Monday, March 30, 2009

My Scott & Jean: Or Leave My Hawks Alone!

Alert Nerd has a blogging discussion on everyone's "Scott & Jean." To wit:

"That is my geek sacred cow, the one topic I cannot discuss rationally because it makes me too insane/angry/scary-eyed."

Trying to narrow it down is hard. There are comic book-related topics that send me into a rage or fill me with irritation. But there is only one that I simply can’t hear logic on.

Mine is simple: I loathe the Hawkman/Hawkgirl/Green Lantern/Vixen quadrangle in the last season of "Justice League Unlimited". No matter how you explain it to me, I will not agree the storyline made sense.

I actually tried to voice my annoyance with the storyline and was shouted down with “Shayera was a spy, she betrayed the League, so she deserved whatever she got.” Wow, so the love interest wasn’t allowed an opinion. She wasn’t allowed to have feelings, because of what she’d done a season and a half ago? Despite all the good she did, she’s damned by her previous actions. How wonderfully open-minded you are.

But... but... you love the Justice League animated universe. The series single-handedly dragged you back into the DC Universe. How can you say that?

Let me back up a little. I came into the “Justice League” animated series late in the game, after some of my friends were all squeeful over the series. The first episodes of "Justice League" I watched was the "Starcrossed" three-parter. So I knew the Hawkgirl/Green Lantern was pretty well doomed from the start. That doesn’t make what they did later any better in my eyes.

For me, the DC animated universe was off in its own safe little alternate universe. That allowed for the new interpretations of the familiar characters.

I was even okay with Hawkgirl being without Hawkman in this universe. Shayera Hol was strong and independent woman who took no quarter from anyone. She wasn’t just some sidekick or dilettante. She wasn’t someone’s partner or Girl Friday. She might have worn the familiar Thanagarian Hawk uniform, but Shayera was categorically her own woman. That opened her up to romances with other people, including John Stewart.

The DC animated writers started tweaking with that idea when they introduced Shayera’s promised one Hro Talak in “Starcrossed”. Hro Talak was an anagram of Katar Hol, the Silver Age canon husband of Thanagarian Hawkgirl. The team had wanted to use the original Hawkman, but apparently DC Comics didn't quite like the idea of him as a villain, so they changed him just enough. (They had done the same thing in “Legends” when DC nixed using the JSA.) The writers mentioned Truman's "Hawkworld" as an inspiration, which gave us the uglier grittier Thanagar. In that series, Katar wasn't the nice respected and married (*glares at Mavis*) cop. Someone suggested that this was the Katar who had stayed home on Thanagar, becoming the hardened warrior in an Elseworlds type of change.

So Shayera flew off in “Starcrossed”, leaving poor John woe and all alone. His new girlfriend was Vixen, portrayed by the glorious Gina Torres. That relationship wasn’t supposed to last long, but the writers made Vixen a little too likable and plus they loved the actress. I liked her, too. I honestly thought she was the most level-headed of the quad. She could have acted as the jealous girlfriend, but she was more playful than anything.

But the writers found themselves in a hole. How do they get John back to Hawkgirl without making him into a massive jerk? They equally nixed the idea of Vixen dumping GL as too easy. This was then worsened by the addition of the Warhawk character from the future DCU we saw in both “Batman Beyond” and "Once & Future Thing". Why the writers couldn't brush it aside as a possible future, rather than the future I don't know. Or at least they could have left a question mark about who the father was. Then they might have been okay.

Instead enter the DCU version of Carter Hall aka Hawkman. In the writers' talk for "Ancient History", Dini and company explained how this came about. Initially they'd wanted to do a classic JLA lineup with Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, etc. Carter was the only thing that survived from that idea. They actually liked the reincarnated part of his background everyone sighs and grumbles over. No one seems to like that story except me. They cited Geoff Johns' recent Hawkman run for inspiration of melding the Egyptian and the Thanagarian backgrounds. I think that actually comes from the JSA "Return of Hawkman" sequence. Despite what they said, this Carter does come off stalkerish and presumptive. He assumes once she's heard the story she'll just fall into his arms. In retrospect, that was not all that unlike Carter & Kendra's early interactions, when he came on a little too strong, so maybe that explains my irritation with this incarnation. Carter the warrior and strategist is not there, just a deluded archaeologist who believes that Egypt was settled by aliens. Should we introduce him to Dr. Daniel Jackson?

Inserting Green Lantern into the Hawks’ Ancient already complicated Egyptian backstory just felt wrong. The original was a love story, not a triangle, and Hath-Set suddenly became a caricature version of Jafar, rather than eternal evil. In the writer's talk, they talked about the fake-out with the Shadow Thief's real identity, which was a nifty piece of storytelling, because of the voices. But the real reason I'd assume the Shadow Thief was Hath-Set was because I knew the classic Hawkman background of Hath-Set stalking the lovers through time. Not that this applies in this universe, because they weren't the intended lovers you were worried about. You didn’t care about Carter and Shayera in the flashback; you only saw John and Shayera. Shayera's former half is no longer the devoted partner and wife, she's the cheating harlot. But it's okay because she was meant to be with Green Lantern all along... *head desks*

Throughout these episodes, Green Lantern talked about having mixed emotions because he's with Vixen and clearly has feelings for her, but the future shows he wound up back with Hawkgirl. Batman asks the pointed question. "Why are you still with Vixen then?" What about Hawkgirl herself? Is her only future as brood mare? Carter's still hanging around and still has feelings for her. Nowhere is she given a similar quandary. You tell her in the future you have a son together but then "I'm still staying with Vixen". What other alternative do you give Hawkgirl than to search Bats to ask about her son? Writers, you don't want John to come off a jerk, but in the end, he kinda does anyway.


TSB said...

That love triangle/quadrangle makes me SO ANGRY. Seriously, least favorite part of JLU.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post, mizzelle! Thanks for participating :)

Interesting thing about this:

"But... but... you love the Justice League animated universe. The series single-handedly dragged you back into the DC Universe. How can you say that?"

One thing that always irritates the hell out of me is when I have a complaint about something, and someone else says, "well, it's just because you're not as big of a [WHATEVER] fan."

Doesn't my nitpicking mean I'm, like, *more* of a fan? Because I want it to be BETTER? ;)

--Sarah from Alert Nerd

Julia said...

Thanks for organizing it.

Doesn't my nitpicking mean I'm, like, *more* of a fan? Because I want it to be BETTER? ;)

I hate generalizing people's levels of fannishness in general. People love stuff for different reasons. I know people who loved the JL series, but that didn't instantly turn them into comics fans, for instance.

I nitpick because I care. Because I loved the series enough to think about all the implications. I loved the JL/JLU series. Was it flawless? Oh, Hades, no! (Especially where Diana was concerned, but that's a whole another rant and a half.) But it was one of best animated series I've seen in a long time. I just wish I could watch that last season without biting back "Yes, but..."

Dan said...

I have absolutely nothing at stake regarding the Hawks. The various retcons and reinterpretations of their origin have rendered the characters completely inscrutable to me.

The Hawkgirl/John relationship never grabbed me. Maybe I never really got over GL not being Hal or Kyle, or maybe it's the fact that DCAU John was a good 75% more hard-assed than the John Stewart I knew from the books.

Really, all I remember about the Shadow Thief episode was Bats being pretty badass...but, then again, I would...wouldn't I?

Julia said...

Dan, I'm completely unattached to any of the Green Lanterns (except Alan of course), so John Stewart being GL was fine by me. Now it got a little weird trying to read the comics and expecting the bad-ass former Marine.

Again I grew up with the Multiverse concept so the Hawks were always separate entities. Carter and Katar were similar but not the same. Shayera was stronger than Shiera, other than her All Star Squadron appearances, when she ventured out more on her own. Of course I also read Infinity Inc when Carter had parent issues, dealing with Hector, so I hardly saw him through rose-colored glasses.

And yes, of course, you would notice Batman. Although I was amused at the idea of him looking through the JL fanboards for anti-Shayera wank...

Noah0z said...

Well said!