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12 December 2006 @ 03:41 pm
Starman: the Next Generation?  
I recently began to re-familiarize myself with the DC Comics titles I used to like. The staples, sure, like Action Comics, Detective Comics, Green Lantern, and so on. There are a few new titles in there, as well, titles that weren't ongoing when I was a serious comic reader, like the Justice Society of America, which is particularly enjoyable for me. DC releases trade paperback collections of some of the larger, iconic titles, covering a span of issues in one book. It's more cost-effective to pick them up that way, and skips most of the advertisements so liberally strewn throughout the comics pages in their monthly issues. I'm helping the DC Database Wikia project, as well, with copy editing, Wikification of articles, and by adding public domain or publicly-available fair use images to their graphics archive. I'm picking up a lot of details I missed over the last fifteen years that way.

Now, I do have two questions. Perhaps if some of you have kept up with comicdom (specifically DC but tell me if its a comics-wide trend, please), you could help me understand what I'm observing here.

Question the first: When did about one quarter of DC's roster of female metahumans come out of the closet? I'm quite serious. Grace and Thunder of the Outsiders, the new Batwoman aka Kathy Kane, former Gotham City Police Detective Renee Montoya, several villains, hints that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are occasional partners in more than just crime, the list goes on and on. Sure, there have been a couple of heroines who have explicitly referred to themselves as being straight, such as Dinah Laurel "Black Canary" Lance. Kara Zor-el has made it clear that she prefers boys, including noted man-slut Richard "Nightwing" Grayson, but the hinting that something is lurking beneath the surface of Kara's working relationship with Karen "Power Girl" Starr really makes one wonder if what happens in Kandor stays in Kandor. I'm guessing that the relative lack of hub-bub about this1 compared to those rare occasions when a male meta comes out is a mark of the double standard of "gay guys = yick, gay girls = hot" at work?

Question the second: Was there something in the water about 16 years ago in DC history? All of a sudden (although apparently occurring over the space of time covered by the weekly series 52), it seems like ever major player in the DC Universe has spawned a kid version. Did the Teen Titans become that important to the future of life on Earth that their ranks had to swell to about five times their previous size? There's a roster of people presented in a couple of issues, most of whom have appeared only as photograph references on a bulletin board or as case files on a villain's computer monitor, populated by some of the most ridiculous "next gen/new breed/kid-rebooted" versions of A, B, and Z listers out there.

  • From nowhere comes Zachary Zatara, most powerful teen magician ever, teen cousin of Zatanna.

  • There's Miss Martian, who is apparently one of the OTHER only remaining Martians other than the Martian Manhunter (in whose new book are revealed about six other only surviving Martians, none of whom look like this chick). Little Miss Greenteen may or may not be a White Martian, which would or would not be bad depending on the circumstances as they may or may not be eventually revealed. Yeah, it makes about NO more sense in the comic so far, either.

  • Power Boy. This obnoxious prick in a reverse-color, capeless version of Power Girl's costume is apparently from Apokalips. This does seem to follow the editorial trend: "When in doubt and you need someone ultra strong and lacking in serious backstory, bring over someone from the Fourth World." Jack Kirby must be rolling in his grave. Speaking of his costume, maybe you're familiar with Power Girl's costumes, most of which have included what has come to be known as the Magic Cleavage Window, the round cut-out displaying Krypton's Finest to the world. Can someone tell me why the Knock-Off of Steel here needs one? He has no cleavage, so why the window?

  • Continuing the Apokaliptian xeroxing, we have Little Barda. I'm serious. There's Big Barda, who was at least interesting, and now there's a Little Barda. Is she Scott and Barda's daughter? Is she just using the name in some kind of odd homage to her idol of warrior femininity? Or did someone at DC have a kid who is obsessed with Muppet Babies and wanted Mommy or Daddy to do the same to every comic character possible, so they started with the characters created by someone who is too dead to bitch about it and went from there?

  • Bombshell, who was apparently a barely-adult soldier convicted of assault and battery and was sentenced to receive enough power to hold her own against an entire Titans roster for a somewhat troubling amount of time. In case you're wondering, this is the lame re-tread of Captain Atom's origin; in his case, he would have been court martialled and executed for a murder he did not commit if he didn't take the option of sitting on top of an atom bomb while wearing an experimental "this ought to protect you" McGuffin. I guess the knock-off baby character only needed a knock-off baby version of the origin, too.

  • Kid Devil, the sidekick of Blue Devil. As I mentioned, we're into the Z listers. While they haven't done much with explaining where he came from, Kid Devil is at least being given some depth as he is a regular character in the current Titans series.

  • I'd mention Rose Wilson, daughter of noted assassin Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson, but unlike most of the rest, she actually had a history prior to the whole 52/One Year Later thing. Still, was she the precursor to the trend or merely one of the next generation of metas who has been swept up in the wave, such as current Robin or Wonder Girl?

  • Young Frankenstein. I'm not kidding, people, there's a picture and everything. The fuck?

  • Offspring. Yes, Plastic Man had a son, and this is the best they can do for a name. Plastic Boy? No. Polymer Lad? Too Legion, apparently. No, they called him "Offspring." Because he's springy, you see. Har dee har har.

  • Red Star, who is essentially the Greatest American Hero if he was from Russia and actually got to read the manual. Seems like a nice kid, if somewhat ... gruff. "He isn't gruff, he's Russian," yeah yeah.

  • Aquagirl, whom I thought to be dead and apparently isn't any longer. I suspect she was asked to join the Titans for two reasons: tactically, you want someone on the team who can operate in any environment, and she covers water; secondly, she fulfills the criteria for a hottie who can work the "wet" look.

  • Two Doves and one Hawk. Now look, the old Hawk and Dove are dead. I understand that there are a limited number of cool superhero names, I really do. I get that some recycling is going to happen. Do try to come up with new costumes, however, and if one of them dies, have the courtesy to wait until the grass grows in over the predecessor's grave before you dry-clean his cape and jump into action.

  • Baby Wildebeest. You're not even trying now, DC.

  • Joker's Daughter and Riddler's Daughter. Seriously. They rated one picture on the bulletin board and they only rate one entry on this list, too. Apparently, Baby Wildebeest wasn't quite low enough for DC's writers to go. No, they dug through the bottom of the name barrel, ripped up the ground underneath, and found another barrel bottom to scrape. When in doubt, take an existing character, append your supposed relationship, and just use that for a code name. "Hi, call me Captain America's Nephew, for I have all his American spirit and fight using a shield of solid aluminum siding."

I'm trying to understand, I truly am. I want to know if this is part of a deeper plot which has yet to be revealed... or if all these new members are hand-drawn pictures of the Bullpen's kids at Halloween thrown in as an inside joke.

Anyway, in the meantime, excelsior is what you use to line hamster cages, true believer. Make mine mildly believable, and keep those cards and letters coming (in case we run out of excelsior).

1 Yes, there were news articles about the "OMG nu Batwoman iz teh 1esB1@n!?!?!oneone!" Heard anything about it since then? Have any Christ crusaders come out proclaiming this will be the end of Gotham City? No.
Current Mood: confused
Current Music: Bob Rivers - Hey You! Get Offa My House
Richardxochizlan on December 12th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
1) Gay characters are really nothing new in DC (or Marvel, but I'll stick to the point). And there is really about a fifty-fifty split between male and female queer characters in the DCU (some of the most notable are Pied Piper, who for years was a major supporting character/hero in and friend of the Flash, Obsidian (recently came out of the closet but whose sexuality was being examined as far back as his time in Infinity Inc and JLA, and John Constantine (who is, for all intents and purposes, bisexual, although the rare time a relationship with a man has been mentioned it's been strictly physical and more a matter of circumstance than an active search).

2) A lot of the teen counterparts of the characters you mention have been established for a good while.

Zachary Zatara- Yeah, okay, he's new on the scene

Miss Martian- White Martian looking for redemption? Maybe. I can live with it. If she wants to look like a teen, that's fine too. As long as she doesn't have the forehead you can show a drive-in movie on like Martian Manhunter.

Power Boy- The Fourth World guy is just the latest revisioning of a character from the fifties.

Little Barda- just another teen hero used to fill a space in some issues of 52 and Titans. We'll probably never see her again.

Bombshell- same same. She was just a plot device.

Kid Devil- Kid Devil has been in the DCU since the early 80s. He was Blue Devil's kid sidekick. Sort of. Don't know where the new infernal powers came from, though.

Rose Wilson- Yeah, she's been around for ages. And I don't think she set the trend for teen heroes. That would have been Robin, back in 1940.

Young Frankenstein- There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments in 52 and TT right now. I'm sure this is one of them.

Offspring- Blame Mark Waid. This abortion came out of the Kingdom Come series, which was, other than some pretty good art by Alex Ross, pretty much typical Waid poo.

Red Star- AKA Starfire, before Starfire was also the girl on the Titans who used her hair to fly, and then Starfire became Red Star. He's been around in the Titans books since the sixties.

Aquagirl- New girl, created in the Aquaman books about three years ago. She took the name as a goof. It stuck. Completely different origin/character than Tula.

Two Doves and one Hawk- Strictly speaking, this makes sense. They're supposed to be agents of the Lords of Order and Chaos. One agent dies, they get a new one. The hawk represented aggression, the dove pacifism. As symbols they work. Why change them? (I'm a H&D fan from when I was a teen. Have the six Ditko issues of the 1960's H&D series. Once Hank and Don were out of the picture I've never had a problem with new people stepping up to the plate. Except for when Rob Liefeld was working on the book, that no talent ass clown.)

Baby Wildebeest- Just an immature version of the race that Wildebeest came from.

Joker's Daughter- Duela Dent has been in the DCU since the 70s. She's a messed up girl who has claimed over the years to actually be the daughter of about a dozen villains other than the Joker.

See? Nothing to get your panties in a knot over. :)
Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on December 13th, 2006 01:00 am (UTC)
Baby Wildebeest and Joker's Daughter are still pathetic names. Maybe Duela's choice of names is a function of her mental issues, but you're telling me that this big furry tank is happy with the name "Baby?" (Speaking of which, Joker's and Riddler's Daughters were together in one Polaroid, so what's the other girl's excuse?)

I was under the impression that Nabu was the last Lord of Order. Seeing as he died in the Day of Vengeance prior to the last Crisis, who is empowering agents of Order these days? Or is this something that is going to have to be explained over time as the writers reveal more about the new rules of magic? So far, the only rule that either has been explained or seems different is that magic has a price. Of course, if Zatara and Zatanna's only price is that their will requires being spoken backwards, that's not much of a price.

So it is a new Aquagirl. Lorena, I think her name is?

Have you seen the Martian Manhunter lately? They've abandoned making him look human in shape. He's looking less like an oddly-tinted Ving Rhames and more like a Conehead. As for Miss Martian, Green Martian, White Martian, White Russian, I don't know. As seriously as the Justice League took even the slim chance that a White Martian was going to break free of Jonn's mental imprisonment, if she IS a White Martian, the Titans certainly didn't treat that moment with much of the expected gravity.

The name "Power Boy" has been used before, yes. Making him the teen version of Power Girl hasn't been. Recycling a costume with a decidedly female-bent for him wasn't a hot move, either. I still detest the overuse of Fourth World origins, as well. It's laziness on the part of the writers, especially since they seem to want to use the guy as a love interest for Kara Zor-el.

Bombshell exists, is the problem. She's a lame ass character with a lame ass origin... who also has immense power and is going to either have to disappear or be dealt with. Throw away characters with awesome power, short-term plans with potentially huge impacts that go unresolved and leave hanging plot threads, these are the ingredients for more Crises, and thus more retcons. We hates retcons, hates them, Precious.

Ahh, so that's where Red Star came from, fair enough. Same with Kid Devil, though again, where'd he get actual demonic power from? I know what happened to Blue Devil. Then again, if I'm reading publication schedules correctly, the next issue of Titans will feature Blue and Kid, so maybe we'll get some explanation of what the hell has been going on between them lately.

I do blame Mark Waid. I blame him with all the White-Hot you-know-where fury with which people assail Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Todd McFarlane, and that fiend, Rob "What, Me take a figure drawing class?" Liefeld.

As for the queer split, I'm still seeing a lot more lesbians than gay males out there. Knew about Piper, didn't know about Obsidian, and I kinda guessed about Constantine. I have my suspicions about Sand, aka Sandy the Golden Boy, sidekick of the first Sandman. Far as I know, Grace and Thunder were a surprise to everyone, especially since they were not only at the least bisexual but together.

All that aside, I'm truly hoping that the DC MMO planned for 2008 sucks. I don't need to get drawn in any deeper than I already am. My bank account won't thank me.
silver splits the blue: Dollashbet on December 13th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC)
Heh . . . I've been in a comics-reading mood lately (between getting the "40 Years of X-Men" CDs and getting caught up in the current Marvel "Civil War" crossover), and I noticed quite a bit of that in the last 15-20 years, too . . . although I will admit that I'm not too displeased to have seen Marvel's method of ridding itself of vast amounts of mutant-chaff via "House of M".

Fun post!!

-- A :>
Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on December 13th, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
See, Marvel? Not so much these days. I'm reading Civil War over someone's shoulder, just to get the inside jokes being tossed around fandom that spawn from it. The problem for me with Marvel these days is this: I don't care. I really can't bring myself to care about any of them.

As I mentioned, I was gone from comics for about 15 years, a period where I paid them no attention at all. I read a little manga, Ranma 1/2 and so forth, but that was it. About two years ago, a buddy of mine introduced me to two titles: Wildstorm's The Authority and Marvel Max's Supreme Power. Warren Ellis and Brian Hitch on one hand, J. Michael Straczynski on the other. Damned fine writers, damned hard acts to follow. This time last year or so, I looked in passing through a couple of trade paperbacks from characters or titles I used to read. I'd heard something about there being a sequel to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, some plotline about Batman versus the entire Justice League over mindwiping someone, and this thing about the Superhuman Registration Act finally passing and the resulting ramifications as hero fought hero on whether to obey or resist. I read up on things, I begged and borrowed some of the source material, and I noticed something.

I cared about the DC characters. (Note that the Squadron Supreme, while Marvel characters, are direct homages/alternate versions of the iconic DC characters.) I loved The Authority, I was intrigued by the Infinite Crisis, and actually felt shock when I found out what had kicked off the events of Identity Crisis. (No spoilers.) Civil War? Nothing. The two sides look damned near identical to me at times. House of M? House of Umm, So? They eliminated a bunch of mutants I'd never heard of and expected me to care. Who did they kill who was important? Or who they haven't brought back through some method or another since then?

They didn't even do it in a way that made any sense. Scarlet Witch is powerful enough to bend the reality for the entirety of Earth... alter her native timeline to the point that black became white and up became down... but there are still threats to Earth in the universe? Admittedly, DC declares it canonical that past canon errors and, in all likelihood, a number of upcoming canon errors, are due to Kal-L and Superboy-Prime beating through the walls of the Pocket Dimension of Retirement. I'm not saying the plots are making a ton more sense. I'm saying the characterizations are better.