If you’ve been reading this website, you’ve probably figured out that I am very candid here. When I say things, I don’t really hold back or beat around the bush. You’re getting my full unbridled thoughts on whatever issue I’m focusing on. And oftentimes, I’m focusing on something somewhat controversial, at least concerning the subject matter.
Well, here I go again…
No, this time I’m not going to merely talk about how DC Comics Editorial has marginalized John Stewart. This time, I would like to talk about the Green Lantern fanbase.
We all know that comic book fans have a certain reputation. They are fiercely loyal, they can be fiercely aggressive, and they’re known for often bickering amongst themselves over fictional characters. I actually don’t think there is anything wrong with being passionate about one’s hobbies. Of course, if you go to extremes with anything, things can get wacky. Well, comic book fans sometimes go to those extremes.
Among comic book fans, Green Lantern fans have a reputation. Basically, the Green Lantern fans are the comic book fans of comic book fans, with two times the aggression, two times the loyalty, and so on. As such, the Green Lantern fanbase sometimes becomes an exploding battlefield. Looking back through history, many of the famous battles were between Hal Jordan fans and Kyle Rayner fans.
Where does John Stewart fit into this?
I said in past updates that I got into DC comic books through Bruce Timm and his animated universe. I’m quite proud of that. I was fortunate enough to grow up with many great cartoon series, two among them –Justice League and Justice League Unlimited– portrayed John Stewart as the Green Lantern. No contenders. No pretenders.
When I was a new fan, I would sometimes check out the online Green Lantern fandom. There were many times, as a John Stewart fan, when I did not feel welcome in the Green Lantern fanbase, and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one. Admittedly, John hadn’t racked up as many comic reading fans as Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner, because he didn’t get as much attention as them in the comics. It wasn’t just that there weren’t as many John fans around that was upsetting to me. It’s that there seemed to be a sense of contempt toward the character from many… sometimes overt, and other times deviously subtle.
Upon taking a look at the fandom, it seemed like many people hated my guy. John Stewart supposedly screwed either Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner out of a spot they supposedly should have had. I would hear things about how John was just a black skinned Hal Jordan, how John Stewart was only added because he was black and had nothing more to offer, and how Kyle should have been on the show because John is “boring with the ring.” Indeed, John Stewart was the most controversial addition to the animated Justice League series.
It also didn’t help that the comic book creators weren’t making much effort to raise John’s level of respect with comic book readers. Sure, he was in the JLA, but the JLA comics weren’t doing much with him aside from simply having him around, and during his tenure, the book was going through a low point in terms of quality.
Us John fans had to put up with a lot of stuff from others, but, you know, sometimes it’s hard to recognize a legend until everything is said and done. John Stewart, though initially controversial, wound up being a great character and leaving a huge, lasting impression on audiences. To an entire generation of fans -to this generation- John Stewart is the Green Lantern. He has had a larger impact, and has done more than any other Green Lantern, appearing in recent history on an extremely popular cartoon that still airs prominently today on network television. He also showed up in many mass media products, like multiple video games, numerous action figure lines, and a myriad of other merchandise released to an accepting general audience.
I believe, based on reasonable evidence, such as the points listed above, that John Stewart is the most popular Green Lantern. There, I said it! But here’s the catch. He’s not the most popular with a certain group of the hardcore comic reading audience, and I believe many of those people resent that John Stewart is as popular as he is.
To them, John Stewart represents their favorite character being slighted because of tokenism and affirmative action. Never mind that John Stewart never was a mere token and is an incredible character in his own right. Some will accuse his fans of only liking him because he’s black.
Let me stop at that point right there.
First of all, so what if some of them do? What’s wrong with people actually wanting to see a black hero, whether they’re black themselves, or just like the idea of seeing heroes of an ethnicity other than white? Is that supporting tokenism? Is it wrong for girls to like Sailor Moon because it has many things in it that appeal to girls, and for guys to like Sailor Moon, because they appreciate seeing that girls can kick butt, too, and it adds diversity to their entertainment?
But some will say or wonder, “Why don’t you just like black characters that aren’t getting in the way of my favorite character?”
Well, sorry… we just like what we were presented with. We like John Stewart as Green Lantern. Someone made him, someone presented him to us, and we like that specific character in that specific role! Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Besides, John Stewart is the best black hero DC has. I think it is really cool seeing a non-white character in the role of one of DC’s major heroes. It makes things a lot more even and welcoming to a broad audience, and John Stewart is the only character DC has with enough weight and credibility to believably fill that role (sorry Cyborg).
But let’s get off the black thing, because that’s not what it’s all about for many fans. The main thing is that John Stewart is cool! It’s awesome that he’s black, but that alone does not a great character make. It’s not just about being black, because there are black characters I don’t care for (Cyborg), or am indifferent to (Mr. Terrific). I love the Green Lantern mythos. The rings, the constructs, the intergalactic police force concept, the aliens, the Guardians of the Universe, and so on. By far, I enjoy experiencing it with John Stewart the most. The Hal Jordan character… just doesn’t resonate with me, personally. No disrespect to the people he does resonate with, but I’m just not feeling anything there.
Though John has had some excellent comic book runs, he’s been largely neglected by DC Comics. Therefore, it’s really not surprising that many John Stewart fans weren’t active in the comic book communities to represent him. Why would they be? Coming in from the cartoon, the comics didn’t offer them a whole lot, and the stigma against John wasn’t only a problem with the fans, but also the creators.
Fortunately, I feel much of that is coming to a conclusion. I believe the departure of Geoff Johns from the Green Lantern franchise signals an end of an age. An age that went on way too long. An age in which DC and Geoff Johns shoved Hal Jordan down many of our throats, and tried desperately to get across that Hal Jordan IS Green Lantern. An ambitious campaign was launched to secure that notion in people’s minds, and it was during this time I lost interest in buying new Green Lantern comics, because, frankly, to me and many other people, Hal Jordan IS NOT our Green Lantern. It does not matter how strong they push, that is not going to change. Though, some people have bought into that whole thing and believe Hal Jordan is the greatest thing ever.
I don’t mind if people believe that, but what I do mind are dismissals, undermining, and hand waving of all the great things John Stewart has done. Things that are, I believe, greater than anything Hal Jordan has ever done. I have a problem with the idea that Hal Jordan is the be-all-end-all of Green Lantern who can’t do anything wrong, and that John Stewart is a nobody. I have a problem with that because it’s not true.
John Stewart isn’t the one whose cartoon went off the air after one season. John Stewart isn’t the character who couldn’t sell merchandise. John Stewart isn’t the star of a movie that lost money.
No. John Stewart is the one from the most popular incarnation of the Justice League. John Stewart is the one who, as mentioned, is still being shown on network television on the CW’s Vortex, as well as Netflix. John Stewart is the one winning polls all over the internet against the other Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan included.
So, the message here is two things. The first is to DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.
Do smart business and just give people what they want to see. Stop trying to continually force something that is just not working. You’re not going to be able to overwrite what John Stewart has done with more and more Hal Jordan. I know this because you cannot do it with me, and there are many people like me. There is a huge demand for John Stewart. He is your most well known and accepted Green Lantern, as well as minority character. Do be intelligent and take advantage of that, for Pete’s sake!
He is probably the only minority character you have who can successfully hold down a solo title, yet he is continually being pushed aside in favor of his white counterpart. DC Comics, you have quite arguably the best minority character in comics, and what have you done but crap all over him while telling us that you’re all about diversity?
A message to certain Green Lantern fans. A similar message. Stop being in denial about the successes of John Stewart. You do not have to like the character, and you do not have to like that he has accomplished what he has instead of another Green Lantern of your preference, but at least give the character his due. And he is due a whole lot. To try to continually rob him of his credit comes across as embarrassingly insecure. To act like John Stewart has nothing to his name is being in denial. To act like everyone has forgotten about him in favor of Hal Jordan’s ill-received efforts at mass media is being in denial. John has had a larger and more positive impact than Hal Jordan. No two ways about it.
All this said. There’s been a lot to be very encouraged about lately. First, there are the incredible Green Lantern Corps comics that have been coming out, which star John Stewart. And second is that the fans are rising up against the stigma against John and speaking out. There was the time back in March/April 2013 when DC tried to kill the character, and lately it’s been due to the advent of the forthcoming Justice League movie. In a past update, I showed polls, which John Stewart won by landslides, asking fans who they want to see in the upcoming Justice League movie.
Why is this happening all of a sudden now?
I believe because John Stewart’s impact is being seen and felt more. Many of the people who loved him as children are now of an age where they participate in internet forum discussions, make websites, and so forth. But let’s not forget that there are still people growing up with John Stewart. His roots are in very deep, and he is very well established with a large fanbase inside and outside of comicdom. He is the only Green Lantern who can say that.
Also, large audiences were presented with Hal Jordan and weren’t particularly keen on him for various reasons. Things were already tough for Hal, because John had the market of Green Lantern cornered by the time Hal tried elbowing his way in. Now that people have seen Hal Jordan and have not connected with him, they’re looking around for that familiar dark face; the face of John Stewart.
Some people apparently are just starting to realize all of this. Or they knew it all along and just didn’t want to admit it.
I’d like to post more displays of support for John Stewart to prove that Hal Jordan isn’t the Green Lantern to everybody, or even most people.
In an epic, 100 + page poll on Comic Book Resources asking which Lantern fans want to see in a Justice League movie, John Stewart defeated Hal Jordan handily:
Hal Jordan supporters counter attacked with a new poll, but this time they included more poll options in their attempt to defeat John by siphoning off his voters. As we can see here, it did not work:
In a poll conducted at IGN about the same thing, John defeated all the other Lanterns by a huge margin:
Two Forbes articles support the idea of using John Stewart in the upcoming Justice League movie:
MTV Geek supports John Stewart as the cinematic Green Lantern:
We know that Grace Randolph from Beyond the Trailer loves John Stewart and wants to see him on the big screen, but let’s watch her affirm that love once again:
And for good measure, here is a fan who prefers John Stewart to Hal Jordan:
It is common sense to use John Stewart in the cinematic universe, and most people can see that. I believe the only people who want to see Hal Jordan are his die hard fans, and there’s just not enough of them. It’s about time John Stewart and his fans rise up. Support the character. Vote in the polls when they come up. Buy Green Lantern Corps comics. Make appreciation threads on forums. Make videos. Let’s do what we can to show our support for this incredible character and show everyone that John Stewart and his fanbase are a powerful force!