Green Lantern: Rebirth
by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver
I’ll be honest: I don’t particularly get Green Lantern as a concept. I mean, space police, power rings, the fact that John Stewart is awesome, these are all things I get. But the Green Lantern approach to fear has always left me a little cool. Firstly, because it means that Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern for those unfortunate enough not to grow up on a steady diet of the DC animated universe, is a cocky, fearless pilot. As an Air Force brat, I only find this twentieth century archetype interesting when it’s played by Tom Cruise and set to the musical stylings of Berlin. So while I have seen (in slack-jawed amusement at its sheer badness) DC’s hilariously tragic attempt to bring Green Lantern to the big screen, I don’t really have any investment in the character.
But Green Lantern: Rebirth kept popping up over and over again as a good recommendation. Not so much to get into the character, but because it (like its spiritual sequel Flash: Rebirth) streamlines years of messy comic book continuity. When superhero comics are referred to as modern mythology, it’s largely because, like mythology, they consist of many stories (including often different versions of the same story) that are loosely but not firmly related featuring the same cast (including often different versions of the same cast). The accurate approach to adapting such a tentacled beastie is picking and choosing. This is how we end up with interpretations of Batman as varied as Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and, as it is foretold, Batman v Superman: Grimdark Grimdark Grimdark. And, gloriously, they’re all valid—not only because all readings are valid, but because the source material encompasses all of those approaches. It’s an ever changing beast.
On Wednesday, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice writer David Goyer visited the Scriptnotes podcast and ended up accusing She-Hulk of being a giant green porn star created solely to couple with the Hulk. (You know, her cousin!) It’s alarming that Goyer is so unfamiliar with female comic book characters that he knows nothing about one of the most popular Marvel ladies who consistently headlines her own books; it gets terrifying when you realize that this guy is in charge of introducing Wonder Woman to the silver screen.
But the next question Goyer fielded is much more telling. When a fan asked how he would translate J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, to film, Goyer scoffed, “He can’t be fucking called the Martian Manhunter because that’s goofy.” This was right after accusing anyone who had heard of the character, who has made appearances in Smallville and Justice League, of being virgins. Which, as an insult, is shorthand for a great many supposed social failings, but in this context carries the exact weight as if Goyer had bellowed “NERDS!” at his audience. He went on to outline how he would write Martian Manhunter, by totally obliterating the character’s backstory and retaining only his name.
Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu
To me, one of the most important elements of the Superman mythos is that Clark Kent is a journalist. It may not shock you to learn that I came to Superman through The Adventures of Lois and Clark, which focused heavily on its newsroom setting, but it’s more than just allegiance to the series that cemented my view of Big Blue. (Make all the Dean Cain jokes you want, he’s still “OH MY GOD IT’S SUPERMAN!” to me.) Rather, it’s an indicator of who Clark is at his core. Supposedly, Marvel’s heroes are the relatable ones and DC’s heroes are the aspirational ones (or used to be, before DC fell down Grimdark Canyon and came back wrong), but Clark’s interest in journalism means that, even if he didn’t have unimaginable power, he would still be out there, fighting for the greater good. Because that’s his greatest superpower: empathy for all humanity.
I have been disappointed again and again as of late when it comes to this integral part of Clark’s character for me: see Man of Steel (or It Came From Grimdark Canyon) and the new 52’s Superman/Wonder Woman (or Mortals Aren’t Good Enough). So opening up Superman: Birthright was a welcome relief, and not just because it was actually and willfully colorful.
Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka with Michael Lark
The first I’d ever read about how civilians might react to superheroes in a non-positive way was reading about Marvel’s Damage Control. The series (composed of four limited series) follows Damage Control, a construction company skilled in cleaning up the property damage left behind by all those superheroics. I was paging through my brother’s copy of Les Daniels’ Marvel at the time, and I was blown away by the idea that there might be consequences for those actions. (I was, like, seven.) I never picked up Damage Control, but Gotham Central appealed to me on the same basis: superheroes can make life tough for people just trying to do their job.
All-Star Superman: Volume 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely with Jamie Grant
I am beyond unexcited for Man of Steel. I’m very particular about my Clark Kent, and what’s amazing about Clark Kent is not that he is a superpowered alien from another planet, but that he is a good man, through and through. (In fact, there’s an interesting article to be written on nature versus nurture in the cases of Superman and Captain America.) So when focus is pulled from that, I just start frowning. (Using very emotional music from The Fellowship of the Ring in a trailer did nothing for it to me.) But when All-Star Superman was recommended to me, I decided to give it a shot.
Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham et al.
I have a weird relationship with Fables. My brother went to the Air Force Academy, and, despite my atrocious memory, I distinctly recall sitting in a Borders (back in the day, obviously) in Colorado Springs, seeing how far I could read into Fables before my parents were done with their errands. I got to Volume 5—which is less a comment on my parents’ time management skills, but how quickly I read, especially graphic novels. Of course, that was before this book blog and during the wombat years, so it’s essentially as if I did not read it. However, the first volume has been on my shelf forever, so I figured it was time to revisit it as an adult…
Trinity: Volume 1 by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
So I have this problem when people lend me books. As you may have gathered, I read a lot. (I’ve got twelve library books on my desk at the moment, which I should probably get to…) But I usually want to get to something fresh off my reading list before something someone’s lent me, and I also want to make sure I take good care of their book. This usually means I take months to get to it. My friend Ellen lent me Trinity: Volume 1 sometime last semester, and I just got around to it. Thankfully, her only request was “before I graduate”, so I think I’ve satisfied that…
Blue Beetle: Shellshocked by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner
Have I mentioned the amazing Jess Plummer? I really should. Plummer is this fantastic blogger who blogs thoughtfully and critically about comics—her blogs include Active Voice, Dimestore Dames, and Jess’s (Somewhat) Grow-Up Type Blog. I’ve been following her since high school, and she’s definitely been an influence on how I interact with comics as a female fan. Plummer’s favorite male superhero is Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, but her affection for the blue scarab also runs to Jaime Reyes, the current Blue Beetle. And when she profiled two women from Jaime’s supporting cast on Dimestore Dames, I decided it was time to acquaint myself.
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III
I believe it was TJ at the now defunct Dreams and Speculation who introduced me to the current Batwoman, Kate Kane. (On a side note, I really miss TJ.) I remember the media attention concerning her status as a particularly high-profile queer character in DC; DC was pushing it heavily, considering their track record with diversity (although it’s not like Marvel really does much better). As I watch a lot of my favorite characters get shafted by the reboot, I thought it might be high time to investigate a character who seems untouched by all that madness. Also, I stumbled across a copy at the library.
Batman: Holy Terror by Alan Brennert and Norm Breyfogle
Comics are, let’s be honest, hard to just jump into. I had to wait for Gotham City Sirens to make my first nervous foray into the current state of Gotham, but I’m glad I did. (The other titles I follow are non-superheroes.) I also happen to love alternate history, especially when it comes to exploring the minute choices that make us what we are. That’s probably why I’m so drawn to DC’s Elseworlds imprint—they’re not only one-shots you can just pick up without committing yourself to years and decades of back story, but they take familiar heroes and place them in different circumstances. I picked up Batman: Holy Terror (irrationally terrified I’d be put on some sort of watch list for putting such a title on hold) on the recommendation of MGK, whose blog you should really follow if you like comics at all.