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Friday, May 16, 2014 

Some troubling panels from James Robinson's Starman, and JSA

Here's some panels scanned from a trade paperback I once had of Robinson's Starman that are worth pondering for all the harm they might've caused years later. For example:
There have been a few examples in the past of heroes and/or bystanders who've mocked costumes worn by villains. For example, in The Outsiders #16, February 1987, some policemen and press house security guards mocked the outfit of a thin-skinned crook called Firefly. And in the 1st issue of the sans-adjective Superman series from the same year, Lois Lane asked Metallo, "where'd you ever get such a corny name?" Even Spider-Man may have done the same while clashing with one of the crooks in his book during the Bronze Age. But this is the earliest example I know of where somebody on the same side as the good guys - Jack Knight -  mocks a superhero's costume, insulting his own father in the process. I can't help but wonder if this panel was deliberately illustrated to make the doomed David look silly; he almost looks like a pantomime actor.
This scene with Jack and Nash has the feeling of breaking the 4th wall, but without laughter. "Stuff of legends"? And under Robinson's rendering, it all sounds reduced to such simplicity, it's absurd.
Ah, and here's another bizarre, Mary Sue moment, with Shade implying Jack is on his way to becoming a famous star.
I'm not sure why Opal City shouldn't be riddled with crime, but it "might be fine" if Gotham suffers the same. It's not good for any neighborhood to be overrun with crime and violence.
In another weird moment, after the police raid to arrest some of the baddies, Nash suddenly gets a coherent dialect, just because Jack killed her brother in battle. Sorry, but that's honestly a bit hard to swallow.

Now, here's a few panels from the first few issues of JSA:
In the first story, Wesley Dodds, the original Sandman, stuns Mordru with his gas gun (rather easily, I might add, given all the trouble the villain gives the JSA later in the book), before taking a dive to escape the vicious villain. And that's a telling example of a hero who cannot be allowed to die a natural death without having to cope with villains pursuing him.
Then, in another case of criticism being pointlessly shoved into the script, Al Rothstein says he's embarrassed about the codename and costume he took up in the early 80s. Honestly, isn't it better to just leave those kind of things outside the comics pages and just do them in review magazines? Besides, I don't know about the mohawk, but IMO, Nuklon isn't such a bad name for a hero with powers like his.

Soon after, Mordru offs a guy called Kid Eternity for no apparent reason.
Here again, we have another hero, Sandy, written talking to the audience and telling everybody his codename is "dumb". Again, I think this is superfluous and does nothing to make people appreciate what older superhero tales had to offer.

And then, during Wesley's funeral, Jared Stevens, the Doctor Fate who appeared in the 1990s, turns up to join him in the afterlife. Again, for no other reason than to wipe out a minor character all for the sake of it. A couple years later, Hector and Lyta Hall were sent right back to the afterlife by Geoff Johns, and I'm wondering what the whole point of making Hector a new Dr. Fate was if they were going to abandon that later?
Say, do I spot a jab being made at Ronald Reagan here?
Here's where Robinson and David Goyer reference the 1974 JLA/JSA team-up written by Len Wein, but post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, it doesn't make sense that Wonder Woman would be in that picture, and probably not Superman either.
I thought to add this panel to the list too, because "it feels right" brought to mind a similar comment made by Alan Scott in Day of Judgement, IIRC, where he approved of Hal Jordan's appointment as the Spectre, ignoring the Emerald Twilight massacre which hadn't been reversed/expunged from continuity, making Hal a very sloppy choice given what they were going by that time. And that miniseries was an early product of Geoff Johns.
Finally, the setup story concludes with the much mistreated Obsidian terminating his stepfather, the influence of Ian Karkull notwithstanding. That was just one example of how maligned Roy Thomas's creations became in later years, as DC's editors clearly had no respect for him, nor much interest in using many of his characters.

Looking back at these examples of Robinson's past work tells me quite a bit about what went wrong with DC as we moved from the 1990s to the 21st century.

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I think this is the earliest example I know of where somebody on the same side as the security installation ny good guys - Jack Knight - mocks a superhero's costume, insulting his own father in the process.

So...you don't think Starman is such a hot series?

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