Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Alan Scott and readers through the ages

'90s 1, Alan 0

My parents were born in 1942, four years too early to be baby boomers. It also means they were just the wrong age to be exposed heavily to either the Golden or the Silver age of superhero comics. By the time they would have started to read, the Golden Age was half over; and when the Silver Age started in 1956, they were too old to be interested. I confirmed this with my dad, who has vague recollections of the original superheroes, but whose comic collection included more Archies and Little Lulus. (Had I known how much 21st-century hipster cred this would have given me, I’d have pressed him harder about those ….)

Still, these days they can’t get away from the Spandex set. When Conan O’Brien asserted (rightfully) that the Hulk had been in the Fantastic Four, Dad emailed me for confirmation.  This itself was a big step up for Dad, who at one point several years ago thought Batman was in the FF. (In fact, I don’t think my folks have seen either of the Christopher Nolan movies, although they did watch a revival of the 1940s serial at the local art-house theater.  Dad especially didn’t have any interest in the Schumacher movies, because the characters just “looked like toys.”) Last year, after the Green Lantern movie had been playing for a while, Dad thought he remembered seeing it — but actually, he and Mom had enjoyed Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet. Their nerd knowledge (what there is of it) is more likely to include Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes, although lately they’re into Downton Abbey.

Regardless, when I think about the impact of outing Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, I tend to gauge it in terms of my dad. He may not be the best representative of the generation that grew up with the Justice Society, but among people I know he was in the best position to become a fan, and for whatever reason it just didn’t stick. Therefore, when I mentioned the revelation of Alan’s sexuality to Dad over the weekend, it really didn’t register one way or another.

Now, before going too much further, let’s be clear: My dad does not speak for all his peers. His “meh” doesn’t mean that all 70-year-olds shouldn’t care how a character from their collective childhood is treated decades later. What did surprise me, though, was that Dad barely remembered the Golden Age Green Lantern at all. Sure, Truman was in office since Dad last read a superhero comic of his own, and yes, I’m 28 years younger than he is, but I bet when I’m 70 I have a decent sense of major and minor pop-culture figures from when I was 6 years old. Were it not for the existence of Jerry Bails (1933-2006) and Roy Thomas (b. 1940), who’s only about 18 months older than my dad, it would make me wonder how big a deal the Golden Agers were to the kids of the time.

Of course, we know what a big deal the Golden Agers became. Julius Schwartz contended famously that kids wouldn’t remember Jay Garrick’s Flash five years after his last appearance because “kids only read comics for maybe, tops, five years.”  Nevertheless, Showcase #4′s “Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt” practically dared readers to forget the titular hero of Flash Comics. As Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs’ The Comic Book Heroes (1997 edition, p. 10) recounts,

The bit [in the new Flash’s origin] with Barry Allen reading the old Flash comic surely must have been Julie’s. As a science fiction fan, he knew how a grown man could become attached to a piece of pop culture junk from his childhood, and he knew that a few adult SF fans paid attention to comics [...]. If there were grown-ups out there engaged in the solitary hunt for the old comics that mom had thrown away, glancing at newsstands to see if their heroes had ever come back, Schwartz would want to make them happy.

Obviously there were enough old and new readers, curious about the heroes of the Justice Society, to warrant their return. You know the rest: Barry met Jay in September 1961′s “Flash of Two Worlds” (The Flash #123), Alan Scott and a handful of JSAers came out of retirement in June 1963′s “Vengeance of the Immortal Villain” (#137) and the Justice League met its older counterpart just a couple of months later, in August 1963′s “Crisis On Earth-One” (Justice League of America #21). In the ‘60s, Alan was a frequent guest in Green Lantern and Justice League. In the ‘70s, the JSA had regular features in the short-lived All Star Comics revival and in Adventure Comics, and the ‘80s brought All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc. After Crisis On Infinite Earths, Alan spent several years in Limbo with the rest of the JSA, but after coming back in the early ‘90s, he’s never really gone away.

In short, readers who might not have known any Green Lanterns except the Oan kind have had almost 50 years to get acquainted with the original — but what about Alan’s original demographic? Born probably in the early to mid-1930s (like Mr. Bails), they’d be around 80 today, and despite the general graying of the superhero-comics audience, I doubt they’re keeping up via Earth 2.

Clearly newer generations of fans have claimed the Golden Agers as their own, but in what way? When Alan and the rest of the JSA returned in earnest in 1963, it was after 12 years out of the public consciousness. Eventually the first-generation fans like Bails and Thomas gave way to those of us who only knew the Golden Agers from Justice League/Justice Society team-ups. I was fascinated by the contrast between Alan’s magic-based powers and the GL Corps’ super-science, and I enjoyed how it played into Hal and Alan’s chummy relationship. Time marches on, though, and today, after some 25 years of the JSA and JLA sharing a timeline, surely a significant portion of Alan’s younger fans sees him very differently than I do, or than Mr. Thomas does.

I don’t think this means that different generations of fans necessarily have a different set of responsibilities when it comes to (for lack of a better phrase) looking out for the character’s best interests. If you’re a first-generation fan of something (Star Wars, say, for us fortysomethings), you probably want some deference, although at some point you have to realize that time won’t always be on your side.

Speaking of which, Roy Thomas doesn’t seem to approve of making Alan gay, but as you can imagine, he’s not especially fond of a new Earth-2 either. In fact, Mr. Thomas had apparently suggested (in Secret Origins #20) that the original Doctor Mid-Nite was gay, and when he introduced Danette Reilly as the second Firebrand (All-Star Squadron #5), he emphasized her late brother (the original)’s status as a confirmed bachelor with a live-in bodyguard.  Neither this, nor the original Firebrand’s somewhat-flamboyant costume, was lost on later readers.

To me at least, all this is rooted in the extent to which fans honor characters’ original creators — but not everything gets the same amount of deference. I doubt seriously that Martin Nodell and Bill Finger thought one way or another about Alan Scott’s sexuality. If pressed I suppose they’d have deemed him straight, because at the time what else would he have been?

Conversely, what difference does it make to have the Alan Scott of the new Earth-2 gay? Does it lessen the chances he’ll father two super-powered kids who’ll become charter members of the JSA’s successor group? Probably. Does it mean that every Alan Scott appearance since 1940 has had him in the closet? Not the way I read it. That Alan, who fought the Axis and defied McCarthy, who teamed up with Hal Jordan and was almost Kyle Rayner’s father-in-law, has gone back into limbo.

I have no problems with the current Alan Scott being gay, and I actually think DC has handled his outing fairly well. Still, part of me is frustrated because this is another in-name-only revelation, like killing off Robin (Jason Todd) or Peter Parker (Ultimate version) or rolling out an African-American Spider-Man (Ultimate again). These are important events, to be sure, but they seem to come with asterisks. From what little we’ve seen of him so far, Earth 2’s Alan Scott looks like a fine person in a committed relationship, but he’s a reinvention, not a continuation.

Still, on one level this is all semantics. The bottom line is, DC has another high-profile gay character and only an accident of timing makes it look like much of a stunt. In fact, with the amount of liberties Earth 2 has already taken, the new Alan straddles the line between creating a new character and revising an existing one. However, as Roy Thomas pointed out in the above-linked statement, Earth 2 (as much as he apparently loathes it) has as little bearing on the merits of the Golden Age stories as his own All-Star and Infinity work did in the ‘80s. His contributions were meant to honor the old stories, not replace them.

In the same vein, the older these works get, the more we take them as they are, not necessarily relying on original intent. (Just look at the social life and fashion choices of Rod “Firebrand” Reilly.) Read too much into a particular setup and you might sound like Dr. Wertham, but for the most part the Golden Age has given fans all they wanted in terms of connecting dots and deriving backstories. That intellectual investment creates an emotional one as well, which is why the radically-new Earth 2 may take some getting used to.

By the same token, though, it should be fun watching what James Robinson and Nicola Scott do with these characters, having uprooted them from those old stories and settings. (So far I like issue #2′s Flash spotlight, including the way Scott draws Jay’s new costume.) I have to think that among Earth 2’s tens of thousands of readers, there’s someone who’s coming to the book with no preconceptions. Maybe I’ll be around in sixty years to see how they remember it.

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Comments

27 Comments

The more Roy loathes Earth 2, the more I’ll love it.

Chris Mautner

June 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I’m with your dad. Comics need to be more like Downton Abbey.

sandwich eater

June 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I would like to know about the comic where Alan Scott defied McCarthy.

I agree with your comment “These are important events, to be sure, but they seem to come with asterisks.” The headline “Green Lantern is Gay!” loses its impact a little when it becomes “The Green Lantern from an Alternate Earth who is a Reboot of the Golden Age Green Lantern who isn’t really a Green Lantern at all because he has a magic lantern but he called himself Green Lantern anyway… is gay!”

So, Jab, I guess you didn’t have any problems with the way Marvel makes headlines with killing off Peter Parker or deciding to make Spider-Man part African-American, even though those were essentially from “an Alternate Earth” who were basically “reboots” as well. I didn’t notice any “asterisks” used to prevent (non-comics) readers from having strong opinions on those stories.

Jake Earlewine

June 8, 2012 at 5:33 am

I agree with Jab.

This Earth 2 comic (and all the characters in it) is a fraud, because I’ve been reading about Earth 2 for forty years, and this is a completely different earth. Maybe it’s Earth 42. Or Earth 517.

And I frankly don’t give a rat’s patootie about sexual preferences, whether the person is real or fictional. It’s none of my business. I find a person’s sexuality as uninteresting as their potty habits and just as tasteful to think about.

DC has so little respect for their characters (and their readers!) that they constantly reboot and revise, laying waste to all that went before. I find it disgusting that rather than invent NEW characters, they choose to f-up old ones.

The entire nuDC is an Elseworlds alternate universe — a DC universe filtered through the stunted brain of Dan Didio. A universe “reimagined” by someone who doesn’t have enough imagination to invent his own characters.

JosephW,

For me the difference between Miles Morales and Alan Scott 2.0 is a matter of impact.

I can still pick up new “Peter Parker, Spiderman” books in my FLCS, as well as “Miles Morales, Spider Man” I can’t do the same with JSA Alan Scott and DCnU Alan Scott. (Or Preboot Starfire, Harley Quinn, King Shark, Superboy, Wonder Girl, etc etc etc.)

Likewise, I always took the Ultimate universe as a universe where Marvel could do risky things, like kill off heroes for good, make iconic characters different. (Pyro a hero, Colossus gay, etc.) And readers would still have 616 where Colossus is straight and an absentee dad, Peter can die and get better, etc etc.

I don’t care about the DCnU, so it doesn’t matter to me if Alan Scott is gay, Jay Garrek is secretly a woman or whatever. From a character PoV, I care that two characters I enjoyed (Jade and Obsidian) are now removed as what amounts to little more than a cry for publicity. Especially since they removed one gay character with history for a brand new one. MY heroes are stuck in limbo (Wally, Donna, Stephanie, and now Jenny and Todd) or have been paved over with new versions that aren’t related to the old. (Victor, Gar, Cassie, Tim, Rose)

At least I can enjoy incarnations of some of them I recognize on Young Justice.

Reboots happen, character’s change. Such is life. My Batman isn’t my father’s Batman, or his father’s and I’m pretty sure mine won’t be my son/daughter’s. And that’s OKAY. The DCnU is vastly different from my DCU (which come to think of it had about 2 reboots with 0 Hour/IC) and that’s also okay. Honestly I’d be really disappointed if writers/artists didn’t give me exactly that. I honestly do wish they’d have gone the COIE route and went full on hard reboot instead of trying to have their cake and eat it too. But anyways, I digress. At the end of the day I don’t mind the changes in comics. Yes, many are not what I want. But hell, I just consider the Suicide Squads of this world the price I pay for the Swamp Things. At the end of the day I’ve learned to just accept that these sweeping changes will happen whether I like them or not. I just hope for good stories (which I’ve been getting out of the DCnU books I read) and that’s all that matters. The stories I love, every single one of them will never “not matter” because I’ll always have those issues/trades and nobody can take that away, accept for me. Story trumps continuity from me.

As far as the DCnU Alan Scott goes I trust Robinson to write him well as a fully fleshed out character, not just as a token gay character.

talmidge mcgulliger

June 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm

There is a part of me that always wanted to see a book revolving around Alan Scott’s marriage to Rose and Thorn. It’d be similar in vain to the show Chuck. You could have done a lot with the Hero marrying a villain thing.

JackSparrowJive

June 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

JosephW wrote: “So, Jab, I guess you didn’t have any problems with the way Marvel makes headlines with killing off Peter Parker or deciding to make Spider-Man part African-American, even though those were essentially from “an Alternate Earth” who were basically “reboots” as well. I didn’t notice any “asterisks” used to prevent (non-comics) readers from having strong opinions on those stories.”

@JosephW: If you didnt notice, this article is about Alan Scott, not Spiderman. That being the case, it *should* be common sense that people’s comments are going to be specific to Alan Scott, not discuss every other comic in existence that might be slightly related. Just because someone says something that is actually related to this article does reflect how they feel about things that *arent* related to this article.

First of all, DC’s original Green Lantern is NOT gay. He isn’t. Alan Scott, member of the JSA, the Green Lantern without a Corp, husband of Harlequin, is not gay.

Alan Scott of this new Earth 2 (which I am hugely enjoying, btw), Green Lantern in the making, not yet a member of a newly coming JSA – this man IS gay.

Driving me crazy that general media outlets are reporting that Golden Age GL is gay. It is fundementally wrong.

Either way, is the fact that this new Earth 2 GL gay gonna make me enjoy his adventures less? Nope. Are they gonna make me enjoy them more? Nope.

My level of enjoyment will be based on the entire product.

Isn’t that how is SHOULD be?

Give me his days as Sentinel with his youth intact, but still being married to his elderly wife. Now that was new and unusual.

Who Cares N. E. Way

June 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

Getting a lot of mileage/ news stories out of this whole Alan Scott thing. Every time I go to Newsarama or this site, there’s a new expose on the character. Over exposure, much?

I liked the character when he was from one of the greatest generations of Americans that ever lived. The ones that destroyed the Nazi yoke on the world, and stopped Hitler from destroying Jews, Poles, gays, and other people. People who have the right to simply exist even though poor old Ado[ph didn’t want them around. But that’s all been pitched the curb now. That’s the main reason I won’t be buying Earth 2….no matter what ideas or talent they bring to it. You can mess a character up with too much tinkering…………….

Peter Langley

June 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

After asking my son about this revelation, he answered me by asking me a question… Why do comic books concern themselves with sexuality? and giving a comment… I want to read a comic for the action, fantasy of super powers and adventure and do not need to know who is gay or straight.

Why was my comment taken down? Was it I said Alan Scott being gay is a ‘gimmick’ to get press?

Or that I bashed Dan DiDio?

Earth 2 is doing everything that I wanted the overall DCU to do: a hard reboot. The ‘soft’ reboot is annoying and frustrating with not knowing what it is you might think you know about the characters whose adventures you’re reading each month. The fact that DC is doing a zero issue month in order to clarify a bit makes me believe that I am not alone in this. Earth 2, OTOH, started from scratch. After dispatching the Big 3, and displacing their partners, we get a world somewhat like the Silver Age, and watch how Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and others enter into possibly heroic roles. We ‘know’ the stories, but there are twists: Jay gets his powers from Mercury, Alan is gay and an engagement ring might become his power source, Terry Sloane is NOT a good guy, etc. It’s fun and intriguing, and I’m there at the beginning of it all (as opposed to the regular DCU, where it’s like watching the third part of a trilogy without ever having seen the first two parts.).
No, it’s not turning the original Green Lantern gay, but if that brings in readers, I hope they enjoy what they read. Still light years better than the ‘Kevin Keller Gets Married’ stunt, which asked the reader to be somehow invested in the life choice of a character barely introduced just because of his sexuality.

“After asking my son about this revelation, he answered me by asking me a question… Why do comic books concern themselves with sexuality? and giving a comment… I want to read a comic for the action, fantasy of super powers and adventure and do not need to know who is gay or straight.”

Superhero comics routinely, and historically, have concerned themselves with sexuality — it’s just that it’s overwhelmingly heterosexuality: Superman and Lois Lane, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (or Gwen Stacy), Bruce Wayne and any number of women, Reed Richards and Susan Storm, Green Lantern and Carol Ferris, The Flash and Iris West, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, Black Canary and Green Arrow, and so on.

“Why was my comment taken down? Was it I said Alan Scott being gay is a ‘gimmick’ to get press?

Or that I bashed Dan DiDio?”

It was the juvenile name-calling. Criticize editorial or creative decisions all you want, but enough with the silly names.

-I think I, like most long reading fans, don’t care so much that Alan Scott of Earth-2 is gay…. We would just like our version of Alan Scott still intact some where… Whether it’s Earth-19 or 52, we just want an elder-statesmen JSA…. Heck, I think we would all accept the JSA as it was pre-reboot where there were only 3 golden agers (even though Rex Tyler was brought back from the dead only to be not used as Hourman….). But, for now, Didio and crew think all readers want are young characters… So old Alan Scott and crew are gone for now… I do hope, however, that editorial will one day see fit to return these characters to the fold… After all, we all know DCNU will go the way of post-crisis DCU, post-Zero Hour DCU, post-Infinite Crisis DCU, and post-Final Crisis DCU… Essentially this is the way things are now, but a reboot will be necessary in 10 years time and who knows what will happen then? Look how long it took to return Hal Jordan to being Green Lantern… I’m sure it’ll happen… It’s only a matter of time…

On a side note, let’s not forget that they said the JSA of Earth-2 will also see gender and race changes as well… So let’s be prepared for a bumpy ride… ;^) I think, in the long run, it’ll prove interesting to see what they do with this new JSA… Will they keep Ted Knight, or will he be replaced by Courtney Whitmore? Or will Courtney be his sidekick and the one who is in the JSA?

I agree, I’m an older reader who discovered comics in the 60′s and love the original JSA and Green Lantern. I’m accepting that this Alan Scott is a recreation, not the same Golden age GL we all know and love. That Alan Scott and JSA, and JLA for that matter are in comic book limbo for the time being. For those of you who think that the only GLs that matter are the Corps GLs, your wrong, because without the Golden age GL and JSAers their never would have been a New GL{Hal Jordon} or the GL corps for that matter.
As for this new Earth 2, I am enjoying it and will see where Robinson takes it to. I actually think it’s more fun and exciting than the main Earth in the new DC52.

“In fact, with the amount of liberties Earth 2 has already taken, the new Alan straddles the line between creating a new character and revising an existing one.”

That holds true for the entire published post-Flashpoint DC universe, it is no more the DC Universe to me than the Marvel Ultimate Universe is the real Marvel Universe.

I agree with those that state they wish the “elder statesment ” JSA still existed. THAT was what made them special.

I was hoping that this E2 would take place during WWII. Or pick up in a period maybe 20 yrs past that and hold the original Infinity Inc still in existence.

That said, I really enjoyed the first two issues of Earth 2 and will be sticking around.

I have always had more affinity for the JSA/Earth Two characters than I have had for the Earth One counterparts.

Thanks to JosephW, I understand exactly what my problem with the New 52 is… Back in 2000, when I was still young enough to care, my fear was that Marvel was launching the Ultimate Universe to replace the Marvel 616 Universe I grew up with. That the characters I loved would eventually fade away, while Marvel produces an increasing number of Ultimate Books.
The only reason I ever read any of the (what I considered lame, though there were exceptions) DC titles, was that Crisis on Infinite Earths wiped away all the bad and allowed for a “Newer” style of storytelling: A “Marvel” style of storytelling.
The “New 52″ is doing the same thing as Crisis, but to characters I have placed an emotional interest in. It’s my just deserts, as I’ve enjoyed reading writers like Morrison, Moore, Miller, Milligan, Gaiman and the many others; deconstruct, torture, reinvigorate & modernize stale characters into a modern continuity I enjoyed.
DC has decided: All-Star never worked as New Universe, probably because we used the architects that built the old ‘New’ one. “This time we will create our own ‘Ultimate Universe’ and it will compleatly replace the functional one we spent the last 24 years building a continuity around.”

this post addresed alot of diff issues so here goes beside Alan Scott:

…saying something is a ‘gimmick’ is considered name-calling? hmmm well now. whatever. so much for freedom of speech.

oh and how many Golden Age fans of the Alan Scott GL are there on this thread that consider Alan Scott “the iconic” GL? anyone born after 1964 think Alan Scott an iconic hero for DC? serious folks lets not be bashful here….

ok now that thats out of the way…

I have stated i dont mind the sexual preference change for Alan Scott, but lets face it, the more comics have tried to become “real” and incorporate not sexuality but sex lives, the more sales have declined. sales in the 60s & 70s were in the millions, comics became more real but not too real, and they sold very well. then the 90s gimmicks and steroid sales and then collapse…

yeh the guy from WSJ had some good points but he was scatter-shooting all over the place. many of the comics writers he criticized were the literary children of Alan Moore(whom he liked) and yet the WSJ writer dissed his literary offspring(which he hated).

Moore knew how to be edgy and traditional given the book/context he worked on. He also has stated that not every comic needed to be edgy.

if you notice, the movies that work for the studios are the ones that can balance the modern with the classic and not totally change the character that EVERYONE knows about. such as Bats or Spidy. Bats works whether its the 60s camp one or the 00s edgy one by ALWAYS keeping the “serious” side to Bats, which even the 60s one had it though it was mixed in with the zany campy characters & shtick. Bats was & always will be a brooding cat/bat.

What has been missing from the Hulk and that the Avengers captured has been “HULK SMASH” with glee, which we saw in the Avengers. The TV was so big because you got to see the green giant in all his day glow green glory(although not always smashing, for the 70s it was more than anyone had ever scene and it was every show) and was set up perfect for the lat 70s/early 80s Dallas TV crowd, whether kids or adults. But on screen Hulk has to fight more than soldiers or dogs or his father and he has to do it during the daytime. The serious Banner can be there but you only have 2/2.5 hrs so it cant be too much. the TV show had 12-16 episodes a year and that was why viewers turned in to see Bixby get all serious and what not but they knew they would get their fill of green.

hope there are some points in there that make sense. i for one dont see comics ever reaching the million sellers they had in the 40s, 60s, 70s, or 90s. it aint gonna happen. as it is i read one comic writer who was somewhat sad that the Avengers movie did so well and was making comics characters accessible to everyone!!! Wtf????

later for now…

If you’re just going to take comments down of those that don’t agree with you, why not just say at the beginning that you don’t want any disagreeing comments? My comment was also taken down.

@ Jab: I agree with what you are saying here. This was another pointless typically DC non event.Make one of your top selling Iconics, Superman,Batman,Wonder Woman gay or create a new and original character, and I would be impressed.This is like picking some obscure character from the roster of Legion of Superheroes nobody has seen for years and make it look like you are doing the LBGT crowd a favor.What utter crap on DC’s part.I wonder how many story conferences this went through and how many characters they discarded before coming up with the least controversial to bottom line sales that they could pick? At least this saves me a lot of money catching up wih old continuity JSA trades.Thank you DC.

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