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Saturday, November 30, 2013 

Erik Larsen fudges the differences between receptions of new Flashes and Green Lanterns

In a recent conversation Larsen had with ComicBook, he said:
“Dick Grayson was Batman for what seemed like five minutes,” Larsen recently noted on Facebook. “The only successful handoffs were to Hal Jordan and Barry Allen and they could get away with that because the audience at that point turned over every few years and both Green Lantern and the Flash had been off the stands for a decade or so. The more recent handoffs with Kyle Rayner and Wally West were met with the constant drone of ‘when are Hal Jordan and Barry Allen coming back?’ As much as fans demand change–they sure aren’t receptive to it when it appears.”
Leave it to Larsen to tell it all in such a superficial, uninformative way. I'd say it's more of a yes-and-no situation.

Yes, plenty of fans accepted the passing of Barry Allen's mantle to Wally West, because it was done in good taste, with Barry dying while making a last ditch effort to foil the schemes of the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths. That's why, as a matter of fact, any complaints coming afterwards were minor.

No, plenty of fans did not accept the same when Hal Jordan's mantle was passed to the virtually brand new Kyle Rayner, because in sharp contrast to Barry's curtain call, Hal's sendoff was done in jaw-droppingly poor, disgusting taste, by turning him into a mass murderer called Parallax, and the setup for Kyle's story was no better. There were far fewer complaints about the short-lived mantle pass to Connor Hawke, illegitimate son of Green Arrow, because Oliver Queen remained himself to the very end of the tale leading to that point.

But, at the same time, yes, there have been some fans who did not accept Barry's otherwise decently written demise - these were likely insular readers, the kind we consider an embarrassment because they don't know when to quit - and so, they kept asking these needless queries as the years rolled by. At this point, however, I get the feeling they too have left the fold of fandom and there aren't many left, maybe because they came to realize what a mistake it was nagging the DC staff over a molehill...at least two decades too late.

I'd theorize that the problem lies not so much in their ability to judge and compare story quality as it does in their inability to accept the piles of older stories that could use some audience, even after DC took to reprinting in trade archives back in the mid-80s, and feel, rather misguidedly, that the older stars have to be present even in the newer tales, because they don't have what it takes to adjust to new folks in older superhero roles. More's the pity, because if they'd used their heads, we'd still have Wally as the Flash, while Barry got to rest peacefully after a tasteful end, and we'd get back Hal, while as for Kyle, it's not like he has to disrespected no matter how dreadful his origin was, complete with a dull beginning where the Guardian named Ganthet just flew up to him outside a bar and said he'd "have to do", as a choice for GL. I'm sure the problem's not limited to comics; there's other forms of entertainment where this kind of problem could possibly be found too: suppose the Hardy Boys were replaced by a pair of cousins with the same family name? There'd probably be some arrested adolescents in the audience who'd refuse to accept it, even if Simon & Shuster wrote Frank and Joe out of the story in good taste.

Larsen made his comments in relation to his plan to replace the main star of Savage Dragon with his son. He really should consider that, unlike Barry and Hal, Dragon is his own creation and not part of any classic legacy, and fanbases can differ. But he should also take into account that it helps to make some kind of distinction between the good and bad changes and form an opinion for how well or not everything was done. Alas, it appears he's not the kind of writer who cares to do that. Too bad. That's just why some writers in comicdom aren't the most reliable sources for learning about editorial steps in comics history.

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