The internet was all abuzz when the news of Lian Harper died in Cry For Justice. Up until that point, the series was referred to as “Cry for Boredom”, because besides characters complaining about wanting “justice” and an allusion to Hal Jordan (current co-Messiah with Barry Allen in the DC Universe) having a threesome with the Huntress and Lady Blackhawk, not much happened.
Then came issue 5, where Roy Harper’s arm gets ripped off, and #6, where we learn it was a supervillain named Prometheus. In #7, Prometheus’ master plan is enacted and Star City is blown up, and Lian with it. Suddenly we went from boring to what the hell are you thinking! If DC’s powers that be (who now be more powerful) happily greenlit this, among all the rest of the post-Infinite Crisis stories, why should I stay around to care about this universe?
But there’s one point I think has been lost in the fan rage against the unnecessary (note that word) death of an 8-year-old girl. The supporting cast has been slowly wiped out for a long time now.
This problem has existed long before IC, though. The DC honchos have been tearing the supporting cast away for a while, either writing them out, turning them evil, or just bumping them off. They’ll be the victim of character assassination in order to cover a hero’s mistakes (allegedly) in the eyes of the reader, thus being a cop-out. So far, only the Superman cast has gotten through mostly unscathed. Cat Grant had her child killed by Toyman a malfunctioning Toyman robot (apparently supervillains can rape superheroes’ spoused but not kill children unless mass destruction is involved). Oh, and Cat’s character growth was undone, as she reverted to something akin to her portrayal in Lois & Clark and acting as the “J. Jonah Jameson” to Supergirl’s “Spider-Man”. That’s the backsliding timeline.
The backsliding timeline: That’s where a new writer/editor comes along and wants to push everything back so THEY can tell “that story” with “those characters”. It’s why the Spider-Marriage was undone and Tony Stark uploaded his brain like a Windows repair. It’s why Hal, Ollie, and Barry are back, and their replacements are either altered, reverted, or just killed off. One observer noted that the potential “next generation” of heroes are being shoved aside (see also Teen Titans Bloodbath Dance Party). Lian could have been a future Red/Green Arrow, and one fancomic she was.
But when was the last time you saw superheroes having some downtime with their friends and family? Holiday special? Clark and Lois aren’t even on the same planet lately. Batman, before he died, all but chased off his “Batman Family” sometime ago because the writers/editors thought that he should be a brooding loner, Barry came back to find his history changed so that his mom was killed by his father when he was a kid (despite that the Allens were alive and well after he died) so he could be a “better hero”. Which takes me back to Alex and what I call the “Batman complex”.
There seems to be a thought that to make a character a “real hero” there needs to be some big tragedy. That’s Batman’s origin story, and a few other characters (Punisher and Spider-Man over at Marvel, for example), but everyone is getting this lately. Pa Kent was killed during a Braniac attack, Kara’s dad was killed, and before being killed himself (he recently got better because Didio and Johns like him), Superboy also lost a loved one.
Death is meaningless in the DC Universe now, just a plot device used as “shock value” to draw in readers or as a source of tragedy to create a “better hero” or explore the fact that death is a part of the crimefighting game, regardless of the lost potential of the character.
Which brings this article full circle back to little Lian. So sweet, innocent, and cute, Lian could brighten up a moment and add a cute moment that makes you go “awwww”, not to mention watching Roy handle being a father and a superhero. But as with the Spider-Marriage and the writing out of Baby May, superheroes having family and friends tend to be few and far between. The writers and editors seem to forget that it’s THESE moments with loved ones who aren’t a part of the “mask” side of the hero (even when they know about the dual identity) that helps us to connect with the hero, learn their motivations, and make them feel human.
For all the arguments that they want to bring “realism” to comics, what is more real than that?
In part 3: The final rant in this set has me looking at one of the defender’s arguments: “why should Lian survive the destruction of Star City when so many other kids and adults must have died”. Beyond the fact that she’s a semi-main character, let me ask a different question: “why did they have to destroy Star City in the first place?” Not that other fictional cities in the DC Universe haven’t suffered as well.