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Hartley Rathaway has reappeared as a supporting character in the DCnU, first appearing in Flash #8 (2012). Allusions to his past as Pied Piper, working as a hero, have been made though the full extent of his history including the possibility of having been a Rogue remain unknown at this time. Rathaway is now the conductor of the Central City Symphony and is in a relationship with David Singh, the director of Central City Police Department’s crime lab. Hartley is out and accepts his past as a vigilante while Singh is closeted at work and has a disfavorable opinion of vigilantes, especially Flash. This difference of opinion creates tension when Hartley announces he wants to become Piper to help guard the city while Flash is missing.

See David Singh’s entry.

The following information applies to the previous version of Pied Piper.

Formerly known as the Pied Piper and a member of the Flash’s (Barry Allen) Rogue’s Gallery. Hartley Rathaway was born deaf, but his wealthy parents paid for costly medical procedures to ultimately restore his hearing. When he could finally hear, a whole new world was opened up for him – and he became enamored by music and the science of sonics, much to his parents’ chagrin. Bored by other pursuits, Rathaway put on a ridiculous looking costume and decided to become a criminal – just for fun. Ultimately, he retired from crime, and became a trusted friend of Barry Allen’s successor, Wally West. Rathaway “came out” to the usually conservative West, who has surprisingly been very acceptive to his friend’s sexual orientation. Piper now channels his energies into championing gay rights and aiding Central City’s homeless. He has a current boyfriend named James.  James’ current status in regards to Hartley is something I can’t recall.

Piper was one of a cast of recurring characters in the year long, weekly Countdown (later Countdown to Final Crisis) series. He and Trickster had been implicated in the murder of Bart Allen at the time in which he became the Flash after Wally’s disappearance. Others in the Rogues’ Gallery doubted their avowed return to crime, forcing them to prove their loyalty through extortion and subsequent murder of a rich man through some hypnotically induced order on Piper’s part. Appearances were deceiving as Piper discretely made some special allowance to keep the man alive, and Trickster saw through the ruse.

They became an unlikely and reluctant pair on the lam from the Rogues, police, and superheroes and the situation becomes more literal when they’re cuffed together at the wrist after being captured by Deadshot (who’s working for Checkmate) as part of the effort to send all villains off-world. What follows is what seems to me a poorly executed attempt to put Piper and Trickster in a “bro-mantic” light as they continue their efforts to fight and escape various heroes and villains out to get them. Most of Piper’s part in the story is forgettable, as is the case with other events and characters from both reader and publisher viewpoints.

Of the few notable incidents was the story Piper recounts as his few days of survival on the run in the desert becomes dire. Piper began to lose touch with reality after Deadshot killed Trickster, and he was forced to carry and drag the body along until he finally came to the awful realization he had to sever Trickster’s hand from his dead body in order to survive a little longer. The trauma and stress have gotten to Piper and he acts as if Trickster is still alive, and tells how he first realized he is gay while watching a teenaged Rod Lauren play a character in the 1960s cult sci fi movie “The Crawling Hand“. This segues into what Piper mistakes as a portent of a “light at the end of the tunnel” death experience as a Boom Tube opens in the sky above.

Transported by the Boom Tube, Piper finds himself on Apokolips, always a harrowing experience. This time the danger is much worse as the planet and its people are under attack by Brother Eye. In a nutshell (because I don’t plan to re-read this mess of a storyline) Brother Eye is intent on neutralizing inhabitants to take over. Basically, Piper falls into Desaad’s clutches, which has been the sadist’s plan from the start as he apparently discovered and now reveals to Piper that he holds the Anti-Life Equation. One would’ve preferred an explanation of how Hartley became, according to Desaad, a “rare human vessel for the Anti-Life” rather than the simplistic statement that Piper’s abilities were related to his being said instrument.

In any case, while Darkseid and Solomon, the rogue Monitor, continue their grand game of chess with human and meta human players and Apokolips is burning, Desaad shouts at Hartley to play his flute  as the means to defeat the Omac which is threatening their lives. Desaad is blasted by the Omac, hurtling his body away, while Hartley prepares to die, only to surprisingly be taken prisoner. Piper escapes during an attack initiated by a number of the other main heroes, only to fall again into Desaad’s clutches, who forces him to play his flute and “Let the music flow through [him]! Unleash the Anti-Life Equation…” Piper’s making his last stand though and instead causes Desaad’s apparent death by head explosion. Not backing down, Piper’s next tune seems to drive away Brother Eye and then to hasten or be the sole cause for the explosions wracking Apokolips.

Hartley’s fate is a mystery till Countdown’s finale when he finally resurfaces in an alley way on Earth and he’s quite happy to be greeted by a small pack of rats.

He’s next seen in the 3 part Rogues’ Revenge mini series that sported a “Final Crisis” trade dress. The remaining Rogues have decided to retire in the aftermath of Bart (Impulse/ Kid Flash/ Flash #4) Allen at the hands of the rogues’. This plan is soon aborted when they discover a group of new villains are taking their places with the blessing of villain-du-crisis Libra. While these two groups are playing off each other, Hartley is busy lifting old pal James Jesse’s last will and testament. Jesse was the original trickster and had reformed like Hartley. The will was important for the information it contained about the rogues’ tech, safe houses, family members, etc. — everything Hartley would need to take the Rogues down them down and clear both his and Jesse’s names — written in (wait for it!) invisible ink. Piper’s appearance in #2 is even briefer as he simply observes Inertia (the villain ultimately responsible for Bart’s death) and Zoom, the reverse-Flash training and plotting against the Rogues as well.

Zoom and Inertia (now calling himself Kid Zoom) attack the Rogues for their own reasons and Hartley, who’s been hiding, jumps into the fray and uses his super duper tuning fork to create vibrations to immobilize the villains. He begins to take out his anger physically on them and is in turn surprised by a trident spike through his shoulder, courtesy of Libra who wants to punish the Rogues himself for refusing to join his super criminal network. Piper lies bleeding on the ground while all hell breaks loose between the Rogues, Libra, Zoom and Kid Zoom. The younger Zoom as he races like a crazed berserker seems on the verge of defeating them all until Hartley, using the harmonics of his flute, causes him to stand still abruptly, thus providing a perfect target for a five way killing blow dealt by the Rogues. Captain Cold confronts Hartley by calling him an accessory and threatening to spread this info if Piper doesn’t leave the Rogues alone. Piper’s only response is to turn away his face. Cue exit.

Using his uncanny knowledge of sound, Piper has created an array of sonic weapons, including a melodious flute which could enthrall all save the Piper himself with it’s strange notes. He has assisted the Flash (Wally West) on many occasions with various hearing and sound devices, and other technological wonders.

Piper (AKA Hartley Rathway) first appeared in Flash #106 (volume 1) and Mark Waid revealed Piper to be gay in Flash #53 (volume 2). After reforming himself, Hartley became a social activist and worked for the FBI though he never gave up his equipment or costume.

Art by Francis Manapul and Steve Buccelato.

Piper was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino.

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