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Credit: DC Comics, Blackest Night: Suicide Squad (1987) #67

Ben Turner, the Tiger King we deserve

Contributed by
May 18, 2020

Just about everyone has that one thing that makes them wonder if they might be a furry — or at least furry-adjacent. For some, it's the Netflix anime Beastars. For others, their realization came as early as Disney's animated Robin Hood. Honestly, if you scroll through Art Twitter long enough, you'll find something that makes you ask yourself, "Am I really playing Frak, Marry, Kill with sexy animals?" The point is there is an abundance of content in the world to make just about anyone have a thought or two.

Now, with that in mind, what happens when a wildly attractive martial artist with baggage, a huge heart, and the capacity to grow runs around in a skin-tight tiger-themed gi accompanied by a tiger face mask? You get the only true Tiger King worth recognizing — Ben Turner, aka Bronze Tiger — and your loins are thankful for it.

Next to the classic elusive bad-boy archetype is a photo of Ben Turner. He's battling enough inner demons to supply two entire seasons of Demon Slayer, and each one would have a tragic backstory. Ben is a hot mess, the kind of mess Marie Kondo would know sparks joy, which is why he was Amanda Waller's top pick to lead her Suicide Squad. He is also a hot mess who works to unpack his baggage (eventually). We love personal growth and accountability in this house.

Before he became a member of the infamous Suicide Squad or his brainwashed alter ego, Bronze Tiger, he was just a guy trying to exorcise his demons through martial arts. Ben Turner made his debut in Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #1, in which he had a pretty heavy presence throughout the 18-issue series, enough time to get to know him. One quality that justifies sending him a text at two in the morning asking him to bring his tiger face mask with him is the nice, nasty way he shuts down those who try him. His first encounter with Richard Dragon is a moment the Academy would eat right up. Bigoted youth Richard Dragon tries to flex his colonizing muscles by stealing an 11,000-year-old jade Buddha statue, but swiftly meets the fists of Ben, a student at the dojo he attempts to rob.

Credit: DC Comics, Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #1

Richard gets flipped into a pond after calling Ben a refugee from a minstrel show, and it's precisely what he deserved. Unfortunately, because he's the title character, Richard also gets an undeserved invitation to join the dojo. While Ben flipped the racism out of Richard, he still has to deal with other racists throughout the series, and each time instead of turning the other cheek, he gives them the body checks their mouths keep writing. He even holds his own with one good leg after being shot in the other.

Of course, he keeps this same energy when he joins the Suicide Squad. A memorable instance of Shut 'Em Down Ben Turner happens in Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #32. Right after Ben is named leader for a mission by Amanda Waller, Major Victory voices his disdain, as he feels he is more qualified. Major Victory shares his true feelings about Ben's abilities, stating that Ben's repertoire only consists of fancy kicks. In response, Ben gives Major Victory the attention he was clearly begging for by placing an apple on his head and swiping it off with his hand to take a bite, before Major Victory can get a full sentence out of his big mouth. Ben then walks off, letting Major Victory know that next time it'll be his nose and that he is mission commander, period. The moment earns him a smile from Amanda Waller, and we all know it's not easy to make The Wall crack a smile.

Credit: DC Comics, Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #32

Major Victory doesn't dare test him because, after all, Ben Turner is a formidable fighter — even before he was brainwashed by O-Sensei, leading to a considerable amount of time with the League of Assassins. He makes that skin-tight gi look so good because he knows how to move in it. He can work pressure points (probably one of the reasons Vixen tried her best to stick around for as long as she could before his baggage got to be too much). He brought down many of his foes who were more potent on paper, like Ivan lllyich Gort, who isn't even phased by bullets. Unfortunately for Gort, he is phased by Ben's skilled hands. And you know who else is phased by those skilled hands? Batman. While with the League of Assassins, Ben runs afoul of Batman and brings Bruce to his knees, making him clutch his chest for the wind that was knocked out of him. It's a moment that is most pleasing.

Credit: DC Comics, Detective Comics #485

Knocking the wind out of Bats aside, Ben's fighting skills, both verbal and physical, are two and three in the top three qualities that make him a baggage bae. Ben's noble nature is his number-one quality, even if he has trouble internalizing it — his most significant flaw. It cost him a relationship with Vixen, who sees all he can be if he was able to work through his demons instead of hiding them away in his tiger face mask. He finally does in Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #65 when he faces off with the angered part of himself, defeating it and freeing himself of an emotion that ruled him for far too long.

Ben is at least a hot mess who knew he was a mess and didn't forgo accountability even though he could have, given how he was brainwashed. He is an ex you could actually have a chance at having a great friendship with after the breakup. When Vixen later seeks him out during her arc in Justice League of America Vol. 3 in which she was having problems with her powers, he gives her the same sage advice she once gave him while they were in the Suicide Squad together. He tells her to trust her friends, the members of the Justice League, when it comes time to come clean about what's going on with her powers. He's right.

Credit: DC Comics, Justice League of America #22 (2006)

Continuing the theme of Ben's atonement is another memorable moment in Batgirl #67 (2000). Cassandra Cain pays Ben a visit at his Tiger Dojo, a place he runs to give wayward kids the opportunity to channel their pain in something positive. He is unable to tell her the whereabouts of Lady Shiva because he is no longer a part of the assassin scene; instead, he takes the opportunity to humble himself before Cassandra.

Ben drops to his knees before her to express the level of humility he feels towards Cassandra becoming a hero after he trained her to be an assassin. He recognizes the resilience and strength it took for her to achieve such a feat. It's a beautiful moment for a character who used to wear his anger in the form of a tiger mask.

Credit: DC Comics, Batgirl #67 (2002)

The Bronze Tiger came a long way to work through his trauma. Since he no longer wears the mask out of anger, his ensemble can be appreciated for what it is, and that's the beginning of an enticing furry suit. He just needs to go ahead and make the entire costume a full tiger suit to match the face mask so we can get this fanfiction going.

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