Monday, May 16, 2011

Special Guest Blogger: Richard Lee Byers

A Note From The Comic Book Pusher:
   Richard Lee Byers is a lifelong comics fan, a good friend of The  
Comics Club, and the author of more than thirty fantasy and horror novels,  
including a number set in the Forgotten Realms universe and the X-Men  
novel Soul Killer. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines
and anthologies  
Bad Dads
by Richard Lee Byers
I liked everything about the new Thor movie, including the fact that  
the plot was based on father-son conflict. As fans know, this has  
often been a crucial story element in the comic.
   I was bemused, though, that Thor starts out reckless, immature, and  
irresponsible while Odin is compassionate and wise throughout  
(although his wisdom doesn’t keep Loki from getting up to  
shenanigans.) Don’t get me wrong; in the movie, this works great. In  
the comics, though, it’s often been Thor who’s noble and Odin who’s a  
douche bag, arrogant, blind, and impossible to please, perpetually  
pissed off that his son loves a mortal woman and regards it as his  
mission to protect mankind.
   That’s one reason I’m enjoying the Fear Itself miniseries. In the  
first issue, when an Elder Evil arises, Odin commands the Asgardians  
to abandon Earth to the enemy. All he cares about is defending his own  
turf and his own kind. When Thor protests, Odin smacks him down and  
drags him off in chains.
   Then, later on in the story, we find out things are even worse than  
they first appeared. Odin has decided to destroy Earth and humanity  
with it to deny the Elder Evil the strategic advantage it would gain  
by seizing control.
   This is cowardly, callous, selfish, and, in general, dickishness on a  
cosmic scale, and it’s great to see the All-Father back in top form.
   Loathsome as Odin can be, though, he’s not my pick for the worst  
paternal figure in comics. That distinction goes to the Guardians of  
the Universe.
Let’s look at their record:
It was Krona, a Guardian, who sought forbidden knowledge by looking at  
the Big Hand at the moment of creation. This is the DC Universe’s  
version of original sin, and, essentially, the origin of evil (also of  
the multiverse, but let’s not get into that.) The Guardians’ first  
response to this unfortunate development was to create the genocidal  
Manhunters, who wiped out life in Sector 666 and so caused the rise of  
the Red Lanterns, the Guardians’ sworn enemies.
   When Sinestro betrayed the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians could  
have executed him or imprisoned him forever in the Sciencells.  
Instead, they exiled him to the antimatter universe of Qward, from  
whence he returned to found the Sinestro Corps and become another huge  
ongoing problem.
   After the destruction of Coast City, the Guardians failed to treat the  
grief-stricken Hal Jordan with any trace of compassion or  
understanding, with the result that their greatest champion flipped  
out, killed all the other Green Lanterns, and temporarily became the  
supervillain Parallax.
   To this day, the Guardians make one lousy decision after another,  
consistently hampering the GL’s in their fight against evil.  
Meanwhile, the defenses and security on Oa are so inadequate that the  
planet gets attacked and the Corps brought to the brink of  
annihilation every month or so. (I keep thinking they ought to hire  
Wackenhut.) In the current storyline (“War of the Green Lanterns”),  
evil has possessed all but a handful of the GL’s and the Guardians, too.
   When you come right down to it, these little blue brain monkeys have  
never gotten anything right. Hal, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and Guy  
Gardner constantly have to bail them out after they screw up. You’d  
think that would inspire some humility, trust, gratitude, or at least  
a little warmth, but you’d be wrong. The Guardians are unfailingly  
haughty, aloof, and dictatorial, never willing to listen to a Green  
Lantern and always looking for a chance to bust his balls, no matter  
how many times he’s saved their asses.
   Even when you step down from the cosmic scale, the parenting of comic- 
book fathers can be iffy. Green Arrow abandoned one son at birth and  
didn’t notice when another started shooting smack. Reed Richards  
frequently neglects his family to pursue his super-scientific  
research. He also once shot little Franklin with a ray that shut down  
his brain. Admittedly, this was to save the solar system from  
destruction, but it’s still not the kind of a thing that gives you a  
lock on a World’s Greatest Dad coffee cup.
   In fairness, comics have provided some worthy father figures as well.  
Jor-El, Thomas Wayne, and Uncle Ben spring immediately to mind. These  
characters all share one characteristic in addition to good parenting:  
they all died horrible, violent deaths.
   This phenomenon is actually pervasive enough that I’ll offer a piece  
of advice: If you ever find yourself a father in a superhero universe,  
be mean or neglectful to your kid once in a while. It’s not abuse.  
It’s insurance.
Comics do have one good father figure who’s very much alive and well,  
and that’s Batman. Although the character has sometimes been portrayed  
as relentlessly cold and grim, that’s obviously not the whole story,  
because look how well Dick Grayson and Tim Drake turned out. Jason  
Todd, not so much, but two out of three isn’t bad.
   Now, some have argued that it’s not good parenting to dress your kid  
in a brightly colored costume and send him out to fight adult  
criminals and psychopaths, but I think you have to put that in  
context. In a superhero universe, isn’t it basically just the  
equivalent of encouraging him to go out for sports?
 
-- Richard Lee Byers 
 
PS: And now the shameless self-promotion . . .

The Q Word and Other Stories, an ebook collection of my fantasy and  
horror short fiction, is available here:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/rleebyers

I hope you’ll download the free sample.

You can also get the Kindle version of the ebook, and all my other  
books, here:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_17?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=richard+lee+byers&sprefix=richard+lee+byers

If you enjoyed what you read here, you may want to check out my blog:

http://rleebyers.livejournal.com/

One of my recent posts deals with Superman renouncing his American  
citizenship in Action Comics #900.
 
"Confessions" will return soon with more from your ever-lovin' Comic Book Pusher!


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1 comment:

The Comic Book Pusher said...

Well, Richard, as for comic book father figures, I'll put my vote in for Perry White, Editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. Short tempered, abrasive, and tough, but deep down, he has a good heart and really does care about his staff.