@ The Round Table: The DC Comics Reboot: Crisis of Infinite Do-Overs
From Crisis of Infinite Earths to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!; from Infinite Crisis to Final Crisis: DC Comics has constantly tweaked their continuity for over two decades. Starting in September, DC Comics will have gone through yet another company-wide continuity reboot after the Flashpoint event ends, starting with 52 #1 titles that star fresh new changes on all of DC’s characters. What does this mean for fans and how do we feel about it as DC Comics readers?
First Word from Chaos Mechanica – Longtime DC Fanboy:
I remember, as a kid, arguing with my dad, a casual comics reader (who saw more of the TV shows than read the books), over the backstories of my favorite characters. I was a regular know-it-all “true fan” and I had read enough comics to know who was who and how they got to be where they were, be it from chemicals and lightning or losing a loved one to crime.
And then I grew up and realized he wasn’t wrong. He knew what he was talking about. And I wasn’t wrong. I knew what I was talking about. The problem was we were both right but knew two way different continuities.
In his continuity, Lex Luthor was a super smart kid living in Smallville who only turned to crime after a fire started in his lab and a young, inexperienced Superboy blew out the fire… right onto Lex’s head, making him bald for life. In my continuity, Lex was a ruthless businessman whose intelligence and guile made him and Superman clash later in their adult years. There was no “true” DC. There were just two vastly different takes on two immensely popular characters.
Having lived through DC’s Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis (mix in there somewhere their awkward explanation of “hypertime“) and I have to say that I am way, way too annoyed to even want to think of another *fix*. There must have been a time where the original Crisis seemed like a such a good idea. “Hey guys, let’s start over!” They were cleaning up dozens of different realities to make one clearly, definitive DC that all fans could understand and all writers could build upon. But at this point, having gone through so many events, the words “Reboot” and “Crisis” have become synomonous with “sloppy editorial”.
I’ve invested hours upon hours and dollars and dollars (seriously, I’m not kidding) and it feels silly for me to invest any more time, lest DC reboots again in a week.
Does this reboot take away from the quality of story I’ve read in previous tales? No, not at all. I still own graphic novels and single issues of some of my favorite stories, and dammit, I’ll always love them. But history does feel important to me, and if I ever wanted to continue reading about the characters I love and how they got there, I’ve got nothing.
Perhaps the reboots will be good. Perhaps they’ll be worth it. Perhaps it’ll make DC a better publisher with a tighter continuity. But for now, my pessimism makes me wonder how long will it be before someone at DC messes up, and they decide it’s time to wipe the slate clean again.
On to Gentleman Monster – A Big Comic Book Fan and Long Time DC Reader:
Before I start, I wanted to address the fact that DC Comics’ freelance talent pool went from 12% female to 1% female during this relaunch. I couldn’t find anything new to add to this discussion that’s been eating Twitter alive besides the fact that DC has plenty of talented, intelligent women in editorial and management, and it’s a damn shame that it isn’t reflected more in the talent that makes their comics. For me, it’s a mistake that Nicola Scott and Amanda Conner aren’t on any of these launch titles, but there’s also a persistent rumor that this massive relaunch was put together in less than three months. Supposedly, creators were asked to pitch for titles before it was decided that full reboots were happening, and many talented people were left without a new DC #1 with their name on it for reasons beyond their control. I’m not making excuses, but DC is so focused on getting this massive undertaking done that they’ve overlooked some important things. Female creators and fans are one of those things, and the other is just how damn big this relaunch actually is.
Now I’m not going to complain about the possible quality of the books that aren’t out yet because some of them will be great, some of them will be terrible, and the rest will fall in between. I’m buying these titles based on the creative teams, but even then, there are a lot of things that will surprise us in terms of quality. Any relaunch of this size would have some triumphs and some failures. It’s the size and scale of the launch that I find troubling. The big books with the big creators will do fine, but there is a lot of content that will get lost in the shuffle with 13 titles a week. Very few people will be trying all 52 new titles in this economy, and I’m sure many will just stick with what they were reading before. Many retailers are trying special deals, coupons, and group discounts to ensure that people actually try as many new DC #1 issues as possible, but I think that illustrates the biggest problem.
They’re doing a launch that’s so big that it is its own worst enemy. DC is putting all of these launch titles in competition with each other. The new Stormwatch book will have to compete with Action Comics, 3 Batman family books, and Justice League International during it’s launch week. It is also competing with the other obscure properties from that week like Men of War, OMAC, and Hawk & Dove. Marvel and DC have had huge problems with obscure launches like Spider Girl, Young Allies, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and The Crusaders falling below 10, 000 issues sold per month within their first year after launch. I’m worried that we’ll see a few big successes with dozens of titles falling by the wayside hard and fast.
I want this relaunch to do well, and I would love to see this reverse the declining sales in the Direct Market. I also wish for DC to let Grant Morrison do whatever he wants, and I’d love to have Amanda Conner draw a monthly title again. If wishes were fishes, I’d be Aquaman.
Next Word from Charlie Wilkins – Longtime DC Reader and Fan:
As with all things I see on the interview when it comes to film adaptations, relaunches, deaths and controversies, I am an eternal optimist. Naively so, maybe, but when it comes to new and exciting directions, brand new costumes, things we haven’t seen before, I’m up for it, because I can’t stop it, can I? I can’t stamp my feet and stop change from coming, so why not embrace it?
I’m looking forward to the DCnU relaunch. The story-telling potential is really interesting, and if this is the way DC wants to go, then why not give it a chance? I’m not sold on all of the costumes—I mean Superman is wearing bloody body armour, what’s the point? It defies the innate strength of the character—but I can look past that.
For the most part, I’m sure the costumes won’t last, they won’t stand the test of time. In my mind, superheroes should be easy for children to draw. They should be completely accessible to kids to doodle and create adventures for. That’s why Superman and Batman are so simple when it comes to their costumes. You don’t need to complicate something that’s so iconic. What’s with The Flash’s go-faster lines across his costume? Can you imagine telling a kid to draw that? Or for a kid to draw that from memory? I think that’s a terrible mistake. The costumes aren’t new-reader or child friendly.
Sure we’ve got a lot of weird crap coming out of this relaunch, like I, Vampire and Red Hood and the Outlaws, but we also get potential gems like The Resurrection Man. There’s opportunity here for greatness! And I’m interested in how this is all going to come about, and how it’s going to synch up with all the recent “events” that “still count”, like Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Blackest Night/Brightest Day, etc.
As a storyteller, I’m interested in world building and potential for excitement when it comes to stuff I read and buy. I’m not sold on everything, but I’m sold on enough, and that’s what DC wants. And I think we’ve already done what they wanted us to do initially, and that’s TALK. We’re talking about DC. Now we have to buy their books.
Finally, Ed Cambro, DC Comics Fan and Big Follower of the Iconic DC Heroes:
With Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee advocating change in their “soft reboot” of the DCU, their focus has been primarily on the change of characters, circumstance and costumes, but not exactly heavy on amending their broken event books. The problem lies not within our paperbacks, but within DC’s poor foresight. Did you like what I did there? With that Shakespeare reference? Yeah, me too.
In 2007, DC published my favorite event comic: The Sinestro Corps War, a surprisingly succinct and handsome story in its svelte two volumes, which still manages to be a universe spanning story filled with the exciting action, insane plot twists, and character moments we’ve come to expect from the Green Lantern titles. The story itself was a crossover of events running through the Lantern books from July to December, plus some tie-ins and one shots. When collected the tie-ins were placed strategically within the A-plot, forming the B and C plots, giving it an even greater scope, without losing focus. In a few hundred pages, Johns and Gibbons did in Green Lantern what Grant Morrison couldn’t replicate in Final Crisis and what Johns couldn’t replicate again in Blackest Night.
Johns has gone on record saying that his Lantern story has been a trilogy. It goes: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night. The former two books are near perfect and can stand as their own stories. The latter is a mess that DC has been trying to clean up, and doesn’t really do anything to tie up the character arcs brought up since Rebirth.
“Event Comics” are the comic book answer to the Hollywood summer blockbuster. About a years’ worth (or more) of stories lead up to this big universe shaking battle between good and evil, where supporting characters die and get resurrected (sometimes not in that order), and every year it’s supposed to get bigger and bigger. DC Comics has gotten a little too greedy and their storytelling has gotten a little too big.
The usual event comic will run about six issues, plus the tie-ins—some of which are important for understanding the plot, some are just to cash in—which run across the entire DCU line, plus the usual comics you buy that month, plus the character focusing one-shots—”What was your favorite character doing before, during, and after the earth shattering and bowel voiding events of Earth Has Colitis? Find out here!”—so you’re looking at a pretty hefty bill.
The fact that more and more of these tie-ins and one-shots are becoming both necessary and commonplace is alarming. You can’t really just buy an event comic and get the full story there anymore. Their plotlines are so broad and tenuous that they need to be fleshed out, explained, or apologized for (Maximum Carnage). Part of it, of course, is greed—more comics, more money—but a lot of it is this idea that bigger is always better. We don’t always need double-splash pages of every single character fist-fighting in space to realize that something bad is going down.
The malarkey (please excuse my crude language) surrounding Blackest Night is simply a result of Final Crisis. You remember Final Crisis, don’t you? The “Day Where Evil Won”? The event to end all events? The event that made an entire industry look up and say, “What?” Usually in these situations I like to entirely blame a certain, overrated bald Scotsman, but I really can’t. At least not entirely. Without reading the tie-ins, Grant Morrison’s earlier work, as well as his run on Batman, Final Crisis is even more insane, weird and impenetrable. But the editorial issues that I complained about in Blackest Night all started with Final Crisis. This was the first major event in some time that DC did not alter when it was printed for trade. The story and the tie-ins are all separate, so Batman’s last stand is ho-hum at best, we have no idea what Barry Allen’s problem is, and we have no idea how we got from point A to point C. Yeah, worth the money so far.
The DCU characters are under remodeling right now. Hopefully its events will follow suit.
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