Who's Bolt?

Who's This? A Blue Devil villain.

The facts: Bolt first appeared in Blue Devil #6 (November 1984), but he did not stay a Blue Devil villain for long. The late 80s and the 90s were filled with super-powered assassins who put the new hero on the block through their paces. Bolt was, in fact, the first of them. He went after Captain Atom, Starman, the Darkstars, the Outsiders, Hawkman, Firestorm and the Suicide Squad. He seemed to get killed while ON the Squad (in its second volume), but turns up alive again in short order, possibly because no one remembered he'd been killed. He winds up on Luthor's Injustice League Unlimited and therefore in Salvation Run and Secret Six, and then is finally(?) killed by his son Dreadbolt in Terror Titans #3.
How you could have heard of him: He returns in the New52's Batgirl #34, then in Deathstroke and Sideways, still playing hopscotch and in no one's actual rogues' gallery.
Example story: Starman #3 (December 1988) "Lone Star Takedown" by Roger Stern, Tom Lyle and Bob Smith
So Bolt is a power set - flight, energy blasts and teleportation - to throw at the hero. It's not usually personal; he's been hired by someone else to take the hero out. He'll fail. That's the trope. So within those parameters, can he be an entertaining opponent? Let's find out.

Well first off, it's pretty interesting that Bolt's teleportation powers aren't just about displacing himself. It also allows him to work without pockets, moving things to and from a high-tech purse somewhere.
So now that he's tracked Starman with his client's do-dad, he's ready to strike. Does he have some measure of honor, though? Nope.
In the back! But our boy Will Payton is tougher than Bolt expected. He moves in for hand-to-hand and still no go, so Bolt returns to his teleport tube - yep, that's how he doing it - which disappoints the client, but hey dude, you might have given him a bit more information on his prey. By the time the hero and villain catch up to each other again (in San Antonio), Bolt has tinkered with his costume and given himself a bit of a boost. Is it enough? Well, to be on the safe side, maybe keep shooting people in the back.
When I said earlier that Bolt was the kind of villain specifically built to put heroes through their paces, I wasn't kidding. It's only issue 3 for Starman, so we're learning about his limits along with Bolt. For example, that blast above would have shot down an F-16, so we know Starman is tougher than that. (Bolt's observations also yield that he's a baritone, which isn't how I was hearing Will in my head, and I wonder if his bigger neck in Starman form actually changes his voice; interesting.) Another thing: Starman is plenty heavy.
He lets Starman cushion his fall (cuz, you know, it's another hit on his opponent's BACK) and though his name is Bolt, he doesn't HAVE to throw the energy around. Contact (from the BACK) is also a painful possibility.
But Starman is an energy projector too and blasts Bolt away, making his equipment overheat. It even melts the transporter tube at home. How's he gonna get out of this one?
He's not. Because you don't fight Bolt for more than an issue at a time. It's just not done. Watch the cool rip of his wing.
There's no way that didn't kill any chickens, but okay. He's cooked. But you know, he's got an assassin's ethics and doesn't give up his client. After all, who would ever hire him again if he squealed--I mean, clucked? There's a certain arrogance in that, like he KNOWS he's gonna take more contracts. And he is. Plenty of 'em. Why can't we keep this guy in jail?

We might ask if Bolt is worthy of more than this kind of story, but think about it. A gun for hire is always going to be hired by SOMEone, and that someone will always be the big bad, and Bolt the mid-level boss the hero has to go through. Always. He's just not hatching schemes of his own. And that's perfectly fine so long as writers keep making his fights different enough that it's not always the same one.

Who's Next? A Legionnaire with an uncommon physique.

5 comments:

Jeremy Patrick said...

Yeah, Bolt appeared all the time in the mid-80s to early-90s. The funny thing about a "super-powered assassin" like Bolt is how he kept getting jobs despite hardly ever (never?) succeeding at the task given to him! He was able to "fail forward", even through a death.

Siskoid said...

I imagine all these guys had successes in other countries/cities, but if they ever hit one that had a starring hero, it all fell apart.

Jeremy Patrick said...

That's a good explanation. Kinda like maybe how stormtroopers and B-1 battle droids wreak havoc most of the time, but we only see them in the movies when Jedi are around to make them look like chumps who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

Andrew said...

I'm also reminded of Arcade, who was said to have had a successful career in assassination before the superheroes noticed him.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Besides my adoration of all things Blue Devil and Will Payton, Bolt was THE perfect DC Heroes RPG bad guy to throw at your players as a random encounter. He got used A LOT.

 

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