With the DCnU just a couple of weeks away and Wonder Woman already having a pants fiasco, it made me wonder which heroes DC seems to have missed the boat with the most over the years.  My suggestions below.

 

Wonder Woman - DC seems to have the hardest time getting her right, then, when they seem to get things working well, the next creative team in tends to chuck her supporting cast and ignore her key concepts.

 

Hawkman - King of the (bad) reboot.  Hawkman's probably been rebooted more than any other character and each reboot adds another layer of confusion.  Hard to believe for a character who's key defining trait is that he has wings and can fly.  I wonder how much confusion could have been headed off if Hawkworld had been considered an Elseworlds story instead of a reboot?  The horrible thing is, the 2002 series finally made the character workable in continuity again and they decide to upend the series concept for a One Year Later stunt.

 

Captain Marvel - A lot of people would argue Cap just doesn't fit in well with the DCU but I thought the Power of Shazam series worked just fine, showcasing a hero with a different tone but who still made sense in the universe.  Unfortunately, as Ordway burned out, they didn't switch writers to keep the series going.  Since then, Cap might as well be Captain Carrot for how well they've integrated him with the rest of the DCU.

 

Black Adam - His star turn in 52 wound up screwing him.  Over the course of JSA and the front end of 52, Black Adam was turned into DC's best realized anti-hero.  Unfortunately, at the end of 52, he was revilified in a way he really couldn't come back from.  Yeah, he's a pretty good villain but DC has plenty of those, you'd think they would have protected his anti-hero status.  Ah well, there's always Secret Six, oh wait...

 

Plastic Man - Here's a hero that's had cartoons and been in the public consciousness yet he's almost always just left on the shelf.  I wonder if he'd been created at DC instead of Quality if he'd have been treated better?

 

Uncle Sam - DC's got a gaping hole as far as patriotic heroes go, they have one of the most recognizable patriotic images out there, and he only gets dusted off when they half heartedly put out a Freedom Fighter mini.

 

Black Lightning - Passed over for JLA membership in the 70s, he finally gets added to the prime team under Dwayne McDuffie, then it's back to the Outsiders ghetto with him.

 

Amethyst - I honestly don't know where DC's coming from.  They've watched the manga market grow, they have a property that would likely have crossover appeal, and yet Gemworld is forgotten and Amethyst is only brought back to either be a villain or cannon fodder.

 

Well, that's my list.  Anyone else have some nominees?

 

 

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Having Hal Jordan go psycho, in the '90s, was the most screwed-up decision DC has made in the last 20 years.

Another phrasing of "screwed up" is "can't make us care about uninteresting characters." DC would no doubt stick with a concept that produced enough sales, but that never happens, because these characters just don't have enough appeal on their own.

Hawkman is a prime example. You said it yourself: He has wings and can fly. Zzzzz. He looks really cool, but he's never big a big-seller. He's an interesting supporting character because of the visual. Always has been. I frankly think the earliest version, where he was mostly an alien on Earth, was most intriguing, but it might be a hard sell.

So DC keeps flinging bizarre premises for these characters against the wall in the hopes that something will stick, but nothing does, because some of them are too bizarre, and others aren't enough to interest enough people in a character who has a basic ill fit into DC's small universe.

Yes, I know, there are no bad characters, but some characters are way easier to create compelling scenarios for than others are. And I think they sometimes create a concept that some of us find appealing, but it's not appealing to most people for whatever reason, so they move onto another version (or don't give it enough time to catch on, a problem comics shares with TV).

The only two characters there with potential that people *could* care about are Captain Marvel and Plas, but they don't fit into the DCU, and when they try to fit them in, they lose so much originality that not enough readers care enough to read them. And when they take them out of the DCU, not enough readers care enough to read them.

You left out Aquaman, of course, the classic guy nobody cares about. And probably Red Tornado, who must have some fans out there.

I'd say Metamorpho has more potential than has ever been shown, but it may be tough to promote a guy who's so monstrous looking.

I'd agree that psycho Hal was a bad misreading of the readership, but the beauty of Hal is that he's such a strong character we can just ignore it and move on without a problem. 

Hal was a longtime problem. In a bad attempt to imitate Marvel, they started screwing his life over by the mid-60's!! Eventually sales fell off, and with the book on the verge of cancellation, Denny O'Neil & Neal Adams were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, which turned out to be, turn the entire concept of the book upside-down, and make its space COP hero into a whipping boy for a left-wing loudmouth. Oddly enough, those issues are probably the most-known and most-reprinted... but when they were first-run, they FAILED to save the book from cancellation.

 

Steve Englehart tells the story of how, when he took over in the middle of a storyline Len Wein started (Len has a track-record for walking out in the middle of a mess he set up), he was told by incoming editor Andy Helfer he could do anything he wanted, since sales never seemed to change no matter who was doing it or what they did. Steve & Joe Staton DOUBLED the book's sales. Whoa. And with Joe having such a "cartoony" style, too.

 

Things were going well until MILLENNIUM, up until that time, the most ill-conceived, over-long, over-blown, uncalled-for crossover in comics history. Aside from screwing with countless characters' histories, Staton was mising from GL while it was going on. And then Alan Gold got the idea for ACTION COMICS WEEKLY, in which-- because they wanted a "big name" and nobody else was available-- it was decided Green Lantern would "anchor" the book. Steve wanted nothing to do with the format, and walked.  In came Denny O'Neil and Jim Owsley, who in their first 8 pages, BRUTALLY MURDERED Katma Tui, and had the cops thinking her husband John Stewart did it. Way to go, guys. Over the course of one year in ACW, just about everything Englehart had put together in GLC was ripped to pieces, in what seems a deliberate attempt to destroy a long-running series. Only the final story (involving a rogue alien GL, "Malvolio") seemed a step in the right direction, but when GL returned in his own book, returning editor Andy Helfer inexplicably barred any mention of the story in continuity.  WTF?

 

Reportedly, O'Neil & Owsley were slated to do the new GL book, and I believe it's very possible O'Neil is the one who retroactively gave Hal Jordan a DRINKING problem (gee, just like when he had Tony Stark fall off the wagon).  But for some reason, O'Neil left, and returning editor Andy Helfer had a conflict over story concept with Owsley, who decided for the sake of their friendship to leave the book. Incoming writer Gerard Jones wanted to START FROM SCRATCH with a new GL taking over from a retired Hal Jordan (similar to what both Roger Stern and James Robinson did with STARMAN), but Helfer instead asked Jones to do a story which would bring "closure" to Hal's career. So Jones started Hal out at ROCK BOTTOM, much further down than he'd been in ACW, in order to slowly build him and the Corps back up, before eventually getting to a big epic entiled "Emerald Twilight" which would cause a major schism between Hal and the Guardians, who'd been screwing his life over for decades (the same way DC editors and writers had been).

 

This seemed like it might work. I suffered thru 2 years of the revived book before it finally got good. At which point, tragically, Helfer, the guy who'd set it up, LEFT. His assistant, Kevin Dooley, got a promotion, it went to his head (I met him on several occasions, I saw it happen!!), and he systematically screwed over the book. First he tried to turn a single book into a franchise, and when that FAILED miserably, instead of blaming himself, he blamed his writers and the characters.

 

And so, JUST before Jones was about to finally get to the story he spent 4 years building up to-- "Emerald Twilight"-- Dooley COMPLETELY derailed it (much in the same way Mark Gruenwald derailed Roger Stern's AVENGERS, and with similar results-- with the writer being FIRED off the book).  Out of nowhere, fans were supposed to believe that Hal Jordan went insane, became a mass murderer, that this change was "PERMANENT", and moreso, that "He had ALWAYS been headed in that direction" (Dooley's words).  "Green Lantern's Number One Fan" MY A**!!!!!

 

Thanks to my best friend, I stopped reading the book with issue #47, and to this day, have never read Dooley's version of "Emerald Twilight".  But in every single comic I have read since in which Hal appeared (before REBIRTH), the way he was written, I cannot bring myself to believe it's the same guy. Which makes his being "possessed" (as revealed in REBIRTH) extremely believable. But did it HAVE to take them 15 YEARS to fix their mistake?

Part of that period was during the time when DC was systematically trying to replace all its SA characters with new hip and happening versions that would attract new readers to the "new" characters.

As usual, it turned off the existing readers who were invested in the character and didn't attract anybody new, because the new guys weren't likable and weren't all that hip and happening.

Dooley got a really bad reputation for misreading fans (his "WETRATS' rant is still well remembered, at least by me, kind of like Lee Elia's rant against Cubs fans). Much the same happened when Marvel decided to ease out Peter Parker due to his having too much baggage and kept saying how much "attention" the clone story was getting, despite it being 100% negative.

Barry Allen got replaced in a much faster and important fashion, but with the same intent: get a young, arrogant guy in the suit we could watch grow. The problem there too was that we didn't want to watch that growth over years. I'm still amazed that Barry was considered such a strong character that he's been revived at this point. I would not have expected he had enough personality or potential to ditch Wally after all this time.

I don't doubt that it's a challenge to write characters with so much history. But trying to eliminate all that creates even more problems. Unless the new concept is really strong--and it almost never seems to be--revamping these guys ticks off the existing readers and doesn't bring in enough new ones because they don't like the basic concept no matter how it's dressed up.

Which kind of leads us into DC's new revamp. I guess we'll see how many non-readers are excited about this tremendous opportunity to jump on. They're effectively ensuring everyone jumps off and gets to decide if they want to get back on.

-- MSA

 

What I didn't realize until a few years after it happened was, Gerard Jones wanted to have Hal be retired (following his ACW adventures), and start fresh with a new GL. In GL, it makes sense-- it's a police force, there's always new members.  With a new guy, Hal could become like an aged mentor, the way some of the JSA are looked at.

 

But because of Andy Helfer's request, introducing the new guy was put off for about 4-5 years. It would happen in a story involving a Civil War between 2 factions of Guardians. From an article I read online, at the end, there would be a new, young GL, but Hal would remain a hero-- just with a new public I.D. and no more GLC affiliation.

 

Instead, Hal became a MASS MURDERER, the entire GLC and all the Guardians were bumped off, and a new GL, Kyle-- who always seemed to me to be a good character-- was introduced in such a way as to PISS OFF a lot of fans.

 

It was about a year into Peter David's AQUAMAN that I decided to boycott any further books with Dooley involvement. His editorials on the letters pages pissed ME off.  Also, each time I met him at conventions, he got more obnoxious, including one time when I was having a real friendly chat with artist Flint Henry. Dooley barged in, oblivious to the fact that we were talking, and 10 minutes later, the only words I got out were connected with handing him something I'd written. A few days later, I got a reply in the mail from Dooley, which was extremely rude and insulting. I'm trying to remember if that was before or after those obnoxious AQUAMAN editorials.

 

Arnold Drake, who I got to be friends with at one point, told me there were 2 kinds of editors.  Those who put the best people in place and let them run, only getting involved if there was a problem, and, "failed writers" who could only get their ideas across by FORCING other writers to do what they're told.

Border Mutt wrote:

"Hawkman - King of the (bad) reboot.  Hawkman's probably been rebooted more than any other character and each reboot adds another layer of confusion.  Hard to believe for a character who's key defining trait is that he has wings and can fly.  I wonder how much confusion could have been headed off if Hawkworld had been considered an Elseworlds story instead of a reboot?  The horrible thing is, the 2002 series finally made the character workable in continuity again and they decide to upend the series concept for a One Year Later stunt."

 

I thought the Silver Age HAWKMAN was nice, but suffered from the same thing holding back a lot of 60's DC books, DC's general attitude and the Comics Code. Since most of my exposure to the character (apart from reprints of his earliest appearances) had been in the JLA, I didn't have that much invested in him when Tim Truman did HAWKWORLD. I bought the entire monthly series after that, and right up to the issue of HAWKMAN when Truman & Ostrander left, I felt it was magnificent, one of the best things DC had done, Post-CRISIS.

 

Then in a few months, it was totally screwed over... and for what???  All that work, and they had just renamed the book HAWKMAN, almost anybody could have taken what was there and run with it. Instead, the utterly absurd "Hawkgod" story, in which somehow Thanagar got destroyed, and 3 or 4 Hawk characters got "merged" into one being without the personality of any of them.  WTF???  The only good thing that came out of that was the guy's costume.

 

It's no wonder that, quite a few years later, Geoff Johns, first in JSA, then in the revived HAWKMAN, decided to run with Carter Hall instead of Katar Hol.  (Did Katar ever return? I lost track years back...)

"So DC keeps flinging bizarre premises for these characters against the wall in the hopes that something will stick, but nothing does ..."

 

A lot of the problem, IMHO, is that DC conceived of its characters in terms of costumes, powers and gimmicks, but not in terms of personalities. So you have a great visual (like Hawkman or Adam Strange) but no character to go with it. What has kept Marvel's heroes afloat -- despite their own screwed-up stories --- is that the personalities of the characters were so strongly conceived.

No offense, Mr. Silver Age, but when you say "we didn't want to watch that growth", you're not speaking for me.  I, for one, found Wally's growth interesting ... in those early Mike Baron issues, he was a screwup at times, he had flaws Barry never had.  It was tough for him to live up to Barry's legacy.  I consider both the Baron and Mark Waid runs, which were all about Wally growing up and becoming his own man, to be very good - and somewhat underrated - comics.

Mr. Silver Age said:
Barry Allen got replaced in a much faster and important fashion, but with the same intent: get a young, arrogant guy in the suit we could watch grow. The problem there too was that we didn't want to watch that growth over years. I'm still amazed that Barry was considered such a strong character that he's been revived at this point. I would not have expected he had enough personality or potential to ditch Wally after all this time.

-- MSA

 

George wrote:

"A lot of the problem, IMHO, is that DC conceived of its characters in terms of costumes, powers and gimmicks, but not in terms of personalities. So you have a great visual (like Hawkman or Adam Strange) but no character to go with it."

 

Apart from the seriousness and tone, I think that's the biggest difference between the early-60's HAWKMAN and the late-80's HAWKWORLD.  The latter is, like John Byrne's SUPERMAN, meant to replace, be a new version of the old character, but done to "today's" standards.  I really felt they accomplished that. Which is why the abrupt new direction as soon as the HAWKWORLD guys left the book had me shaking my head so much.  There was absolutely no reason to start screwing around like that, after they'd spent 5 whole years establishing the series so well.

 

It took Joey Cavalieri's run as editor before the Post-CRISIS SUPERMAN started to fall apart.

 

 

 

John Dunbar wrote:

"in those early Mike Baron issues, he was a screwup at times, he had flaws Barry never had.  It was tough for him to live up to Barry's legacy.  I consider both the Baron and Mark Waid runs, which were all about Wally growing up and becoming his own man, to be very good - and somewhat underrated - comics."

 

My best friend has read all of those, and more than once has told me that while he didn't really enjoy Mike Baron's issues, once Mark Waid took over, the characters really started to "sing".  I sometimes wish I'd gotten ahold of those while they were coming out, but I started to go to art school about that time, and cut down my comics-buying to the bone for a few years.

Mr. Silver Age said: "Barry Allen got replaced in a much faster and important fashion, but with the same intent: get a young, arrogant guy in the suit we could watch grow."

 

The trend toward making young characters arrogant, abrasive and hot-headed got tiresome. It's like the writers were using Johnny Storm as their model for young characters, instead of Peter Parker.

I can't imagine a more subjective thread topic!

 

I didn't care about GL before Hal went off the rails, but his going crazy and Wally stepping up to the front rank was part of what made the DCU a very interesting place in the mid-late 90s.

 

It's all subjective.  90s Superman was boringly 'screwed up' to me and the new improved Hal of our current era is a walking exemplar of everything that's wrong with modern comics as far as I'm concerned, but both are commercial successes.

 

And I wouldn't change a line or a word of Adam Strange's first 60's run.  It's quality.

 

Part of the problem we are discussing here is that these characters have to drag on and on forever.  It's not like movies or books, where you can have a series that runs its course, and everyone loves it and it becomes a classic.  The monthly sales model means that these characters have to flogged to death over and over again.  I feel sorry for them.

 

Hawkman, for instance could have a great 20-issue, at most 40-issue storyline that did all you could do with a winged alien on Earth, and it could be brilliant if they went in expecting it to have a proper ending, but as it is, each creative team are just doing their bit in a holding pattern.  Who gives a toss about that?

 

Johns' idea of the eternal romance and the older guy trying to get the younger girl to realise this was a great one, but they were going to hit the Moonlighting dilemma sooner or later.  (P*$$ or get off the pot!)

Arghhhh, had a detailed response all typed up, hit the wrong button, and BLAMO it's gone.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v660/rrlane/smilies/banghead.gif[/IMG]

 

Anyway... Mr. Silver Age said:

Another phrasing of "screwed up" is "can't make us care about uninteresting characters."

Actually, what I was getting at, is when DC has an interesting take on a character, something that may have legs but then they just trash it or mothball it.

DC would no doubt stick with a concept that produced enough sales, but that never happens, because these characters just don't have enough appeal on their own.

I don't think the only way to judge a character successful is by whether or not they can support their own ongoing series.  Not every character is going to be able to hit that kind of critical mass but a good take on a character can open up lots of creative possibilities.  Even factoring the subjective out, a character can still be profitable for a company as a supporting character in a team book, a headliner for the occasional mini, or even as an image to slap on lunchboxes.  Plus, the more exposure a character gets, the more likely they'll be able to headline their own title later on.

The only two characters there with potential that people *could* care about are Captain Marvel and Plas
I definitely disagree with you there, I think Wonder Woman has lots of potential that people *could* care about.  Personally though, I think Black Lightning had the most squandered potential.  He was never going to be one of their prime icons but he should definitely be a much higher profile character than he is.

 

 

 

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