Thought Balloon: Roy Harper and The Severed Arm of Decency

Posted: June 7, 2010 by silvertomatoproductions in Comics, Comics Editorials, Tomato Surprise
(NOTE: Tomato here, filling in for Racattack with archive material. And, yes, if you’re wondering, I’m still every bit as mad about this as I was at the time, and yes, it IS worse than Robin Hood 2010. Also, to compound matters, this story is still going on, and, amazingly, it’s gotten WORSE. Hard to top needlessly maiming a child, but the fine folks at DC did.)

Hey, guys!
Something that I read this weekend irked me, and I thought I’d throw it out there to the wolves, so to speak. Last Wednesday, Justice League: Cry for Justice #7 came out. I realize those words probably mean nothing to a good 70% of you, so if you’ll allow me to detour into a lecture for a couple minutes, it’d be much obliged. You comics aficionados can skip the next few paragraphs, by the way.
About 90 percent of the comics DC publishes are in the same continuity. This means that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and so on exist in the same universe and can appear in books together. You follow?
Some of you may have already deduced that all of these characters, in addition to starring in their own book, appear in one together, as a team. This team is called the Justice League of America. I can’t think of a gig in comics harder than being a JLA writer, as what you do in that book pretty much constitutes the tone and atmosphere of the rest of DC’s comics.
Diverting for a few minutes, we’ve got to talk about another team before we dig into this mess. The Teen Titans are another DC superhero team, composed of (generally) the sidekicks of the JLA members. At first, it didn’t sell well at all, but under the pen of noted comics genius George Perez, it sold like hotcakes. If JLA is the map for the current feel of the DCU, then Titans is its spirit. I love the Titans dearly, and in terms of comics I’d give almost anything to write, they’re up there. Granted, they’re extremely difficult to write.
See, most writers of the Titans remember to include tons of teenage angst, but forget that teens have fun, too. For some strange reason, Titans writers who’ve gotten that basic principal have been few and far between: namely, James Robinson, the guy who thought it’d be a swell idea to take Roy Harper, a founding Titan, kill his six-year-old child, and rip his arm off.
Roy Harper, sidekick of Green Arrow (think Robin Hood, with a huge liberal bent), was usually one of the lightest and most kiddish Titans, in my opinion. Over time, he grew up and took a different codename, first Arsenal, then Red Arrow. In that time, he had a one-night-stand with the supervillian known as Cheshire, and she had a child, Liam. She didn’t want Liam, so Roy raised her. During this time, she progressed without any angst, and Roy had a happy family.
In Cry For Justice #5, Roy, now part of the Justice League, gets his arm ripped off. In #7, his kid is killed.
In recent years, we’ve had two kids killed, Beast Boy’s and Donna Troy’s, who, I might add, were both former Titans. We’ve also had the deaths of countless current Titans, including Superboy, Kid Devil, and Wendy and Marvin, who were mauled by their animal sidekick, Wonder Dog, We’ve also had the storyline Identity Crisis, in which the Elongated Man’s wife, whom he was in a happy marriage with. is raped by C-list villain Dr. Light, and the JLA covers it up. In the OMAC Project a few years ago, Wonder Woman snaps a man’s neck.
This grittiness isn’t fooling anyone, DC. If you want comics to be a legitimate medium, the way is not to murder kids and splatter gore left and right. Here’s what you need to do: respect your audience’s intelligence.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret to writing anywhere, not just in comics, and that’s my mantra. I won’t ever have a “no drugs, no sex, no language, no violence” policy in my writing, despite some people urging me to do so. What I will do, however, is respect my audience’s intelligence. If I put any of those subjects in my writing, they’re there for a reason, and it’s not just to be “edgy”. If I do that, my audience will smell it a mile away.
DC’s not fooling anyone if they think we don’t know that one day, this series will be ignored, retconned out of Roy’s history, and avoided like the plague. It happened with Countdown to Final Crisis a while back, and I can guarantee that it’ll happen here. If there’s anything that this series shows, it’s not maturity, it’s immaturity. And it doesn’t just happen in comics, either. Look how many characters have died by Newbery Medal. Killing of characters and having excessive themes that serve no plot-based purpose does not make your story good, mature, or intellectual.
It just makes it stupid.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in comments! I’ll see you on Thursday!
EDIT: Check out Linkara’s post about CFJ here.

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