Theme villains are a trope in superhero comics, from the Joker to the Riddler to Toy Man to the Puzzler. Every hero has one or two, and the various men who have worn the mantle of The Flash have had more than their share in the form of the Flash Rogues’ Gallery, better known simply as The Rogues.
In August of 2007, DC Comics' The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 depicted the murder of Bart Allen (Flash IV) at the hands of the Rogues themselves, a death that they hadn't planned. Now in 2008, in the pages Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the Rogues are after the person who led them to kill Bart: Inertia. Along the way, the Rogues are going toe-to-toe with Libra and his Secret Society of villains. The Rogue leading the fight is known as Captain Cold.
Saddled with the unfortunate name of Leonard Snart, Captain Cold was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in Showcase #8 (June 1957). Besides the entirely forgettable Turtle Man, Len was the first supervillain that Barry Allen (Flash II) battled, arguably making Captain Cold the most venerable of the Flash rogues’ gallery. And while Cold was the implacable enemy of Barry Allen, the fan-favorite criminal was both friend and enemy of Wally West (Flash III).
Snart and his sister, Lisa (who became the supervillain, Golden Glider) were raised by an abusive father. Len attempted to escape the treatment by spending his time with his grandfather, who operated an ice truck. After his grandfather passed away, Cold left home and joined a criminal gang. On their first robbery, each gang member wore a visor to hide their identity and protect their eyes from the flashes of potential gunfire. The gang was defeated by The Flash II and carted off to jail. After this failed attempt at crime, Len made the decision to drop the gang and that next time he would be prepared for the Scarlet Speedster.
Captain Cold began to research a way to keep the Flash from interfering with his criminal career and, after reading that the energy created by a cyclotron could thwart The Flash's speed, he developed a gun that could employ that force. Breaking into a laboratory that housed a cyclotron, Snart charged his new weapon with the energy emissions, but he ran into a security guard while trying to escape. Len only intended to frighten the guard, but he accidentally triggered the gun's firing mechanism and discovered to his surprise that the moisture in the air froze and the guard was immobilized. The weapon had actually worked much better than Len expected, and he created a costume that incorporated a parka and the same style of visor he had used with the his old gang and became Captain Cold.
Cold went on to commit crime after crime, constantly at odds with Barry Allen, but never in his career did Len kill anyone or even seriously injure them. When Barry Allen died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Len and his sister Lisa gave up their lives of crime to become bounty hunters, and even went so far as to become friendly (if not friends) with Wally West.
In the 1995 Underworld Unleashed event, the demon Neron convinced the Rogues -- including Captain Cold -- that he could insure they would to go down in history as world's greatest supervillains. This was a ploy to unleash Neron on Earth, and the demon neglected to mention that in the process the Rogues would actually die and even lose their souls. Wally West confronted Neron and returned the Rogues to life with their souls intact. During Len's time in Hell, his sister Lisa abandoned her career as a bounty hunter and joined forces with a successive number of criminals, dressing like her brother and calling herself Chillblaine. Lisa, obviously, had issues. The final thug to use the Chillblaine identity was just a little bit beyond the petty thieves that the Golden Glider had employed; he murdered Lisa and brought himself to the attention of the real Captain Cold, who returned as a full-time member of the Rogues.
Len Snart had never been a killer. His crimes were non-lethal, and he had a self-styled sense of honor. The death of his sister Lisa changed everything. Captain Cold hunted down Chillblaine and used his signature weapon to torture and kill the man who murdered his sister. The name Captain Cold no longer merely referred to the weapons he used or the costumes he wore, but now the frozen heart that had driven him to vengeance. Not long after these events, the criminal Mister Element framed Cold for a series of cop killings. The Flash discovered who was actually committing the murders and Snart took revenge against the villain by ending Element’s life as well. It seemed there was no going back for Captain Cold.
Once again a full-time criminal, Cold resumed his leadership role in the Rogues. He was a stern taskmaster, tolerated no drug use, and kept the group focused on their nefarious goals. Cold also fostered among the group a sense of brotherhood and morality (of a sort). Somewhere along the way, Cold developed a weakness for women, particularly supermodels, and was revealed to be an unrepentant fan of the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise.
Len's cold heartedness is the subject of some debate. While he was a ruthless enemy of Barry Allen, Captain Cold was a loving brother and friend who always tried to protect his sister and fellow Rogues, often to his own detriment. And when Captain Boomerang died, Len held a secret funeral for his fallen comrade, and even sent flowers to the funeral of Sue Dibny when she was murdered during the events of Identity Crisis. Most recently, in DC Universe: Last Will and Testament, Cold was spending what was believed to be the last night on Earth buying batteries for the Cold Gun at a pawn shop when a street thug attempted to rob the place using one of Angle Man's weapons. Len, looking heavenward, decided this was a sign from God and chose to play the good guy. Cold froze the crook and left him for the police with a sign that read: From your friendly $@#&'n Captain Cold. One of the most memorable moments in the villain’s history was after Cold had taken revenge against Chillblaine; he refused to meet with his regular prostitute, stating, My heart's not always made of ice.
During DC's One Year Later event, Captain Cold and the Rogues were contacted by Inertia, the evil clone of Bart Allen (The Flash IV). It was Inertia's plan to kill Bart, although this was never revealed to the Rogues ahead of time. Rather, Inertia claimed the goal was to build a machine that could stop time, allowing the Rogues to commit crimes even The Flash could not prevent. The device, however, did not stop time. Instead, the machine drained the Speed Force from Bart and gave it to Inertia. The other Rogues did not know what was going on and, in a combined attack against Bart, they violated the greatest rule of the Rogues: Never Kill a Speedster. Cold and the group expressed remorse for the act, especially when they discovered that Bart was so young, and swore vengeance on Inertia.
In Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #1 (August 2008), Len and the Rogues rejected Libra's offer to join his new Secret Society and chose instead to retire. Before they could begin said retirement, Cold decided the Rogues needed to do one last job and take their revenge on Inertia. In the second issue of the miniseries, the Rogues were threatened by a group of Secret Society members using the Rogues’ classic weapons and calling themselves the New Rogues. The New Rogues attacked the Rogues' tailor and defiled a dummy wearing Golden Glider's costume, and if that wasn't sufficient incentive for the Rogues to go after these newcomers, they had also kidnapped Len's abusive father. Cold vowed not only to kill the New Rogues, but his estranged father as well. After a short but brutal battle with the pretenders, which left the New Rogues dead, Len confronted his father. Captain Cold discussed the abuse that his family suffered at his father's hands, and also Lisa's death. Len's father insulted him and his mother, calling them weak. Cold struck his father and placed the Cold Gun against his head, but could not bring himself to pull the trigger. Captain Cold turned and walked slowly from the room, looked at Heat Wave, and instructed his follow Rogue to end his father's life.
As of this writing, a single issue of Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge remains. Thus far, the Final Crisis event has proved that characters can and will be killed, from the Martian Manhunter to Doctor Light. With a battle against Inertia and his new mentor, the Reverse-Flash, looming and threats from Libra's Secret Society ever present, it is a dangerous time to be a Rogue. With the return of Barry Allen, this could be the time for Captain Cold to return to the spotlight - or for his final curtain to fall.