There’s a moment that haunts from the premiere of the new DC Universe/CW series “Stargirl.”
Stripesy – Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) – has just rescued his partner/mentor/presumed pal Starman (Joel McHale) from a massacre at the Justice Society headquarters at the hands of the Injustice Society.
Starman, alas, is dying and begs Stripesy to protect his cosmic staff.
“The Justice Society must live on. Its legacy must survive. Someone with honor, strength, must carry the torch.”
“I’ll try,” Pat says.
“Someone with grace and heroism. You can’t do it. But someone out there will.
“But it’s definitely not you.”
It’s a jarring moment, one apparently supposed to elicit laughter, at Pat’s expense, but given that we’ve just witnessed the Justice Society of America wiped out and Starman is himself dying, the sentiment and the timing seem off.
But the show keeps suggesting that Pat is somehow less, for being a sidekick to a younger hero.
Warning: Mild spoilers for the second episode follow.
Sure, it’s unusual.
You don’t expect Robin to lead Batman, but maybe he would have, if he was the one who inherited billions and had the confidence and the drive.
Pat was the chauffeur turned bodyguard to the snot who grow up to be Starman. And what is Starman without his cosmic staff? Just another clod in a patriotic suit.
As we learn in the second episode (also part of DC Comics lore), Syl Pemberton didn’t build the cosmic staff. Ted Knight did.
Pat is no dolt. He’s an ace mechanic who built that souped-up car and that S.T.R.I.P.E. armored suit giving off the Iron Giant vibes.
Courtney (Brec Bassinger) doesn’t think much of her stepfather’s time with the JSA or his distinctive Golden Age costume that gave him his alias.
“You might laugh at those red and white stripes I wore, but people looked at those instead of my face. We had costumes for a reason, to protect our families,” he tells her.
The great thing about Pat: He can’t be shamed.
Pat embraces the role of sidekick. He’s proud to have served the JSA, and who wouldn’t be?
We’ll never hold a wishing ring or become part of the speed force, but imagine being able to use your skills, whatever they are, to help the world’s greatest heroes. Wouldn’t you jump at the chance? Wouldn’t you be proud?
Pat is a man determined to be the best possible husband, father and provider.
He’s taken on a teenager who’s thisclose to being a brat, who has it in her head that she must be the biological daughter of Starman and so she must avenge the JSA.
Pat is smart enough to realize she’ll just keep sneaking out, so he joins her, in his robot suit, to protect her. Once again, he’s putting his life on the line for someone who seems to be resolutely ungrateful.
Make no mistake: Pat Dugan is a hero.
I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.