Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Superheroes. There are just too damn many of them, sometimes. And you know what’s just cluttering up the playing field? Revamps.

Revamps of old superheroes. You know when one guy is a superhero for a really long time but then sometimes something happens and somebody else has to step in and take their place? Now, sometimes this makes for great storytelling. It isn’t incidental that War Machine is starring in the next Iron Man movie; afterall, at one point, Rhodes stepped in as Iron Man to replace Stark while he recovered from alcoholism (among other personality problems).

So who really is ‘owed’ the mantle and title of the hero?

Believe it or not, Battle for the Cowl was kind of old-hat (although I was psyched to see Dick Grayson finally BE Batman, as is depicted in almost every alternate-future-time-line-whatever that you see in other comics). The story was already done (and perhaps, debatably, better done?) back in the nineties and was called Knightfall.

Don’t get me wrong- I loved Battle for the Cowl. Any set of writers and artists who are willing to dig that deep into the Batman mythology, draw from so many different eras and characters of the book, and bring it all together deserves gratitude.
I loved seeing how different Azrael was from Wayne though. The way he thought, the way he handled things…it was such a sudden break.

But that was it- the impact of the change was shocking. The character’s around him- Tim Drake, Jim Gordon, even the criminal underworld- they had to live with the fact that this was a NEW Batman, and he did things a bit differently. And of course, it was followed by the obligatory "original superhero fights the latest incarnation of the superhero" fight that we all want to see.

Now, I suppose it was obvious, after they went through all the effort of rehabilitating Wayne from his injuries and of having Azrael clearly descend into madness, that Wayne was going to end up on top. That combined with the fact that almost without question, sooner or later, the fans want the ORIGINAL back in place. Don’t believe me? Go grab a comic right now. Barry Allen is the Flash. Hal Jordan is (a) Green Lantern. Steve Rogers is Captain America. I could go on.

But, even if it was all just for show, there was something about that fight that just kept me on the edge. Maybe it was just having two guys sitting around, yelling with complete and utter conviction that they were ‘The Batman’ and that such an identity transcended every struggle they underwent. I don’t know why, but I bought- like maybe Azrael really was going to BE Batman at the end of that fight. If the fans had wanted it bad enough. Maybe…

So, yeah. Once in a while? Good storytelling.

Often? Confusion. Oh, such confusion.

Two words: Captain Marvel.

Who is Captain Marvel?

Well, Captain Marvel is:

A. Billy Batson, a small boy who can switch places with a superpowered do-gooder of
that alias (DC comics)

B. Mar-Vell, a Kree soldier imbued with cosmic powers who turned against his kind because he saw something redeemable in mankind (Marvel comics)

C. Monica Rambeau, a New York cop imbued with light-related powers after a freak accident, now a reserve Avenger. (Marvel comics)

D. Genis-Vell, Mar-Vell’s son, imbued with his father’s powers and sometimes depicted as bonded to Hulk’s ex-sidekick Rick Jones. (Marvel comics)

E. Phyla-Vell, Mar-Vell’s sister (Marvel Comics).

F. Noh-Varr, last survivor of a shot-down Kree ship with an ambivalent attitude towards humans (Marvel comics)

If you answered all of the above you would be correct. And probably overwhelmed.
Now, if Captain Marvel was a DC and a Marvel comics character that would be confusing enough. The huge slew of cannon fodder that Marvel has tacked on since Mar-Vell’s death just adds to the confusion. Although, really, DC comics is a bit more notorious for this kind of thing. I just use Marvel as an example here- but I can’t list the number of Atoms, and Green Lanterns, and Starmans there have been. Not to mention the whole pre-crisis, post-crisis, post-infinite crisis, continuity thing.

BUT, I’ll give BOTH companies this- they are good to the characters they create, at least. Monica Rambeau goes by Photon now, Phyla-Vell by Quasar, Kyle Raynor (formerly Green Lantern) calls himself Ion…and they did put Guy Gardner through that awful Warrior phase, but they’ve got him back with a ring (thank God).

So I have to give it up in the sense that Marvel and DC leave no man behind. And I like that every character gets touched up to make them distinct- Kyla Raynor, to use an example, is NOT Hal Jordan. Neither is John Stewart. Even the way they use their rings has subtle differences (read Green Lantern: Rebirth…I love Hal’s narration about how each Lantern works).

But that’s just it- let’s be careful who we make and why we make them the hero they are, all right? New characters are all well and good, but let’s be careful out there. Of course, these interesting little pockets of comic knowledge are part of what everyone loves anyway. How will person A be hero X instead of person B? Moderation is key here.

And if you ARE going to make a new hero the hero? I say frickin’ GO with it. Nothing half-assed. Kyle Raynor got to star for a LONG time before Hal Jordan came back. Did Bucky Barnes get the same treatment as Captain America? Ryan Choi as the Atom? Will Shilo Norman get second billing to Scott Free, as Mister Miracle, I wonder? Just sayin'.