Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Who's that old guy reading comic books?

I think I may have a difficult time getting older. I like to tell myself I’m Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky but the truth is my own mortality will probably be an issue for me, especially when I think upon this comic book hobby of mine. Comic heroes are strong, true, and perpetually in their early thirties, unless it’s an Ultimate All-Star title in which they’re probably younger.

How do older people relate to these youthful, mythological gods? I’m at the age now where the comic book movie heroes are at my age or younger, in the blink of an eye I’ll be past that mark. Will my aging affect how I read these stories, if I even read them any more? I have long since given up buying comics monthly; will the purchase of trade paperbacks also go the way of the dodo?

I know it’s a bit early for me to concern myself with such frivolous matters but I don’t want to be caught off guard. I don’t want to turn around one day and realize I’m an old guy reading funny books and not be able to reconcile that, so I just give them up. I suppose this is an exercise in preserving a hobby from my childhood.

I’m finding that I like the heroes with a credible older image. Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come Superman springs to mind initially. True, the character still has a Herculean build and only shows a smidgen of age around the eyes and in his graying temples; but he is still noticeably older. So I suppose I can convert all my Superman shirts to the Kingdom Come version when I hit 50 or so.

There’s also Ross’ Kingdom Come Aquaman; with Arthur having that “King of Atlantis/Poseidon” angle I can relate to him being older but still viable, plus he’s a father. I know he lost his kid to Black Manta back in the 70’s but the fact is he was the first of DC’s big seven to be a parent and I believe he’ll be a father again one day (it’s a mistake not to utilize this aspect of the character). Furthermore, I’ve never been one to dismiss Aquaman as the majority of fandom does. As Peter David pointed out, Aquaman should be one of DC’s powerhouses having strength, speed and ability honed to superhuman perfection by the great pressures and depths of the oceans (but I digress).

Then there is Oliver Queen. Now here is where I break off from Alex Ross because I dislike his version of old Ollie. Ross has said Green Arrow is a favorite character of his so when he got the opportunity he made Queen resemble himself; paunchy and bald. True, Kingdom Come Green Arrow has a slight resemblance to Sean Connery in his Robin Hood outfit but all I see is Ross’ wish fulfillment and it doesn’t suit me.

However, Queen is one of those rare heroes whose current incarnation is depicted as being older. In reading Brad Metzler’s Archer’s Quest you get many references to Green Arrow as being the “Old Man.” Green Arrow should have some creases around his eyes and a little gray in his hair (but he still has hair Ross!); it’s one of the reasons Queen works so well. You have a man who fights modern day crime (in all its forms) and uses an archaic weapon like a bow and arrow. Oliver Queen is the individualist among the rank and file of DC, so making him older enhances that role; he stands out because he clearly cannot acculturate.

And as Green Arrow is the de facto voice against the establishment in the DC Universe all these traits benefit the character. This is also why I see Oliver Queen through the lens of faith and true liberty which almost always rally against the status quo. So I suppose I can grow old with Green Arrow and he will not abandon me.

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