The late Marvel Comics writer Mark Gruenwald had a rare talent: an encyclopedic knowledge of old comics. Gruenwald was apparently the only man who could beat Mark Waid in a comic book trivia contest about the Justice League…which, of course, was published by DC, not the company Gruenwald actually worked on.
As a result of this, Gruenwald, during long runs on series like Captain America and Quasar, would much prefer to resurrect long forgotten characters for story lines rather than create new ones. He even did the most mature Justice League story ever when he used the Marvel knock-offs versions to tell what many consider the first mature readers comic book storyline with the fantastic Squadron Supreme mini-series, a story showing the Squadron taking over their Earth as benevolent dictators, unmasking in public, and all the eventually horrible repercussions that came with that. Not only does this story predate Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, but Gruenwald told a story with mature themes without anything that would have gotten the book censored by the Comics Code. That’s right, folks: his mature story had no nudity, sex, or swearwords.
But he did create a few characters too, and into that mess came the unfortunate example of Hauptmann Deutschland.
The Legacy Hero is a longstanding DC tradition. The idea is to take an old character name and concept and rework the character into a new character who may or may not be related to the older one. There’s a bit less of that with the “new 52” today, but when someone opted to rework the Flash from Golden Age Jay Garrick to Silver Age Barry Allen, everything went from there. Furthermore, when Barry met Jay, a character most of Barry’s readers would have never heard of given their age and the collectability of old comics back then, the idea of connecting these old heroes took root and hasn’t really gone anywhere since.
One of the more prolific superhero names for DC has been Starman. Originally, Starman was Ted Knight, an astrophysicist who discovered a way to channel starlight into a small wand he called a cosmic rod (stop giggling, Watson) that allowed him to fly and do stuff with stellar energy (mostly fire energy blasts). Starman was, like many of his contemporaries, a member of the Justice Society and disappeared when the Golden Age of comics ended. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the various attempts to create other Starman characters wasn’t as cut-and-dried as, say, Flash or Green Lantern. There were many Starmen, all with different abilities and few with any relationship whatsoever to Ted Knight.
Post Zero Hour, DC produced another new Starman, this one the son of Ted Knight. Jack Knight had no desire to be a superhero. He was into collectables and ran a small knick-knack shop out of his home town of Opal City. Circumstances pushed him into superheroing, and he probably became the single most memorable Starman of them all.
Superhero supporting casts can oftentimes change from creator to creator. Its not that uncommon. Yes, some aren’t going anywhere. Superman will always have Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. Batman will always have Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. Spider-Man is going to be weighed down by Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson for all eternity. But lesser supporting cast members can come and go, sometimes without warning. When writer William Messner-Loebs was working on The Flash, Wally West had a huge supporting cast of friends that succeeding writer Mark Waid decided were only sporadically useful at best and largely ignored aside from the Pied Piper. Loebs had Wally and Linda Park say hello to each other at a mutual friend’s wedding on his last page, and aside from her and Piper, Waid built a new supporting cast made up more of various other speedsters. More egregious would be how Judd Winick gave Kyle Rayner a gay friend, Terry, during his Green Lantern run. At the end of one issue, Kyle appeared to die and Terry got his power ring…only for returning writer Ron Marz to come in the very next issue to see Kyle alive, well, and with the ring on the very first page, and some dialogue how sometime between issues Terry had simply returned the ring and that was that. Terry was never seen again.
Then there was the Alpha Centurion. No one really knows what happened to that guy.
If it wasn’t official before, just highly rumored, it sure seems like it is a done deal now. After a few days of teasing, Marvel has revealed the cover to one of their Free Comic Book Day offerings, The All-New, All-Different Avengers. While their other FCBD drop will be Secret Wars #0, which of course leads into this summers mega event, this new Avengers book supposedly takes place after Secret Wars.
I have a reputation on Gabbing Geek as a guy who doesn’t like comic books. This knock is generally well deserved. I don’t like much anymore. But there is a certain kind of comic that even to this day will cause me to get dressed, get in the car, head to the comic shop, and buy a comic sit in my underwear, fire up the ol’ tablet, click Comixology on my browser, and download a digital file. What are these amazing tales you ask?
Crisis on Infinite Earths probably didn’t kill off anywhere near as many characters as its reputation. But reputations are kinda screwy that way anyway, considering how many people are probably unaware how any “squeal like a pig” scenes make up so little of the movie Deliverance. But there were really only two deaths in that story that really matter as far as DC was concerned. Three if you count Prince Ra-Man, and nobody does. One was Supergirl. The other was the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. Both of those characters stayed pretty dead for a while, but Barry’s was actually remembered by the general public, or at least by his superhero peers.
The funny thing was, Barry dying may have been the best thing to ever happen to the character.
I’ve always thought it must be tough being an atheist superhero in one of those big superhero universes. Think about it. Many heroes have firsthand knowledge of the presence of gods, angels, the afterlife, and demons. And while many superhero characters are rarely identified as belonging to any particular faith or lack thereof, the only atheist hero I can think of is the Michael Holt version of Mr. Terrific, and he was an atheist because he couldn’t believe God would let his wife die as opposed to the idea of just not believing in God. Holt was also as a member of the Justice Society, where he spent time with the Spectre, the embodiment of the Wrath of God, and probably had some encounters with Zauriel the angel on the Justice League.
But if we really want to see how not accepting something despite it being right in front of his face works, we really need to discuss Dr. Terrance Thirteen.