Is the DC Comics reboot for real or another half-measure?
More than 25 years after the Crisis, will the DC Universe really get to start over?
I know that 99% of what I write about is TV-related, but every now and then other elements of my nerditry have to take over the blog for a bit. Today's announcement that DC Comics is going to reboot its entire line of superhero titles to #1 issues, with younger versions of the characters and many revamped costumes designed by Jim Lee, is one of those times.
We know very little at this point, save a few quotes from Lee, Geoff Johns (who will be writing a new Justice League title drawn by Lee) and publisher Dan DiDio in a USA Today story. It's unclear at this point if this is just a numerical reboot - an easy way to draw in potential new readers scared off by seeing that, say, Action Comics has now passed the 900-issue mark - or if this is a serious reboot of the DC Universe continuity, in which every title and character is starting over from scratch.
As a longtime DC fan (albeit one whose only mainstream DC title these days is "Secret Six"), I think I'd actually be happier with the latter idea.
One of the seminal events of my comic book-reading childhood was 1985's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" miniseries by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. It was designed to at once celebrate 50 years worth of DC Comics stories and streamline the company's comic book universe to make core characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman more accessible to a new generation who were baffled by Earth-2, Earth-X, multiple Green Lanterns, etc.
It was a fine idea - much as I loved the multiverse and the ancient continuity, it was too damn complicated for its own good - but DC ultimately half-assed it and made things a bigger mess than ever. Just to pick the three flagship heroes - as opposed to less prominent characters and teams like Hawkman and the Legion of Superheroes, who had to be rebooted every three weeks or so to keep up with the continuity quicksand they'd become mired in - we got three very different approaches to post-"Crisis" life. Superman got a revised origin story courtesy of John Byrne, but Byrne was then told he couldn't start telling stories about Superman as a rookie hero, and his titles all dealt with a young but not new Superman. Wonder Woman, meanwhile, got rebooted by George Perez - only he was allowed to tell her story from the beginning, with his rookie Wonder Woman somehow inserted into current continuity. And Batman wasn't rebooted at all. So at the same time, you had concurrent, frequently intersecting stories in which Superman had only been in the job for a year or two, Wonder Woman was brand new and Batman had been patrolling Gotham long enough to have gone through two different Robins.
It made little sense in the mid-80s, and made progressively less sense in the years since, even after DC tried again and again (with miniseries like "Zero Hour" and "Infinite Crisis") to make incremental fixes to a plan that should have been a wholesale makeover to begin with. There were too many old stories piled on top of other old stories piled on top of complicated changes, when the best thing for all involved would have been a clean break from the old. (Fans of the original continuity would still have those stories in existence, and perhaps DC could have introduced some niche line for the hardcore fanboys telling stories about the Superman of Earth-1 teaming up with the Luthor of Earth-3, while leaving the mainstream titles open to new ideas.)
If Johns, DiDio, Lee and company were to finally try this now - to make these new #1 issues mean actual starting-over points for the characters - it would make sense. The recent wave of comic book movies should in theory build a new generation of comic book readers, but the problem is always about what titles they could actually read and make sense of - and that would be similar to the movie versions - if they went into a comic shop. (Or, these days, if they wanted to download a title to their iPad.) But what little we know suggests it's another half-measure.
DiDio told USA Today that, "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience." Meanwhile, DC's senior vice president for sales, Bob Wayne, sent a letter to comics retailers today that included this passage:
"We have taken great care in maintaining continuity where most important, but fans will see a new approach to our storytelling. Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once."
Johns is smart, and one of the best mainstream superhero writers going. Maybe there's a real, sweeping plan in place to have this all make sense. Maybe "continuity where most important" just means the big details like Batman's parents getting murdered, Abin Sur giving Hal Jordan his Green Lantern ring, etc.
But if there's not a consistent plan - if, a year from now, the original roster of the Justice League has to be rewritten again, or if Grant Morrison decides that he really wants to put Damien Wayne back into the new continuity, or whatever - then it's just a marketing move, and not the long-term creative patch DC could use as it moves further away from its 75th anniversary.
But that's just me. What do the rest of you fanboys and fangirls think? Do you want DC to really start over from scratch or would you prefer that all that messy, convoluted but incredibly fun history remain part of every character and title?
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