First, I want to thank geist0 for the link to his article about the number of potentially redundant characters running around the DCU these days. You can read his original article here. In the article, geist0 suggests that all of these characters shouldn’t be running around the DCU at the same time.
It’s a difficult situation. And as a big fan of some of those characters, it’s one that’s near and dear to my heart. So, I’m going to borrow/steal his topic and ramble on for a few paragraphs. Thanks again, geist0!
I started reading comics in the early 90s. It was a strange time to get into comics. Superman had just died. And suddenly, every character in comics was getting replaced with a newer, hipper, edgier version. Most of these replacements were never intended to go the distance. But some of them had pretty good runs.
I remember when Kyle Rayner first replaced Hal Jordan. I’ll admit, I was won over really quickly. I grew up on Hal, but was never really attached to him as anything more than a cool costume and cool powers. But I could relate to Kyle. We were about the same age and we were both struggling to find our places in the world.
In those early days, I was always afraid someone was going to pull the rug out from under Kyle. DC frequently hinted that Hal Jordan might return as Green Lantern. Each time they pulled that stunt, it worried me a little less. Eventually, I accepted that Kyle would have a good, long run as Green Lantern.
I always figured one day he would be replaced. But to tell the truth, I didn’t think Hal would ever be back as GL. DC had gone to great lengths to make that seem impossible. First they turned him into a sympathetic villain. Then they gave him a redemptive death. And finally, they turned him into the Spectre! It just got cazier and crazier.
Probably my favorite book at the time was Mark Waid’s the Flash. I came on board at the same time as the late, great Mike Wieringo. But I quickly caught up on back-issues to the beginning of Waid’s run. Wally was my Flash and I loved him. I related to him just as much as I did Kyle.
I came to know Barry Allen too in flashbacks or the occasional time travel story. I liked Barry in his role of patron saint of Flashes. And I was fine reading about his past adventures. But it always confused me that anyone wanted this guy back as the Flash. Wally was just so much more interesting to me.
Another phenomenon of the 90s was the creation of new teen heroes. The third Robin was getting his own mini-series which eventually let to his own series. One of the replacement Supermen became Superboy who also got his own series. And a new Kid Flash (but don’t call him that!) showed up in the form of Bart Allen/Impulse.
Yep, I loved all these guys too. Even with Superboy’s ridiculous costume. They were just a lot of fun. To tell you the truth, I miss fun comics. There’s still a few of them around, sure. But it seems like they are fewer and fewer in the post-Identity Crisis DC. (And yes, I still miss Young Justice.)
Well, nothing good lasts forever. Although sales on his book are still solid, the Connor Hawke Green Arrow book was canceled to make room for Kevin Smith’s relaunch featuring Ollie Queen. While I enjoyed Smith’s take on Ollie’s return, I read each issue waiting for the inevitable. I figured Connor would have to be bumped off to make room for Ollie.
To me, the smartest thing Smith did in his relaunch was to keep Connor alive. He even made room for him as a supporting character. It seemed like the best of both worlds. To my surprise, the DC Universe was big enough for two Green Arrows plus Arsenal.
Later on, Judd Winick took over the book. One of his largest contributions to the GA mythos was transforming Mia Dearden from a wayward teen into the new Speedy. As the Green Arrow family grew, you started to wonder how many archers the DCU really needed.
Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner’s run as Green Lantern came to an unglamorous end. Hal Jordan’s return was the next big thing at DC. And once again I read each passing issue with a sense of dread. Surely, Kyle was a goner.
To my surprise, Kyle stuck around. DC didn’t seem to know what to do with him. But they kept him around nonetheless. The Green Lantern book belonged solely to Hal. There was no room for Kyle even as a supporting character. Instead, he would be part of the ensemble cast of the Green Lantern Corps.
And then, he wasn’t. Instead, he was turned into Ion and given his own on-going series. Then the series that had been previously announced as on-going became a 12-issue maxi-series. The maxi-series just kind of ended in an unsatisfying non-conclusion that set things in place for Kyle’s next transformation.
In the Sinestro Corps War storyline, Kyle was stripped of his Ion power and possessed by Parallax. I had a bunch of reactions to this. One was that it was a pretty cool, unexpected twist. But I also knew right away that Kyle would be forced to kill someone as Parallax to even the score. Kyle fans could no longer hold Hal’s crimes as Parallax against him. The score would be evened up.
Then things got weird. Unfortunately, Kyle got dragged into the mess that was Countdown. The less said about Countdown, the better. But dammit, I don’t know when to shut up.
When I saw the teaser art for Countdown, the thing that excited me the most was the shot of Kyle standing next to Donna Troy. In the early days, the Kyle/Donna relationship was one of the things that sucked me in. And thanks to John Byrne, that relationship ended suddenly. Byrne wanted sole use of Donna. So she was ripped away from Green Lantern.
For years, I waited to see some kind of resolution to the Kyle/Donna relationship. I didn’t need to see them back together, but I wished DC would give them a better parting. But with Donna’s death and resurrection, DC just never got around to it. So, when I saw that image on the Countdown teaser, I thought I would finally get the resolution I was seeking.
Instead, Donna had a weird and uncharacteristic crush on badboy Jason Todd through most of Countdown. And when Kyle showed up, everyone started acting weird. Kyle seemed jealous of Jason in spite of the fact that 1) there didn’t seem to be anything going on between Donna and Jason and 2) Kyle and Donna had broken up years ago.
Anyway, Kyle finally settled down in Green Lantern Corps. He gets treated pretty well there. But he’s definitely been marginalized as a character. Personally, I’m just happy to have him around in a book I can read without wretching.
Connor and Kyle are one thing. Wally West is something else entirely. Wally has been the Flash for a long time. Barry Allen died over 20 years ago. His death was considered one of the few constants in the DC Universe. Anyone else could be brought back. But bringing back Barry was considered a sacrilege.
Besides, Wally had gotten very popular as the Flash. Mark Waid had a long and popular run which was briefly interrupted by a year-long run by Grant Morrison. And when Waid finally left the book, a young upstart named Geoff Johns took over the book. Johns stepped up with a long, popular Flash run of his own.
Little by little, the seeds were sown for Wally’s downfall. Mark Waid ended his run with a wedding. In interviews, he said he did so to keep DC from killing off Linda Park – a character he had grown to love. Later, Johns had the couple get pregnant. At first, the storyline seemed to end in a miscarriage. But through the magic of comics, Johns ended his run with the Wests having twins.
Suddenly, the former Teen Titan seemed older than most of the other superheroes in the DCU. He had more responsibilities than Superman. The once relatable Wally West was starting to seem like dad. Or worse, Reed Richards.
DC’s solution was to more or less move Wally and the Wests off stage for a while. In Wally’s place, we got an age-accelerated Bart Allen as the Flash.
(Age-acceleration is never a good idea. Remember I said that. It will come back later.)
DC has said that they never intended Bart to be the Flash for long. But surely they never imagined the backlash that followed. Bart’s run was a disaster. Bart was quickly killed off and Wally was brought back from the Speed Force limbo he had been sent to.
Fan-favorite Mark Waid was brought back to write the new adventures of the Flash. But Waid had a problem. What do you do with the twins? His solution was to age-accelerate them to a more acceptable age. Suddenly, Wally seemed a lot like Mr. Incredible.
No one wanted to read about Wally as a suburban dad and Waid was more or less booed offstage. Wally’s book ended again and the once-unthinkable happened. Barry Allen was brought back.
There was a time when I would have been outraged by such a move. Barry’s death should never be reversed. Wally has earned his place as the Flash. But by now, DC had screwed up Wally so badly that I almost welcomed Barry back.
We’re merely two issues into Barry’s return. So, who knows what the future holds. So far, I’m a little underwhelmed (read my review of issue 2 here).
Back to the original question. How many Green Arrows (or Flashes if you will) are too many? Some people feel like having a bunch or archers or speedsters (or Kryptonians) running around dilutes the concept. It’s hard for me to argue against that.
But, we’ve also seen what happens when DC limits itself to one version of each character. When DC enforced a 1-Kryptonian law after the John Byrne reboot, the old Superman concepts slowly crept back into continuity anyway.
During the Kyle years, there was a decree in place that Kyle would be the last and only Green Lantern. Guy was stripped of his ring and given ridiculous new powers. Alan had to change his name. But eventually, the whole Corps came back.
DC EIC Dan Didio came very close to killing off Dick Grayson based on the idea that he was just a watered-down Batman. Thank goodness Geoff Johns talked him out of that one.
My point is, I don’t think having these characters around is inherently a problem. What I do see as a problem is when DC tells bad stories just to keep them around. (See Kyle Rayner in Countdown.)
Recently, Judd Winick ended his run by revamping Connor Hawke. It was the kind of hatchet job Winick’s critics expect of him. Everything that made Connor unique was stripped of him. The peace-loving vegetarian who was raised in a monestary started wolfing down meaty chili and beating thugs to a pulp on rooftops. Suddenly, he couldn’t shoot an arrow to save his life. But he had a kewl new healing factor to make up for it.
And then he was written off stage. DC butchered the character only to write him off stage anyway. Why?
Needless to say, I’d have been happy if they just sent Connor back to the monestary without the extreme make-over. He’s got a built-in way to be moved on and off-stage as DC sees fit. This one seemed like a no-brainer.
But what about Wally? Didio has said in interviews that he sees Wally’s future being bright just like Kyle Rayner’s. What? Look, Kyle’s got a pretty good thing going all things considered. But in no way is this a fitting treatment for Wally. Wally should not be marginalized to a supporting role in Titans (a book in desperate need of a new creative team).
I’d rather see Wally written off stage for a while. Let him live with his family. (No getting rid of them now!) He can come back in a dramatic fashion for the big Flash stories and DC events.
But, here’s my concern with the “off stage” solution. I don’t trust DC to handle it elegantly. When a character moves off stage in the DC Universe, they become cannon fodder for those “event” stories DC is addicted to these days.
In order to justify it’s existence, every event story needs at least one “shocking” death or resurrection. It’s sad. But as long as people keep buying these things, DC’s going to keep killing off and resurrecting characters in a morbid, vicious cycle.
So, what’s the answer? Do we need two Green Arrows a Red Arrow and a Speedy in the DCU? Is the world better off if Connor Hawke or Mia Dearden are killed off in some bloody fashion? Can we trust DC to keep them off stage until a story warrants their return?
I don’t know. But I love a lot of these characters. And I can only hope that DC does right by them. Unfortunately, DC’s track record tells me to expect otherwise.