Despite the traditional theme of this column, we are going to dive into some current events in comics fandom with this installment. There has been quite a bit of moaning and groaning along with some absolute vitriol about some of the creative decisions by prominent publishers regarding character revisions, lately.
When I say lately, I am using a wide measuring stick. This has been going on for a while. The volume of the critical voices is amplified in this age of instant access to everyone’s thoughts, AKA Twitter. The pure virulent hate that has been spewed at publishers and any creator even tangentially involved with promoting inclusive and diverse characters has morphed into the hate group #ComicsGate. The most depressing thing about these events is that is ruins my inherit belief that comic readers are proponents of hope and change. I am probably wrong about that, and that is disappointing.
Let’s take a second to look at some facts. In the past week, DC Comics revealed that two of its long slumbering properties will be revived. The Legion of Super-Heroes will return, starting in September, under the stewardship of Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook. Also, beginning in September, Scott Snyder will bring back the Justice Society of America. Needless to say, everyone with a keyboard has an opinion and is sharing it.
There is this belief in the comic reading community that characters and stories belong to fans, and the people being paid to write current editions of those heroes and tales have some responsibility to answer to the fans. This is wrong thinking. There is, also, somehow a feeling that if a character is changed or a story eliminated from canon then the fans have been robbed of something. Not True.
The “Great Darkness Saga” exists. You can read it. If the Threeboot was “your Legion”, those stories are still there. Just because someone is telling new stories doesn’t mean that what was written before is not still worth your admiration and love. If you don’t like the new stories or if you can’t get past the changes made to a character, don’t read the new stuff. For my personal take, I am looking forward to seeing what the Bendis’ Millennium/Legion story brings, and am more skeptical of the JSA take.
I saw someone pose a question in a fan group that asked if fans would rather have no new Legion stories or stories written by Bendis. It seems to me to be a rather extreme position. Just because Bendis may have different take than Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, or even Mort Weisinger, that doesn’t mean that the story shouldn’t be told for people to enjoy. For me, I would be excited to see new stories of the character that I love. However, if there aren’t new tales that I like, I will still cherish the older tales.
If we look back even further, you can see that these amazing characters have always going through change and evolution. Remember, Superman didn’t always fly. Moreover, at the end of the 1950’s, DC reinvented characters like Green Lantern, the Flash, and the Atom to bring them into the Silver Age. Can you just imagine what the Twitter outrage would have been? “Where is the shiny metal hat?” “Green Lantern’s costume is supposed to be red!!!” You get the point.
It is important to remember that the characters that we love in whatever fandom that we cherish do not really belong to us. They technically belong to the copyright and trademark holders, and they can do with it whatever they like, regardless of how many fanatics sign a petition. Fans do have a say in the continued success of the properties, and they can exercise that voice with their wallets.
There are so many terrible evil things happening in this world, I find it pointless to use up so much energy ranting to the universe that some creator is going to ruin some character that I love. I do not profess to being immune from fan outrage. If anyone knows me, they know how I feel about “Ric Grayson”, but let’s give people a chance to tell interesting new stories. Personal attacks on the writers or other creative talent because of a story that they might tell about a beloved character are disgusting examples of humanity. Also, usually, they only result in the personal emotional injury of people who are trying to entertain us.
Comic characters are beings of change. They are and have always been constantly evolving. After all, if characters remained stagnant, we would not have Barry Allen, or Nightwing, or the Winter Soldier, or … there are too many to name. Love what you love, because no-one can take that from you, but if you are open to other takes and character evolution, you might find even more to love.