Wednesday Comments – I Hate John Stewart’s New Origin

A few weeks back I lamented the impending demise of Secret Origins. I get that it’s probably not a great seller, given that it doesn’t have any recurring characters. But I still think that the book is a solid offering. You not only get a chance to see the origins of some of biggest stars of the DCU, but you also get to see some lesser known characters as well.

Plus, it would have been nice to see some themed issues. How much fun would a Secret Origins issue that focused on three Justice League villains? Or even an issue devoted to the female supporting characters in Batman Eternal.

Ok, granted every themed issue might not be a home run. I probably wouldn’t pick up an issue that was focused on the Trinity of Sin.

And of course given that Secret Origin features three origins by three different creative teams, there’s a chance that you may not enjoy an entire issue. For instance there was one story in the most recent issue of Secret Origins that rubbed me the wrong way.

When I picked up the issue I got pumped because I saw that John Stewart was finally getting an origin. I’ve written about some of my lingering Green Lantern questions and this was one of them. Plus it had art by Pat Broderick, who is an artist that I’ve always enjoyed.

Unfortunately the origin was pretty bad. It’s pretty poorly plotted and the writing leaves much to be desired. It’s really bewildering that this story got approved. But then again there’s the chance that, to paraphrase Kanye West, DC doesn’t care about John Stewart.

First off, you’ve got the plot. Basically you have the Guardians of the Universe who for some reason have been keeping tabs not only on Earth, but also on John Stewart. Apparently he was going to play a role in their big plans.

They essentially narrate the origin, which is problematic because the origin entails four distinct periods in John’s life. But the narration is necessary to explain how John gets the ring. He gets the ring not because he earns it or like Hal Jordan because the ring selects a successor.

John gets the ring because the Guardians think he’ll make an excellent pawn. The Guardians pick John to be a Green Lantern and as well remember the Guardians end up basically being villains.

Ok, John sort of earns his ring as Green Lantern, by besting a Manhunter. It shows that he’s capable of being a Green Lantern, but he doesn’t really earn the ring.

Also in a slightly topical parallel, the story opens on a protest in Detroit where tensions with police are rising. John is there with his mother, a leader in the protest. It’s already been established that she’s a protest organizer, so DC will get a pass for this regrettable parallel to recent events.

But the nutty part of the origin is that John joins the Marines so that he can afford to go to college. So, a kid who grew up with a community organizer, opts join the military? That seems plausible?

It’s even brought up by his mother in the story. John’s response, “how else was I going to pay for college, all your protests ever earned me was bruises.”

There’s so much wrong with that line and that reasoning.

Number one, what Black son is going to be that disrespectful to his Black mother? Maybe Van Jensen doesn’t have Black friends or hasn’t seen a portrayal of Black people by Black people, but that rings entirely false. It sounds like a tone deaf white guy writing a scene between a Black mother and her son.

Secondly, can anyone explain to me John’s academic situation? He clearly had ambition to go to college, which means I’m assuming he got decent to good grades in high school. He also ended up becoming an architect, so I’m also guessing he got decent SAT scores.

My point is that unless John Stewart was a complete screw up in school (and there’s no indication that he was) there’s no reason he couldn’t have gotten a grant, scholarship or even loan to go to college. And as a Black male there are avenues open to him for higher education other than the military route.

John joins the military strictly to pay for college. Did he apply for scholarships? What schools did he apply to? Did those schools not offer financial aid? What the hell?

Also, back to the notion that John grew up with a community organizer and opts to join the military. It’s not as bad a son of a pot farmer joining the military, but it’s not that far off. They are sort of on opposite sides of a spectrum. It’s pretty unrealistic that someone who grew up surrounding by grass roots organizing, would join the Marines.

And it’s not to say that that story couldn’t be told. But you’d need to show the motivation. You’d need to show that John resented his mother and her work and joined the Marines partially out of rebellion. But that’s not shown in this story. It’s poorly written and poorly conceived.

Back to the origin, of course because it’s a comic book, John ends up working for Ferris Aircraft. It’s one of those comic book coincidences that intend to keep things neat and nice, but in this day an age just reeks of laziness.

It was basically a very disappointing origin.

On the plus side, today is Wednesday, which means fresh new comic books. So go out and get some from your local comic shop.

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