Created By: John Broome and Carmine Infantino
Alter Ego: Giovannie Giuseppe
Notable Alias: James Montgomery Jesse
Team Affiliations: Rogues, Secret Society of Super Villains, Black Lantern Corps
Abilities: skilled acrobat and con-artist, above average intelligence, and innocent looking gadgets and gizmos
Deadly teddy bears, exploding Christmas presents, fake dog vomit, a sack of marbles…sounds like The Trickster is about to go toe to toe with The Flash (Barry Allen to be precise). Although the prize wasn’t so much world domination as it was paying next month’s rent, The Trickster provided Barry with plenty of challenging battles that matched wits against speed. Seemingly bent on causing chaos with deadly gag gadgets, Trickster does have a soft spot for humanity. Throughout his lifetime, Trickster befriends heroes, saves the Earth from becoming a living Hell, and even joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) so that he can track down and reform former colleagues. Trickster isn’t your common criminal. He’s a rogue and a prankster with a complicated past.
The Trickster first appeared in Flash (1st series) #113 as a member of a trapeze family who had become bored with circus life. The supervillain took his circus training and love of western outlaws, particularly his “reverse namesake” Jesse James, to an entirely new level when he invented shoes that could walk on air. The thrill of going up against the Scarlet Speedster motivated him to invent even deadlier toys. Trickster even joined Captain Cold’s Rogues in order to pull off bigger heists. Occasionally there was a plot to destroy The Flash, but let’s face it, villains would get bored without a hero there to knock them around. When Barry did in fact die, sacrificing his life to save the planet, the Trickster hung up his rubber chicken and moved from Central City to Hollywood. It would appear that the source of Trickster’s inspiration had died with Barry.
That doesn’t mean that Trickster turned over a new leaf right away. Once in Hollywood, he attempts to steal Dan Cassidy’s Blue Devil suit but fails. Later when Cassidy becomes stuck in the suit, Trickster befriends him and relies on Cassidy to help with his sporadic attempts to walk the straight and narrow. He later took on the Devil with the help of Captain Marvel in Underworld Unleashed and immediately decided he’d better work on the side of justice to avoid going to hell when he dies. Trickster essentially gives up crime all together by joining the FBI. He even saved Catwoman’s life once. Here friends, is where things get tricky.
The Top, another member of the Captain Cold’s Rogues, placed hypnotic suggestions in several rogues, including Trickster, which urged them to fight for justice. Why you ask? It turns out that Barry caught The Top digging up Iris Allen’s grave. Not a smart move. Furious that The Top would stoop so low, Barry asked Zatanna to place a spell on the villain that would convince The Top he was actually a hero. Zatanna’s spell worked…for a while. The Top’s true memories slowly drive him insane with guilt as he relives every horrendous criminal act he committed. Eventually The Top undoes his hypnotic suggestions, with dire consequences.
The Rogue’s go to war amongst themselves.
It took a long time to shake off the after effects of The Top’s hypnotic powers, though it appears that deep down, Trickster is a rogue with a heart of gold. In Countdown #51 Trickster joins the Rogues briefly before the murder of Bart Allen in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 creates all out chaos. Trickster is forced to run from heroes and villains alike in the ensuing aftermath with the Piped Piper. The two have been long time friends, but running from the entire world brings them closer together and in the end James sacrifices his life to save Piper.
The Trickster mantel is then taken over by Axel Walker in Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge mini-series. Axel did attempt to become the Trickster while James was with the FBI, but that little outing ended with Axel in a dumpster. Yeah…James is not fond of sharing his title. Axel returns in The New 52 in the post-Flashpoint reality and a member of the Black Razors. He later joins Glider’s Rogues, rescues Captain Cold, and loses his right hand trying to reason with an invading Gorilla Grodd.
In the television universe, Mark Hamill has portrayed him on the The Flash in 1990 and reprised the role in 2014 for the modern Flash series on the CW. Both James Jesse and Axel Walker (played by Devon Graye) appear on screen in 2014, working in unison as a father and son team to become billionaires and destroy the Flash at the same time. Trickster also appears once in the animated series Justice League Unlimited episode “Flash and Substance” voiced by Mark Hamill. What is particularly interesting about this version of Trickster is that he is diagnosed with Manic Bipolar Disorder. When James doesn’t take his medication, he becomes the Trickster without even realizing it. Flash (Wally West), is able to calmly talk to Trickster and get the information he needs about the Rogues without throwing a punch. After the exchange Wally tells James to turn himself in, and promises to play a round of soft darts with James at the hospital later.
The Trickster may not be as cunning as Lex Luthor or as deranged as the Joker, but he certainly knows how to walk his own path among thieves and heroes. Long live the rogues and tricksters of comics. For without them life would be far less colorful.