@ the Round Table: DC’s New 52: Did the Reboot Work?
From Crisis on 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. For the entire month of September, DC Comics went through yet another company-wide continuity reboot after the Flashpoint event ended, relaunching it’s franchise with 52 all new #1 titles that were supposed to showcase fresh new changes on all of DC’s characters.
Our question is: did it work?
Infinite Ammo has been following this event the entire time, from our original Round Table discussing the idea of a the relaunch, to our weekly reviews on each of the 52 titles (if you haven’t yet, read Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, and Week 5′s reviews). Now that the beginning of this new era is over, Infinite provides our last word on DC’s New 52 initiative.
Words from Louis Santiago — A Big Marvel Fan
Back at Borders, there was a borrowing policy for employees; as long as we didn’t wreck what we borrowed, we could take an item or two home to read at our leisure. I took insane advantage of this with graphic novels; for a while, I was reading a few every day, spending my commutes and lunch breaks trying to catch up on the tons of history / series /current events I’d missed over the years. Every day started with me returning the previous day’s reading and browsing our graphic novels section for new ones.
I’m trying to remember exactly when the items I picked just stopped being DC.
I think it was the time I tried Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis and had absolutely no idea what was going on. Final Crisis, which I’d heard such good things about but which began with the same degree of nostalgic hero porn DC always seemed to put out there (“This episode of Brave and the Bold has Deadman in it!? Wow!” – “They used Elongated Man in 52 instead of Plastic Man!? Crazy!” – “OMG! It’s Granny Goodness!” [all of which means nothing to someone who hasn't devoted a lot of time to DC]) and ended when I realized the really big fans of the event were just in love with Grant Morrison’s insane concepts, like 4D vision, which didn’t win me over because, hey, Superman having 4D vision didn’t give him a new, interesting dynamic in character. Instead, it just read like a Michael Bay explosion, in concept form, on paper; I was supposed to see it, get wide-eyed, shout, “Whoa!” and keep reading, waiting for the next mind bomb to go off. But I didn’t, because I like characters that make emotional decisions based on their personalities, loyalties, social ties (characters who act according to their characterization).
Like Dick Grayson or Damian Wayne in Batman and Robin. If you’re a DC fan who’s already furious, please note that the previous sentence proves that I know character development and emotion happen in the DCU. It’s just that, comparatively, I feel Marvel has given me stories driven by emotion sooner than DC. I mean, Batman always hides his emotions, Superman spends half of his time punching things and the other half interacting with people behind the guise of an insanely one-dimensional civilian identity, and Hal Jordan might as well be a green plate when Sinestro’s in the room. I’m not trying to be flippant, but in all honesty, Marvel Comics are just the better choice for emotional depth.
Or, at least, they were. I can’t say that all of the #1′s I read were shining examples of what I’d always wanted from DC, but their attempt to make everything more accessible for new readers was largely a success with me; I went to Midtown the other day to pick up my own copy of Animal Man and Blue Beetle, which turned out to be two of my favorites from the New 52 (because Animal Man actually was a shining example of what I’ve always wanted in a comic and because I’ve always loved Jaime as the Blue Beetle). But when I got there and found they were out of Animal Man, I picked up my copy of Blue Beetle and then had to fight to not grab Superboy as well. Or Nightwing (because Dick needs the support). Or Batman (if only because it had the least of what I call “Batporn” of all of the Batman titles I’d read). Or Wonder Woman (because it was just awesome).
Did I still shake my head at the rest of the “Batporn” (Catwoman, Detective Comics, Suicide Squad [is a Batman character front and center? Then it counts])? I totally did. Did I raise an eyebrow and turn away at the nostalgia-heavy / explosion-heavy WTF-fests (O.M.A.C., Deathstroke, Suicide Squad [it deserved to be shunned twice])? I definitely did. And did I just stay away from the titles that just somehow completely skipped the reboot (no thanks, Green Lantern)? You betcha.
But did I leave my favorite comic shop with a DC Comic single issue? That I’d already read?
I totally did.
From Nel Smith, Relative Newcomer to DC
When I first learned of DC’s plan to reboot all of their stories to square one I had two reactions simultaneously; (1) I was happy since it would give me a place to come into their stories and not feel completely lost (like every time I tried to get into their books). This made me think that it was a clever marketing ploy that would bring in new readers while pissing off their core clients. (2) I was annoyed that DC came up with a marketing ploy that would get me to buy a bunch of titles that I would not have been interested in otherwise.
When the time came to actually read some of the new issues, my opinion was split again. (1) I became frustrated that what I thought would be a new start, and good jumping in point for a newbie in some cases, felt as confusing as pre-reboot books, therefore making established titles disappointing. (2) That this was a great time to introduce new and good titles that may have otherwise been ignored.
That being said I am overall disappointed in what I’ve read. I didn’t get to read as many as I would have liked to between work, marriage, cosplay, and school, but the ones that I did manage to read brought out some of the strongest reactions that I have ever had to comics. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The rushed nature of the reboot really showed in the issues like Deathstroke where the images didn’t exactly match up with the script in some places, or the bad story telling/character development as in Voodoo. The beginning of any form of writing or entertainment has to capture the attention of the audience immediately or it is a fail. Even if a story gets better, it’s pointless if no one cares enough to get that far. This is what I think will be the ultimate downfall of the reboot: a false start. I have no doubt that a lot of the titles will get better with time, but will I stick it out until then?… No. For all of DC’s work to increase sales, I don’t see their numbers being higher than they have been for very long because all of the new customers they have attracted won’t be willing to stick around to see where a story goes for characters they have no attachment to.
Now I need to vent about some of the issues I have read because there were some things that really stuck in my craw. My biggest issue is with the portrayal of women in Catwoman and Voodoo. Yes I understand that these are comics and not the real world and that I can’t hold them to real world standards, but, seriously come on, can there be some substance to these women? Even a little? Did the writers not have sisters, or mothers to bounce ideas off of? Some to say, “Hey that sucks.” Or “Who would really do/say that?”
Excuses can be made for Voodoo because she is an alien, and apparently if an alien wants to learn information from human men and decides to take the form of a human woman, the most logical place for her to work is a strip club. Why would she get any other type of job that wouldn’t objectify her in such a way? If she can shapeshift I bet she could get some good forged documents, or steal the identity of a woman that works for the NSA or something. Did we need another excuse to see another scantily clad body? No; especially not a boring alien one.
Aside from that, the abundance of not-much-going-on was astounding in a lot of these issues. Again if you’re trying to attract customers then a little something should happen in the story’s issue one to make you want to buy issue two. Too many of them were pages full of nothing, or nothing that someone new to the universe would find interesting. Some of the books that I have gotten to so far have been a huge waste of $2.99. With the exceptions of Justice League Dark, and I, Vampire I am really disappointed by what could have been a huge and inspiring event in comic history.
From Ed Cambro, Longtime DC Fan
First of all, “soft reboot” sounds like a carnal act involving a computer. Second, you remember a little while back my message to DC was sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too? Well, I wasn’t talking about this.
So, all 52 new rebooted re-imagined reanimated whatever issues have been published by DC Comics. It was pretty uninspired. The fact is, they’ve already made things more confusing, as some comics in the same family take place five years in the past while some titles have characters who are now younger, but their recent story continuities are totally intact. Jim Gordon isn’t gray-haired yet in any of the Batman comics, but Detective Comics now takes place in the past while Batman, Batman Incorporated, Batman & Robin take place in the present.
Superman has two different costumes for two different eras, one of which has been inspired by Bruce Springsteen. For my opinion of Bruce Springsteen, please refer to this.
In the end, it seems that DC Comics, in their hopes of not damaging the ongoing stories of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s Batman sagas, have managed to only confuse their readers and continuity more than ever. My opinion on break-ups is also my opinion on reboots: it has to be clean; stop all contact, get rid of all the prior continuity, and start fresh from Day One. If you do anything else—“Hey, we can be friends,” or “We can keep these stories in continuity” you end up just confusing the point and it keeps you from really starting fresh.
A lot of it is the gutlessness of DC Comics. They have copped out on many, many things and over the last few years they’ve made many, many mistakes. The multiverse has 52 earths—utilize them; some could be part of a rebooted earth, some will be used for continuing stories. Or better yet, wipe it clean and start with something simpler.
To be fair, Superboy, Wonder Woman, and Captain Atom have really come out ahead here, so good on them. Green Arrow still sucks.
Judd Winick and Dan Didio still have jobs—evidence against the existence of a loving God.
From Chaos Mechanica, Another Longtime DC Fan
I’ve literally written and rewritten my piece several times because I just have so much to say. I think I’ll just go into a rant on my own blog for that, but here’s how I feel, distilled to its simplest components.
What DC Did Wrong:
Quality. We at Infinite Ammo read a lot of DC’s New 52, and I read nearly every single issue that debuted this last month. Seriously. That’s a hell of a lot of reading. And besides some truly fantastic issues (I’m writing a love letter to you, Superboy, Animal Man, and DC Universe Presents) we were given some really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff (I’m glaring angrily at you Catwoman, Hawk & Dove, and O.M.A.C.), not to mention all the Maybes in-between.
We were also given far different takes on certain characters, and while I personally dug some (like Firestorm) others seemed to be lazily thrown together with cool and boring concepts (like Hawkman‘s cool Guyver-influenced take, put together with his new “threatening” antagonist, “Morphicus”). Also, some editorial choices for the sake of accessibility really derailed DC from being taken as a literary powerhouse, such as the curious case of Barbara Gordon. We’ve taken Barbara Gordon, the premier disabled superheroine of all of comicsdom, and put her back into a silly Batgirl costume to, as Dan Didio outs it, “make her more accessible”. So paraplegic superheroes are a turn off? What does that tell your disabled readership?
Or how DC is avoiding having fan-favorites like Wally West around to make it easier for new readers to not be confused with two Flashes around… despite the fact that there are four Robins around (two former, two current), four Green Lanterns, two Firestorms (or more), Batgirl and Batwoman, two Justice Leagues, and more. Is DC saying they just want Barry around for the sake of Geoff Johns’ preference and they’re scared Wally is a more loved character? Maybe. Because nothing else makes sense to me.
And if this is a fresher, younger continuity with fresher, younger heroes, then how can you fit the two decades worth of stories from the Batman and Green Lantern titles into this new world? Or, if Arsenal and Starfire have been part of two different incarnations of the Teen Titans, and now there’s a third, how long has the team been active? Batman having had four wards, the GL Corps having gone through death and rebirth in a few years, having had multiple iterations of the Titans… it all just feels a little too cramped, as if DC didn’t iron out the details before getting this started.
What DC Did Right
But, despite all of the complaints, there is a silver lining in that DC has a tightly woven tapestry of continuity that provides for a stronger superhero community where cameos and references and allusions to other titles are normal and welcomed. In vampire books Superman is mentioned and in soldier stories there are unseen superhumans in the background who interfere with their operations. This is DC done right.
Also I’ve personally experienced DC surveying comics fans at comic stores to see their thoughts and feelings on the New 52 and trying to see where they made mistakes and where they succeeded. This means that all thoses things I despised above could theoretically be fixed if enough of us fanboys and girls clamor loud enough. DC being fresh and younger again means that the clay hasn’t dried yet, and there’s still a chance to mold the frame of this universe before anything is set in stone.
There’s no denying there are some Marvel qualities to DC’s New 52, and perhaps this is the best direction for DC to go, to shake things up and do things different for once. I can only hope DC heeds our hopes and our fears, and takes what works to a whole new level that makes me less of a weary DC reader and more of an avid, undyingly loyal fan. For now I’ll reserve judgement: there are tons of possibilities and a lot of potential, so if the next few months show promise for some of my favorite titles, I’ll stick with them. If not… well, then you’ll be hearing me say “Make Mine Marvel” very soon.