I originally wrote this intending it to be a few different posts, but it occurred to me that they all had a common theme, so I figured I’d kind of lump them together.

A couple months ago, I created a post called “Why Is Acceptance Important?” In the thread, it came up that many people on this board (and comics fans in general) were bullied for being comic book fans when they were kids.

This got me wondering about what people here think about characters like Guy Gardner, who is a hero, but still has a little bit of that bully attitude in him. I think of him as loud and brash, but not necessarily a bully. We all have a friend or coworker who is like him, but I think in real life, most of us would just kind of roll our eyes and say, “Here he goes again,” but not hate him. I think he would be the kind of friend that would be good to have, but you wouldn’t want all of your friends to be him.

I never understand why most writers can’t affectively (or don’t want to) write a character like him interacting with other super-heroes without it coming off that the others are offended by him. You would think there would be others who would just dish it right back to him without acting superior to him. He’s just a loudmouth.

I’ve said this before, but it’s been awhile. I think the best characterization of Guy ever was when he was written by Beau Smith after a short, well-written few issues by Chuck Dixon. (Dixon, by the way, goes in my category of separating the writing from the writer, but that’s for another thread.) During this run, Guy Gardner was loud and opinionated, but he was tempered with realistic reasoning behind his attitude. Plus, he wasn’t a bully. They played up on the fact that he was a man’s man in the sense that he watched football and drank beer. I think it’s a perfectly valid idea that someone who does those things could be a super-hero also. I just think he could be written with more nuance.

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Another character who I don’t think has been written very well in a long time is Plastic Man. He’s another character very much like friends that we all have. The quick, funny friends whose default is being happy. But any time he is written around other characters, they always put him down and tell him to be serious. ALL of them. There is no one who gets him. You would think that maybe one superhero would be the “get serious” person, but not everyone. People should mention that it’s boring when he’s not around. They should like him.

He could also be written to actually take things seriously sometimes instead of making idiot remarks at the wrong time, because that is much more realistic as well.

I think the best portrayal I’ve ever seen of Plastic Man was in the Kingdom Come spin-off one-shot about his son named Offspring. He was mature and fatherly, but still appreciated a good joke—when it was appropriate. I believe it was written by Mark Waid, and I know it was drawn by Frank Quitely.

Are there any fans of Damian Wayne out there? I mean, other than me?

The general consensus that I’ve heard on the podcasts I listen to is that he is a jerk or an asshole. Both of those ascribe pretty horrible intent on his part, especially for a character who seems to range between the ages of ten and twelve at the oldest.

But come on, he was raised from birth to be an assassin. Batman and Alfred are (or were, in Alfred’s case) trying to bring him up out of that world that was all he ever knew. He’s not going to suddenly be Opie Taylor. With the near stand-still that comics live in, he will always have an edge to him, and he should. He gives Bruce something to try to temper down.

No one seems to have that problem with Bruce being engaged to Catwoman, and she is/was a criminal. Depending on your personal continuity, hasn’t she killed people too? I know that either pre or post Rebirth she was a ruthless mob boss, so I’m sure she probably did some dirty doings.

Could it be that he replaced Tim Drake? I can see that (although it’s not necessarily the fault of Damian’s character). I do wish DC had a better place for Tim.

It could be that I come at this from a different perspective because I taught fifth grade (10-12 year old range), and I taught kids like him every year. Not assassin kids, thank goodness, but kids that many people would unfortunately refer to as “jerks and assholes”. I don’t think there are very many kids in existence—and none that I ever taught in all those years—who are bad human beings. Ornery brats? Sure. I always kept my eye on certain kids, and I had my angels, but all of them were somewhere in that spectrum. Most of them are in reality as well, and when you think about Damian’s upbringing, he has every right to be messed up in the head.

Guy Gardner is a character I liked when he was handled well. I agree with you about the Beau Smith and Chuck dixon issues. the artist I most associate with the characters is Joe Staton. Back in the '90s, I was reading all of the "Green Lantern" family of titles (including Darkstars, which will become germane again soon with Grant Morrison writing a new series. When Steve Englehart re-introduced Guy Gardner in the '80s, he was not only an attempted murderer, but he was, quite literally, brain-damaged. He played a particular role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but after that (and after Englehart) I don't think most writers knew quite what to do with him. I didn't necessarily like his look or powers in the Warrior series, but his characterization and motivation was never better.

I college, I took Green Lantern #196 into my barber and said, "Made my hair look like this."

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

Are there any fans of Damian Wayne out there? I mean, other than me?
But come on, he was raised from birth to be an assassin. Batman and Alfred are (or were, in Alfred’s case) trying to bring him up out of that world that was all he ever knew. He’s not going to suddenly be Opie Taylor. With the near stand-still that comics live in, he will always have an edge to him, and he should. He gives Bruce something to try to temper down.

The Cassandra Cain Bat-Girl was raised to be an assassin, and actually killed at least one person “on camera” when she was a little girl.

Could it be that he replaced Tim Drake? I can see that (although it’s not necessarily the fault of Damian’s character). I do wish DC had a better place for Tim.

Back when Batman had a small army* of assistants, I got to really like the Tim Drake Robin. His character was very different from Dick Grayson and certainly different from Jason Todd. I was particularly impressed with the storyline of his helping Spoiler deal with her unwanted pregnancy, by date rape. Since Jason Todd was Robin during the ten-year gap when all I was buying was the Comic Buyer’s Guide, I only knew him from fan reactions and references to previous stories. Jason Todd certainly qualifies as an obnoxious character.

*Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, Bat-Girl, Catwoman, Spoiler, Oracle and the Birds of Prey. Did I forget anybody?

Wandering Sensei, I get what you're trying to posit here, but I can't see the way to square that circle -- the obnoxious character who's worth keeping around. I think of Guy Gardner as loud and brash and a bully.

Wandering Sensei said:

We all have a friend or coworker who is like him, but I think in real life, most of us would just kind of roll our eyes and say, “Here he goes again,” but not hate him. I think he would be the kind of friend that would be good to have, but you wouldn’t want all of your friends to be him.

I do not have "friends" like Guy Gardner. I have had co-workers who are like Guy Gardner, and my reaction is never "Here he goes again," because I don't want someone like him in my life. I would not think of someone like Guy Gardner -- an obnoxious, loudmouthed jerk -- as the kind of friend that would be good to have. 

I get that you appreciate when Guy Gardner is presented as a man's man, and I have no qualm about that. But he is indelibly the guy who got clocked in one punch by Batman -- and deserved to be.

I do agree with your assessment of Plastic Man. He's the life of the party, so why does everyone tell him to cut it out?

And as for Damian Wayne ... you fully encapsulated why I couldn't be a teacher. God bless you, sir. 

Now, I think somebody who fits the bill -- an obnoxious character who is still a character one wants to see more of -- is Jonah Hex. He's ornery, scarred, rude, uncouth, and murderous, but all of that stems from a lifetime of pain. I can understand and appreciate that in Jonah Hex in a way I just can't with, say, Damian Wayne. 

I'm a Damian Wayne fan. I didn't like him at first, but he's really been developed well. He's got a friction-y attitude, yes, but at heart he's an insecure 13-year-old kid who really wants his father's approval. Plus, he's hilariously super-competent, to the consternation of the adults around him. His friendship with and affection for Jonathan Kent -- covered by constant 13-year-old put-downs to disguise his fear of looking weak -- was really well presented. If you haven't read Adventures of the Super Sons, I'd encourage you to give it a read, especially the older issues. He's a wonderful example of a character who isn't well-adjusted (how could he be?), but is doing the best he can.

I haven't cared for Plastic Man's presentation since forever. In his Golden Age strip, he was the straight man -- Woozy Winks did the wacky stuff. Plus, Plas wuold be dead serious in his thought/speech balloons while his body was doing something laugh-out-loud ridiculous. The contrast was hilarious.

There is no contrast in his present characterization. He's written as a goofy guy who is possibly not all there, and treated contemptuously by others. This is not amusing or entertaining, especially if he really is mentally challenged.

One of the characters I'm waiting to see some redemption for is Quicksilver. I don't think some of the things Pietro has done are forgivable, but in-story much of that has been written off as being done by a Skrull (although that's a lie that Pietro has created), so I can see other characters not seeing him for the terrible person he is. His current position is, in my mind, anti-hero or borderline villain who can't be trusted.

No, what I want to see is another look at his "Kooky Quartet" days, to explain that maybe he wasn't quite as much of a jerk then, perhaps a bit more sympathetic, to explain why Cap didn't toss him from the team. As Commander Benson has pointed out, his constant undermining of Cap's leadership wouldn't be tolerated in any combat organization, from the military to the police. Heck, I don't think it would be tolerated on a high school faculty. That he was tolerated on the Avengers needs some explanation.

As to Guy Gardner, he has been written as a bully often enough that I don't like him, and never will. Sure, sometimes it's written as just bluster, and that's tolerable, but my memory of all those other times when he was essentially the guy who was belittling and bullying us comics fans leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And, like Quicksilver, I don't think others would really tolerate him as well as they do -- especially since his bully behavior and the more benign take are indistinguishable if you can't read his thought balloons or follow him in his private moments. When Batman punched him out back in the day, I said (probably aloud), "Yep, that's exactly what should happen." But that isn't the way he's treated now, and I tune out whenever he's on panel.

Oh, I forgot to mention Hawkeye. Back in the Kooky Quartet days he was also a trouble-maker and roughneck who thought he should be in charge. Again, given his upbringing, almost to be expected. What happened, though, I think is quite extraordinary. Over the years, and through the hands and storylines of multiple writers, somehow or other Cap turned Hawkeye into a protege -- and then an equal. Somehow, I don't think this was planned so much as the character insisted to the writers that he be written this way. Hawkeye was shown to grow out of his earlier characterization, and become a dependable, admirable adult. I think really only long-time fans really appreciate that long journey, and I'm delighted to be one of them.

Of course, now he's got an entirely new characterization, as a guy who's totally incompetent at everything except being a superhero, so as to provide contrast to, and a job for, Kate Bishop. (Her job is supervising, mothering and maintaining the perpetually adolescent Clint Barton, even though she's the teenager.) I really don't mind, as the previous storyline -- The Maturing of Hawkeye -- had run its course, and Grown-Up Hawkeye was bland and boring and identical to 500 other characters. Plus, I have to say the Matt Fraction take was genuinely entertaining. It's just an entirely different character, who might as well be called Squinteye or Archer Man.

The one time I liked Guy Gardner was during some Eclipso event where he went and got a piece of the Sun and dumped it on Eclipso, which when I saw it, I was like "Why has no one ever thought of this before?"



Captain Comics said:

Hawkeye was shown to grow out of his earlier characterization, and become a dependable, admirable adult. I think really only long-time fans really appreciate that long journey, and I'm delighted to be one of them.

I was there for Hawkeye's maturation, too. In his first appearances in the Iron Man series he started as a blank slate. He wanted to be a hero (for fun and adulation) but one misunderstanding followed by meeting the then-villainous Black Widow turned him into a willing tool of the USSR. He apparently had no personal convictions at all.

He had the conviction that he wanted to have sex with Black Widow. Does that count?

In retrospect, Hawkeye's "rebellious" period didn't really last all that long.I'm disinclined to look it up right now, but within a year of so of published issues he became cap's biggest "booster." and Quicksilver was quite polite in the "Kooky Quartet" days, IIRC (although he did vie with Hawkeye for a leadership role).

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