We all know Steve Rogers is Captain America. Hal Jordan is Green Lantern. Johnny Blaze is Ghost Rider. There have been times though where these characters could not hold onto their mantles and had to pass them on to the next generation. That’s where we saw Sam Wilson pick up the mantle of Captain America. We learned that John Stewart, Jessica Cruz, and Simon Baz had the willpower to overcome fear. We saw the Spirit of Vengeance claim another host in Robbie Reyes. These heroes have developed their own fanbases and have had popular storylines based around their experiences taking up their respective monikers. These characters also give superhero comics the much-needed influx of diverse characters. Unfortunately, the Big 2 Publishers realize that the OG characters will always equal $$$ and they eventually have these characters take back their mantles. The problem is that when these OG characters return to the spotlight, the characters that replaced them become lost in the shuffle.
Hal Jordan inherited his Green Lantern ring from Abin Sur, becoming the first Earth-born Green Lantern in the process. Years after this, a Black military veteran named John Stewart proved he could conquer fear and became the 2nd Earth-born Green Lantern. Stewart has become best known as a master strategist for the Corps who displays his tactical genius on the battlefield. John Stewart has been immortalized in the classic Justice League cartoon. Even though Stewart can be seen on one of the most high profile and critically acclaimed books out, Justice League, Stewart can easily carry his own book but hasn’t been given that opportunity in ages.
Even though the Green Lantern Corps already had 4 Earth-born members, Geoff Johns introduced Simon Baz to readers in 2012. I know I probably don’t just speak for myself when I say my first reaction was “Really?!” Even though he had an extremely cool design and I was happy to see some Arab American representation, I just did not think he was necessary. The more I read Green Lantern, however, the more I enjoyed Simon and felt he was a worthy addition to the Green Lantern Corps. When Jessica Cruz arrived on the scene, I had no such reservations. Jessica Cruz learning to live with and accept her mental health condition while learning to be a superhero is inspiring. Both these 2 new Lanterns were allowed to shine on the Justice League and in their own book. Unfortunately, when Grant Morrison relaunched Green Lantern, he decided to only focus on Hal Jordan. Now we only see Jessica Cruz almost depowered in a team book, and Simon Baz is MIA. Some even believe Baz was killed off panel in Tom King’s “Heroes In Crisis” Event Series. Let us not forget the 2 newest and most exciting members of the Green Lantern Corps. Hopefully, we will get a chance to see them in the spotlight again soon.
The newest member of the “Arrowverse” is Kate Kane aka Batwoman. Batwoman originally burst onto the scene during the weekly event series, “52”. Batwoman was one of the breakout characters of that miniseries and continued to have standout appearances that tied into events like “Final Crisis”. When Kate Kane was given the opportunity to have her own book, the character did not disappoint. The Pre-New 52 and New 52 Batwoman series were a revelation and established Batwoman as more than a worthy addition to the Bat-Family. These series have also established Batwoman as arguably one of the most popular LGBTQ heroes in comics. Batwoman eventually got to carry the Detective Comics moniker after DC’s Rebirth initiative. Unfortunately, Batwoman has been moving further and further into the background even though her television show is set to premiere in October. Batwoman currently does not have even a miniseries to launch with the premiere of her show. DC is dropping the ball with this amazing character and overlooking another opportunity to address representation in comic books.
Steve Rogers is not only “The First Avenger”, but he is also my favorite Avenger. Steve is a man out of time but knows right from wrong no matter what decade he is in. Rogers can’t be Captain America forever, however, and he has faced his own mortality on multiple occasions. First Cap was “assassinated” (It’s a long story) at the end of Civil War Event Series. After Cap was “killed”, the shield was passed to his best friend Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. Rogers eventually regained the mantle and resumed his tour of duty. Eventually, Rogers looked death in the face again but this time he had another person in mind to carry on the tradition, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. Sam Wilson becoming Captain America was a groundbreaking development and helped usher in the All-New, All-Different Era at Marvel. Wilson added his own style to the shield that differentiated himself from Steve and Bucky. The excitement surrounding this transition stemmed from the fact, and I can’t stress this enough, that a BLACK MAN WAS DRAPED IN THE STARS AND STRIPES AS CAPTAIN FREAKING AMERICA. This was eventually the lasting success and failure of the All-New, All-Different era, people believed heroes of color were getting the spotlight, and the heroes people were used to were being pushed to the side. The resulting backlash combined with the controversial “Secret Empire” storyline led Marvel to give the Captain America mantle back to Steve Rogers. The Falcon has once again been relegated to a sidekick.
Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch were both possessed by the Spirit of Vengeance and were doomed to punish those who spill innocent blood with their Penance Stare. Both were able to conquer the curse and become heroes in their own rights. The Spirit of Vengeance was not finished collecting souls for its mission however, with Robbie Reyes becoming the next host for the spirit. For Robbie however, the spirit adapted to Robbie’s personality, also possessing his car, now dubbed the “Hell Charger”. While Robbie has had his difficulties building interest in his solo adventures, the character was given the spotlight as Gabriel Luna gave a performance for the ages as Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider during Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Seriously. Watch it. It’s amazing.) Despite the character given a higher profile thanks to the show, Reyes can’t get his book. Sure Robbie is now an Avenger, and he has an upcoming TV show in development (with Luna reprising his role), but Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch will be starring in an upcoming Ghost Rider relaunch. Robbie Reyes has the potential to be an extremely popular character; he just needs the chance and the support to be it.
Not every new character that has stepped out from an established character’s shadow has struggled to maintain relevance. Miles Morales is now starring in a relaunched series and is still coming down from the high of the hit movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Kamala Khan was a newly revealed Inhuman inspired by her hero Captain Marvel. Khan becomes a hero in her own right and takes up the mantle of Ms. Marvel to honor her idol. Ms. Marvel is now starring in a relaunched series and is an inspiration to young girls, women, and Arab Americans everywhere.
The Big 2 Publishers need to take a page out of indie comic publishers and promote young characters with diverse racial, ethnic, and sexual identities. John Stewart, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, and Kate Kane are more than capable of carrying on the tradition and taking DC Comics to a higher status of quality. Over at Marvel, the company backtracked from a pledge to tell diverse stories. We have already seen how awesome Sam Wilson and Robbie Reyes have done in the spotlight. They just need the same support that has been given to Miles Morales and Kamala Khan. These characters are not substitute heroes that you can just call on when the main heroes are out sick. These characters are worthy heroes in their own right that deserve a chance to shine.