Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Wing and a Prayer

Geoff Johns wants you to think this is Wing.


I'm here to tell you it isn't.

Oh, I don't mean that it's a fake-out or a shapeshifter or anything.

What I mean is that this is the revised version of Wing that Johns is shilling. Not the Real Original Wing.

This is real original Wing.

The real original Wing is 20-something (MAYBE he's 18).  He's a professional valet and chauffeur for a living, so he's not underage.  He's your basic bad-ass super-competent trustworthy Asian valet/chauffeur; he's "Kato".

Kato, as portrayed by Some Chinese Actor.

The reason that Wing was Kato is that the Crimson Avenger was the Green Hornet. That's certainly nothing DC talks about, but nothing could be more obvious. The Green Hornet was created in 1936 and the Crimson Avenger, a nearly identical character, in 1938.  I mean: he was a wealthy newspaper publisher with a Asian valet/chaffeur, his color-named alter ego wore a suit, fedora, and domino mask, used a gas gun and huge honking limo, and was suspected of being a criminal by the authorities. Really, now. They might as well have named him "Rhett Breed".  

Wing wasn't an action-star like Bruce Lee; he's really more of an "Alfred" than a "Robin". 

I would NOT mind being taken under his Wing.

But he was an invaluable partner, with useful talents and contacts.  

"A friend of Wing's is mine also." Even Tong officials respect Wing.

This was how the Crimson Avenger and the Wing were originally portrayed in the Golden Age, one of the comics features where Chinese characters were consistently portrayed with dignity and respect. 

Until. Detective Comics #44, Oct. 1940 (which you probably remember better as the "Speed Saunders versus the exploding bowling balls" issue).


Note, for later, two things about Wing.
He's a big hulking MAN.
His English is imperfect but not intended to be comedically or offensively so.

We can blame Batman & Superman (et al.) for this absurdity. By 1940, it was clear that pulp-style slouch-hatted avengers were OUT and costumed crimefighters were IN.

This is NOT going to be oomphy.

The Crimson Avenger, now authored by people other than his creator, leapt on the bandwagon so as not to get left behind.

Marty's late for school again.

The Crimson Avenger did not make the transition gracefully.

That's got to be embarrassing.

The Crimson Avenger didn't do anything gracefully, in fact.

I think the fin helps the aerodynamics of the frequent falls.

His letterer seemed to have a drinking problem.

I mean, I'd drink, too.

The Crimson clearly wanted to be Starman.

In the previous panel the lion has gorilla hands.  Check if you don't believe me.

His stories became lurid, even by Golden Age standards.


Almost as if to emphasize how badly the transition was being made, his costume sported a stylized bullet-hole symbol at exactly the same time that he switched from carrying actual pistols to gas-guns.

Just how MUCH gas can be in that gun?

Yet, somehow, all this pales to how badly they messed up WING.

They re-made Wing over as a kid sidekick so that C.A. would fit in better with the Soldiers of Victory (yet ANOTHER strike against the SoV).  The costumed version of Wing debuted in World's Finest Comics #4 (Dec. 1941).

December 1941 was not a good time to be an Asian character in comics. Even if you were a Chinese good guy.

This guy:

Handsome, dignified, and well-spoken.

Adult, huge, and manly.

was now THIS guy:

It's...bad.  Even for 1941, it's bad.

This is the guy Geoff Johns is trying to bring back. Or, more accurately, to fix.  

I sympathize with what he's trying to do. But doing so overwrites what we should be remembering, which is the real original Wing, rather than this painful embarrassment that GJ is trying to redeem.  Who knows, Johns being Johns, he may have the Real Original Wing in mind as Costumed Wing's older brother; I wouldn't put it past him.  No one know how to have his cake and eat it too like Geoff Johns.

But the other problem is: Real Original Wing debuted in 1938, but this Costumed Wing in 1941.  Real Original Wing pre-dates ROBIN, the Sensational Character Find of 1940, and the Costumed Wing does NOT.  I don't want Johns retrofitting Costumed Wing in a way that backdates him into being a costumed kid sidekick before Robin, The Boy Wonder, who actually IS the original costumed kid sidekick. Because that sort of thing can take on an inaccurate life of its own, and my fervent prayer is that it does NOT.

Anyway, just so YOU know, no matter what Johns does with it: Wing did not start out as a costumed kid sidekick.


Anonymous said...

I feel like I need to apologize to someone after reading those Wing panels.

In other news, Larry "Air Wave" Jordan didn't have the ability to turn into E-M energy. That's a trick his son, Hal Jordan (the other Hal Jordan), could do. Larry Jordan would skate on power lines to get from place to place. I'm sure Geoff knows this and there will be a story behind it.

- HJF1

cybrid said...

An organ-grinder monkey's hat? Really? :-|

Maybe there were two Wings, the adult chauffeur who departed off-panel and was replaced by his teenage brother surreptitiously so there'd be no awkward questions about driver's licenses and child labor. Although, now that I think about it...WERE there likely to be all that many awkward questions about driver's licenses and child labor (particularly regarding "ethnic" children) back in the 1930s/1940s? Especially when the employer was a millionaire newspaper mogul, back when newspapers were far more powerful than many people today could imagine?

"His stories became lurid, even by Golden Age standards."

Hope we hear more about them. :-)

cybrid said...

Oh, wait, you already mentioned the brother idea. Sorry. I just keep DOING that. :-|

cybrid said...

As of now, Dick Grayson became Robin, uh, let's say fourteen years ago? Meaning that he was born, as of now, uh, circa 1996 OSLT?

Yet having being born in 1996 doesn't change the fact that he was the Sensational Character Find of 1940, does it?

AFAIK revealing/retconning that one or more costumed sidekicks had been active prior to 1940 won't change that, either. Unless I'm even more confused than I think I am. Which is entirely possible.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone has an answer to this question: does anyone even want all these sidekicks? One or two of them might be entertaining, I guess, but is there anyone who was saying "you know what we need more of: Golden Age sidekicks"? What is Johns's game?

And, can the Phantom Stranger have a sidekick? I am imagining one of those Old Testament angels that is made of wings and eyes and wheels, and his name is "Spooky" and he's always saying things like "Oh boy Pee Ess, this sure is a tough moral quandary for that clay abomination, huh? What do you suppose it's going to do, how badly will it disappoint its Creator?"

- HJF1

Scipio said...

"What's is Johns' game?"

Since you asked, I will cover this in my next post.

As for the Phantom Stranger having a sidekick, he's already had two (if you care to count them as such): Dr. Thirteen (look it up) and Deadman (it seemed like an interesting idea to someone at the time to make them the Odd Couple).

You.... DID notice that "Secret" the ghostly girl from Young Justice is being retrofit as the Spectre's kid sidekick, didn't you?

Bryan L said...

As an unrepentant Soldiers of Victory fan, I've wanted Wing rehabilitated for a long time, but I don't think the yellow costume is the way to go. And I did know of the Kato/Wing connection. Here's a custom Wing I made years ago to complement my JLU Crimson Avenger:

Note the chauffeur's uniform. Anyway, the poor guy never got treated right until his death detonating the nebula-rod, and even that happened in that embarrassing costume.

I'm still assuming that detonation has something to do with the sidekicks disappearing, but who knows? Johns may throw another curve. I certainly wasn't expecting "Green Arrow spent years in the past."

Anonymous said...

"You.... DID notice that "Secret" the ghostly girl from Young Justice is being retrofit as the Spectre's kid sidekick, didn't you?"

Indeed I did! And as a good Hal Jordan Fan #1, I even recall she interacted with Hal / Spectre back in the day. Secret thought that the bad guy from Apokolips was named "Doug Side", and Hal corrected her that it's "Dark Side" but pronounced with a bit of a Bela Lugosi accent. All roads lead back to Hal! (Who totally had a kid sidekick, his niece Helen, she who played Candyland with the Phantom Stranger.)

- HJF1

Filbert said...

Isn't Hal Jordan's sidekick Kyro?

Scipio said...

In Filmation cartoons, where I suppose they decided he needed an extraterrestrial one, since he operates in space.
Kyro never appeared in comics, where it was Tom Kamalku, an Inuit airplane mechanic.

Why do you ask?

Scipio said...

Oh, I didn't see the comment about Helen.
She was a supporting character for a while; I never read any stories with her, but she seems to have a Franklin Richards type thing.
A website tells me:
"her soul had two destinies on it: One to save the world and bring it into a golden age, and one to destroy it and herself in the process and send it down into hell. "

When she died, I guess she became Geoff Johns and Dan Didio.

Anonymous said...

Personally if I were fixing the Crimson Avenger and Wing, I'd just retcon away the entire skintight costume era and leave him as the cape-and-fedora Crimson, with chauffeur-suited Wing as his partner and aide. Nobody seems interested in using the bullet-hole suit in other media, while the more Green Hornet inspired version is relatively unique today (alongside Sandman's suit and gas mask incarnation).

But then I'm not running DC.

-- Jack of Spades

cybrid said...

point of debatable interest:

In Leading Comics #10, the individual chapters feature the Soldiers pairing off with members OTHER than their usual sidekicks:

Crimson Avenger and Speedy
Green Arrow and Vigilante
Stripesy and Wing
Shining Knight and Star-Spangled Kid

I wondered if you'd find interesting to contemplate Speedy working with someone "competent" for a change and to contemplate the Vigilante being "forced to endure" Green Arrow. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I always thought Mr. Johns was a relative of the Martian Manhunter, J'off J'onzz, who anglicized his name differently.

Anonymous said...

Some days, I truly do wonder much these professional Golden/Silver Age fans actually read the original stories and not a quick 15 minute primer for whatever "message" they're about to unleash to the general public.