Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Of Goodbyes and Guest Lists

The DC relaunch is upon us with Justice League #1. I'm doing my best to resist being that old man I'm slowly becoming. When I first heard the relaunch was happening, much like my grandma took to emails I wanted it to gain some sort of living embodiment if only so I could punch it in the face. That is how my family is. We are punchers of faces. But, I'm starting to accept it. I am a Taoist and, so help me, I would be a horrible one if I felt I could argue and fuss this relaunch from happening.

But it is happening and, it may not be bad. But one effect it has had so far on me is that I just read a mountain of final issues. Tons of self aware goodbyes lovingly handcrafted and sending heroes we probably won't see for a while into the ether. So, I'm going to do a list (because I love me some lists) of five characters/groups I'm going to be sad to see go. But I'm also going to do a list of five character/groups I would really love to see the relaunch bring about.

Oh, and as always, I'm going to give you fair warning if you're not caught up:

Five Characters I'll Definitely Miss:

1) Batgirl (Stephanie Brown)

It only takes reading my first article ever on here to figure out that I am a huge supporter of Stephanie Brown. I love this character. So much. Out of all the DC characters that will fade out at relaunch, she is, by far, my favorite. Stephanie Brown's Batgirl is such a multifaceted character. Originally starting off as a daughter of a villain with a crush on Robin she became a crazy ex-girlfriend, then, for a short time a Robin herself before coming into her own as Batgirl. I'll knock this out of the way right off the bat and say I LOVE this costume. I'm not, in any way shape or for a licensed metrosexual, but I also know that this is a very clever costume. But the character herself, her personality, that's where the true shine comes in.

Starting off somewhat rusty, she was taken in by former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon (A.K.A. Oracle [but more on her later]) and became an amazing Batgirl. She was different then a lot of the Bat-family as well. They didn't really accept her. They seemed to almost avoid her really. She was outgoing. Plucky. Flirtatious. And juggled her night of prowling with the day life of a student. And, above all, she was extremely relatable. We've all been in that position where no matter how hard we try, we don't feel like we fit in or that we're accepted. Stephanie not only dealt with what we all have to face at some point, but she rose above like the heroine she was. She more than earned her role in the Bat-family, and I, for one, am honored that she let us come along for the ride.

2) Cyclone (Maxine Hunkle)

Maxine Hunkle. Granddaughter of the original Red Tornado. Probably the number one spot for a hero or heroine that would never realize she'd be missed.

When the JSA split into two, half being the Justice Society and the other being the All-Stars (a name I could only forgive because Cyclone coined it) the All-Stars weren't anything I was interested in. It was led by Magog and seemed to be done in a more 1990's, all action style that was not my forte. But my friend Mandi got me reading it for characters like Cyclone. I gave it a shot. I was hooked.

Sure, there's a lot of gruff going on. A lot of drama. A lot of angst. You have a room full of people growling over leadership and how to best take out villains. And then, there's Maxine. Adorable and timid. She's like that person that logs into a shooter you're getting to aggressive at, you can tell they're new and they're just playing for fun and, somehow, it makes them all the more endearing and it centers you. That was her. She wasn't the best hero. Not the strongest. But she was still there and she wanted to do all she can. Probably one of the most charming characters the JSA's ever been graced with and if the new universe doesn't have Cyclone, consider the wind taken out of my sails.

3) Kid Flash (Bart Allen)

I'm going to come right out and say this but Bart Allen got a horribly bad deal out of life. After a long career as the impulsive, well...Impulse, he finally earned the right to step into Kid Flash's shoes. Quickly after he earned the right, he was unceremoniously shot in the kneecap via shotgun via Deathstroke. But this only made the kid better, he healed and studied and became amazing. Capable. Sure, for some reason he lost his ability to multiply (a power I still don't fully grasp) but he made up for it in sheer potential.

Then, for a while, he even moved up and became the Flash. THE Flash. Well, that was until the Rogue's gallery got together and killed him pretty horribly. Don't worry kids, he got better.

But he did get better. He made it, he came back young and Kid Flash like, ready to fight crime all over again and that's when Flashpoint happened. Realizing what he had to do, Kid Flash tore through the time stream, became a "White Flash" and dissolved into the Speed Force, allowing Barry to fix the time stream.

This risk/reward ratio truly made me love this character. He was a character where, the harder he tried, the better the outcome for everyone but himself. And he stuck with it. Try once? Shot in the leg. Twice? Dead. Three times? SUPER Dead. And he kept at it. Flash fact: That level of self sacrifice is truly what makes a hero.

4) Oracle (Barbara Gordon)

Not since my dad purchased a 2005 GT40 have I been so amazed by something on wheels. For a long time, Barbara Gordon had done a night shift combo filled with ass kicking and name taking until a fateful night when the Joker attempted to make a killing joke with the punchline being a bullet through Barbara Gordon's spine.

The bullet didn't kill her, however, it did leave her paralyzed from the waist down. She didn't let it slow her down though. She studied. And focused. And learned. She absorbed information like a sponge. She used her connections. People liked her, she liked them, she knew them. She worked her butt off and became the computer guru Oracle.

Professor X is considered the first super hero in a wheel chair, but you know what? He had powers. Barbara was a happy, upbeat girl in a wheel chair that excelled at computers and could still easily kick your ass. Her computer skills and communicative know-how put her in touch with everyone in the DC Universe. She helped the JLA, JSA and every other acronym out there while still running her own team, the Birds of Prey, mentoring the new Batgirl AND training another fellow handicapable and chairstricken heroine the art of being a computer guru. She did all this and rarely forgot to smile. She was the linchpin of the DC Universe. A precious resource that few heroes would have gotten along with out. And, above all, with the relaunch, a massive loss to the hero community. Removing one of the few role models handicapped readers have in comics is a shock.

Barbara may be back in her original role now, but to me, she will always be remembered as being more hero than the majority of the DCU without having to even get up to do it.

5) (TIE) Superboy (Connor Kent)/Supergirl (Linda Lang)

I couldn't pick one over the other for fifth place. It would have been like choosing a favorite side. Both characters have different quirks that I love about them. As the owner of a white dog the size of Krypto, I cheer audibly every time Superboy tells a villain "hands off my dog". And Supergirl's pop culture references are really well done as well. But it's what these two have in common that really makes them shine.

Both rock the S-shield. Both can fly, shoot beams from their eyes. All that fun stuff. But they're also naive. Connor was created in a lab and Linda came to Earth in a rocket whilst in her teens. They don't necessarily understand the way the world works, but they desperately want to.

The books really shine with social interaction more than all out action. Supergirl is a fantastic portrayal of a young girl making her way in a busy, hustling college town where Superboy is a wonderful portrayal of life growing up in a small town. And the side characters make the books about as much as the main characters.

Superboy's interactions with Krypto and Supergirl's interactions with Damian (from the Batman books) are so wonderful that it would almost spoil it if they were around 24/7. And along the way they've gathered friends, normal, non-hero friends, that have grounded them and made them into complete, well rounded, human beings.

I really feel like I watched these two characters grow and develop like my own children, and, seeing how these two characters are going to be altered for the relaunch I have a feeling that come next month, I'm going to be suffering from some super empty nest syndrome.


1) Gen13

Now that the Wildstorm universe is merged, I'd LOVE to see the Gen13 kids get pulled into the DC roster. Gen13 (the original five) entertained the hell out of me as a young adult. Sure, visually...the obvious helped, but they were also very interesting characters.

Fairchild (center) was like Oracle with super strength. A quiet and super intelligent girl, able to hack computers, figure out scientific what not, handle about any problem, and...when all else fails, she could just smash the problem.

Burnout (top right) was much like the Human Torch without the massive ego. Would just as much rather stay at home and work on his guitar or play video games than he would fight crime. Was also the first superhero I had ever seen in a band.

Rainmaker (top left) was the first bisexual character I've ever seen. I've seen some DC characters be straight, I've seen a few that were gay, but bisexuality is something horribly represented in comics and this would be a great starting point to fix it. Doesn't help that her lightning powers are pretty neat visually as well.

Grunge (bottom left) was a name that really worked in the 90's. Very similar to Marvel's Absorbing Man. Anything he touched, he'd become that. If he touched diamond, he'd be rock hard and could cut glass with his finger. If he touched Silly Putty he'd become stretch. Eventually he realized a good idea would be to wear a belt with little discs of different elements on them. Very fun scientific character and would be on par with Firestorm trying to learn the elements.

Freefall (bottom right) was one of the only girls in comics to steal my heart from Kitty Pryde. She was such a neat character. Somewhat of a runaway. She was abrasive, outgoing and had a great sense of humor. She was also very damaged and did not like herself very much. A lot of depth was held by this character. Throw in the fact that her gravity based powers were extremely fun.

But yeah, in a world where the Teen Titans exist, I think DC would be crazy not to give these kids a chance. Plus, just the possibility of Gen13's villainous team DV8 showing up would be super neat too as they had a LOT of fun character.

2) Fables

A great Vertigo book. Imagine if the world of Fables was set in the current DC universe. Superheroes and villains alike would have no clue that there's entire city of nothing but characters from fiction. My dream team up would be Batman and Bigsby Wolf personally.

The characters are charming, and the fact that the cast are characters you know and love thrown into an entirely different light works so well. And, in fairness, it's not a far cry from things tried in the past. I mean, Frankenstein isn't exactly an original DC character, nor Uncle Sam, nor Solomon Grundy (sorta). It could be a really good fit. I mean, if you can have a planet filled with New Gods, you could have a city inhabited by fairy tale characters. Make this happen DC.

And again, seriously, how sweet would it be to not only see Batman team up with Bigsby Wolf? Not only the personalities but Batman completely in denial about who the Fables are and coming up with some explanation for it? Instant awesome.

3) Rocket

Now, if you know anything about Rocket, then you'd know that her powers we given to her by another of her Milestone cohorts, Icon, but all the more reason to start using some of those great Milestone characters.

Rocket was the brain child of the late, great, Dwayne McDuffie. Icon built her a belt out of technology from his ship that allows her to manipulate kinetic energy, thus allowing her do all sorts of crazy thing including flight. Another crazy thing she was able to do was to become the first single pregnant teenager in mainstream comics. It was pretty slick and a hell of a selling point for the surprisingly large demographic of teenager parents out there looking for someone to relate too.

I'd love to see this character used but I have a worry. Gail Simone (who I love) tried to use this character in a Wonder Woman arc and was denied. No clear reason was given, but DC said "nuh-uh." So, I don't know if DC is afraid of this character but I would desperately hope not as there is potential abound here.

4) Top 10

Created by America's Best Comics (or ABC) which was owned by Wildstorm, Top 10 was the first "non-mainstream" book I bought with my own money growing up and it showed me the potential comics really had when creators were allowed to get a little crazy.

Filled to the brim with charm Top 10, in a nutshell, is a book about a police force filled with people with powers who patrol a city where every single citizen has powers. It's all about the madness that would ensue. Plus, despite it's fantastical plot, it's real. Most of the characters aren't in good shape. Some are overweight, some are lanky. They're real shaped. For lack of a better term at this moment.

But with the fact that DC is recreating the DCU and it's 52 Multiverses it would be a crime if DC ignored a universe filled with the coolest police force every penned.

5) Wildsiderz

Wildsiderz, if you'll excuse the 90's Z on the end, was a premise that had a lot of potential and not a lot of help executing. In fact, it only had a two issue run before the creator (J. Scott Campbell) and it's publisher (Wildstorm) stopped talking about it and just walked away, never to bring it up again.

The clue you in on the story since, unlike me, you probably didn't use to be a sucker for every idea J. Scott Campbell drew, Wildsiderz (with that damn Z) was about a group of teenagers who get involved with experimental holographic technology that lets them get in touch with their...wait for it...their "wild side". Essentially it was like a spirit animal. The fat jocky guy got a gorilla. The witty clever leader got a dragon fly. The proud cheerleader got a panther. You get the drill.

But besides the DC constantly running out of young heroes (I'm looking at you Teen Titans) these characters are flashy. Seriously. I remember being a young comic fan and looking at this cover and just wanting it. And if they take off? Imagine how easily this would translate to a cartoon. Or even marketing. You think Hulk Hands are fun? Three words. Glowy, gorilla, hands. Which...also might be the name of my first album. Either way, I think these kids would be an excellent fit in the DC you and could pull off a book of their own if written correctly. And yes Beast Boy, you can be their mentor.

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