DC Comics: Reboot Number Four

As many of you may have heard, this September DC Comics is relaunching ALL of their comics, apparently rebooting their shared universe again (it’s the fourth time in 25 years- and the last time was just FIVE years ago!) Why are they doing this, and what effect will it have on the characters and the readers?

Let’s look back at the their other reboots first:

In 1985, they did the first official reboot with Crisis On Infinite Earths, a limited series where all of their fictional universes were combined into one. The idea was to start over fresh- after 50 years of publication, it was getting too though even for the best writers to remember who did that what to whom when (this was before the Internet, remember.) A good reason, indeed, but because of editorial in-fighting (some editors wanted to keep at least some of the old stories in continuity, others wanted a completely new beginning) the reboot wasn’t a total success- in fact some characters (such as Hawkman) got so muddled up by contradictory stories that DC actually eventually forbade their use! Overall however their comics were still pretty good, with fresh takes on characters like Superman and even completely new characters like Booster Gold.

Ten years later, DC published “Zero Hour”, a similar miniseries in which history gets rewritten (by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, of all people, who had gone insane after failing to save his entire city). The real reason however was that DC was trying to fix some of the problems caused by the first reboot. Some changes worked (Wonder Woman was now old enough to have been a founding member of the Justice League after all) others only got worse (Hawkman) and some made no sense at all (Batman was now an urban legend- gee so who’s that guy in the Justice League?) It also did introduce some interesting characters though such as the new Starman.

In 2005, Infinite Crisis, a direct sequel to the first Crisis, again changed their universe- why? Your guess is as good as mine, because it wasn’t as if they really needed it now. In fact, the changes were vague, presented by way of jumping ahead a full year with the promise of things being explained via “52” a year-long weekly comic. In the end few of the changes proved good (Wonder Woman was now a secret agent) and some utterly bombed (turning Batgirl into a bad guy.) And none lasted long either. Also, in the end it was revealed that The Multiverse had been recreated (but only with 52 Earths- for no reason other than justifying the series’ title it seems.)

The current reboot is the result of “Flashpoint” a storyline centered on The Flash were history gets screwed up by one of his foes, resulting in a horrible version of Earth that will however soon get undone (very similar to marvel’s Age of Apocalypse and House of M series.) Then DC revealed that the universe would not get back to COMPLETE normality afterwards, but will have many differences. So far, it just looks like there will be many costume changes (which the fans hate already) and lots of minor characters getting their own books (including people like BatWing, The African Batman.) They insist this isn’t a “reboot” it’s just a “relaunch” but many of the details leaked (such as the fact that Superman is no longer married) seem to belay that.

Why did DC do this now? I believe it’s for the following reasons:

-First, the DC company itself has been reinvented recently by their owners (Warner Brothers.) Their focus now is in creating properties that can exploited in other media (Marvel’s recent movie successes probably had a lot to do with that.) One of the purposes of the relaunch is to try to attract new readers by offering digital versions of their stories on the same day the comics are printed. Makes you wonder why they even bother with the paper version (they might also be setting themselves up to survive the predicted death of printed media.)

-As a result of the above reshuffling, Dan Didio, the guy behind many of the Infinite Crisis changes, is no longer in direct control (but he still has an important position). Geoff Jones, who has written most of DC’s recent big event stories (including Flashpoint) was also given a lot of control- and so was Jim Lee, whose own comics universe he sold to DC years ago. Judging from this, I think that a) not much is going to change, storywise, and b) a LOT of Lee’s “Wildstorm” characters are getting introduced into the DC Universe, as if they always were part of it (and having their own series again.)

The digital distribution part, I can understand and even agree with- no matter how much I prefer reading on paper, that medium seems on its way out like radio when it was replaced by television. Though I have to wonder if making the digital versions available on the same day is a good idea- isn’t it like making the DVD version of a movie available while it’s still playing on theaters?

Storywise, I don’t think the DC universe will get any nicer, which has been my big problem with it since Didio took over (and has led me to stop buying their comics since 2006). The Wildstorm characters were even more grim, so that doesn’t help either. And Johns is the kind of writer who loves to be “The One In Control”- HE gets to define Green Lantern AND Flash AND Superman AND Aquaman etc. So expect few stories that don’t meet his personal beliefs.

Overall, I think the relaunch will be a mess. In fact it may finally “kill” printed comics (in America anyway.) Though the stories will survive online. I really doubt I will start reading them again, though I will give them a chance. But if I see gross deaths everywhere, I’ll drop them just as fast.

Honestly, we don’t know what it is. It’s not a full reboot; the Batman and Green Lantern stories stay intact with all of their recent big stories (Batman Inc, the Emotional Spectrum). Many of the old stories still exist in the new universe; for instance, I’ve heard that Superman was still killed/knocked into a coma/whatever’d by Doomsday. It’s rather up in the air what this thing really is. I don’t like it solely because it renumbers Action Comics and Detective Comics. I’m going to guess that it’s going to be more like Heroes Reborn and end up a temporary thing.

I admit that one of the first things I thought of was of Rocky and Bullwinkle. “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a DCU reboot outta my hat!” “Again!? But that trick never works!”

EDIT: Followed, earlier this afternoon, by “Hokey smokes, Batman!”

Actually, the DC reboots have worked for the most part. There have been a lot of good DC comics in the past decades, and the contradictions are not usually that noticeable to the casual reader. They are just glaring because their biggest rival, Marvel Comics, has never had to do such a thing- technically speaking, even their comics from the 1930s are still canon!!- The only changes to their history have been to update the characters to the times eg. The origin of the Fantastic Four can no longer be tied to the Space Race of the 60’s, obviously. Their only true retcon so far has been the Spider-Man One More Day thing (that erased his marriage from history due to a deal with the Devil) and that earned them a LOT of fan wrath, I don’t think they’ll try it again.

In fact, Marvel set up their Ultimate Marvel comics line (back in the 90’s) precisely so new writers could do what they wanted with their characters while STILL publishing the original versions. Why DC doesn’t just do this too is beyond me.

Oh, I know. It’s just that I know Rocky & Bullwinkle better than the DCU, so I didn’t mind fudging things for the sake of the joke. :wink:

And my understanding was that the One More Day was 1. isolated to Spider Man (unlike the Major DCU Reboots) and 2. really stupid, so I don’t think it’s the principle of “continuity reboot” that’s the problem there. I dunno, I’m probably not the best person to discuss it with since I don’t read comic books, so …

It’s OK, that’s what I’m here for, to help explain all the (often ridiculously complicated) details of the DC and Marvel universes.

And Rocky & Bullwinkle rule. :wink:

OK, it’s October now, and all the “New 52” titles have come out. So here’s my opinion:

Sales wise, the relaunch has been a success. But then, considering that it’s a month-long gimmick (and fans loooove gimmicks, like crossover events) it’s to be expected. Plus, #1 issues almost always sell well, because many people buy comics to collect them. It isn’t until around the third month that sales stabilize for comics and their true following becomes apparent. So I’m not impressed by the sales numbers, yet.

As I expected, there’s still gore aplenty in these comics. Someone made a tally and over 200 characters were shown being killed overall! (but note that mostly includes one-off characters, not established ones. Also, the relaunch isn’t just for superhero comics, it also includes horror and war comics.) I don’t have a problem with this AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN SUPERHERO COMICS. There can be exceptions- Batma, for example, has to deal with serial killers often, so murders are to be expected in his titles. But if this keeps happening in comics like Justice League, Teen Titans or Blue Beetle, I’m giving up on DC comics for good. But again, it’s too early to tell.

And the sexism. Hooo boy. I expected it to be there, it’s always been, but apparently DC decided they now had permission to crank it up a lot. If you frequent Comics Media sites you likely have heard about this. Specifically, three female characters- Catwoman, Starfire and Voodoo- have been reinvented so that sex is a major selling point for the characters:

-Catwoman is an ex-prostitute, and (after a fight with Batman) apparently gets to screw him ON A ROOFTOP! (Good thing Bats doesn’t live in a city full of criminals who would just love to catch him with his pants down… oh wait. :P) I’m saying apparently because, despite her claims that they are making love, they are seen with the costumes still on. The whole thing might even be a fakeout: eg. a daydream of hers. But since the comic ends with that scene, the effect is still the same: Bat porn.)

-Starfire (from Teen Titans) is now the lover of Red Hood (Jason Todd, the Robin everybody hates) AND of Red Arrow- supposedly- and this is what pisses people off- Starfire CANNOT TELL HUMANS APART and just has sex for the hell of it with whomever’s available. Or at least that’s what the narrators (Hood and Arrow) claim. Again, could be a story fakeout, but man, talk about demeaning a character. Sure (the comics’) Starfire has always been all about cheesecake, nudity, and sex- with her boyfriend. Now she’s two jerkass young heroes’ sex toy? Sheesh.

-Voodoo was a Wildstorm superheroine, one of the Wildcats. Now she’s an alien shapeshifter who acts as a stripper. OK, she WAS that originally as well, but as with Starfire, they seem to be playing the ‘alien sex toy’ angle- except that she also turns into a monster and kills people. It’s like a bad episode of The Outer Limits: “The Stripper That Ate Me!” :smiley:

I want to point out that I’m not offended by the sex in these comics. It’s the idea that Catwoman and Starfire (Voodoo maybe not so much) need to be made sex objects to sell them, when they already had a big following that annoys me. This makes me conclude that DC is trying to ONLY market their comics to the College Frat Boy demographic now.

As for the fact that DC is now selling their comics digitally at the same time as they publish them, supposedly that is working out well too. But again, let’s see if this holds out after the fad passes. I must say though, that if it weren’t for the Net I couldn’t have read any of these comics, as I have no local comics outlet anymore. I still definitely prefer reading actual comics, though.

Overall, how do I think the relaunch did? Well, as explained the true amount of their success will only be certain around December, but from a story quality POV, their stuff has only gotten worse. There are good books, but DC obviously considers Sex and Violence to be the primary selling points. It’s like they decided to stop pretending they weren’t and are now open about it. But I think that will backfire on them, especially if the plan was, as they claim, to get new readers; most average people will NOT be impressed by this attitude (especially with porn freely available in the Net.)

And again, it’s entirely possibly that this is only part of the relaunch plan and this month they’ll get to do better stuff -I STILL cannot get over the idea that all Catwoman has to do is jump on Batman and he’ll let her haveher way with him- but certainly, the start stumbled.)

More later.

I don’t know if making young Superman pretty transparently socialist is exactly bait for frat boys. For that matter, anything Peter Milligan writes about sex is probably about as salacious and arousing as a cross between the sex scenes in Ulysses and that scene where they trip acid with some hookers in a cemetery in Easy Rider. Really, I’m just trusting Milligan and, to a lesser extent, Morrison. School pride might lead me to pick up Swamp Thing, too, I guess, even though I’ll only be disappointed that Scott Snyder isn’t Alan Moore.

Superman (or more specifically, Action Comics) is now Grant Morrison’s toy to do with as he pleases. He’s the only writer at DC (not counting Geoff Johns since he’s also an editor in Chief) who gets the kind of pull on account of nearly everything he writes selling like hotcakes. Heck, his All-Star Superman series was the LAST I read from DC before I decided to stop buying their comics, and even then only because it was set in its own reality and not the main DC Universe.

However, this time he’s taking a look back at the original vision of Superman (from the 30’s) except set in the modern day. Not as interesting as A-SS, and set in a universe that almost has me giving up on DC again, so right now I’m not following it. I might change my mind later, we’ll see.

This thread makes me glad I haven’t bought a comic book in over ten years.