Archives for posts with tag: Mongol Empire

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While WXL is officially a comic book blog, it’s been a while since I addressed an comics-related issue. I’ve been rereading the Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps, starting with Rebirth. I’ve just finished The Sinestro Corps War and will probably stop after the other Lantern Corps are introduced, but before Blackest Night goes into full swing. It’s hard to read this material without considering the impact that Geoff Johns has had on the Green Lantern and the DC multiverse in general. When Johns and his various and very talented partners-in-crime brought Hal Jordan back as a Green Lantern, he had been possessed by both Parallax and the Spectre, spent a bit of time with the Phantom Stranger, and played a role in bringing about the destruction of both the Green Lantern Corps and his hometown Coast City. In the books leading up to Blackest Night, the GL creative team resolved the matter of Parallax’s infection of Hal somewhat, enabled Hal to shed the Spectre, returned the ring to Hal’s finger, reestablished the Corps and established additional colors, and brought Coast City back from its ashes.

Please don’t take this article too seriously.

Coast City is traditionally depicted as a California city- sometimes it feels like San Diego and sometimes like San Francisco. Its creation fills a void left by Gotham City and Metropolis’s similarities to New York City and Chicago, Star(ling) City’s similarity to Seattle, and the Gem Cities’ similarities to the Twin Cities. In the Silver Age, Coast City embodied much of the essence of California as understood by the American imagination- a little more laid back than the East Coast, but on the edge of the future, cowboys living better through chemistry. More than Metropolis, Coast City was the city of tomorrow. As the 20th century progressed, California dreaming changed its tone and the American imagination adapted, crafting a new vision of what California meant. This new vision reacted to the rise of new subcultures that became closely associated with California- the Beats, hippies, the Manson family, pornographers, Black Panthers, Scientologists, Silicon Valley, People’s Church, Church of Satan, the out gay community, United Fruit Workers, and other strong personalities that informed both California and US identity. Coast City still somewhat resembled San Diego minus the Hispanic population, but it hardly resembled San Francisco by the time it was destroyed in the 1990s. I see Coast City more like Detroit, incredibly optimistic in the Silver Age and ruined largely by outside factors. Detroit came to mind initially because it’s the hometown of Geoff Johns.

Let’s look at what destroyed Coast City and what destroyed Detroit. Once the Oa of automobiles, Detroit’s contribution to US culture and its international reputation has largely been overshadowed by its economic decline. Can you imagine the American experience without Motown or MC5, much less without the automobile? The economy of Coast City when it is first introduced centers around Ferris Aircraft, which isn’t the automobile industry, but both employ machinists, mechanics, and engineers, if you know what I mean. These two industrial cities are destroyed from within and without.

The destruction of Coast City is generally attributed to three individuals:

Mongul loves yellow

Mongul

Is it just me or are there some underlying racial issues with this character? He is a yellow-skinned villain bent on world(s) domination through dynastic rule. His name is one letter away from Mongol, shorthand for Mongoloid (if you subscribe to the antiquated theory of three distinct races (Negroid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid)) which refers to people with ancestry from Asia. He’s built much more like a Mongolian than a Japanese person and his name is likely inspired by the notoriety of the Mongol Empire. In the late 20th century, the failing communist nation of Mongolia posed little threat to Detroit. Japan and its robust automotive industry, however, posed a significant one and that idea continues to find a captive audience. Manufacturing in Asia has only grown as a go-to scapegoat for a decline in US manufacturing. The nations of Japan and Korea developed economically, achieved legitimacy, and consolidated regional influence largely on the backs of their automotive industries. Their rise came at the cost of Detroit.

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Cyborg Superman

As his name implies, Hank Henshaw is a half-human half-robot version of the Man of Steel. In a dangerous partnership with Mongul, Cyborg Superman transforms Coast City literally into an Engine City. Coast City is replaced by an exponentially more industrialized version of itself to serve the ambitions of the foreign power Mongul. Much like Detroit’s woes, there is an undeniable John Henry overtone to the terraforming of Coast City. It’s man vs machine and machine wins.

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Hal Jordan

The legacy of Coast City’s destruction is best characterized by its effect on Hal Jordan. Left so distraught by his hometown’s demise, Hal Jordan allows himself to fall victim to Parallax or what FDR might call “fear itself.” The decline of Detroit has certainly taken a toll on the will power of the people of the city and perhaps in some of their darker moments, people have embraced fear over optimism.

When Geoff Johns brings Hal Jordan back to the Green Lantern mantel, he also brings Coast City back into existence. By doing so, I believe Geoff Johns is communicating a hope for his hometown to persevere through difficult times and eventually revitalize itself. In one of this last moves as Green Lantern kingpin, Johns introduced the character of Simon Baz in his native Detroit, providing a much less nuanced role for his hometown than any parallels that could be brought between Coast City and Detroit.

I like when creators represent, whether it’s Johns placing Simon Baz in Detroit or Robert Kirkman setting the Walking Dead in Georgia. Comics can capture physical and spiritual geography in ways unique to the medium such as Strange Attractors, Deogratias, and Palestine. Of course, the Marvel Universe approaches real-life geography in a way distinctly its own.

In conclusion, I would welcome Aquaman to Atlanta. He’s gonna love the fountains at Centennial Park.

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2013 is turning out to be a busy year for Charles Soule. Debuting his creator-owned series Strange Attractors and his first issues on two of my personal favorite DC properties Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns, Mr. Soule is one of the reason’s your local comic rack suddenly got so much more exciting. While I’ve enjoyed the Green Lantern run under the reign of Geoff Johns, DC has picked some incredible creative teams to take over the Green Lanterns, bringing up some of independent comics’ most innovative talent including Mr. Soule.

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INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES SOULE

WAYNEXIAOLONG: First of all, congratulations on being chosen to write two of what I consider to be DC’s best titles right now, Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns. These two titles are pretty different from each other. Can we expect to see any overlap between the two books?

CHARLES SOULE: Well, you said it yourself – these two titles are quite different from each other.  The fantasy/horror tone of Swamp Thing doesn’t obviously mesh with the sci-fi space opera of Red Lanterns, but it’s comics, so never say never.  In the short term, I’m trying to do a bunch of world-building in each title, to really give them their own identity.  Once that’s established, though, why not? No specific plans, but one of the great joys of working in a big shared universe is actually sharing the universe.  We’ll see where it goes.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: From your comics and your blog, you demonstrate a fiercely independent spirit, reminiscent of grassroots activists and punk rockers. Are you having any trouble reconciling that spirit with the fact that you are now working for the Man?

CHARLES SOULE: Ha! Creating comics is hardly the same as slaving away over a set of accounts ledgers.  My experience with writing company-owned characters has been remarkably open so far, to be honest.  I think DC (and any other comics publisher) just wants fantastic stories that push things in interesting directions.  There are certainly bullet points to be hit in any story, and you can’t really burn a franchise to the ground, but since that’s not something I particularly want to do, it’s all good.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Like you, I am an historian and I’m thrilled whenever someone with a strong sense of history translates that into comics. Recently, fans like myself have been blessed with far out works like 68, The Manhattan Projects, and your brilliant 27 that mess with historical conventions to reveal some invisible cracks in the narratives we use to comfort ourselves.  Likewise, the past twenty years have shown a significant rise in the study of environmental elements of social history. What kind of research have you done in preparation for writing Swamp Thing?

CHARLES SOULE: A fair amount – I like to immerse myself in whatever subject I’m writing about, just as a matter of course.  If you do enough homework, you get to the point where cool details rise to the surface while you’re scripting in a completely organic way.  I’ve also been a big history guy for ages, and I really enjoy integrating that into my stories.  Swamp Thing in particular is a great character for that, because part of his established history is that there have been Swamp Things on earth for billions of years, covering all of recorded history.  So, I can delve into any period I like.  In  Swamp Thing 21, we see the Avatar who was active in the 13th Century, and the upcoming Annual will cover a huge swath of Swamp Thing history. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing that title.

As far as non-historical reference goes, I took a trip down to New Orleans earlier this year and went out into the swamps in the Atchafalaya Basin region.  I checked out Houma, LA – which is the traditional “home” of old Swampy.  I just immersed myself as much as I could, so I could write about the region with a little authority.  Plus, I got to hang out in New Orleans a bit, which wasn’t half bad either.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: You’ve studied Chinese history and culture. How do you feel about how China has been represented in the New 52?

CHARLES SOULE: That’s a good question.  One of my favorite character groups in the DCU is the Great Ten – the China-based superhero team.  I know a bit has been done with them so far, but it would be fun to see them brought out in a more significant way.  I actually have a story idea for Accomplished Perfect Physician that it would be fun to write up one of these days.  Put it in the stack with that Swamp Thing/Red Lanterns crossover idea – we’ll see!

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Which figure in Chinese history do you think a Green Lantern ring would most likely have chosen?

CHARLES SOULE: This might be a bit inside baseball (or inside Chinese history), but I think Zhu Yuanzhang, aka the Hongwu Emperor.  He’s the guy who started out as a Chinese peasant during the latter years of the Yuan Dynasty (which was when the Mongols – guys like Genghis Khan – were running China).  He ended up fronting a revolution against the Yuan, and, eventually, taking over the whole country and founding the Ming Dynasty.  Talk about willpower.  I actually shudder to think of what the world would look like today if that guy had gotten his hands on a ring. He did plenty with nothing other than what he was born with.

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WAYNEXIAOLONG: Which figure in human history do you think would be most justified in putting on a Red Lantern ring?

CHARLES SOULE: Red rings are given to people who have experienced great rage. You know who’s always seemed incredibly ticked off about just about everything? John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.  Harlan Ellison, too – neither one of those guys seems to get through a day without flipping out about something or other.  I realize you might have been looking for someone more like Boudicca (the revenge-crazy Celtic queen who whipped through Roman Britain like a well-sharpened scythe), but hey, there’s plenty of room in the Reds for everyone.

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