Friday, April 08, 2005


Declining Comics

(Despite popular demand, I am presenting the sub-rant that goes into more detail about DC's post-Crisis missteps. If it seems awkward, it's because I wrote this big whack of text, then decided to cut it, then went ahead and brought it to a close to post here. Please direct all complaints to my anus)

The Flash—Barry Allen, that is—was killed in the Crisis, leaving Wally West, formerly Kid Flash, to take up the mantle. Green Arrow—Oliver Queen—left the fictional Star City for Seattle, abandoned all his fun trick arrows (no boxing glove or handcuff arrows in the new DCU, thankyewvermuch), and eventually died.

We’re all well aware of the atrocities committed against Superman. Some of what John Byrne did with his retcon I can get behind; Superboy (“The Adventures Of Superman—When He Was A Boy!) was never more than a sales gimmick, and I love that he left Ma and Pa Kent alive. I like the idea that Superman—the ultimate Nitschean symbol—can go back to the farm for pie and parental advice.

But Byrne couldn’t stop there. Stories and ideas that used to come fast and furious in the gold and silver ages were now tangled in jumbled and convoluted plot threads spread over multiple titles. Brainiac was no longer just a superintelligent android from outer space, now there was some cruff about a telepathic circus performer possessed by an alien superintelligent consciousness, who eventually split off into a new body and became the leader of a cosmic police force. Or something. This was years ago, and I can’t be arsed to go look it up because frankly it’s not worth the effort.

Even worse, Byrne felt the need to “justify” Superman’s code against killing, by having him suffer crippling guilt after executing three Phantom Zone villains who had murdered a world (thus depriving the post-Crisis DCU the pleasure of Kneeling Before Zod). The Superman I grew up with didn’t kill—say it with me, Buffy fans—because it’s wrong. And if Superman can’t figure that out for himself, what hope does anyone else have?

But for many, the worst artistic atrocities were committed against Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern.

Since his first Silver Age appearance (leaving aside the golden age Lantern, Alan Scott), Jordan, a fearless Air Force test pilot, was a member of the Green Lantern Corps, who patrolled sector 2814 (AKA Earth and environs) with his Power Ring, which actualized his will. A simple, creative premise, with endless possibilities. One issue Hal could be on earth, the next he could be having far-flung adventures in space with other Green Lanterns.

Post-Crisis, however, Jordan took rather a beating.

It began with the sickening “Death Of Superman” storyline in 1992. Remember that? All the news stories breathlessly reporting that “Superman’s gonna die!” as if death was ever a permanent thing in comics, with wannabe-with-it feature writers trying to prove their comics cred by whipping up fake obituaries stating that Supes was survived by “his son Superboy” or that the coffin was carried by “his friend Spider-Man.”

In the aftermath of the death (meaning, the time until he was resurrected), there was a long, confusing saga involving four supposed “replacement” supermen (note lack of capitalization), that’s too convoluted to get into. Anyway, at the climax of this “Reign Of The Supermen,” Green Lantern’s homebase of Coast City was blown up, vaporizing seven million people.

Popular entertainment, folks. Pre-9/11, at least.

This drove Jordan rather over the deep end; he became obsessed with restoring Coast City with his Power Ring. When his own ring proved insufficient, he went on the rampage, murdering other Green Lanterns and stealing their rings, and eventually killing the Oans, the aliens who formed the GL Corps, and trying to use their Power Battery, still to no avail.

It was about this time, around 1994, that the cracks from the Crisis were starting to show. Changes to history were causing confusing gaps in continuity; if there was no longer a Superboy to time-travel to the 30th century, does that mean those Legion Of Super-Heroes stories never happened? Which of the thirty-nine origins of Hawkman was true? So they created Zero Hour, (yet) another (goddamn) company-wide crossover to try to fix the fix.

In Zero Hour, time is fluctuating, yadda yadda, and Hal Jordan is now the villain Parallax, who is trying to recreate the universe from the beginning of time to retroactively prevent tragedies like Coast City.

Jordan appeared to have been killed (by his old friend Green Arrow), but I guess he survived, because in the miniseries Final Night, the sun was extinguished (or so I’m told—I didn’t read it) and Jordan, in a last-ditch bid for some goodwill by DC, sacrificed himself to reignite it and save the world.

DC continued to try to make Hal a going concern by making him the human consciousness (or something) for the supernatural character The Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance. Meanwhile the DCU proper is left without a Green Lantern Corps, effectively sealing themselves off from the unlimited story possibilities they offered.

I haven’t even mentioned other non-event events like Invasion! (alien invasion results in “meta-gene” bomb, giving superpowers to ordinary people with a latent genetic mutation—an attempt to explain things like why getting hit by lightning gave Barry Allen superspeed instead of, y’know, frying him), or Hypertime, an attempt to gloss over continuity glitches by describing time as a river, with tributaries flowing in and out of the main stream(how could the Blackhawks have fought with the JLA, when they were killed in the 1950s? Hypertime! Why is Elongated Man wearing this costume in this flashback, when he didn’t start wearing this costume until years later? HYPERTIME! It’s the DCU equivalent of “a wizard did it). All this does is give the sense that the DCU, the actual physical universe that the characters live in, is like a rickety house with lots of leaks that’s going to collapse any day.

Hey, could that be the Infinite Crisis?

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?