Continuing with our look at the members of The Flash's rogues' gallery - including Captain Cold, Heat Wave and the Weather Wizard -- we look now at the back-story of the two men who've called themselves The Trickster.
The Trickster I
The Trickster was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in DC Comics' "The Flash" v.1 #113 (June-July 1960). James Jesse (a.k.a. Giovanni Giuseppe) was an acrobat and high-wire performer and the youngest member of the Flying Jesses. James had a curious problem for someone in his profession: he was an acrophobic, petrified by great heights. To combat this phobia, Jesse created a pair of "Airwalker Shoes" that allowed him to, literally, walk on the air.
James had another issue -- he was obsessed by tales of the gunfighter and outlaw Jesse James. As a result, he turned to a life of crime.
Using the Airwalker Shoes, Jesse committed extremely creative crimes, including robberies of airplanes while they were still the air. And like all the Rogues, the Trickster's criminal ways led him to take up residence in Central City, where he quickly encountered Barry Allen (The Flash II). Finding The Flash more of a thrill than simply robbing banks, The Trickster began to focus less on the traditional life of crime and more on trying to outwit and defeat the Scarlet Speedster with a variety of harmless-looking toys that were actually dangerous weapons. In The Trickster's mind, it was all just a "game" between him and his foe.
After the death of Barry Allen in 1985's "Crisis on Infinite Earths," Trickster moved to Los Angeles, where he half-heartedly targeted the Blue Devil as his new superhero nemesis. In the end, Blue Devil, who had worked in the film industry, convinced Jesse that he had a future as a special effects artist in the movies. Trickster took Blue Devil up on his offer and went into semi-retirement -- that is, until he happened to turn to the obituaries page. In a newspaper, James discovered The Rogues, his former Central City allies, had died - and in a big way. The Rogues had made a deal with the demon Neron to become historically infamous, and it cost them not just their lives but their souls as well ("Underworld Unleashed," 1995). Trickster investigated and decided to take action by following the villains into Hell. Neron did not know what to do with Jesse; he fascinated the demon, and among all the Rogues, Trickster was the only one who wasn't offered a deal for his soul. In the end, as Trickster was able to trick Neron and set him up to be defeated by Earth's superheroes.
In 1998, in the pages of "New Year's Evil: The Rogues," The Trickster decided to turn over a new leaf and start using his skills as a con artist for good and not evil. He helped his ex-girlfriend Mindy Hong rescue her son Billy from the country of Zhutan, where the boy was held by local warlords. They believed Billy to be the Majee, an agent of their god Meshta. As Trickster mounted the rescue, it was discovered that Billy was indeed the Majee -- and also Jesse's son.
Going straight seemed to be working for James, and he became employed by the FBI, using his skills and expertise as a criminal to help thwart crime. As with the other Rogues that went straight, it was later revealed that the desire to reform had been implanted in The Trickster's mind by The Top. Once that compulsion was removed, The Trickster returned to his life of crime and rejoined the Rogues.
Jesse was part of the group that murdered Bart Allen and, like the rest, found himself on the run from the law and an enraged superhero community, for killing a Flash was way, way out of bounds. The Trickster and the Pied Piper were the only ones to escape being captured by Taskforce-X, but circumstances were such that the pair was manacled together while being pursued across the country. Deadshot, working for the task force, caught up with Pied Piper and Trickster in the Rockies, where he shot Jesse to death.
The Trickster II
The second Trickster was a young man named Axel Walker, who made his debut in "The Flash" v.2 #183 (April 2002). When Axel's parents were going through a divorce, his dad gave him a key piece of advice: "There's two things you can be in life. Either you're the trickster, or you're the one gettin' tricked."
It seems that all it takes is one misplaced homily to set a young man on the life of crime, and it certainly did for Axel. During the period in which James Jesse was employed by the FBI, Axel broke into the Jesses' storage unit and stole the famous Airwalker Shoes, a costume and some of his gadgets. By the next day, the new Trickster had already battled Wally West (The Flash III). This was enough to earn him a spot with the New Rogues, a group composed of members of the Secret Society -- itself a larger group organized by the supremely villainous Libra, who wanted the original Rogues dead for refusing to join him. During a battle between the New Rogues and the originals, James Jesse defeated Axel, recovered his equipment and forbade Walker from using the Trickster identity again.
After the death of James Jesse, Axel returned to the identity of The Trickster and once again joined The Rogues, this time under the leadership of Captain Cold. The Rogues sought to revenge themselves upon Inertia for using them to kill Bart Allen, and Axel fought by their side, defeating the New Rogues and killing Bart's evil clone.
As "Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge" came to a conclusion, the Rogues found themselves still free of the influences of Libra and his Secret Society. They were also faced with the possibility of the return of Barry Allen (The Flash II). What will finally become of the mantle of The Trickster and the Rogues has yet to be determined, but 2009 looks to be a year of promise for this group of variously honorable thieves, and, as always, a Trickster will be among them.