Your Obedient Serpent (athelind) wrote,
Your Obedient Serpent

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Emerald Eternity

The other day, an online conversation about comics veered, as it so often does these days, into a debate about the revival of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern -- something that, as regular readers of this journal know, Does Not Please Your Obedient Serpent. As the conversation progressed, I realized that the person on other side of the debate, insisting that Kyle Rayner was a "Young Punk", was a decade younger than myself... and I slowly realized that, of my friends in the pro-Hal camp, the majority of them were in that thirtysomething range.

I don't know if that's typical of Happy Hal's Marching Society. Nor do I know if other fortysomething comics fans share my enthusiasm for the Passing of the Guard that happened in DC's Costumed Crimefighter Community in the '90s, and my distaste for its recent reversals.

I do know that the thirtysomething age group includes Kevin "Silent Bob" Smith, who makes no secret of his preference for the Silver Age versions of various characters, and brought the deceased Oliver Queen back to the role of Green Arrow in a storyline that -- despite my dislike of the overall trend-- I thoroughly enjoyed.

This morning, I brought this up with pyat, who observed: "We want security. :) We want familiarity. The Fantastic Four are like Santa Claus."

I think that's a big part of it. When I started reading comics, though we didn't know it at the time, "The Silver Age" was still new and vibrant.* Despite the reputation of DC's Silver Age as being stodgy and static, that period around 1969-1971 had a lot of energy and experimentation going on (just as Marvel was starting to settle into their own house-style cliches, come to think of it): Green Lantern/Green Arrow; Batman becoming the Dark Knight once again; Clark Kent becoming a TV Anchorman as all the Kryptonite on Earth is rendered inert; and, of course, Kirby's Fourth World.

Paradox: the regular exposure to Golden Age and Early Silver Age stuff we got via reprints made me MORE receptive to New Twists on characters, and created an expectation that, eventually, our current "modern" characters would give way to new heroes, and new characters adopting their names. "Imaginary Stories" of possible futures and the 30th-Century sci-fi superheroics of the Legion of Super-Heroes helped foster that feeling of... I want to say "continuity", but that has other connotations in a comic book context. "Posterity", perhaps?

I think that, in some way or another, those of us who still read mainstream superhero comics want them to be like they were in our youth. The Thirty-Somethings who finally got Hal back in the Green Saddle want the comfortable, familiar characters to remain as constant as the Iconic Trio of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman -- because when they started reading, well, those characters were stable and unchanging.

Me? I want comics to be as dynamic as they were in my youth. The thing I like the most about the Post-Crisis/Post-Zero Hour DCU is the sense of history, the idea that being The Flash or Green Lantern -- or Starman -- gives you a heritage going back to the Golden Age, if not longer. I thought shuffling the Justice Society out of the way after the Crisis was a big mistake, and was overjoyed when they brought them back in the '90s.

And yes, I enjoyed John Byrne's three Generations miniseries.

Nowadays... the Big Two are looking forward by looking back. DC is resurrecting -- literally, in at least two cases -- old Silver Age characters. Marvel's big claim to the cutting edge is the "Ultimates" line, which takes their classic heroes from the '60s and... um... tells their stories over again. DC is responding with their "continuity-free" All-Star line, which lets writers ignore the events in the regular titles to tell self-contained stories about "classic" versions of the characters, in hopes of drawing in those readers unwilling to immerse themselves by the dense, interconnected morass of the monthly mainstream. I can't disapprove of the intent -- certainly, the comics mainstream desperately needs something to make it more accessible. I'm just not sure this is it.

There are exceptions on each side, of course -- and it's interesting to note that those exceptions include some of the best-recieved books of the last few years. JSA, Outsiders, and the latest version of Teen Titans all involve The Passing of the Torch: new heroes taking on the mantle of old, former sidekicks trying to forge their own identities, young heroes in training to take on those roles in the future. Even Green Arrow follows that path, with Ollie and his son Conner both using the name, with Arsenal, Ollie's former sidekick, making guest shots from Outsiders now and then, and with a new "punk kid" taking on the role of Speedy.

I guess it's all about what you think makes the superhero genre the strongest: Steadfast, Reliable, Iconic characters, the same now as they were twenty, thirty, fifty years ago; or a sense of history and depth and change.

*An interesting aside about "The Silver Age of Comics": back when I was a kid in the early '70s, DC referred to stories from the late '50s and early '60s as "Silver Age Classics". Now, that same early-'70s period is considered part of the Silver Age. In fact, in some formulations, the Silver Age lasted right up until Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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