Friday, February 24, 2012

The Inevitability of Vibe

So, for this post, you have my wicked friend Noah Van Google to blame. Noah’s an egger; he’s that kid who never got in trouble in school, but was always egging YOU on to see what would happen. Then when Hilarity/Horror ensued, the teacher turns on you and there sits Van Google, smiling sweetly with a little halo over his head.

So, Van Google recently decided to throw peanuts through the bars of my cage at the digital zoo by pointing out—on my FACEBOOK WALL—that Newsarama recently listed VIBE as Number One on the list of “The 10 WORST Justice League Members of All Time”. Okay, Noah; consider the bear baited.

Now, as long-time readers may remember, I have addressed this very issue when egged on to reply a comment by Steve Englehart listing Vibe as “one of the four worst Leaguers of all time”. So I feel no need to address that specific point further. Heck even, the writer of the offending Newsarama article conceded:

“…there's something charming about Paco Ramone's short-lived existence, whether it was his overconfidence or excitement about being a superhero in the first place. Vibe also has a particularly important place in Justice League history as being the first Leaguer to be killed in the line of duty, launching an unfortunate trend that would continue for a long time afterwards. If only he'd joined up with a different team that dealt with smaller problems, perhaps Vibe would still be with us today, and perhaps he would've evolved into a character people remembered as more than a gimmick gone wrong. Who's for a new Vibe ongoing series in the next round of DC New 52 launches?”

To my ears, that’s pretty much a concession that Vibe is not only NOT number one on the list, but shouldn’t be on the list at all. He certainly doesn’t argue that any of the others characters on the list should be brought back, let alone get their own series!

But I will take it one (or more) step further: I posit that not only will Vibe return in the New52, but that the return of Vibe verges on inevitable. And here are the reasons why…

Vibe is simple.

It's good Paco has a superpowers, because his career as an avant-garde interior designer was going nowhere.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you laughing. I’m not referring to Vibe’s IQ or personality; I am referring to Vibe’s concept. Vibration powers? Got it. While what exactly he can do with such powers is still open to exploration, there’s nothing intrinsically vague about them (as there is about, oh, pretty much every single member of Stormwatch except Midnighter & Apollo, but only because they are Batman & Superman expies). His personality—vivacious, optimistic street kid with a bit of a chip on his shoulder—is also fairly easy to understand, represent, and stomach (when properly portrayed). He’s pretty much a modern version of Robin (with superpowers).

Vibe is colorful.

Even sepia tones cannot dim the glory that is Vibe.

Both literally and figuratively, Vibe is a colorful figure. Now, you can dismiss this as unimportant. But the fact remains that wan and colorless characters simply do not do well in the long-run in comics. You can make fun of the shiny spandex types, but they remain after scads of less vivid—or, as they are so often style, “more realistic”—characters have faded from view. The costume, the dancing, the flair; face it, Vibe is a fun, larger than life character, and those are superhero comics’ stock in trade.

Vibe is a “Latino”.

Who's for a Vibe team-up with Mas y Menos? C'mon, 'fess up...!

I’m not one for ‘ethnic quotas’, certainly, but DC has definitely expressed interest in having their character roster reflect a more modern diversity in (American? World?) society. As a Puerto Rican (not Mexican, I’m always amazed when people get that wrong, including the writer of the aforementioned Newsarama article), Paco Ramone would fit easily into that plan. Certainly much better than that drunken caricature, Yolanda Montez, or that double-mockery, Extrano.

Vibe has a high Q factor.

Shut up, ghetto boy, who cares what you think?!

Like it or not…most people still know who Vibe is (was). Look again at that list on Newsarama. Aztek? Bloodwynd? Faith? Vague, indistinct, and unmemorable. Any time you want to discuss them—as rare as such times must be—you have to explain who they are, and probably have a lot of difficulty doing so. Despite having died years before any of those characters were introduced, Vibe is still known and discussed (for good or for ill). In fact, one of the Abscorbascommandos tells me Vibe will be one of the characters appearing in the upcoming “DC Shorts” as part of Cartoon Network’s “DCAnimated Hour”; I’ll bet you a can of Soder and a Big Belly burger that Aztek, Bloodwynd, and Faith will NOT be.

Vibe stands alone.

Of course, when you stand like that, it's obvious WHY you stand alone.

Much like the cheese, Vibe stands alone. And by that I mean, Vibe’s origin or existence do not hinge upon any other character or event, so he can be reintroduced at any point. This may seem like a small or silly point, but it isn’t. There’s a huge host of DCU characters you cannot say this about (e.g., Blue Beetle, Huntress, Nightwing, Donna Troy, Wally West, the Detroit Steel, the Elongated Man, Bart Allen, Power Girl, Mister Terrific, the Metropolis Steel); because their origins are tied into predecessor heroes or specific events from “the OldDC”, their reintroduction causes immediate problems, questions, or revisions. Vibe could be reintroduced next week as a newly emerging hero being recruited by, well, just about any group in the DC. Other than Stormwatch. Although the idea of Vibe blazing around the gloomy abstraktervolk of Stormwatch is hilarious; it would be like having Lady Gaga crash Dowton Abbey.

Vibe has potential.

That's a fetish for somebody. Um... me, in fact.

There’s lots that can be with Vibe’s power. Although still unique, his power has similarities to Black Canary sonic scream and Flash’s vibratory powers… ones that they have done pretty well with. First of all, his raw power is pretty substantial: the power to use harmonic resonances to shake a building apart, wreck a bridge, or start a tidal wave is overwhelming (though mostly destructive). But readers love imaginative applications of powers (such as the Flash’s use of superspeed to vibration through things or Mera’s recently displayed ability to suck the water out of people who make the mistake of pissing her off) and Vibe is ripe for those (make Vibe as able to sense vibrations as he is able to cause them, and you get a world of possibilities). And as a character (rather than just a superhero) Vibe has great potential as the kind of tough, wisecracking, happy-go-lucky hero that made the Golden Agers such exciting role models.

Vibe is redeemable.

Like a gay Puerto Rican Batman, all he needs to win your heart is time to prepare.

Most of the negative associations with Vibe, face it, have to do with two things: being part of the “non-A list” of the Detroit League and associating him with the breakdancing craze in the 1980s. The first one is easily dismissed—don’t put him in the JLA (at least not right away)—and the other is, frankly, silly and date. I hate to break it to all you dance-haters but… breakdancing may have entered popular consciousness in the 1980s, but it didn’t exactly disappear. Let’s start with Step Up (2006), Step Up 2 (2008), Step Up 3 (2010), and Step Up 4 (2012). Broaden that to Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance?, America’s Best Dance Crew—you yourself may not be part of the dance scene, but I (and the alumni and faculty of Garling’s Greater York Dance Center) can tell you that plenty of people are.

Glory awaits those who redeem him.

I'm gonna do GOOD, Paco! For YOU!

Quick, what is Geoff Johns famous for? And, no, “severed limbs” and “weak endings” don’t count, wise guy. The answer is fixing the unfixable: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Justice Society. When explaining how Geoff became such a towering figure in current comics, you’re not going to say, “Oh, he wrote this amazing story about X, or used X innovative writing technique”. You’re going to say, “He fixed X, Y, and Z, elegantly and definitively.” Because, while readers do like writers who create great new characters and stories, they like much more writers who make existing characters that readers already know into great characters with story potential—particularly those familiar characters and “guilty pleasures” who have fallen on hard literary times. You can joke about it all you want, Internet: but the writer who pulls it off will have the last laugh... and my thanks and admiration.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

52 new New52 Questions

1. Is there still a giant penny? And if so, where did it come from?
2. So … Barbara Gordon became inspired to become Batgirl, did the Batgirl thing, got shot by the Joker, was paralyzed, recovered from paralysis, and has become Batgirl again? Within, what, a span of four years? Busy girl.
3. Speaking of Babs: is she actually Jim’s daughter again? I mean, as opposed to her being his brother’s daughter whom he adopted, or whatever wackiness that was.
4. Oh, and speaking of the Gordons! Does Batgirl have a brother or not? If so, is it Tony or the creepy Jim Junior? Or maybe Chuck Cunningham?
5. Speaking of five year time –lines… . I guess we are supposed to assume Batman flew solo for one year, had Dick as Robin for, oh, two years, followed, by one of Jason, one of Tim, and now Damien? With none of them being trained while the others were active? That’s… rather a stretch. Or, more accurately, a squunch.
6. Joe Chill, in or out?
7. Can Batman’s semen time-travel? Because, by my estimate, if Damien is really supposed to be Bruce’s son, then he was fathered a minimum of three years before Batman’s career began.
8. Has Harvey Dent become Two-Face yet?
9. This would be a perfect time to re-introduce/ re-vamp the Riddler, don’t you think?
10. Since Ayla and Salu are now lovers (again?), is it safe to assume there was never an Ayla Rannz/ Brin Londo romance?
11. Make up your minds, DC: is it Triplicate Girl with the power to triplicate, or is it Duplicate Girl with the power to make multiple duplicates of herself? Because you have shown me BOTH in the New52.
12. Speaking of romances… has Brainiac 5 ever met Supergirl?
13. So, when I read old JLA stories, should I just mentally replace all occurrences of J’onn’s “martian breath” with Victor’s “white noise cannon”?
14. Speaking of JJ in the JLA; JLA seems to suggest he wasn’t and Stormwatch seems to suggest he was. Pick one.
15. I guess there was no JLA Detroit (which is for the best) any more. But that means…. Vibe can show up again, right? Perhaps in JLI?
16. ZOMG, is Starro something that HAS happened or something that WILL happen?
17. Wait, wait; does the mean that there was never a Snapper Carr? Because, you know, that ALONE would justify the reboot. Heck, it even makes up for stuff like Voodoo or Hawk & Dove.
18. So, if Wonder Woman has been fighting World War II or supervillains in the last five years before her current storyline… what HAS she been doing?! Running a boutique?
19. Did Alfred’s father work for Bruce’s family or not?
20. Was there ever an Arthur Junior? I thinking omitting the whole ‘death of Aquababy’ might be for the best, since a strong case could be made that THAT is when DC Comics turned a corner toward darkness that it’s just now recovering from
21. Does Aquaman have any powers we’ve not yet seen him use? Oh, heck , I’ll just come out and ask it: can he throw waterballs like in the Filmation cartoon? I just really want him to have waterballs.
22. I’m not really sure this is a reboot question, but the recent issue where the Navy rescues Aquaman makes me wonder: shouldn’t the Navy have some person delegated as the point of contact with Aquaman? You know, like how Steve Trevor is the POC for Wonder Woman.
23. Speaking of Diana: London? Really? Why? I need a reason for that.
24. So… Flash has acquired HOW many Rogues in the last FIVE years? Things really DO move fast in Central City, don’t they? But surely, not a single ONE of them could have been captured more than once, maybe twice, in that time.
25. My friend Mike the Bartender tells me the identity of Kid Flash in Teen Titans remains a mystery. Surely it CANNOT be Bart, therefore… it’s Wally?
26. I’m a little confused: so, in the last five years, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner ALL became Green Lanterns? Really, really, really FAMOUS Green Lanterns? Shovel faster.
27. Is there a Metamorpho?
28. Will the Phantom Stranger turn up? Strike that. WHEN and WHERE will the Phantom Stranger turn up? Because little things like universal reboots cannot possibleyaffect the Phantom Stranger.
29. Krypto. It’s been set up; when do we see the other shoe drop?
30. So how long before the idea that the first time Batman met the Joker, the Joker was naked with a knife in his teeth gets retconned? Because that is…well, let’s just call it ‘non-iconic’, shall we?
31. We all know something is coming for Captain Marvel, but what about DC’s other main ‘acquired legacy property’: Plastic Man? You know they won’t let him go unused; Earth-2, perhaps?
32. Spectre; Earth-1 or Earth-2?
33. Wait, so if Axel is currently the Trickster, does that mean that James preceded him, became famous/died-reformed/reformed-died, then…. Aw, heck, what’s the story on the Trickster?
34. Now that Wonder Woman can’t fly (again) does she have an invisible plane?
35. How long has the Martian Manhunter been on earth?
36. Is Jaime Reyes the first Blue Beetle? Was there a Ted Kord (let alone a Dan Garrett)?
37. Whoa, wait, is there a Wonder Girl? Was there ever?
38. Where’s Skeets?
40. Given that Captain Cold used to use a cold gun and he now is internalizing the power… maybe we can do without Mister Freeze, who always seemed like didn’t fit in in Batman’s world?
41. Is there now—or has there ever been—a JLA headquarters?
42. Etta Candy: next Sensational Character Find of 2013 or Embarrassing and Forgotten Fat Funny Sidekick Never to be Seen Again?
43. Since it seems impossible for there to be a Static without someone mentioning Black Lightning, is there no Black Lightning?
44. How did Deadman get dead again? I mean, how clumsy can you be and still be a circus aerialist?
45. Does the presence of Robotman in My Greatest Adventure mean there was no Doom Patrol? And if there was no Doom Patrol who put Cliff’s brain in a robot?
46. So, if that’s the Shade, with his own miniseries… um. He certainly was never a supervillain fighting Jay Garrick. For that matter, there never was a Jack Knight Starman because there never was a Ted Knight Starman. So the Shade is, essentially, a literary shadow being cast by...nothing?
47. How could Bette Kane possibly have had a past career as Flamebird in the Teen Titans? That’s…. I just don’t see how that could happen.
48. Speaking of sidekicks… Aqualad? Is there/was there one? I’d hate to lose Kalduhr, but it might be worth if there never was a big-headed purple-eyed freak like Garth either….

And now… you get to add four questions of YOUR OWN to make it 52…!!!