Hal Pictures Green Lantern Butt's FOREVER!: We ALL need Support

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We ALL need Support

There are some iconic figures in comicbookdom. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, et cetera, et cetera. There are also plenty of newer figures in comicbook history, such as Kyle Rayner, Jack Knight or Jaime Reyes. What exactly is it, that makes a character, and a book good, and interesting and enduring? Other than being a "hero" of course,and having a kick-ass origin?


To be more succinct, I think that I have come to the conclusion, that for a character to really be good, they need an equally good support group. I.e. having other characters that interact with the hero or heroine.

I don't think that anyone can deny, that Superman has a heck of a support group. Ma and Pa Kent, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are all great characters, and characters moreover, that are almost equally as famous as Clark Kent. I must also throw Lex Luthor into that grouping, because he's one HELL of a supporting character.

Batman has Robin and Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. Not to mention a plethora of insanely fabulous villains. Spider-Man has Aunt May, and he USED to have Mary Jane, not to mention Flash Thompson, and Harry Osborne, and Gwen, and Capt. Stacy, and so on and so forth. Wonder Woman had Etta Candy, and Hippolyta and Steve Trevor. The Justice League had each other, as did the Justice Society and the Teen Titans and the Avengers. Oh, and the Avengers also had Jarvis, who is a great supporting character.

You can't operate as a superhero in a vacumn. This is pretty obvious of course, and I apologize for pointing it out, but I feel sometimes that the secondary characters don't get enough love. Take Jaime Reyes, the newest Blue Beetle for example. There was a great deal of outrage over his creation, due to the love for Ted Kord that raged in the breasts of Fanboys and Fangirls everywhere, and yet it must be said, that Blue Beetle has turned into a bit of a hit and a success. Some of this must be placed firmly at the feet of Jaime himself, who is a sensational character, but a great deal of his success must also be given to his supporting cast. Paco and Brenda, Mr. & Mrs. Reyes and Milagro, Peacemaker and La Dama and Traci Thirteen are all beautifully fleshed out characters, and Jaime couldn't operate without them.

I think that the same thing can be said for the Starman series. I like Jack Knight of course, but I must admit that I ADORE the Shade, and the O'Dares and Opal City, Black Condor, and Ted Knight and Mikaal. It wouldn't have been nearly as good a series without them.

The earth-based Green Lanterns are all favorites of mine of course. I LOVE Hal, Guy, John and Kyle. But I have to admit that I also adore Kilowog, Salakk, Ch'p, G'nort, Arisia, Vath, Isamot, Soranik, Graf Toren, Boodikka, and Tomar Tu. Even the Guardians are interesting, albeit irritating.

I believe that the Green Arrow family is much more interesting and rich now, that they have Conner, and Mia and Dinah in addition to Ollie and Roy. When it was JUST Oliver, and his trusty sidekick, it was a little dull, a little too much like Batman with a bow. Ollie in particular NEEDS to have other people to bounce off of. It's why he and Hal were so much fun.

The old JLI had each other as supporting characters. It worked because they weren't the big Three, or even the big Seven of the old Justice League. Beetle and Booster supported each other, as did Fire and Ice, as did Scott, and Barda. Guy was there of course for fun and conflict. But the League NEEDED to have Max, and Oberon and Catherine and L-Ron. Hell, even Snapper Carr served a purpose in the old League.

The point of all this long-winded rambling, is that for a hero to succeed, I think that they need good supporting characters. This may be one of the reasons that Martian Manhunter hasn't really been around much lately. He doesn't really have much of a supporting cast, except when he is in the League, and he hasn't BEEN in the League, which is a darned shame, really. Same thing for Aquaman. Or Obsidian for that matter. Let him get back into Manhunter which has a superb supporting cast, as opposed to just lurking in the shadows in JSA.

Hell, I'll be that if they gave him an interesting supporting cast, even Geo-Force could be made to be interesting.


At 9:14 AM, Anonymous suedenim said...

The supporting casts of second-tier heroes (good recentish examples: Flash, Nightwing, Wonder Woman) can be problematic, too.

New writers often want to make their mark by creating new supporting characters for the hero... and at the same time, often jettison whatever *old* supporting characters existed. (Plus, sometimes you get someone like Devin Grayson, who *killed off* most of Nightwing's actually-rather-numerous supporting cast.) And then the writer who replaces *that* writer in 8 months does the same thing!

So no supporting characters ever get a chance to develop over time the way a Jimmy Olsen or an Alfred did... and people say the problem with the Flash is "no good supporting cast!"

I think sometimes editorial needs to step in with a long-range plan and say "THIS is the setting for this character for the next X years, with THESE major supporting characters, and even if we hire New Hotshot Writer, he'll be writing under those conditions, the same way New Hotshot Superman Writers have to use the Daily Planet and Jimmy Olsen."

At 6:43 PM, Blogger SallyP said...

Editorial should step in with a LOT of things, but it doesn't always seem as though that is happening. But you're right, the random offing of various supporting characters is much too common, and in the long run, I think that it hurts the books.

I must say that I've been impressed with Tomasi on Nightwing of late, he's building UP some good support for Dick, and making good use of Bruce, Tim and Alfred...not to mention most of the Justice League.

This is also why it pays to have a good writer who actually STAYS on a book for more than a few issues.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

the villains are also a very vital part of supporting cast as they help define the hero and motivate him. the reach for blue beetle were great but in the next 25 issues i hope he develops a good rogues gallery

At 8:33 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

That's true, and I didn't really go into the importance of the villains as supporting cast members. You're only as good as your villains, right?


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