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I’d Keep the Titans Childless

Like Marvel, DC would prefer not to age their characters too much, and I think a major instance of this aging is when Donna Troy, Garth and Wally West, three sidekicks to Silver Age heroes, got married and had kids.

I’d have kept them childless. Marriage is one thing, but if the original members of the Justice League are suddenly old enough to be grandparents – then that just doesn’t really work, does it?

25 Comments

Matt Lazorwitz

March 15, 2008 at 3:42 am

Just curious, Brian, as you don’t mention Red Arrow, are you ok with him and Cheshire having a kid, or did you just not mention him because he and Cheshire didn’t marry? Not snark, just honest curiosity.

Yeah, nobody likes old heroes. I mean, what if Wolverine were old? Or Captain America? or Nick Fury? Or Thor? Or Hercules? Or Galactus? Keep ‘em young I say. Nobody wants to read about old people.

When I was a kid, I liked to think of my heroes as being in their late-ish thirties, as the comics often suggested, but being in my mid-thirties myself, now, I can somehow accept any heroes as something to look up to only when they are at least some years older than me. I now think of Supes, Bats, et al, as being near to 50.

Yeah, nobody likes old heroes. I mean, what if Wolverine were old? Or Captain America? or Nick Fury? Or Thor? Or Hercules? Or Galactus?

Hey, great point!

If you’d named anyone who isn’t kept perennially young via immortality or an outside source.

So, no, not a great point.

When I was a kid, I liked to think of my heroes as being in their late-ish thirties, as the comics often suggested

Which I imagine the kids today like to do as well.

Wait, you mean kids still read comics?

Well, Superman is 70…

I don’t mind if kids/teens age in comics, but the adults don’t seem to age. If Batman brought Robin to this life when he was 13 and now Nightwing is in his early-mid 20’s, Batman himself don’t seem to age at all.

Sean: What about Frank Castle? AFAIK he’s still a Vietnam veteran and ages regularly. At least it was the case until few years ago and in MAX (that War Journal guy seems too muscular and young).

Character’s age in comics requires suspension of disbelief. When I started reading, Dick Greyson Robin was cannon established as 8. And, Bucky wasn’t much older.

As the years, and the ret-cons, have gone by. Some heroes have aged, and some haven’t (and some have de-aged. Yes, I’m looking at you Green Arrow.)

I think it is a variation on the Seven Year Rule: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SevenYearRule

Dick Greyson and Wally West were kid-sidekicks so long ago, it might as well be backstory to the modern new reader. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter that they are the same age or perhaps older than their former mentors.

Theno

I’d keep the Titans teens.

Yeah, sorry, should have mentioned Roy – I think he’s okay, because he was an example of a person who had kids when they weren’t really ready for it – that’s fair enough (not to mention that Ollie is supposed to be older than the other heroes).

The other ones, though, had them as the natural extension of their normal lives – which is fine, normally, but not so fine when you’re working in a medium that needs to keep everyone’s ages down as much as you can, so you really CAN’T give them the “natural progression of life.”

I just don’t believe in freezing characters’ ages. Yes, it means you have to suspend disbelief every once in a while to adjust your perception of ages. But does altering the Fantastic Four’s origin so that they didn’t get their powers in the mid-1960’s really affect today’s story?

I believe we’ve had to alter some other characters like that, too. Say, James Bond, Tarzan, or the Brady Bunch.

(ok, I admit I couldn’t come up with a third character…)

KMFPL: I’d add MASH instead of Brady Bunch.

The show is famous for the complaint that the show outlasted the setting. A complaint that evaporates when watched in syndication (daily) instead of as broadcast (weekly with seasons).

Theno

Thanks for the save, Thenodrin!

Sean Whitmore said…
“Hey, great point!
If you’d named anyone who isn’t kept perennially young via immortality or an outside source.”

Why is that relevant? Old is old. Old people can have grandkids. QED

I think it’s relevant because the characters you named are old in years, but not physically old. You don’t hear Galactus complaining about his arthritis, or Thor’s family worrying that he might have Alzheimer’s.

But take Wally West as an example. He bacame Kid Flash at about age 10. Barry was probably 30 or more, as an established Police Scientist, who had been Flash for years.

If Wally is now 30, that means Barry would be 50. Well, so what? Barry’s dead, right?

But his contemporaries in the JLA are around 50 now, too. OK for Superman, Wonder Woman, or J’Onn. Not so great for Green Arrow, Black Canary, or The Atom.

Again, my solution is to ignore the problem. But I understand Brian’s point, and the immortality issue is relevant to that. We’re talking about natural effects of aging, I think…

Other than Donna’s marriage to a beardy frizzy lameass, I don’t really have a problem with the Titan’s aging, marriage, kids, the Flashcredibles or any of that.

I am of two minds about this.

On the one hand, the progression of Dick Grayson and Wally West has been really interesting to read. Roy Harper was less so, but still had his moments. Donna Troy seemed to transform from a nineteen-year-old to a woman of 39 over-night, but Wolfman was playing out a personal fantasy to some extent instead of developing the character. He was right so often with those characters that it is easy to forgive, but he really did create a world of problems for her. Garth has always been a back-bencher.

On the other hand, the characters have often seemed to age at the whim of the writers and editors on hand. Nightwing aged from about 19 to about 29 in roughly real time. Then, he stopped. Part of it was that no one prior to Grant Morrison had much interest in writing a forty-something Batman in the regular monthly title. That put a cap as the former Robin aged ever closer to Batman in his physical prime. Another part seemed to be indecision about where to go next. Does he wind up with Bara

cont.

Does he wind up with Barbara Gordon, or Starfire, or someone else? That is not the type of question that has ever been front and center in any of the Batman Family books. Batman is a tragedy and love cannot fix his problems. That tone carries over into Nightwing.

Wally West lost the constraint of his mentor in the mid-80s. Ironically, he has aged more slowly and steadily ever since. The current character seems to be in his mid-to-late 30s. I personally miss the womanizing quipster of the Baron and Messner-Loebs runs. However, Mark Waid was never a fan of that guy and aged him away.

However, Wally being in his mid-30s puts the Barry Allen generation into their mid-50s. It changes the nature of these stories in unwelcome ways. For example, Lois Lane will now never have children, which is no fun to read about. The Bruce Wayne/Tim Drake relationship becomes outright weird. Princess Diana may not age, but Hal Jordan would certainly be looking lumpy in spandex. Ditto Aquaman.

I know that there are individual reasons for that, but that is precisely the problem. Good superhero stories are built around plausible human beings dealing with consequences of one miracle exemption to the laws of nature. Subsequent miracles are both less plausible and less interesting than the initial one. At some point, these are not people like us at all.

I am not sure what to do about it. One solution is to make every title like JLA Confidential and jump around the history of the DCU. Tell ‘New Forntier’ era Hal Jordan and Barry Allen stories, then jump ahead to ‘Kingdom Come’ era stories featuring an adult Wally West. However, that increases the demands on the editors quite a bit. They need to know what year Superman dies and how. The same with every other character. They need to know rough ages in early twenty-first century for all their protagonists and commit to them in present day settings, etc.

Actually, Dean, I think that there is an easier answer.

Confine all special event (and by this I mean in-character holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) to special one shots that only happen on EIC say-so, and then very very rarely.

Then, openly admit that the stories being written are for trade paperback publication, intended to be read in one or two sittings, not spread out over 6-8 months.

There is no reason, for example, to think that the events in Nightwing 1-60 occurred over a period of five years, unless you were at the time buying them monthly. If you were to sit and read them now, how much time would they span? I don’t know, because I haven’t re-read them recently, but I can say with confidence that I don’t think the stories would cover more than a year, if that, of Dick Greyson’s life.

Just like when I first read The Belgariad, it never occurred to me that the events were happening over the course of three years, the rate at which the books were published. They happened over the course of the time described within the books.

Going this route would mean that the editor would have to watch for and evaluate any “dated” material that makes it into the book. Why have The Avengers meet President Bush when they can meet the President’s aide who could be anyone from any administration? Why have Aquaman aid Katrina victims, when he could help victims of an unnamed hurricane tragedy?

Basically, it would be planning ahead on things like Marvel’s sliding timescale that forced a renaming of the Soviet Super Soldiers, because they have slid past the point where there was a Soviet Union (although, honestly, who among us saw that coming at the time?)

I really think that it would be easy to do, and easy to market. The webcomic CRFH launched Jan 99 with the characters just starting college. Since then it has only had one Christmas plot, because the characters are still in the first year of college. In fact, they just wrapped up spring break. And, yet, it isn’t “the longest semester ever” because the strips cover practically every little detail of the roomie’s lives. Going back and re-reading the archives isn’t like reading years of stories, but months of stories where you have to hit the “next” button a lot.

I see no reason why a similiar time line couldn’t be adapted for comic books.

Theno

Something that’s always surprised me, with all the “postmodern” and “meta-” writing and attempts to thwart, subvert, lampshade hang, and explain away all the silly little cliches of comic books (e.g., why did the government let Cap bring a kid into combat? Because that kid was their wetworks guy. Why did Dr. Light go from being a serious threat to the JLA a stooge who always lost to the Titans? Magical lobotomy) that no one’s ever just taken “comic book time” and run with it in-story (that I’ve seen at least).

I keep expecting someone writer with a Big Idea (or who thinks he has a Big Idea) to have a character casually say something like “You know, I’ve met a dozen different presidents, and I always get tongue tied … waitaminute – I’m only 22! How is that possible?” and have it slowly dawn on the characters that something is keeping them from aging, and also keeping anyone from consciously realizing it. Maybe even just acknowledge it, then have the “Suspension of Disbelief” spell over the planet kick in and make them forget.

Or better yet, people always complain that it doesn’t make sense that a world with Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Forge (or Mr. Terrific, John Henry Irons, and Lex Luthor) in it doesn’t look any different than our own, and that comic book characters don’t age. Kill two birds with one stone: say Reed/Lex cured aging.

KMFPL said …
I think it’s relevant because the characters you named are old in years, but not physically old. You don’t hear Galactus complaining about his arthritis, or Thor’s family worrying that he might have Alzheimer’s.

You kids! You think everyone over thirty is crippled with arthritis! LOL!

Besides, superheroes solve global biological threats every day. And they have access to time machines, shrinking rays, alien technology, Reed Richard’s multidimensional counterparts, hyperintelligent beings, and goodness knowe what else. You think they don’t have a cure for arthritis??

ZZZ said:
Kill two birds with one stone: say Reed/Lex cured aging.

Reed already did it, in “Fantastic Four: The End” by Alan Davis. Sorry Lex!

ZZZ says it better than I can. I wish we could edit our posts!

Superheroes having kids can be a problem, because unaging kids can call attention to the artificiality of comic book time. That’s probably why Aquaman’s kid was killed off in the late 70s – he’d been a baby/toddler for a decade’s worth of stories. And how long has Franklin Richards been 4 1/2, anyway? Since the Lee-Kirby days?

I think DC is smart to try and keep their past stories on 12 year timeline. It keeps the Titans in their early to mid 20s, & the original JLA at 35-37 on the outside. It works as a vague backstory, as long as you don’t try to analyize it too closely & fit in every single story DC’s ever published.

I think Franklin Richards is like 8 or 9, now. He definitely seems older than 4 in SI:FF in any case.

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