Samaritan (comics)

Samaritan (comics)


caption=The cover to "Astro City: Life in the Big City"
Art by Alex Ross
character_name= The Samaritan
publisher= Wildstorm (current)
debut="Astro City" #1 (1995)
creators= Kurt Busiek
Brent Anderson
Alex Ross
alliances=Honor Guard
aliases= Asa Martin, Big Red
powers=hypersonic flight
energy field manipulation
enhanced senses
interdimensional travel|

Samaritan is a fictional character in the comic book series "Astro City". Created by writer Kurt Busiek and artists Brent Anderson and Alex Ross, Samaritan is the premier superhero of the world, much in the vein of Superman and Captain Marvel. Despite his powers, however, the mind of the man called Samaritan is that of a weary and worn time-traveler with little time to himself and no future to return to.

Fictional character biography

In the dystopian future of the 35th century, a man was selected to go back in time to prevent a catastrophic event whose consequences ultimately ruined the future world. Launched into the timestream, he was caught up in empyrean fire, the strands of energy that make up time itself. Crash-landing near Astro City in late 1985, he spent the remainder of the year learning to master the empyrean forces that had suffused his body, and to alter it to change back to a more normal appearance (the empyrean forces had changed his hair to a bright shade of blue). Desperately working to control his powers, he succeeded barely in time to prevent the Space Shuttle "Challenger" disaster, the event he had been sent to amend. Upon placing the "Challenger" on the ground, he was besieged by the media, who pressed him for details on himself. Briefly dismissing himself as just "a Good Samaritan", he departed immediately to better figure things out.

Eventually deciding that he could do a lot of good with his powers, he added a cape to his outfit and took the name "Samaritan", basing himself in Astro City. Additionally, he used his Zyxometer, a living bio-computer shaped like a diamond with tentacles to create a civilian identity for himself as "Asa Martin" (an anagram of "Samaritan"), a fact-checker for "Current", a newsmagazine based in Astro City. With the quiet his job affords, Martin has programmed the Zyxometer to do his daily duties at "Current", enabling Samaritan to simultaneously continue performing his heroics and protecting the people. Unfortunately, this has caused Asa to appear to his colleagues as standoffish. His sense of duty has led to a similar problem as Samaritan, leading him to attempt to ameliorate it with what he considers non-essential activities. For example, he consents to attend dinners and banquets held in his honor, lest he seem arrogant by those he serves. The plaques and trophies given to him at these events end up in an alternate dimension, nicknamed "the Closet", that he can access. He is less remote with his peers, primarily fellow heroes in Honor Guard, some of whom occasionally refer to him as "Big Red".

The stress of his responsibilities have affected Samaritan as of late. With little time to himself, he often (though silently) grouses that the need to fly rapidly to various locations to stop crimes and prevent disasters leaves him little time to enjoy the sheer sensation of flight. He also frets over the fact that he cannot be omnipresent and deal with "every" problem that warrants his attention. His problems were further compounded when on a time-travelling mission back to his home future, he discovered that saving the "Challenger" changed the timeline (as planned), turning the barren wastelands he'd come from into a prosperous near-utopia. However, this also resulted in a paradoxical future in which he never existed; thus, he has no home to which he could ever conceivably return.



"Bitter and implacable enemies," Infidel is almost Samaritan’s total inverse, both in manner and origin, even beginning his life not in the far future, but in the distant past.

A member of an impoverished tribe in what is modern day Kenya, inquisitive Kiyu sought out the scholars of Zanzibar to find answers to his questions on the world, only to wind up the slave of an alchemist. Studying and improving upon his master’s work, he learned to summon and infused himself with empyrean energies, making himself immortal. He also gained great enough power to slay his master, who derided his accomplishments as blasphemous, and those who prevented his escape from Zanzibar. Acquiring wealth via alchemy, Kiyu repeatedly built fortresses and castles in which to study the secrets of the universe in solitude well into the Middle Ages. Each time, however, he was ultimately forced out, being harassed and attacked by those who either decried him as a heretic and for trafficking with demons, or sought justice for people he’d kidnapped to use for fodder in his experiments. Taking the curse of infidel as his new name to symbolize his refusal to accept dogma and superstitions as law, he eventually used his access to empyrean energies to travel into the future, sometime after Samaritan’s era, in which the human race was now extinct. Infidel then "rescued" people from history’s great disasters – "Titanic", Pompeii, etc. – in order to gather slaves that would build his latest citadel, cultivate food, and other trivialities, leaving him free from distractions as he continued his studies.

When Samaritan changed history, however, the future he’d come from was wiped out, including the empire built by Infidel, his citadel ignominiously replaced with a high-tech taco stand. Finding himself in a strange new world, Infidel was imprisoned as a madman by the future’s authorities, but escaped and made plans to travel into the past. Learning that time had been changed by Samaritan, he went further into the past and caused the Cuban Missile Crisis to escalate into World War III, eradicating any changes Samaritan could have made and ensuring a new desolate future where he could rebuild his empire. However, Samaritan survived these reversals in time as well, and so was able to capture Infidel and restore history.

Their feud continued for years, Infidel using such methods as threatening those close to Samaritan, creating bizarre creatures and weapons via alchemy, or even restructuring reality – causing changes as innocuous as reversing the color of Samaritan’s hair and costume, to as extreme as revising history so that astrology became the world's dominant socio-political system. When one battle destroyed the world, the two realized the futility of it – with them both empowered by empyrean energies, Infidel could not destroy Samaritan and Samaritan couldn't keep Infidel from escaping his prisons. After restoring the world, they settled into a truce, wherein Infidel exiled himself to a palace outside the time-stream, where he can study in solitude without endangering anyone. He and Samaritan meet once a year, either in the palace or some remote part of time, to share a meal and take stock of one another. At the same time, Infidel tries to figure out a way to wipe out Samaritan just as Samaritan works on ways to strip Infidel of his powers. At the end of each meeting, Samaritan asks Infidel if he's willing to help mankind while Infidel asks if Samaritan is willing to join him and truly change the world. Each man always replies in the negative but at their latest meeting, Infidel sensed that Samaritan was starting to weaken in his resolve. Infidel felt doubt soon after, upon feeling attracted to a scientist named Gretchen Hastings. Her writings had been forwarded to him by Samaritan, and it was soon revealed that she initiated this action in hopes of getting the Infidel to work with her for the benefit of mankind.

Like Samaritan, Infidel has been imbued with empyrean energies, which has turned his beard and eyes green. Whereas Samaritan uses his energies sparingly and only to help, Infidel uses his constantly, not just for lightning-like attacks but to do simple tasks in his home. It has been shown that Samaritan, a modern man who owes his existence and powers to science, is uncomfortable with Infidel's magic-based ways and old beliefs such as women being inferior to men. Despite their differences, Infidel does seem to hold a respect for Samaritan and seems to truly wish he will join forces someday.

Winged Victory

As of recent, Samaritan has been able to spend (very little) time with Winged Victory, another troubled superhero based in Astro City, beginning when they were set up on a date by other members of Honor Guard, who volunteered to handle all major disasters that night. Whether their relationship will develop beyond one of purely professional status remains to be seen, although Samaritan is shown to hold her in high regard. During their annual dinner, Infidel offers to tell Samaritan how it will turn out but Samaritan says that even if he could trust Infidel to tell the truth, he prefers the uncertainty.

"Ms. A"

A beautiful young woman with a distinctive beauty mark on her left cheek, "Ms. A" - she's been referred to as being named possibly Allison or Andrea - was a thoroughly modern woman who had shown Infidel "disrespect". As such, she became embroiled in at least two great battles between him and Samaritan; during the latter she was kidnapped to an alternate reality and reduced to little more than a pet for Infidel before being rescued.

To continue his jaded amusements, Infidel created a homunculi a claimed non-sentient humanoid form, in the image of Ms. A. Samaritan, concerned Infidel had been kidnapping people out of time again, as well as their resemblance to real human beings, and their possible ability to have feelings and emotions, raised doubts about the morality of these activities.


Due to exposure to the energies that make up the timestream, Samaritan is extremely powerful. He is capable of hypersonic flight, as evidenced in a flight from the United States to the Philippines that took 6.2 seconds. He can manipulate a field of energy, called an empyrean web, to carry and hold objects larger than him. Additionally, he has exhibited super strength, though it is not known whether it is due to muscular feats or his manipulation of energy fields. He has shown enhanced senses such as super hearing, though if his other senses are also advanced is not known. Lastly, he can travel into alternate dimensions unaided (and frequently does, to access "the Closet"). It is not known if he can travel through space-time on his own accord.

His earpiece is an extension of the Zyxometer, constantly feeding him updates on emergencies from various sources.


The biggest influence on the Samaritan character is Superman, which shows in several ways. First, the "traveler from beyond" theme echoes Superman's origin, as does the saving a spacecraft from disaster that kicks off both their careers (this was shown for Superman in "The Man of Steel" limited series, which rebooted his origin). The majority of Samaritan's powers mimic those of Superman as well.

DC Comics' Captain Marvel is often seen as an additional influenceFact|date=February 2008. Like Marvel's, Samaritan's cape is non-standard; in this case, it was designed to look like a Greco-Roman toga (this according to the author; in fact, only the Romans, not the Greeks, wore togas). Many of the powers of Captain Marvel and Superman are identical, and these match to Samaritan.

Kurt Busiek, however, provides the definitive version of Samaritan's derivation: "Samaritan's early influences are my childhood flying dreams, a book called "Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon" by Jim Paul, a 'generic' superhero call [ed] (I think) Captain Cash from a Neal Adams-drawn magazine ad in comics form, Robert Mayer's "Superfolks", Moses and "Bright Lights Big City" -- and maybe a little from a pin-up Leonard Starr did in "Superman" #400. With all that roiling around underneath, it's probably more understandable why I flinch when people assume he's just Superman again. (His cape, by the way, which was credited to Captain Marvel, comes simply from looking for imagery associated with his name, and an attempt to make him look "different" from the other "flying strongmen" of comics history.)"

ee also

*Astro City
*List of characters in Astro City series

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