Mark Twain famously said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations."
Impossible or not, I think I am on fairly safe ground to conjecture that the majority of ideas are routinely revisited in the world of comics. Whether it is the retelling of an origin story, the resurrection of a formerly dead character, or the passing of said character's legacy on to the next generation, we all love to see elements from our favourite stories invoked in new material. As I understand it both DC Comics and Marvel intend to take this approach to the extreme in 2015, overtly referencing a whole of host previously published storyarcs as the basis of each of their latest company-wide events.
At the other end of the scale to this are the little tricks and eye-catching gimmicks that innocently resurface every so often as comic book writers attempt to tap into the timeless essence of their chosen muse. I stumbled across one such oddity not long ago while I was researching the earliest appearances of the Justice League of America.
Have a look at the delightful panel below from Justice League of America #3, vol.1 (1961) showing Hal Jordan think quickly to save the city from certain disaster. He creates giant humanoid constructs with his power ring to prevent damaged sky-scrapers from falling and crushing the population below.
We can all agree this is a fantastic bit of ring-slinging from Hal which must have been very exciting for fans to read back in the early sixties.
Jump forward then exactly 50 years into the future and take a gander at this next wonderful double page spread which graced the pages of Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 (2011).
It's the same concept in both panels! Yes, the 2011 version has been considerably fleshed out and updated to entertain a more demanding 21st century audience (3 years on and I am still struck by the beauty and energy of the artwork) but when you boil right down to it, it is the same idea appearing in both comic books.
I have no clue if the New Guardians creative team of Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham gave any thought to their historic Justice League predecessors, Gardner Fox and Mike Secowsky. I sincerely doubt it. But I like to think the idea first popped into heads of those silver-age creators back in 1961 and floated around in the ether for a good many years until it passed through Mark Twain's mental kaleidoscope to be turned and transformed into a new and very curious combination.