Obsidian (comics)

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Obsidian
Obsidian.png
Obsidian. Art by Mike Machlan.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance All-Star Squadron #25
(September 1983)
Created by Roy Thomas (writer)
Jerry Ordway (artist)
In-story information
Full name Todd James Rice
Team affiliations Justice Society of America
Justice League
Infinity, Inc.
Partnerships Ian Karkull
Eclipso
Mordru
Abilities Merge his body with his own shadow, giving him enhanced strength and vitality
As a shadow:
Flight
Envelop enemies, showing them their dark side
Ability to enlarge himself and cover the world in darkness

Obsidian (real name Todd James Rice) is a fictional superhero published by DC Comics. He first appeared in All-Star Squadron #25 (September 1983), and was created by Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway.[1] According to an Infinity, Inc. letter page, Obsidian was named "Todd" after a friend of Thomas.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Obsidian is the codename of Todd Rice, who is the biological son of Alan Scott and Rose Canton, respectively the Golden Age superhero Green Lantern and villain Thorn. Todd was raised in an abusive adoptive home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[2] He finds out in his late teens that he has a twin sister, Jennie-Lynn Hayden, alias Jade. They meet, discover they both have superpowers and, operating under the assumption that Green Lantern was their father (which they did not know for certain at the time, but did eventually learn to be true), decide to follow in his footsteps.[3]

As Obsidian and Jade, they were founding members of the superhero team Infinity, Inc., a group composed mainly of the children, grandchildren, and protégés of members of the Justice Society of America.[4] Obsidian also serves with the Justice League in a space-station based headquarters.[5] He has many various adventures there, including helping the League deal with dozens of aliens who are the last members of their species. During his tenure with the League, he undergoes therapy. For a time, he also has to deal with seemingly permanent injuries to his shadow form.

Obsidian apparently inherited a potential for mental illness from his mother, Thorn. Corrupted by Ian Karkull, Obsidian turns evil, using his shadow powers to first steal all shadows from an entire city, then to spread darkness over the entire world.[6] It is during his time as a villain that he attacks his foster father. His father, with the aid of other JSA members, defeats him.[7] Obsidian retreats to the Shadowlands, the otherdimensional plane from which he derives his powers.[8] Later, he joins the mystical villains Mordru and Eclipso to seek vengeance (unsuccessfully) on Green Lantern and the JSA.[9] Following his defeat, Obsidian is cured of his mental imbalance.[10]

After being cured, Obsidan retires. It was during this time that Todd came out and came to terms with his self-identity as a gay man. He meets and falls in love with Damon Matthews, an assistant district attorney who works with Kate Spencer, who is also the vigilante known as Manhunter.[11] Todd's powers went dormant during most of this time, but they return, following the death of his twin sister Jade during Infinite Crisis. He has since then returned to being a superhero and is still dating Damon happily.

Obsidian appears during the year long "52" event. Watching a Thanksgiving Day Parade, he sees Luthor's 'Everyman' superhero team going by. Enraged that one of the members is named 'Jade', he angrily confronts the group, endangering innocent people in the process. The Everyman heroes protect the crowd and Obsidian is talked out of doing anything drastic.

Prior to Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #1, Obsidian joins the team. He serves as the security guard of their New York headquarters.

Obsidian later degenerates into an egg consisting purely of darkness. It is later revealed that this state was caused by an attack by Kid Karnevil, who gave Obsidian to a shadowy female villain. In Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #37, Obsidian re-appears as a power source for the Darkness Engine, which caused all super-powered beings on earth to lose their powers. After Mister Terrific managed to travel back in time, he tells the others that they must hatch the egg or they'll all die. Todd's father decides to do what Michael asks. This time, when Kid Karnevil is looking for the black egg in the ruins of the JSA Brownstone, he is confronted by the restored Obsidian, who takes him out and rejoins his teammates in the combat against the villains.

Brightest Day[edit]

Obsidian and the JSA come into contact with Batman's new Justice League after Alan becomes possessed by an unknown entity and takes off into the sky. After catching up with Alan and reuniting with Jade (who had been resurrected in the closing moments of Blackest Night), the teams figure out that the being controlling Alan is the Starheart, the cosmic force that granted Scott and his children their abilities. The Starheart then takes over Obsidian's body as well and disappears with him.[12] When the JSA members try to visit the shadow-wielding immortal known as the Shade in hopes of getting him to track down their missing teammates, they find a crazed Obsidian and Doctor Fate standing over Shade's comatose body. Before the others can call for reinforcements, Obsidian and Fate knock them unconscious and capture them.[13]

At one unspecified point Obsidian's twin sister, Jade, is contacted by the Entity, who tells her to help him to "balance the darkness" and save their friends from what appears to be the villain Eclipso.[14]

Jade tried to rescue her brother from the Starheart's control, but both brother and sister fused together and formed a hybrid with the powers of both Jade and Obsidian, all the while in the Starheart's control.[15] Together, the siblings attacked the Justice League and the Justice Society until Jade is contacted by the Entity. Jade resisted the Starheart's control and tried to balance the darkness inside of both of them. Jade and Obsidian are eventually separated by the Entity so Jade could complete her task, however Obsidian became paranoid and tried to force Jade to fuse once again with him. Jade managed to prevent the fusion but Obsidian was restrained by Kyle in a green bubble and taken far away from Jade. Jade managed to restore her father's Starheart, which was revealed to be the unidentified threat. In the end Jade is reunited with her father who returns to normal but she cannot approach her brother or vice-versa or both of them would eventually fuse once again into the hybrid and risk releasing the Starheart.[16]

The New 52[edit]

Following DC's "The New 52" company-wide reboot in 2011, Alan Scott and family no longer appear in stories featured in DC's main continuity. In Earth-2, one of the fifty-two divergent realities branching from the core New Earth reality, Alan Scott is a gay man without children. In Earth-2: World's End, a different version of Todd Rice appears. He is an African-American wearing a trenchcoat, and a mask that resembles the mask from his post-Crisis costume, and was locked up in an alternate version of Arkham Asylum. He leaves Arkham under the supervision of John Constantine, who hails from Prime Earth and is attempting to return home.[17]

In the 2015 comics event Convergence, a two-part miniseries titled Infinity Inc. will feature the return of the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths team, including Todd as Obsidian. [18]

Powers and abilities[edit]

  • Unlike his sister Jade, whose powers resemble their father's, Obsidian has various shadow-based powers from his father's exposure to shadow energy after a battle with Ian Karkull. Obsidian is connected to the Shadowlands, a dimension of primordial, quasi-sentient darkness. At will, Obsidian can merge with his own shadow and possess the shadows of others. In his shadow form, he is stronger than in human form, can pass through solid objects and can fly. After being corrupted by the Shadowlands, Obsidian was able to control his shadow powers to the point that he could grow to enormous size and create objects out of shadow, in a similar way that his father and sister can create objects out of green energy.
  • Obsidian also has limited telepathic abilities and can force a person to see the evil side of their own soul, which has been known to drive people insane.
  • During Crisis on Infinite Earths, Obsidian learned that in his shadow form he is resistant to low amounts of antimatter, for instance the amount of antimatter a shadow demon is made of. In his shadow form, shadow demons cannot hurt him, but he can hurt them.
  • It is unknown what effects Obsidian's connection to the Shadowlands will have on his aging process. Others connected to it, like the Shade, have displayed immortality, while residual Shadowlands energy slowed the aging of the original JSA members.
  • Manhunter #31 shows Obsidian being a skilled helicopter pilot.

Other versions[edit]

In the final issue of 52, a new Multiverse is revealed, originally consisting of 52 identical realities. Among the parallel realities shown is one designated "Earth-2". As a result of Mister Mind "eating" aspects of this reality, it takes on visual aspects similar to the pre-Crisis Earth-2, including Obsidian among other Justice Society of America characters. The names of the characters and the team are not mentioned in the panel in which they appear.[19]

In the 1997 Tangent Comics One Shot The Flash Todd Rice appeared as the character Dark Star, with the power to absorb light energy, however after a misunderstanding of a command from Francis Powell Black Lightning he accidentally absorbs himself and therefore ceases to exist.

On the new Earth-9, a female version of Obsidian that can transform herself into stone exists.[20]

Kingdom Come features Obsidian as one of Batman's rogue "Outsiders" team. He resembles The Shadow in appearance.

Sexuality[edit]

He has a short-lived, troubled relationship with Marcie Cooper, the third Harlequin, shortly before the disbanding of Infinity, Inc. Later, sexual confusion was shown during his tenure in the Justice League, when he told his friend Nuklon that the only two people he could ever love in the world were his sister and him. When Nuklon asked if he was gay, Obsidian did not fully answer, instead asking "Why must there be labels?" After Obsidian's redemption, JSA penciller Steven Sadowski stated that Todd's sexuality would be dealt with whenever he returned to that title.

Todd shares a kiss with Damon Matthews.

Todd appeared in Manhunter #18 where he shares a kiss with Damon Matthews, a recurring gay character, and spoke in the fashion of a lover, confirming his sexuality. Marc Andreyko, the writer of Manhunter, goes into detail about selecting Obsidian as Damon's lover, stating that:

I didn't want to make a character gay unless it felt organic. So, the list was pretty short. Then I remembered when Obsidian was in the JLA years ago and Gerard Jones, the writer, danced around the issue. I went back and read all my Infinity, Inc.'s and although Todd dated women, it was always a mess.

Andreyko said that DC was supportive, wanting a "visible gay character" and that it was "a general void in the DCU that needed exploration". Geoff Johns, longtime writer of JSA, also stated his support for the idea.[1]

When writer Bill Willingham took over the JSA title, there was a great amount of concern among fans about how this would affect Todd (as Willingham is a Republican). Some fans even feared that Willingham would "cure" Todd's sexuality. In Justice Society of America (vol. 3)#40, Willingham attempted to address this concern in a humorous way by having the newly restored Obsidian announce that his homosexuality has been cured, only for him to quickly renounce this claim, telling the readers, while breaking the fourth wall for a brief moment, that he was only joking and that he was still gay.

As of Justice Society of America #43 (October 2010), Todd is still dating Damon, confirming this in conversation with his father.

Rogues gallery[edit]

The following are enemies of Obsidian:

Ian Karkull
A former foe of the All-Star Squadron and the Justice Society of America. Having been believed to be dead for decades, Ian manipulated Obsidian to gain access to, and subsequently rule, the shadow lands. Karkull had apparently been corrupting Obsidian for months in an effort to get revenge on his enemies in the Justice Society.
Chroma
A cosmic entity that Obsidian faced during his time with Infinity, Inc. Chroma interrupted a televised concert with a song about apocalyptic events. The song, though talking about death, somehow proved so engaging that many people desired to hear it again and again. However, Todd, having just come off a bad date, found himself uninvolved with the song (thus making him immune to its effects).
Kid Karnevil
While posing as a new JSA recruit, All-American Kid, Jeremy Karne attacked Obsidian with an illumination device. The attack left Todd in a severely degenerated state. Karne later stole the black egg that Obsidian had degenerated into and handed it over to his allies in the Fourth Reich.
Harlequin
A former girlfriend of Todd's. She attempted to recruit him to the Manhunters, but he refused. Marcie was later responsible for the murder of Todd's leader and friend, Sylvester Pemberton.

In other media[edit]

  • In 2010, Mattel released a 6" figure of "Todd Rice" (as the name "Obsidian" was unavailable due to a rights issue) in Wave 14 of their DC Universe Classics line. Todd's father, Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott is also a 6" figure in this same wave. Wave 14 is exclusive to Walmart stores.[21]
  • Todd's father briefly appears in the Smallville episode "Absolute Justice" (which featured the Justice Society) in a few videoclips. While Obsidian doesn't appear himself, there is a scene in the JSA Brownstone where a shadow figure appears for a second in front of Clark Kent, leading some fans into speculating that it's Obsidian that they see. Later, Carter Hall mentions that he's tracked down the children and protégés of the old JSA and that they will be recruited into the Justice Society of America as new members, implying Obsidian potentially exists in that universe.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. The children of the original Justice Society of America made their smash debut in this issue by writer Roy Thomas and penciler Jerry Ordway...All-Star Squadron #25 marked the first appearances of future cult-favorite heroes Jade, Obsidian, Fury, Brainwave Jr., the Silver Scarab, Northwind, and Nuklon. 
  2. ^ Infinity, Inc. #5 & 6 (August & September 1984)
  3. ^ Infinity, Inc. #4 (July 1984) & 33 (December 1986)
  4. ^ Inifinity, Inc. #1-53 (March 1984-August 1988)
  5. ^ Justice League America #0 (October 1994)
  6. ^ JSA #7 & 8 (February & March 2000)
  7. ^ JSA #5 (December 1999)
  8. ^ JSA #9 (April 2000)
  9. ^ JSA #46 (May 2003)
  10. ^ JSA #50 (September 2003)
  11. ^ Manhunter (2004) #18 (March 2006)
  12. ^ Justice League of America (vol. 2) #43-45
  13. ^ Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #41
  14. ^ Brightest Day #7 (August 2010)
  15. ^ Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #42 (August 2010)
  16. ^ Justice League of America (vol. 2) #48 (August 2010)
  17. ^ Earth-2: World's End #08 (January 2015)
  18. ^ Siegel, Lucas (2014). "DC's CONVERGENCE Week Four: Pre-Crisis Multiverse is Back, Baby". Newsarama. 
  19. ^ 52 52: 13/3 (May 2, 2007), DC Comics
  20. ^ Tangent: Superman's Reign #2
  21. ^ DC Universe Classics 14: Todd "Obsidian" Rice review

External links[edit]