Maggie Sawyer is a police Captain. She first appeared in 1987 – shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Early on she was Superman’s most common police contact. A bit like Commissioner Gordon for Batman.
Beyond being a major supporting character created by a big name (John Byrne ), she’s one of the earliest lesbian characters at DC Comics. However, during the 1980s it couldn’t be plainly stated. So a fabulous flurry of fancy footwork was used to convey this personal information whilst retaining a fig leaf of deniability.
This profile only covers material published during the 1980s. The one exception is important flashbacks from a 1995 Annual.
We have another profile for Maggie Sawyer. It is our original set of notes, taken during the Gotham Central comic books run. Eventually, this new chronological series will catch up with, and overwrite these early notes.
- Real Name: Captain Margaret Sawyer.
- Marital Status: Divorced.
- Known Relatives: Jamie Sawyer (daughter), James Buchanan Sawyer (ex-husband).
- Group Affiliation: Former officer of the Star City Police Department, Captain in the Metropolis Police Department.
- Base of Operations: Metropolis Police Department facilities.
- Height: 5’7″ Weight: 130 lbs. Age: 37-ish
- Eyes: Brown Hair: Butterscotch brown.
Powers & Abilities
Sawyer is a veteran police officer.
She has extensive tactical and crisis response experience. She heads the Special Crimes Unit, tasked with responding to superhuman and superhuman-level incidents in the city of Metropolis.
She has a strong presence, superior courage and robust nerves. Her intuitions are pretty good.
Her right-hand officer is Dan “Terrible” Turpin. He too is an untouchable, unusually competent tough guy. Her aide is a lass called Midge.
In DC Heroes RPG terms, Sawyer has the Leadership Advantage. So when she orders her officers to open fire, and she’s willing to burn Hero Points on that, the shots can hit much harder than you’d expect.
This is particularly notable during an incident against Barrage (Karnowsky), after this armoured criminal badly wounds Inspector Turpin.
Early on, Maggie packs but a relatively compact handgun. Let’s assume a Colt Lightweight Commander in .45, since it’s drawn a bit like a 1911. There’s also a full-size M1911 stored in her desk. She’s fine shooter with these, achieving tight groups even in dismal combat conditions.
Eat your heart out, George Lucas
The Metropolis Special Crimes Unit is famously equipped with experimental ordnance by Lexcorp and S.T.A.R. Labs. A lot of it is sci-fi stuff. For instance, they have a non-trivial number of plasma small arms.
At this point the SCU isn’t as high-tech as it will become. There seems to be a half-dozen officers at any given point — mostly SWAT — and the casualties are bad. For instance a single encounter with the Silver Banshee cost Sawyer two officers.
Odds and ends, part 1
During the 1980s, the unit is still experimenting with doctrine. It’s not unusual for things to look kit-bashed. For instance three plainclothes officers who each have a different-looking prototype energy rifle, with an awkward battery shoved into a backpack. Or officers in plainclothes with a SWAT tac vest and a riot helmet thrown on.
They seem to have a single response van, holding most of their armament. When doing quick response, they seldom can field more than three or four officers along with Mags and Turpin.
As this era closes, Captain Sawyer becomes able to field a full fireteam with energy weaponry, adapted uniforms and armour, suitable vehicles, etc.. But this’ll only be really see in action during the 1990s.
Odds and ends, part 2
The SCU has citywide authority – they’re not a precinct. One assumes that they are headquartered at Metropolis Central.
They also seem to have relaxed standards when it comes to interpersonal relationships, uniform standards, the range of weaponry they can deploy (obvs), etc.. A lot of this is likely due to the story being a super-hero comic, rather than a well-researched police procedural. But there might be some explanations for that in-universe.
The SCU might be deliberately patterned after military special forces, who have significantly loosened standards of discipline and behaviour. Of course this wouldn’t change those legal aspects tied to civil rights or the Constitution, but this would make the SCU run more like a private sector company than a public service.
So, for instance, this means that Captain Sawyer could ignore that goofball Turpin proposing, without being obligated to report and discipline him.
But one would imagine that, if SCU enjoys greatly loosened standards, they also must have a close cooperation with Internal Affairs.
[BODY 02, Energy blast: 08, Range: 03, Ammo: None, R#04, Recommended STR 02, Limitation: Energy Blast has no Range, use the listed Range instead]. Some have Telescopic vision: 01.
For ammunition you need to plug the rifle into a super-capacitor, using a cable with BODY 01. A man-portable capacitor has Ammo: 02.
Early, clunky models.
Shoulder-fired plasma caster
[BODY 01, Energy blast: 11, Range: 05, Telescopic vision: 01, Ammo: 01, R#04, Recommended STR 02, Limitation: Energy Blast has no Range, use the listed Range instead, Drawback: Reload time].
Extra ammunition looks like a car battery you plug into the “bazooka” to reload. These are usually on the ground next to the kneeling operator.
On occasion this is drawn like some sort of shoulder-fired 83 or 84mm recoilless rifle. But this weapon is wielded at such close ranges that a rocket would be suicide. So it’s presumably an energy weapon.
One gets the impression that the SCU has two weapons in this class. And that at any given point one is in maintenance, and one is in the van.
The SCU has a pile of hazmat suits, and special access to the MPD’s scientific police.
The later amounts to Detective (Clue analysis, Counterfeit rec): 05, Medicine (Forensics): 05, Scientist (Analysis, Research): 05.
Margaret is originally from the Star City area, on the West Coast. Her maiden name is never given. She was raised a Catholic, and there’s a *vague* implication that she’s Irish-American.
Maggie joined the police department. She was already a lieutenant when she was 27-ish. This likely indicates an aggressive promotion pace, though it is impossible to say for sure without further information.
Her superior was the big, boisterous, friendly Captain Jim Sawyer.
However, Maggie also spent her adolescence and her 20s in stressful denial over her sexuality. This was in good part for religious reasons. Jim Sawyer did not realise that, and their work relationship became a friendship then a courtship.
Fleeing from herself, Maggie agreed to marry him.
The marriage was a disaster. They had nothing in common but their devotion to police work. The shouting matches never ended.
Journey to the East, part 1
Not long after her marriage, Maggie went for a solo vacation in Metropolis. Superman was big news back then, and she visited the MPD to learn about him.
She was referred to Sgt. “Terrible” Turpin, the local expert on what he called “the weirdies”. He had a strong reputation due to his determination and decades of experience. As a kid, Turpin had served with the Boy Commandos, who nicknamed him “Brooklyn”.
Lt. Sawyer and Sgt. Turpin became friends. However, SWAT commander Captain Greg Reagan (who seemed patterned after Lt. Howard Hunter) found her annoying.
(As written, this vacation takes place about two weeks after Superman’s debut. This is several shades of impossible both in a publication date timeline and in a 10-year timeline. Check our (more Marvel-centric but it’s not important) ageing and time in comics article for such matters. Chronological discrepancies are fixed in this here biography.)
The hotel where Maggie was staying became ground zero for the attempt by Bruno Mannheim and Intergang to take over the Metropolis underworld. This started with a carnage of rival gangsters, using Apokolips-made plasma weapons and backed by the monstrous Kalibak. The attackers captured Sawyer in her room.
Journey to the East, part 2
When Superman intervened, Maggie seized the distraction. She clobbered a goon, grabbed his energy weapon and held Mannheim and his men at gunpoint.
Meanwhile Turpin took out the overconfident Kalibak (!) by using Intergang energy weaponry, ramming a live grenade down his gullet, and kicking him off the high-rise.
When Mannheim and his goons rushed outside to fight Superman, Maggie had the hostages evacuate the building using the back door. She remained on overwatch until everybody was safe.
As she was having a smoke outside, Maggie was approached by a young reporter from the Daily Star, one Toby Raynes. Beyond an exclusive interview, Raynes visibly had a romantic interest in Sawyer.
The brutal confrontation with the Intergang mobsters and their plasma weapons is when the idea of a “Special Crimes” unit was born. The Commissioner started using political capital so it would eventually become a reality.
For a time Turpin was considered to head this future unit. He declined, but pointed out that somebody like Lt. Sawyer would be a good choice.
Maggie became pregnant, hoping that it would fix their marriage. This only worked for a short while. Jim mostly turned his back on his wife, leaving Maggie to raise baby Jaime.
During this time, Maggie painfully came to terms with her sexuality. She awkwardly started flirting with women.
Jim was unable to wrap his head around this. Worse, his lawyer used Maggie’s orientation during the divorce proceedings to grant Jim full custody of little Jaime.
Maggie chose not to appeal, to spare her daughter much unpleasantness.
The City of Tomorrow, part 1
Mags cut her losses and fled to Metropolis. She joined the Police Department there, and made Captain within about five years.
She was about to be assigned her own precinct when Mayor Berkowicz proposed creating a new kind of unit. Sawyer thus instead took command of the brand new Special Crimes Unit.
She reportedly had an excellent track record with handling unusual situations. One imagines that it also explained her rapid promotions.
In her new, big, shiny city, Margaret again came across Toby Raynes. She was now reporting for the Metropolis Star. The two came to live together (along with two cats) at the top floor of a posh Metropolis high-rise.
It is possible that Raynes comes from a wealthy family, since their flat didn’t seem affordable on a police captain and a reporter’s wages.
The City of Tomorrow, part 2
A key recruit for the fledgling SCU was MPD veteran Dan “Terrible” Turpin. He had made Inspector since his first meeting with Maggie.
After a few years with the SCU, Turpin attempted to date Maggie. He was horribly embarrassed when she explained that he was knocking at the wrong door. But Sawyer firmly assured him that she didn’t mind his mistake. They remained good friends and close colleagues.
When Sawyer first appears, she has clearly worked with Superman many times before. Thus, it is possible that stories chronicled during the early 1980s also happened post-Crisis. And, in this version, involved Mags and her unit.
We’re not going to list every SCU response here. But several events of specific relevance to Sawyer happened during these years.
The Luthor subplot
After a Luthor attempt on Superman’s life, Sawyer warned the business magnate that she had him in her sights. This of course didn’t fly well, and Luthor started scheming against Sawyer.
Luthor attempted blackmail, threatening to out her – presumably with explicit surveillance photos. This was credible in that rivals within the MPD gunned for her prestigious position with the SCU. And of course Luthor had enormous political influence. But Sawyer refused to buckle.
However, Luthor soon lost his hand to Kryptonite poisoning. This refocused his hatred on Superman.
Skyhook, part 1
In 1988, Jim called Maggie to warn her that their nine-year old daughter had gone missing. Maggie’s theory was that the kid was trying to come to Metropolis from Star City. A friend with the FBI took the case.
On a hunch, Margaret also asked Superman for a personal favour. This was a fine decision – Jamie had been kidnapped by a demonic creature named Skyhook.
Superman and Sawyer stormed Skyhook’s hideout before he could mutate Jamie into a winged creature. Skyhook flew away with Jamie as a hostage, but Maggie grabbed her daughter and refused to let go.
Skyhook let them fall to delay Superman. But while falling Captain Sawyer drew her sidearm and put three bullets into the creature. Skyhood crashed into a river and vanished.
Jamie confirmed that she had run away, and somehow crossed the country, to see her mum. Superman returned the nine-year old to Star City. But he convinced James Sawyer to reconsider visitation rights for his ex-wife.
Skyhook, part 2
Though Jamie hadn’t been mutated, Skyhook’s touch had damaged the skin of her arms. This seemed incurable.
As Cadmus Project researchers couldn’t cure the other, fully mutated kids, they asked Jim Sawyer to bring Jamie for comparative study. Superman arranged for a Cadmus access for Maggie as well.
However, Skyhook was still alive. In 1989, he psionically summoned the mutated kids to him, which also affected Jamie. Her parents gave armed chase. The winged kids and Skyhook lost the Sawyers. But Maggie deduced they would fly to the abandoned church Skyhook was previously based in. Superman also came in.
During the fight at the church, the cops tricked Skyhook into impaling himself on a statue as he lunged for the Man of Steel. With Skyhook dead, all the mutated kids were transformed back. Jamie Sawyer’s skin was also healed.
Here’s a crude timeline, for those running a campaign in publication time rather than a sliding timeline. It is centred on Maggie and her SCU as it existed on New Earth. The more elements one tries to bring in, the more paradoxes appear.
Again, see the Aging in comics article for stuff about sliding time, publication time, ageing rates, etc..
Dan Turpin is born.
Dan Turpin joins the Boy Commandos as “Brooklyn”.
“Brooklyn” Turpin starts a police career. He likely was with the NYPD and transferred to the MPD in later decades.
Margaret is born.
Turpin makes Sergeant.
Maggie goes through the Star City Police Academy and joins the SCPD as a patrol officer.
Maggie makes Inspector. She’s still an officer, but she’s doing detection work rather than patrols.
Maggie makes Sergeant.
This is when Superman’s career debuts in Metropolis on New Earth. From 1975 to 1987, his adventures are an unclear set of Silver Age and Bronze Age Superman adventures, altered by New Earth realities.
Maggie makes Lieutenant. She likely becomes the head of an important SCPD detective squad (say, Major Crimes or Organised Crime). A few months later, she marries Cpt. James B. Sawyer.
Turpin makes Inspector.
The marriage starts disintegrating within but months. Maggie takes a solo vacation to Metropolis, becomes friends with Turpin, helps derail Bruno Mannheim’s rise to power, briefly works with Superman. Talks about a SCU start, but it won’t become a reality for years.
Maggie becomes pregnant.
Birth of Jamie Saywer. Divorce. Maggie leaves for Metropolis. She is hired as a Sergeant by the MPD.
Sgt. Margaret Sawyer receives a special promotion to Lieutenant after unchronicled exploits. She is presumably managing an entire shift at a major precinct.
Lt. Margaret Sawyer receives a special promotion to Captain after unchronicled exploits. She is scheduled to take over a precinct when a position frees up. However, her achievements create enough political capital for the SCU idea to become real.
An early version of the SCU starts operating under Captain Sawyer’s command. Her first recruit is Inspector “Terrible” Turpin.
The SCU gradually obtains and tests armament, and develops a working relationship with Superman.
Both Sawyer and Turpin’s aging rates are now slowed by the “comic book divisor” (about ¼). Superman’s adventures on New Earth are now chronicled normally.
Jaime runs away from Star City all the way to Metropolis. Her aging rate likely starts slowing down at that point, as Skyhook slightly mutates her.
Sawyer leaves the MPD and is hired by the GCPD as a Lieutenant. She’s now physically 42-ish.
Turpin dies during the Final Crisis.
Sawyer is a heavy smoker, preferring thin cigarillos.
She usually works in plain clothes. She has a marked preference for pencil skirts (mini or knee-length) and heeled leather boots. This doesn’t seem too convenient if things go pear-shaped, but the skirts actually are stretchy and don’t limit her stride much.
She also frequently wears dark sunglasses, even when it’s not sunny out there. Usually these look like a pair of Ray Ban Oversized shades with a low bridge and no top bar.
She usually has small button-shaped earrings, and little makeup. She’ll often wear something purple, pink or violet. When dressing up, there’ll be some oddly old-fashioned (like, 1950s) detail, such as a grandma brooch atop a high-collared blouse.
Her haircut is, mmm, functional and may have been inspired by Jonathan the Actual Wolverine’s. During her early appearances her hair randomly alternates between brown, honey blonde, orange and butterscotch brown. Since it’s unlikely she’d dye them, it would seem that the Conspiracy of Confused Comics Colourists once again wrought minacious malevolence. The fiends !
Though she’s listed by DC as being 5’10”, Mags isn’t draw that tall during this era. She’s a full head shorter than all the big guys.
Sawyer is a hard-edged, uncompromising leader who works to protect Metropolis no matter what.
She’s undiplomatic, unsentimental and highly invested in her work. To her, it’s way more than a job. She’ll attempt to take down anybody who harms the citizenry, regardless of status, influence or power.
Mags is hard-nosed, has strict principles and is the polar opposite of a conflict-avoidant person. She never backs down.
She often goes for aggressive tactics. But that’s presumably because her troops can’t withstand high-end superhumans. Thus, they have to take them down before they can hit back.
She usually calls her officers by their first name, and they usually call her “cap’n” or “skipper”.
Sawyer has on occasion been distracted by pretty ladies. But it takes an exceptionally attractive woman, wearing something particularly sexy, at close range.
“I don’t *like* you, Luthor. I never have. You’re a user, and users make my skin crawl. So from now on I’m gonna be watching every move you make. Keep a close eye on your butt, big man. Sooner or later, I’m gonna hand it to you.”
“As I read it, my job is to protect the people of this city from the kind of lowlife ordinary police departments can’t touch. Super-villains, for example.”
“If Lex Luthor thinks I’m going to tuck my tail between my legs and run, just because he now holds what he thinks is his big trump… he’s misjudged his target. I told Superman once that when I gave up the custody fight for my daughter and left Star City it was the *last* time I ever ran away. From *anything*.”
“I’m almost more inclined to believe the story [Milton] Fine told. About aliens invading his mind.”
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Police|
|Int: 04||Wil: 04||Min: 04||Occupation: Head of the SCU|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 04||Spi: 04||Wealth: 005|
|Init: 011||HP: 010|
Detective: 04, Medicine (First aid): 03, Vehicles (Land): 04, Weaponry (Handguns): 05
Area Knowledge (Metropolis), Familiarity (Her personal iced tea recipe), Leadership, Police Rank (Captain, with extra SCU prerogatives).
Superman (Powerful, High), Lois Lane and the Daily Planet (Low), Inspector “Terrible” Turpin (High), Toby Raines (High), FBI (Low).
SID of backing down, Misc.: Closeted lesbian.
- Shades [BODY 01, Shade: 01].
- Colt Commander .45 [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 04, Range: 03, Ammo: 07, R#02, Limitation: Projectile Weapons has no Range, use the listed Range instead]. Her full-size M1911 has the normal Range, and one more Ammo.
Source of Character: Superman comics.
Helper(s): Superman: Man of Steel Mayfair sourcebook by Roger Stern . Darci.
Writeup completed on the 26th of December, 2017.