Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Flip-flopping Legionnaires?

How and why so many of my peers remained "so" invested in reading comics books as we aged is a mystery that defies explanation? Don't get me wrong, I stuck by them a good long time, but after the 1980's their luster began to rapidly wear off ....  at least for moi. There is the usual surface veneer argument among my crowd that comics are still fun or exiting, but frankly there must be some deeper rooted reason why the fanbase continues to age out .... or perhaps I'm wrong and that bubble has burst and things are evening back out among the general fanbase?

Who the heck knows?
Not the Lightning Lad that will appear?
All that I can say from my perspective is that comics itself pretty much showed me the door and asked me to leave, further offering encouragement for me to not let the door hit me on the way out. I eventually obliged! It's sort of the same effect that scuttled my lifelong habit of voracious reading, as I used to read real books daily too. I just couldn't get my hands on enough books. I do still read some, on occasion but it is like pulling teeth, it takes an act of volition and even then does not occur terribly often.

Like most of us, I flock to the blockbuster Marvel flicks (and the occasional DC or other) and bask in the cinematic glory of old favorites lighting up the screen to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for having thrilled us all over again. Nostalgia, sure! But by and large I've been quite happy with the translation of comics from page to screen. I expect that indulgence will continue for me too.

I've also become quite the video game proficianado over the last decade, logging hours upon hours of otherwise valuable weekly time lost in fantasy rpg worlds online. I suppose that in a way, I simply transformed one habit for another, but even as fun as gaming is, there is more to my eventual retirement from comics than chasing thrills elsewhere and in other forms of entertainment.

While as a child I loved the Gold Key books, or Andy Panda or Walt Disney's Comics & Stories, a small handful of superheroes also really grabbed me in my youth. Batman and Superman initially at DC, and then the whole wonder of that unfolding world of Marvels; particularly the early Fantastic Four and Spider-Man books. Those titles got and held my attention, but soon personal favorites emerged. At Marvel it was the Avengers which proved to be a great one stop shop for an eclectic handful of quirky characters all working together to defeat the villian of the month. Excellent stuff that proved highly addicting long past the titles one hundredth issue. At DC it was a spinoff from the Superman Family of titles that was my "go to" for a great many years, among other DC favorites the classic Legion of Super-Heroes hit me the same way that The Avengers did.

Here was an even larger group of diversely powered "teenage" superheroes but with the added thrill of being set in a science fiction setting of a thousand years in the future. I still remember the impact of the death of Triplicate Girl (and her subsequent reinvention as Duo Damsel once a third of her split person was destroyed). I fondly recall the all too brief majesty of Dave Cockrums' 1970s visual reinvention of the Legionnaires swiftly followed by Mike Grells' terrific continuation. In fact that Legion lingered for years right up to and beyond perhaps their greatest period under Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen (and others) for the Great Darkness Saga of the 1980s which went beyond epic in so many wonderful ways.

Fans of these beloved characters were then unfortunately treated to an endless cycle of reboots, reinventions and relaunches all the way through 2013; none of which proved successful despite some stellar talents working on these efforts?  Now DC is reintroducing the Legion once again spinning from the mind of Brian Michael Bendis and clearly something went on behind the scenes as solicitations for this delayed series reveals that further changes have been made. Rather than prominently feature diverse prior members such as Kid Quantum, Invisible Kid (Jacques Foccart) or his little sister Computo, XS, Tyroc, Ferro Lad, etc. Bendis ignores those characters introduced by an earlier batch of white guys (and or gals) and gets to present himself as "woke" by spinning a founding member in similar fashion. Garth was also romantically involved with Saturn Girl, so black guy-white girl romance is still alive and well in the future. The fact that this is both common and acceptable alone makes this specific change all the more suspect. I mean what is new about this?

And it's not actually the changes made that bugs me either, it is the corporate discussion that must have gone on that proves to me that this reboot has less of a story to tell and now has more of a message to sell. Lightning Lad was initially shown to be about the same basic character as always, but now Garth Ranzz has been given the "Magic Negro" effect and will be portrayed as a black youth. Of course other team members have had their ethnicity swapped to better reflect an ideal future world representative of all races, something that definitely should have been expected by myself and or anyone these days really.

But again, the fact that some of this was underway and then seemingly fell short in the eyes of some management person or creative persons at DC which mandated even more alterations .... after the series was already being pitched visually to the ravenous fanbase long missing their Legion fix is what prompts me to not even show up. This book, this time is not meant for the lifelong Legion fan, and frankly I don't play these politically correct games. I've not minded that this has gone on for a great many years now. It was due, overdue for readers to accept this reality. I point people back to one of the better comics inspired video games of 2017, Injustice 2 featured several of the newer ethnic iterations of heroes and villains including Atom, Black Manta, Blue Beetle, Cyborg, Firestorm, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Black Lightning, Grid and Vixen. That game was fantastic and some of these were among my favorites to use. Those who object to seeing equal representation always voice their dislike, but honestly these types of changes have been a regular occurrence in comics over the decades. It is just that we are seeing something other than another white face each time. This often rankles certain sectors of fandom?

That being the case like I said, as much as the return of the Legion might have been something that appealed to me or bring me back to the fold, given what has occurred, there is no doubt in my mind that this version will prove just as short lived as those that have occurred since the infamous Five Year Leap that pretty much heralded the last glory days of the venerable Legion of Super-Heroes. Alas!

1 comment:

Nathan Irving said...

I had the same issue with reading. What I eventually did was go through a lot of best-seller & "years best" lists & make a "I should check this out" list of books. I was fortunate to live in a town with a VERY large used booksale twice a year, and a few very good used bookstores. I trimmed my book collection (it's still huge, but at one point I was at $500 in credit at the bookstore) and hit the sales. Now I've got a backlog of at least 100+ books to read.

Mostly I was being too picky about not trying new things. I don't love everything I read, and I don't love everything everyone else loves, but I'm not short of books anymore.

I still read comics though.