ASSEMBLED OPINIONS™ – A Child of DC Animation

The year was 2001.

I was six-years-old, at the pinnacle of my prepubescent male life. Able to be suitably impressed by the likes of the Power Rangers and Spider-man but also old enough to know I really, really loved the Justice League. Despite the Power Rangers crazy action and Spider-man’s web-slinging cool, it was the Justice League that inspired me.

It was the first time I had seen a TEAM of superheroes who were formed specifically to face threats no ONE HERO could defeat. Big foes– like savage aliens– that would easily overwhelm Batman or Superman if either made a foolhardy decision to individually pit themselves against the looming menace. The concept blew my mind!

The Justice League Animated TV Show got me into superheroes and the entire comic book medium. (I loved Batman and Superman in their solo Television shows– but never on the same scale as I marveled at the Justice League.) The other smart thing that the makers of the Justice League did: Introduce my child’s brain to many of the varied wonders of the different heroes residing within the DC Universe. Suddenly, I knew there was more out there than just the Superman & Batman families.

I adored every character on the JL animated show– from the witty Flash always annoying Bats, to the Martian Manhunter and his much more serious struggle to understand humanity. My absolute personal favorite, apart from the “Big Two”, was Jon Stewart ‘s Green Lantern. Jon was always the extremely cool guy, unafraid to stand up to Superman or to tell the Dark Knight when he was wrong.

THE HAL JORDAN PROBLEM

I understand some people prefer Hal Jordan— but I’ll be honest: In my opinion, Jordan’s got no depth, no dimension. Very 2D.  Just another Silver Age hero who sold books because of his cool power and gimmicks. Tons of kids grew up remembering how much they loved reading those comics. I have no problem with that. But do they really remember anything about his character—about Hal Jordan as a “person”?

Is Hal Jordan just an empty vessel?

When writers feel they have no other recourse than to turn an iconic character like Jordan into something supremely evil (Parallax) just to sell books– you know there’s no depth of character present.

I know the above statement will cause a massive outcry from Hal’s Green Lantern fans but please try to understand what I’m trying to get at here: Hal Jordan is a very boring character—despite the fact that several high-profile writers (*cough*GeoffJohns*cough*) keep attempting to change this reality by revolving the entire DCU around him.

The trailers for the upcoming Green Lantern film look to concur with my viewpoint– as actor Ryan Reynolds seems to be playing Hal Jordan as if he’s in the middle of another quirky, upbeat romantic comedy with his new girlfriend Sandra Bullock. You know the type: snarky. Yet, I don’t see fanboys flagellating themselves until they force Warner Bros into reshoots—basically because, deep down, we all know Jordan is two-dimensional. If Reynolds were playing Superman, Martian Manhunter or Batman– there would have been riots and protests after the initial film footage unspooled at Comic Con. (OK, maybe not riots… But face it– there would have at least been talk of boycotting a Ryan Reynolds-led Batman film.)

For my money, Jon Stewart is much more relatable as a man than Jordan. Here is a person who started from humble beginnings, accepted responsibility and became a hero. Yeah, he’s a bit stubborn and a bit headstrong but that just adds to his character depth.

And as much as I feel a character like Jon Stewart is fantastic role model for anyone to aspire to (not just minorities), we all must admit there have been several disastrous attempts at cultural diversity in mainstream comics.

Think of the first portrayal of a homosexual hero– long before the days of Wiccan, Hulkling or even Apollo and Midnighter… The only “gay” comic book heroes seemed to be labeled “gay” just for the shock value and sales potential. For example: Alpha Flight’s Northstar. Clearly another case of a writer saying there’s nothing interesting about a character… There’s no “hook”, no reason for the audience to be interested in him. I know! I’ll suddenly reveal Jean-Paul Beaubier is gay! That will get tongues wagging!

Or making a tough, rough varmint wrangler like the Rawhide Kid gay— for the sake of what seems to be a single one-off joke. Portraying a man who is both a hero and a

Get the "joke"? Or do we have to SHOVE IT down your throat?

cowboy– typically uber-masculine roles— as gay, gave Marvel a great opportunity to breakaway from the traditional stereotypes and show comic readers that not all homosexuals need to be shown in media as screaming hairdressers or other shameful over-the-top caricatures. In fact, this was Marvel’s chance to show Rawhide Kid could be just as tough and badass as any of your favorite action heroes.

Unfortunately, the Rawhide mini-series was a horrid, inept story—nowhere near as diverse as people had hoped. The Kid was pure camp. Stereotypically bitchy about women’s fashion choices (amongst other deplorable characterizations), Rawhide never even admitted he was gay.

Amazingly, this is the same company that made the groundbreaking, bold move in 1969 of introducing the Falcon, mainstream comics’ first African-American hero, in Captain America #117. As originally portrayed, Sam Wilson was a fantastic achievement for diversity. He wasn’t an ex-slave or convicted drug dealer. Hell, he didn’t even have the word “BLACK” in his character name. In fact, Sam’s ethnicity seemed uniquely incidental in many respects—giving his overall presence an even bigger sense of gravitas.

Cap considered him a friend and an equal. The Falcon’s popularity soared to such heights that he even shared the comic book’s title with Captain America for a considerable time… And was one of the first superheroes to have an action figure. His existence was brilliant for everyone– especially given that a Caucasian male from the 1940’s never once thought or discussed race when he initially chose to partner with an African-American.

And everything continued to be great until writer Steve Englehart inexplicably rewrote the Falcon’s history and origin by making him a PIMP… When there had never previously been one hint or indication that Sam had such a past. In this heartbreaking story, Englehart tells us that Sam “Snap” Wilson was a pimp “brainwashed” by the Red Skull (in a very long, drawn out and overly complicated scheme) to kill the Captain. In my opinion, Englehart’s depiction will always be a real blight on comics… Simply because there was no reason for it. The writer sullied a TRUE champion for all—not just African-Americans.

PHIL LaMARR, great actor & voice behind the Animated Jon Stewart

No doubt that comics have come a long way since the days of casual, acceptable racism– much like the world has. I personally owe what I hope are rather worldly opinions of minorities (and minority comic book characters) to both the Justice League’s Green Lantern voice actor Phil LaMarr and Justice League producer (and fantastic comic book writer) Dwayne McDuffie. I am proud to live in an era where comic books can be more tolerant and truly hope we are moving away from the days of the Falcon being saddled with a pimp backstory or the Rawhide Kid being a homophobe’s stereotypical nightmare.

But I am also not blind. I know comics are not entirely diverse these days and I am very aware that many terrifyingly bad writers of stereotypical fiction still exist and work freely in this industry. (There’s a SEQUEL to Rawhide Kid, after all.) We still live in a world where some writers seem to get away clean—even while they depict unconscionable scenes of racism, sexism and rape. (*cough*MarkMillar*cough*).

Personally, I’d like to see more gay characters in comics. I briefly mentioned Midnighter and Apollo before– both great portrayals of characters who are superheroes that just happen to be gay. Their sexual preferences doesn’t seem to define their heroics—it is just part of the natural fabric of their lives… Unlike, say, Northstar’s uneven characterizations through the years.

This was a long way of saying that (among other things) I love Jon Stewart. I wish I could see more of him– rather than just shots of Jon standing stoically behind Hal Jordan… Who always hogs most of the dialog.

Thank you for your time! I wish you all the best. See you very soon!

– Aidan (assembleavengers124)

Aidan/AssembleAvenger can be found on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/assemble124
On his blog at: http://assembleavengers124.wordpress.com/
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27 Responses to ASSEMBLED OPINIONS™ – A Child of DC Animation

  1. zorba_of_the_morningstar says:

    Well spoken for your first piece. Just for clarity, Northstar has ALWAYS been gayer than figure skating costumes. In Byrnes AF it was heavily implied he was gay. I think in multiple issues random scantily clad men were over at his lavish pad. You are right that the whole “outing” was a cheap marketing ploy for a failing book at a company that was spinning it’s wheels heading towards insolvency.

  2. Insideman says:

    I should also clarify:

    Aidan had a rough beginning to the new year and very reluctantly missed his 2nd Monthly deadline by 3 weeks. Nothing could be done about it.

    Then, when he did get a chance to surface– he immediately sent in his article… Which we then promptly SAT ON for another 3.5 weeks! The publishing schedule at Inveterate Media Junkies is WONDERFULLY FULL and about to EXPAND EVEN FURTHER… So Jose and I wanted to wait until we could give Aidan’s 2nd Article for Assembled Opinions™ the ATTENTION it deserved.

    (This will always happen whenever a columnist has to delay a normal MONTHLY post. We’re not going to make a big deal out of it… Just work with each one of our great people and get their columns back on track as soon as time and scheduling permit.)

    Aidan is actually going to be turning in the next article for his MONTHLY COLUMN VERY shortly… So you will be getting a double dose of AssembleAvenger goodness very, very soon!

  3. Deemar says:

    *Clap,Clap,Clap*

    I dig it, amazing bit of writing. Go head Semble go head! 🙂

  4. Ironmuskrat says:

    Love the article!

    Always like The Falcon quite a bit, but my for my money Power Man(Luke Cage) was.. well the man.. back in the day. It was one of the first, maybe only comic when I was a kid with a African-American superhero headlining a comic. Collected all of the Hero for Hire or Power Man comics, as a kid I found Luke Cage to be a fascinating and exciting hero.

    I do think comics need more diversity, not just with gay characters, but different nationalities and races also. I was pretty happy with DC a few years back, they seemed to be doing a good job of mixing things up with the new Atom, Blue Beetle and Batwoman. However their decision to kill off Ryan Choi for no real reason other than shock value, and perhaps killing Jaime Reyes as well(lets wait and see on that one) has left me wonder about DC’s commitment to diversity.

    and I agree Jon Stewart has always been much more interesting as a Green Lantern than Hal Jordan.

    Keep up the great work Aidan!

  5. TheMSpot says:

    I agree that there should be more diversity in mainstream comics. Remember Robert Kirkman’s Freedom Ring? No? Well, at least he admitted killing the character off was a mistake. Anyway, another great article and I can’t wait for the next installment.

  6. Heck says:

    I feel like comicdom has never had a really successful homosexual character, which is a shame. Also, heroes of color have a hard time. Jon Stewart should be getting his own film, not milktoast Hal Jordan.

    Anyway, great post man. Look forward to reading more.

    • generaldark says:

      umm not even batwoman? she seems well astablished. anyways i wish the GL movie would have been about john stewart isntead. He has got a better back story. i feel the audience would have loved him more instead because he was a soldier fighting wars and to get a power ring and fighting a bigger war. i.e keeping the uinverse safe! unlike hal jordan -_- besides most people thought GL was john stewart anyways.

  7. Heck says:

    Eh, I like Kate but she’s an ancillary character. She’s Batwoman, if she was a totally fresh character I’d think differently.

    I agree. John could be fighting a war to end all the other wars. Hal Jordan is just who Geoff Johns thinks about sucking at night.

  8. ed2962 says:

    Great column, Assemble!

    For what it’s worth, I remember reading an article awhile back about gays in comics that mentioned Northstar. John Bryne always meant for Northstar’s sexuality to be part of his background but never intended to show it explicitly. Supposedly, after Bryne left the title, Bill Mantlo was going to do a story where Northstar got HIV and outed himself. Then Editor in Chief Jim Shooter killed the story allegedly because “There are no gays in Marvel Comics.”

  9. Rob F says:

    I just want to play devil’s advocate with two points you make here…

    First, do you think that your love for John Stewart is more connected with your love and growing up with the cartoon show or that you genuinely gave both Hal and John a fair shake and John came out on top? I will agree, if you just watched Justice League I would say that John was the better Lantern but I find that his own characterization has been a bit uneven over the years. As to the whole Parallax thing, couldn’t that also be construed as being more interesting for a guy like Hal who was considered to be uncorruptible to completely fall?

    Next, there’s the question of Apollo and Midnighter. You say that their portrayal of homosexuality doesn’t define them as heroes but doesn’t it seem that because they are representations of Superman and Batman that it’s clearly commentary on those characters? Obviously no writer could ever write a real story like that about Bruce and Kal so they had to use other similiar characters to make the point.

    What I see the danger here is that nearly all characters can in a sense be reduced to a couple of key elements to their backstory, but does that mean that they are defined by these things? I guess my overall point is that I believe that there are no bad characters only bad ways of handling them

    • generaldark says:

      But thats the thing! the non comic book people who only watched the cartoon (and that seems like a larger number then comic book readers) would be more thrilled to see this.

    • Heck says:

      Well, now that you mention it, I can more than agree that Apollo and Midnighter are totally defined by their sexuality. I say this in respect to them both being ‘Batman and Superman…but GAY!” At least that’s how I’ve read them.

      Now I think Kate Kane is not defined by her sexuality. I think it’s part of her pitch, sure; but I feel that she is a superhero/socialite first and foremost.

      • Insideman says:

        Heck, I can see how you came to that conclusion, I just don’t go that far with it.

        I do NOT think of Apollo and Midnighter PRIMARILY as being ‘Batman and Superman…but GAY!” Sure, that’s part of the equation. No doubt. But reading those early Ellis stories did NOT give me that FOCUS.

        Not surprisingly, when Ellis left the series he created– a lot of what made their relationship so cool was lost– and Mark Millar’s versions amped up the SENSATIONALISM to the MAX. Unfortunately, many other writers have followed in Millar’s footsteps… NOT Ellis.

        I don’t remember Midnighter or Apollo EVER being particularly ONE DIMENSIONAL under Ellis. But their characterizations have changed so much that, anybody that doesn’t remember the original Ellis versions wouldn’t even understand what the hell I’m describing.

        Bullet Points: Buy ORIGINAL Authority Trades by Ellis to get the real scoop. And, I can’t believe I am typing this, Millar’s early Authority Trades aren’t half-bad either… Especially his Jenny Sparks: Secret History of the Authority collection.

    • well to answer your questions i had always considered that hal jordan was my green lantern which is what the original title was (but i like child of dc animation and i don’t mind the change) but as i was older i watched and read stories with hal jordan as a memeber of the JL and i tried to be as fair as i could and i thought hall was a less interesting character.

      i’d also like to say that i mean that apollo and midnighter aren’t just remembered as being that gay couple they have there own tratits and characteristics for example midnighter enjoy’s his work where as batman strictly professional they have their own individuallity and in my opinion aren’t just gay batman and superman with their powers tweaked i and i uderstand your point of view entirely
      and i agree about the bad characters statement

      • Insideman says:

        When Aidan first submitted the column, this was what was in the SUBJECT LINE of the email:

        “column title my green lantern javascript:;”

        Sorry! We had no idea that was supposed to be the title. Although, As a person who wrote magazine headlines for several years professionally, I do like OURS better. 😉

        Thanks for being so UNDERSTANDING, Aidan! Next time, I’ll try to confirm the title if I have a question.

        In YOUR pants! 🙂

  10. do the directors of Green Latern really need to replace Hal Jordan for Jon Stewart in the new movie in order to make the Green Lantern character more interesting? Its not like the directors have to stay true to the comic books.
    Isnt Marvel now claiming a a new marvel multiverse for their movies?

  11. Rob-ot says:

    I agree assemble, Hal Jordan is just about as bland as a character can get.
    Great article!

  12. Insideman says:

    IMJ mourns the loss of great creator Dwayne McDuffie. Best wishes to his family & loved ones. We miss Dwayne great already. 😦

  13. with the permission of the amazing host’s on here Ian and Jose i wish to deticate this to the memory of dwayne mcduffie.

    A writer i consider a massive influence on me as he worked on static and justice league he is one of the reason’s from such a young age i was so racially tolerent in a more or less not very racially diverse town.
    His justice league work but more his static work as every sunday i would sit down at 11 ‘0 clock in the morning and watch static and gear team up with Batman to fight superman being controlled by Braniac he is probably the trigger of my facination and obsession with superheroes.
    i can’t put in words how much i owe this man and how his death saddens me or how it was my dream if i ever got even the slightest bit of success in this industry to shake him by the hand give him a big hug, and simply say “thank you, thank you soooo much for everything” he was one of my heroes in writing in comics and now i”ll never get to tell him how much his work meant to me.
    thank you Dwayne and i hope your your at peace

    • Well Imo your post just got more dimensions to it. Its a weird coincidence isnt it? With all due respect to Mr. McDuffie ofcourse. May he rest in peace. I am sure he heartly approves of your post.

  14. ed2962 says:

    While looking for news of Dwayne’s passing I stumbled on this column which was linked from The Onion AV Club. It’s Dwayne dissecting continuity. I got a chuckle out of it. http://www.slushfactory.com/content/EpupypyZAZTDOLwdfz.php

  15. MicahSkin says:

    As a gay guy, I never really read any of the “Gay”heroes cept for my RicStar. IN MY DEFENSE, I got into X-Force around about the mid 30’s and them taking on Nimrod. I then bought back issues and thought they were ok (I was a kid mind you) and wondered how the characters got to be the ones I liked from that crap.

    But I like them adding a few gay heroes to the mix. I’d like to see more gay villians. not Estrano gay but Creote gay. Non campy people who wanna destroy the heroes and go home and watch their YouTube Wiener dog videos (Gayest dog out there). DC has a few more than Marvel but it’d be nice. I like heroes but an interesting villain makes a comic.

    As for the Animation Kyle > John, Guy and Hal. Let’s face it, the only time John started getting interesting in the comics was when the Justice League came out, then all of a sudden he was in JLA again. Before that he was Paralyzed or not (seemed to see saw back and forth for some reason. Final Night happened before the JSA rebuilt their HQ but he was still in a wheelchair?) and the whole “Mortal Guardian” thing… Hal = Blandy McBland from Dullsville. And Guy… well… I like what they’ve done with him recently… but before… metal red armor, yellow power ring… Angry Guy… just sad.

    As for People of Color (not just Black but lotsa different ethnicities), comics have kinda been pretty good. Black Panther predated Sam, but wasn’t given a series until after Sam paved the way. And take a look and the 2nd Batch of X-Men. T-Bird, Storm, Shiro, even the caucasions were from different countries. Canada, Ireland, Russia (Mid cold war btw). Hell, the New Mutants had a Cheyanne, Scots, Vietnamese and Brazilian in it.

    Now olet’s get some hard butt bangin action with Ric and Star. You know Star’s a helium heels.

  16. mattcd42(Wednesday's Serial) says:

    Great article Assembled.

    I have to say your take on Hal Jordan really struck me. I hadn’t really thought of it before but you’re right he’s kind of dull. Personally I’ve always been more of a Kyle fan. I remember when I started reading GL Hal was a drunk in his origin story. Jhons since reconed that, which makes sense, but then all that he had to himself was his test flight job, which is barley touched on, frankly I’d be surprised if he still had a job for as often as he shows up.

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