So the controversy going on yesterday was not the big surprise of Neil Gaiman bringing Angela to Marvel Comics. It was the news of the possible offing of Green Lantern John Stewart. John Stewart, the one black DC character people grew up for a couple of years watching on TV as the Green Lantern on Justice League. Popular to the point that when the trailers for the Green Lantern movie came out, people all over asked, “Huh?! I thought Green Lantern was black!” Due to all the craziness with this news breaking out, DC came out and stated they weren’t going to kill John Stewart. John Stewart, the most popular black superhero in the DC verse (Cyborg and Static arguably being two characters that may actually present a challenge to that notion).
What are my thoughts on this? I say, “DC… go ahead. Kill John Stewart. It’s not like you gave a damn about the character after the 90s.” John Stewart became the poster child of the Green Lantern mythos due to the Justice League cartoons, and instead of trying to capitalize on this, DC Comics (not animation) continually kept the character to the sidelines and made him useless and overall boring. Name me one arc within the past decade where John Stewart played a prominent part where he wasn’t there as a lackey while the other Lanterns all have a piece of the pie, John being left with crumbs. Give me one recent story that didn’t revolve around his insecurities or his guilt, or that didn’t revolve around him destroying yet ANOTHER planet! Hell, his most recent book where he’s suppose to be co-headlining with Guy Gardner is simply him playing second fiddle.
Anyone remember Green Lantern: Mosaic by Gerard Jones and Cully Hamner? The one and ONLY on-going book John Stewart actually had when he wasn’t acting as a placeholder for another character? Oh, so you’ve never read it, you say? Understandable as DC never gave a damn to try to re-release these issues into a collection despite the book apparently having great reception and acclaim. At the time of its release, people compared the series to a Vertigo book. It was very thought-provoking, surreal, abstract, and just a top-notch bad-ass book. Issue #1 of Mosaic remains my favorite first issue of all time. I say if anyone is going to ever attempt to write John Stewart, the first issue of his only series should be required reading and forced down that writer’s throat. The series focused deeply on John Stewart as the head of a planet he was assigned by the Guardians to monitor and make sure people of various species from different planets find a means of co-existing. The book dealt with Stewart as the deep thinker of the human Lanterns, the philosopher who defeated you with his mind and knowledge than simply with his fists. The man was highly imaginative and an artist. The book was simply poetry in motion.
If Mosaic is so great, why was it canceled after only 18 issues, you ask? From Mr. Hamner in an interview, “(A)s I was told at the time, it didn’t fit with DC editorial vision (whatever that means). Sales didn’t matter, fan support didn’t matter; the first issue sold about 210,000 copies and my last issue sold about 70,000, so there was plenty of support for the book. It was marked for cancellation when issue #5 came out, and they allowed Gerry Jones a year to wrap it up, but there was no doubt that it was being cancelled because somebody upstairs just didn’t care for it. So, I had a feeling after a while of creatively being against a brick wall, and got out before the end. You pay your money, you takes your chances. That’s the biz.”
Now while I love Justice League Unlimited to death, I do put a bit of blame on the creators of that show for the portrayal of John Stewart in the recent comics. Stewart got a lot of love in the series. Most of the storylines revolved around him, thus making him a popular character and giving him a fanbase today. While all that is good and dandy, the complexity of the character was gone. The philosopher, the thinker, the spiritual and intellectual became a hard ass marine. DC’s only attempt to capitalize on Stewart’s success from the cartoon was to now completely have Stewart in the book as a marine with his past as a thinker completely gone. Now he’s all gun slinging marine with not much nuance. Does ANYONE know what his actual personality is anymore? How many times does he have to blow up a damn planet? How many times does he have to overcome his guilt all the damn time while all the other GLs can get their moment of strength and actually do shit? While I love John Stewart, at this point I’m just not sure I care anymore. DC obviously doesn’t. Geoff Johns doesn’t. Unless you’re a black boy growing up on JLU or one of the readers who actually remembers Mosaic, no one really cares. DC refuses to do anything with him and they fail to realize why the character can’t catch on in the books – BECAUSE THEY DO NOTHING WITH THE CHARACTER!!! As DC continues to piss off their minority readership, they might as well just do that extra push and kick us out of their full readership. Kill off John Stewart. Now, before someone gives me crap about minorities getting special treatment and should be able to get killed off as much as other white characters, name me five… no… name me one black character that’s been killed off and resurrected. Give me a list of all black characters, heroes and villains, and then give me a list of all the white heroes and villains. Woo-saa… slight digression that be…
But anyways, how hard is it just to ask someone like Peter Milligan to pitch a book or arc for John Stewart? Or Phil Hester? Morrison? Is it just entirely wishful thinking? People who can actually sell a book due to their name only? Yeah…wishful thinking.
Until DC actually decides to utilize you, John Stewart… R.I.P. You will be dear in my heart as I skim through my Mosaic issues.