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June 22, 2005

Pardon Me While I Have a Fanboy Moment

by Ron Hogan

Last night, I caught up with the news that Grant Morrison will be the new "revamp guy" for DC Comics, essentially meaning that he's been hired as a consultant to re-imagine some of the characters that have been gathering dust in the inventory closet. This is some of the best news I've heard in ages, as Morrison has long been just about my favorite writer in comics, ever since he started blowing my mind by taking over the Doom Patrol in 1989 and changing them from a second-string superhero book into a Dada free-for-all. Then there was the way he turned Animal Man in on itself, and in the mid-'90s The Invisibles redetonated my head--although there was a lot in there I didn't really get until five years later, at which point my head just blew up real good. Anyway, let's just say that putting Morrison in charge of all the hidden corners of the DC Universe is the best thing the company's done since...well, probably since giving Neil Gaiman a crack at reinventing the Sandman. Some of the initial fruits of his labor are already starting to show up in current comics--stuff that actually has me buying real comics rather than waiting for the deluxe collections for the first time in years.

But speaking of taking old characters out for new spins, I recently got hold of the second volume of the trade paperback collection of Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier, which took a semi-anachronistic look back at the early years of the Silver Age, when new versions of heroes like Flash and Green Lantern were bursting onto the scene. When the series first launched, Cooke talked here and there, and one of the chief selling points of the story, at least to me, was that the publisher allowed Cooke to ignore the demands of current comic book continuity to take everything back to the beginning:

"One of the reasons it took so long to get together is that I felt very strongly that the story take place during the time it originally happened. DC had a natural interest in the story being ‘updated’ and grafted to the current retcon universe, but the more I studied it, the clearer it became to me that these characters were products of their time. That meant the most powerful and meaningful story could be told by letting these characters grow against the backdrop they were intended for."

For me, the best facet of that was seeing Hal Jordan in his original incarnation as experimental jet test pilot, only now set within an explicit Right Stuff/Space Race ethos. It helps that Cooke's artwork is as compelling as his script, though the tiny art samples on those articles don't really do his layouts full justice. Since I'm somebody who came of age pretty much just as DC was mucking up huge chunks of its glorious past, The New Frontier spurs a nostalgia for stuff I wasn't actually around to see; older readers--even those who haven't picked up a comic in years--might well have some serious memory jolts if they take this story on.

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