By Arturo R. García
There’s a stink surrounding DC Entertainment’s alleged intention to kill off John Stewart last week, and it sticks out when you consider this ostensibly non-related promotional item: the company is now pushing a digital-only book based on the adventures of Batman. Specifically, the Batman of 1966:
“The juxtaposition of offering a retro “Batman 66″ comic as a current and modern digital first title is fun,” said DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson.
“DC Entertainment is the most prolific producer of digital first comics and, as we work to create new and compelling content, this is a great way to also preserve the legacy of our characters.
“It’s exciting to roll out the new Batman 66 comic as part of this bigger initiative with our Warner Bros Consumer Product partners.”
DC has previously released digital-first television tie-ins based on “Arrow” and “Smallville.”
Again, there’s no direct link between the company’s digital division planning to resurrect this version of Batman and the DC Comics editors wanting to off the incarnation of Green Lantern that managed to gain mainstream acceptance without being involved in a Hindenburg of a motion picture. But what it does tell us is this: the company would rather court fans of a nearly 50-year-old television show–one synonymous with the cheesiest stereotypes about comic books as a medium and the fandom surrounding it–than the fanbase of a critically acclaimed television show that was on the air less than a decade ago.
Gee, I wonder why that could be?
And as Bleeding Cool reported, the problem surrounding Stewart was an editorial decision, one that led writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, who (one would guess) was slated to feature Stewart in Green Lantern Corps. BC’s Rich Johnston elaborated:
I understand that the editorial input for both Fialkov’s books, and fellow walker-outer Andy Diggle‘s Action Comics, were in direct contradiction of the promises made at the DC Creative Summit by Dan DiDio, backed by Diane Nelson. That once an overview of an arc had been greenlit by editorial, it wouldn’t be changed by editorial. One creator told me that the promise lasted four days.
DC has allegedly relented, or outright denied, that decision since the news first got out. But it’s not a good look for the company to draw yet more side-eye for its treatment of a character of color–particularly the company’s preeminent black character, who became so with little thanks to the comics division. While Judd Winick successfully rehabilitated Stewart during his run on Green Lantern in the early part of the 2000s as a supporting player for protagonist Kyle Rayner (himself revealed to be a biracial Latino), it was, of course, DC’s animated division and the team behind the Justice League series that wrote him to become a worthy addition–and, you would think, an asset–to the company’s array of marketable heroes.
Instead, both Rayner and Stewart were sidelined for the sake of editors making Hal Jordan a focal point of not only the Lantern line, but the company as a whole: suddenly, Wonder Woman was de-emphasized in favor of Jordan in the company’s promotional materials. It was Jordan, not Stewart, who was the protagonist in a Green Lantern movie that deservedly tanked. And even though a Muslim character, Simon Baz, is the Lantern of record in the comic Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns currently writes, it’s still Jordan who is promoted in DC’s video games and its more recent animated presentations, including a Cartoon Network series that was recently cancelled.
The great Son of Baldwin was nice enough to share his theory on why the company might think Jordan is a green golden goose:
Hal Jordan fulfills a very specific fantasy. He appeals to a very particular type of person, generally white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, masculine, conservative, middle-aged–but he also appeals to people from other demographics who identify with or fantasize about one or more of those traits. (John Stewart is more of a threat to that fantasy than a channel through which it can be fulfilled. That’s part of why so many Hal fans get pissed whenever you bring up how popular John is with a certain generation. It’s almost as if they feel that it’s not only their character being replaced, but that they are being replaced as well–or, at least, that they are losing their central location in the narrative. And I’m sure there are some undertones of racial panic in there as well.)
Hal doesn’t really resonate with younger people, though. This current generation of kids is rather sophisticated. So the cipher that is Hal Jordan–and make no mistake, Hal is a cypher–reads as bland and boring to a great deal of teenagers and younger kids. My nephew and I saw “Green Lantern” and he kept talking about how boring it was. When he watched the “Green Lantern” cartoon with me, he almost completely ignored Hal Jordan and was much more interested in Kilowog and the Red Lantern. Hal actually seemed to be more of an obstacle to his enjoyment than anything else. And this doesn’t just apply to my nephew. I’ve heard some creators in the industry talk about how kids at the movie were asking their parents why Green Lantern wasn’t black. And these were white kids asking the question.
Hal isn’t just white bread; he’s old newspaper. He’s a dinosaur–and not in the fascinating, let’s-go-to-see-fossils-at-the-museum kind of way.
Speaking of mundane, let’s consider the shows DC has used to branch out into digital media: Arrow? Smallville? Adam West’s Batman? Not exactly series catering to a multicultural audience. Yet Young Justice and Static Shock are not afforded the same opportunity. At a time when spending power is growing in several communities, the company’s efforts on diversity continue to lag. And while characters like Vibe and Katana are pushed slightly forward, in today’s media landscape, paper comics are the first, slowest step. Their solo titles are likely going to need years’ worth of development and supplemental promotion on multiple platforms. And a company that chooses not to invest in creations like the Super Young Team, or the vast majority of the international characters introduced in Batman, Incorporated (remember Nightrunner? Anybody?) is not doing much to engender trust.
And I say all of this as somebody who doesn’t hate the idea of Batman 66 in and of itself; I took part in the fan campaign to get Adam West a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But for it to seemingly take precedence for DC is a slap in the face to fans who, by and large, seem to want to help the company succeed. What, exactly, makes a white character from the 1960s more valuable to this company than characters of color who are relevant now?