Monday, May 11, 2009

Of Green Lanterns, Flashes and Batgirls

Since I've been talking about Legacy characters a lot lately, and mostly DC characters, I figured I'd quickly go over some of DC's bigger, and more controversial, Legacy characters. This is just going to be a quick post to give you an idea of where I stand with some of these characters. Feel free to discuss what you like and dislike about these characters as well.


Hal Jordan

Hal is, in a sense, the reason why I read DC comics. The first DC comic I bought was Green Lantern #26 by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone and Green Lantern: Rebirth shortly after that because I was hearing so many good things about Sinestro Corps War. I am always going to be biased towards Hal since he was one of my first experiences with DC comics much like I am always going to be biased towards Ben Reily because he the star of one of the first comics I read.

As for Hal's character, I like him for the most part. He maybe slightly old school is certain respects, but it doesn't bring down the character like it does with others. What I like most about Hal though is something that is not currently part of Geoff Johns's Green Lantern work. Part of Hal's origin, as a concept, was the wonder and awe of flight and space that was part of the 50s and 60s. Its seen in Justice League: The New Frontier (the comic and film) and looks like its going to be a part of the upcoming Green Lantern: First Flight movie. While it may not be currently part of Hal's character in in-continuity books, its something I really love about the character and its not something that is part of the other Green Lanterns.

Kyle Rayner

Like a lot of characters, I like the ideas behind Kyle but find the execution tends to fall flat a lot. I never actually read any of Kyle's solo books and my first real experience with Kyle, comic book wise, was in Grant Morrison's JLA. What I loved about his take on Kyle was his youthful exuberance combined with his novice status made him stand out from the seasoned veterans of the JLA. Another thing that I think Morrison did well was play up Kyle's artistic side which has fallen by the wayside recently. If I think there was one thing that needed to be "fixed" about Kyle, it is that writers have generally abandoned the artist side of Kyle.

As for his current status quo, I'm generally okay with it. I do love the Torchbearer title he was taken on since it reaffirms his status in the Green Lantern Corps and I like the important role he has taken in the Corps as a Honor Guard Lantern.


Barry Allen

Having never read a Barry Allen story (I've read stories with Barry Allen), I'm basing my opinions on what Barry Allen could be, not what he necessarily is. I'm also, generally, treating Barry like a new character because, honestly, in many ways, he is. I mean, there are always new characters that are retroactively into other character's histories and I'm treating Barry much in a similar fashion.

Also, he's never had the benefit of modern storytelling and there have been so changes to the DC Universe (Zero Hour, Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis) since he left during Crisis of Infinite Earths. He is also something of a blank slate in many respects since he never made it into the Modern Age.

As I mentioned in my Top 5 Pros and Cons of Barry Allen's Return post, what I would really like to see is Barry function something as a man out of time, an uncorrupted hero. Now, while Johns seems like he is making Barry the new Black Flash, it does not preclude him taking up this kind of role. I'm definitely going to give Johns some more time before I decide one way or the other about Barry.

Wally West

Much like with Kyle, I've never read any of Wally's solo adventures and have mostly read about Wally in the various Justice League books. Again, like Kyle, my first real experience with Wally in comics was with Morrison's JLA.

The Wally that I am most familiar with, from Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, is completely different from the one in the comics, and, as such, I have no real opinions on Wally. I did love the way he was portrayed in JLU, I think it captured a core essence of the character, but he has grown so much from that portrayal in the comics. He is currently a family man and I'm okay with that for him as a character since there are so few superhero families around. Outside of the Fantastic Four, there is not another really big one. Sure, groups like the JSA or Titans are treated like families but they are not families in the same way that Wally or the FF are.


Babara Gordon

Like many of the characters I've listed here, I have very little experience with Barbara as a comic book character. I'm mostly familiar with her as a cartoon character. That said, I really do like Oracle which I think is a wonderful concept for a character.

While I do think Barbara becoming Batgirl again could be a backward step, I also think there might be away to have her be both Oracle and Batgirl, or mix characteristics of the two, and make it work. Much like Barry, she has never really had any modern stories about her as Batgirl and have her as Batgirl doesn't necessary mean all of her new stories will be a retread of old stories.

Even though I think having her become Batgirl again, I am taking an open minded approach towards the characters future. Many Marvel and DC characters have generally been static recently or have had old status quos presented in new ways so I'm not trying to delude myself about the situation. Despite the fact that I think she works better as Oracle, that doesn't not mean DC can't put out good stories with Barbara as Batgirl.

Cassandra Cain

Unlike all of the other characters here, I have never read a comic book with Cassandra Cain in it, either as a team member, supporting or main character. I think the concept of Cassandra as a character is a good one, but, like I've stated many times before, I think the execution of many stories has taken away from the character. I'm talking about even before the much hated Adam Beechen stories.

I like the idea of a mute character that reads body language but you really need a highly skilled team to pull it off and DC undid that relatively early in the character's history, or so Wikipedia tells me. Given that DC is never really going to use the concept to its full potential, I see no reason to care about Cassandra as a character. I mean, DC could have Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely do a series about Cassandra where she can't read or understand spoken language and communicates only through sign and body language but the odds of that happening are basically zero.


Readers, who is your favorite Green Lantern, Flash or Batgirl? Are fan of Guy, John or Bart? Maybe Alan or Jay? Sound off in the comments section.

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Andrenn said...

Great post Eric, I myself have always like Barbara Gordon Batgirl from the Animated Series but I haven't read a lot of comics where she was ever Batgirl. I think Cassandra was a nice idea but the execution, as you mentioned, just didn't work well and she's become one of my least favorites in the Bat-family which is why I'd like to see Barbara return as Batgirl.

Bill said...

I like Oracle too much, but I agree that Cassandra hasn't worked very well. I'd rather kick Cassie to the curb and take a stab at Batgirl III. But I think the business end of things, trying to sync the comics with what the tv/movie properties will be doing, will dictate Babs coming back.

ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

I find it a little odd that you precisely chose characters you have so little background to explore. Still, the insight is there and it seems fair enough.

The idea for Flash being the perfect hero in modern times seems like a great approach. At least one that fits the character. I still have to read Flash Rebirth #2, so I still don't know stuff.

As for Batgirl, I also thought making Barbara wear the costume again might be a mistake, but I've given it some thought and I think it might be an interesting evolution for the character. It's not as if Barbara was confined to the chair last year. It's been a while and she's grown beyond what Batgirl used to be. At first, she was a second rate hero, now, she could be a real force to be reckoned with. She has the brains, she could lead the League. This Batgirl will be something much better.

Klep said...

The only one of these I have any opinion on is Batgirl. The way I see it, right now between Barbara and Cassie, they have two very different characters: a brawler (a sophisticated brawler, but a brawler nonetheless) and an information broker. Make Barbara Batgirl again, and you lose variety. The best you could hope for is Barbara synthesizing her Oracle and Batgirl personas together, but that basically gives you a more emotionally healthy Batman.

Barbara and Cassie as their current characters are sort of the extremes of the two halves of Batman: the detective and the fighter. I think the potential interactions between those personalities are primed for good storytelling. If DC isn't taking advantage of that, that's not a problem with the characters, it's a problem with DC. I hope they end up keeping the status quo in this regard.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

The main reason I don't think Barry needed to come back is it actually takes the character a step back. He was good to have as a martyr of sorts, and made death at least seem possible. Also, his death actually meant something, unlike Hal's.

Kyle is my favorite Green Lantern for the reasons you noted he's lost. As an artist who watches a lot of science fiction and cartoons, he's probably the best person of all the holders to use the ring to its full potential. In "my" DC, he'd be the GL assigned to Earth while Hal takes Sinestro's old position as trainer of new Lanterns. This way, you have Hal's experience where it can do the most good, and still put Kyle back where he worked best.

If Cassandra has such potential, why kick her to the curb instead of actually using it? Learning to read is important for a crimefighter, but maybe she could have remained a mute for certain reasons. Bringing Barbara back isn't so much a case of not wanting her back as it means losing Oracle, which I would think a great crimefighting position for the Gotham Guardians. (If the writers would actually have Batman use her.)

Eric Rupe said...

Bill - I'd actually like Misfit(from Birds of Prey) to be the new Batgirl but that is highly unlikely IMO.

Klep - The thing is, an emotionally stable Batman is a unique selling point. Most of the other Bat-characters don't have anything remotely resembling emotional stability. Dick and Tim are close, but not really there.

ShadowWing Tronix - Death hasn't meant anything in comics since Jean Grey came back, the first time. And death in comics has definitely been meaningless since Bucky came back.

As for not using Cassandra, because, like I said, its always going to be half-measures and dumbing down of the core concept so, why bother?

Klep said...

@Eric - While an emotionally stable version of Batman is unique, I don't think it has the same level of complexity for storytelling as the triptych of Oracle, Batgirl, and Batman.

Duckface said...

Nice article, and I generally agree, though I'm not sure why you chose to focus on characters you're not very familiar with...

On Green Lantern, Kyle's the GL I was actually first introduced to (my older brother's collection; in fact, the issue with the famous refrigerator scene was actually the first comic book I ever read outside of kiddie fare), so I'm very happy that he hasn't been written out completely. I like the fact that the GL mythos allows several versions of the character to exist without making it awkward. I also love the fact that each GL is completely unique. You can't really say that about the Flash. While I can handle Jay Garrick, having four generations of Flash run around (and with 2 in essentially the same costume) things get a little ridiculous. That's why I'm really happy they seem to be making Barry the Black Flash; it keeps the nostalgic 'Silver Age' fans quiet while keeping the story fresh.

On Batgirl I am very sensitive. I loved Barbara as Batgirl, but I feel like the time is up. I was first introduced to her as Batgirl in the cartoon, but seeing her grow (so to speak; she was already Oracle when I started reading the Bat titles properly) I think it would do a total disservice to the character, especially when they've already built up a Cass fanbase and allowed Batman's other male first sidekick to grow into his own (and maybe into the cowl itself). In my mind Cass needs to stay Batgirl, but if they really need a new one, then go for someone other than Barbara. My vote goes to Misfit, as she has a lot of the qualities of teenage Barbara's Batgirl, with my only gripe being the ridiculous multitude of red-headed Bat-ladies. Seriously, is a blonde or a black girl (Onyx!) too much to ask for?

Anonymous said...

Personally I agree with a lot of what you said in the above article but if you have never read independent issues where characters like Wally West, Kyle Rayner and Barbara Gordon were fleshed out and developed I don't think you have any credibility as far as making this argument. So I am compelled to ask; If you are not familiar with them why are you waisting my time?

Duckface said...

Crikey that's a bit harsh. Nobody forced you to read it, and the point was to stimulate conversation...

Hoylus said...

Sigh - the Anonymous Troll legacy is clearly still going strong.

I think my preferences are dictated by the status quo of the characters when I first read them.

The first DC comic I read regularly was Grant Morrison's JLA. (sppoky coincidence?)

Which means I like Kyle as he Green Lantern his rookie status at that time gave me an entry point into this 'A list' Superhero team and the fact that he was a designer and artist made his power all the more interesting imho.

A green lantern who was a test pilot just smacks of 'boys own adventure' - dated. Sinestro Coprs War rocked though, the Green Lantern Corps works really well.

By the same token, I really liked Wally as Flash (of course in this article we missed Bart Allen and Jay Garrick). And picked up a few issues of his series. I think Barry works much better as a dead inspiration to heroes.

I think Cassie Cain Batgirl working with Oracle works much better than Barbara becoming batgirl again.

Bill said...

Hmm Misfit? No thanks. Not that I haven't enjoyed her on occasion in Birds of Prey, but there are two big problems with her as Batgirl. One, Batman would never have her, she's too green. Two, I generally like to see the supernatural stuff kept to a minimum in Batman stories.

Duckface said...

Bill - But, er, Batman's pretty much out of the picture. So he can really go and **** himself lol.

Anyway, if it isn't Cassandra (my first choice), Misfit for me works and I think she's a much better fit than Spoiler (when has she even considered being Batgirl?) or Wendy (way too convoluted a backstory; daughter of an Oracle villain but was in Superfriends but was mauled by a giant Olympian/Libyan dog so Oracle gave her the Anti-Life virus from Final Crisis when Darkseid tried to take over the world using a virus, which is also miraculously a cure for being half-mauled by a giant dog).

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