Thursday, March 04, 2010


Hitting the fan: In Memoriam


DC, you ____ing b______s!


It has been said that, if the entire population of China was to walk in front of you nine abreast, the procession would never end due to the rate of birth. Well, if the readers of DC Comics--and any person who loves decent comics in general--were to somehow form themselves into an orderly queue to deliver a kick in the balls to Dan Didio, James Robinson, and anybody else involved in the production of the just-concluded Cry for Justice miniseries, that line would also never end because they would keep lining up for more kicking, and keep on lining up until their feet were eroded down to stumps, and then they'd have corrective surgery and get new titanium feet just so they could keep on kicking.
Justice League: Cry for Justice is a 7 issue miniseries made to lead into an upcoming crossover event. It was written by James Robinson, who made his mark writing Starman during the 1990s, a run that brought acclaim from readers and critics alike, and has since made it onto many "best of" comics lists. Robinson then proceeded to fritter away all the goodwill he gained from this until it reached nil with Cry for Justice.
The series started out a as being simply reviled, a relic of the Dark Age, with overblown dialogue and actions and cliched grimdark storytelling. The main villain was Prometheus. Prometheus started out as one of the greatest threats the DC heroes had ever faced right off the bat. Subsequent appearances, however, made him less and less threatening... until it was revealed that this was an impostor, and the original, hypercompetent Prometheus had been imprisoned. He was reintroduced to the DCU in an impressive special issue of Faces of Evil. The buildup then and throughout his appearance in Cry for Justice was intense.
Then he just got killed quite easily, but not before destroying a city, offing several minor heroes, and capping it all off by killing Lian Harper.
Before I continue, let me state that DC has absolutely no idea how to deal with child characters. Practically the only child ever allowed to age and reach teenagerhood is Robin, or rather the three individuals who took up the Robin mantle as children and grew out of it (Dick Grayson as Nightwing, Jason Todd as Red Hood [another snafu, but we won't get into that here], and Tim Drake as Red Robin). Yes, three. And there's currently a fourth Robin, Damian Wayne. Formulaic much?
Anyway, the only time this rule was excepted was in
Young Justice, a series about a team of underaged superheroes. It was completely AWESOME, and I'd show you pictorial evidence of this but scans of the series are hard to come by ever since writer Peter David pissed off many fans by complaining about too much of his work being shared online, leading to one of the dreaded Inernet Backdrafts. (Despite it being one of the very few positive-attitude, family-friendly mainstream comic books in recent years, YJ was canceled so that some members could reform the Teen Titans, via the "Graduation" storyline, which was bad but nowhere near as bad as CfJ.)
Back on topic. Quick history of Lian Harper: daughter of the hero Roy Harper, a.k.a. Speedy a.k.a. Arsenal a.k.a. Red Arrow, and the villainess Cheshire. Made her debut in New Teen Titans #21 back in 1986 (with red hair even though it's been black in every other appearance, but let's not hold that against her). Grew up into toddlerhood and childhood in her father's home. Friends with some of the DCU's heaviest hitters.

Cute as a button

and twice as awesome.

She also--

That, my friends, is what was revealed in Cry for Justice #7 yesterday.
The first intimations of impending disaster were revealed on the Titanstower blog, which found disturbing implications in the dialogue of an issue set after CfJ. Their suspicions, sadly, have been proven correct. How can this possible be a good thing to do, DC? How??
It's Lian Harper! Lian freaking Harper! She was sweet and funny and adorable and she was just an innocent little girl, you shmucks! How dare you, James Robinson? How dare you, Dan Didio? This is vile. This is nauseating. I would say that this is "everything wrong in comics today", except this is worse. You knocked off this cute little girl who had inoffensively been a cute little girl for 24 years--longer than I have been alive--and the apple of her father's eye, loved by all! Why? Why??
"Character development"? You think Lian's death was required for character development? Let me tell you, I can think off the top of my head ten dozen ways to give a character development, and, get this, not one of them involves the death of a little girl! It's nothing more than a cheap trick, a shock for the sake of no more than shock value, a revolting offense against all modicum of good taste.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people? Bad stuff happens in the real world? Guess what! I don't read comic books about aliens from other planets and millionaire vigilantes and alternate dimensions for realism! It's escapism! How hard can this possibly be to understand? Comic books are (meant to be) one of the best sources for fun escapism ever created! I want tragedy, I'll go read Shakespeare or something! I'm not saying comic books ought to be devoid of death and disease, but KILLING LIAN HARPER--?
Remember when I metioned Internet Backdrafts earlier? This one has set off the Mother Of All Internet Backdrafts, at least in the part of it that concerns itself with comics. I have not had an active online presence for very long, but I doubt there's been much like it in the history of ever--no single event immediately incurring such wrath. (Except "One More Day".) I mean, other series like Ultimatum or Countdown have been hated for their permeating stupidity, and issues like the way Stephanie Brown's death and legacy were handled became a byword for incompetence, sure, but this takes the issue of quality, throws in callous offensiveness, and drags the series beyond So Bad It's Good, beyond So Bad It's Horrible, beyond So Horrible It's ____, and into some uncharted realm of awfulness where, by some horrible quirk, it practically circles around to become a masterpiece.
As one internet commentator has put it, DC has gone from women in refrigerators (trope namer Alex DeWitt) to raped women in refrigerators (Sue Dibny) to girls in refrigerators (Lian). What's next, RAPED GIRLS in refrigerators? Wait, don't answer that. I don't want to give Mr. Didio any ideas. In fact, all this made is even odder by the fact that Didio is supposedly moving DC into a "newer, brighter" mode with the "Brightest Day" event set to follow the awesome ongoing "Blackest Night" crossover. This is brighter and happier? This plumbs new depths of depravity, and to what end? To provide a cheap shock, to propel characters into more moneymaking miniseries. What characters? Roy Harper and her grandfather, Green Arrow.
Whut.Yes, her grandfather. He's the one who killed the mighty Prometheus (with an arrow, through his armor. How the hell does that make sense?), he's the one who went out and avenged her death. What the...?! Green Arrow was never this close to his granddaughter! He was never even that close to her father! In fact, it's a misnomer to term him her grandfather, as he never even formally adopted Roy Harper. And when he found out he'd become a heroin addict, he threw him out onto the streets. Way to parent, Ollie! Recently, however, DC has perplexingly been ignoring all this, making Roy willingly go into the "family business" by changing his alias and costume to resembles Green Arrow's and encouraging the latter when he began teaching Lian archery despite the fact that he'd previously said that he didn't want her to be a part of his dangerous world. Tough luck there, Roy! Hey, guess what else? Now you've actually lost all character depth you had when Lian was around and are about to become a one-note "hero" fueled by angst and vengeance!
(Roy also lost an arm in this miniseries but even that was not so facepalmingly awful, not even when they milked that particular development beyond all its worth in subsequent cover imagery and planned storylines.)
Why do such revolting stories still get published? We can't just blame the writers and editors--a not-insignificant portion of fans actually like this type of drivel. As of this writing, 46% of the voters on a Newsarama poll have rated this issue 2 out of 4 stars or higher, with over 250 fans giving it the highest ranking. Money talks, bull____ gets printed, and all in all I have to say is this is very lousy time to be a comic book fan.
Capping this all off, Lian Harper may have been unique in that readers saw her growing up from the sidelines from birth to... um, whatever age she had reached. 6? 10? Comic book ages are left deliberately ambiguous, which can be a pain. But the point is, she was the first. Let's take a look at some other kids born to DC characters:
*Aquaman's son Arthur, Jr.. Asphyxiated in infancy.
*Tempest's son Cerdian. Killed along with his mother off-panel, age about 1.
*Donna Troy's son Robert. Killed in a car crash, age about 1.
*Catwoman's daughter Helena. Taken away soon after birth, location unknown--and perhaps, seeing this list, that's all for the better. Like I said before, DC has no idea how to deal with children, or at the very least the concept of them aging and developing into something--gasp!--new. The exceptions to the rule, the underage Young Justice members, were introduced when they were already almost teenagers; tellingly, the only one without superpowers was... Robin (version tim.drake), who as I've pointed has character immunity (except for Jason Todd, sort of, but we won't get into that here either) (EDIT: Arrowette [another archer!] had no superpowers either; she just retired and dropped off the radar completely except for the Wonder Girl mini a few years back). Apparently you need abnormal abilities if you expect to reach maturity in the DCU.
Lian Harper found this out the hard way.


____ you, you b______s!


Hear, hear! I thought Cry for Justice was going to wind up being a camp classic, but now it looks like it's going to go down as one of the most reviled publications in DC's history.

As for children in the DCU, I'm still holding out hope that Hal Jordan's niece, Helen, is still alive and well out there somewhere in the DCU.
What KILLS me is that they had a much better option staring them in the face: if you want to bump off somebody and enrage Ollie to the point of murderous vengeance (because 90,000 Star City residents and Roy's arm aren't enough, apparently), you could bump off MIA. Yes, you'd still elicit a lot of fan rage, but in the context of the story it would make SENSE--GA's much closer to her, and she's already been infected with a potentially fatal disease anyway--and it would be less, shall we say, "controversial". This is just sick.
Well said, but a few corrections. Lian's hair was red in a number of books, including Green Arrow uh, 75, I think it is, when she changed height from panel to panel and looked about 8 or 10. Her hair was red when Roy went after Cheshire to see her and ended up getting custody of her in Action Weekly. I'll be doing a Lian tribute post either today or this weekend.

Also, more than the Robins have been allowed to age. In fact, all of the former Teen Titans have: Roy, Wally, and Donna have all entered their 20s after first appearing in the DCU in their early teens if not younger.

You can't age the children without aging the parents, so I can understand Lian being stuck at 6 years old or thereabouts. That's about how much older Roy is after Lian's birth.

What really kills me is that I have to read the Rise and Fall books just to see what happens to Roy, because Roy's my all-time favorite comic book character.
Excellent take down.

And you're right, bumping off Mia would have made more sense in the context of the story. This issue was just fucking ridiculous.
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Right on! I couldn't have put it better myself. Everything you had to say was spot on.

One of the main reasons I started reading DC books was because I was sick and tired of the way Marvel would simply kill off young characters with great potential simply for shock value(just look at the Childhood's End storyline in New X-Men post Decimation), but it seems DC has become even WORSE then Marvel with Cry #7. I've read a lot of comics in my day, but I don't think any comic sickened me as much as Cry #7 did. What a disgrace...
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