DC Comics superhero Nightmaster died much the same way he lived, flying almost completely under fans’ radar.
In the world of DC Universe icons, Jim Rook was never a star, but he was a rockstar. No, his demise wasn’t earth shattering, and few fans will be tearing up at his funeral, but Dark Nights: Metal gave him the send off he deserved, and the one he has clearly been craving for so long.
Who is Nightmaster?
Nightmaster was created by Denny O’Neil and Jerry Grandenetti for Showcase #82 in 1969. Rook was to be one of the publisher’s first Sword and Sorcery superheroes, a genre that had just been given a name by British author Michael Moorcock several years earlier in order to describe the fantasy-adventure stories of Robert E. Howard.
Jim Rook’s story was simple to understand; in an era where rock music was just hitting the mainstream, Rook was the lead singer in a rock band called The Electrics. Discovering a portal into a mysterious magical dimension called Myrra, he learns that he is the descendent of a mighty line of warriors. Equipped with the Sword of Night, a magical suit of armor, and access to the interdimensional nexus known as the Oblivion Bar, Rook battled evil magic wielders… until falling into obscurity for 20 years.
In this time, he apparently waged an unseen war behind the scenes of the DC Universe before returning to publication briefly in the 1990s. It was in the mid-2000s that he finally had a chance to shine. He was featured in the Day of Vengeance miniseries alongside Enchantress, Ragman, Blue Devil, Nightshade and Detective Chimp before they went on to form DC’s preeminent magic team in Bill Willingham’s Shadowpact title.
The Old Rock Legend
If DC’s Rebirth initiative has been about revitalizing familiar characters and reinforcing old brands, Dark Nights: Metal has been about Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo dusting off old records and celebrating the magic that these characters and stories can still bring out.
So far, the title has reintroduced Mister Terrific, Plastic Man, the Blackhawks, the Will Payton Starman and a group of obscure immortal characters. Bringing Nightmaster back out of oblivion (and into the Oblivion Bar) fits perfectly into what this book is trying to accomplish. After all, if this is a book about metal, then there’s nothing more metal than a Rock God going out in a blaze of glory.
In Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, Bosco is a former rockstar who has become fat, old and forgotten. In one chapter, he decides to go back on tour, not to regain fame and fortune, but to die the only way he knows how—on the stage. Nightmaster isn’t Bosco. He’s still young, and will likely always be youthful thanks to the enchantment of his sword, but as Rook puts it in his final moments “I was in a rock band when I was young…a million lives ago.” Nightmaster has been forgotten, and now he’s ready for it all to end.
In a Blaze of Glory
Nightmaster’s fate in Dark Nights: Metal #3 is a testament to the fact that not every hero from a bygone era has a place in the new world order. Some characters — some songs — will always remain in the past. Jim sacrificing himself to ensure that the Justice League has enough time to escape the Oblivion Bar and save the world is, in a sense, the only way this character could have met his end.
It’s sad to see him go just as it seems like someone has a proper grasp on the character, but that’s usually how this whole rock thing goes. Musicians toil away in anonymity for decades before their big break. Some linger on for decades and very few go out on top. Like a worn down warrior, or a sagging Rock God on the stage for the last time, Jim yells “I haven’t had a good battle in a while…leave a man to his faith,” because, in the end, the battle is all that matters.
Maybe we’ll see him again at some pint — after all, it’s comics. But this seems like the kind of death you don’t come back from. The DC Universe will be a little less magical with him not in it, but the world will keep spinning all the same.
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