Hartley Rathaway (Pied Piper)

Pied PiperA new trailer for the second half-season of The Flash gave us a glimpse of the next two episodes, and the first look at the villain of the second one. In The Sound and the Fury, we’ll meet Hartley Rathaway, portrayed by Andy Mientus. Rathaway will appear in the show as one of Harrison Wells‘ former proteges, a brilliant student the scientist has abandoned for some reason and who now seeks vengeance on his former mentor, after being powered-up by the usual accident with the particle accelerator. In the trailer, he “steals” Cisco Ramon‘s work and gives himself a nickname, the Pied Piper…the same he has in the comics. This is Rathaway’s first full live action appearance, but the character had already showed up in the Wonder Woman tv series back in the ’70s: in the show, the Pied Piper’s real name was Hamlin Rule, and he was portrayed by Martin Mull; even in this version, he used a special flute to commit his crimes, and his mind control was powerful enough to put in danger the Amazon Queen herself. Anyway, let’s see who this new villain is in the comics.

Hartley Rathaway was born the son of Osgood and Rachel Rathaway, two of the richest and most influent people in Keystone City. When he was a child, the Rathaways discovered their son had been born deaf, unable to hear any sound. Having rich parents can prove useful in most situation, and this was no exception: Osgood Rathaway paid piedpipercomics1the best doctors, surgeons and even engineers in the world to cure his son from his situation, until he found the solution in Will Magnus, a genius scientist who managed to restore Hartley’s eardrums and all the nerves connected to it. Physical healing, however, brought young Hartley to another form of sickness, an even worse one: he became totally obsessed with sound, and started studying it under any form and discipline. Hartley understood how his life had been changed by sound, and wanted to understand what the connection between human mind and sonic waves was; with his family fortune to sustain him, Hartley could dedicate much of his life to his researches ignoring anything else, until he found a way to actually influence people’s mind with sonic waves. With some skills in many scientific fields, including physics and engineering, Hartley developed a device able to produce sound waves with different effects on people’s brain, from mere hypnotism to death. Thanks to the vast knowledge he had obtained through his studies, Rathaway managed to reduce the device to small size, and to shape it like a flute; when the moment to decide what to do with his newfound technology arrived, Hartley had almost no doubts: bored by his privileged life, that gave him everything without him actually earning anything, he decided to turn to crime, seeking a more adventurous life. He became the Pied Piper.

Being a villain in Keystone City proved to be harder than expected, especially because the city was under the protection of The Flash: the hero and the Pied Piper clashed many times, with Rathaway forcing the Scarlet Speedster to surpass himself and to become faster than sound. As most villains in Keystone City, also the Pied Piper ended up joining The Rogues, a team of Flash’s enemies led by Captain Cold. Eventually, a life for crime proved to be too stressful for Rathaway, who ended up suffering a serious nervous breakdown after the piedpipercomics2umpteenth arrest: sent to Breedmore Mental Hospital, the Pied Piper proved himself useful to the hospital, and used his skills as an engineer to improve the facility. However, it turned out it was just another plan to evade, and he manipulated the hospital’s loudspeakers to emit his hypnotic sound waves and to escape from the hospital. In a matter of minutes, he was arrested yet again by someone resembling the Reverse-Flash. When The Flash died, however, the Pied Piper felt there was no purpose in his criminal career anymore, and decided to reform: he became somewhat of a socialist vigilante, a protector of the poor and the homeless ones, thus “repaying” society for all the privileges he was given since his birth. He moved to New York City, where he started to use his flute to get food from stores and restaurants to give to the city’s many vagabonds; he also joined forces with Freespace, a group aimed to the illegal occupation of abandoned buildings. Ironically enough, he became a close friend of Wally West, the new Flash, and of his girlfriend (later wife) Linda Park, and helped them move to Keystone City, where the Pied Piper finally had the chance to redeem himself to his parents’ eyes when he saved them from a former fellow criminal, The Turtle. As a reformed criminal, the Pied Piper often helped Linda Park West dealing with scientific problems, as well as helping the new Flash both on the field and from behind the curtains. Finally, a new life for the Pied Piper could begin.

Hartley Rathaway is a brilliant man, whose entire life has been driven by his obsession with sound; Rathaway has never been truly evil, and even his criminal career started simply out of boredom. A naturally skilled genius, Rathaway is an expert with anything connected to sound and sonic waves, and he’s a master musician and engineer. As the Pied Piper, he’s able to control people’s minds and actions through the sound of his flute, and he uses a number of sonic devices in battle; his flute is also able to paralyze or even kill his victims, to make the player “invisible” to others’ perceptions, and even to control certain animals such as rats. Thanks to Will Magnus’ intervention, Rathaway’s hearing is also enhanced compared to normal humans, and he has a more penetrating sensibility towards sounds. As a robber, as a socialist vigilante or as a full hero, the Pied Piper remains a force to be reckoned with…

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5 Comments

  1. […] cooperation didn’t start exactly well, as the Pied Piper followed Rainbow Rider’s example and tried to kill Cecile: she miraculously survived her […]

  2. […] he also helped some of his criminal friends to change life in turn, aided in this by the reformed Pied Piper. The excitment of his old, adventurous life, however, was a hard call to ignore […]

  3. […] When they arrive at the airport, they’re informed there’s a call from their son Hartley, but Osgood bluntly replies they don’t have a son anymore: things between them and their […]

  4. […] incapacitate the guards. Double Down tried to escape as well, but he was confronted by a reformed Pied Piper: at first, Tell incapacitated his enemy by sealing his mouth with one of his cards, but then the […]

  5. […] force him to give the book to him; unfortunately, the Rathaways’ son, the reformed villain Pied Piper, teamed up with the third Flash and freed the Rathaways, thus foiling the Turtles’ plan. […]


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