Tuesday, June 15, 2021


When's the last time you saw Bunker?

Pride Month is a good opportunity to reflect on the depiction of gay characters in the DCU.  Aqualad is certainly riding high lately; the process of mythic syncretism has evolved him into a hybrid of the "Kaldur'ahm" version popularized on Young Justice and the "Jackson Hyde" version from the comics proper, and we have every reason to think the character is here to stay.  Likewise, a new version of Alan Scott synthesizes two previous versions, the older one, father Jade and Obsidian and the younger one, the gay guy from Earth-(NewFifty-)Two.  The result seems like it will be more interesting than either of the two previous ones, and represent a slice of life not seen in DC comics before (that I'm aware of).  Not only is Alan gay, his son, Todd, is back and (still) gay.  My senior-year college boyfriend had that exact situation when his own father came out, so ... it happens.

But where is Bunker?  He was introduced ten years ago as part of the chaos that was the New52 Teen Titans (which was part of the chaos that was the New52, period).  I wasn't reading it, so I knew of him only because of press coverage and the fact that he had a Heroclix figure.

Is it sad that I only notice how questionably sexualized this drawing is because Bunker's a gay teenager, and not a straight one? 

I guess Wikipedia does tell us the last time anyone saw Bunker:

In issue #23, Bunker leaves the team for a short while.  The Teen Titans series then concluded, with #30 along with an annual in April 2014.  It was then announced that the series would be relaunched in July 2014 with a new issue 1, written by Will Pfeifer and art by Kenneth Rocafort.  In the annual, during an epilogue, Bunker is shown being funded by the Green Team to create the 'Spectacular Internationale'.

But it doesn't really tell us WHY.  My own theory is simple, typical of me, and has nothing to do with Bunker's sexuality. 

Part 1: Bunker was one of the babies thrown out with the bathwater that was the New52 and he appeared too briefly to have any fanbase to advocate for his return.  'Nuff said.

Part 2: Bunker (unlike many Teen Titans) is not part of (you guessed it) any DC iconic dynasty.  I know I have been harping on the idea for 15 years now and some of you still don't (want to) believe, but it really does make a difference.  If you have a connection to one of the icons who are the pillars of the DCU, there's an independent reason to bring you back: to fill out that character's cast, and at some point, it will happen.

Although I don't think I ever discussed it here, I thought Bunker was an obvious fit with Green Lantern; I mean, he makes mono-colored constructs. Doesn't get any more on point than that.  Green Lantern doesn't have a teenage sidekick, but he could.

I love that costume; Hal should have been a fashion designer.

Particularly a teenage sidekick who isn't just "ANOTHER person with a Green Lantern ring".  GL does get into trouble and his power ring has all sorts of limits, including running out of power.  A teen sidekick without those limitations could have his back and be there to save his butt.

I am SURE Bunker could have done that.

But no one at DC ever made that happen during Bunker's brief floruit, so there's no reason to bring Bunker back. Except, of course, that he was a fun, outgoing character, with an easy-to-understand and very visual power, had a distinctive but simple and tasteful (if a bit TIGHT) costume, and would bring a nice bit of variety to the DCU landscape.  

As it happens, the last time I saw Bunker...

was today.  Socking Eclipso in the jaw and wearing an improved costume while surfing in the Gay Pride Parade at the end of DC Pride #1 (2021).



That's better.

Let's hope it's a new start, not just a throwaway.  I don't think Bunker should be a throwaway.


John C said...

One of the problems is that Green Lantern--probably because it's already burdened with an extensive legacy that's far more interesting to write about than read about--is uniquely resistant to distinctive additions to the "family."

Every attempt to connect Scotts with Jordans has been hilariously useless at inspiring any follow-up that accomplished the goal. We were told the Starheart story repeatedly, but it never meant anything. One writer tried to make Alan's ring a reprogrammed GLC ring, and everybody ignored that. Bringing Jade into Kyle's supporting cast didn't accomplish much beyond making her a junior-junior-assistant member of the team for a brief time. Even the attempt to force Alan in as Hal's official predecessor through villains got derailed in favor of being more excited about the GL-Flash relationships, because Star Sapphire was a Flash villain. (Actually, Extraño--mystical, favoring a villainous color palette, stuck on the periphery of Green Lantern lore, surrounded by "family" he met later in life with wildly divergent powers, and sidelined in his own book by a four-legged creature--is probably Alan Scott's proper successor, rather than Hal.)

Likewise, there's no shortage of energy constructs in the DCU, not even in Titans books, all of their users (Argent comes immediately to mind in this context) surely introduced as off-brand Lanterns. And most of those characters get ignored until the next "every Titan in history is going to show up to fight...oh, probably just Deathstroke" book comes along. Even the rainbow of Lanterns didn't manage to make the Green Lantern Family/Legacy/Bar & Grill more diverse or interesting.

It's a rough crowd to stand out, and in that sense, Bunker probably has a better chance of getting some staying power--adding some trunks, because that picture is why superheroes wear their underwear on the outside!--rather than less. Especially if (as I've been hoping) the reintroduction of Obsidian means that DC is finally willing to accept some ongoing diversity, given the fraught history the character has had with an artist and a certain writer whose name has been associated with more than one diversity problem this year...

But what I'm really saying is that the Green Lantern Corps is bad for storytelling. And Happy Pride Month, obviously. I still miss the festival out here, which was basically on my doorstep.

Bryan L said...

Alan Scott's always been one of my favorite heroes after I stumbled across a book on comics as a lad that contained his origin story. I've always thought that if he were integrated with the "prime" DC universe the simplest explanation for his ring is that it's a damaged GLC ring -- ring and battery jettisoned by a dying Lantern to "protect" them and they plunge to Earth as a meteor to be found eventually by Alan. It explains both the similarities and differences to the Corp rings fairly neatly.

The Starheart business ... gets on my nerves a bit. Seems like a very complicated way to explain a situation that could be resolved much more easily. Jade and Obsidian's powers could still be the result of Alan's exposure to ring energy, particularly if the ring was damaged and "repaired" itself (and Alan, to explain his longevity).

On Alan coming out, I know two older gay couples where one of the partners had a marriage and children before coming out (one is now a grandfather). So yes, it does happen, and it actually fits quite well with Alan's history.

Anonymous said...

My only real objection to Alan being gay in the nu52 was that it threw a wrench into Jade and Obsidian. But if we allow for Jade and Obsidian as well as everything Alan's formerly closeted status introduces, I'm good with it.

About this ...

"One writer tried to make Alan's ring a reprogrammed GLC ring, and everybody ignored that."

... I don't know that it's been completely ignored. If they gave me the power to do a GL series of movies, it would be an anthology series, and Alan would be movie 4, where he gets ahold of a lantern that, it is said, contains the soul of a dragon. That "dragon" would be Yalan Gur, and the movie would be about how to deal with rage (Alan's fury at the Japanese vs Yalan Gur's perpetual axe to grind against the Chinese peasants who once struck him down). The two of them would meet in the middle, so to speak, and eventually work together to fight the Japanese invading China. Yeah, I've got a whole GL anthology series in my head, and no there is no Kyle because he doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

... would add that Space Cabbie ought to be the son of Doiby Dickles and I'd consider building a dynasty related to that: normal earth guys who inexplicably find themselves in space. Adam Strange would be that particular pater familis.

John C said...

Bryan, Alan's history is really weird, though I love the character, too. The Starheart story (I believe) comes from one of his earliest Silver Age appearances, the idea being to link the two franchises by making the Guardians accidentally responsible for the other lantern by having them use Earth-2 as a dumpsite. Naturally, that's a lot dumber Post-Crisis, when the single Earth is someplace that they care about. Then, there was an issue of GLC Quarterly (when quarterly books were a thing) that...I vaguely remember the story as a haughty Green Lantern landing in China, so the Guardians changed his weakness to test him, and he failed dying in the arms of the guy in Alan's origin story, and that was quickly forgotten. Neither of those stories works for me, because they don't explain the prophecy angle that has always been central to the origin story.

If DC somehow handed me a book to write, I'd just say that Abin Sur deputized him, honestly, and Alan made up the prophecy and costume to keep the JSA from investigating weird alien influence over Earth. Yellow and brown are the same range of hues, so it's even arguable that you don't need to change the goofy arbitrary weaknesses. Either that, or there was another story (I forget when) that suggested that Alan imposed the weakness on himself, misinterpreting getting hit by wood while he was still learning as an Chinese-elemental inability to act on wood; then, his lantern could be a weird prototype, somebody else's experiment with the same energy, or even a trapped Guardian who still can't resist delivering cryptic prophecies. And yeah, just handwave the kids. Stuff like this happens in the DCU all the time, now usually explained as nearby power sources manipulating the metagene.

Scipio said...

"normal earth guys who inexplicably find themselves in space."
Interesting hook. Whom else would that include?

MarkAndrew said...

I was ALL IN for the new 52 for, like, 4 months and I've got some affection for Bunker. (And Skitter! And... the other one. Was there another one? 2011 was so long ago.)

Seems like a character who might have more of a future outside of comics. I haven't seen the recent-ish Teen Titans show, but if it spawns a less edgysweary spin-off I could see Bunker being a major part of the cast.

Also CBR says he "thrives in DC's Dark Future." So that's (potentially) nice.

Anonymous said...

Other normal guys in space ... that's kind of a loose category, but I'd consider the following:

Pol Manning
Space Ranger
Charlie Vickers
Kate Spencer
Guy Gardner (in a phase when he isn't fitting in well with the GLC so he wants to do something else)
Captain Comet
some low-powered Legionnaire (or L.E.G.I.O.N.naire I guess)

Now, not all of these fit right out of the box, and some of them are pretty bad choices frankly. So consider it brainstorming. I sort of have it in my head that most of them hang out at a Warriors bar that Guy runs on some distant world, and Adam Strange walks in one day to recruit them for a mission. Maybe it's some situation where the earth is going to be destroyed, and whoever is doing it has somehow locked away earth so that its normal heroes can't save the day -- but Adam Strange, master of lateral thinking, rounds up all the humans not on earth at the time.

Bryan L said...

John C, I'd just attribute the Alan's green lantern prophecies to the damaged ring's AI basically garbling or misinterpreting events or instructions. Hell, Geoff Johns could probably build three story arcs around the "actual" meanings of the lantern's prophecies. If he did stuff like that anymore.

I like your explanation of the wood weakness. At one point, wasn't the yellow weakness explained as self-imposed by the ring wearers due to Parallax or somesuch? Because they all believed it, it was true. It's a psychological limitation, not an actual one.

Anonymous said...

"At one point, wasn't the yellow weakness explained as self-imposed by the ring wearers due to Parallax or somesuch? Because they all believed it, it was true. It's a psychological limitation, not an actual one."

There have been so many takes on what the yellow weakness "really" is. In one Silver Age tale, an earth genius (really a scheming alien but whatever) figured out how to fix the yellow weakness, but it resulted in the ring gradually losing efficacy. Other stories, the Guardians put the yellow weakness on the ring to keep GLs from viewing themselves as gods (which is where Yalan Gur went wrong). I'm pretty sure I've heard a lot of fans suggest that the yellow weakness is a psychological thing though I don't think I've ever seen it in the comics, and even then I don't think it holds up: there have been lots of times when a yellow object went right through a construct before the GL was even aware of what color it was. Hal Jordan's oldest enemy, The Sign, was able to knock him out in "Emerald Dawn" #1 because it was yellow, and Hal didn't even know about the yellow weakness.

Prior to Hal going bonkers, we have since been told, Parallax being contained in the Central Power Battery meant that the rings couldn't work against yellow, period. Since then, the yellow weakness has still been there, because of Parallax's polluting the energy for so long -- but it's overcome-able by being aware of the fear and pushing through it. It may be that thousands of GLs all pushing back against the lingering yellow influence has been "cleaning the pool" to the point where its influence is negligible.

Thus ends my graduate thesis on the yellow weakness.

Slaughter said...

I think Argent, Bunker, Jade, Effigy and any other human light-construct makers could easily be connected by saying they are metas whose powers allow them to use the Emotional Spectrum biologically, without any interface devices.

Who else can do that? The Guardians and the Zamarons.
These guys and gals are like proto-Guardians.

Bam. There, I just linked Meta-Humans, Guardians, the GLC and the Emotional Spectrum in a few sentences. Could even in thrown in some Morrisonian "Earth is the Fifth World" meta-narrative.

Also, ins't Argent part-alien? That's definitively something in the Green Lantern wheelhouse.