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Sunday, September 17, 2017 

Letter page from The New Guardians 6: was this what led to the mishandlings of Obsidian?

I stumbled over a back issue of The New Guardians #6, a short-lived series by 12 issues starring a few characters who first appeared in DC's Millenium crossover from 1988 (along with a handful ordinarily from the Green Lantern cast), and the letter page available proved to be quite interesting in its discussions of the first homosexual superhero they ever conceived, a character from Peru named Extrano, and also how the series was one of the earliest titles they produced dealing with AIDS. Here's the page and a half worth of letter entries, and look who the editor in charge of the correspondence was:
Yep, it was the one and only Kevin Dooley, who'd later become notorious for his horrific treatment of 2nd Green Lantern Hal Jordan in 1994, and even the story where Aquaman got his left hand mauled off by a school of piranhas. Anyway, to turn to the main subjects at hand, one correspondent at the time argued that Gregorio couldn't have gotten AIDS from scuffling with the Hemo-Goblin unless he had blood or saliva staining his hands. Maybe not, but if Extrano did get AIDS, what if it was from some other incident that I have no idea about for the moment, because I don't have any other helpful data available about this short-lived book? Dooley at least made a point of that to the conclusion-jumper, noting that the Hemo-Goblin of this story ate "with his hands", had assassinated some characters, and wiped their blood from his mouth in the premiere issue (here's another page about the debut that seems to back this up), so it sounds to me like this was an early case of social justice ranting from nearly 3 decades ago, long before the SJW abbreviation came into use. I think Jet, who sacrificed herself in this issue, was also injured by the villain, and so I'm wondering why only Extrano seemed to matter, but not her. Yeah, I know a letter column could only offer so much space alongside all those advertisements, but still...

All that aside, what's eyebrow raising is the next letter writer's comment about Roy Thomas' creation for Infinity Inc, Obsidian/Todd Rice. "Speaking of which, I always thought Obsidian might be struggling to come out of his oppressive Catholic closet. After all, if ten percent of the population is gay or bisexual, ought not ten percent of comic book heroes be gay or bi also?" he asked in parenthesis. But, as more recent studies show, less than 5 percent really are, so there's another somebody who wasted his money into social justice propaganda, and even had the gall to say children should get homosexual role models to boot! Because that's all we need, rather than simply messages about being selfless and not intentionally setting yourself apart from the rest of society by adhering to such junk science. Certainly everybody needs positive role models, but to say homosexuality in itself is, does a terrible disfavor for everybody who believes in sanity. And as for Obsidian, from what I know, he did spend time with some ladies in Infinity Inc, so to turn him homosexual out of the blue, was preposterous. On a related note, when James Robinson, David Goyer and Geoff Johns had Todd kill his stepfather and turn crazy in the pages of JSA, that too was extremely awful.

But was DC trying to be "realistic" even then, as Dooley argues in his following response? Not by a longshot, and they certainly weren't when they got around to dismantling Green Lantern several years later. And it's very sad to think how this was surely one of the earliest places where the misuse of Obsidian could've been influenced by, all because of some lone person's bizarre assumption, which, if not confirmed in-story by the original creators, does not count as established character trait. It all brings to mind an old Peanuts strip where Lucy Van Pelt said, "greed makes you do strange things". I'll say. I hesitate to think what Dooley's real view of religion is, because something tells me there's certain bad religions he's not concerned about. This also reminds me of a comment made on the old Comics Should be Good section of CBR, by somebody who said Gambit from X-Men was doomed as a character the moment the first fan letter was opened, because one reader may have suggested pairing the "Ragin' Cajun" with Rogue, and it went nowhere fast thanks to the bad scripting of writers like Scott Lobdell, who's been on the side of lefty social justice himself for quite a while. I realize that drawing ideas from reader correspondence is nothing new, but this clearly demonstrates how "inspiration" can be drawn up for all the wrong reasons.

The New Guardians may have first been launched by Steve Englehart, but was taken over after one issue by Cary Bates, in one of the last writing assignments he got at the time from DC, and from the material I've read from the title, it looks like this wasn't one of his best jobs, nor Englehart's. Worst is at least one moment of embarrassing characterization ascribed to Extrano, when he makes comments about himself like "auntie". And given that the series wound up connecting with the Invasion crossover soon after, that's why this sloppy book doesn't stand on its own well either. At least the character design for Gloss by Joe Staton was attractive. The 2nd issue also gained some notoriety for its inclusion of a villain called Snowflame whose powers were gained by the use of cocaine! I also have to take issue with the idea of making Floronic Man a hero in this series: if they kept his murder of several people in the pages of Swamp Thing from 4 years earlier canon, then it makes the rest of the cast look like dummies to be welcoming a botanic killer into their ranks. Some of the characters featured in the series later fell victim to the prevalent mindset at the time to kill off characters because supposedly nobody cared about them, and the notion that their presence in a failed series automatically justifies such idiocy. What's the use of creating new casts if they're only going to get rid of them upon determining their books were failures? And why do characters like Extrano have to remain homosexual, if they do? I may have argued this before, and I'll do so again, but that's one of the biggest problems with how these serial fiction tales are written up - gay and lesbian characters are often required to remain that way by the editors, effectively dampening creative freedom, and homosexuality cannot be depicted as a negative example.

In conclusion, this does at least demonstrate how liberalism was prevalent in those days in poor ways, and how self-centered correspondence may have wound up having a bad effect on later characterization of established characters, possibly because they were 3rd tiers, and the contributors to DC thought they could get away with it easily. Sadly, they may have figured correctly, seeing how too few objected to the mistreatment of Todd Rice in the early to mid-2000s. And now, look where all their shamelessness got them - nowhere.

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What if 90 percent of the news media was social justice advocates and extremist bubble echo chambers like Twitter and Facebook existed then?

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