Reboot #... I Stopped Counting

So Schrödinger's Cat is out of the bag: DC Comics is rebooting its entire line in September as a result of the Flashpoint event.The details are murky at best, but here's what we (think we) know:
-The story lines in all current titles will wrap up by the end of the summer.
-All titles will be rebooted to #1, including Action and Detective.
-Some origins will be completely re-written, while others will only be tweaked.
-The new books will catch up with at least some of DC's iconic heroes much earlier in their careers.
-The only new book that's been announced is Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. It stars (younger versions of ) Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). For some reason, they all have the same collar, which is strange for characters who are really solo stars. Johns says he wants to focus on the interpersonal relationships.
-Jim Lee spearheaded the redesign of at least 50 costumes (which might explain it).
-Other rumors: Wonder Woman by Grant Morrison with Phil Jimenez, OMAC by Scott Kolins, and a Legion Lost book that's unrelated to the previous series by that name, and the possibility that Superman and Wonder Woman will hook up.
-The new DCU will be "more diverse".
-The relaunch will feature 52 #1 issues.
-Unrelated to the reboot, DC will also launch same-day downloads of the comics.

And now, my undigested thoughts...

Gut feeling
You know it's not my first and it likely won't be my last. I was a comics reader when the first Crisis happened, after all. How will this one differ? Back in 1986, I think we were on the cusp of a new way of writing comics at DC. New Teen Titans was doing well using the Marvel model, for example, but more established comics were perhaps wallowing in a more traditional style, the Superman books especially. The Crisis allowed books that were doing well and were "modern" (in general, this means they were a little more "psychological" or grounded in real world relationships) to go on, while books stuck in a Silver/Bronze rut were rebooted to great success (Superman and Wonder Woman in particular). Other books handled it in other ways, sometimes catching up late (Hawkman), sometimes giving way to replacements (Flash, Justice League). Rebooting some of the pillars of the DCU rebranded the era, no disputing that as we still say pre-Crisis/post-Crisis, and made the universe more coherent with titles that had already "moved on".

The question today is: Are we once again on such a "cusp"? I'm not really feeling it. Further, if the reboot is line-wide and no stories are to continue, then we have no books that can used as an example of what the new DCU is meant to be. With Geoff Johns as creative director, given his predilection for the pre-Crisis universe (see his Superman, Legion, Flash, etc. tweaks), a return to those days (at least in set-up) is perhaps likely. Snell may be closer than he thinks when he posits that the Crisis might simply be undone. However, that doesn't speak to tone so much. I can't, at this point, see how comics story telling could be re-invented, especially not when the creative force behind the reboot is the same that's been restructuring the universe since Infinite Crisis. It feels more like a commercial decision at this point. Comics aren't selling so well, let's go after a new market (the downloads) and new readers with well-publicized entry points.

52 #1s
52 has become an important number at DC, seeing as it's the number of Earths in the new multiverse, something that's been true but largely ignored for the past couple years. 52 worlds, 52 books. Surely, it doesn't mean that each new #1 will take place on a different Earth! It's highly unlikely that the four (known) heroes of the Justice League won't also star in their own books which will be chronologically simultaneous with the team book. However, finally using the multiverse is a good idea. And I don't just mean that they could finally put the Marvel Family on the right track and on Earth-S (which a reboot could do anyway). I mean that it could allow DC to downplay the shared universe aspect of their comics line. Think about it. If fewer books share the same continuity, they become more accessible to new readers, which seems part and parcel of this whole strategy. Titles would cross over less often, big events would be confined to smaller families of books (DC had success with the Sinestro War, for example). The door would still be open to big events because it would still be a shared multiverse. Such a move might also reduce the continuity baggage of the DCU, for example by sending all the Golden Age/precursor heroes to Earth-2. While the post-Crisis DCU was all about Legacy (which Wally West was emblematic of, and Batman Inc. is the ultimate result of), the post-Flashpoint universe could explore a different (and less continuity-loaded) theme. If the heroic age started in the 2000s, it voids the question of why there were apparently no heroes from the 50s to the 90s, a gap that's widened considerably since 1986. There should now be a Silver Age Earth where those sensibilities and heroes can be explored. Reducing the heroic population of Earth-1 wouldn't be a bad thing (either by voiding or shunting them off to another Earth). It's a crowded place, and writers just don't care if they massacre half a dozen of them every few months.

Another point: I don't think the fact that there are 52 #1s in September will mean they will launch 52 new titles. Likely, there will be quite a few specials in there that give characters their new origins. This is not unlike something I recommended just prior to Final Crisis, though I didn't advocate a complete reboot - just that origins/DC History be redefined following the event (which turned out to be unnecessary).

What doesn't make sense here
I don't know when they hatched this plan, but DC seems to be in a constant state of rebooting. and there are things I don't get. For example, why did Johns just bother with retelling Superman's origin for the umpteenth time if it would all be null and void a year later? Why reboot (or retroboot) the Legion? Why bring back Ray Palmer as the Atom? How does this tie into the finales of both Gen Lost and Brightest Day? JLI: Coming soon! Well, IS IT? Is there an Earth where the current continuity happened and where JLI and Swamp Thing will take place? Why do you need to resurrect Aquaman, et al. if they can be alive in the new continuity anyway (except to make them marketable, I suppose)? Is this why Batwoman's monthly has been held up? Or that new and now useless Who's Who? On the flipside, why did Doom Patrol end so suddenly, in the middle of a story arc, if they could just have given Giffen a couple more months to end it?

On the other hand, some of the risks DC's taken with a few books make complete sense if they were going to end it all in August anyway. Batman Inc., Wonder Woman's alternate reality, Superman's long walk of shame. The first of these worked and the others not so much, but no biggie. It'll all be null and void come the fall.

Sorry to see you go
Though DC's communications office implies that its current output is "not being told for current audiences" (which is as ridiculous as it is dangerous - in my business, we call that malpractice), current readers of course have their favorite books. Dick Grayson as Batman (in particular Synder's take in Detective). Secret Six. Batman Inc. Tim as Red Robin and Steph as Batgirl. Lemire's Superboy. Superman's marriage. Booster Gold protecting history (I guess he fails). It's unlikely any of these will make it through the transition, either because they're too continuity-dependent or because they aren't the iconic version of their respective characters. And can the Legion even survive another reboot? The new DC universe will likely be simpler and more accessible, but it won't be as rich, at least, not for a while.

I'm not particularly excited about the Justice League announcement, nor the fact that Jim Lee redesigned so many costumes. He did the new Wonder Woman we all hated, right? I mean really, let the creative teams assigned to whichever book handle their own redesigns. If all it's going to be is throat-chokers anyway... who cares? Not particularly a fan of Jim Lee's designs, so I just don't see the point.

Still stuff to hope for
Of course there is. I remember the original Crisis as something exciting. Well, not the event so much, which was all red skies and crossovers, but the resulting new Earth. The re-invention of Superman in particular enthralled me. And there ARE books and franchises that don't work at the moment. The aforementioned Superman and Wonder Woman are going nowhere fast, just as was Wally West as the Flash. Teen Titans doesn't really work despite bringing some actual sidekicks into the team. Hawkman is as damaged a character as ever. The JLA is a mess. And the Marvel Family can't even support so much as a working Special.

However, I'm more interested in what will be ADDED rather than removed or fixed (because those fixes could have been done without a complete reboot, and might still suck). The potential for using other Earths is interesting to me, and I like the idea of a Golden Age Earth, and a Silver Age Earth where the legacies (Wally, Kyle, Dick) actually did bear fruit later. Earth-S. Earth-X. Charlton-Earth. I'm all up for those, but I want to see them IN USE, not as background. It would be interesting and exciting, I think, if some continuing titles took place on Earths other than Earth-1, where not only different characters, but different TONES were explored. Maybe that's what the DC Retro experiment is about?

I wonder what "more diverse"means though. The Justice League, as pictured, is just a quartet of white people (the complete image, revealed later, has Flash, Batman and Cyborg, so one black man). Are we to believe heroes of color/ethnicity/sexual orientation will have continuing series? Or will the output itself be more diverse? We currently have a western in Jonah Hex, but might we see some military comics (like Sgt. Rock), fantasy (like Amethyst?), sci-fi (Adam Strange?) and horror (Swamp Thing)? Perhaps genre-busting in superhero comics themselves instead. The Suicide Squad or Checkmate could have an espionage feel, while a Charlton-Earth based Question series could be a noir police thriller. The OMAC book seems part of that. Who know? But if they ARE going after a whole new market, they might attempt to get people who 1) have access to electronic media and 2) are interested in different genres. I'm sure there are many. It would be natural to try to appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Pirates, Jason Bourne, etc. who would never think of walking into a comic book store. If there is such diversity in the offing, I would applaud it, but its success would come down to proper marketing.

Wow, that's a long emergency post. At this point, anything's possible, but we'll probably come back to this subject as things get better defined.

10 comments:

Paul C said...

My initial reaction was a cynical groan but the more I read about it the more excited I get. Is that wrong? Am I setting myself up for disappointment?

rob! said...

I don't like restarting Action and Detective, and maybe even Adventure, at #1. There should only ever be ONE Action #1 and Detective #27.

Home Inspector Expert said...

I think it would be a blast. I would love to see the Justice League be the must-read DC title where everything cools happens. I would love to have a writer of John’s caliber and Lee's skill on the book. They just have a HUGE SKEPTICISM GAP to cross. Please prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the first idiot to buy a dozen copies of Action #1 because it's worth a million dollars to the right buyer.

The cynic in me says that six months to a year after this thing hits, the DC universe will go back to looking a lot like it does now. With one exception: the Super-marriage will have never happened.

Matthew Turnage said...

Although Bob Wayne's press release to retailers seems to imply all books are getting a new #1, CBR's report says DC is not commenting on those books. I'm going to hold on to the slim hope that Action and Detective, at least, will continue their numbering. I'd love for Superman and Batman to continue as well, even if they have to change the titles like Superman did in 1986.

CBR says a Superman series by Grant Morrison? Excellent! But interesting that it says "A new title starring Superman by Grant Morrison" and not Superman #1 by Grant Morrison. Hmmm.

Siskoid said...

Maybe that's a Heroes in Love Wonder Woman/Superman project.

De said...

I'm interested in any development that shakes up the status quo in the comic book world. I guess I need to start picking up Flashpoint now.

David H. said...

well so far everyone is having a fit about this. it'll be interesting to see how they will be received when these new issues hit the stands.

Jeffrey said...

So if they are rebooting the whole line, I can stop buying the books now?

Siskoid said...

What was preventing you from stopping before?

 

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