The DC and Marvel universes can trace their roots all the way back to the days of WWII and beyond. Between then and now, we’ve seen some quite dramatic changes in society. As the second Mister Terrific was rudely reminded during a foray into the past, the racial divide from the founding days of the Justice Society are gone. Following her upbringing warning of the dangers of men, Wonder Woman has strived for greater equality between the sexes. Simon Baz is the first Muslim Green Lantern and X-Men have featured a same-sex marriage on their front page. But those are just the highlights. On a more general basis, nothing much has actually changed. So what does the comic world actually need?
Not to sound like a prude but imagine Batman running around in a Huntress getup. What if Superman and Power Girl accidentally switched outfits? For a couple of issues, men would probably find a ripped-survival outfit fine for the Dark Knight after having him crash in some exotic jungle. But imagine him running around in boxers and a sports bra on a permanent basis, just for a minute.
Not a pretty sight, is it?
I’m not saying everyone should cover up in three layers. The New 52 Wonder Woman has been allowed to slip on some shorts instead of her normal underwear and it’s been a change for the better. But are you honestly telling me that Black Canary and Zatanna should be running around in fishnets and corsets instead of some actual crime-fighting equipment? Drop by STAR Labs with a tailor and see what they have in stock. At the very least, their legs must be chilly.
More Equality and Diversity
Consider the JLA and JSA both before and after the New 52. The pre-52 JLA consisted of Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman and Wonder Woman. I count five white guys, one green guy, and another white woman. Other than Green Lantern V3 (John Stewart), there’s not a non-white face in sight and it was usually Hal Jordan serving with the JLA. Other than swapping out Martian Manhunter for Cyborg (who would usually be serving with the Titans) the line-up has remained the same.
The JSA hasn’t served much better either. Take a look at the expanded JSA from around the 50’s.
Out of twenty-two members, I count only five women and everyone in the picture is white. Of the two, the JSA has actually made itself better in their new incarnation as Wonders of the World. Out of now nine members, four are female and only five are white. Maybe that’s not an exactly even split but it’s damn close.
Marvel didn’t fare much better. Practically all the X-Men are from America and mostly white and mostly male.
Some Actual Consequences
Death of Superman Goes On Holiday? What about Battle For The Cowl Batman Takes A Vacation? We’re promised deep and meaningful changes to the universe but end up watching a few issues of fighting before everything goes back to normal. I would willingly put money on Steve Rogers’ being Hydra just part of a long plan by Fury if I had the cash to spare. Civil War tore apart the Marvel universe but now everything’s back to normal. Until Civil War II. They haven’t even bothered to change the name this time. Over the entire course of the DC continuity, I can only recall three genuinely game-changing events, all Crises.
Jay Garrick ran in WWII and kept pace at the turn of the century with most of his team alongside him. Batman did a slight reboot over to Earth-1 with a new man to take the role. But other than aliens and the immortals of the universe, people should at least try and look closer to their age. The Vertigo John Constantine actually did age at a normal rate for twenty-five years. Some twisted stuff happened over that time but he did age.
As nice as it is to stick with the characters from our childhoods, we all need to let go at some point. If we keep this up, Spider-Man 2099 will still be Peter Parker, kept young by additional spider bites and a series of symbiotes or some other life-extending plot device. The original Hourman was granted an hour of time by his android counterpart from the Justice Legion Alpha. For one hour only, his son could go to a limbo realm and talk with his now deceased father, plucked from the moments before his death. I’m not saying put all the outdated heroes into a home but at least have them take on background roles. Bring them back for special occasions, don’t just force them to adapt to a world completely different from the one they came from. And please, let’s bring in some new names to replace them. Grayson made a great Batman with Damien as his Robin. Keep the cowl but at least change the wearer.