Ask Collected Editions #5: DC Comics New 52's JSA/JLA generation gap

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's time for another in our "Ask Collected Editions" series! Responding to my interview with Ridiculously Awesome about the DC TPB Timeline ebook, Glint asked my opinion about the loss of "generations" in the DC New 52.

As always, if you have a question for "Ask Collected Editions," send an email to the Yahoo account or post it on the Collected Editions Facebook wall, and your question could be used in a future segment.

From Glint:
In your Ridiculously Awesome interview, much of which made me smile, you mention how the New 52 no longer has that generations of superheroes aspect. I know it's early days yet, but is that a problem as far as your concerned?

Well, Glint, I might get pilloried for this, but I don't necessarily think the loss of generations in the DC New 52 is a bad thing. Broad public perception ought not rule the roost, but if you ask a majority of non-comics readers who was the first superhero, they're likely to tell you "Superman." Then it's incumbent upon the informed comic book fan to explain, "No, it was the Crimson Avenger. And then after that, there was Green Lantern (but no, not that Green Lantern) and the Flash (but no, not that Flash) and they were part of the Justice Society (no, not the Justice League, the Justice Society. Pay attention!) ..." and on and on.

It is not that complicated, but it is pretty complicated. And while it's true story-wise -- the Justice Society were the heroes of World War II, before Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman ushered in the second generation of heroes -- it's not actually true historically, something I think we tend to forget. "Superman" actually is the correct answer for the most part; Superman, historically, pre-dates the Justice Society even though post-Crisis on Infinite Earths and post-John Byrne's Man of Steel, the Justice Society pre-dates Superman.

Again, what the majority of the mainly non-comics reading population thinks ought not dictate how things go, but removing some of the generational make-up of the DC Universe, and moreover returning Superman to his status as the "first superhero," since he was essentially the first superhero, makes some sense to me. And I'm certainly a fan of the Justice Society -- I'm still beating the drum for a JSA Omnibus -- but the original DC Universe depicted the Justice Society on a separate Earth for a very long time, so I don't necessarily cringe from that development, either.

Some fans (No, not you. Not you, either) treat these changes to Superman and the Justice Society in the DC New 52 universe as destructive and wildly unprecedented; rather, one thing I like is just how precedented they actually are.

Time will tell. I offer these opinions, admittedly, without yet having read a single book in the DC New 52. And I grant the DC New 52 is imperfect, not in the least as regards the legion of angry Wally West fans. But in terms of the generational issue, I'm pretty much OK with it, at least until I start to get into the books.

What do you think about losing the "generations" in the DC New 52?

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13 comments:

  1. I always saw three generations in the pre-Flashpoint DCU: JSA, JLA, and the new generation's heroes like Courtney Whitmore (perhaps my favorite post-COIE/pre-Flashpoint creation). I can't remember any memorable interactions between the JSA and the JLA that didn't feel gimmicky or unnecessarily indebeted to "Crisis on Earth One!" I was always more interested in stories like Geoff Johns's JSA, where the old guard had to teach the new crop how to be a hero, but I also loved the Norman Rockwell-esque issues where the JSA did small heroics that the JLA never would have had time for. So as long as Earth-2 acknowledges that generation gap aspect of the JSA, I'll be content.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that as long as Courtney Whitmore is still part of the JSA, I'm happy.

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  2. I think it is very unfortunate that DC has lost its generations. In my opinion that is what differentiated DC from Marvel. As a comic book fan I started out in my early teens as a Marvel guy, but slowly worked my way into D.C. beginning mostly with the first issue of Grant Morrison's JLA. To me Wally West was the Flash, Kyle Rayner was Green Lantern, Tim Drake was Robin etc. I thought it was great that DC had these generations of heroes that were seperate but connected. The DC universe seemed to me to be a big family, but it also seemed like DC was willing to change to keep things fresh for the next generation without losing its sense of history. Would Starman be the same series without the past history of DC to make it so poignant? The whole concept of the series was about one generation taking over from the next and the sense of responsibility that came with it. Same with the JSA series. I have not read any of the new 52 yet, but to me the concept seems like DC is trying to move closer to Marvel, and fair enough DC is a buisness and Marvel has for the most part been more successful, but I liked that we had two seperate companies that had two seperate philosophies and two ways of building a universe.

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  3. Fair enough, Anon. I guess I still see DC differentiated from Marvel in that DC has the multiple Earths (or at least Earth 2), which Marvel doesn't. Going back to my precedent argument, for many years pre-Crisis DC didn't have generations, just the Multiverse; they've had generations for a shorter time (post-Crisis) than they didn't have them (pre-Crisis). But you make a good point.

    Zach, any indication so far that Stargirl survived the Flashpoint reboot?

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  4. I'm very much torn; on the one hand I completely agree with Anon. above, who put very well what I feel about the uniqueness of post-COIE DCU. Much as I love Bruce Wayne when Dick Grayson became Batman part of me wanted to see that continue to give us a universe where the sidekicks/Titans generation superseded the JLA one. On the other hand I am very excited by the idea of the new Earth 2 line of books, it continues the return to the silver age ongoing since Infinite Crisis (not surprising given Geoff Johns' heavy involvement in the new JLA and DCU).

    Time will tell indeed.

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  5. I wish DC would use Earth 2 as a way to keep its golden age stories in continuity, even if they happened in a separate universe, but given what's been revealed about James Robinson's Earth 2 book so far, it seems they're going in a very different direction.

    It's a bit disheartening that Robinson is writing a new Shade series that is very much a sequel to his Starman run, and yet he's being forced to shoehorn it in the New 52 continuity, which prevents him from referencing DC's golden age heroes and even Jack Knight's existence.

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  6. I was only a little against the reboot when it happened, but as time goes on I dislike it more and more. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They had good stories going on in Green lantern and Snyder's Batman runs so they decided to keep those going but other titles they started fresh. The continuity is all over the place. It was rushed and not very well thought out. The important thing is telling good stories. Animal man and Swamp Thing are two of the better books in the new 52 and they could have been told in the preexisting framework of the DCU. You don't need a big reboot to tell good stories. I don't care if it is Kyle Rayner or Hal Jordan, Wally West or Barry Allen. Just tell good stories.

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  7. Re: Nikos, I agree with you to some extent; I'm hardly a fan of the new 52 all in all and it does seem a lot of the changes are for the worse (especially Harley Quinn, Starfire and Darkseid's characters). Justice League reads like the worse the 90's have to offer. And you are right, a lot of the good is not new. Swamp Thing and Animal Man pretty much require knowledge of the old continuity. But to play devil's advocate there have been good stories told which have been rebooted - Wonder Woman and Action Comics are getting great critical acclaim.

    The reboot does seem haphazard, but I sorta like that the writers have been given the freedom to make changes on the fly, as a sort of bottom up continuity, rather than the top down style from the past, like when Alexander Luthor Jr randomly announces changes to continuity in Infinite Crisis.

    Like I say, I wouldn't defend it to the hilt, good stories are indeed the important thing, and some awful ones have been told so far, but I try to remain hopeful!

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  8. I think a good indication of how rushed and not thought out the reboot was is the number of series that have either been canceled or had creative team changes so soon into it. Don't get me started on the fact that Rob Liefield has been given the reins of several series despite the fact the title he was on was canceled because it was so poorly recieved.
    @Glint, I don't really understand the notion that the writers were somehow restricted by this top down continuity. If you want to tell a Wonder Woman story go ahead and tell the Wonder Woman story that you want to tell. It is not like Wonder Woman has all this continuity baggage that you are chained too. The character doesn't exactly have a ton of memorable storylines or supporting cast. You can take the character in any direction and pick and choose what you want to use. Superman was obviously more of a sticking point. I see a lot of comparisons to Marvels problem with Spiderman. They wanted them to be single because they didn't believe that a new audience could relate to a married character, but they didn't want the character to get a divorce and they didn't want to kill the significant other. So they have Peter Parker make a deal with the devil (nice example to set for the kids) and erase that part of the continuity, althoughit is still kind of fuy what is still in and what is out, and then they completely reboot the DCU to get Superman single. Of course now Spiderman is a 30 year old who has money problems and lives with his Grandma, which I guess the kids can relate to? But is there any doubt that at some point be it in 10 issues or 100 issues that Clark Kent and Lois Lane will be back together? You're just creating new continiuty, and you can't just keep rebooting when it builds up too much can you?

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  9. I, personally,always preferred having that old generation of heroes - the JSA - as the golden age heroes.
    Throwing them away in some other alternate earth (where it seems they won't even be the golden age heroes anyways, but just alternate present day-heroes..) is liking being ashamed of their classic legacy. Wanting to get rid of them or hid them on some parallel world (which if you ask me, adds a lot more confusing to newcomers than having them be old retired/deceased/still living heroes)

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  10. I think having the JSA tied to World War II made sense in the 70's/80's, but not so much in 2012. I know there were various explanations for having them be slightly younger/healthier than they should have been, but it was probably time to detach them from that era. That being said, I've never been a big JSA fan, so I'm not emotitionally invested in them in any way.

    The DC reboot was kind of bothersome, in that I was still reading 2-year old stories in trade form and suddenly those stories didn't "mean" anything anymore. While I'm still going to finish the old DCU with Green Lantern, Flash, Brighest Day, Batman Inc, and Flashpoint, the reboot means that I don't see any reason to finish reading James Robinson's Justice League series (it helps that I wasn't loving it and so didn't want to invest any more money into it).

    Still, this is similar to the original Crisis reboot, and it's certainly interesting now that the writers are pretty free in what they can do without having to contradict what came before.

    At the end of the day, it's all about good stories. Sure, I miss Wally West, but there hasn't been a really good Wally-centric story since Geoff Johns stopped writing Flash. That was in 2005! Almost 7 years! Meanwhile, there have been good Barry Allen stories.

    So, yeah. If DC wants to leave behind their legacy characters (minus all the Robins), so be it. Just tell good stories with whoever happens to be in the lead role, and you'll keep me reading.

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  11. In reply to my comment way up the page, no sign of Stargirl just yet... I'm waiting to see what Robinson actually does with Earth-2, because let's face it - his work has been inconsistent lately.

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  12. To me, the biggest problem with having DC's golden age characters share the same continuity as the modern ones wasn't explaining why they didn't look 100 years old, but explaining why their children were all in their twenties or thirties. Lots of high-risk, middle-age pregnancies there.

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  13. @Nikos, maybe you're right, I always assumed DC had continuity editors or something to say what the limits on changes are allowed, but maybe not?
    Anyway it's true changing Wonder Woman doesn't mean rebooting the universe.

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