This is a two-part edition of SS250's Inspirations because I have a LOT to say on the subject. So, I'm going to take part one to discuss the basics, and part two to discuss some of my favorite storylines and details that have inspired my writings.
DC Comics have always been my favorite comics ever since I was a little kid. Growing up, everyone I knew was into Marvel Comics and their dark and killer heroes (Spider-Man being the exception that proved the rule), but my bread and butter was DC. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash… All these heroes shaped my personality and my writings extensively.
I like DC Comics in general, because they are more optimistic and idealistic. The good guys don’t always win, but they almost never lose either. It’s a world where the heroes are heroes, and the villains are villains, and the grey area between is fairly small. I’m highly idealistic and while I am a pessimist myself, the optimism of DC has always appealed to me more than anything.
Compare this to Marvel Comics (which I do adore, but considerably LESS), which is a dark universe, where most (not all, but MOST) heroes kill their villains or are even downright murderers. Admittedly, it wasn’t and still isn’t as dark as Image Comics was, but the Marvelverse is NOT a nice place to live. Its heroes are hated by the general populace (Spidey is a prime example), its villains generally run roughshod, and its heroes spend more time fighting each other than fighting the baddies.
Admittedly, the DC Universe isn’t that great either, considering the world is CONSTANTLY on the brink of destruction from one cosmic event or another, but at least DC’s heroes ALWAYS walk away with a victory when it counts. They are viewed as the icons and role models they are, rather than menaces. They are a positive influence on their world and their people. They never kill except in extreme circumstances. In the DCverse, at least normal people can have a hope of living a peaceful life under the watchful eyes of its heroes.
My favorite heroes were (and ARE) Superman, Captain Marvel, and Green Lantern. I’ll talk a little about each of them in turn and why I like them.
Growing up, EVERYONE I KNEW loved Batman. “He’s got no powers, that makes him awesome! He’s all dark and brooding! He makes bad guys run in fear!” they said. My answer, “So flippin’ what?” Make no mistake, Batman is one of my favorite heroes EVER (Batman: Arkham City is one of the best games of all time), but given a choice, I’ll read a Superman comic ANY day. I was the only kid in my school who liked the Big Blue Boy Scout. And honestly, that’s WHY I liked him.
In a culture so obsessed with the “dark hero,” the guy who wears black and breaks all the rules, Superman has always been the opposite. He inspires hope, not fear. He leads by example and inspires everyone around him to be better and do great things. He holds powerful values and an unbreakable moral compass that guides him to do the right thing. You don’t read Superman because of his POWERS… You read Superman because of who he IS. The MAN is the important part, not the SUPER. And NO, Quentin Tarantino, DESPITE your pretty speech in Kill Bill Vol. 2, CLARK KENT is Superman, not the other way around. Superman is the disguise, Clark is the real identity! It’s been that way for decades.
Superman represents everything I think a hero should be. His strength doesn’t define him, his belief in Truth and Justice does… and NO, Superman does NOT stand for the American Way, folks! Sorry to burst everyone’s patriotic bubble, but Superman represents EVERYONE from EVERY COUNTRY. He stands for the HUMAN way. DC actually stopped using the phrase “American Way” when describing Superman a few decades ago, because it couldn’t be taken seriously. Yes, Superman can come off superficially as a big goody-two-shoes, but that’s WHY you should like him. He WON’T do ANYTHING to bring justice to bad guys. He has self-imposed limits on how far he is willing to go. He won’t kill. He won’t harm people more than he has to. Given the choice, he’ll talk his way out of a situation diplomatically, rather than using force. He is what every hero should strive to be, what every PERSON should strive to be. Superman has formed my view of what an ideal hero should be more than any other character in pop culture.
Captain Marvel is often viewed as a Superman rip-off… And to be honest, historically, that’s the truth. However, he has gotten his own identity in recent years, and is one of the more interesting superheroes out there. When young Billy Batson shouts the word “Shazam!” he gains the power of Captain Marvel, with the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury. He is the World’s Mightiest Mortal, the Big Red Cheese. He also has some of the quirkiest and funniest villains ever, like Doctor Sivana, who is a super-genius mad scientist with a HILARIOUS sense of humor, or Mister Mind, a Venusian worm with mind-control powers. Sadly, Captain Marvel and his allies, the Marvel Family, have gotten the short end of the stick in recent years when it comes to how DC has treated them, but the old comic series The Power of Shazam is still one of my favorites. Marvel is the hero everyone wishes they could be, every little kid’s dream come to life. After all, who doesn’t wish they had a magic word that would transform them into the most powerful person in the world?
Finally, Green Lantern… There have been FIVE Green Lanterns in recent comic history. Alan Scott, the first… Hal Jordan, the most famous… John Stewart, the failure and token black guy in the Justice League cartoon… Guy Gardner, who is rough-edged and awesome… and Kyle Rayner, who is the greatest of the Lanterns and my favorite. Kyle Rayner was introduced in the mid-90s in the aftermath of the Death of Superman. Hal Jordan had gone insane and killed ALL the other GLs or taken away their powers. One last Guardian of the Universe (by the name of Ganthet) had escaped with one single Green Lantern Power Ring… and appeared to young Rayner, who was 19 at the time. He handed over the Ring with no instructions, no help, no guidance, and vanished. Kyle was a Green Lantern for a new generation, unlike anything that had come before.
Rayner was introduced as a concept that hadn’t been seen for DECADES… Green Lantern as a SUPERHERO rather than as a SPACE COP. He was the LAST GL. No backup, no mentors, just his skill as an artist and his boundless willpower. He didn’t travel space, he didn’t fight alien criminals… He stayed on Earth and fought supervillains. Being younger, he played into pop culture and used it in his power. In one comic, he mentions he’s a huge Manga fan, and uses giant mecha or similar designs in his constructs. Sadly, DC has a nasty habit of bringing back heroes no one likes or cares about, and so Hal Jordan is back and Rayner has been shunted to the side.
Rayner represented the everyman who is forced into the role of a hero. He had no experience, no guidance, he didn’t even WANT the powers. In his comic, we got to see him grow into the role of Green Lantern without being tied down by the inane rules that previous heroes had to conform to. He could be his OWN GL, and learn to do things his way. He was a young hero, who learned at the hands of the masters, from Superman, from Batman, and from other greats.
…Also, I’d be remiss, if I didn’t mention that Kyle Rayner is the most powerful and greatest fighter of any GL in history (and I’m including the aliens). Rayner has been shown to be able to take on upwards of twenty bad guys at once WITHOUT the ring with martial arts skills (learned from Batman), and is a high-level tactician (thanks to Martian Manhunter and others). He suffered none of the weaknesses of previous Lanterns (yellow, wood, having to recharge the ring) and had a greater imagination than any who came before.
In the next part of SS250’s Inspirations: DC Comics, I’ll be discussing some of my favorite comic book events from DC Comics and will talk about how they’ve inspired me.