's some cognitive dissonance with putting a Celtic wizard in a South American jungle. According to his claims, he IS the jungle (or at least that local part of it) and being so big makes him aloof and a little bit distracted. Something like an Ent in The Lord of the Rings. Deadman tries to possess the massive Wizard of Wood (Lemire's words, not mine) and finds the original druid inside its mind somewhere.

Or maybe even a flesh and blood body, because once Boston Brand manages it, he can change Thorn back to a less intimidating form.

Just in time too, because Zatanna's spells seemed useless against him magic. He shows up again in the Annual's final battle, where he plays on Amethyst's sympathies, but I, Vampire (well, Him, Vampire) isn't buying it...

There you have it. Thorn is still alive because he can't really be killed. So long as there's wood on Earth...

While I was fine with Blackbriar Thorn being a one-off villain in a beloved childhood story, I think he has legs (roots?) as an evil Swamp Thing, a better claim, thematically, than someone like Solomon Grundy. Not only could he be used more, but he should stand as a solo threat. His fate, post-80s, has really been to make him part of a group where he is necessarily nerfed. In this story, he appears to be nearly unbeatable, but Deadman takes him over pretty easily, and he's later put out of commission by a sword to the face. It shouldn't have been that easy, and his primal ancient magicks should be a match against JLDark, Shadowpact, the JSA, whoever without having to team up with Felix Faust (that dink) and (checks notes) Nick Necro.

Who's Next? Johnny Thunder's special guest star.



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