Any Chance For A Newbie?

April 26th, 2009 by | Tags:

Some people say that the comics industry runs on legacy characters.  Kyle replaced Hal as Green Lantern, and was re-replaced.  Connor Hawke had a long run as Green Arrow before DC resurrected his father and nudged him out of the title.  Now even Barry is back.

I’m wondering if there is much of a chance for new characters these days, especially new characters in old roles.  They already have to battle fan backlash.  The people most invested in any particular character are going to be the most critical of the guy who pushes their beloved hero aside.  There is also the difficulty of a shrinking industry.  How do we keep comics going at all, let alone make room for more characters?

Mostly, though, I think the structure of comics has changed.  Way back when, comics used to deliver tales that were somewhat predictable.  That’s not to say that the individual stories were lacking in imagination or ingenuity.  It just means that the characters operated in a stable universe.  They were always heroes, they always had a certain code of ethics, and their battles were episodic instead of part of ongoing revelatory stories.

Now thing have changed.  Event books are in.  Big dramatic upsets are what sell.  Whether you think this change is good or bad depends entirely on your tastes, but it means things are less predictable.

The big heroes, and to some extent their first sidekicks, built up a decades-long base of stability.  We had time to get used to them, and to get to know them.  They made their mark on the universe they lived in.  Amid the constant upheaval of the modern comics universe, it’s easy for new characters to get lost in the shuffle.

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2 comments to “Any Chance For A Newbie?”

  1. New characters have been showing up in both companies, it just depends on how hard editorial pushes them. Off the top of my head, the Hood seems second only to Osborn on the comic appearances lately. Hush doesn’t seem to be going away either. As for characters lost in the shuffle, the best example I can come up with is anyone connected to Planet Hulk. Each member of Hulk’s warbound was a fully realized character and warrior. The Planet Hulk series itself was putting the Hulk character in a new, unexpected role of general and king, and they scrapped that for whatever special guest they want on Hulk and Rulk. Now Marvel would like to pretend the Warbound doesn’t even exist.

    Getting a new character going seems to be some mixture of writer push, editorial placement, relatable character development, and acceptable power levels (no jobbing to him for “badass cred”). I think it’s the last two that hurts the Sentry, but he’s not really “new” per se.

    I think the DC model of back-ups will help a lot of the problems you presented. The main story can support a headliner and long, revelatory arcs and the back-up can be for a less popular character in more episodic, self-contained stories. Not all back-ups will run this way, but I feel their design leans toward this.

  2. New characters get shafted unless they have creators who give enough of a hoot to really throw their weight (if they have any) behind them. That is like the ONLY stipulation as far as I can tell, because I can’t remember the last time a new character that didn’t have a hotshot creative team (or at least a heavily promoted one *coughLoebcoughRedHulk*) behind it didn’t ultimately end up faltering in terms of popularity/sales.

    See; Bendis and the Hood, Peter David and Layla Miller, Grant Morrison and Damian Al Ghul, etc