In general, his early years are a mystery with details not yet recounted in the pages of Astro City comics. According to Mr. Bridwell's reconnaissance data, Crackerjack first "debuted" in 1991. A few years later, at the time of Mr. Bridwell's reconnaissance work for the alien race known as the Enelsians, Crackerjack had already established himself as a popular if not brash public defender. But Mr. Bridwell's overall assessment of him was not flattering.
"He depends on luck, he is jealous of others, he does sloppy work, he steals credit for the achievements of others"
He invited himself into the fracas on his first team-up with Quarrel. She was about to take out the Techsperts when he burst onto the scene. During the battle she was keeping her eye on him as much as she was the villains. At the end of the fight, they both had a smitten admiration and attraction for each other. That was the starting point for their hot, then cold, then hot again, romance and battling partnership.
In the twenty plus years since his encounter with Mr. Bridwell, Crackerjack has continued his antics and activities as a showoff crime-fighter. He has also maintained his up-and-down relationship with Quarrel. Together, and solo, they have both racked up solid reputations defending humanity. Crackerjack has also slightly improved his standings with his fellow peers. He's still not well liked, but there is a grudging respect for his accomplishments. The real ones anyway.
Yet, the years have taken there toll and he shows great reluctance to acknowledge the reality of his slowed reflexes, tired muscles, and increased fatigue levels. He has sought remedies, medical and chemical, to this ego-deflating dilemma. Some of them have gotten him into trouble, most especially his tinkering with a body enhancing serum used by the Black Rapier. Worse, he sought help from an even riskier source when he conspired with the evil Gormenghast to enhance the serum, hoping to make it work effectively on his own aging body.
That gamble turned extremely sour. The devastating betrayal by Gormenghast left him crippled and near death. He would need a full time caregiver to assist in whatever physical restoration might be possible. Quarrel decided to take personal responsiblity for Crackerjack's rehab, vowing to put him through a special kind of hell as an incentive towards a strong, positive, recovery.
With Honor Guard's help, Crackerjack and Quarrel retained the services of a top-notch treatment facility in Astro City, where the two could focus on rehabilitation. Crackerjack even promised that, should Quarrel manage to pull off his physical recovery successfully, he might even tell her his real name.
His physical skills are impressive and quite acrobatic in nature. Until his recent tragic encounter, He kept himself in top physical condition, but there is no apparent references to suggest he possesses extraordinary powers bestowed through freaks of nature, radioactive exposure, DNA manipulation, or mutation. At least not to date.
He carries a baton whose round tip can be fired off at the end of a line. It mechanisms behave in a manner similar to a grappling hook. Crackerjack often uses this feature of his baton to line-swing across Astro City.
Partners and Motivations
Over the years he has had an on-again-off-again romantic relationship with Quarrel. It's a bit of a puzzle as to why. Even fellow Honor Guard member M.P.H. had a hard time figuring out why women would be attracted to men like Crackerjack. Men that are rather parasitic in a relationship. The comments that Quarrel uses to explain why they are still a couple despite the on and off, hot/cold history is insightful. For her it is more than just feeling she could fix the guy, she actually preferred the freedom and the drama.
During the Enelsian story arc, Crackerjack seemed very much an amateur, just getting started as a super-hero. Still in his early years, and needing someone like Quarrel to smooth out the rough spots. Yet again, things are not what they seem. Crackerjack had been around for several years, and Quarrel was never his mentor. On general observation, it is easy to assume that he is younger than Quarrel, and that Quarrel, having been trained and mentored by Street Angel, was now being the guidance and mentor for Crackerjack. However, according to creator Kurt Busiek, "[while] Quarrel’s had the longer career as a costumed hero, she started younger. And even if she could mentor him, he wouldn’t listen."
He has a hard-driven, opportunistic way of handling situations, along with a surprising amount of discipline riding in the undercurrents of his otherwise boisterous, carefree and borderline careless demeanor. He’s been in top physical shape all his adult life.
The cover to issue #18 suggests traces of extra poundage on his frame, which again leads one to conclude a touch of carelessness physically that also translates into careless mental motivations as well.
As a person, it's a strain of sorts to like Crackerjack. Even though he has acting experience and exhibits a certain amount of the discipline inherit in that occupation, his personality type is that of a prima donna. Too much ego, too much “just getting by” instead of applying himself to his craft.
Given the insights provided in the recent four issue Quarrel story arc(Astro City #18-21), it is still difficult to explain Crackerjack’s career motivations. Maybe it’s like his relationship with Quarrel. It provides an excitement, a rush, and a lot of extra drama. It comes easy enough, partly due to all the time spent exercising and training. Maybe it’s a cavalier enjoyment of life, similar to Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon compared to the Patriots’ Tom Brady. An attitude of being good enough to feel fine about what you do and can accomplish, but don’t grind on it in a manner that makes it hard, boring work, when it should be light, fun, and exciting.
That almost seems to fit, yet there should be something more to it somehow. It is hard to put one's finger on it, exactly. But it sure seems like there is more to understand about this character.
When asked directly about this, Kurt mentioned that he queried Crackerjack why he does what he does, and he said "when you grew up as one of King Louis’ Musketeers, learning ideals and comportment from the best, it sticks with you even when you’re time-displaced into the modern day." But Kurt also concluded, "I’m not sure he can be trusted on that."
Given similar lines that he has fed Quarrel over the years, that one too is probably a fabrication and a con. Crackerjack, who he is, and what motivates him, remains a tough nut to crack. There is a tendency to be repulsed at his ego, his poor social skills and abrasive manners. Yet, there is always this hesitancy, a quiet-inner-nagging casting shadows over placing a judgement this harsh on him.
As Quarrel says, "Not the most famous, not the most respected, not by a long shot. But there are thousands, perhaps millions in this world today who owe their lives to his bravery."
Issues Of Interest