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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Incoherent Musings on JSA and Immortality.

So I was thinking. There are some characters I love but would never want to see back from the dead.

Wesley Dodds for instance. In fact, most dead Golden Age JSA-ers are characters I don't want resurrected. And I think I've figured out why.

As much as the JSA is about family and legacy, it's also about Immortality for me. The JSA is the one group with origins very strictly defined into WWII. The JLA can migrate forward, much like the X-Men, always timing their origins to be ten years before the present day. But the JSA is different. Whether the JLA started in the 1970s or the 2070s, the JSA will always be tied to the origins of superhero comics. To World War II.

The 1940s JSAers are immortal. All of them. It's just that their immortality comes in one of two ways. Characters like Jay, Alan, Ted Grant or Carter are the true immortals, the Supernaturals. They don't die. If they die, they come back. That's the way it goes. You can't have a JSA without Alan or Jay at all. I firmly believe that.

But characters like Wes, like Al or Terry or Charles, Ted Knight as well, they're immortal too. But they're also more...human. Or maybe mundane's a better word. It's like how, barring special stories like Obsidian Age, I don't think resurrection stories work very well with the Batclan. (I'm still holding judgement on Jason Todd). They're normal guys essentially (even with Wes's prophetic dreams), even though they've got some nifty tricks up their sleeves. Their immortality is just as real, but like them, it's more mundane.

They're the Fathers. Their immortality is in seeing their names (or blood) live on through their spiritual descendants. It wouldn't be right to bring them back from the dead because that would ruin them. It would make them Supernatural. And they're characters that specifically aren't.

A character can't be both kinds of immortal, really, because a Father's name will live on beyond him and a Supernatural Immortal will never need a successor. I actually think this is why Jade was always so marginalized. She's Alan's offspring with the same powers. But there was never any chance for her to carry on his legacy. They tried to alleviate this by linking her to the Silver Age/Oan Lantern concept, but that was only a stopgap. Jade was pretty much doomed, I think, with Infinity Inc.

I actually think this may be why Vertigo's Sandman Mystery Theatre went with a new Sandman. Because Sand is a Supernatural. There won't be a successor for a man who can survive dissolving into the Earth. Even if they take his powers away, the sand-monster element has removed him enough from the rest of humanity to ensure he can't be a Father. Which makes the Gaiman-Morpheus-esque elements of his costume a nice bit of (likely unintentional) metatext.

SMT though is much more human-based than the JSA. (Though I do think Sand would be a good lead of a mystery series, it'd need to be one with more of an occult/supernatural horror theme than SMT). It's possible that Kieran Marshall, depending on how the story goes of course, will be more "normal" like Wesley was, and thus could ultimately have a successor of his own.

There would then be two Sandmen: one, his true heir, with the emotional/familial bond, who inherits the connections and role in the JSA but has become something Other, Supernatural, Not-Quite-Human, and the other, his thematic heir, who'll share the name and dreams, but also carry on Wes's legacy in terms of humanity.

Or SMT: Sleep of Reason will be something else entirely and this will all be a load of crap speculation. :-) Either way, it should be fun.


  • At August 15, 2006 4:45 AM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    I agree with you entirely but I do want a younger generation of immortals to become recognised as part of the permanent roster so that in 30 years we'll still have that sense of legacy. Otherwise it'll get a bit too much like the Ultimates, with their generation gap between Captain America and everyone else.

    My picks are Sand, Power Girl and Obsidian. The reasons for the first two are pretty obvious, I picked Todd mostly because since it's been stated his powers are like the Shade's so it's pretty plausible he's also immortal and while he's only just joined the JSA he was an Infinitor, so almost as good.

  • At August 15, 2006 9:07 AM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    I think Infinity, Inc.'s (and therefore Jade's) best shot was when DC had that Justice Society special issue where they all went off to fight Ragnarok over and over and over until the end of time, thus removing them from DC continuity. I thought that was a good move at the time, because, after all, these guys are going to have to get off the stage eventually, and none of them were regularly appearing in comics any more anyway.

    (And there was an extremely moving issue of Infinity Inc. that followed up on this, that I strongly recommend you go read if you've never seen it. There's no action in it; it's just a whole comic of Infinitors struggling to come to terms with what's just happened.)

    But then when they brought the JSA back, and did it well, and started discarding Infinitors in some very cavalier ways...

  • At August 15, 2006 1:20 PM, Anonymous Ununnilium said…

    I think Ted Grant belongs more in the second category than the first. He's not undying, just smart and skilled and lucky.

  • At August 15, 2006 8:18 PM, Blogger Dr. Flem said…

    Ah, but they've tweaked Ted a little bit with the nine lives thing, so he is at least somewhat immortal now.

    An interesting point, though, about the legacies of "immortal" characters being somewhat harder to sustain. Certainly explains the overal lack of interest in the kids of Carter and Alan.

  • At August 15, 2006 8:32 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    flidget: Oh I agree, definitely. I think Sand might be permanently in Wes's place now...hell, even if they kill him off again, it wouldn't be too hard to un-kill him.

    And I second Power Girl and Obsidian. It's not like either seem the sort to pick successors anyway. :-)

    matthew: *nod* Honestly though, aside from Jade and Obsidian, I couldn't really see the Infinitors with the same staying power as the JSA. Though I did like the concept...

    ununnilium: Ted's a special case I think. The nine lives thing gives him an edge, but I could also see him taking a successor.

    Hey! Since it's pretty obvious Selina's going to be Catwoman again and they're not likely to have two long term...

    Maybe Holly can be Wildcat's successor! :-)

    dr flem: *nod* Obsidian's got the ex-villain connection to give him an edge now but it'd probably explain why neither Hector or Jade really lasted.

    Shame, they were missed opportunities...

  • At August 15, 2006 8:38 PM, Blogger Centurion said…

    Well, if you think about it, who could replace Power Girl?

    Attitude and personality may be possible to duplicate, but people will scream for the original and proclaim the replacement false. Also, her *ahem* look is pretty defining.

  • At August 15, 2006 9:11 PM, Anonymous Ununnilium said…

    I'd classify the nine-lives thing as a trick-up-his-sleeve. I mean, how many of those has he used up so far?

    "Maybe Holly can be Wildcat's successor!" That would be awesome, albeit the higher-ups might see it as retreading the "failed" legacy of Yolanda Montez.

    And it's true. If you'd tried to replace Power Girl, 99% of the time you'd end up with a bad copy of Supergirl. (Insert comment on the current Supergirl here.)

  • At August 15, 2006 9:13 PM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…

    I think the kiss of death for Hector was actually Daniel. It was always just too bizarre to see him run around doing his retro-silver-age thing and then remember "Hey, isn't your son the current pale and gothy King of Dreams?".

  • At August 15, 2006 10:07 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Well, Hector had died a couple of times before Daniel was born anyway. Plus he was always kind of a jerk; I don't know what Lyta saw in him. But still: Hector Hall. Has anyone else ever been three completely different superheroes, like he was? I guess Hal Jordan comes close.

    It's weird about Infinity Inc.; if I had to place bets on who'd survive this long and who wouldn't, I would have lost my shirt. But they were perfectly good characters:

    Silver Scarab: I think they used him up. Not sorry he's gone, don't want him back.

    Fury: One of my favourites. And DC put her through hell. Yes, I think she could have worked as a character, and yes, I'd like to see her come back somehow.

    Northwind: there's a good character in there somewhere; just takes the right writer to bring it out.

    Nuklon: an excellent character. Only problem is, I hate the name 'Atom-Smasher' and I don't like the mask.

    Jade: we've already had the Jade discussion.

    Obsidian: I was just thinking today that the next DC/Marvel crossover should be Obsidian and Northstar. Yes, I know, gimmicky, but it could make a great story. Because both of these guys have very spiky personalities (although I understand Todd has lightened up a little?).

    Brainwave: the 21st-century DCU is, it seems to me, a little short on heroic telepaths. Hank should be able to get work.

    Wildcat: okay, she was kind of standard-issue, but not obnoxiously so. I liked her friendship with Nuklon.

    Doctor Midnight: see comment under 'Northwind'. Unfortunately DC decided to fingerflick her into oblivion instead.

    Hourman: Never liked him. Fury, Jade, Wildcat and Doctor Midnight are dead and this guy is still on the right side of the grass? Nonsense.

    Mr. Bones: This guy is still getting work? God, I hated Helix. Every time I saw them, it was, not these guys again. And Fury's still dead?

  • At August 15, 2006 10:16 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    And congratulations on the Newsarama thing.

  • At August 16, 2006 12:07 PM, Anonymous ben said…

    Wow. Holly as Wildcat! Brilliant! Then we'd end up with several "double legacies" going on -- Courtney carrying on for Starman and the Star Spangled Kid. Obsidian as son of Green Lantern and the Shade's legacy (which, yeah, immortality, weird). Jesse Chambers being a Liberty Belle II and Johnny Quick's little girl. Holly as Wildcat while still having links to the Catwoman identity. An interesting secondary vibe to the JSA.

    Even if it would be a retread from the Yolanda, I'd like to have Holly as her own seperate being from Catwoman once Selina comes back, inevitably. Or some new identity, extending the Cat-Family some more.

    Whatever happened to Yolanda, anyway? Can we bring her back James Robinson-style somehow?

  • At August 17, 2006 4:30 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    centurion: Indeed.

    ununnilium: Well, I wouldn't want her to be a replacement. I'd actually like to see her as a Sandy the Golden Boy style adjunct for Wildcat. Sidekickdom rocks. :-) Then she can have years to build enough of a fanbase should they decide to finally retire Ted.

    Maybe I'll propose it in a future Infusing Estrogen.

    flidget: I honestly think it was the soulless Silver Scarab thing myself. Though I've enjoyed Daniel's few cameos in JSA. (Didn't hurt that they're Sand related. :-))

    matthew: Poor Fury. I actually think her problem was very simple though. She's redundant.

    Basically, I don't think Diana is really the Earth-New version of the original Marston Wonder Woman. I think that's Hippolyta.

    Thus, if any character is the Earth 1/New equivalent of Lyta's Diana. She's even got the familial relationship with Post Crisis Steve Trevor to boot.

    That said, I like Lyta a lot more than I liked Helena in YAS. God she was annoying.

    I'd like to see more done with Brainwave actually. And Jade's awfully...present for a dead woman. :-)

    ben: I think Yolanda's firmly dead. Her cousin Alex was curator for the JSA for a while before an...ignoble end.

    Still, Holly as Wildcat's sidekick would be awesome I think. :-)

  • At August 19, 2006 8:41 AM, Anonymous ektypic said…

    After ignoring the JSA for two years, I'm beginning to see what I'm missing...especially if many on the team are what you call mundane. I find it easier to worry about them, or find the story emotionally compelling because you never know how much longer they might be around to enjoy. Plus there's just something warm and fuzzy about family (blood or otherwise) carrying on the torch. :]
    (Did I mention that with no prior knowledge of Sandy, after browsing through your archives and reading about him, I'm already in love?)


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