Hey, here’s a few characters who have appeared in various Superman comics and shows:
Oh wait, my mistake. In spite of how different they appear, those are all takes on the same character: Ronald Troupe. For those who can’t tell by the one physical feature that is a constant, Ron is basically the franchise’s most prominent black guy (not counting Steel, of course, but I’ll get to him later).
Ron is underused, but he’s also tenacious. Since first appearing in the early 90s, he’s not managed to become an indispensable part of the franchise, but he’s managed to always be around, even if only as a named extra in scenes set in the Daily Planet. Ron made it into the 90s animated show, where he did nothing but appear in the background and occasionally say a sentence. He had an appearance on Smallville that amounted to a cameo. He’s been an unimportant character in arcs like the Death and Return of Superman and All-Star Superman, which guarantee that people who seek out only the most famous Superman stories are technically able to see him. Even, the very week I write this, is there a man in a single panel of Superman’s latest comic who I am sure is meant to be Ron. He sticks around, but nobody notices.
It wasn’t always thus. In the 90s comics, when the supporting cast was at its most valued, we got stories in which Ron did things or was even the point of focus. Over the course of a decade, he went from an aspiring reporter to a successful one working at the Planet. He began a relationship with Lucy Lane, Lois’s sister, and they ended up married and had a child (Sam) together*. But, cameos and background appearances aside, nobody seems to care about Ron anymore. That’s a shame because I can still see a place for him in the franchise.
One complaint I’ve seen tossed Ronward is that he’s “boring”. As someone who proudly considers himself boring, I don’t see the problem. Boring people deserve representation in comics as much as anyone. If only to mock us.
As should be evidenced by my previous Superman Thoughts posts, I’d want to bring focus back to the journalism in the book and that means more Jimmy Olsen. Well, if Jimmy’s idiotic and overeager attempts at being a journalist by running toward danger are back, then why not have level-headed Ron there as his foil. Jimmy and Ron are a natural comedy team. There have been small hints at this in the comics already, but I say we go full-throttle into this. If there’s ever a new Jimmy Olsen book and Ron isn’t his co-star, they don’t know what they’re doing.
Apart from Jimmy, Ron has also been shown to have a rivalry with the Planet’s sports reporter Steve Lombard. Steve, whom I’ll cover one day, has been doing well for appearances in the last decade and the friction between him and Ron gives them both something to do.
Basically, I don’t think I’m saying anything revolutionary about Ron Troupe. I think that most writers who know he exists see how he fits into the Planet’s group dynamics. It basically only matters if that writer cares enough to write about the Planet, or if they’re just writing toward the next DC Universe event and don’t have time for the supporting cast.
* Just think: There was a time when Lois and Clark had a mixed-race nephew. There are people who would be so pissed off by that and those are the exact people who deserve it. Also, little Sam Troupe would give little Jon Kent someone to play with who isn’t a Batman character. That’s a plus in my books. The Ron/Lucy relationship is definitely something I’d want back.