Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A ring, an oath, and a fan

Well, November starts NaNoWriMo month, and both Franny and I are involved.

My project is also part of fanfic100, a marathon project of --

Yes. I'm going to be writing 50,000 words of fanfiction. Stop laughing.

But it got Franny and me going about whether or not fanfic qualifies as art.

Before I start that discussion, I think it'd be best if you had a better awareness of where I'm coming from as a fan. So, here's one that readers of my livejournal may have read before I shifted my comics thoughts over here:

Once a Green Lantern, Always a Green Lantern: My lifelong love affair with comics and why I somehow involve Hal Jordan in every conversation I have about the DC Universe

"I want to start writing those essays about comics in my LJ," I told Franny. "But I don't know where to begin."

"Start with Hal," she said. "You know you have to start with Hal."

But really, my love of DC Comics does not start with Hal Jordan.

It starts with the Justice League.

I couldn't tell you which was the first comic I ever read -- I've read comic books for as far back as I can remember. It was probably something from Archie, or Disney. (The first comic I ever bought, for the record, was the Super Mario Bros. 3 book put out by Valiant comics.) But I do recall my first superhero story: the Justice League, Giffen/DeMatteis's era, fighting Starro the Conqueror. The comic belonged to my cousin Justin, and he let me read a stack of his comics so I would stay out of his and my brother Guy's hair for an afternoon.

Starro the fuckin' Conqueror. Now there was a villain. Giant starfish, latched onto your face, took over your body. Not the stealthiest guy in the world, though. Mind-control-based sneakiness is considerably more difficult when, you know, you've got a fuckin' starfish on your face. But I digress.

I was in love. I recall being absolutely entranced by Fire, a foul-mouthed pyrokinetic Brazilian who looked essentially naked when she went "flame on." (Sexy? Yes. But I was maybe seven when I read this story. I had no concept of sexy.)

So Guy and I started reading DC Comics. Sometimes I wonder what kind of comic fan I would be had I grown up reading Marvel. But Marvel's continuity at this point was so convoluted, it seemed impossible to jump in. You couldn't know what the hell was going on unless you could refer back to 30 years worth of back issues. (These were the days before Marvel created the Ultimate universe, a simplified and streamlined version of the original continuity.) Marvel made no fucking sense. So, we became DC fans by default.

We drew our own comics. Since there were two Justice Leagues during this time (one in America and one in Europe), it seemed conceivable that anyone could have their own Justice League. So Guy and I created Justice League Carrollton. (Teeny little township near Saginaw, MI, for those of you keeping score at home.) Given my obsession with all things Green Lantern, it may interest you to note that it was Guy who got a power ring in our Justice League. But it made sense -- the current Green Lantern was named Guy, so Guy had a personal interest in him. I was Rocket, a pyrokinetic (although I didn't go full-"flame on" like Fire did). I also had phasing abilities -- stolen from Phase from DC's L.E.G.I.O.N., not Kitty Pryde.

The members of the League were our friends from school, including Stopwatch (a mutant-like character (he was a Marvel fan) with the ability to halt time for a few moments), Blue Lantern (a Green Lantern who had been struck by lightning, making his power ring blue and removing the weakness to the color yellow), and Nightstar (based on my friend Katie, she could control and produce light). We made a single one-subject notebook full of full-color stories -- unfortunately, that notebook has been lost forever.

We would later make another generation of comics under the "Z Comics" publishing label, starring updated versions of our characters with some new allies. Those comics, I still have. All of them. And once I get a scanner I'll show you a few. But that's a subject for another essay.

Being fans of Star Trek and space exploration in general, it seemed only natural that Guy and I would be fans of Green Lantern. Intergalactic space cops with a ring that could do anything you wanted it to. How cool is that? We started buying the Green Lantern monthly.

It was the summer of 1992. That's when I met Hal.

Green Lantern #25. Hal literally comes out of nowhere, coming to claim the right to be Green Lantern of Earth. Guy and Hal settle the argument with an old-fashioned fistfight -- a knock-down, drag-out brawl that pits the grey-templed Hal against the youthful, angry Guy.

And Hal kicks his ass.

I immediately sided with Hal because Guy was on Guy's side -- sibling rivalry. Like the decision to read DC over Marvel, it started out by pure chance. But Hal was cool. Here was a guy my dad's age that still had the guts to be a superhero. Who had the stamina to push through the pain of sore muscles and aching bones to win a fight when it really mattered.

And it was a fun monthly, too. Gerard Jones is a witty guy, and M.D. Bright's pencils put the perfect smirk on Hal's face. Green Lantern was clever, it was exciting, it was different. Here was a guy with real, human problems. Knees that ache in the morning. A long-time girlfriend that is looking to get married -- not out of pure love, but out of a lack of other options. Balancing the needs of a city with the needs of his sector with the needs of himself. It was all so incredibly compelling.

And I had no idea it would be all over in two years.

It seems so strange -- that I would develop such a deep, intensely personal bond with Hal as a character in such a relatively short period of time. But then again, two years is about the span of time between the release of Nevermind and Kurt Cobain's suicide, isn't it?

The beginning of the end was the death of Superman. Sure, it was a marketing ploy, but the stories that came out of the aftermath, World Without a Superman and Rise of the Supermen, were actually pretty interesting. But it was during Rise of the Supermen that it would all begin to fall apart. The Cyborg Superman, one of the four Supermen in the story line (the other three being Steel, Superboy, and The Eradicator) was revealed to be a villain working with the alien marauder Mongul. The two set up a base of operations on Earth in the form of a city-sized war machine -- but first they needed to clear a city-sized piece of land.

So they blew up Coast City, Hal Jordan's hometown.

To make the long and painful story of Emerald Twilight short, the loss drove Hal insane. He killed or maimed most of his fellow Green Lantern Corps members, destroyed the Central Power Battery on Oa, and became the villain Parallax. The last Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet, tapped young Kyle Rayner to take up the last remaining Green Lantern ring.

In all fairness, I should have liked Kyle Rayner. After all, it's every Green Lantern fan's dream to have a Guardian randomly walk up to them and say, "Here it is, kid. It's your turn, now." Here's a guy who was living the dream -- this punk kid in a flannel and a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt. Kyle was a comic fan, for Christ's sake. He was one of us. I should have loved him. But I couldn't. Not at the expense of Hal. Not at the expense of the Corps.

And yet, Guy and I stuck with the title for a little over a year -- through Kyle's girlfriend Alex being killed within a week of him getting the ring... through Zero Hour, which pitted the entire DC Universe against Hal -- up to Green Lantern #64.

Well, Guy may have read issues after that, but I didn't care. That one was it for me.

It was the second part of a two-issue fight between Hal and Kyle. Hal beats down on Kyle and the Justice League without much effort. It looks like Parallax's evil will triumph -- but Kyle shames Hal into leaving Earth: "I can't give up. That's not what I hero would do. That's not what a Green Lantern would do." Hal bows his head in defeat. "I... I can't go back to the way things were. I realize that now. I also realize this ring doesn't belong to me. I'm not Green Lantern anymore. You are."

The issue ends with guest pencils by M.D. Bright. It's a flashback to the Coast City days -- Hal finds a boy's lost dog, Skipper. "You're my hero. You make Coast City the best place to live in the whole world." The flashback fades to Hal, sitting alone on an empty, alien landscape. Tears in his eyes. His knees pulled up to his chest. His face, an expression of pure agony.

That was it. I was done.

I wouldn't step foot in a comic shop again for over seven years.

Guy and I stopped making comics. They just weren't fun anymore.

I looked for something else to fill the void. Something full of angst. Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles fit the mold quite nicely. Reading Anne Rice led me to White Wolf's roleplaying game Vampire: the Masquerade. V:tM sites led me to several interesting goth sites on the Web. I began to notice something: on several of these sites, there were shrines set up to a white-skinned girl in black clothes and eye of Horus makeup.

Her name: Death.

Death led me to Sandman, Neil Gaiman's stunning series. It didn't register as a "comic" where my vow against the medium was concerned -- it was largely devoid of superheroes, and you could buy the collected trades at bookstores. I began hunting down the volumes, buying as many as I could afford wherever I could find them. Once, I bought six at the Virgin Megastore in New York City. I had all six read by the time the twelve-hour bus ride back to Saginaw was over.

Three years and two hundred dollars later, I had all ten volumes.

Neil Gaiman had rekindled my love of comic books. I started clinging to my old Green Lantern back issues. I would rant loudly and at great length about Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour to anyone who would listen. I started reading all the great stories I had missed out on. The Watchmen. The Dark Knight Returns. Batman: Year One. Crisis on Infinite Earths.

When I came to MSU, I checked out 21st Century Comics. I noticed a new comic for the week -- The Spectre. I had heard somewhere on the Internet that Hal Jordan was the Spectre now. I decided to check it out.

The story centered around Hal and his niece, Helen. He had taken her into his care after Hal's brother and sister-in-law were murdered. Deciding that Helen couldn't possibly have a proper childhood around a godlike superhero, he tries to send her away to live with distant relatives. Helen's angry reaction on the front porch of her new parents' home shook me to the core.

"It's like I've always loved you! I've always believed you were gonna be a part of my life! ... Fine! Fine! Be that way! But I don't ever want to see you again, Uncle Hal! NEVER!"

My. God. It was exactly what I thought when I had read the Emerald Twilight story so many years ago. I've always believed you were gonna be a part of my life. I don't ever want to see you again. Good God, Helen even looked like how I did when I was that age. And the look, the look on Hal's face when she closes the door -- it still brings tears to my eyes.

I had to put the book down. My hands were shaking. I couldn't deny the power that the Green Lantern mythos had -- that Hal had -- over me any longer. I started picking up back issues with a passion and a fury that has taken a mighty toll on my wallet these past few years. But it didn't matter. It was like phoning up an old flame and discovering she still loves you after all these years.

So imagine my unbridled joy when I learned that Hal Jordan was coming back from the dead. That he was going to wear the Green Lantern ring again.

On February 16, Hal took up the ring for the first time in eleven years. And hell yes, it choked me up. The DCU may be a screwed-up place to be, but as long as there is the Corps, all is not lost yet.

So now I've come full circle. Back to reading Green Lantern comics. Back, perhaps, to drawing my own comics.

Back to comics being fun again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the metaphor 'like discovering she still loves you'.

I was lucky to do it all backwards, discovering Hal long after the disgrace so it was *interesting* instead of horrible..But I've heard of a few other people who quit comics over that.


5:20 PM, November 02, 2005  
Anonymous Ron said...

YAY, you're back!

10:45 PM, November 02, 2005  
Anonymous Comic book super heroes said...

Hi Amy, I came across your site while doing a search on Marvel Comics Super Heroes. Although you don't have exactly what I'm looking for, your site did provide for quite an interesting read. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

5:49 PM, November 10, 2005  
Blogger Scipio said...

Amy, thanks for sharing that story with us. It's a touching example of how moving comic books can be for us.

In my case, no matter how much people make fun of Vibe, I still cry every time I think about his horrible death.

10:20 AM, November 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

8:34 AM, November 21, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home