And the rant begins...now.
As we all know by now, something pretty tremendous and earth-shaking happened in Earth-2 #1 this past week. A classic Golden Age hero, who has been around for 70 years, completely had his history and lifestyle revised, and not for the better.
No, I'm not talking about Alan Scott:
Yup, Terry Sloane, the original Mister Terrific, is now Terry Sloan, apparent villain.
SLIGHT DIGRESSION RANT:
You may recall the television series Mission: Impossible. For eight seasons, Jim Phelps risked life and limb for his country, leading his IMF team on almost 200 missions.
Then came the 1996 movie, which decided to make Jim Phelps the villain, turning him into a traitor who slaughtered his entire team and sold out his country for no particular reason other than a lack of the writers' imagination. It was an idiotic move, one that offended many of the fans (and all of the original cast).
(In fairness, the first three Mission: Impossible movies all revolved around traitorous IMF agents. So, profound lack of imagination all around.)
Still, it was galling: why take a character who had been nothing but a good guy, and arbitrarily make him into a vile scumbag? What was the point, except to say, "Look, we're edgy, and this isn't your father's Mission: Impossible!"
You really can't imagine them doing this with a character that "mattered"...having James T. Kirk actually go rogue and try to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor in Star Trek VI, for example. So in a way it's doubly insulting--having the good guy go bad, and the implicit statement that Jim Phelps wasn't important enough to make the filmmakers think twice about destroying his character.
END DIGRESSION RANT--TRANSITION INTO SLIGHTLY LESS DIGRESSING RANT:
Of course, this isn't the first time James Robinson has done this. Golden Age hero The Spider, of the series Alias The Spider, was just another archer hero from Quality Comics. After the original Crisis, he made an adequate fill in for the now non-existent Golden Age Green Arrow.
But Robinson decided to retcon him in the pages of Starman (along with Geoff Johns in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E). Now the Spider hadn't really been a hero; he was really a master criminal who had been pretending to be a hero in order to eliminate the competition!! (OK, I'll concede a couple of points for cleverness there.) He had betrayed and tried to kill his teammates on the Seven Soldiers Of Victory!! The Shade killed him, but his son carried on his evil ways!! It's OK, because there are only 12 people on Earth who even remember Alias The Spider!!
Which is not to say there stories were bad. But why go to the same well again in 2012?
RETURN TO MAIN RANT:
Heaven knows Mr. Terrific wasn't the most significant or important or popular guy out there. Let's face it, most folks considered him irredeemably corny and old-fashioned and twee. And let's not forget about the costume:
Still, he was considered enough of a role model to have inspired Michael Holt to become the modern Mister Terrific. (So, in the nu52, Holt just decided to tattoo FAIR PLAY on his arms without it being a tribute to a past hero? Now who is being twee?)
Terry Sloane was a Renaissance man, master of all trades, a genius and self-made millionaire who, instead of wallowing in his own crapulance, dedicated his skills to helping others. He was a hero.
Yet now, James Robinson has transformed him into, in the words of my pal Siskoid, an Ozymandias knock-off. Why? What possible reason, except to show (yet again) that this isn't your father's Earth-2?
Why destroy a hero (again)? Are there so many that we can cavalierly discard them? Aren't there 157 existing villains we could have used in this role, Golden-Agers or Earth-2ers or people who haven't been used yet in the nu52? The villains out there far outnumber the heroes--why are we burning off one of the latter, instead of using the former?
Why not make Alan Scott your bad guy, then? Nope, too popular, fans would be upset. We can't do that to any "important" character. Mister Terrific? Him we can use--he doesn't matter.
Hell, why don't you create an original character? Oh, wait, that wouldn't make readers go, "Oooooo, he's being edgy." And people would call the new character cliched and uninteresting. And inventing a new bad guy would require an excess of imagination. Never mind, let's just use this guy who has been lying around unused. And let's not even bother to spell his name correctly.
Because he doesn't matter. Sure, that's why they killed him off in the first place, back in Justice League #171 (1979)--because when you "need" to kill of someone for shock value, you do it to someone the writers don't know how to use, and to someone the readers won't care about. You do it to someone who doesn't matter.
Well, I'm here to tell you that Terry Sloane matters. Heroes matter.
Heroes are a precious commodity. You don't defame them and run them through the gutter and turn them evil just because you lack a better story idea. It's cheap, and it's lazy, and it's profoundly insulting to say, "This fellow has been a hero for 70 years, but let's just chuck that and make him Lex Luthor without the hair problem."
Yes, James Robinson, no one knew Terry Sloane, or had even read any comics that had Terry Sloan in them. Yet he was deemed enough significant to use in this new role, because you thought people would recognize the name. So you don't really believe he was that insignificant--you just did it for the shock value (again). And you're a better writer than that.
Yes, I'm admittedly corny and old-fashioned and twee sometimes. But I believe down to the core of my being that heroes matter. They belong to all of us, and you don't just flush them down the crapper.
And so does spelling....It's SLOANE!! Don't drop the E, dammit!!