Following a recent commentary we wrote about the currently-ongoing Batman crossover Death of the Family, a number of our readers weighed in on Facebook to tell us about how they either hate Damian Wayne and hope to see him die during the story, or else that he’s one of the most interesting, nuanced characters in comics. There wasn’t anyone in the middle, and it got us to thinking about some of the other characters out there that really polarize readers.
A lot of these aren’t necessarily one specific character as they are small groups of characters who share the same endearing or infuriating trait, so bear with us if you see us lumping together Green Lanterns or Teen Titans a bit.
Like Jason Todd before him, this Robin follows on the heels of a decades-long turn at the role by a fan-favorite character. And like Jason, he’s pretty obnoxious.
There is a segment of the audience that loves him for it, thinking that he’s an interesting, complex character and that it’s fun to see the other heroes bounce off of him but for each reader who feels that way there’s another one who just wants to see Bruce’s kid disappear from the pages.
He’s a continuity black hole in the New 52, and his existence flies in the face of DC’s premise that heroes with kids/nephews and nieces/older sidekicks are artificially aged by the experience. Still, keeping him around in deference to the great work Morrison has done on Batman is difficult to argue.
By which we don’t mean the team that Rip Hunter and Animal Man were part of back during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Rather, the forgotten heroes of the New 52 (for the purposes of this conversation) are characters like Wally West, Tempest, Donna Troy, Cassandra Cain and other fan-favorite characters who haven’t appeared yet and, in many cases, who seem to have been specifically avoided by editorial.
While a lot of fans are glad to see some of these characters given a rest (Donna Troy can only die so many times, after all, and giving her a break is pretty similar to doing the same for Jean Grey), even more are upset that such major characters would be given the short shrift in the relaunch, particularly when the reason given is typically that they “age” the heroes too much and yet other, similar characters exist that age those characters just as much.
This one has a lot in common with the previous entry, but it seemed worth mentioning separately since Stephanie’s fans are so vocal–and since the use of the character by Internet commentator Kyrax2 to shame DC at San Diego Comic Con International last year, Steph has taken on a symbolic value for many fans unhappy with the relaunch. That’s led some conspiracy-minded fans to wonder if it’s Kyrax2′s convention stunt that has contributed to, or even caused, DC to avoid using that character as her mere existence is a reminder of the very public black eye the company got.
Hal Jordan taking the job from Alan Scott was probably the least controversial replacement that DC has ever had, with the decision to replace Hal in the ’90s leading to the creation of H.E.A.T., a group of fans who gathered on the Internet to hassle the publisher, threaten the writer and generally terrorize everyone involved with the production of the book.
As a result of that frustration, Kyle Rayner became an incredibly divisive character, hated by the H.E.A.T. crowd and Hal Jordan fans in general who saw him as symptomatic of what they didn’t like about the series at the time but defended more fiercely by readers of his own title than most other characters might be, since those readers saw their character perpetually under attack.
Then you’ve got Guy Gardner who, depending upon whom you ask, isn’t heroic enough, is the greatest Green Lantern ever, was better with the yellow ring, etc. Personally I always preferred him as Warrior but I realize I’m alone in that.
And since Hal came back in an orgy of selective retconning, you’ve got a handful of fans who aren’t happy with the way characters were arbitrarily brought back or altered as if Green Lantern: Rebirth were a total reboot.
Oh, yeah, and then they made Alan Scott gay.
To a lesser extent, Barry Allen.
Part of the problem with Wally West’s lack of existence is the fact that he took over the gig from Barry Allen, who was brought back abruptly and whose story has been uneven. While his New 52 series has been good, Flash: Rebirth was a disappointment and the monthly series that followed it had moments of greatness intercut with some really poor storytelling.
So not only are there fans who begrudge Barry coming back and shunting Wally into oblivion, but there’s also a fair number who think that he was more interesting as a dead guy.
A particular kind of replacement hero tend to generate a lot of online ire: any that vary from the traditional mold of straight, white, male superheroes.
If you spend any significant amount of time talking about Jaime Reyes, Renee Montoya, Simon Baz, etc., on the Internet, it won’t take long before you come to the first tokenism reference, an accusation that somehow they were created to fill a quota. That anger tends to drown out enthusiasm for the characters, especially given that most of the mainstream superhero readership is still composed of straight white males.
This is true of all superhero boyfriends and girlfriends, but mostly with Lois; some readers downright despise them, in no small part for the time they take away from the slam-bang action plot, while others see establishing the human side of the superheroes as essential to making them compelling over a long period of time.
As a teenager, I hated Lois–hated her! I used to write fan fiction in which her death was always an almost immediate event and something that motivated Superman through whatever tale I was trying to tell. It wasn’t until a convention conversation with then-Action Comics writer Roger Stern that I was turned around on the character and saw her value.
Which ones have we missed? I’m sure there are plenty.