Saturday, September 1, 2012

James Robinson is From Earth 2

Hi, I'm Dave. I like comic books. I read comic books.

I decided to take a risk on James Robinson and pick up DC's Earth 2. It was the same risk that ended in disappointment when I picked up his seven issue Justice League: Cry For Justice mini-series and again when I started reading his run on the main Justice League book.

Cry For Justice was a brilliant idea, but the idea for a separate, more pro-active, Justice League is not a new one. Batman famously left the League and started The Outsiders, when foreign policy kept him from rescuing Lucius Fox from Baron Bedlam in Markovia. for a time Martian Manhunter led a Justice League: Task Force; Captain Atom led a Justice League: Extreme. Prior to the legendary epic Crisis on Infinite Earths, Aquaman moved the League inland to Detroit. Afterward, there was the Bwa-ha-ha-ha League with Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Guy Gardner; and both the Justice League International and Justice League Europe. When an alien entity was interested in remaking the Earth as a new home, The Advance Man inadvertantly launched the Justice Leagues. Superman and Martian Manhunter were part of a Justice League of Aliens, Wonder Woman led a Justice League of Amazons, Aquaman led a Justice League of Atlantis, while the Batman Family was a Justice League of Arkham. What Robinson brought to Cry For Justice was a lot of rage and vengeance. A sense of righteous anger. He was going to shake up the status quo by making the heroes more pro-active and have them go after the bad guys. He pitted his League against a rogue Batman, named Prometheus. Who cut off Speedy's arm. Prometheus was so evil that there was only one way to stop him.

Start to finish, Cry For Justice was just dark, bitter and angry. There was no "Brightest Day" for either Green Lantern Hal Jordan or Green Arrow Oliver Queen at the end.

When Robinson took over for Dwayne McDuffie on Justice League of America after Cry For Justice, he pretty much inherited a Teen Titans book. Superman had gone off to New Krypton and was replaced by Mon-El from the Legion of Super-Heroes; Bruce Wayne was supposed dead and replaced by Dick Grayson as Batman; and, Donna Troy replaced Diana Prince as Wonder Woman. They were joined by Cyborg, Jade, Supergirl and Starfire.

I would have loved to see Robinson's take on either the Teen Titans or the Justice League. Not a hybrid of the two. The problem I found with trying to read his League is that I knew Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince would eventually return to their roles and the team would morph into something completely different. Again. Anything done in-between seemed more of a distraction.

Now, as part of The New 52, James Robinson has launched Earth 2.

The basic question I had, he answered immediately, which was: How do you have a Justice Society apart from the Golden Age and World War II? His answer part of relaunching DC's titles in a New Age, replace Hitler and the War with Darkseid and an invasion from Apocalypse. Brilliant.

In four issues he has re-introduced and updated The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, The Atom, Terry Sloane and Mister Terrific. He has decisively set them and their world apart from what might be considered Earth 1 - or the Earth where all the main action happens, whatever designation that Earth now has.

The only conclusion I can come to is that James Robinson is Roy Thomas' love child and that he is from Earth 2 and has no Earth 1 counterpart.

After taking over for Stan Lee at Marvel, Roy Thomas launched The Invaders, bringing together Captain America and Bucky, The Human Torch and Toro and Namor, The Sub-Mariner. To this core line-up he added Union Jack, Spitfire, The Whizzer and Miss America.

Moving to DC, Thomas launched the All-Star Squadron, grouping all of DC's Golden Age wartime heroes under President Roosevelt as a single unit.

One of his early projects at DC was a four-issue mini-series called, The Golden Age. It was an Elseworlds (alternate reality) look at the All-Star Squadron heroes post-World War II.

Following this, Robinson launched his most defining work.

Jack Knight made his first appearance, with his father, Ted, the Golden Age Starman, and brother David, in Zero Hour 1. The five-issue backwards numbered Zero Hour was an attempt to clean up some continuity hiccups created in the decade following Crisis On Infinite Earths. One of those hiccups appeared to be the co-existence of both a Golden Age and Modern Age Hawkman. One a reincarnated Pharaoh, the other a space cop. Hakwman became a singular hero. Zero Month followed, relaunching all of DC's characters.

Reading the first four issues of Earth 2, and seeing what Robinson may be doing there, has got me going back and re-reading Starman.

As if I needed a reason to do that. All I needed was a day that ended in "y".

With Starman, Robinson was able to carve out and define an obscure corner of the DC Universe. He drew attention to characters that at best were secondary support to heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern. He may just be doing that again with Earth 2. I think most people are like me, hoping that he can do that kind of thing again.

His success with Starman, was that he made readers care about the characters he was writing. That's the kind of success any writing hopes for. My father passed from prostate cancer at the same time as Ted Knight's final battle with The Mist. Reading what James Robinson was doing with Jack and Ted's relationship, and how Jack related to those around him, hero, villain, civillian was compelling. I made a connection with a fictional character. I enjoyed his adventures. Robinson and co-creator Tony Harris created a character that I identified with, and felt was a little like me.

So, while I am reading Earth 2, I'll be re-reading Starman. And hoping that Robinson brings back heroes like Larry Jordan as Air Wave.
Maybe without the roller skates, though.

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