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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hero Crossovers in Solo Comics:

Why some crossovers work, and why some don't.

Over at Chronicle of World Domination, Centurion posted a little rant about Supergirl which led me to think about her again.

In a weird way, her circumstances remind me of Kyle Rayner's, in that she's a new character, tied to a previous legacy (the S as well as being linked to pre-crisis Kara), and that many of her experiences so far have been crossover experiences with other heroes. Which never bothered me in GL, but I don't think work well enough here. So I got to thinking of why this is.

Kyle Rayner as a newbie was still pretty clueless. Tried hard, but still had to learn the ropes basically from scratch. His crossover events were always in a teamwork style, Superman helping him against Mongul, him helping Guy against Major Force. They all had some plausible reason for occurring and both characters tended to be well-treated. No single character in those partnerships ever saved the day, it was a team effort, with mutual respect and competence.

And then there was Hero Quest. Hero Quest was a great arc I think, both for emphasizing Kyle's drive to improve and for showing how a crossover arc could really be done well.

If you don't know/remember Hero Quest, it's somewhere around the end of the 60s for the GL v3 run. (after the lead pipe scene). Kyle's had a few shocks to the system, Guy killing Major Force, Ganthet demanding the ring back, and what self-confidence he had was nearly obliterated.

So, he decides, he's going to learn how to be a hero properly. And if the lead pipe scene is how I initially fell for the character, this just crystallizes it. Because, I think, there are few heroes who would actually, having come face to face with their own shortcomings, actually go out and seek guidance. It's also interesting in who he chooses to approach.

His first choice is Batman. Who is like, the anti-Kyle. Seriously. This doesn't work out well, of course, though Kyle does get to have a cute dialogue with Robin, where he manages to pull out a few useful tips from Robin.

Aww, how sweet is that. He's so willing to learn/improve, that he doesn't even mind getting help from a more experienced kid. (And he's respectful too! :-))

The choice of Batman is interesting too. Intelligent, calculated, ruthless...It shows that Kyle's aware of his own shortcomings (he's a little dim, silly and soft-hearted), and willing to learn from someone who blatantly scares him a little.

Anyway, the issue continues, when he meets Alan, by chance, and ends up helping him/semi-tricked into helping him with his wife's particular supernatural circumstance. Kyle reflects later that Alan taught him that sometimes it's necessary to be a little ruthless. So he got the lesson he needed, even if it wasn't from Batman.

In the issue after that, Kyle goes to Fawcett City, to learn from Captain Marvel. Specifically from the "Wisdom of Solomon" part. (Again, a clear indication that Kyle is aware of his shortcomings). He and Marvel end up teaming up to stop a crazy curator being possessed by a mask, or something like that. Marvel wants to talk to the guy first, Kyle's thinking that they don't really have time for that as the guy's trying to kill them. Marvel manages to talk the guy down after all. And Kyle admits that he learned something about thinking first, trying to figure out the entire situation, before simply acting.

The last one is a crossover with Wonder Woman, they start off fighting each other, but it's quickly established to be staged in order to fight a villain. In the process, Kyle hesitates on using his full power, because his adversary is a woman. This makes things problematic, but Diana saves the day. Kyle is apologetic and admits that he wasn't really comfortable fighting full tilt against a woman. (Aww, Maura definitely taught him to never hit girls. Good boy.) Diana gently scolds him for this, reminding him that when it comes down to heroing and saving lives, he can't really cling to such unrealistic chivalry.

So what do we get from this arc, three team-up issues in Kyle's own comic line, where he is foolish, green and makes mistakes. In each case, the other hero is the one that looks (and is) wise and experienced. And Kyle comes out with valuable learning experience that stays with him for the rest of the Green Lantern run. (And was probably particularly useful when Fatality comes around)

Contrast that with the crossover appearances in Supergirl, thus far. Instead of team-ups, they're battles. The crossover characters don't quite seem right (Batman letting her patrol in Gotham? Wonder Woman apparently ignoring all of her respect for Clark and taking his ward to Themiscyra against his wishes? The three calmest Titans Cyborg, Cassie and Raven attacking without a single question first?)

Now it's probably not fair to compare these crossovers with Hero Quest, which was in the 15th-18th issues of Kyle's run. But even compared to the Mongul fight and Major Force, there's clearly something missing here. Crossovers can be a good way to further develop your new character through interaction with the established guys, but what development does Kara really get here? Ooo, she's more powerful potentially than Superman, Batman doesn't trust her, and she can beat the Titans and Outsiders easily. The only thing of worth to her character development was the crush on Dick Grayson.

Maybe I'm missing the point, and this is being written this way for a specific purpose (i.e she's an eeevil doppelganger and the real one will be coming in Crisis) but what's the point of these crossover events? See Kara beat the crap out of more established heroes?

In every one of Kyle's crossover events, there was a significant impact on both Kyle and his story. Superman and Mongul led him to realize there was a wider world out there and that this wasn't even remotely a game. Zero Hour, also impactful, doesn't really count because it was a DCU wide event, not just in GL. The Titans gave him something of a team feeling for a while and training with Roy and Donna to improve his fighting skills. (He did NOT tend to win). Guy's actions with Major Force shook Kyle's confidence in herodom, and Hero's Quest let him be wrong, silly and foolish and *learn* from it and the more competent, experienced heroes around him.

If Kara isn't an evil doppelganger and is sticking around the DCU after Crisis, then she's going to need something like a Hero's Quest. (No matter how she might save the day in Crisis, Kyle blew up Oa and stopped Hal from rewriting the universe *and* convinced crazy Hal to give back the ring via lead pipe and still needed his Quest). I think that might go a long way into making her tolerable, in my eyes.

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