There have been some major changes in the Arrow-verse this season. Flashpoint, new characters, new missions, new bad guys (and only one more season of Island flashbacks!)… and a very different Team Arrow. Although Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is obviously still in the lead, and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is behind him, they are the only two original Team Arrow members still in play right now. Oliver’s new team of superhero recruits includes Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum), Artemis (Madison McLaughlin), and Wild Dog (Rick Gonzales).
Wild Dog, AKA Rene Ramirez, is potentially the least familiar face out of the three new vigilantes, as well as something of a wild card character. His impulsive passion is the perfect foil for Oliver’s more cold and calculating hero, and although he is recognizable to some DC fans, he’s yet another Arrowverse character who has only a minor role in the comic universe. In honor of this new live-action version of Wild Dog, we’ve rounded up some fun facts that you may not know about the vigilante.
15. He’s A Very Minor Comics Character
The Arrow writers are known for adapting minor characters from the comic universe alongside the bigger names such as Green Arrow and Black Canary. Felicity Smoak herself is a completely different comic book character (the stepmother of Ronnie Raymond), and most of the major characters in the show have some connection to DC comics, however tenuous. While Wild Dog is a clear adaptation of the comic book character with the same name, we can expect the usual Arrow treatment (and major changes).
The original Wild Dog’s name was Jack Wheeler, a forgettable vigilante who first entered the DC universe nearly thirty years ago. In the three decades since his first comic outing, Wheeler has appeared in fewer than fifty issues – a tiny number. (In comparison, the original Felicity Smoak appeared in almost as many, despite being a background character rather than a hero.) Many of these were one-off appearances, with few longer story arcs focused on the character.
14. He First Appeared In His Own Mini-Series…
Despite being a fairly forgettable superhero within the DC universe, Wild Dog in one of the relatively few superheroes to have his first appearance in his very own mini-series. It’s generally more common (especially in recent years) for a new character to appear in another title, only gaining their own series once the audience interest has been piqued by their inclusion in a different storyline. Like TV spin-off shows, this helps build the audience/readership for new titles.
Wild Dog, however, was introduced in his very own mini-series titled This Is Wild Dog. The four-part series introduced the character and brought him up against a home-grown terrorist organization. After the series came to an end, Wild Dog continued his adventures in Action Comics Weekly with three main story arcs over twenty-three issues. His appearances in Action Comics were during the period in the late ’80s when the title took a break from Superman stories, and became a weekly anthology serial with a range of different characters.
13. …But He Has Worked With Green Arrow Before
Although Wild Dog isn’t closely connected to Green Arrow, and spends most of his adventures working alone, the two heroes have teamed up before. Wild Dog appeared in an issue of Booster Gold, where Booster’s adventures created an alternate timeline – one where Maxwell Lord has triumphed and wiped out most superheroes on Earth. In this timeline, Wild Dog and Green Arrow are two of the only remaining costumed heroes, and work together as part of a resistance movement (alongside Hawkman, Pantha and Anthro).
Wild Dog may actually be better known among comic fans for his brief appearance in this storyline, rather than his own miniseries– although he doesn’t survive the mission. This may have been the appearance that inspired his inclusion in the Arrowverse, especially as the same story arc includes two of the characters who have appeared on Legends of Tomorrow – Hawkman and Rip Hunter – as well as Oliver Queen himself.
12. He Has No Superpowers
Wild Dog is far from the only hero in the DC universe to use skills and weapons rather than superpowers – Oliver Queen himself has no “real” superpowers, and most of the current Team Arrow members are heroes based on skill rather than supernatural ability.
Wild Dog’s abilities are primarily weapons-based. He is a big fan of guns, and usually carries at least one– if not one in each hand. He’s a fantastic marksman, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, and in peak physical condition. He also has a pair of stun-gloves, which can knock out an opponent, although we may not see these come to life in the CW series just yet. (Although we’re fairly certain that Felicity and Curtis could whip him up a pair in no time if he asked them to!) He also wears body armor to protect himself (none of that super-human durability), and a utility belt for ammo and various useful gadgets.
11. He’s A Marine And An Athlete
The skills that Wild Dog uses as a vigilante come from two areas of his past (pre-superhero) life. As a young man, Jack Wheeler was an athlete. A college football star, he was headed for greatness when an injury forced him to stop playing. Unable to remain on the team, Jack lost his scholarship and was forced to drop out of school. From there, he went on to join the Marines where he learned to use the weaponry that he would take onto the streets as a vigilante, but he left the service after most of his squad was killed.
This combination of athleticism and military training gave him the tools he needed to go from being Jack Wheeler to the masked Wild Dog. We’ve seen some of this in Arrow so far, as well. We know that Rene Ramirez (Wild Dog’s civilian name in the show) was a Navy SEAL, but that he was dishonorably discharged (possibly for his inability to follow orders), although exactly what happened there is still a mystery.
10. His Is A Revenge Story
Revenge is a common theme in comic books, and Wild Dog is no exception. When Jack Wheeler returned from his tour of duty, he started taking night classes and met a girl named Claire Smith. The two quickly fell for each other, and if things had worked out differently, Jack and Claire would probably have lived a happy, normal life together. Instead, Claire turned out to be the daughter of a mob boss, and although she wanted nothing more than to start a new life, her old life caught up to her. After a series of “accidents” which were actually botched hits on Claire, she was shot dead in front of Jack while on a date.
It was after Claire’s death that Jack decided to become a vigilante, and started his crimefighting career by taking out the men who killed her. Although he (obviously) later expanded his horizons, he originally intended only to take on the mob.
9. He’s Incredibly Wealthy
In the world of comic books, if someone doesn’t have superpowers, it helps if they have plenty of money. Batman/Bruce Wayne, Green Arrow/Oliver Queen, Iron Man/Tony Stark – all superheroes without powers, but with plenty of cash to fund their heroic activities. Jack Wheeler is also a surprisingly rich vigilante (although he counts his money in the millions, rather than the billions).
After Claire died, Wheeler discovered that she had left all of her considerable fortune to him. At first, he didn’t want it, and called it blood money. In time, however, he realized that he could use it to help get his revenge on the men who killed her. This is one aspect of the character that doesn’t seem to have transferred to the series, though. As well as a change in name (and race), Arrow’s Wild Dog is proud of his connection to the streets, and though he may be hiding secret millions, we doubt it.
8. His Red Dog Logo Was His College Mascot
At first glance, Wild Dog’s costume just looks like something that your average guy could throw together from his hall closet – a hockey mask and football jersey. However, many of the elements to his outfit are carefully thought out. The hockey mask not only protects his identity, but his face. It’s an addition to the body armor he wears under his clothes, and a vital part of the ensemble for a man who is only human. His camo pants are a callback to his time in the military (and useful for the same reasons they were in combat). And his football jersey is the one he wore in college, with the Red Dog mascot on the front. While this isn’t particularly useful for protecting his identity, it has clear emotional and symbolic significance for the character, and has become a key part of his image.
Arrow’s Wild Dog wears this same jersey, which could mean a similar backstory for the character. Of course, it may also just be a nod to the comics – we’ll undoubtedly find out as more of his history is revealed.
7. He’s DC’s Version Of The Punisher
It’s no secret that there are plenty of characters in DC and Marvel that seem suspiciously similar… some of which are openly recognized as copies or parodies. Others, like Wild Dog, are only presumed to be inspired by a character from the competitor – in his case, Marvel’s Punisher.
Wild Dog was created more than a decade after The Punisher, at a time when Frank Castle was incredibly popular with readers. The two share a startling number of similarities, too. Both are ex-military men who favor guns as their weapons, have no powers, and lost friends during their service. Both lost a loved one to mob crime (Jack’s girlfriend, Frank’s wife and children), and in both cases the victims were gunned down in front of them. To top it all off, both wear a simple, practical costume including an iconic shirt with a simple logo (Frank’s skull, Jack’s red dog). Obviously, Wild Dog never gained the popularity that The Punisher did, but it’s interesting to see that both have now made it to live-action TV series.
6. Wild Dog Was Not The Only Name Considered
Artist Terry Beatty (known for the Batman: The Animated Series comic) revealed that when the character was being developed, several names were considered before he and Max Allan Collins settled on Wild Dog. Also considered were “Red Dog”, a clear reference to the logo on his jersey, “Commando”, for his time in the service, “Machine”, presumably because he is a “killing machine”, and “Mad Dog”. He has also been described as a “one man SWAT-team”, although his original nickname came about when the police described him as a “wild dog” to convey how dangerous he could be.
His name has also been debated in the CW series, with Rene Ramirez not always particularly thrilled about the moniker that Felicity and Oliver gave him. However, it does suit him – not only for the logo on his chest, but for his wild and reckless attitude, and his tendency to fight like a wild thing.
5. He’ll Be Reappearing In Print
Wild Dog hasn’t been doing too much in the DC comics universe lately. He made a brief appearance in 2006 during the events of Infinite Crisis, and again in 2009 in the Booster Gold alternate timeline that we talked about earlier. However, it’s been a long time since he was a recurring character in a title, but it looks like his appearance on Arrow is about to change all of that.
He appears in the second issue of the Green Arrow: Rebirth series, and we can assume that (alongside characters like John Diggle, who also appears in the issue), our TV hero will be making the move back into the mainstream DC universe. He’ll also be (presumably) appearing in the Arrow spin-off comic series, along with the rest of the Arrow cast. We have yet to find out exactly what Wild Dog’s role will be in the Rebirth universe, or whether he is the original Jack Wheeler or the new Rene Ramirez, but we’re sure that it will be revealed soon.
4. Rick Gonzalez Didn’t Know He Was Auditioning To Be Wild Dog
Rick Gonzalez, the actor who plays Wild Dog in the show, didn’t actually know who he was auditioning to be when he was cast in the Arrowverse. In an interview with Collider, Gonzalez revealed that he actually believed that he had landed a different, non-superhero role. The actor only learned that he would be Wild Dog when the costume designer (Miya Brummitt) called him about his superhero costume. “I had no idea I was auditioning for Wild Dog. I actually found out, once I got the job. I thought I had booked a completely different character. I don’t know what I thought I booked. I was like, “Great! I’m going to be on Arrow! Cool! I won’t be a superhero, but I’ll be some guy. That’s cool!”
3. Rick Gonzalez Was In Buffy The Vampire Slayer…
Another TV series that has its own comic book, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was also a launching pad for a huge number of soon-to-be-stars (we’ve even got a list of the ones you forgot about here). Gonzales himself appeared in an episode – in season 7, episode 4, “Help”.
In this episode, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the new school counsellor, and Gonzalez appears briefly as one of her students, Tomas. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-part, where Tomas tells Buffy that he doesn’t want to talk, before proceeding to… not talk. At first. Later we learn that his brother is a tough guy who is joining the marines. One of many students who appear to talk to Buffy in “Help” he’s not one who is vital to the plot later on, sadly. We would have loved to see more of Gonzalez in the Buffy-verse.
2. …And He’s Older Than Stephen Amell
You might not think it to look at them, but Gonzalez is actually older than Arrow star Stephen Amell. Not by much (thirty-seven to Amell’s thirty-five) but Gonzalez manages the angry-protégé act so well that we would never have guessed it. In the comics, Wild Dog isn’t particularly young, and it seems that in the show he’s probably in his late twenties at least – old enough to have not only joined the military, but become a Navy SEAL and get himself dishonorably discharged from service.
However, the mentor/trainee dynamic between Wild Dog and Arrow, and his tendency to use more slang, to rush in without thinking, and his friendship with the much younger Evelyn Sharp all make the character seem younger than he (potentially) is. Oliver’s impatience and constant reminders of how young and untrained the new team is can lead viewers to forget that Wild Dog isn’t just a wayward teenager looking to make a difference.
1. Stephen Amell Has More In Common With Wild Dog Than You Might Think
Although Oliver Queen and Wild Dog have plenty in common as well (their history with Star City and their vigilante careers, to start), it’s actually actor Stephen Amell who may have the most similarities to the character. As well as physically resembling the original comic Wild Dog, and being in similarly peak physical condition, Amell has also been known to throw on a hockey mask to do some good on the mean streets… of another fictional city, that is. Amell recently appeared on the big screen for the summer action flick Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. Another comic book adaptation (and the sequel to 2014s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Amell appeared as Casey Jones – a vigilante who wears a hockey mask. The star even got to make a joke about the connection on-screen, when Evelyn puts Rene down for his hockey mask costume, and Oliver replies “I think it’s cool”.
Arrow continues on Wednesday with ‘Human Target’ @8pm on The CW.