So, the JSA. Best as Kal's contemporaries, mentors, distant predecessors?
I know I’ve mentioned this before in passing, but it bears repeating. DC has made mistakes over the years with individual parts of reboots: with Superman, or with Wonder Woman, or even with wiping a whole narrative device like the multiverse off the table. But in terms of cracking the foundations that the entirety of the shared universe is built on? Nothing but nothing even approaches what an awful, awful idea it was to make the JSA exist on the main Earth publicly preceding the Justice League by decades.
Now look, I like…well, okay, I basically just like Jay Garrick and Ted Knight, and kind of Wildcat since my roommate thinks he’s fun, but the JSA are a perfectly decent superhero team, with enough fun characters and solid narrative hooks that they absolutely merit reasonably continuous publication. If nothing else they’re genuinely historically significant to the genre, and really the medium and pop culture as a whole. But they are not as important as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. They were not built to hold that kind of weight. If they were, they’d be the ones in the movies.
Just on that basic note before going into the universe as a whole: unless you’re going to majorly age up the Trinity, you’re putting the JSA as the Original Superheroes ahead of the actual original superheroes. Superman’s indisputably the guy, but once you throw in the JSA as publicly existing before him, that stops. He might still be the greatest and the example everyone ends up following, but if there were dozens upon dozens of superheroes before him, he isn’t exactly the most important thing that’s ever happened anymore. Him saving a spaceplane or Lois falling out of a helicopter of whatever goes from “Jesus Christ in Heaven above us! A hero from the sky with the strength of a million men who walks on air and kindles fire with a glance! Salvation, salvation! Truly, brothers and sisters, an age of miracles and wonders as come unto us all as gods walk the Earth!” to “Flying guy, neat! Been awhile. Did Hawkman have a kid that doesn’t need wings or something? Ooh, this guy has lasers, cool!” Much as I love him, I do not buy that the world would profoundly venerate Superman to borderline-savior status when there have already been 40 or so nice flying guys in capes before him in living memory. On the main Earth, the JSA is a ‘legacy’ that removes the in-universe significance of what they themselves are all in fact the legacy of. They reduce everything by being ‘the originals’ in a world where they’re not actually the originals. Hell, the entire reason any of this happened in the first place is because they weren’t as good as Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman; they were cancelled because they couldn’t hang in there through the end of the Golden Age the way the big three could, but for some reason they get to have this scene:
If there was an atom of sense in this world, the follow-up to that moment wouldn’t be Alan Scott going “I have an idea.” It’d be Ted Grant with
“Guys, guys, I’m flattered as I’ve ever been in my life. Seriously, you have no idea. But, uh, I’m a nonagenarian ex-boxer in a leather fetish cat outfit, and you’refucking Superman, what are you even talking about? Is this a Red Kryptonite thing?” Seriously try and make the argument that this is a scene that should be permitted in any version of the DCU. I would sincerely love to know how that train of thought goes.
Even moving past those three, the entire post-Crisis premise of the Justice Society is that they’re the big guns in a world where they may never, ever be permitted to actually be the big guns, but we all have to collectively pretend they’re still important anyway. Yes, they’ve had plenty of good comics to their name, and nothing can undo that. But they’re not the superhero team of their world - that’s the Justice League. Great as he is, in the eyes of the world Jay Garrick isn’t The Original Flash, he’s the Old Flash or the Other Flash if he exists at all, objectively no longer the most important bearer of his own name. So you end up in a position where you get two teams: the original heroes, and the current guys. The current guys are the big, vital ones with the iconic characters who show up in the comics and movies, but aren’t the original, primal heroes, just the current generation. But that puts a team that’s been presented as secondary for decades in the roles of being the originals, the platonic champions by which the heroes we read about every month are measured against, and they just can’t live up to that, because if they could, why would the Justice League even be around? Why don’t these guys fight any of the cool villains, or have Batman, or lack a need to justify their presence the way the League does? Again, the reason the Justice League exists at all is because the JSA wasn’t able to survive, with the League being made up of the actually successful characters from that era, and revamps of the originals that went on to tremendously greater success on absolutely all fronts. And the idea that they should be narratively ‘rewarded’ for that by everyone pretending they’re anywhere near as important as Superman or Batman is flatly ridiculous.
They’re not allowed to be the leads of their universe, and it diminishes everyone involved, making the originals unable to live up to their own hype, and the main guys are presented as not being fully the icons they actually are. It’d maybe be less of a problem if the JL were clearly the direct successors of the JSA - then you’d get something out of them being around in terms of their existence stitching something positive into the fabric of the universe - but outside of Green Lantern and Flash (the former of whom has no connection to his modern counterpart, the latter of whom was just a guy who incidentally went through the same accident as the modern guy for the first decadeish of the setup of them existing in the same world), the legacy of the JSA is limited to the JSA itself. It is its own little corner of things just as much as it ever was on Earth 2, but now it upsets the fabric of the main guys.
Now that I’ve crapped all over them, I gotta say I do think they still need to be around for the reasons I said at the beginning, just either on Earth 2 or radically altered. On Earth 2, they can be the head of the table in the way they were built to be, with their elder statesmen Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and Superman and whatnot, and current guys directly descended from them who are Earth’s new Greatest Heroes but still walk in their footsteps. They can still cross over with the Justice League guys plenty just like they used to, with the two truly on equal terms (and on that note, Barry Allen being inspired by Jay Garrick is so much better when he’s from another world. It’s the difference between me being a fan of a celebrity, growing up to become a celebrity myself, and then meeting them, and becoming real-life Superman, then travelling to another universe to learn Superman is real and then we team up). Or, if you want them in the main world, make them a secret group like on Smallville, or the society of pulp heroes in the first issue of Planetary. It gives them mystique and importance and ties them even more directly into the development of the superhero as a concept by hearkening back to the 20s/30s characters they were inspired by, while maintaining the place of Superman as the first superhero, and of the lead characters of the DCU as the actual most important characters in it.
Finished ep 13 of Nirvana in Fire and really loved the scene between Changsu and Marquess of Yan (whom I apparently love.) I love how the drama is often mellow and cerebral political planning but now and then explodes into this insane intensity which almost makes you feel like an emotional vampire as you watch. I also love how it slowly shows that the kingdom is still fractured by the events of 12 years ago even on the surface everyone pretends nothing happened.
NiF is an interesting drama for me because I love it without loving its protagonist. Mei Changsu is smart and I can certainly understand his desire for justice for his family but he is too manipulative and controlled and willing to do dirty things for me to fall in love with him - he is not a likeable person. But then I always prefer straight arrows (see Jingyan in this drama.) I would probably like him a lot better if he allowed himself some honest rage, even as I understand why he does not. Weaving underhanded plots in the center of a spider web and trusting nobody or allowing himself feelings about once a year are all understandable with his past and limitations but do not make him a relatable character. I do love the drama and find him fascinating if not likeable.
The best thing about comics isn’t the fighting or the costumes or the powers.
No. The best thing about comics is when two characters share a moment between battles to save the world. A moment that can make you feel like you know them. Like they’re friends of yours, or maybe part of your family.
The magic of comics is when a few panels, with pictures and speech bubbles can make you feel emotions you can’t even put into words.
You can call them “funny books” if you want, but if a forum can make you scream, laugh, cry, fear, or think hard about something, it is nothing less than great literature.
Why I want Charlie back but for once, I’m not in a B/RL rage
Alright, given the state of my dashboard, an update is in order.
I’m not the biggest fan of Bucklemming and I’m pretty open about it. Personally, however, I don’t think killing off Charlie is about ‘queerhate’ (yes I have seen that word around), nor that they only killed her off because they ‘can’t write’.
IMO the episode, even without focusing on Charlie’s death, was within their usual range of what I feel is mediocrity. Actually, it was better than some they’ve penned (such as 8.19 or 9.21) - though still pretty mediocre overall. It’s a known issue with their scripts that they’re often unrefined in coating the fact that things happen just ‘cause they need to happen, and end up making it obvious they’re forcing the story to go this or that way. They can be terribly inelegant. Same ol’ critiques, not a post about my issues with their average writing style. In any case, it’s not surprising to me that the characters felt less brillant than usual. Charlie’s death (well, the scene where we’re shown dead Charlie) had maybe a little more gravitas than Abaddon’s hilarious death last year, but nothing close to doing justice to a charater so loved by fandom and that a large portion of us feels represents us. It was stupid that she’d just go off to whatever motel with a little blade because she couldn’t concentrate. Downright idiotic when Cas had taken Rowena to another room. She was ours and she deserved a much nobler, worthier send-off.
That said. I think her death made narrative sense. I doubt Sam is gonna stop now, but this whole charade exposed just how bad the situation is. It’s “Kevin’s death” bad. It’s “Dean last year” bad. Just like last year I saw Dean’s reasoning behing everything he did, but still thought he was going darker and darker and that it would result in a complete mess, I see Sam’s reasoning now but I think he’s going darker and darker and that he’s making mess upon mess. Just like last year I thought that was what Dean needed to truly begin to internalize the idea that Winchester Coping And Problem Solving™ is absolute shit and needs to change, I think now that Sam needs to get to his lowest point to start internalizing the same concept, and that it’s gonna take progressively uglier consequences to make him open his eyes. No ugliest of the ugliest = no eye opening = no making sure the cycle of Shitty Dealing is eventually broken. That people invaluable to fandom are dying because of Sam’s plan? That it feels so unacceptable? If you ask me, that is absolutely the intended effect. Charlie’s death was their big card to signal what’s happening with Sam is not remotely pretty, and needs to stop. But it took Dean season 9 to understand it so I can’t ask Sam to get it just ‘cause.
Monroe: Astounding. Astounding and disappointing. There was a time, Eldon, when I would call you our most promising. You ask your brothers and your cousins. But clearly, you have been spoiled and overindulged, and the result is arrogance. The utter lack of judgment…
Eldon: Daddy… I’ve never done anything like this before. I haven’t been myself… Ever since Jacob died.
Monroe: Oh, no. No, no, no. Don’t you dare cheapen the memory of your brother by using him as an excuse for your foolishness.
This is Sam’s story now, about Sam’s descent. It’s been since 10.17. And I fully expect it to be Sam’s story, as Sam sees it, for the rest of season 10. It’s almost certainly getting worse than this.
Doesn’t stop me from being devastated and from wanting Charlie back, because seriously, this fandom needs Charlie bad. But I do think all this is with a precise purpose. It seems that it’s started working for Dean, he’s not where he was in s8, nor where he was in s9, he’s developed. That’s where a major chunk of my faith comes from.