V. and I feel like proud parents with the posting of today’s guest essay from our fellow fangirl, Jenn. She’s the brains behind Dirty Blonde & Nerdy, where she writes about her adventures in geek. Jenn was also one of our earliest readers, and it warmed our jaded little hearts to learn that Girls Gone Geek had helped guide her as a newbie in the often overwhelming world of comic-book reading. Seriously; we had a moment. (Me to V: “Dude, she’s like our Padawan!”) Anyway, we enjoyed the heck out of her essay on DC’s throwback strategy, and we think you will, too. Take it away, Jenn!
There have been quite a few shake-ups in the DC comicverse in recent years. It’s been a pretty intimidating time for anyone to follow, especially for someone just diving into the fun. We had the Crisis siblings: Identity, Infinite, and Final; Bruce Wayne is now sleuthing up to his inevitable return after his supposed death, the Justice League has a new Big Three, if one at all, with a table full of new faces, and the big to-do with Blackest Night led directly to Brightest Day. And, of course, there is the new Wonder Woman run/temporary costume. DC has had its hands buried deep in the cradle of its characters and titles, and the editorial powers have been stirring things around for a while.
Let me make it clear that I have absolutely no problem with that. At all. I love nothing more than when someone takes the plunge and dares to do something different, outside the box, and makes people mad or excited about the idea. It garners plenty of attention, a necessity in any entertainment business. But an “A” for effort doesn’t really count. Success doesn’t ride on the back of good intentions and certainly not on the shoulders of half-assed executions.
Before anyone gets fired up about their own concern (or thinks I’m here to spit fire on everything) let me narrow the playing field to one development in particular that has me wondering what exactly is going through the heads of the officials: DC’s regression to older heroes, the step backwards from the supposed legacy appeal. I don’t get it. A legacy doesn’t work backwards; it’s a namesake passed down to the one who earned the title. For example: Wally West became The Flash after Barry Allen. Bart Allen became Kid Flash after he grew up a bit and left the name Impulse behind. The names became mantels. Now they don’t mean anything because they’ve been revoked, rearranged, removed, whatever.
This problem doesn’t touch just The Flash’s so-called legacy, and it doesn’t stop merely with old guys coming back and retaking their titles. For some, the bigger issue is that a bunch of old white guys are coming back to retake their titles.
The Atom. Ok, Ray Palmer is back, so they discard the replacement Ryan Choi by killing him off, which apparently is the quick and easy way to write off a character (which is also very lame). But, oh crap, that means they killed the guy with a different ethnicity to make room for a white guy.
Boom. Now you’ve got racial issues.
I think that’s ridiculous. If DC wants to revert back to the older heroes, then yeah, it’s gonna look like a whitewash because those characters were created in a long-ago age. Was it an intentional slam against the racially diverse characters added over the past few years? I don’t think so. I hope not. Maybe I’m being far too optimistic in my pessimism, but that result only sprang from the decision they made.
Adding to the confusion, we have Dick Grayson under the cowl when we know Bruce is due back in a few months. I know, I know. Someone needs to be Batman while Bruce was gone. Gotham still needs Batman. Bruce couldn’t ever really be dead because no one else is really Batman. Here the legacy doesn’t work. It can’t work, and it never will work no matter how many times someone else temporarily has their face behind that mask. Those boots — among others like Wonder Woman and Superman — are just too big to be properly filled permanently.
I suppose “half-assed executions” is a little harsh, but this is a nice hole that the folks at DC wrote themselves into. How can one character have a legacy when others who have interacted with that character never age? Retcon the Failsafe? (I think that could be a comic itself.) Change who worked with whom back in the good ol’ days to make sure the aging problem doesn’t interfere? That’s great. They’re probably going to do it sooner or later anyway.
You just can’t please everyone. This fact has proven itself tenfold since I’ve been in the DC fandom. Not everyone is going to approach a new direction with grace and a sensible sense of judgment rather than instantaneous maniacal fan-frothing. But it’s kind of strange that the new faces of DC Universe are taking us backwards instead of moving forwards.