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Thursday, March 26, 2015 

Tony Bedard blurs the boundaries of fiction/reality

For DC's "Convergence" event months, Bedard is writing a story involving something better left in the past: Hal Jordan's Parallax transformation. But he also succeeds in shoving distinctions between fiction and reality into the back seat:
CBR News: When we spoke about "Convergence: Speed Force," you mentioned that one of the things that you really enjoyed about Grant Morrison's run on "JLA" was Wally West's relationship with Kyle Rayner. You also talked about Wally being a grounded superhero and that elevating to him to the level of your Flash. Do you have similar sentiment towards Kyle?

Tony Bedard: Yeah, totally. While Hal Jordan was the first Green Lantern that I read about, and I'll always regard Hal's costume as the best superhero costume ever, Kyle is who I personally regard as the best Green Lantern character. I mean, Hal is this fearless test pilot, which is a great qualification for earning the ring, but "fearless test pilot" is a little hard to relate to. Kyle, on the other hand, represents what would happen if you or I received the ring. He's the "everyman" GL, but he's also, unexpectedly, uniquely suited to sling the green. As an artist, he can visualize and imagine better constructs than anyone. Being an artist also makes him more in touch with his emotions than other Lanterns, which was ultimately the key to him mastering the whole emotional spectrum. At the end of the day, I think Kyle is more dimensional, more multifaceted than Hal, Guy or John. Hal may have more willpower, but Kyle can do things no other Lantern can.
Oh, does that mean Sgt. Rock's unrelatable because he's a fearless WW2 soldier? Does it mean my own grandfather, who served in the US Army's artillery units during WW2, isn't relatable because he fought as bravely as possible for a good cause? I'm sorry, but this for starters is incredibly stupid. Yet if that's the logic he goes by, then I guess Superman's unrelatable to him either because he's this fearless humanoid from a wrecked planet who's only vulnerable to Kryptonite, and his weakness to magical energies doesn't count either. That seems to be what Bedard's saying. This is after all an era when some people have no ability to appreciate simple escapism, and he must be a product of that thinking.

Bedard's also parroting a defense DC may have used back in the mid-90s: that Hal was replaced because he lacked the imagination Kyle had, which makes no sense, sci-fi or otherwise when he's not even a real person. Gee, I guess by that logic, Hal and the GL Corps entire are nothing but a huge bunch of pea-brained dummies, who deserved to be slaughtered for all the good deeds they did. Say, I guess even Alan Scott doesn't resonate, and Jenny-Lynn Haden must be a brainless bimbo, huh? If Bedard wants so much to praise Kyle, that's one thing, but he shouldn't be doing it at everyone else's expense, and he certainly shouldn't act like figments of imagination are real people. Plus, if he thinks an explanation were needed for how GLs can conjure up visuals, it's always possible to establish that they practice the art of visualizing and perfecting. You could even write that some other GLC members are cartoonists too on their home planets. And Bedard's disinterest in making that point just cheapens his gushing all the more.

Notice also how he speaks of Kyle without mentioning that it's the writers who make the fictional characters dimensional. Now I'm one of the kind of people who finds Ron Marz's work on mainstream superheroes galling, but if Bedard really thinks he was an expert, nothing's wrong with his saying so. Yet Marz is only mentioned once in this interview, and it's very non-committal on Bedard's part:
Beyond your own passion for the character, do you think Kyle showed he was a worthy successor to Hal during the events of the "Emerald Twilight" storyline?

Honestly, it seemed that Ganthet chose Kyle at random to receive the last Green Lantern ring, but in "Green Lantern: New Guardians," I tried to spin that a little and suggest that Ganthet recognized Kyle's potential. Also, considering how power-crazy Hal went, maybe giving the ring to a bit of a slacker was the right move. [Laughs]

Kyle had a lot to learn, but he wasn't the type to instantly abuse the power he'd been granted. And with his girlfriend Alex to guide him and serve as his moral compass, Kyle was off to a pretty great start. I remember reading those first few Ron Marz issues and totally loving Alex. She was shaping up to be an amazing character, the one who makes Kyle grow up and become worthy of his new role, which is also the reason that I never regarded her death as a cheap stunt. It hit me hard when she got killed, and it was Kyle's wake up call.
I'm not laughing, and I'm decidedly going to pose a challenging question: if Marz wrote Major Force using racial slurs against Alex, or, if Alex were Latina/black/Asian, would he still not consider it a cheap stunt to wipe her out as viciously as was seen? IMO, most people would probably have been less offended if it hadn't been for the shock tactics. If Major Force had just stabbed Alex or shot her with a laser beam, and left her body lying in the middle of the floor, rather than eviscerate her and stuff the body in the refridgerator, that would've been enough and less people would've complained. But no, Marz had to go for shockers, because otherwise, nobody would notice. And there's also that little matter of using established heroines like Donna Troy and Jade as co-stars instead of introducing a new civilian paramour. I guess that's not a cheap stunt either? These are just the kind of things Bedard's never commented on.

I will say in fairness that, from what I know so far, Bedard has never been openly hostile to dissenters like Marz and Dan Slott have. And unlike them, Bedard may have written a couple books in the past that are more interesting. But I cannot and will not approve of the guy making the same mistakes as various other creators by acting like fictional characters are real people. Sure, he may be employing classic "projection" - in his case, by saying great things about Kyle that're really meant for whomever wrote his stories. But I've seen far too much of this blurring-up already, and it's gotten way out of hand, and the situation is just as bad with certain audiences. Even Ganthet didn't "choose" Kyle. It was just Marz writing that he did. As for wakeup calls, I'm not sure how that makes much sense when in the decade Kyle was GL, he never evolved much past the whiny do-gooder he was first introduced as. And over the years, as I'd discovered, there were people out there who reevaluated the book, and concluded it was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Hal is also featured in this story. What is the relationship like between Kyle and Hal at this point? The solicitations tease that Hal is not in a good place -- both physically and mentally.

Hal is on a cosmic rampage as Parallax when Metropolis is suddenly covered by a dome and whisked away to another planet. With his power rendered dormant, Hal is himself again, and the crushing realization that he murdered the Corps and the Guardians is almost too much to bear. So Hal locked himself up in jail and remained there, punishing himself for what he did. Kyle visits him all the time, trying to get him to realize that Hal didn't do those terrible things, Parallax did. They don't yet realize the true nature of Parallax. They just see it as a separate personality that took over Hal. Kyle has become Hal's best friend, trying to rally him out of depression. That friendship is sorely tested when the cities are set against each other by the entity that snatched them.

Can you share how the yellow light of fear affects Hal in this miniseries?

Well, back when Hal was first Parallax, he didn't even realize that Fear had anything to do with it. The whole idea of the Emotional Spectrum and the Entities that represent each color hadn't yet been introduced. Since we are picking up from that moment in time, "Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax" deals with Parallax as a Fear Entity. It's more like another personality takes over Hal, and Kyle tries his best to bring Hal back to his senses before he wipes out everyone. This doesn't mean that the Fear Entity isn't behind all this -- just that Hal and Kyle don't realize it or even discover it.
Sigh. This would not have worked in the Incredible Hulk's tales either. If anything, Emerald Twilight and the whole Parallax disaster are a major disgust that should've been left in the past. In fact, if we're going by earlier canons, why not do what Sigourney Weaver said will be done with the Aliens franchise - break with the continuity of the 3rd and 4th movies - and try the same with GL and the DCU? They're just beating a dead horse by regurgitating Emerald Twilight as a form of canon. It's a story that did not have to be, and bringing it back as canon yet again only makes it worse, much like regurgitating the Phoenix saga in X-Men only made things awful.
"Convergence" gives us a really cool opportunity to see battles that would otherwise be impossible. Is it safe to say we'll see Green Lantern confront Parallax in this series? Or is it as the very title teases -- are we going to see a Green Lantern/Parallax team-up?

You're going to see both. The main external conflict is between Metropolis and Electropolis, home of Lady Quark, Lord Volt and their daughter, Princess Fern. These are fairly obscure adversaries, but that's okay since the focus is on a more internal struggle: Kyle's attempt to essentially save Hal's soul as the Parallax identity reasserts itself and makes Hal a threat to pretty much everyone. Kyle's not giving up on Hal, even when he goes back to being the scariest dude to ever wield the Green light of Willpower.

Princess Fern is the one attacking Metropolis in this series. She has plant powers like Swamp Thing and will prove surprisingly capable against Kyle and Hal. It's one form of Green power versus another. Also, Fern's soldiers wield electrical weapons that tend to scramble a Green Lantern's ability to concentrate and effectively use their ring. But, again, the external conflict isn't quite as important as Kyle's struggle to save Hal from himself.
No, but the continued use of Emerald Twilight as a wellspring has become insulting to the intellect for a long time now, and is not something I want to read about. All it does is remind everybody of a story that was so embarrassingly bad no serious GL fan wants it to be canon, and I'm let down by anybody who took an Emperor's New Clothes approach to it, acting as though we must accept that a universe that went through time/dimension-altering situations in Crisis on Infinite Earths now has a member who will ostensibly be eternally bad forever, and cannot be reversed in any way.
Does "Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax." tie into the other "Convergence" titles, or the main series?

"Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax" stands on its own. While it's certainly part of the bigger "Convergence" picture, our focus is on Kyle's struggle to redeem a mass murderer who used to be the greatest hero in the universe. The idea that anyone can be redeemed, that you can always turn your life around, is a very powerful notion. At the same time, Hal/Parallax has enough power to quickly dispatch Metropolis's enemy city and even go after whoever brought them all to this desolate combat planet. But doing so may cost him whatever's left of his soul. That's a lot of meaty conflict to explore with two of my all-time favorite comic characters. And with some great artwork by Ron Wagner and Bill Reinhold, I think it's going to be well worth checking out.
This ending comment is grating. I guess you can redeem all the communist tyrants like Che Guevara who murdered their oppositions in the past century? And the Turkish Ottoman jihadists who slaughtered over 1.5 million Armenians during WW1? Is their no critical mass in Bedard's view? What he's saying would insult the intellect of my grandfather too, after all the horrors he learned of and experienced during WW2. Redemption is possible for fictional goodies, by contrast, but not the way Bedard's envisioned it. Speaking of which, how come he hasn't argued the same about Jean Loring, after all the sick crap DC editorial put her through since Identity Crisis, forcing her into a form of insanity that doesn't jibe with what was seen in 2 past stories from 1969 (The Atom and Hawkman) and 1977 (Super-Team Family)? I guess civilian co-stars don't have the same rights and respect as their costumed counterparts do.

Bedard may be respectable in conversations with audiences, but his visions are still very disappointing and don't distinguish between fantasy/reality. It's bad enough when rank and file audience members do this. It's worse when creators do the same, and sets a bad example.

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Favoritism and the ability to relate to what you write will always be touchy subjects to tackle in comic books.

I suspect that a lot of today's comic book writers can't "relate to" a test pilot, a soldier, a cop, or anyone else who has a real job. Especially if the job is dangerous, or the least bit difficult.

Most of these creators (and I use that term very loosely) apparently lived at home until they were old enough to go to college. Then their parents supported them while they went to school fifteen hours a week and partied the other 153 hours a week. They majored in liberal arts, and got their first jobs when they were over 21. They never served in the military, or worked in a blue collar job. Most of them couldn't handle a teenager's job flipping burgers.

Naturally, they like the idea of an artist, "in touch with his emotions," being better able than "a fearless test pilot" to wield cosmic power. Their preference for Kyle over Hal may just be a case of sour grapes.

And Kyle's girlfriend would have been more valuable as a live supporting character than as a dead MacGuffin (that is, a plot device, either for shock value or to motivate the main character). But her grisly murder was just another example of the relentless insistence that everything in comics has to be grimdark.

http://devilkais.deviantart.com/journal/Kaisian-Theory-about-characters-birth-328699353

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