By Allison Eckel
I found Action Comics no. 1 off-putting. It is set in a different time from the rest of the New 52 (an ambiguous “five years ago”). The Superman we all know so well acts very un-Superman-like – in fact, he’s kind of a jerk. He even pulls a page from Batman’s playbook (although he doesn’t yet realize it) and suspends a bad guy upside down in the air until he confesses. Most of the issue is action and kinetic energy, with our T-shirt-wearing super-hero getting the tar beat out of him by a wrecking ball and a speeding train. Exciting, but as a fan of Superman of the past 30 years, I felt like Alice following that darned white rabbit down its hole. I wrote about my apprehension of this re-jigger, and after reading issue no. 1, I was not optimistic for the future of DC Comics.
Then I read issue no. 2, including the pages at the end of the book on which the creative team explain what they did. Now, usually, if a comic book needs the creators to explain it, then I say something went wrong in the storytelling. However, in the New 52, many things are different. Reading these explanatory pages kept me reading Action Comics, and then, the comic made sense.
What follows is my deconstruction of what I think writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales are doing with Action Comics, and therefore, why I think it is among the top books of the New 52. I must confess, most of this has been laid out for me (and all of you) to find by Morrison, who seems to work hard at ensuring his readers never take comics as easy, light fluff.
With DC wiping its editorial slate (mostly) clean and re-launching their characters in the New 52, Morrison is seizing his opportunity to bring Superman back to his beginnings, a character he describes in his book Supergods:
“The Superman who made his debut on the cover of Action Comics no. 1 was just a demigod, not yet the pop deity he would become,” Morrison writes on page 4. “[T]his Superman was unable to fly, resorting instead to tremendous single bounds. He could neither orbit the world at the speed of light nor stop the flow of time. That would come later. In his youth, he was almost believable. [Creators] Siegel and Shuster were careful to ground his adventures in a contemporary city, much like New York, in a fictional would haunted by the all-too-familiar injustices of the real one.”
Morrison and Morales are working closely together to deliver at least three distinct-yet-seamlessly entwined levels to Action Comics to achieve this modern re-set of Superman: the action, the canon, and the commentary.
For action, Morrison has already stated that Clark’s powers are now less than most of us are used to. He cannot yet fly and he can be hurt, just not easily. In the back of Action Comics no. 2, Morrison explains that he is, “constantly putting Superman up against very physical objects.” Indeed, the first three issues of this new run have been packed with scenes in which Clark meets the seemingly immovable object, and does not always win. He comes out battered, bruised, bloodied.
The quiet moments are still filled with detail. Morales has made a point of differentiating Clark-in-cape and Clark. Morales explained that he “put [Clark] in baggy clothing to hide his muscles. Maybe stoop his posture a little bit, make him slack-jawed … so he doesn’t look at all like a hero …. He’s a very good actor, which is a super power I don’t think many other superheroes have.”
While Morrison re-sets Superman’s powers, he is taking every element of his canon – no matter when in the past 73 years they were introduced – shaking them up, and tossing them on the table like Yahtze dice. What they spell is the mother of all retcons. Ma and Pa Kent? Yes, they found him, but they died, prompting his move to Metropolis. Lois? She’s there, but they barely know each other, and barely like each other. Jimmy? They seem to be about the same age now; Clark thinks they’re pals, but Jimmy seems annoyed by him. The Daily Planet? Lois and Jimmy work for it, but Clark doesn’t (yet?). Lex Luthor? Still brilliant, still scheming, still sees “Superman” as an affront to his Humanism (he seems fairly unchanged, actually). This is all unrolling organically with the stories, so readers get to put the canon pieces together whenever Morrison lets us.
The third level I can see in these stories is commentary. Morrison has already written that Superman originally appeared in a fictional city as flawed as a real one. And so, Action Comics no. 1 launches us into the new Metropolis, complete with business tycoons who may do good turns on the surface, but make shady deals under the table. In this Metropolis, people are thankful to be saved, but pissed that their homes were taken out in the process.
In this version of the DC universe, the government gets its hands on Superman early in his crime fighting career, and experiment on him to test his limits and learn his weaknesses. This is new for the DCU of my youth. The first I remember seeing this in the DCU was this summer’s Flashpoint: Project Superman, written by Scott Snyder. In this alternate reality story, the government found baby Kal-el’s rocket, not the Kents. The alien baby was raised in a protected cell, the subject of endless scientific research. This is probably a more realistic outcome to the “what if” of an alien baby falling to Earth. I don’t know what inspiration Morrison is drawing from Flashpoint, but the similarities are striking to me. The post-Flashpoint DCU is not the idealized place I knew in my youth. Now, the government tortures Superman, and the people he once saved will picket for him to “go home.”
I see this as a level of social commentary that is not exactly meta fiction, but more subtle. Morrison lets Metropolitans react to Superman in a way that might be consistent with how New Yorkers might react to a man in a silly little cape suddenly leaping buildings.
Now that I view Action Comics through this lens of seamlessly entwined action, new canon, and social commentary, I am excited to read more. Beginning with issue no. 4, on sale December 7, readers will be treated to back-up stories by guest creators. Reportedly, these stories will be approved by Morrison in order to fit within the context and framework he and Morales are building in the main story. First up is Sholly Fisch, who has been writing whip-smart stories for The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I love smart comics, and the new Action Comics is among the smartest titles DC Comics is currently publishing.
By Glenn Walker
"It's like déjà vu all over again." This amusing Yogi Berra quote approximates one of my biggest problems with DC Comics' New 52. The idea of the restart, the blank slate for some of these characters bothers me quite a bit.
One of the reasons is I don't like origin stories. No, scratch that, I do like origin stories, I just don't like them when they're not needed, or when they are told over and over again. I hate them in superhero movies. It seems like when a hero gets a movie the origin has to be done, whether we like it or not. Just think, next year we'll have Spider-Man's origin told in the movie theater twice in less than ten years.
Why can't they just tell a good story? Just do that, and we as viewers will accept that the hero is who he is and can do what he does. That's how they did it back in the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and especially in the old movie serials. Heck, back in the Bronze Age, in the late 1970s, DC Comics themselves did it one better. Every story opened with an introductory paragraph that told you who the hero was, where he came from, and what he could do.
Here's an example: Rocketed as a baby from the exploding planet Krypton, Kal-El grew to manhood on Earth - whose yellow sun and lighter gravity gave him fantastic super-powers! In the city of Metropolis, he poses as mild-mannered TV newsman Clark Kent - but battles evil all over the Earth - and beyond - as… Superman!
DC should probably implement that again; as a matter of fact, I think most superhero comics should. If you can't tell me the origin in one paragraph, it might just be too complex. Yes, I'm looking at you, Miles Morales.
The starting from scratch idea has actually ruined a few of the New 52 for me. Case in point - The Flash #1. It's a great comic, good story, great new costume, and a terrific new foe in the style of the Silver Age rogues. My problem is that they have turned back the clock. Barry Allen is no longer married to Iris, and on page one, is on a pseudo date with Patty (our Bronze Age preemptive Ms. Flash) Spivot. This just isn't right.
Even as a kid (not yet a married adult, so screw your relation theories), I preferred loving married Iris Allen over mean single Iris West. Barry and Iris had a love that spanned millennia and the multiverse, and survived both their however-temporary deaths. They are soul mates, just as much as Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman, and they belong together.
I love Barry Allen, and the Silver Age Flash is one of my all-time favorite characters, but do you know when I didn't like him? After Iris' death, when he was dating Fiona Webb and flirting with Zatanna, that's when he was a jerk. I didn't want to read about him. Notably I kept reading even when he was a widowed angeldust addict, but not as a jerk.
Speaking of jerks, we are also back to square one with Superman. The Clark/Lois/Superman triangle is back. I thought we were done with this kind of deceit. If Superman was as true blue as he's always pretended to be, this cruelty would have ended decades earlier than it did. I'm telling you, if Lois shot Clark to death with kryptonite bullets after finding out he'd been yanking her chain with the whole double identity thing for so long – even Judge Judy would acquit her. I don't want to go back to those dark days, but I think I've written enough about that already in these blogs.
Getting back on track, when Superman was rebooted in 1986, the one thing that turned me off was that everything was erased, it was a blank slate. While that was not a bad thing in itself, I then had to read certain stories over again as they were retold. I remember being bored to tears by all the Cadmus Project stories as I had already read them all before, back when they were called the DNA Project as written by Jack Kirby.
Dan Jurgens is a great comic book writer – when he's not retelling Kirby Superman stories over and over again. I certainly hope that won't be the case with Grant Morrison's new Superman. Unfortunately for me, I think we will be getting the Cadmus/DNA Project stories again anyway in the new Superboy and Teen Titans. I certainly hope not. As much as I liked Morrison's take on the early Superman days in Action Comics, I hope we won't be getting too many repeats. It's dangerous territory, as his origin has been retold at least three times in the past decade, and will also appear again in the Man of Steel film – not to mention almost fifty years of Superboy stories – as if we could all forget Superman's origin…
The best #1 issue of DC's New 52, in my opinion, is Aquaman #1. You know why I think a big part of that is? Because the story accepts what has gone before (and Aquaman's marriage to Mera is still intact, unlike other DC Comics marriages) and works with it. Why couldn't all the DC titles have done that? Writer Geoff Johns has fun with Aquaman's history and perception, and fun is something lacking in many of the New 52 as well.
The storytellers of the DC Universe should be guided by the work of Grant Morrison's Batman, Steve Englehart's Justice League of America and Detective Comics, and James Robinson's Starman. Just write good stories – and assume everything that came before did happen, but just don't reference it unless it's important to the story you're telling. It's pick and choose continuity, but it's continuity that works.
Keep it simple, keep it entertaining, and just tell good stories – and not re-tell them. Please.
By Glenn Walker
More than a few times on the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast when we've talked about Flashpoint I have referenced an old JLA/JSA crossover whose story is similar. The story appeared in the summer of 1965 in Justice League of America #37 and 38. With last week's conclusion to Flashpoint, I thought it now would be a good time to take a closer look at this classic story.
I picked up #37 first, not when it came out -- I''m not that old. As a widdle keed, I bought it for like a dime at a giant yard sale at Atsion Lake. Inside the box I plucked it from were comics with names and titles that I didn't even know yet, like the Losers, Capt. Storm, the Doom Patrol, Plastic Man, and House of Mystery. It was a veritable Silver Age goldmine, and I was yet to be a Vast Storehouse of Useless Knowledge, darn shame. I finally snagged JLoA #38, and the conclusion to the story, for much much more than a dime, at a comic book convention in the early 1980s. The fact that it was my first 'old' comic makes it extra memorable to me. We always remember our first.
Back in the early days of the DC Multiverse, this third JLA/JSA team-up actually formally introduced Earth-A, the fourth such parallel Earth. But, for those scientists, and DCU veterans out there, Earth-A wasn't a proper parallel Earth, it was in fact an 'alternate' Earth-One, one that was altered by tampering with events in its timeline. Someone time-travelled into the past and eliminated the Justice League. Starting to sound familiar, folks?
In "Earth -- Without a Justice League" and "Crisis on Earth-A," the classic original creative team of Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky presented a twisted tale of time travel and treachery. The Johnny Thunder of Earth-One, a petty con man and small-time criminal, upon learning the good fortune of his Earth-Two counterpart, wrested control of the Thunderbolt from him. Seeing the Justice League as a threat to his evil plans, he commanded the Thunderbolt to prevent the Justice League from ever becoming super-heroes. Yeah, it's what happens when the bad guy gets the genie.
Jetting back through time, the Thunderbolt went to work interfering in the various members' origins. He protected Barry Allen from the fateful lightning bolt, saved Krypton from destruction, prevented Abin Sur from crashing on Earth, destroyed the white dwarf star fragment that changed Ray Palmer into the Atom, short-circuited Dr. Erdel's experiment, and beat the crap outta Batman on his first case. As a kid, two things stuck in my mind. One, I was awed by the sheer power of the Thunderbolt. That he could save Krypton was no easy feat. And two, I got to see the Sekowsky-rendered original costume of the Batman. It's the rarely seen variation for his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, and was new to me. With no more JLA to stop them, Thunder and his gang proceed to raise hell.
Luckily, in typical Silver Age fashion, the JSA is paying attention to the doings on the altered Earth-One and go, disguised as the Justice League, to stop the evil Johnny Thunder's crime spree. Even awkwardly disguised, the JSA made short work of the Thunder gang. With the very powerful Thunderbolt at his disposal, however, bad Johnny makes him turn his gang into his very own Justice League by replacing them with the JLA members. He throws thug Race Morrison into the Flash's lightning bolt, and irradiates henchman Barney Judson with white dwarf material.
With Superman, Batman, and the Martian Manhunter… it gets iffy as to how they were replaced. Like I can sorta see Hawkman as J'Onn J'Onzz, but this is getting ridiculous. Yeah, I know, it really doesn't work if you think too hard about it, but let's be guided by the Marvel Comics "One More Day" philosophy - "It's magic, we don't have to explain it."
Anyway, presto change-o, and Johnny's gang becomes the Lawless League of Earth-A, and they do battle with the Justice Society. The conflict escalates as these things do, and finally the evil Johnny Thunder starts getting his butt kicked in the midst of combat, so he makes a final wish: none of this ever happens. Poof! Everything goes back to the way it was. No harm, no foul, except that bad Johnny ends up in jail. Perfect Silver Age ending: Almost everyone lives happily ever after. The evil Johnny Thunder does return decades later, but the less said about the 'new' origin of Black Canary, the better, as far as I'm concerned. It's rather disturbing, and best forgotten.
And there you have it, a lightning bolt-themed character changing the time stream to eliminate the Justice League - Silver Age version. And it happened before, and it will happen again. It just happened in Flashpoint. The Reverse-Flash, or maybe even the Flash, has been mucking with the time stream and has created a new continuity -- one where the Justice League never existed, where Aquaman and Wonder Woman have led their nations to war, and where the world stands in the balance.
Something tells me, based on the solicitation for the DCnU comics now beginning the New 52, that no one is going to make a wish and everything will be going back to status quo -- at least not in a good way. Let's just hold our breath, and hope for the best. This is a brave new world…
By Allison Eckel
As I write today, the entire U.S. eastern seaboard is preparing for Hurricane Irene, currently classified as category 3 as it churns off the coast of Florida. Hurricanes are massive storms that scientists can track, though only to a point. They are still wild, untamed forces of nature that can change course at any moment.
Also as I write today, the entire comics fandom is preparing for the unveiling of DC Comics’ new universe of titles, their entire stable of superheroes taken back to issue #1 and back to a new startling line. Fan reaction of massive comics industry reboots can be predicted by editorial and marketing departments, though only to a point. Comics fandom in general is still a wild, untamed force of nature that changes its collective opinion at any moment. Consider our collective excitement regarding this summer’s Green Lantern movie and how quickly we turned against it post-release.
I am choosing to be very excited by DC’s total reboot. The reality is that their characters were becoming cluttered by so many annual crises, resulting in many titles missing their marks – tent pole titles were becoming stale and brilliant edge titles were not gaining traction. A company-wide commitment to a clean slate is bold and exciting.
Those of you who are relatively new to comics fandom may be very thrown by the upcoming changes. For you, these characters have never been other than who they were leading into, say, Blackest Night. Your DC Comics reality looks a lot like this: Batman has always been supported by half a dozen “bat team” members; Hal Jordan never tried to re-set existence; Wonder Woman has always had the power of flight; Superman has always been married. To change any of these – and many more, similar details – about your beloved characters would disturb you greatly.
Those of you who are long-time readers will take all of this in stride. If, like me, you have known these characters for decades (I count 1979 as my first year reading comics), then to borrow from Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before and it will happen again.”
Grant Morrison has published a nonfiction book looking at superheroes, why we love them, and why we need them. Super Gods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human is a fantastic read for any comics fan. While I await the coming storm, I am reading this book. On the day my colleague Glenn Walker and I scoffed at Superman’s amateur duds shown on the cover of the new Action Comics #1, I came home to read a poignant passage from Morrison. On page 5, he puts into context the release of the original Action Comics #1 and the world’s first superhero: “It showed something no one had ever seen before.”
Take that idea, and publish it today. Pretend the people of Metropolis have never seen a superhero. How would they react to him? Would he wear a 1930s-inspired circus strongman suit or is he more likely to wear jeans and a t-shirt? The new Action Comics, which will be written by Morrison, seems to be taking this approach. I really enjoy smart comics writing – which I grant you is a broad description – and Morrison’s work is about as smart as it comes.
For many of the characters in the DCU, I am a little nervous about how they will change in the DCnU. Some of my favorites are not even returning (yet). But I am not panicked about Superman. In Morrison’s own words (Super Gods, page 14), “we writers come and go, generations of artists leave their interpretations, and yet something persists, something that is always Superman. We have to adapt to his rules…we can never change him too much, or we lose what he is.”
The new titles begin with Justice League #1 on sale August 31 (All Things Fun! is hosting a midnight release party! The fun starts at 11:30pm Aug. 30). That day, the slate of DC titles is nearly clean. JL#1 and the much-anticipated Flashpoint #5 are the only new titles in stores that day (the other two titles are collected trades).
Action Comics #1 will be on sale September 7, along with 12 other new #1 titles. The remaining 52 are slated to reach comic shops before the end of the month.
By Glenn Walker
One of DC Comics New 52 coming in September is Blackhawks written by Mike Costa with art by Ken Lashley and Graham Nolan, among others. DC describes it like this:
Welcome to a world waging a new kind of war that’s faster and more brutal than ever before. It’s fought by those who would make the innocent their targets, using computers, smart weapons and laser-guided missiles. The new enemy is hard to find – and closer to home than we think. Between us and them stand the Blackhawks, an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles. Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.
Sounds a bit vague, doesn't it? It's obviously a war comic, but… really what is it? Mike Costa is a fairly new name in the world of comics, but what he has done more than prepares him for the book described above – he's writing G.I. Joe Cobra for IDW. Yeah, now it makes sense, doesn't it? Costa has given several interviews talking up the new Blackhawks. He's very excited, and is hoping for the best with this new series.
I'm excited too, not necessarily for the new series, although it is one of my most anticipated comics of the relaunch. It's the name I'm excited about; yeah, I'm an old-school Blackhawks fan – and I'm not talking about Chicago hockey either, folks. It's time for another history lesson from the Glenn Walker Vast Storehouse of Useless Knowledge.
Blackhawk is a very old and legendary name in the world of comic books. Blackhawk had his own movie serial, radio show, prose novel, action figures, animation, toys – and along with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow, was one of the handful of heroes to survive the Golden Age through into the Silver Age. All this, and he's not even a costumed superhero.
Blackhawk debuted in Military Comics #1 in August 1941, another in the wave of aviator heroes we've talked about before. However, the character stood out and above others of his ilk, experiencing phenomenal popularity, as evidenced in the radio, movie, and other exposure of the time. His adventures continued throughout the decade in both Modern Comics (changed from Military after the war) and his own self-titled comic. When Blackhawk's publisher, Quality Comics, closed up shop in 1956, DC Comics bought them out and kept publishing Blackhawk without missing a beat.
The character of Blackhawk himself has gone under a number of identities, and it's debatable which one is real in the original continuity. But, one thing is sure: Blackhawk is a hero, a defender of freedom, and one of the best pilots in the world. Before and during World War II he leads a squadron of pilots against the Axis powers. This squadron, known as the Magnificent Seven before any movies co-opted the name, was the Blackhawks. Each member represented a nation subjugated by the Axis.
The Blackhawks included Andre from France, Olaf from Sweden, Stan from Poland, Hendrickson from Denmark, Chuck from the U.S., and Chop-Chop from China. Blackhawk himself was rumored to be Polish, American, or both. One-time squad members also included Boris, Zeg, and Gaynor, as well as allies Lady Blackhawk, Miss Fear and the team's hawk mascot, Blackie. Created in the less-than-enlightened 1940s, the ethnic stereotypes were rampant, and especially hurtful when it came to poor Chop-Chop. Retcons and more contemporary stories changed things for the better in later decades.
After the war, and especially after DC's ownership, the Blackhawks began to face a variety of costumed villain more familiar to comics readers, and Blackhawk became less a war comic and more an adventure series in the vein of the superhero genre. Sales declined as the years progressed, and as the "Batman" TV camp craze was in full swing, editors made the decision to turn the Blackhawks into super-powered heroes. It was a change that killed the book. Not even a last minute return to stories of World War II could save Blackhawk from cancellation.
The Blackhawks vanished from comics shelves and racks for the first time in decades. DC Comics revived the team as contemporary mercenaries fighting high tech terrorists in 1976. This was my first exposure to the team, and in this short run, just under a year, I fell in love with the characters. It was something new to me, and discovering their long history became a journey that many comics readers experience when they find a favorite hero or heroes. These were regular guys, but heroes just the same, fighting a more realistic threat (still super-powered to an extent) than the ones Superman and the Justice League usually fought. I was sold.
The Blackhawks were revived again, again set in war stories, but again disappeared after a while. War comics were no longer in vogue in the 1980s sadly. Late in the decade Howard Chaykin completely revamped the team in a more realistic style that stuck for a little while, re-introducing the Blackhawks to a new generation of readers. The characters became a solid part of DC Comics history and continuity, even appearing in a few episodes of Cartoon Network's popular "Justice League" animated series.
Continuity has established that at least some legacy of the Blackhawks exists in the current DCU, as part of an elite military force using high-tech jet fighters, and also as a courier service called Blackhawk Express. And even more recently, a time-tossed Lady Blackhawk has become a major player and team member in Gail Simone's Birds of Prey series. Literally, the Blackhawks seem to be the characters that never say die.
The newest incarnation of the team might not have any (if at all) relation to the originals, but one can hope. Either way, I'm looking forward to it. The new Blackhawks debuts on comic shop shelves, and especially at All Things Fun!, on September 28th. Check it out!
And if I may quote the original Blackhawks' battle cry, "Hawkaaa!"
By Glenn Walker
Probably the big news this year, or biggest news period in quite some time in the comics industry, is the big relaunch of DC Comics this September. DC will be putting 52 first issues of 52 new and old series, and it's being called a number of things; however, “reboot” is the one word that is being debated.
The core concept is to make DC Comics and its characters more accessible to new readers, and the powers that be believe that a new start is the best way to do this. Reboot is the term bandied about for this, and not just in the comics field – it's been done for decades in pop culture including film, television, and books. In comics, however, is where the word reboot gets a bad name. Comic books are serial fantasy dramas, where status quo and continuity are very important. In other words, the characters and their storylines must both stay the same and yet grow at the same time. It's a slippery slope, and in the right creative hands, it can work; but, as with all things, sometimes the right hands are not available.
The fact is that DC Comics has been around for nearly 80 years, and that means 80 years of stories, 80 years of history, and 80 years of continuity – there's that dirty word again. Imagine dating someone who has 80 years of emotional baggage – yeah, that's how some people view DC Comics' venerable history. So some folks feel it might be better to just start from scratch and avoid all that formidable history. Putting out number one issues of all the comics is a way to do this. It feels new, it feels like a reader is coming in on the ground floor, a fresh start.
At first, despite the cries of anguish from longtime fans who didn't want to see the characters and stories they loved washed away into oblivion, it seemed that this was what DC was doing. We will see a new, younger Superman, along with a new, younger Justice League. Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl again. It appears we have a new version of Mister Terrific, as well as Hawkman, Firestorm, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. We even have a Teen Titans team who has never met before. And in many of the promotions there is a focus on a more diverse DC Universe – with minority characters like Cyborg, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, new African hero Batwing, the aforementioned Mister Terrific, Static, Apollo and Midnighter, and a diverse new Blackhawks team, to just name a few.
Now let's be fair. There are a handful of titles here that I am genuinely excited about. But all is not as it seems. It turns out that some of the new titles will be telling stories of the past. And then DC revealed that certain titles would retain some of their continuity, specifically the Batman, Green Lantern, and Legion families of books. Certain major comic book events of recent times will still occur in continuity. So it isn't a reboot of any kind, or even a fresh start; worse than that, it is beginning to look like it is business as usual. But wait – it gets worse.
There are glaring omissions in the 52 titles. Popular characters and concepts have been left out. First, let’s consider that the Justice Society of America, except for the ominously different Hawkman and Mister Terrific, are nowhere to be found. The JSA are the first superhero team, dating back to 1940. Despite only dealing with the Second World War a few times in their original run, later retcons (the act of retroactively changing continuity) like the All-Star Squadron have deeply rooted the JSA in that war, and with fixed ages.
Technically due to this, the Justice Society members should all be in their nineties at least. Various in-story reasons account for their long life spans. Several members were exposed to the magic of villain Ian Karkull, while others had their own reasons. For the Flash, it was the speed force; Green Lantern, his Power Ring; Wildcat has multiple lives like a cat; Hawkman keeps getting reincarnated; and folks like Doctor Fate and the Spectre are just flat out immortal and take new human hosts as needed. But even after all this time, these things wear thin, and even though the JSA has a loving fanbase, some of the powers that be at DC don't agree.
It's a fact that a fan favorite ongoing series starring the heroes was canceled during the 1990s because editors felt that readers did not want to read about 'old people.' Geoff Johns, DC's current resident wonder boy, and one of the masterminds behind this don't-call-it-a-reboot, brought back the JSA a few years back with great success, introducing a new generation of heroes – legacies of the older heroes – for the original members to train. Ironically, this new JSA featured a cast of characters much more racially and ethnically diverse than anything DC's current line-up of titles promises.
These characters have been given a rest, according to DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio. All of them have vanished from the relaunch save Hawkman and Mister Terrific who both seem to currently have no connection to any team. There's been much talk about letting Superman be the first superhero again with this relaunch, and that says one thing to me, folks – there's no Justice Society.
Speaking of Superman, this brings me to the second exception to diversity in the new DC Universe. Not only can't a character be old, they can't be married. Dan DiDio in these post-relaunch weeks has also said that the Lois Lane/Superman marriage is being 're-examined.' What does that mean? Well, it means a lot, whether we're talking about DC's increasing legal troubles with the Siegel and Shuster heirs that indicate several elements of the character may no longer belong to them, including Lois Lane, remains to be seen.
There was much contention a few years ago with the storyline "One More Day" over at Marvel Comics, in which Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson's marriage was dissolved (along with quite a bit of continuity) by the devil Mephisto. Years later the furor still continues, and even though writer Dan Slott is doing a fantastic job with Amazing Spider-Man, this reader has vowed not to buy that comic until the continuity error is fixed, and still hasn't to this day. And I know I'm not alone.
Sometimes retcons work, and sometimes they are just bizarre and done for all the wrong reasons. For me, Spider-Man's marriage was one such error, as it was a natural progression for the character and it made sense. We have all been in long-time relationships, and let's be real here – there is a crap-or-get-off-the-pot equation that occurs, and most people will not wait forever. Sometimes you get married, sometimes you split up.
With Lois Lane, the marriage defines her character. Now before I start getting hate mail, I'm not being sexist and saying she's defined by being his wife. What I am saying is that for the past 20 years, Lois has been not just Superman's wife, but his partner and his equal. As far as I'm concerned, that is 360 degrees from the vindictive, jealous, snoopy, and yes, let's say it, dumb and blind woman of the 1950s and 1960s. And as the Man of Steel's equal she offers insight, a sounding board, and depth to a formerly flat cardboard Superman character.
However, it seems that the powers that be at DC, in their 're-examining' of the relationship, might just decide that the childish, degrading love triangle and secret identity hiding of decades ago is right for this modern couple. This makes me fear equally for the marriages of the Flash and Aquaman. We already know that Hawkman is Hawkgirl-less in the new DC Universe.
So, don't be old, don't be married, and the final minority to take a hit in this don't-call-it-a-reboot seems to be: don't be handicapped. The Batgirl title, written by fan favorite Gail Simone, seems to be telling stories of the past, a past where Barbara Gordon has the full use of her legs, and is not in a wheelchair fighting crime as Oracle. One could also assume the unlikely possibility that these are current-day tales where she's been cured of her paralysis. Either way, DC's number one handicapped hero is no more, and worse yet, if the former option is true, we're going to see her shot again.
Now as much as I love Batgirl, and I love me some Barbara Gordon Batgirl – one of my first crushes was on Yvonne Craig in that tight purple jumpsuit – Oracle was a much better, more defined and in-depth character. I'll take Oracle over Batgirl any day. Barbara never got a JLA membership in the cape, but she got one in the chair, ya know? I want my Oracle back, and not by reliving the horrible, pun unintended, Killing Joke.
So, in closing, DC could stand for Diversity Comics, as long as you're not old, married, or handicapped. Please don't make this so, DC.