Yesterday, I was asked by a commenter, in response to my post on Geoff Johns reintroduction of Wing, the Crimson Avenger's sidekick (originally, valet/chauffeur)::
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?
Of COURSE I have an answer to that question! It ain't called "The Absorbascon" for nothing.
I would have thought "Johns's Game" would be obvious based on everything else I've written about it.
|Or, for that matter, everything HE's written.|
But sneaking what is obvious in retrospect past you is one of the hallmarks of Geoff Johns' work.
|Pseudonymously, Geoff Johns writes fan-fic about Benoit Blanc and his precocious tagalong niece, Héloïse Grise.|
I have covered this in pieces in other posts, but it bears repeating, I suppose.
The last 20 years has been a Manichaeistic battle for the soul of the DCU between Didio's Dark Forces (writers of the grim & gritty and feet of clay) and Johns' Bright Brigade (champions of heroic idealism). Didio lost; Johns is now trying to make sure that loss actually, several years later, starts to result in a DCU of a different tenor, hence the Dawn of the DCU (an image of new light, you'll note).
Didio hated "legacy characters", and famously wanted to kill off Dick "Nightwing" Grayson, who is the ORIGINAL kid sidekick, the personification of legacy characters. It's no coincidence that Dick Grayson now is the centerpiece of the Dawn of the DCU. It's no coincidence that the Justice League is on sabbatical so that the Titans et al. can see some more time in the light.
|Okay. Maybe I should have chosen a different metaphor in that particular case.|
It's perfect timing, too, as the James Gunnification of DCU Entertainment promises to align DC's intellectual properties (what you and I call "characters") in a more consistent and coherent (if not unified) way across properties. Johns is offering just the kind of broad plan and vision that Gunn is looking sell on the hustings.
Johns's Game has several dimensions to it, but they all bear his trademark expansive approach.
One is spatial: the multiverse has been reintroduced. Not ambiguously, as it was in the wishy-washy Hypertime concept. Nor in a limited and un-useful way, as in Morrison's Multiversity art project. No. It's the Big Ol' DC Multiverse, Bigger and Ol'er than Ever, with numbered earths for everybody, and all of it introduced by (who else?) Barry Allen, the character who introduced the ideal of the multiverse into the DCU to begin with (the one so synonymous with the concept of the multiverse that DC killed him off WITH it in "Crisis on Infinite Earths").
|NEVER forget that the last person Barry Allen sees before he dies is Batman, his face covered in custard. Remember the Creped Crusader, people.|
One dimension is temporal; DC's iconic heroes must be shown to be mentoring potential future heroes as part of their legacy in the future. They must also be shown to be inheritors of traditions of costumed heroism and that very concept of apprenticeship from past generations of heroes.
|[Batman #135, btw]|
Tom King killed off Alfred Pennyworth.
Geoff Johns would have HIRED him for a two-year run on "Batman Family".
This is why Johns is reconnecting the current DCU to the Golden Age. Characters are being inserted in the Golden Age to help anchor the present to the past. Present Ollie Queen turns out to have been the Golden Age Oliver Queen after all. There actually WAS a Golden Age Aquaman and won't HIS connection to modern Aquaman be interesting to learn about. The Golden Age JSA exist on an earth of their own (Earth-2, natch), but a version of them also exist in the past of Earth-0. There are forgotten kid sidekicks who will be rescued from limbo by Stargirl, a legacy of a Golden Age hero, and Red Arrow, the kid sidekick of a current iconic hero (who is ALSO a Golden Age hero). It couldn't be any tighter or clearer. The concept of the "kid sidekick" is being reintroduced to reassert the importance of legacy and the need to pass along the traditions of heroism.
|"They might want to hit the deck; it's going to be oomphy."|
Geoff Johns is no Roy Thomas. He's not trying to connect to the Golden Age to save the past; he trying to connect to the Golden Age to save the future. In fact, that's exactly the plot of his new run on Justice Society of America, isn't it?
|Starman's face is only partially shown, lest his glory eclipse his contemporaries|
One dimensional is financial. This isn't mere nostalgia. It's good business sense. The direct market era saw the aging of the comic book buying population and, in the long run, if you lose KIDS as part of the audience for comics you will run out of adult audience.
Didio had his own answer to this problem and it was characteristically reductive: kill off the old characters and replace them with ones that had been created under HIS aegis, for a New Glorious Era; the "5G Plan" that was the final straw that got him fired.
|He was disappeared, really. I think the Shadow Demons got him, which, of course, would be comic book irony since, like him, they represent the forces of darkness in the DCU.|
Johns' plan is characteristically expansive. One of the reasons to connect with the Golden Age is because the Golden Age knew how to do something that most people have forgotten--how to write superhero comics for kids without pandering. He's reintroducing the concept of "kid sidekicks" -- let's call them "heroic apprenticeships" to update the idea -- for the same reason the Golden Age introduced them: to give kid readers an in-story character to identify with (rather than the hero, who is a character to aspire to).
|I wonder whatever became of that kid. Probably got killed off by some cynical writer of a later, darker era.|
Do you think it's coincidence that David, the Boy Thunder, from Mark Waid's "previously untold story of Superman's kid sidekick" has just been revealed in World's Finest to be... Magog, the personification of the loss of heroic idealism in Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, the falling domino who leads to its dystopia? It is not a coincidence; Mark Waid is part of Johns's Bright Brigade. This is part of showing of the breakdown of the heroic apprenticeship system, of the failure to establish legacy leads to disaster in the future.
Just as failing to instill a love of heroic ideals --and the salable intellectual properties DC owns that represent them! -- will be disastrous for today's children (and tomorrow's comic books sales). And the answer isn't simply to pump out a bunch of coloring books and Underoos or conflict-free goo-goo Justice League Babies books. It's to make regular, mainstream superhero comics with a broader audience, including younger readers, in mind.
I know some (all?) of you don't understand my postings of Sims games with DCU characters. But it's not without reasons.
|"You see, son, archery takes focus, strength, and patience."|
"You GOT this, Ollie!"
"Ugh. Archery sucks."
The makers of the Sims games, over the years, could have given in to pressure from their existing audience to become increasingly inward-looking in their product. Instead, at every juncture where they might have had the game become deeper but less accessible, they have chosen instead to try to make it broader and more inclusive, sometimes to the disappointment of some present players. But as a result, the base of players has only expanded and diversified with time, and, by opening the game up to easy modding, the player-base is free to deepen the game in ways that it wants to without corporate interference.
Clearly, that's easier to do in a game where the players tell the stories than in comics where the corporation has to. But the analogy is clear. Left to its own devices, fandom (of ANY kind) will crawl up its own *** and become withdrawn and increasingly inaccessible. The actual guardians of the objects of fandom --who are not the fans, no matter what we think-- have to make sure that they aren't pulled in along with them.
Johns's game isn't fan-pandering nostalgia. It's not squeaky-clean Silver Age fluff. He's trying to initiate a new Golden Age when comics were unafraid to be "childish" in their idealism, unapologetic about the need for young and old to face the evils of the world, when they were accessible to a broader population and not just comic shop denizens.
John's is starting the Gilded Age of Comics.