I was a DC guy growing up.
No, I didn’t live in Washington. But I preferred DC comics to Marvel.
I can’t tell you why exactly. Certainly, Marvel was cooler. Come to think of it, maybe that is why. Whenever in my life I’ve come close to being cool, I put on a heavier jacket.
It just seemed to me that the DC heroes took their crime-fighting and world-saving more seriously. The Marvel folks had too much fun, always wise-cracking. You’d never hear Hal Jordan say, “I’m your friendly neighborhood Green Lantern.”
Also, the DCers had history. They even had ancestors from the “Golden Age” who wore much sillier costumes. (Check out Golden Age Flash in his aerodynamic hardhat in the cover at right.) Sometimes, through the magic of alternate universes, the heroes from my era teamed up with their antique counterparts to fight…well, I don’t remember who or what they fought. The Nazi Penguin, maybe?
DC also had a lot of teams. They already had the Golden Age Justice Society of America in action when that egomaniacal, cameo-loving Stan Lee was just a teenager. JSA, of course, turned into the Justice League. They had Teen Titans, with all the sidekicks who were just itching to get away from their possibly illegal man-boy relationships: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash. And my favorite: The Legion of Superheroes–the teenaged superheroes of the future who traveled back in time to recruit Superboy because the 14 of them couldn’t handle future crime by themselves.
The problem with DC was that any medium other than comic books was like kryptonite to them. That old Superman TV series, in which The Man of Steel never seemed to go up against anything worse than a common thug, was so awful the actor killed himself. Then there was that silly Batman TV series wherein the villains were so terrifying, one of them was actually played by Liberace. And don’t forget later fiascos like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Batman & Robin: The Nippled Crusader.
But DC seems poised to make a multimedia comeback. There was the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, for example. There’s a Superman-Batman duet coming, with Ben Affleck, who has always been a double agent in the comic movie wars (remember when he single-handedly killed Marvel’s Daredevil?), finally declaring his allegiance to DC by playing Batman, and some totally forgettable British guy reprising his role as Supe. I have high hopes for this: the same guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network is portraying Lex Luthor. Talk about type-casting!
DC has been resurgent on television as well. There are currently three successful series on the air: Gotham, Arrow and The Flash, and all three are pretty entertaining.
But I have a complaint.
Why can’t superheroes manage to protect their secret identities anymore?
In Gotham, Batman is disguised as an adolescent boy, so that’s pretty good. But other than that, it seems as though superheroes have succumbed to the idiocy that has overtaken the rest of the planet: everybody wants the entire world to know every little thing about them.
Granted, it’s more difficult than it used to be when people were so dumb that a pair of glasses made you unrecognizable. But between Arrow and The Flash, I figure fewer people know Lady GaGa’s real name. Edward Snowden is better at keeping secrets.
To give you an example of how loosey-goosey people are with their secret identities these days, in one episode of Arrow, the superhero is confronted by his alterego’s best friend. “Why should I trust you?” asks the friend. In reply, the Arrow removes his hood and says dramatically: “Because you always have.” But if I had written the script, he would have said, “Because it’s me, your best friend Oliver Queen, who you don’t recognize when he’s wearing a hoodie!”
Okay, maybe it’s not that much harder than putting on a pair of glasses.
That Arrow scene was in the first season. By the end of the second, it seemed like pretty much everyone in Starling City knew who the Arrow was. Fortunately, that wasn’t too many people, because Starling City seems to get leveled every few months.
Good job, Arrow!
As for me, well regular readers know my name is Mark Hallen. But even most of them don’t know my superhero identity, Junk Mail Man.
Being able to create the stuff you find in your mailbox may not be much of a superpower, but, on the other hand, you don’t see me attracting villains intent on taking over the world. You know, like the Masked Telemarketer and Spamageddon.
See you soon.