Something is seriously wrong with the DC universe. I know I say that often enough, but you have to realize, gentle reader, that I am a DC fan. I grew up reading DC. I have DC in my blood.
I care so little about DC nowadays. Here I sit. I'm reading a book about a series of basically also-ran, public domain characters called Project Superpowers. These individuals should feel generic to me. They should be like the cookie-cutter police inspectors from '90s British mystery series that were aired on PBS, absolutely indistinguishable and interchangeable. Thanks to Ross, Kreuger, Kluba and Sadowski these super-heroes resonate more for me than the current Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman.
Something is wrong with DC. The problem lies in the writers having no reverence for these characters. They either want to bring them down to give them feet of clay, turn them into jokes or use them as examples of what's old contrasting against what's hip--usually written by Winniruckajohns.
The story opens with the eerie American Spirit (Uncle Sam), presented as a vaguely human shape beneath the flag, confronting Bruce Carter, alias the Fighting Yank, with an accusation. Already, the story is different. Rather than light against dark, we have two patriotic archetypes conflicting. The American Spirit takes the Yank down memory lane. Memory Lane is currently inhabited by the Black Terror, the Flame, the Green Lama and the original Blue Beetle.
I like to delve into the history of super-hero comics. Alter-Ego is on my pull list, but I've not read an adventure with these heroes. I know of them. I have seen them before as art, mascoting the articles written about them, but I don't know these individuals like I do the Trinity.
Thanks to the creative team on Project Superpowers I now like these individuals more than any member of the Shadowmatesocietyofamericantitans. I think I may like them more so than the current Justice League. Let me reiterate. There's something wrong with the DC universe. There has to be.
Kluba and Sadowski depict these heroes in classic poses. Black Terror stands with his arms akimbo. The armored Beetle gleams in the background. Capes flow and flap. At the same time Ross and Krueger injects complexity within the heroes that serves as the crux of the story. The Yank believes in supernatural evil that must be fought at all cost. The other heroes see rationality as the way to fight. They do not necessarily believe in evil as a force but dependent on the individual.
The military, or the powers behind the military, dupe the Yank into serving their corrupt ways. The yarn the general spools could only instigate action in a blind believer. Ostensibly, the Yank is the villain of the piece, but Ross and Krueger make you sympathize with the character. He's doing what he believes to be right, and under the advisement of his ghostly ancestor. He has literally seen the evil around the world; no doubt part of the long con. The artifact the Yank steals from Hitler's cache does exhibit mystical abilities. So I can see his point of view. That's when I realized that I'm feeling something for a character that I didn't know in my childhood, and I'm feeling something for a character who is essentially an artfully corrupted hero, archetypes for which I usually have no use.
The strange thing about is Project Superpowers is that I didn't just feel something for one character. I felt something for all of them. I never read a single adventure with the Flame and Flame Girl, yet I find him potent and she sweet and caring. I know that the original Daredevil was supposed to be hot stuff back in the day, but I never had the opportunity to read a single story with him in it, yet damned if he doesn't look and act cool in these pages. If the Checkteeninfinitypackofjustice went away tomorrow I wouldn't care, but Samson's fate affected me. If Booster Gold were drawn, quartered and disemboweled, I'd shed few tears. Why then does it matter to me if the lives of Kitten, Miss Masque and the Red Arrow are threatened? It's in the writing. It's in the art. These characters may be also-rans to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but the individuals involved with the series love them. They revere them. They treat them with respect, and each character's dignity emanates from the panels. Why can't the powers that be at DC and Marvel do the same?
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