by Dennis O’Neil
In this metaphor, time is a liquid and so we find ourselves doing the breaststroke, swimming back, back until we surface until we surface and…
Where might we be? The air is crisp and clean, the ocean before us is deep blue, the whole world seems freshly minted… Oh, of course! We’re somewhere in the region that will come to be called Before the Common Era and we’re watching a group of alpha male-type gentlemen board a sailing ship. Ah, we have it now. The gents are Jason and his pals who will eventually be dubbed The Argonauts, which means that the ship is the Argo, built by a handy chap named Argus and protected by the goddess Hera. They’re preparing to voyage in quest of some golden fleece for reasons with which we need not bother. There we are – everything tied up in a neat package. Don’t you love it when that happens?
But while we were ogling the BCE version of celebrities, the metaphor morphed. What was liquid is now pages, some yellowed and curling, some clean and white and on those rapidly flipping pages… glimpses. There’s King Arthur and the roundtable bunch. (How do we know that this particular king is Arthur? Because we do, that’s how! Now hush.) And there’s Odysseus and his shipmates. And the four musketeers, who, for some reason, are hailed as the three musketeers. (Maybe the seventeenth century French dudes weren’t so good at counting?) And The Shadow with his helpers, and Doc Savage with his and – the pages are crisper and whiter – the Magnificent Seven and the Dirty Dozen and the Justice Society and the Justice League and the X-Men and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow…
Whoa. That last one – it isn’t on a page (yet), it’s on a video screen and I saw it a few nights ago: the latest entry into what’s beginning to seem like television’s Superhero Sweepstakes. What we have here are a number of B-team heroes who, with one exception that I’m aware of, first appeared in DC Comics. (There’s those darn pages again.) They’re united under the leadership of Rip Hunter to combat a giant economy sized threat to the planet and, probably, to ass kick sundry lesser malcontents. They’re not all happy to be part of the team, but that’s okay – we know they’ll be on the front lines when they’re needed. And maybe a bit of bickering will brighten the dialogue – exposition, don’t you know, can be such a bore.
The structure of stories such characters populate is simple and reliable: something threatens the common good, something so formidable that it takes a team to quell it, preferably a team with diverse capabilities to allow for varied action.
Did I mention their… I don’t know what to call it, but let’s settle for “vehicle.” It seems to be a combination airliner, houseboat, taxi cab and time machine, and it is nifty. (Are the toy companies lining up?)
The show itself? Can’t wait for next episode…Well, actually I can, but I will be watching it.
Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.