Sunday Roundtable: There’s lots of talk about legacy characters. How much should publishers rely on them, especially when it comes to growing comic readership?
Sundays are known for folks gathering around tables on television and pontificating about some of the hottest topics out there, offering their expertise. We bring that tradition to Graphic Policy as the team gathers to debate in our Sunday Roundtable.
On tap this week?
There’s lots of talk about legacy characters. How much should publishers rely on them, especially when it comes to growing comic readership?
Mr. H: I would like these legacy characters that are so near and dear to my heart as mentors and driving force to the next generation of heroes. I believe the time has come for Batman to be Dick Grayson and Wonder Woman as Donna Troy
Daphne: With the readership growing and comics still giving off that “collapsing under the weight of their own canon” vibe to newcomers, it is way past time we saw legacy characters be given mentor or advisor roles so other people can take up their mantles. Peter Parker and Miles Morales have an amazing dynamic as a pair, as did Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. Letting some of these characters begin fresh – and not with weird universe-ending shenanigans – would be a fantastic way to revive flagging series.
You can’t do it with everybody – Harley Quinn only works as one singular woman, obviously – but a lot of heroes would really benefit from this.
Brett: While I like the idea of the mentors, I feel like you can do both to some extent. Marvel looks like they’re trying that with Spider-Man and having an older Peter and Miles and to some extent what they’ll be doing with the two Caps (in a way). I personally think you should have a mix. But, I also think there’s an issue of not necessarily legacy but a lack of focus of the point of the characters. Teen Titans can have legacy characters but be very new reader friendly and aimed at a teen and younger audience, while Batman can be a bit older/dark. Bruce with Terry in the future is great, Bruce and Dick is a bit tougher and I feel like you’d need to give Bruce something more to do than just be a mentor. Having him really take over Wayne Enterprises would be the direction I’d go. Superman and Wonder Woman I scratch my head to figure out what to do.
Alex: What if Bruce became Oracle for some reason or another?
Brett: That’d be an interesting spin. He kind of takes over Alfred’s role. I see him more in a Lucious Fox type position running the show from behind and Dick being the one in the field.
Alex: He could do both, really. Maybe he’s forced out of the field, and so focuses on Bruce Wayne whilst still playing the Penny One/Oracle role.
It’ll give us a solid reason to have Dick as Batman without Bruce standing over his shoulder (or Batman Inc returning)
Brett: I liked the concept of Batman Inc, not the execution.
Alex: I’ve always preferred Batman as an urban myth, so the whole Batman Inc thing didn’t really do much for me.
As a concept, I mean. There were some okay moments in the series, though.
Brett: Yeah, I like that aspect too, but after a while it just doesn’t make sense. The second he talks to Gordon that myth part starts to unravel. I saw Batman Inc as a logical next step. It just should have focused on a small team instead of really bad other versions.
Alex: That’s fair.
I think that, in all fairness, had the execution of Batman Inc been better, I’d probably have a different opinion about the concept, honestly.
Brett: If anything it is an example of attempting to evolve a character.
Alex: It is. And I’m okay to admit that while I may prefer Batman as the urban myth vigilante that can’t work forever, Batman Inc would have allowed the Dick Batman to be the Gotham based hero I needed, and Bruce the more world wide hero I deserved.
Daphne: Supes wouldn’t work so well, unless he retired to mentor Power Girl and Supergirl and other Kryptonians. That’s the only way I could see that working with him.
Brett: Yeah, but isn’t he one that doesn’t quite age the same way? I think that’s where I get thrown off as he’s still in his prime (physically). Which comes down to a big issue being the fact these characters just don’t age. Part of what I think works well with Batman/Bruce/Terry is Bruce has aged.
Daphne: Yeah… I don’t think he does age properly. So you’d have to throw in some weird contrived reason for him to swear off heroism. Maybe he’s just another character that doesn’t work that way.
Brett: Snapping a neck?
Daphne: That’s too farfetched, I can’t see Superman doing that in any medium!
Brett: Yeah, next thing you know Batman will be using guns after swearing them off for so long.
Steven: I agree with Mr. H, I love the characters we grew up with, but I think it’s time for a new generation of characters to bring in a whole new generation of readers
Brett, you right it wouldn’t work with every character out there. But it’s something to build upon. Legacy characters will always be around, but I think there needs to be more super heroes foe us and younger readers to fall in love with
Mr. H: Well keep some in their mantle such as Superman, but if the show has proven anything Kara can be an amazingly compelling character. In fact I think it’s the best Superman show created. Ironically it doesn’t have Superman in it. But I would keep Hal Jordan and John Stewart to train new Green Lanterns. Have Bruce Wayne be Batman’s backer and ally and move forward etc.
Madison: I think what Supergirl does well is that it is very, very accessible to new and younger fans.
Ryan: I could care less about whether characters are new or old, just give us good stories with good art and, for once, treat the creators fairly. The “Big Two” have been uber-successful at hoodwinking fans into giving a shit about characters but not creators, and the end result is that Spider-Man made billions for Marvel while Steve Ditko was living above a thrift store and Superman raked in billions for DC while Siegel and Shuster were reduced to a hard-scrabble life of delivering copies and drawing BDSM fetish artwork. And what’s it done for the characters? Well, Peter Parker went from being a truly interesting and unique character constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown under Ditko’s stewardship to a dull jock who always gets the girl and just happens to like science once he left, while Superman went from a champion of blue-collar, working-class values and concerns under Siegel and Shuster to a one-dimensional, jingoistic pawn for nationalistic propaganda once they were fired from working on their own creation. The emphasis on characters over creators has given us Before Watchmen, Dark Knight III, and The Return Of The New Gods. It’s given us nearly five decades of Marvel stories that are re-hashed and diminished versions of stories Kirby already told. And it’s allowed creators who gave us the characters we love to grow old and die in squalor. Dave Cockrum created or co-created most of the popular X-Men characters of today and spent his last months in a shitty VA hospital. Wally Wood was one of the most visionary innovators the industry has ever seen, as well as one of its most talented pure artists, and we all know how he ended up. Bill Everett created the Sub-Mariner and died a broken, alcoholic mess. Gene Day was pushed so hard to make deadlines that he fell over dead at his drawing table. Gary Friedrich, struggling with poor health in his later years, was served up a court injunction from Marvel preventing him from drawing images of his own creation, Ghost Rider. Jack Kirby created damn near everything in this “modern mythology” of ours and got screwed by Marvel for decades, a battle that his family was forced to continue long after his death. Meanwhile, the characters all these titans created continued to rake in a fortune not for the people who dreamed them up, but for the publishers who paid all of them lousy page rates and then got to own their work forever.
Elana: The world needs a Blue Beetle comic staring Jaimie Reyes with Ted Kord as his mentor.
Mr. H: Yes absolutely agree!!
Brett: I think you could do a really cool one with Ted Kord and Booster Gold jumping through time at different points in Jaimie’s life.
Alex: I think that done right, legacy characters are a fantastic asset in a publisher’s tool box that helps to encourage new readers. Look at Ms. Marvel, the (All-New) Wolverine, and any of the others that have taken up the mantle in the Marvel Universe of late.
Brett: Alright, sounds like we’re all in agreement here. It’s great to have legacy characters, but you also need to pave the way for the next generation, just like us fans should be doing for new readers.
What say you dear readers? Sound off in the comments below!