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Saturday, May 10, 2014 

CBR's fuzzy history of Green Lantern in 1990s, and Nova

A writer for CBR's Robot 6 section spoke about Marvel's replacing original Nova Richard Rider with a new protagonist named Sam Alexander, and also fed people some ambiguous data about Green Lantern's situation in the 90s:
Marvel announced on Monday that as part of its “Original Sin” event, the fate of the original Nova, Richard Rider, finally will be revealed in August’s Guardians of the Galaxy #18, by Brian Michael Bendis and Ed McGuinness. The character last appeared in 2010; since then, the mantle of Nova has been held by Sam Alexander, who’s yet to win over vocal fans of the original Human Rocket.

Green Lantern fans are probably having a ’90s flashback right about now. While Richard Rider wasn’t turned into a homicidal villain, he and Hal Jordan both were summarily shuffled off at the climax of a big event to make way for a younger replacement. Longtime readers initially hated Kyle Rayner, but DC Comics stuck to its guns, as over the following decade he remained the primary Green Lantern in the DC Universe. While a vocal minority never relented, the work of writer Ron Marz and others attracted a new following for the character, and converted some old fans too. Rayner remains a major character in the Green Lantern titles today, even after the return of Jordan in 2005.
Really, is that what happened? I'm not so sure it did, and only clear sales figures will bear this out. I began reading sales charts around the turn of the century, and by that time, GL was selling little more than 40,000 copies at best. I also found a board thread on the Dixonverse from 2 years ago where people were giving their thoughts on the subject. While there are flaws, some of them do give telling clues what could really have been the case. One person says:
I have never hated Kyle, I just always thought he was one of the most unnecessary characters ever created. As Odami said, he's boring. I'm not sure how people can think Hal was boring and then love Kyle. He's by far the least interesting of the Earth GLs, so even if they were going to do dastardly deeds to Hal and have only one lone GL left in all the universe, what's wrong with Jon or Alan? (at the time, Guy had his own thing going, or I'd include him.) I even preferred Jade. I tried to read Kyle's book, I even had a little poster of him on my wall for years and still have a pin with Kyle's GL symbol somewhere. But I grew tired of the series quickly and rarely bought it unless he was teaming up with someone or it was a crossover with other title.

Even more recently, in the GL Corps book that starred Kyle and Guy and a bunch of newcomers, Kyle was the one I was least interested in reading about, what with Guy, Kilowog, Soranik Natu, the two GL partners from the Rann-Thanagar sector, Arisia. (Oh, I just realized there was one character that was more boring than Kyle...Sodam Yat. I actually dislike that guy.) They gave Kyle a bit of a reason to care about him by having him start a relationship with Soranik.

To me, Kyle was always just an uninteresting placeholder for someone better, and when those better characters showed up, his usefulness was gone.
Now I disagree with his assertion that Kyle is the one who's "boring" (and even I didn't dislike him as though he was a real person). It's how Marz wrote Kyle that was, and even within the handful I read at the time, it was pretty dreary, and whatever I've read of it since did not make me feel I was missing anything. But the guy's got a point: how can anybody say Hal was boring yet not think it's possible for Kyle to be the same, thanks to whomever was doing the writing? Another one says:
I liked the Kyle run for awhile but it lost me because, really, Kyle didn't seem to have too much of a unique personality. He was just a nice guy trying to do the right thing. Which is basic stuff, of course, but it didn't make for much drama. He didn't make any bold decisions or take any inspiring actions. He ran into bad guys, beat them up and went on with it. Wally West was much more interesting to me, trying to be the Flash but not quite having the stern character of Barry Allen. I never cared about Hal Jordan so I wasn't upset about him going heel at all, I just wanted Kyle to be more of a character and less of a heroic cypher.
From what I read years before, no, Kyle did not have much of a personality to speak of, if at all. But that second poster cited loses me when he sticks the blame to imaginary Hal without blaming the writers for any faults he had. How come he wanted Kyle to be more of a character but not Hal?

Still, this is a strong hint that even people who allegedly liked Kyle because they began reading GL when he became one lost interest along the way as it turned out the handling was no different - and easily worse - than it was when Hal was Earth's main GL. Besides, any book that's going to use already established heroines like Donna Troy and Jade to bolster the main hero isn't doing much to convince it's offering an organic brew. Those who did remain with the book were usually the aimless addicts who collected out of obsession and failure to realize that continuing to buy a damaged product only prolongs the error.

As for Nova, it turns out the new protagonist named Sam Alexander is another experiment in catering to minorities. CBR says that:
[...] the minds behind the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series were eyeing Nova as part of their supporting cast of heroes, and somewhere along the line it was probably decided some cast diversity would be nice. So Marvel’s Head of Television Jeph Loeb created the Hispanic Sam Alexander as the new Nova.
So here we have another case of supplanting an older hero's role with a new character who's of different ethnicity (something that was later done with Rayner's background circa 2002). But if Richard Rider's been slighted, then I think the new guy's introduction will be invalidated. If it's really, truly that important to replace an older character with one who's younger or a minority member, then the least they can do is show some respect for the older heroes and their co-stars. Otherwise, you can be sure there's minority members out there who won't approve of the big two's steps either.

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I've never cared for Kyle Rayner, either. Talk about a forced, limp and unnecessary replacement for a long-established character. And his comic sucked and will forever be known for the death of Alexandra DeWitt. That's just about the only thing notable (for lack of a better term) about his solo title. Plus there was the fact that the Guardians were sidelined because of some bizarre decree that he was the only Green Lantern allowed.

And there's no evidence that his title was any more popular than Hal's.

As for Nova, I was pissed I heard they killed off Richard Rider. I don't see why they can't just have the previous hero retire and pass his or her mantle to the new character instead of having to die first.

But even if they die these days, they always come back. That's what makes comics so utterly predictable these days.

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