When Heroes Fall: Hal Jordan

I have a confession to make. I love a hero’s fall from grace story. The one where the hero may never recover. Books as After the Cape, Irredeemable, and Ultimate Doomsday  all explore the fallen hero. These stories are the most human,  showing a hero is fallible and suffers like anyone else. Their fall is tragic since they are the best in their respective worlds, making it more meaningful and shocking, for most are human in the end.

Hal Jordan was the greatest Green Lantern.  He received a power ring from the Guardians of the Universe. Fueled by willpower, the ring makes anything possible. His duty was to protect his sector of space and be an extension of the Guardians’ will.

Hal’s hometown of Coast City was destroyed while he was off planet. Seven million people died. Blaming himself, Hal attempted to use the limitless power of his ring to bring them back. The Guardians stopped him and tried to take his power. Hal was misguided, but the Guardians could not understand his grief, causing him to snap. One of the Guardians would later comment, ‘Our greatest champion, yet we did not stand by him in his need. Our unwavering adherence to our edicts prevented the slightest compassion.’

Emerald Twilight chronicles Hal’s journey through space to reach the home world of the Guardians, Oa. Once at Oa, he absorbed the power belonging to all Green Lanterns. Thousands of Green Lanterns suffocated in space as a result. Hal became Parallax and had god like powers.

All heroes fear failing to save the most. They will do anything to correct past mistakes. Every act performed by Parallax was to revive Coast City. He was willing to sacrifice his remaining family and friends to bring back those he failed to save. Parallax was stopped in Zero Hour when his best friend, Oliver Queen, shot him in the chest. Readers who have witnessed friends falling apart and hurting others can understand Oliver’s struggle and decision.

Hal’s fall was not absolute, making it more tragic. He committed atrocities but was always trying to be a hero.

“I only wanted to fix things and look what happened. It’s not supposed to be like this. What happened to Coast City, all those people. I should have stopped it. I should have saved them. I’m a hero, that’s what I’m supposed to do. So I tried to change everything – Coast City, the Corps, everything. Put it back. Put it right. Unless I can do that, I can’t be a hero. I’ll be. . . I’ll be one of the bad guys.”

In Final Night he ultimately gave his life to save billions. But this was not Hal Jordan’s end. His soul bonded to the Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance. To atone for his sins he would host another being with god like powers. By seeking vengeance for the dead, he would work towards redemption.

Until it was retconned.

Green Lantern sales dropped after Hal Jordan snapped. Green Lantern: Rebirth is the first and best Green Lantern story I have read. If Hal Jordan was coming back as a Green Lantern this is how it had to happen. Parallax became a fear parasite that latched itself onto Hal’s soul, influencing his actions. His sudden changes had motivation and showed how some characters were able to forgive him. A deeper mythology was built that still effects Green Lantern stories.

After reading preceding stories, I felt cheated by the retcon. It undercut all Hal’s efforts for redemption by sacrificing his life and becoming the Spectre. His very human struggle with denial, bargaining and madness was blamed on a separate entity, making it less human and relatable. Numerous characters still blamed Hal for Parallax but eventually forgave him. One of the greatest tales of a heroes fall from grace was retconned away.

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Evaluating the Nerd

“Jane Tyler is a self-proclaimed nerd seeking to spread knowledge on all things comic book.” @nerdyjanetyler

“Growing up I was surrounded by comics.” My life has been a crazy string of geek culture, starting with card gaming. From there grew my love of comics.

To say comics are only a reading habit would be an understatement. They are part of my identity. It might sound silly to some, but comics helped me when I was going through some bad times. I devoured stories. I picked them apart to find hidden meanings, to find my relationship with the characters.

Some are very human. Some dealt with the same issues as I.

“Peter Parker was like me. He was only a few years older and had issues in school, often called a nerd. More importantly he made mistakes. The death of Uncle Ben is a constant in all Spider-Man universes, showing the mistakes we are capable of and the hardships in the wake of death. From these beginnings came one of the greatest heroes, one of the greatest humans anyone could ask for. Repeatedly he tried to make his city safer, to fight battles others were afraid to fight. In doing so he suffered. He lost family and friends but gained new ones and carried on with life. As he grew I grew and in no time we were the same age, thanks to the nature of comic book aging. The issues he dealt with became more relevant as I navigated high school and dealt with personal loss. He wasn’t Spider-Man, he was Peter Parker, my friend.”

This beat is my beat. All the thoughts I have on comics. All the knowledge I accumulated other the years. Some of it is just repeating events that happened in stories. Most parts are the scholar taking over, analyzing and sharing my thoughts and feelings. Connecting stories together to build a narrative, to build an understanding of characters and struggles.

I do not limit myself to comic books. The movies and shows they spawn are equally important, and how each presents different topics. In cases, the comic book is the best method for telling some stories.

Time is still needed but these are the articles I want to write. I am conveying all the thoughts locked away in my head.

My beat deserves a voice. I just need to work on mine first. I often feel I am not clear. Whether I am writing informational for a wiki page, or discussing why superheroes fear the retcon. My thoughts can be a mess. I think in never ending sentences, and connect dots between information other people do not have. Already I am working on breaking up sentences and thoughts, so other people can follow them.

I am concerned I am too much of a geek. But I don’t want to spend my time explaining every detail. Writing about storylines instead of their meaning.

With my Ender’s Game article, I am uncertain if it makes sense to someone who didn’t read the book. I wound up including a brief summary.

“Ender’s Game, published in 1977 as a short story and novelized in 1986, tells the story of children as they train in a space military school. Their task is to beat the Formics, or buggers, an alien race Earth has already fought wars with.”

Was this even needed? Was it enough?

When I tweeted how “Superheroes fear the retcon” did it make sense? I posted an article shortly after but am concerned I am overlooking a description.

It is probably a concern I will always have. It is reassuring then when I write an article about the comics code am told it is relatable. That it was easy to understand. Thank you Futura.

I want to continue developing my voice. Writing articles on how characters are more human then we think, about the parallels that exist. I want to also discuss manga, for in the global age it is equally important to American comics. These articles may move away from how characters are relatable and look at broader issues. Why are manga arcs longer? What is the relationship to anime? I don’t want to limit myself and want to share all the thoughts I have on comics that are missing online.

 

 

 

Birthright Wikipedia

I was excited when I found a Wikipedia article yet to be written. I used the layout and voice found in many other comic book articles to maintain consistency. This article is about a comic book series and provides general information about it. Some details are vague since contributors try not to spoil newer comics for readers. After a few years they will provide more plot information.

* * * * *

Birthright

Birthright is an ongoing monthly comic book series published by Image Comics and Skybound. The comic was created by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Andrei Bressan.[1] 

First published in October 2014, Birthright focuses on the disappearance of the Rhodes family’s youngest son and his shocking return.

Plot

What started as a game of catch in the woods ended with a parents worst nightmare. The disappearance of Mikey tore the Rhodes family apart. But a year later he has returned, though not as the child he was. Twenty years have passed for him in the mysterious land of Terrenos, along with battles with fire trolls, razorbeasts and dragons. Now he seeks the help of his family to close the doors between the two worlds, or see both destroyed.[2]

Characters

Earth

Mikey Rhodes – the chosen hero of prophecy and the carrier of the birthright. Kidnapped on his tenth birthday, Mikey is destined to save the land of Terrenos from God King Lore. A year later he returns to his family as an adult to close the doors between the worlds, but there is more he is not telling.

Brennan Rhodes – Mikey’s older brother. Reluctant to believe his brother returned as a warrior adult, but joins him on his quest to find five mages hiding on Earth.

Aaron Rhodes – Mikey’s father.  Becomes a depressed alcoholic when everyone believes he killed Mikey. He is the only one to unconditionally believe Mikey returned as an adult and will do anything to protect his children.

Wendy Rhodes – Mikey’s mother. Divorced Aaron when she believed he killed their son. Refuses to believe in the return of Mikey and bases all her decisions on hard fact.

Brooks – detective and family friend in charge of Mikey’s disappearance.

Terrenos 

The Gideons – group of winged warriors including Rya, Shavo and Ansari.

Rook – an Orc like being who has been searching for Mikey to be Terrenos’ hero. Serves as mentor to Mikey and seeks to overthrow God King Lore.

God King Lore – the antagonist of the series. His goal is to conquer all of Terrenos and Earth. Uses the power of the Nevermind to corrupt souls and make them do his bidding.

Kallista – the Pale Rider. Once a member of Rook’s team, now serves God King Lore and continuously hunts Rook and the Gideons.

Development

Joshua Williamson first conceived Birthright in 2006[3], years before his acclaimed Ghosted series. He loved the stories where children went to mystical lands, but always wondered what happened to them upon their return.

“As a fan of adventure and fantasy stories as a kid… it was always great seeing these young kids going on amazing journeys to far way magical lands. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Pan, Explorers, The Neverending Story, Wizard of Oz, Flight of the Navigator. But there were never any real consequences to those adventures… What happens when you come home from this great adventure? What do you do next? How do you go back to normal life? Those thoughts lead to my obsession with the idea of destiny. If your whole life has been about one moment… one thing that you had to accomplish… what do you do after it is over? How do you go on knowing that the main reason you were born is finished?”[4]

Reception

Birthright has received generally positive reviews from critics, with a 9/10 rating from Comic Book Roundup[5] and 5/5 stars from Comic Vine[6]. Comic Book Resources praised issues #1 and #5 for their surprising plot twists and Bressan’s artwork[7][8]. Katy Rex of Comics Bulletin loves the unpredictable nature of the issues but feels the parents are not interesting or believable.[9]

Collected Editions

Title: Birthright Vol.1: Homecoming

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-63215-231-2

Release Date: March 4, 2015

Collected Material: Birthright #1-5

Publication Information (side bar)

Publisher: Image Comics and Skybound

Schedule: Monthly

Format: Ongoing series

Publication date: October 2014 – ongoing

Number of Issues: 8

Creative Team

Writer(s): Joshua Williamson

Artist(s): Andrei Bressan

Colorist(s): Adriano Lucas

Letterer(s): Pat Brosseau

Creator(s): Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan

References

  1. “Birthright”. Image Comics. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  2. Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming
  3. “Birthright shows what happens after the epic heros journey”. IGN. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  4. “A missing boy returns to claim his birthright”. Image Comics. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  5. “Birthright #1”. Comic Book Roundup. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  6. “Birthright # 1 Review”. Comic Vine. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  7. “Birthright #1”. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  8. “Birthright #5”. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2015-06-18
  9. “Birthright #5 – Hang on for the final reveal!” Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2015-06-18

Stamp of Approval

I had intended this to be a sarcastic piece – calling for comics to follow the old Comics Code Authority (CCA) rules of 1954. While outlining I started to think of arguments for the CCA and found one I want to address seriously.

* * * * *

The CCA was self-regulation by the comic book industry to prevent government regulation. This was during the time of Seduction of the Innocent and the blaming of comics, especially horror comics, on corrupting youth and causing juvenile delinquency. The rules were strict but started to lose power in the 1970’s when changes were made. Without these changes works as Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns would never have been published. In 2011 the CCA was officially dissolved — with many publishers adopting their own rating criteria years prior.

Some of the old rules are now ridiculous. The originals did not allow sympathizing with evil or misdeeds — no portraying law and its enforcers negatively — could not use the words horror or terror — etc. One of my favorites is no use of vampires or werewolfs. Once allowed they had to relate to the classics read in school systems. This is why when Marvel wanted to include vampires they simply used Dracula and many other early vampires were modeled after him.

What got me thinking was the seal of the CCA. Every approved issue would have the seal on the top left or right corner. Parents trusted the seal. It was a sign their children could read the issue and not be mentally scarred or turn delinquent. It was the rating. It was standard across all publishers. It was constant.

As time went the seal no longer meant safe for children as the changing rules took into account adult readers. Publishers stopped caring about the CCA and started to implement their own rating system, if one was implemented at all.

Here lies the problem, not everyone had a rating system. One of my favorite ongoing series is Invincible published by Image Comics. It is classified as SUPERHERO and early issues are child friendly. The covers are brightly colored and it tells the story of a teenager discovering his superpowers and learning to be a hero. Everything about these early issues scream My child can read this and wants to.

Then in issue #7 there are guts and decapitations. In issue #10 we see the hero’s father rip a man in half and in issue #12 thousands die. With each new issue the violence builds. Not very child friendly. The violence in this series rivals that of The Walking Dead or 30 Days of Night – often being more graphic and gruesome. Ratings were implemented after pressure from retailers for issue #81 – eight years after initial publication — but were hidden on the back cover. It is the same case with The Walking Dead – the series is classified as Mature (18+) but initially was not rated.

I looked through my collection and found numerous instances of no ratings. Even trade paperbacks with issues from the CCA era gave no indication of acceptable reading age. In these collections cover pages are also omitted, removing the seal from the issue and the inherent trust. Publishers cannot assume readers or buyers know all comics released during specific years followed the CCA.

In the digital market place the ratings are not listed as they are with films and parents or children buy based on the cover image and the few sentence blurbs. How are they to know the rating of the book? How are they to know a brightly colored Superhero book is misleading?

Even in stores hardcovers and collected editions often come sealed. One cannot flip through them to see if they are appropriate. The rating should help give an idea but they are hidden or missing from many books. Ratings also have a bad habit of changing and vary between the publishers.

Did you know DC collected editions do not have any ratings? Did you know most Marvel comics are rated T+? Did you know Invincible switched ratings from Teen to Teen Plus?

To provide a better understanding here are the ratings for a few publishers:

DC Ratings

Everyone (E) – All ages

Teen (T) – 12 and older

Teen Plus (T+) – 15 and older

Mature (M) – 17 and older

Marvel Ratings

All ages

A – 9 and older

T+ – teens and up (once suggested as 13)

Parental Advisory – Intended for adults only

Max: Explicit Content – ONLY ADULTS

Image Ratings (based on DC ratings)

Everyone (E) – All ages

Teen (T) – 12 and older

Teen Plus (T+) — 16 and older

Mature (M) – 18 and older

There is no consistency in ages – leading to confusion. Some of the Marvel ones don’t even give ages and instead generalize.

I don’t like a rating system for comic books. I was hardly aware there was one until this week. A rating system can be a good guide and I can see why someone would want it. The problem is it is all over the place. If one follows the rating and uses it to judge appropriateness then it is confusing, for all publishers have their own system and have trouble following it.

The CCA was not a great moment in comic book history but it provided a unified rating system. Films and television shows have standard ratings so why not comics?

Remembering the First

My dad was ten years old when he read The Amazing Spider-Man #33. It was his first comic book. The issue was found in his house, left behind by an older brother who had grown bored with it. He was drawn in by the images and watching Spider-Man overcome impossible odds to save the day. The artwork stays with him years later. The issue is long gone, either sold or thrown out, the sad fate of many Silver Age issues. It has been replaced with a collection book released decades later,  serving as a reminder of the past.

I was twelve years old when I read Ultimate Spider-Man #1. It was my first comic book. The book was purchased at a local comic book store, my older brother convinced dad to buy it. I was drawn in by the images and watching Peter Parker,  who was not much older than myself, deal with life. The story stays with me years later. The book remains on the self,  the only out of hundreds showing signs of repeated reading. The spine has peeled in parts and the cover corners are curling – but I will never get rid of it.

* * * * *

You never forget your first. When I asked my dad what his first comic book was I only hoped for a title, I did not expect an issue number. But he looked at me smugly and said Spider-Man #33. It should be in one of the collection books on the shelf, just if it is sealed do not open it. Luckily it was not sealed and within minutes I was reading the issue. He hovered over my shoulder, pointing at panels he remembered and saying why he liked them.

My dad read his first comic over forty years ago and still remembers it.

My first was over ten years ago with the third printing of the Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback. This book is the reason I read comics. The Ultimate Universe was an experiment by Marvel to get a new generation of readers into comics, guess it worked. This introductory story is similar to the origin story of Spider-Man from the 1960’s, though this time he is younger and not followed by decades of back issues.

Peter Parker was like me. He was only a few years older and had issues in school, often called a nerd. More importantly he made mistakes. The death of Uncle Ben is a constant in all Spider-Man universes, showing the mistakes we are capable of and the hardships in the wake of death. From these beginnings came one of the greatest heroes, one of the greatest humans anyone could ask for. Repeatedly he tried to make his city safer, to fight battles others were afraid to fight. In doing so he suffered. He lost family and friends but gained new ones and carried on with life. As he grew I grew and in no time we were the same age thanks to the nature of comic book aging. The issues he dealt with became more relevant as I navigated high school and dealt with personal loss. He wasn’t Spider-Man, he was Peter Parker, my friend.

I say was because four years ago Peter Parker died saving his family. I mourned the loss of my friend. The universe I fell in love with changed. A new Spider-Man was introduced in Miles Morales and while he is a strong character and I enjoy his stories he isn’t mine. I did not grow up with Miles and was ten years his senior at his premiere, I look at him and see the person I was,  not the person I am.

This year the rest of the Ultimate Universe will join Peter Parker, again I will mourn and fondly remember the world that changed my life.

Card Gaming Resume

For my resume I wanted to use a traditional format for a not so traditional topic. I am a card gamer and have been playing since I was eight years old, predating my love of comic books.

As a girl gamer I kept it a secret and to this day most of my friends are unaware of this part of my life. As an adult I am open to sharing this part of myself and decided to chronicle my gaming career in resume format.

Card gaming is even nerdier than comic books so if you have any questions feel free to ask.

Jane Tyler Resume