Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another Step in the right direction

This week DC released the second issue of Batman: Battle for the Cowl and reading it, I was reminded of why it is I thought this three issue mini series had such potential. For years many of us have been reading comics and trying to find ways to continually identify with the characters that brought us to the dance.

It doesn’t matter if it was Superman’s quest for Truth and Justice or Spiderman’s embodiment of the “Everyman Hero” to Captain America’s Man out of Time or Batman’s mission to eliminate injustice making him an iconic creature of the night.

The classic comic book characters of the Silver Age of comics contained something either significantly tragic or stunningly brilliant that attracted people like myself when I got into comic collecting.

Then one day, and I can almost pin point the day, something changed and possibly not for the better. Part of it was publishers missing the boat on opportunities to have their characters evolve and some other part was that I evolved enough to want to really be able to accept and want change.

I cheered when Tony Stark was deemed too drunk to be an effective Iron Man, passing his armor to his loyal buddy, James Rohdes. I was thrilled when Hal Jordan moved on (I won’t discuss how so Jordan’s fans can sit on their hands and keep reading) and his ring was passed to a much more contemporary Kyle Raynor. My favorite evolution of a character may be undone soon but with Barry Allen’s death back in the 80’s, the mantle of Scarlet Speedster was passed on to his nephew, Wally West, the former Kid Flash.

The beauty of these changes for me was that the new players had a chance to not just fill big shoes but to walk in directions that more established characters like Stark, Jordan and West really couldn’t because of who they were and the era they represented (Hence the freak out of Jordan fans when he…well…nevermind all that).

Currently the big deal is that Bruce Wayne is dead (or just not around anymore) and Gotham needs a protector against the likes of that which has threatened it like evil clowns, reptiles, thieves, former DAs, acts of God, and bus loads of crazy people. FINALLY, his cowl will not only be picked up by Dick Grayson, the first Robin, but it looks like the mantle of Robin will be handed down to Damien, Wayne’s loose cannon of a son (long story).

Now I’m not really looking at this as just another costume change or something like that. I’m looking at this as a way to actually see Batman grow for a change. Grayson has long avoided the issue of someday becoming Batman but let’s face it. It’s his job to take over the family business and if this is done right, this can be some of the best comics work since Jack Knight reluctantly became Starman back in the 90’s. The reluctant heir to the thrown can be a great vehicle as long as there isn’t too much whining. It’s not like Grayson is a rookie or anything but no one can really what it’s like to be Batman until they’ve worn the suit and tried to do what Batman did. We’ll also have the benefit of watching Grayson grow into the role as opposed to reading Batman for the past 10 years and have the realization that no matter who or what the obstacle was, Batman was well prepared and all the stuff between preamble and conclusion is just a formality.

I’m hoping that I get a change that makes me feel like I felt when I no longer had to watch Pierce Brosnan’s 007 and could enjoy the flawed but deeply emotional and dangerous Daniel Craig’s 007.

If you want to read something else like it then I recommend the Current run of Captain America by Ed Brubaker, in which former sidekick Bucky Barnes is found to be alive, (again long story) and has now taken over for the assassinated Steve Rogers. Essentially you get a real sense of just how heavy that shield is when carried by Barnes, who has to overcome his own programming and a personal agenda that may at times get in the way or representing the same ideals Rogers did.

I still call these changes, steps in the right direction. If comics readership is getting older then it’s a safe bet that we have seen all we need to really see of whatever fit is the Silver Age was taking us on a tour of. If there is a younger comics audience to tap and indoctrinate then writers and publishers may need to find ways to make older concepts new and not just by changing the characters outfits and methods. We can see right through that. Sometimes the best thing to do is put someone else in the driver’s seat and let him take the wheel and keep it for a long time.

This isn’t really a new idea and it’s the way life is supposed to work anyway. You had your living at home for cheap and listening to the bullshit your parent tossed your way because you were living under their roof yadda yadda yadda right? Then you moved out, got some cool roommates, learned that they sucked and either were too neat or were pigs and moved out again, borrowing money from the bullshit parent to do it or working that extra gig for the cash to make rent or to pay those loans back.

Now you have you shit together (or close enough not to be like that sibling or friend from high school or college who still hasn’t leaned shit) and WOW, you may now even be a shit talking parent or are headed that way.

This is just how it goes for many of us and I’m still reading comics and wondering about how now that I don’t really need to see my own angst and rebellion reflected in my favorite characters, how can I see the growth that I notice in myself and my peers reflected in my favorite concepts?

Well I’ve been enjoying the hell out of watching Bucky Barnes go through it as Captain America and I’m hoping I get the same from Dick Grayson and crazy little Damien as Batman and Robin.

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