Thursday, August 13, 2015

Legacy Heroes

One of the big things at DC Comics in the late 80's/early 90's was the concept of the Legacy Hero. With the result of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" being that everything occurred on one Earth in one timeline, you couldn't have alternate versions of the characters running around. Obviously all the Supermans became Superman and all the Batmans became Batman, because they were all Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, respectfully, no matter what universe they were in.

But what about Green Lantern, The Flash, and others like them? You know, different people that used the same superhero name? Well, that's where the Legacy Hero comes in. In the Post-Crisis universe, Jay Garrick was still The Flash in the 1940's, but he was succeeded by Barry Allen, who was then succeeded by Wally West.

The implication here is that you can have heroes that grow too old to continue on, or even die in the line of duty, and then have that name live on with a new hero. I think that's brilliant and I had hopped that we'd see the eventual aging of the main characters, but that was not to happen. Well, it did happen when handled by John Bryne in his Generations mini-series.

Unfortunately, the current administration of DC has scrapped all of that, along with what made DC unique, in favor of overpriced books and a "dark and gritty" feel. Not to mention that they have also decided that the "iconic" heroes HAVE to be the ones featured, so they undid A LOT of good storytelling in order to get Hal Jordan and Barry Allen back. Good thing I'm only reading the old stuff these days, or it might upset me.

Why did that make DC unique, you may ask? Well, Marvel has always been a "status quo" kind of universe. No matter what happened, Steve Rogers always went back to being Captain America, Tony Stark always went back to being Iron Man, The Fantastic Four were always going to be Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben. They went with the "illusion of change" way too much. Not that I don't enjoy those stories, but I'm on record as wanting Peter Parker to grow the heck up already.

Now, however, there are umpteen Hulks, twenty Avengers teams, etc. Again, if I wasn't already priced out of the market, I might get upset over that.

It all boils down to that I like progression in my stories, be they four color or not, and going back to the same well continually just gets really boring after awhile.

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  1. It started off with the legacy heroes being a strong voice in the DCU and comics like JSA and it's follow up Justice Society of America making great use of it, but the problem is, that when you have multiple characters using the same name, people have favourites. While I liked the Jamie Reyes Blue Beetle, my favourite will always be Ted Kord in the role. It gets worse when the guys at the top have the same ideas. DiDio wanted his favourite versions in their old roles. Some fans agreed and we did get some great stories out of it, but with just a few touches the need for legacy was gone and the constant reboots and retcons haven't really helped.

    1. Oh, I realize that everyone will have their favorites. But having a favorite character doesn't mean that you can't have a successor to that character. You want to tell a Hal Jordon story while Kyle Rayner is GL? No problem, make it a flashback. You want Jay Garrick to still be The Flash? Cool, just make him a mentor to the younger generation (thank you Mark Waid).

      I enjoyed JSA as well, mainly for the legacy aspect of it. Having the younger heroes take over the roles of their parents/godparents/etc, and then learning from the "old guard" was a wonderful idea. Although, with everyone "New Number 1" happy, I agree that we're past that point now.

    2. That's what I meant, you could have your own favourite and others could too. But when the high ups have their favourite, the reader's screwed. Donna Troy and Wally West come to mind. Marvel don't really do legacy, but at least they do alternatives. Peter Parker is Spider-Man, but so's Miles Morales, that's something at least. DC are just forcing a status quo into place and the legacy element is the casualy