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  1. #1
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Default Are there any DC characters that truly feel "outdated"

    This is a cudgel that's used against many DC characters, so I think it's worth discussing with as much nuance as we're able to muster.

    I can certainly see how many would view DC's roster, or superheroes in general, as very old fashioned. Most of them are, after all, half a century old or older. They are largely the products of white men who were often Jewish and living in NYC. These characters are shaped by their experiences growing up through the Great Depression, WW2, and the Cold War looking to make a buck from children with disposable entertainment. As a result, the characters reflect the anxieties, preoccupations, and prejudices of their times, so superheroes are overflowing with rich playboys, scientists, test pilots, spies and soldiers fighting a never-ending battle against villains that almost always evoke the Nazis.

    However, does that mean these are characters that we need to move on from in favor of newer, fresher characters that better reflect the diversity of our culture? I can certainly see that argument. It's undeniable that the adventures of straight white men have dominated the superhero market for decades to diminishing returns, particularly once the Baby Boomers fully took the creative reigns and the superhero genre became more and more focused upon itself rather than trying to reach out to newer audiences.

    This inward looking aspect of the superhero readership has also made it increasingly difficult to introduce new characters because the dwindling readership, forever obsessed with the old characters and comics they'd first fallen in love with as kids, frequently aren't interested in reading anything that isn't a retelling, reimagining, recontextualization, or continuation of those old comics.

    So, with not enough readers to showcase both the old characters and the new, what should DC do? Didio's 5G plan of aging out the older heroes in favor of replacing them with the next generation clearly wasn't something DC's current corporate overlords felt was going to work.

    I don't think there's a solution that's going to please everyone. There are simply too many great characters available to DC and not enough readers to justify giving them all time to shine. Choices are going to have to be made and there are going to be fans of certain characters left out in the cold, which will inevitably lead to resentment, bickering, and the usual nonsense.

    In the end, there's very few characters that DC has that I would call outdated. Time and time again, great creators have shown that any character can be tweaked or shown in a new light that makes them just as relevant today as they were when they were first created. All it takes is the right creators who are able to make that character feel new again.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Bored at 3:00AM; 02-24-2021 at 06:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Spectacular Member Captain Nostalgia's Avatar
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    The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Captain Boomerang.

    He's great as a suicide squad member....but I don't see how throwing boomerangs would be a challenge to the Flash....plus the pajama pants needed to go.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    I was going to go with Captain Nazi, but then he's not really a DC character, or at least wasn't in his inception. I was really surprised they brought back KGBeast, though. No idea why they thought that would be a good idea. Without vast reworking, they knew he'd age out of his backstory being feasible soon enough. Very limited self-life, as done. But then, there was Bea's reworked origin that I could say the same for.

    While I agree many have reflected the anxieties of their time, I don't think the vast majority are really tied to those times or anxieties. I think the ones that are can suffer from it (especially when it's more explicit like Wonder Woman and WWII and it being difficult to still have a reason she was where she was after). Most of the characters had those anxieties at the time they big in cultural norms of the nations, only to have different anxieties as the American public (because they are chiefly American products for American consumption) changed. I suppose I think more about obsolete backstories (which I feel Dick Grayson and Hal Jordan may have soon, as will Kate Kane unless her DADT backstory has been changed and I didn't notice) than the emotional tone of them, since those change drastically over time.

    I actually do want to comment on the rich playboys - the richness of them became much more extreme and much more relevant to their stories in the last 30-40 years than it was before that. I'm not really sure when characters like Diana and Clark got to be significantly higher on the income scale than they initially were.
    Last edited by Tzigone; 02-24-2021 at 07:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Any character whos concept is to grounded in a particular era.

    Im reminded of Grunge from Gen 13. News flash characters based on popular music genres or subcultures, never age well.

    A lot of early minority characters are like this. Some of them were saved, but it almost took turning them into a completely different character.

  5. #5
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    Colonel Computron. A villain for the early 80s and no other time period.

    Of course, we haven't seen much of Computron since the 80s, for reasons that should be self-explanatory.

    Buried Alien (The Fastest Post Alive!)
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  6. #6
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    Prez and Funky Flashman

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  8. #8
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tzigone View Post
    I suppose I think more about obsolete backstories (which I feel Dick Grayson and Hal Jordan may have soon, as will Kate Kane unless her DADT backstory has been changed and I didn't notice) than the emotional tone of them, since those change drastically over time.
    I was kind of shocked that they kept Kate Kane's backstory for the TV show, but that's no really going to be an issue anymore now that she's been knocked off.

    As for Dick & Hal, while I think those characters absolutely sing when they are set in the time periods they were created for, Cooke's New Frontier being a perfect example of that in regards to Hal's Korean War history, I think talented creators could find ways of updating their origins. A travelling circus may be a thing of the past, but live performances featuring death-defying acrobats will certainly be around for decades to come as long as people keeping paying to see these kinds of shows in places like Vegas and Macau. They just need to re-contextualize the nature of Haley's Circus to be something more modern and the character still works just fine. Hal's a little trickier, as the nature of aerial combat and our view of the space program has changed significantly since the 50s. The 2011 movie tried to address this by pitting Hal against drones, but it does feel like the idea of fighter pilot turned test pilot could use some tweaking. I would go the route of having Hal being a test pilot for today's cutting edge spacecraft but who is viewed by his peers a throwback to the long gone days of the Space Race. I think it's better to lean into his roots, rather than run away from them or pretend that being a test pilot today means the same to people as it did in the 50s and 60s.

    I think the same approach could be made to Captain Nazi and KGBeast. Make them characters yearning for day's past, which isn't too far off the mark when you look at what is going on today in parts of America's authoritarian right and in Putin's Russia.

  9. #9
    Spectacular Member Icefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Evans View Post
    Funky Flashman
    With Stan Lee having passed, it's probably best that character be retired.

  10. #10
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathew101281 View Post
    Any character who’s concept is to grounded in a particular era.

    I’m reminded of Grunge from Gen 13. News flash characters based on popular music genres or subcultures, never age well.

    A lot of early minority characters are like this. Some of them were saved, but it almost took turning them into a completely different character.
    Yeah, we're looking at you Vibe, who managed to become a great character by becoming someone else entirely.

  11. #11
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Icefan View Post
    With Stan Lee having passed, it's probably best that character be retired.
    King & Gerad's Mister Miracle was the best possible ending for that character. I can't see anyone possibly topping that.

  12. #12
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    Yeah, we're looking at you Vibe, who managed to become a great character by becoming someone else entirely.
    The TV series' Cisco totally saved Vibe.

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  13. #13
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j9ac9k View Post
    B'Wana Beast
    I think Morrison's new version from Animal Man could work, but, yeah, the original...not so much.

  14. #14
    Obsessed & Compelled Bored at 3:00AM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buried Alien View Post
    Colonel Computron. A villain for the early 80s and no other time period.
    quietly deletes the Colonel Computron pitch that's been worked on for years

    a single tear rolls down Bored's face

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    A travelling circus may be a thing of the past, but live performances featuring death-defying acrobats will certainly be around for decades to come as long as people keeping paying to see these kinds of shows in places like Vegas and Macau.
    Oh yeah, that's fine. But it's not an actual circus. Animals, in particular, are increasingly a no-go. I guess Gotham itself would have to be a hub for shows like that, if Gotham is to have jurisdiction over orphaned Dick Grayson..though I guess a billionaire stepping to to adopt across state lines is feasible enough for comics. Though one can always just not mention their origins, I guess.

    I think the same approach could be made to Captain Nazi and KGBeast. Make them characters yearning for day's past, which isn't too far off the mark when you look at what is going on today in parts of America's authoritarian right and in Putin's Russia.
    That could work.

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