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Han Solo and the Prequels

S0…I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Yes I know…about damn time.

Sorry…I have been sick. And I did not want to ruin anyone else’s experience. That is just me. Not like the movie was not already spoiled five hours before I could have seen it here in Florida.

I loved the movie it was great. Fun, exciting, everything you want in a blockbuster movie. They did a great job introducing the new characters as well…this is not about all that.

Today I write about what we lost and what that loss revealed to me about why I feel the way I do about the prequels.

We lost Han Solo. Han! Of all the original cast we could have lost why did it have to be Han.

For me Han Solo is what brought me to the series to begin with. It was always the rebel without a cause space cowboy with a healthy dose of snark that made me care. It was never the Jedi. It was never Luke Skywalker. Not for one moment.

It was always Han.

Star Wars has always been more Science Fantasy than Science Fiction and one common element of fantasy is the use of the skeptic. From the Alice in Wonderland to Scully in X-Files you always need that person that has not drank the kool aid quite yet to be the viewers eyes. That is exactly what the companions are in Doctor Who. They are us. It is only through these characters eyes that we can truly experience the wonder. That is Han’s role. He is our skeptic, our hero. He does not believe in the force.

“There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. Its all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense”-Han Solo

He brings us in and his sense of humour and blind heroics make us want to stay. And now he is gone. I already feel the loss. They have positioned Finn and Poe Dameron to fill his role: the fallen stormtrooper and the hotshot pilot. While they may stand in his place…they may never fill his shoes.

Now you may be thinking what this all has to do with the prequels…I am getting there.

Anyone who knows me knows that I was never a fan of the prequels. I have often said “They are telling a story that we all know the ending but they are not getting us there in an interesting way.”

Part of it was always an over-reliance on CGI. Too much Jar Jar. A horrible waste of a great concept in the Clone Wars. Or even a fairly weak turning to the dark side by Anakin. All of these are valid reasons not to like the prequels. But I realize that there is another for me.

The prequels are all Jedi, all the time. So much Force Sensitivity, so many Jedi and Sith and far too few actual people. Everyone seems to have powers…where is the person for us to identify with. Where is our Han? I have always been drawn to the normal in over his head in a world he cannot possibly understand.

In the prequels that was missing…at least for me.


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We Are Legion

Another day and another conversation. And it leads me back to this column from way back when.

So this column came from a conversation I had with some friends over twitter. Actually it began after I read an interview with Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis.

Interview: Giffen and DeMatteis, another LEAGUE and LARFLEEZE

What prompted me to read the interview you ask? It was Giffen and DeMatteis…seriously you need more. They are bloody brilliant. Even if they did not give us an absolutely inspired take on Justice League and bring Blue and Gold together for the first time-Keith Giffen has long been connected to the Legion of SuperHeroes. That was more than enough for me.

The important part (for me at least) was this:

“This way when — because it is ‘when’ — DC will relaunch the Legion of Super Heroes eventually”

That was a direct quote from Keith Giffen and if I trust anyone talking about the Legion it is Mr. Giffen. Of course at the time they were talking about their new project Justice League 3000, but the Legion comment is what mattered to me.

Then came the conversation with @777DAMM and @JanArrah over in the twitterverse, follow them you will thank me.

It ranged over elation over the prospect of the Legion returning and the skepticism over how it would be handled.

More than any other comic book property the Legion seems to regularly suffer from changes that take place in the main universe. The Legion has been rebooted so many times it is difficult to know where a new book would start from, what pieces of the universe would be included and what parts and characters would pass into memory.

The biggest thing I took from the conversation was the realization that we all came at our fandom from different times, different points in the history of the Legion. Starting in different times gives us different perspectives, different things about the Legion that we love in our own ways. If I could see that from a conversation with two other people imagine trying to create a Legion for a hundred or thousands of people.

As fans we often believe these characters, these stories belong to us. We sometimes forget we don’t own them. Everyone does. We may not like the new version of the Legion but is it not better than not having them at all. The task is not easy. There is an abundance of history-but then if you have been around for sixty years and you don’t have history I have to ask: What have you been doing all this time..?

The job of creating a new Legion that will appeal to new and old is a big job and an important one. The Legion has been around since April of 1957 beginning with Adventure Comics #247. Why is that important?

The Legion predates the Avengers, the Justice Leagues, the Teen Titans and yes even the X-Men. Great creators have come from the Legion: Mike Grell, Jim Shooter, Dave Cockrum, Paul Levitz, Giffen, Oliver Coipel, Jim Starlin and even Francis Manapul. Someday soon another creator will step in with his vision for the future.

That vision is the important thing. It’s the future, not some horrifying dystopian future but one of hope. That is what the Legion has always been about hope and family. The belief that when they come together good people can do great things and there will always be a tomorrow.

The Legion is the bedrock for which that future will stand. Until that day…

Long Live the Legion.

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The Voice

“The Earth has music for those who listen.” -William Shakespeare

The world sings. The melodies are all around. Coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Do you hear the voice?

We all have a voice. Something that we identify with. Something that is uniquely ours.

We share that with the world even if you do not realize it.

Some find so many different ways to share that voice. For me it has been art, music, writing…all in their own way give me joy.

And I try to share that joy with the world.

But there are times when that voice goes silent. Life gets in the way. Static, distractions they take away the connection to that voice.

There are times I have put down the pencil, the guitar. Times I have locked this keyboard away. In those moments you wonder if you will pick them up again.

Have you changed?

Has that voice stopped talking to you?

The voice is always there. You simply have to let it find you again. It is not always the way it was.

I rarely play the guitar anymore. Time is scarce and my guitar gathers dust in the corner.

The art comes and goes. Pencils, pens, paper…scattered around my home. Sketches and concepts adorn the pages. Pieces waiting for me to finish them. Some have waited far too long.

So I write. And when I am not writing…I write. Stories, columns, thoughts…they multiply in my mind even when I am away from the keyboard. Filling up space until I dust them off to share with the world.

I hear the Voice.

It is screeching and howling.

It is beautiful.



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Heroes Do Not Kill

Should Heroes Kill?

As long as there have been stories there has been this question. Villains kill. We know this. But can a hero kill and still call themselves a hero.

Some feel a hero owes it to us to find another way, a better way.

Others think that for the greater good the good guy should simply exterminate the bad guy.

Both methods do have their merits. If no matter what Batman does the Joker is simply going to break out of Arkham and kill again would it not be prudent to end him now to lessen the body count. The thing is though…Batman does not kill…Should he?

Heroes stand for something far greater than themselves. Batman has always symbolized justice, not vengeance. He does not kill. He should not. As a character Batman is an obsessive teetering on a razors edge. Taking a life might push him over. He could become worse than the villains he seeks to bring to justice.

Some fans refer to characters like the Punisher who kill criminals indiscriminately. The villains do not return because he puts them down quickly. That is a ‘death wish’ style fantasy. That is not a hero. That is an executioner. Where is the line between a true villain and a man who made a mistake, a man who can be redeemed. The Punisher does not ask, he does not care, he simply kills.

This is not to say that there are no circumstances where it would be acceptable for a hero to kill. There are always exceptions. Great stories can be told with those exceptions, the effect these actions may have on both the hero and the public that adores him or her can create great drama.

When walking down the path to a hero taking another’s life we should tread carefully.

Heroes can kill, but they simply do not.

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Death in Comics.

Death. It is so final. Except in the comics.

Everyone dies it seems.

And they all come back.

Captain America.



Two Robins.

The list goes on and on. So many characters. Heroes, villains it does not matter. No one is safe. But as they say “no one stays dead in the comics, not even Bucky.”

A death should matter. It should be important. It should not simply be done to increase sales. As some kind of a sweeps ploy. These are characters that we develop relationships with, that we love or hate. Killing them and reviving them for no good reason is a waste.

“The Death of Captain Marvel” worked. It was wonderful, fresh. A hero dying not so much from the actions of a villain but from cancer, it brought humanity to the funeral of a friend. Jim Starlin set the table for many writers to follow.

“The Death of Superman” was done well. The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. We all knew he would be back, but the death made sense. There were repercussions. New characters were born: Steel, Cyborg Superman, even a new unique Superboy. There was a sense of loss for all the characters in the DC universe. Superman came back as we knew he would, but the story still felt new.

For a time some deaths lingered. Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s sidekick, stayed dead for almost 40 years. Jason Todd, the second Robin, did not even last twenty years before returning to the land of the living. Their returns brought something new, new characters. Winter Soldier and a heroic Red Hood are wonderful, that never would have happened without their deaths and resurrection.

Recently we have had Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, the Human Torch, another Robin: all dead, will they all come back?

The question becomes who is next?

Maybe the question should be who hasn’t died yet?

In company wide crossovers the body count can get enormous, writers simply using characters they don’t care for as cannon fodder. Killing off perfectly good characters to try to create a sense of danger. What happened to crippling someone.

Maybe there is another way. As fans and writers we become desensitized to the carnage. Maybe we need a break. A moratorium on death. Give us time to step back and actually be surprised when someone does die.

There are creative people out there. Can we not find a way to create the same drama without the body count?

Should we not at least try?


Grayson Discovered

This column had roots in my previous column regarding the announcement of the ongoing series Grayson. It is nice to see how a series matches up against your own expectations.

Dick Grayson has always been one of my favorite characters in all of comics. I think part of it had to do with the fact that while he was coming of age and moving on from being the first Robin to becoming his own hero as Nightwing, I was going through my own teenage years and discovering who I was. Grayson always seemed to be the bridge between Superman and Batman, more human than one and much more compassionate than the other.

I looked forward to this series, feeling that it was a brilliant and much needed change for the character. I do have friends who simply long for the days when Dick will once again don the (blue and black)Nightwing suit once again.

The new series is written by Tim Seeley and Tom King. I had no familiarity with either writer going in, I was flying blind. In five issues they have rewarded my blind faith with an excellent series. Just enough spy action, paired nicely with great character beats. In short order they seem to know Dick Grayson, the man behind the hero. That is important. Yes these are comics but it is not all about the shiny suits. The men(and women) in those suits are what we come back for every month.

It does not stop with Grayson. They have created a fantastic supporting cast for him in short order. There is the far away shadow of Bruce sprinkled in as a lifeline to his former life but the key are his new partners so to speak.

The ‘Helena Bertinelli’ they have crafted along with artist Mikel Janin’s depiction of her, she is the definition of the seductive spy, has been outstanding. After seeing this version I would be happy to never see another version of the Huntress ever again. The experienced spy mentor for Dick, but you can see an almost envy for the way Dick still looks at the world without her cynical-worldview.

On the other hand we also have Midnighter as a rival, regular guest star. I love Midnighter and I am glad he is being used well since Stormwatch is over. It is easy to write his use off as taking the Batman role, but I do no believe it is that simple. As much as many of us see Nightwing as almost an equal to Bruce in some ways it will always be a teacher/student relationship. In Midnighter, Dick has a rival, contemporary who is his equal. He questions Grayson’s motives for doing what he does, much as Grayson does himself. Midnighter has faith in his abilities, in his powers but Dick has his resolve. I look forward to when they fight together rather than each other.

As I mentioned before Mikel Janin takes care of the art. I first discovered Janin on Justice League Dark, he quickly became on of my favorite artists. Here he is asked to do less, no mystical monsters or group scenes, but he does so much more. The characters come alive within these pages. When I see his Grayson I cannot imagine anyone else drawing him.

It has been a great ride so far and I look forward to the journey every month. For those looking for Nightwing, he is still here leaping into the unknown.

Grayson simply left the mask behind.


The Secret Adventures of Wally West

Yes I do realize that DC Comics introduced their own version of Wally into the New 52. This is THE Wally.

In DC Comics New 52, something is wrong, something is missing.

They tell me that Barry Allen is the fastest man alive. They tell me that Barry Allen is the Flash.

They are wrong. While Barry Allen is one of the fastest men alive, he is only ‘a’ Flash.

Wally West is the Flash.

More importantly he is my Flash. For some Wally was always the Flash, Barry a distant memory. I remember Wally as the original Kid Flash. I remember him as Dick Grayson’s best friend. I remember the Teen Titan. I was there when he hung up the Kid Flash costume and I was there when he first donned the scarlet colors of the Flash. Nothing can ever take those memories from me.

Barry Allen is a great hero, but for me he is just kind of there. He never really connected with me.

Wally on the other hand. I watched him grow into the hero he was. It was a true heroes journey. He had given up the super-hero life only to pick it back up to honor his mentor, his friend. Wally wanted to be the Flash but he never wanted to replace Barry. For years he was the fastest man alive, still never faster than Barry had been. In time he realized his potential, he realized being the hero he was meant to be did not mean making people forget about Barry. It meant reminding people of the man who came before, reminding them of his legacy.

From sidekick to man to hero to legend, Wally had a long twisting journey till he found himself side by side with his heroes. No longer the sidekick, the little brother, now he was a legend in his own right.

Now he is gone…

The Flash is dead. Long live the Flash.

Long live Wally West.

Artwork with permission by Brett Booth