Because I do, often, read books without pictures in them, I recently picked up Rick Riordan
ís novel The Lost Hero
. I was a big fan of Riordanís Percy Jackson and the Olympians
series, which concluded last year, and very excited about the news that he would be telling new stories about the demigods of Camp Half-Blood. He was pretty emphatic in his announcement, however, that this wasnít a new Percy Jackson novel, just a new story set in that universe. I was fine with that. As I think Iíve mentioned before, I think more writers should have the guts to walk away from their one or two most popular characters and explore the world theyíve created, the way Terry Pratchett
did and the way Douglas Adams
failed to do. If J.K. Rowling were to ever return to the series that made her the second-richest woman in the universe, the best thing she could do would be to leave Harry Potter and company alone and start telling new tales with a whole new set of characters.
As I move forward in Riordanís book (I have read, according to my Kindle, about 20 percent of the novel thus far) I realize that walking away from a star character isnít as easy as it seems. Although Percy himself has not yet appeared in the book, his presence is undeniable. The three new half-bloods who are The Lost Hero
ís protagonists are caught up in a crisis involving a hero who has disappeared Ė one Percy Jackson. Even though Percy isnít the star
of this book, heís the title character
, an honor he never actually enjoyed in the five novels he narrated.
In and of itself, I have no objection to this. Riordan is exploring different characters and different aspects of his world, which is exactly what I hoped he would do. But the one thing he has not
done is walk away from Percy Jackson.
It can be really tricky to leave behind the hero that made your franchise. Two of the longest-running heroes in comics tried it in recent years, with both Batman and Captain America being replaced by their original partners. To no oneís surprise, though, both Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers are back, although to the credit of Grant Morrison and Ed Brubaker, the status quo theyíve returned to has changed drastically.
In the 90s, this was happening a lot
. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, all temporarily lost their heroes in favor of relatively new characters, with varying degrees of success. The status quo, however, changed back fairly quickly. One of the few longer-term changes in this period involved Green Lantern. Hal Jordan was gone (although, like Percy Jackson, not forgotten) for nearly ten years before he put on the ring again. And although some of the stories were sometimes sketchy, in the long run I think itís been good for the franchise. Hal himself is again ďtheĒ Green Lantern, the star of the title with that name, but there are two other Green Lantern books now, and the Corps as a whole has never been more popular. Geoff Johns
is currently trying to do the same thing with the Flash, and while tales of Barry Allen have been solid, whether reversing this long-standing change in lead character will help the entire Flash Family achieve Green Lantern levels of success remains to be seen.
One other title that has had the guts to make this shift, and seems ready to do it again, is Jack of Fables
. For the first 36 issues of this title, Bill Willingham
and Matthew Sturges
wrote about the charming rogue named Jack Horner, but after the Great Fables Crossover,
Horner was transformed into a dragon (seriously) and replaced as star of the title by his own son, Jack Frost. Frostís adventures were of the more traditionally heroic, romantic, 1930s pulp adventure sort, and practically made the book a different series altogether.
All of these changes have taken guts on the part of the creators, and thereís something to be said for that. You do need to be careful, though. Something like Incredible Hercules
and the upcoming Black Panther: The Man Without Fear
arenít really the same kind of shift that Iím talking about. Here youíre taking virtually unrelated characters who have never been able to sustain their own franchise and hoping an existing fanbase will piggyback into their titles courtesy of giving them somebody elseís issue count. It the case of Hercules the result was a critical hit, but I would wager the book probably gained as many new fans as lost Hulk fans who werenít interested in Herc.
This is the sort of thing Iíd like to see more creators attempt. Jeff Smith
is illustrating more stories of Bone
in childrenís books set in his world but not directly connected to the original series. Frank Miller
ís upcoming 300
is sort of in this vein, although I find it difficult to get excited over his work after the dismal two-punch of The Dark Knight Strikes Again
and his film adaptation of The Spirit
. But there are definitely settings out there fascinating enough to support different sets of characters: a tale of a young superhero rising in Dr. Doomís Latveria could be brilliant. How about an alien accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the R.E.B.E.L.S.? As cool as the news of a new Shade
miniseries is, what if James Robinson
created an all-new, non-Starman related hero for Opal City? For that matter, I think it could be pretty sweet to see Mike W. Barr
and Brian Bolland
try another story in the world of Camelot 3000
, Tim Seeley
play with different heroes in the Hack/Slash
universe or that third ďIĒ book Mark Waid
says would fill out his Irredeemable
And heck, DC, youíve got six more colors to choose from now. Iíll bet there are a lot
of Lanterns out there who could support a solo story once in a while. The upcoming Agent Orange Christmas Special has me all a-twitter. Iíd love to see something else like that turn up in my local comic shop.
Favorite of the Week: October 27, 2010
Itís time to say goodbye to yet another of the best comics being publishedÖ until last week. Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!
ended its run with issue #21, with Billy and his family in final battle against the insidious Black Adam. Art Baltazar
really made this book their own after Mike Kunkel
left, with daring storylines that were true to the classic characters and still wonderfully fresh and new. When Mike Norton
joined the crew on the art side of the book, comic book alchemy was made and we got the best stories of the Shazam family since Jerry Ordway
left their title in the 90s. Iím really happy that this creative team is staying together in the upcoming Young Justice
series, but this is a comic book thatís going to be sorely missed.
Support cxPulp and buy The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero on Amazon.com!
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other Peopleís Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. Heís also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petitís Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.