September 23rd, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

So once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a book called Green Lantern: Secret Origin, which retold Hal Jordan’s origin story.  Since Hal Jordan’s origin story is not long or complicated (test pilot.  got ring from alien.  might as well say ‘a wizard did it’.) and is probably the best known of any Green Lantern origin, it recounted this story for reasons known only to itself, but it was a pleasant enough book, with good art and clear story-telling.

Towards the end of the first issue, it threw in the following scene:

That is a young Hal Jordan getting into a bar fight with a young John Stewart.  They don’t know each other’s names, and they won’t remember each other’s faces, but they fight and then Hal goes out of the bar and learns something that makes him quit the air force and go work for Carol Ferris, who in this book he also met as a child, and then continues his well-known secret origin story.

I think that this kind of thing, the pre-team-up, when characters who supposedly only know each other as heroes turned out to have met briefly before, happens in this kind of origin story.  There are only so many times that people can watch little Bruce Wayne see his parents get shot or Bruce Banner get shot full of radiation.  There needs to be something different in an origin story, and yet at the same time, it can’t be too different.  These things are the grown-up equivalent of bedtime stories.  They’re supposed to be comforting.  These pre-team-ups add a little something extra, but they don’t bend continuity out of shape.

The real problem is making sure they’re done well.

This one, I think, is.  It establishes a bit about Hal Jordan’s MO, brashly defending the innocent (and his own ego) while doing an unjustifiable amount of property damage, without being a crucial scene for his continuity.  Batman Begins, on the other hand, has a James Gordon – with a darker mustache but otherwise looking exactly as old as he did later in the movie – draping his jacket around an eight-year-old Bruce Wayne after his parents got killed.  That’s a coincidence that’s just a little too much for me.  The right tone for these scenes, I think, is fun.  They shouldn’t tip over into something  portentious or precious.  Then again, I think the right tone for every book is ‘fun’, so I could be biased there.

What do you think of pre-team-ups?  Good or bad?

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17 comments to “Pre-Team-Ups”

  1. It all depends on how they write the pre-team-up. This is a good example, because it doesn’t raise the question of “Why didn’t these guys not know each other when they were originally teamed up, huh?”

    Also, isn’t this where they wrote a stint in the military as part of John’s past for the first time? I don’t remember it popping up anywhere else before this, at least not in the comics.

  2. I think John the Marine came from the JLA cartoon. Anyway on point, I hate origin rejiggering in general, stories should move forward not back. I especially don’t like them when they are there to set up a new character, some long-lost friend or rival no one ever mentioned before. It all comes back to the big 2’s fear of doing anything new, even new things have to be tied to old ones.

  3. I didn’t see anything wrong with the use of Gordon in Batman Begins. It established a feeling of trust and a reason for Batman to seek him out in a city full of dirty cops.

  4. Gordon in the movie worked fine for me, John at the bar didn’t. While I liked Secret Origin as a whole, this was one of the things that really bugged me about it. It made it seem as if everything and everyone relating to GL for the next how many years happend or appeared around Hal within what, 48 hours?
    -The bit with Hal and Carol seeing Hal’s dad crash added a lot to their relationship.
    -Hammond being added in and connected to Ferris Air felt like it was done just to give them a bad guy that wasn’t Sinestro but recognizable as a “classic” GL enemy.
    -Hal punching his way out of the Air Force was great and in character.
    -John being in the same bar was coincidental, but it’s a military town, so pretty believable. Him sticking up for a guy who was (if memory serves) pretty much forcing that woman to go home with him seems out of character and less believable. The only things that were missing were Hal holding open a door for a pregnant woman he hears called Mrs. Rayner, crashing into the middle of a Michigan game while fighting Atrocitus so we can see a guy with an orange bowl cut say how awesome he is, and Alan Scott passing by and being given a reason to say “No fear in that boy” or something similar.

    I can’t really say there’s a set of criteria that make me like or dislike these additions, but generally the ones that add something important and sensible to a story or relationship between characters are fine with me, and cutesy cameos that are done just to show how clever the writers are bore me. If neither Hal or John remember the fight, what’s the point? I give the addition of Atrocitus a pass since he was a key part of what they were setting up, but wouldn’t want writers to get in the habit of re-hashing origins every time they want to add something to kick off an event. Maybe I’m a whiny impossible to please fan, whatever.

  5. What about the similar version of the Gordon retcon that they did in Arkham Asylum? You don’t see anything, but the audio makes it very clear that rookie beat cop Jim Gordon was the only cop to offer comfort to young Bruce Wayne; the rest were contemptously dismissive of the idea that a pampered kid with all the money in the world would actually be feeling pain.

    I like adding Gordon into Batman’s origin, by the way. Like Gavok said, it gives Batman a reason to trust Jim Gordon, and it establishes that in a city of dirty cops who are total sons of bitches, this is the one good man. Gordon’s as essential to the Batman myth as his parents’ murder or Alfred (witness how hard the book stumbles every time he “retires”). He should be there in the origin with the other two.

  6. @Andy: Gordon’s as essential to the Batman myth as his parents’ murder or Alfred (witness how hard the book stumbles every time he “retires”). He should be there in the origin with the other two.

    No Gordon is not. The idea that you’re one good man in a city full of dirty cops is shtupid. No such thing. This ain’t Sin City. Gotham, at least the way Nolan portrayed it (and the way I think should be portrayed) is a stand-in for any Metropolitan (particularly American) city with all its excess and injustice. Having Gordon arrive in Gotham ala Miller’s Year One is the way to go because what does it say about Gordon were he a “good cop” for close to twenty years in Gotham? He would’ve either compromised at some point with the corruption or been killed for standing opposed to something wrong. You can’t avoid that conflict.
    There are better reasons for Bruce to actually seek out Gordon and any good cop; putting Gordon in his childhood is contrived and isn’t even necessary.

    By the by, Johns making John Stewart look like an abusive possible rapist, really don’t surprise me. Johns is always on point when writing shit he got no clue about.

  7. @Niles Day: How’d he make John look like a rapist? The guy Hal punched was someone else entirely, and John stood up to defend what looked like some dude punching his comrade for no reason.

    I agree that Gordon in Batman’s childhood is contrived, though. Gordon as fallen hero cop trying to make good, the way he was in Year One, is the way to go.

  8. Well, John was coming to the defense of the possible rapist, but still… I don’t care if they are part of the same unit/squad/whatever, getting into a fight on a buddy’s behalf after hearing him threaten to break a woman’s neck if she didn’t go home with him is still (hopefully) out of character. Although this is the “new” DC, so anything’s possible. Maybe new DC John has a skin suit and a room full of moths at home or something.

  9. @Lou: I feel like you’re reading too deep into it. Stewart was at a different table in a crowded bar speaking to his friends. One of the friends who saw the punch points it out to him, and Stewart stands up to do what appears to be the right thing in that situation, which is to hit the guy who hit one of your own. If Stewart had heard the comment, he obviously wouldn’t have done what he did.

    Plenty of people have done good things for bad people, either by accident or on purpose, and I don’t see how this could even remotely be painted as a negative character trait on Stewart’s part, or Johns jacking up Stewart’s character somehow.

  10. @Lou: Regardless of how badly the guy deserved it, once Hal punched him it became An Air Force Puke Just Hit A Marine to all the other Marines at the bar. I’ve known enough Marines to know that they don’t let anybody from another branch get away with that sort of thing, and especially not members of the Air Force.

  11. I just discovered one of these from CBR this morning, and that’s when Professor Xavier wittingly allowed Wolverine to go through with his assassination attempt (pre-X-Men days) so that Charlie could brainwash Logan himself into becoming The X-Men’s weapon. This all apparently happened before GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1, where Xavier recruits Wolverine, only I guess he already kinda had.

    That “pre-team-up” sucked, and served the ridiculous purpose of making Xavier unlikeable and almost villainous, which should have been left in the Ultimate Universe where it had already been done and without the use of terrible retcons. See also, GENERATION LOST and the intro of Vulcan, Marvel’s very own Superman Prime. Yuck.

  12. @um, everybody, I guess… I flipped through my copy when I got home (images weren’t loading at work for some reason) and yes, clearly John was helping out his fellow Marine and hadn’t heard what went before. Been awhile since I’ve read it, my bad. I should have known they would never have a GL go crazy and.. oh, right. But even with John just happening to be there, those kind of “Look, see what we did? Look at that! We’re clever!” guest appearances, especially the retroactive ones, typically rub me the wrong way.

    @Leroy Hart, agree that dick Xavier should have stayed in the Ultimate books. I didn’t mind it in the last five or six issues building up to Onslaught in the regular MU, when it made sense, but Ultimate Xavier was that constantly. I re-read my first 50 or so issues of Ultimate X-men a few weeks ago (dropped it after the Fenris thing) and just remembered what a scumbag that Prof was. The Proteus story alone pretty much made it impossible to care about him at all, and worse than most of the bad guys they came up with. My personal biggest peeve with the Vulcan intro? Changing Krakoa into a blobby, giant Swamp Thing that Xavier was working like a puppet. And Darwin.

  13. Every time I go back to anything by Johns it disappoints me. He’s in this vein of total continuity love that I left behind as I plowed through the racks trying to find comics worth reading. I found that Johns could really suck me into his world because of what I liked as a kid, and then I found that Johns’s world was a really boring place to me as an adult.

    He does look cute in the pictures I’ve seen of him, though. Not young Frank Frazetta hot, but pretty dishy for a comics writer, you have to admit.

  14. I think it works occasionally if it makes sense, but on the whole I’m against it. I think it really shrinks the character’s world, when they meet everyone they’ll ever meet before they become a hero/an adult/leave Smallville. It’s like If I were to never meet another new person again for the rest of my life. It’d be horrible.

  15. Personally, I’m slightly worried by the way that superheroes seem almost unable to enter a bar without a fight somehow starting.

  16. Having Jim Gordon comforting the orphaned Bruce Wayne isn’t contrived if, as in Nolan’s story, Batman seeks Gordon’s help when Gordon’s just a lieutenant: he becomes commissioner in part because of his partnership with Batman.

    If Batman first started working with Gordon when he was ALREADY commissioner, THAT would have made it contrived to have him be the cop on the scene in Crime Alley.

    And, anyway, Year One is no less contrived, in that Gordon and Wayne showed up in Gotham on the exact same day, each concluding that he should have taking some other form of transit.

  17. I love that page for one reason: I had the Bizarro version of it happen to me a few years ago.

    Off-base location. Black enlisted A1C (after the incident, Amn, heh), white reservist Marine Captain. Predeployment party, instead of what looks like it’s supposed to be a redeployment cooldown. 1 enlisted man each (Air Force and Marine) going after the same girl, but the girl defended herself by knowing how to get the SSgt to hit the other SSgt. Both the Captain and I were the peacemakers, instead of joining in on the fun. But one thing remained the same: although I can’t remember what he said, I was the one who’d drank enough to figure that I could get away with slapping a Marine. One minute later, we’re on the ground and the rest of the club is either fighting or hiding. Five minutes later, blue lights are visible and the smarter/more sober/more liked people are being shuffled away while we’re still struggling on the ground. We get caught, my deployment’s cancelled, his deployment’s canceled and my stripe’s gone with the wind. IIRC, he was later decommisioned for starting another fight a few weeks later. Didn’t mean much to me, what with the extra $100 gone from my pocket. Aah, good times, good times. :argh: