The Replacements by Jordan Ferguson
"Where the fuck is Wally?!"
Look, friends, if there's one thing I pride myself on, it's my ability to resist succumbing to outbursts of fanboy rage. I like to argue who the most useless X-Men is with the best of them (it's Angel, deal with it), but I've never been so overcome with indignation over the editorial decisions of a comic publisher that I've felt the need to hop online and spit venom all over Newsarama. So I wasn't terribly upset by any of this "New 52" business DC's been doing to drum up some new readership. I skimmed through the solicits and cover images, somewhat intrigued, mostly bemused and quickly disturbed by the lack of my beloved underdogs, leading to the quoted outburst above.
For as much press as Marvel tried to generate with its Afro-Latin replacement Spider-Man, that trick's old hat at DC, they've been in the hero replacement business for over 25 years, from the moment Barry Allen ran his ass to dust during Crisis. Flash, Green Lantern, even frigging Batman got replaced for the last two years.
About five years ago some members of DC Editorial (read: Geoff Johns) went on a personal crusade to put all the pieces back the way they liked them, finding increasingly complicated explanations to resurrect these characters and put them back in their "rightful" places.
Here's the thing about that, though: Barry Allen sucks. Hal Jordan sucks even worse (it says something when Ryan Reynolds can't make people see your movie). These characters are like meringue: they hold the form, but there's no substance, they just flake apart when you poke them. The prevalent philosophy of superheroes posits that the best ones are flawed, because that's what readers, flawed themselves, most identify with. What's Hal Jordan's flaw? What's his defining characteristic? Being too awesome at everything? Hal Jordan is a douche. Barry Allen's a bore. Oliver Queen killed Prometheus and still isn't "edgy."
Fanboy rampage aside, I understand the reasoning for these restorations: editorial feels that these iterations of the characters are the iconic ones, the most beloved. The ones that can spin into movies the easiest. But what, I wonder, is beloved by who? I'm not trying to suggest that Geoff Johns has been pushing his own personal agenda (having penned the convoluted returns of both Hal and Barry), but for years as he worked his way up the ranks, it seems like Johns has always attached himself to characters he felt a personal affinity for, and his affinities run towards the classical (this is a guy who made a name at DC by writing stories of the 30's heroes the Justice Society).
When I really made my recommitment to reading comics around 1999, Barry and Hal (and Green Arrow Oliver Queen) were long dead. My Flash was Wally West, my Green Lantern was Kyle Rayner, my Green Arrow Connor Hawke. I watched them all transition from rival to comrades and deal with the weight of legacy in the pages of JLA, fighting alongside and proving themselves to the Holy Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. And to a man, they were all more compelling than the men who wore the suits before them: they were interesting, they are who I came back for month to month. Hell, no one holds the Batman mythos more sacrosanct than me, and I can still say that Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne made a more interesting Batman and Robin.
And now they've all been swept to the outer reaches of space (Kyle) or made bit players for their more iconic predecessors (Wally and Connor), more victims of pop culture's ongoing obsession with nostalgia, stifling any real development or innovation, maintaining the holding pattern they've been in for sixty years.
DC better hope they get those new readers. The old ones might find the New 52 far too familiar very soon.