Monday, July 10, 2006

DC Comics Returns... or Relapses - The End

Okay, here it is, as promised...

created in 1938, and he's been Kal-El (a.k.a. Clark Kent) ever since. DC killed him off once; brought him back. They also changed him from "The Man of Steel" to "The Man of Energy" once; changed him back.

created in 1939. Little known outside of comic-dom, DC attempted to change his character in the early 90s. He went from Bruce Wayne to Jean-Paul Valley. Now, a lot of indications exist that this was a temporary ploy from the get-go, but I'm sure the fans complaining they wanted Bruce back didn't hurt one bit.

Wonder Woman
created in 1940. She's actually been four different characters. The version we all know and love (thank God for Lynda Carter... mmm... Lynda Carter...) is Diana Prince. But, twice in the 90s they switched her character, and both times they switched her back. Heck, right now she's a different character (Donna Troy, the former Wonder Girl), but all bets are on that she'll be Diana Prince again before too long.

created in 1940 as Jay Garrick. Switched to the uber-popular Barry Allen during the Silver Age launch in 1956 (and is generally credited with starting the Silver Age). Barry is killed during the (gasp) Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986 and is replaced by Wally West, who, up until very recently, has kept the Flash mantle as his own. Keep in mind, the Flash has been one of only two examples of character-switches actually working. However, given the fact that a new Flash is on the horizon (two are rumored, actually), it won't be any surprise if Wally West or Barry Allen find themselves back in business.

created in 1940 as Carter Hall. In what is probably the worst Silver Age revamp anyone can think of, he's changed to an alien, Katar Hol (I know, what a stretch, right?). Ever since then, he's pretty much been confused. I don't even want to touch this guy, especially since he's actually, along with Atom, my favorite character (Grant Morrison had the right idea... and if you know what that means, you have as much of a need for a life as I). At any rate, Carter Hall came back, disappeared again, but is more than likely coming back once more.

Green Lantern
created in 1940 as Alan Scott. Switched to the uber-popular Hal Jordan during the Silver Age in 1959. Remained Hal until the 80s, at which point John Stewart became the predominant Green Lantern for quite a few years. Eventually, Hal was put back, but went crazy, killed all of the other Green Lanterns (long story) and was replaced by Kyle Rayner (the BEST incarnation of Green Lantern EVER, by the way). Needless to say, fan-boy clamoring and nostalgic editors brought back Hal (in a convoluted manner worthy of a DC crisis).

created in 1940 as Al Pratt. Changed to the physicist Ray Palmer in 1961 thanks to the Silver Age. Was temporarily replaced by Adam Cray in the early 90s, and temporarily made a teenager in the late 90s. Both times he reverted back to being regular ol' Ray Palmer. Is currently a Chinese-American, Ryan Choi. Despite a statement by current DC chief Dan Didio, Ray Palmer is probably going to be back in the not-so-distant future.

created in 1941. Has pretty much been the same character (albeit with some drastic costume changes here and there) up until this year. Strangely, the old Arthur "Orin" Curry has been replaced by Arthur Joseph Curry. Not sure where they're going with this, but the second it becomes stupid or silly, Orin is on his way back.

Green Arrow
created in 1941 as Oliver Queen. Killed in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! and replaced by his illegitimate son, Connor Hawke (like Kyle Rayner's Green Lantern, a fantastic character). Kevin Smith of Clerks and Dogma fame, however, preferred Oliver Queen, finagled his way into writing Green Arrow for DC, and brought back Oliver in the most ridiculous of ways.

created in 1941 as Ted Knight. Probably having the record as the most incarnations (seven, including character switches in 1976, 1980, 1988, 1990, and 1994) and probably the most obscure of the DC Icons, Starman is also the most successful example of a legacy living up to its expectations. The current Starman, Jack Knight (Ted Knight's son), is also the best Starman and, thanks to some excellent writing by James Robinson, the Starman continuity is (finally) well-defined.

Has anybody noticed a pattern? If not, let me spell it out for your limited mental capacities... character switches and dramatic changes almost always seem to happen at around the same time and almost always subsequently never work. You see, DC gets these itches to "update" and "modernize" their characters quite frequently. The problem is that their Silver Age characters are so loved and cherished, that the readers DON'T WANT their characters changed. The only way to successfully change a character is if the legacy of that character remains intact. To date, only Flash and Starman (again, expertly written by James Robinson) have enjoyed that success. Ron Marz' take on Green Lantern also offered a great take on a character's legacy, but the controversial manner in which Hal Jordan lost the mantle proved to be too much for the Kyle Rayner character to overcome, despite some seriously excellent writing.

Side Note:
Personally, other than the holy trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, I was looking forward to a "Bronze Age" of characters. Kyle Rayner, Connor Hawke, and Wally West were perfect archetypes for the transition. Unfortunately, narrow-minded fan-boys and nostalgic writers ultimately decided against it.

In any case, it's only a matter of time before all of the new versions of these characters revert once again to the old versions (save for Starman), thereby creating multiple incarnations of characters that are eventually going to have to be "cleaned up." Which, as can surely be guessed by now, is going to lead up to the inevitable fourth DC Crisis, which will probably be called Crisis of Infinite Characters. DC, it seems, needs a complete reboot if it's ever going to truly going clean up the mess the Silver Age made. And that, people, is the end of that.


Anonymous said...

Was the 80s movie "Starman" related to his character?

Well done post, by the way. You obviously know your stuff.

Posted by Geoffry on July 10, 2006 - Monday - 6:22 AM

Anonymous said...

Nope, neither the film nor the ensuining television series were related to the comic books. I'm not sure if John Carpenter had to license the name from DC or not, but given the every-day nature of "Starman," I doubt it.

Posted by JeffScape on July 10, 2006 - Monday - 2:18 PM

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