Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Shaka Zulu, Mar 29, 2013.
Race + Comics: On Green Lantern’s Near-Death Experience
Is Mr. Garcia right, or wrong?
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.
Garcia is right on some points, but wrong on others (more often he comes across as a Hal-basher).
Sure, there's a whole generation of kids who grew up with John as their Green Lantern--but there was a generation of kids before that who grew up with Kyle, and a generation before that with Hal (we can go even further back with Alan). Everyone has their favorite Lantern that they want to see more of.
We'll probably never know the real motivation behind DC's initial decision to kill off John--it might have been to ultimately bring him back in big way later or it might have been because they thought there were too many Earth Lanterns and someone had to go.
Prior to Joshua Hale Fialkov walking off as writer, it did seem that the plan was to split Hal, Guy, John, and Kyle into their own separate books with John becoming the star of Green Lantern Corps. Personally, I hope that is still the plan as it really would allow John to take center stage there and move the character in a new direction perhaps.
Was that the plan? As far as I knew Guy and John were still going to share billing on GLC, with Kyle still in New Guardians. There weren't any announcements about Guy getting a title of his own. I wouldn't be against it. John has sorely needed some time in the spotlight for a long time. He's the most underused Lantern, and hasn't really had a good story in a couple decades.
Me too on the last paragraph, and also, I wish that a movie with all three people be made, or maybe just three separate movies focusing on each character.
This article seems off to me. DC has made a lot of attempts in the last ten years to diversify its cast. The new Atom, Blue Beetle, and Firestorm are all examples of this. The new 52 started with a number of titles with non-white male leads. Static Shock, Blue Beetle, Batwing, Batwoman, Mister Terrific, and VooDoo were all examples of this. How many of these are still around?
Besides, John Stewart has gotten a lot more attention this past decade than he ever had before, and five earth lanterns is a little much. If DC has to kill off one of them in favor of keeping Simon Baz, which Lantern is it going to be--Guy? Kyle?--Hal again?
1. Garcia is correct in the race issue being a problem in comics. The advancement made in the early 1970s with John Stewart reflected intelligent writers presenting honest tales about the nation's most serious social issue: racial perceptions/relations (still the most serious issue).
However, the one thing many refuse to acknowledge is that younger generations of comic creators--many seeming "liberal" either in action or speech--do not appear to know how to write characters of color--African Americans in particular , unless it is the media stereotype many with a post-Hip Hop sensibility, delivering lines like someone from a 20 year old Spike Lee movie, or random BET sitcoms. Any other character with such a strong introduction as John Stewart should have that as a springboard to move the character through time, growing into a fleshed out entity, but that never happened with JS.
Even in anmation, Justice League Unlimited's version could be viewed as a narrow stereotype forged in the black drill instructor mold who was gruff, devoid of humor & uptight, making him the human version of Star Trek's Worf (one could argue that Worf being played by African American Michael Dorn was an influence...shameless if true).
2. While Garcia says:
Despite his cliams to the contrary, he is making a direct link between the two--as if in a DC boardroom, a scale sat on the table, and points pro and con about JS/GL and 1966 Batman--and ONLY those two creations--were being weighed for the sake of their "lives," with 1966 Batman as the survivor/victor.
He--like too many in modern day comics--spit their hatred of the 1966 series not only because it does not fit the "grim and gritty" (worn out) version of Batman they prefer, but it also represents (in their minds) a "conservative" image of the character not drowning in the moral ambiguity of too many present day characters.
The shot at 1966-Bat was pointless and inapplicable to the argument about the fate/handling of JS/GL.
The true culprit are the would-be creators of today being utterly clueless about an African American character.
In DC's June solicitations, there is mention of Guy making a major change in GLC and then suddenly appearing in the Red Lanterns book (the covers of both GLC and RL feature Guy, with the latter featuring him decked out in a Red Lantern uniform).
In a pre-departure interview Fialkov gave, he mentioned his plans to raise the profile of RL among the other Green Lantern titles and have it become a sister book to GLC. One sure fire way for that to have happened is if Guy had taken over the book, IMO.
That would also give all five Earth Lanterns some space to be on their own if they were divided like this:
Hal: Green Lantern (plus Justice League)
Guy: Red Lanterns
John: Green Lantern Corps
Kyle: New Guardians
Simon: Justice League of America
Agreed. He's been thrown a bone here and there, but usually as the joyless Earth Lantern who makes the unpopular decisions.
Agreed. I tried to make this point earlier in the thread, but I think you made it better.
But, are they not around because they starred non-white and/or non-male leads or because of their quality? As I said, I tried Blue Beetle and dropped it because I personally thought it wasn't well written.
The few reviews of some of the other titles I'd read seemed to agree that Mister Terrific and VooDoo were not that great. I liked Batwoman, but it suffered when compared to Greg Rucka's run with the character in Detective Comics.
Of course, this raises the issue of whether or not DC purposely put their more popular, higher level talent on their more "mainstream" titles and their second or lower tier writers on titles like these.
Guy going over to Red Lanterns permanently would not sit right with me. He was the one whose greatest love was the Corps, and whose greatest hatred was having that red ring on because someone was trying to take it from him. Of course, who knows what will happen now that Fialkov has walked. I really fear the Lantern books are in trouble.
Also, was it ever said that Hal was returning to Justice League? The June solicitations don't.
Implying that the decision to do Batman 66 is somehow racist is so silly that it undercuts the otherwise-valid points that Garcia makes.
It also doesn't help his argument that DC killed off white Bruce Wayne for a while during the time when Nolan was making movies about him.
And while I am sympathetic to his other points, ultimately, the real problem here wasn't racism. The problem was, and is, a publisher that has been creatively bankrupt for years and thinks that repeatedly killing off characters to bring them back in a couple of years is the way to sustain sales. John was just slated to be the latest example until the blowback.
I tend to think Fialkov's intention was to change the mission of the Red Lanterns so that they would work more closely with the Green Lanterns, to be a more proactive force than a reactive one (which kind of does suit Guy's inclinations). Fialkov seemed on planning a lot of synergy between GLC and RL, once referring to if you read one, you'll definitely want to read the other.
Fialkov: Oh yeah, this is one story told across two books. Or, more succinctly one story told from two very different points of view. Imagine if there were two police forces with very different methodologies, but very similar goals. They'd constantly be one-upping each other and getting in each others' ways...
Oh well, what could have been...
I think the odds of Hal returning to Justice League at some point are extremely good unless they plan to replace him with Sinestro or not to have a GL on the team at all.
The impression I'm getting is that Sinestro is either not living past the end of Johns run, or he's putting the yellow ring back on. As much development as he's had, Sinestro being on the Justice League would still be ridiculous.
All good points, as are the points about John not getting a decent story line, or just being the GL that kills things/people when its necessary.
What would people think about putting John on the Justice League instead of Hal?
Personally, I think it wouldn't work. Twice in (somewhat) recent history, they put John on the Justice League, first around 2001 and then around 2008. Both times he was filling in for another Lantern (first Kyle, then Hal). The problem with putting him in the Justice League is that it does very little to further his characterization and, as I said, he often comes off as a "substitute." He really needs his own title and a good direction for his character to go in.
The John of the past 10-12 years has been an attempt to tack on his DCAU characterization onto his 40 years of characterization, in which, it seems he gets a new personality every decade or so.
I truly believe the mark of a good character is that you can sum them up in one, short sentence. Hal is the brash test pilot. Kyle is the sensitive torchbearer. Guy is the lovable jerk. John is the angry black guy from Detroit, who sought social justice, fell in love with an alien, went public, became a widower, killed a planet, sunk into depression over that, fought racism on Oa, became a Darkstar, got crippled, got healed, nope he's still crippled, nope he inadvertently killed his younger sister, now he's healed and filling in for Kyle, now he's Hal's little seen partner, now he's filling in for Hal, now he's still dealing with Katma's death and being a planet killer, now he's killing Mogo, now he's killing a fellow GL...
The thing is, they need to learn how to write said minority characters better, and soon, because Garcia's right; the generation of readers being catered to with this movie is getting older and dwindling, and the situation mentioned in an article on the i09 website about manga and one particular manga book and the reason it was cancelled will soon start happening to Green Lantern as well. Maybe they can start by hiring creators and artists of color to create new characters of color, and to write the characters of color the company has now better.
Many of the artists that work for the Big 2 are hispanic or european or middle-east. The problem is simply none of the current fans are interested in reading about new characters unless there is a legacy aspect attached to it and even then it's dubious.
Or you can just say John is the no-nonsense soldier.
But that wasn't always true of John, it was added because of the animated show. Hal started out as a brash test pilot, Kyle was always the sensitive artist carrying the torch (long before the Guardians called him the "Torchbearer"), and Guy, after emerging from the coma, has always been a bit of a jerk.
It's still no less difficult to give John a one-sentence description than it is the others, though.
Separate names with a comma.