In a recent 'Tales of Toronto', a monthly feature in Haven Toronto's free eMagazine, we wrote about one homeless man who kept to himself and another who saved the world, someone's world, by saving someone's life.
"He hid around the corner, out of the way. Not to be a bother, and not
to be bothered. It was here that he spent a large part of his day. Here,
where pills helped him forget a large part of his nightmares."
"As morning broke and the heart of the city sped up, his slowed down.
This would be his last day alive and he's spending it overdosing. That
is until another homeless man steps in with Naloxone. That's one less
homeless death. One less stat. One less name for second Tuesday.
With Naloxone, anyone can be a first responder, and a hero."
Like all of the 'Tales of Toronto', the story is real. While it is not unique — Naloxone kits are helping everyday people save lives everyday — it shows us that anyone can be a hero, including people who are homeless. But this man is not the first hero to be homeless. Not in real life and not in the world of entertainment.
Long before the film Hancock (2008) captivated audiences with the story of a homeless superhero bent on fighting crime, there was The Vagabond, an early 20th century comic book character.
The Vagabond was created by comic book artist Ed Winiarski for U.S.A Comics, a series published by Marvel comics. The superhero made his first appearance in the November 1941 edition.
In the origin story, a police detective named Pat Murphy in the town of Middleton assumes the role of The Vagabond, in order to help solve a case. He often surprises people with his strength and fighting abilities but does not have any real super powers.
The Vagabond disguise first consisted of tattered clothing, a red haired wig, glasses, and make up to make him look dishevelled, although his appearance changed in later editions of the comic.
In the first edition, the Vagabond thwarts a human smuggling ring by a villain known as Carstairs by finding his hideout, and saving police detective Kelly and Grogan, both unaware that the costumed superhero is their colleague Pat Murphy.
The disguise allows Murphy to navigate the criminal world, helping him stay at-least one step ahead of Kelly and Grogan, who are re-occurring characters throughout the series. Over time, he gives up his civilian identity and begins moving from town to town.
At one point, the Vagabond foils a scheme by a mobster named Egg-Head, leaving the crooks tied up for the authorities. Like most superheroes, Vagabond did not want any rewards for saving the day.
Later in the series, The Vagabond even makes an appearance in The Avengers universe, helping the Allied war effort by fighting Nazis alongside the United States Military during World War Two. Like films, comics were used to garner support for the war and promote enlistment.
The Vagabond was drafted into a group of superheroes-turned soldiers known as the Crazy S.U.E.S. and fought at Guadalcanal. During the war, the Vagabond was shot down by the enemy and died of his wounds.
For more stories on heroes and the homeless, and for a look at Hollywood's entertaining ideas of homelessness versus the reality of what we see every day, see our September 2019 eMagazine. SUBSCRIBE