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The Problem of Adaptation
This combination of familiar and fresh seems like the golden ticket for Warner Bros. when they bring their characters to other media. And yet, in nearly every case, DC Comics adaptations have fumbled the legacy aspects.
Most of the time, characters appear as composites of various versions, like the Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner Green Lantern mashups in Superman: The Animated Series, Dick Grayson dressed like the Tim Drake Robin in Teen Titans, or Grant Gustin playing Barry Allen with Wally West’s personality in The Flash. That long-running CW show did eventually expand to include a Flash family, including Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp), Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), Impulse (Jordan Fisher), and XS (Jessica Parker Kennedy). However, it remained focused on Barry right up through the series finale, when he expelled his power to transfer it to new heroes, who (presumably) will take up the mantle.
These adaptations tend to bumble the entire appeal of legacy characters, leaving no one happy. Those who see Barry as the real Flash may have appreciated his job as forensic scientist and even the tragic origin writer Geoff Johns gave the character in 2009, but they likely struggle with his breezy, nonchalant personality. Wally fans may feel that Barry stole their character’s identity, and don’t feel appeased by the awkward Wally who eventually makes it into the show.
The Miracle of Blue Beetle
I don’t think anyone would have picked Blue Beetle as the character to finally do legacy characters right, especially not the Jaime Reyes version. Jaime came into existence through clumsy editorial fiat. Beloved because of his role in the 1980s Justice League International series by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire, but little-used since, Ted Kord became DC editorial’s sacrificial lamb to spur interest in the big Infinite Crisis event of 2005. Giffen, along with writer John Rogers and artist Cully Hamner, had permission to create a new Blue Beetle for a spin-off series, and thus Jaime was born.
Despite Giffen’s insistence that editorial had no interest in bringing back Ted, fans initially resisted and boycotted Jaime stories. However, between an excellent run by Rogers and Jaime’s appearances in other books – as well as his friendship with Ted’s best pal Booster Gold – Jaime finally gained popularity.
Of course, only a handful of theatergoers would have those concerns going into Blue Beetle. Writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer and director Ángel Manuel Soto could have easily trimmed out everything about Ted Kord and Dan Garrett and made the movie just about Jaime, a kid who gets powers from an alien artifact. They could have made it about Dan Garett, an adventurer who finds a magic scarab, or brilliant inventor Ted Kord. It didn’t have to be about legacy at all.