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Monday, March 13, 2006

On John Stewart...My Perspective

Ragnell's most recent post about John Stewart made me think about my own problems with the character. And why I think it might be that he gets shoved into the sidelines.

See, I think John is definitely a three dimensional character, and he's definitely grown and changed over time and cool as Mosaic actually was, I still have trouble seeing him as a character I'd seek out to read about by himself.

I'm not against intelligent, stable and thoughtful characters mind you, (I still want a Sand comic after all), but part of what has always appealed to me about the Lanterns has to do with how they overcome their own flaws and shortcomings and come out on top through sheer force of will. Lanterns aren't supposed to be the smartest, strongest, or stablest in my opinion. That's what makes it awesome when Kyle Rayner holds a supernova in a safe construct for example.

John has flaws too, but they're not really utilized enough, so it doesn't have as much impact when he overcomes them. Heck, as Ragnell points out in her post:

"John is the first character personally selected by the Guardians. The intention may have been to show that this was standard practice, but it's the first time we've seen it"

In his first story, John's specifically chosen by the Guardians where Hal was chosen by circumstance, Guy because he had been the other circumstantial choice and Hal needed a stand-in, and Kyle was just randomly in the alley. The story's all about how Hal has all these mistaken assumptions about John and has to get over them...which is pretty good character growth for Hal...but not for John. John's the one in the right. And ever since, John's almost always been pretty damn solid, a better flier than Hal, more focused than Kyle, saner/stabler by far than Guy...

But see, I guess my problem with John is most highlighted in Recharge 5. Not because of anything John did or didn't do...

But because I think the single coolest moment I've seen in a GL comic, possibly EVER, was Guy Gardner leading the entire Corps in the Lantern Oath. Because this was Guy Gardner, the barbarian, the jackass, the joke. He'd ultimately shown a lot of growth through Warrior and Kyle's GL run, but as a Green Lantern, he was the black sheep, renegade, trouble maker, whose sole purpose often seemed to be competition and negative contrast to Hal.

But now he's *leading* the entire Corps (Kyle and Hal included) in the Oath. And they're following, they're inspired and it's awesome. Because it's something he'd never have been able to do before.

The others could manage something almost that cool, (probably not THAT cool, because that recognition is something the character had sought throughout almost all of his existance, but still almost as cool)...

Hal began as a slightly racist, sexist moron. He overcame these qualities, but remained a klutz and a dork with almost no common sense (he leaves the ring *behind* to go flying!), and is very susceptible to mind control. So if he does something that requires a great feat of overcoming mind control, or something athletic that doesn't result in him hitting his head on something...well, that's automatically twice as cool as if anyone else does it.

Kyle started off as a silly self-centered newbie. He's grown over time, matured, but honestly, he's still not the brightest bulb in the box. Now imagine if for whatever reason, no one else was able to solve some puzzle or riddle...something intellectual, but of all people, *Kyle Rayner* was the one to figure out the answer through sheer luck and determination...well, that'd be pretty damn kickass.

But what really could John do to compare to that sort of thing. Given the flaws John can he overcome them in a way as awesome as the twit Kyle Rayner solving a puzzle, the mental taxi-cab Hal Jordan pushing away mind control, or Guy Gardner, who spent most of the Bwa-Ha-Ha Justice League and Hal's v.3 run as a freakin' *cartoon*, leading the entire Corps in an oath.

It's not fair really. I mean, Guy can spend the rest of his comic existance being a competent, kickass leader and it will never stop being cool because we are constantly reminded by his past and his general personality where he came from. Kyle can be mature and reasonable and confident, and we'll remember him as the newbie he was and admire the growth. Hal's got a multitude of problems he's working out now, which will keep him being interesting to read.

But what does John have that quite compares?

I think that's why he doesn't get written as often, because writers have a tough time getting a handle on what could make John Stewart an enthralling character. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes...and when he does, they're like the destruction of Xanshi, or his sister's death, the kind that are so horrible they can only be overcome and moved beyond...there's no real learning from that. It's the other three that really get to make the stupid, silly, to be learned from mistakes.

And that's not fair.

It's not like John's faults couldn't be exploited satisfactorily either. We know he's always had something of a Crusader personality...he's mellowed some, but that spirit is still there. He can be very arrogant. He can be over-defensive.

Raab's Green Lantern storyline had a lot of problems, but the one thing I thought was interesting was his portrayal of John and Merayn's relationship. And her unhappiness and lack of direction, and how much her lack of self-sufficiency on Earth bothered her. They never really talk about it though, and when she leaves him, she leaves a note. That at least implies that John's not the most sensitive fellow, and that he's got something of a blind spot for things that don't fit his world view.

He's very structured and organized, and less likely to fall into idiot-traps than the other three, but that probably also makes him less adaptable. That fault could be exploited a lot too.

I really hope that a writer who knows how to do this and has interest in doing this ends up getting his or her hands on John. I want to see John portrayed in a way that makes me interested in seeing him for him, not just advising Kyle, admonishing Guy or bringing Hal fucking coffee.


  • At March 13, 2006 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, according to your theory; what would make John really interesting would be his down fall

    a story where the most competent and stable of the lanterns, someone personally recluited by the Gardians; becomes the next Siniestro


    but it would make a good story
    just no fear bugs this time

  • At March 13, 2006 8:58 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I don't think it's necessary to do something that big. (Though it would be fun to read)

    In fact, I think that's largely John's problem. is His flaws are only utilized in gigantic ways like what happened to Fatality's home planet. In other situations though, he's absolutely infailable...and the all or nothing approach doesn't work very well with a "main character"


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