Hello again, children of the glade. Last night, I talked about how much I loved Larfleeze after reading his Christmas special. Today, I read his introduction story, Agent Orange, which runs through issues number 39 to 42 in Green Lantern Volume 5 (Volume 5 is apparently all the comics from 2005-2011, right before DC’s big reboot). And I still love him, but I need to clear up something now about how I portrayed the character in yesterday’s post.
Larfleeze’s role in the Christmas special is that of a comedic villainous antagonist. In the Green Lantern comics proper, he’s an extremely powerful, greedy, and short-tempered villain. How powerful? As I mentioned before, the Green Lantern Corps. comprises of 7200 members (technically there are a few more, seeing as Earth alone has 4 active Green Lanterns, but we’ll ignore that for now). This is some of the power of the green light of willpower divided amongst the Guardians of the Universe and the members of the corps. Larfleeze doesn’t share his power, and all of the other Orange Lanterns are just constructs of his ring, so he himself wields the power of an entire Lantern Corps. That’s insanely powerful, and very dangerous. Even more so as he’s very hot-headed and never willing to listen to reason.
That said, Larfleeze is still pretty funny. His temper and greed are just funny on their own. But the reason I’m mentioning all of this is because yesterday, I said that Larfleeze should have his own series, and that the series should be a comedy with an underlying dramatic plot. I still stand by that, but now I think that it should just be treated as a normal series with a funny character, rather than a series going out of its way to be funny. The reason for this is to prevent Larfleeze from undergoing Flanderization, a term meaning degrading a complex character to a few base traits for the sake of audience appeal, forgoing artistic integrity. Also, I don’t think Larfleeze should have a long, continuing series, like most characters, but rather just a short mini-series that runs for 5-10 issues.
Why shorten it to a mini-series? To prevent overexposure. The thing about the superhero genre is that some of these characters have been around for over 70 years, and have been allowed to continue due to popularity, and great talent constantly coming on board. But some characters are definitely overused. Take, for example, one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters among teenaged and adult comic readers today, Deadpool.
I was first introduced to Deadpool back in 2006, when Marvel Ultimate Alliance first came out. I decided to put him on my team at some point, curious at who he was, and discovered that he had some of the funniest lines in the game, many of them breaking the fourth wall. I did some research, and discovered that Deadpool was like this in the comics as well. To this day, however, I still have not read a comic with Deadpool in it. But I have seen tons of excerpts of his adventures plastered all over the web. People like Deadpool. People find Deadpool funny. Hell, I was almost tempted to pick up a Deadpool storyline when Chris Hastings, the writer of my favorite webcomic, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, got to write a few issues for the character. His writing style seems perfect for it.
But that’s the thing about Deadpool. Every single bit of Deadpool material I’ve ever seen has one thing in common: It feels like I’m reading a webcomic. And there’s nothing wrong with webcomics. I love webcomics. I’ve got a list of over a dozen webcomics I keep up with every day. My mornings usually start out with me checking whichever comics update that day. But the feeling I get from webcomics does not mesh well with the feelings I get from superhero comics, and Deadpool’s novelty quickly feels like it’s overstayed its welcome. I think this is due to overexposure. If Deadpool were a character who periodically appeared in other characters’ stories and got his own mini-series once in a blue moon, I’d be much more interested in it. But I don’t even read Deadpool’s comics, and I find his stuff being shoved down my throat all the time anyway. And it’s not like I don’t find it funny. It’s just growing old.
But like I said, I don’t even read Deadpool’s comics. I don’t read Wolverine’s either, another character who is universally acknowledged as overused, to the point where the term “Wolverine Publicity” has been coined. So instead, let’s talk about the single-most overrated and overused superhero of all time: Batman.
Let’s get one thing straight now: Batman is my favorite superhero. Saying he’s overexposed and overused does not mean I don’t like Batman, because as anybody who knows me can tell you, I FUCKING LOVE BATMAN. But I do think we could all use a bit less of him.
Since Adam West first put on the cowl back in 1966, there have been 10 years where Batman has not been on television in some form. A three-year period from 1969-1972, a six-year period from 1986-1992, and 1996. I was born in 1993. In my entire life, there has been a single year when new Batman content was not airing on television. That’s it. Even now, when he doesn’t have his own series, he’s still a regular character on Young Justice (which, if you aren’t watching, you should be) and is pretty much the most important adult character in the show. And next year, he’s getting a CGI series called Beware the Batman (which believe me, I’ve got some very strong feelings on I will get to at a later date). In addition to this, Batman’s had 10 feature films, with an 11th coming out this summer and 12 direct-to-video movies.
And that’s just outside of comics. Remember how yesterday, I mentioned that when DC rebooted their universe in 52 magazines, 5 of them were connected to Green Lantern? Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, let’s just say it pales in comparison to Batman’s influence. Upon the launch of the New 52, 15 out of the 52 new titles were in some way tied to Batman. They were…
Justice League: Of which Batman is a member.
Justice League International: Of which Batman is also a member.
Batman: Well, duh. Of course they’d give him his own title. Nobody’s contesting that.
Detective Comics: The series Batman originally debuted in back in May 1939, now completely about him!
Batwing: A member of Batman Inc., who operates in Africa.
Batman: The Dark Knight: A series focusing on Batman and how things have changed for him now that he’s launched Batman Inc., a global franchise placing Batmen all over the world.
Batman and Robin: About Batman and the current (and fifth) Robin, his son, Damian Wayne.
Batgirl: In which Barbara Gordon is not Oracle now, is not paralyzed anymore, and gets to fight crime on the street level again.
Batwoman: Yup, that’s a thing too.
Nightwing: The adventures of Dick Grayson, the first Robin, now all grown up and operating solo.
Catwoman: Anti-hero and potential love interest for Batman. Cause some controversy when she and Batman had sex in the first issue, on a Gotham City rooftop, both of them in costume.
Birds of Prey: A female superhero team operating in Gotham. One of the original founding members was Barabara Gordon. Currently, Batman’s old enemy Poison Ivy is a member.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Starring Red Hood, AKA Jason Todd, the second Robin.
Teen Titans: Of which Tim Drake, the third Robin, currently known as “Red Robin” is a member.
Suicide Squad: Of which Harley Quinn, originally a Batman villain, is a member, with a terrible costume redesign to boot.
This month, 6 of DC’s New 52 titles are being cancelled, with 6 new titles filling the gap. Of these, three of them have ties to Batman:
Earth-2: An alternate universe, with Batman being one of the characters, of course.
World’s Finest: The original World’s Finest was Superman and Batman. This one is Powergirl and Huntress. Huntress is Earth-2 Batman’s daughter.
Batman Inc.:Focusing on all of the new Batmen Bruce Wayne has commissioned all over the world.
So yeah. 18 of the 52 titles will now have some direct tie to Batman. I realize that many of the characters I’ve listed are not Batman himself, but his supporting characters, who have branched off and taken up adventures of their own. But the shadow of the Bat still looms over them all.
Of course, Larfleeze could never be as overused as this. At most, his overexposure would hit Deadpool levels, if it began. But like I said, if Larfleeze goes the way of Deadpool, that would still be a bad thing.
The thing about superheroes is that, as mentioned before, many of them have been around for decades. Guys like Batman, Superman, and Wolverine have had lots of time for the public to fall in love with them, and cemented themselves as part of our pop culture. But while they hog the spotlight, there are lots of characters who are missing out. Great characters most people outside of comics might only be vaguely familiar with, like Deadman*, The Question, The Atom, and more, all of whom get relegated to team books or cameos because Batman’s trained to be the best at everything, including hogging the spotlight.
*Deadman actually has appeared in the New 52. He’s a team member of Justice League Dark, which I don’t read because it doesn’t look good, and had his own 5-issue mini-series in DC Universe Presents. The 5-issue mini-series is probably the best thing I’ve read since The New 52 started.