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Old March 30 2013, 04:00 PM   #2
shivkala
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Re: Race + Comics: On Green Lanternís Near-Death Experience

I'm a Hal fan, as you can see from my avatar. I started to like him back in the early 90's, before Parallax, but during a pretty low point in his characterization. Of course, that goes for the three GL's at the time: Guy Gardner was a sexist jerk, John was a Streisand loving philosopher, and Hal was a directionless middle-aged man whose prime was past him.

Aside from the Justice League cartoon, the problem with John is that no one has really done anything worthwhile with him. Guy went from being the butt of jokes in Giffen's Justice League to the character he is today thanks to Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith in the mid 90's recognizing his potential. Sure he's still a bit of a jerk, but they added some depth to him and turned him from a jerk-for-the-sake-of-being-a-jerk to that friend you have who, while knowing he's got your back, still will give you a hard time just to see you sweat.

Hal, meanwhile, in the early 90's had spent the 70's travelling with Ollie, then the mid-80's giving up being GL in favor of trying to get together with Carol, then the late 80's as one of only three remaining GLs in the universe. After the whole Parallax-mess, Johns brought Hal back to the character he used to be, strong-willed (it was even a plot point during the early 90's that Hal's will had been sapped since an adventure with Ollie in the 70's), thick-headed, and impulsive.

Meanwhile, John was portrayed in the late 80's and early 90's as suffering guilt from destroying a planet. Gerard Jones mined this in Green Lantern: Mosiac, which had John struggle with issues of race while drudging up everything Jones remembered from Philosophy 101 (it was...strange, intentionally so, but it has to be experienced to understand and even then, good luck). The mid 90's had John try to fit in, but they did that by making him a Darkstar, then crippling him on and off again. Winnick's attempt at reviving John involved shamelessly ripping off a plot-point from Hawkeye Pierce in the final episode of M*A*S*H.

The problem is that no one was either (a) allowed or (b) willing to do anything interesting with John since. Johns wrote a fairly decent "guest-star" version of John in his rare appearances in the main GL title prior to "The Sinestro War" arc. Following "Blackest Night" they made him a main character in Green Lantern Corps, but paired him with Kyle and again, he somewhat faded into the background. Then they dredged up the whole "planet killer" thing and had John kill Mogo and then another GL. Then I stopped collecting comics.

My long and rambling point is this, I disagree with Mr. Garcia on the grounds that he wants to make this into another "bash Hal" argument. He has some really good points about race and comics, but to me, he loses credits for trying to discredit Hal and his fans. Case in point, unless I'm misreading, it seems to me his main argument for why the Green Lantern movie flopped "deservedly" so was that it starred Hal. And as for his referencing someone who claimed their son viewed Hal as almost a roadblock to his enjoyment of the cartoon holds little water for me, since my son liked it partly because of Hal. That's just pure opinion and not everyone is going to agree.

I think he would have done better to ignore Hal as a character and focus on DC's lack of effort in trying to do some lasting character work on John. Yes, Justice League did wonders for making him a strong character, but it went against some of what made John a character up to that point in the comics. The attempt to make comics John into that John failed, because they were two totally different characters. I don't mean you have to use or even accept Gerard Jones' characterization, where, I kid you not, he professed his love for Streisand and was the opposite of the hardened ex-Marine that Johns and co. tried to make him.

What worked with Hal and Guy was to focus on what made their characters popular, amplify that, explain or retcon what made them weak as characters, all while honoring what came before.

As far as tying it to the comic version of the 60's Batman show, that to me is a very weak point. I feel like DC's has, since I started collecting int he early 90's, focused very much on the 60's and the fans from back then. Sure, when I started, we were firmly entrenched in the Post-Crisis continuity, but they were always trying to re-do the stories from the 60's, albeit with a few twists ("Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite" got me into comics, and while it was proven fake, it was the first non-green Kryptonite used in the Superman comics). Things only progressed from there as the Superman comics attempted to re-do such famous stories (even if they were originally "imaginary") as "The Death of Superman" and "Superman Red/Superman Blue." From there, they even slowly re-introduced the Silver Age Krypton, first as a red herring and later as the basis for a new ("retro") origin.

Yes, DC has issues with race. But, tying these two things together is very, very weak. A better argument should be that DC, of recent, has taken some very interesting and well-written minority characters and systematically found a way to botch them, completely in the comics, while showing how great they can be in animation. Case in point Static and Blue Beetle in Young Justice: Invasion versus their "New-52" comics. The Keith Giffen/John Rogers Blue Beetle was one of my favorite comic series of all time. It only took the first issue of the "New-52" to see that they took everything that made Blue Beetle great and ignored it.
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