Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reboot Now

So, I’m sure you aware of the MYSTERY shrouding the DCU after September when Flashpoint wraps up, and that some kind of ‘bombshell’ announcement is planned for early June.

Many theories have been posited, from the bland (“So and so will be the new creative time on Icon-man!”) through the hopeful (“DC will announce a JLA movie!”) and idiosyncratic (“Vibe will be the new Protector of the Earth!”) to the preposterous (“DC will stop publish monthly comics”).

Okay, I confess: the Vibe one was mine.

But consensus centers around the idea that the DCU will get a universal reboot. Much of the discussion consists primarily of reactionary eye-rolling (“DC is addicted to universal reboots!”)… and much of that is deserved. However, much of it also seems to miss an important point:

DC has never had a universal reboot.

Oh, it’s shut down some non-working programs with Task Manager, and cleaned out its cache a couple of times. But an actual reboot? Nope.

After Crisis of Infinite Earth and Zero Hour, there were a few changes to backstory (“The Kents are alive!” “Wonder Woman wears sweaters!”), but for the most part the whole DCU pretty much picked up in medias res and moved on. Except for Superman and Wonder Woman, we didn’t watch any characters “start over” again. And as for Infinite Crisis, well, the only thing that came of that was a run on CVS for aspirin to recover. Morrison succeeded to some degree, in that he convinced me that the Anti-Equation did exist; except it was titled Infinite Crisis, which convinced me that life was meaningless and sapped me of my will to think for myself; Morrison likes that.

The closest thing that DC has ever had to a universal reboot wasn’t really announced and was, well, a “soft reboot”: the Silver Age. “The Big Three” kept a thread of continuity—too much momentum there to waste—but everything else got restarted. Of course that was easy to do since… everything else had stopped. During the dark interregnum between the Golden and the Silver Age, virtually no superhero comics—the pillars of DC continuity—were being published, other than ‘the four superfriends’ (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman; and I guess Green Arrow, but we all know Green Arrow doesn’t count). DC created a whole new DCU, including a new Flash, a new Green Lantern, a new Hawkman, a new Atom, some freaky Martian, and a modernized “JSA” (now named the “JLA”) practically overnight.

And that was exciting! So was the reintroduction of Superman and Wonder Woman after COIE. I, the reader, was right there in on the ground floor for this ‘new’ but familiar character. They kept their iconic value—reclaimed it, really, by shedding years of accumulated literary dross—and began new adventures with fresh interpretations of their familiar foes and friends. Whether you liked all the decisions that were made in the process is beside the point; the approach was the right one.

Think of some of DC’s most exciting multimedia projects since COIE: Batman the Animated Series, the Justice League Unlimited, The Batman movies, the Teen Titans cartoon, Batman: Brave& the Bold. A huge part of the fun was… the starting over. Watching this new version of the DCU reveal itself and evolve bit by bit.

I’m hoping DC has the cajones to do a real universal reboot. They might pick up new readers; older ones like me will stick on; it’s the middling ones, the ones who can’t imagine a world without a “Nightwing”, who might bolt. But DC has got to do something to make their stories more accessible. Mainstream comics have long since given up on the principle that “every comic is someone’s first”; instead they cling desperately to the principle that “this comic must NOT be someone’s last!” This gives us an endless cascade of ‘can’t miss’ cliffhangers to keep dying addicts addicted, rather than an endless parade of new stories to keep new readers interested. That parade is EXACTLY why fans love most of the multi-media versions of the DCU: stories that are enriched by having knowledge of DC history, but not dependent on it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if DC were bold and brave enough to take that approach to their monthly comics? I think it’s time.

Heck… I’ve been waiting for it since 1986.


SallyP said...

Wait...Wonder Woman wears SWEATERS?

That's a pretty serious bit of rebooting right there.

It is interesting to speculate about what this is all going to mean, and yes, something that is actually gutsy would be welcome...but I'm not holding my breath.

Jeff R. said...

On the one hand, Morrison's Bat-saga doesn't look like it's finished, and modern-era DC is extremely loathe to step on Morrison's toes. It says something, though, that that's really the only ongoing run that couldn't be easily wrapped up neatly in a bow before a reboot. (Except possibly the Swamp Thing business flowing out of Brightest Day.) And having continuty reboot around him is the sort of thing that Morrison _could_ work into his story, and would fit some themes he's using just fine. And we also have Morrison's own "Multiversity" project on deck in a year or as an emergency reset button to back out of a reboot if it turns out to be a massive failure...

Imitorar said...

To quote you, "Ah, you don't a Crisis for that, Scipio. Just an editor." I'd be all for a change in DC's creative direction and new approaches to its characters, but not at the cost of all the history that's been built up, confusing and contradictory as it may be. What attracted me to DC comics was the thrill of the shared universe and the fact that these characters have such long and established histories with each other. The continuity is a lot of why I enjoy superhero comics. I'd hate to see that gone. I'm also extremely skeptical of the idea that I will, but that's a separate discussion.

Dave said...

If they could also arrange a universal mindwipe to make all the readers forget 70+ years of continuity, it might work, but while a line-wide reboot might solve some problems, it would create as many -- and alienate a lot of longtime/old-time readers -- which is practically all of DC fandom.

It's such an awful idea, in fact, that I can't see how they -don't- do it.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were around during WWII? It never happened. "But I have comics that ..." "SHUT UP, IT NEVER HAPPENED". That still rankles me at least a little; I liked having Earth 1 and Earth 2, and it didn't confuse me even at the age of 11. (Yet I must begrudgingly admit that a combined earth has been healthy for the Earth 2 heroes, Helena Wayne notwithstanding.)

It's not necessary to jettison existing lore to tell good stories; just work with what works, and ignore the stupid stuff. Nobody will be mad if you never reference the fact that Guy Gardner used to be a Transformer. Actually the Green Lantern franchise is an example of both returning to the original cool concept (an entire Green Lantern Corps) and reframing a concept more successfully (space cops instead of a Legion of Identically Powered Superheroes).

Citizen Scribbler said...

I think you can have your cake and eat it too. Why not introduce a new Earth where all of the characters can start all over again, but still keep the Earth we have now and we can have stories from both worlds!

-Citizen Scribbler

Bryan L said...

I'm intrigued by the idea of a true reboot, but I can't see it ever happening. DC will want to have its cake and eat it too, and would never dump all the existing continuity. They'd probably create an Ultimate-style DC universe to lure in all those "kids," and keep the old one for us fogeys. And we all saw how well Ultimate Marvel worked, didn't we?

I'm on board with Anonymous -- ignore the stupid stuff and focus on good stories. Sadly, I think the writers available at DC for good stories aren't terribly numerous, and the editorial staff/direction screws up the few writers that can tell good stories more often than not.

Bryan L said...

Sorry, Scribbler, didn't see your comments before I posted. Interesting that we both thought of having cake. But I don't think another universe will work. Comics are largely a zero-sum game now, even for me, and I have a decent amount of disposable income. Generally speaking, if I pick up something new, something old will go. Sadly, it's not very hard to find things to drop.

Jeff R. said...

I just had a thought that may well terrify some of you: what if the reboot is universal, but not complete?

Remember, this is coming out of a Flash-related mini, and complete cosmic rebooting isn't really in that character or this story's wheelhouse. What is already in play, though, is rewriting history, particularly as it relates to Barry Allen himself.

So, if you want to rewrite an event strongly involving Barry with maximum consequences to the rest of the DCU, what abou the Crisis itself? What if the universe after Flashpoint will be one in which the Crisis never happened? (Possibly adjusting timelines so that it didn't happen just right now, possibly leaving it somewhere on the floating ten-year timeline.)

This would also mean that Geoff Johns' Superman run post Flashpoint could be a two-year re-write of "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel", which is something I wouldn't put past him for a second...

Scipio said...

Well, now, that would be radical indeed! Interesting idea.

Beta Ray Steve said...

That way madness lies.I don't think there's any timeline that will accommodate all the major stories of the major heroes. Maybe the Justice Society will be shuffled off to another Earth. That would take away one thing that really screws up the timeline, the 'fact' that theses guys fought in WW II and were shut down by HUAC. This would put them all in their nineties, at least, and too old to inspire any modern (30-ish) heroes.

And I think that would be refreshing, since I always liked the JLA/JSA (Earth -2) team-ups.

Anonymous said...

I actually really like Dick Grayson as Batman. I like him more as Batman than Nightwing or Robin.

Anonymous said...

"I think you can have your cake and eat it too. Why not introduce a new Earth where all of the characters can start all over again, but still keep the Earth we have now and we can have stories from both worlds!"


This would be fine in theory, but you just know that within six months to a year DC would start having crossovers between the two universes. And that's just not the least bit interesting to me.

As I've said before to friends, nobody in the "real world" (i.e., non-comix readers) wants to see a movie with Michael Keaton Batman teaming up with Christian Bale Batman. Each was fine in his own little universe, but mixing them together would be toxic. But comics always seem to want stuff like that. And I just don't get it. More power to those who do like it but that's why my super hero comix purchases of the last decade or so have essentially been limited to Millar and Hitch's "Ultimates," "Nextwave," and just about everything that Darwyn Cooke has done for DC. Stylish, exciting, and not bound by 75 years of continuity. I have great affection for DC's characters but I don't buy anything they produce because they aren't producing stories that I like.

In an ideal world Bruce Timm would be put in charge of recreating the DC Universe in essentially the same image as the DCAU (including visually).

For those who bemoan new origin stories, I agree with Scripio that seeing a story unfold from the beginning, not bound by any continuity, is exciting. It's why I really like the Marvel movies (X-Men series, Spider-Man series, and Avengers series) even though I find the Marvel Universe proper to be dull as dishwater.

And I don't get the grumblings that the Ultimate Universe was a failure. I haven't read it in awhile ("Ultimate Origins" was the last thing I read (and liked as a coda to Millar and Hitch's two "Ultimates" books)), but the Ultimate line had a good five or six year run. These characters don't have infinite potential. It's unrealistic to expect them to go on forever. Have a five- or ten-year-plan. Once the plan runs its course start over again in a completely new direction.

-- Steely Dan

Anonymous said...

I'll probably punch out if they do a universal reboot. Not that I'm a nut for continuity but I've been rather disappointed in the reboots in the pat. A lot of the reboots seemed to be pretty mediocre and the writers hoped to get by with just recycling old stories with more updated spins (e.g. let's retell the tale of how X first came into conflict with Y but rather than tying it to pop culture and technology of 1990, let's retell it with pop culture and technology references from 2011) or hoping to just get with the nostalgic allure of a reintroducing a new interpretation of an old character (e.g. Look it's Brainiac 5, well Brainiac 5 rehash version 17.2 at any rate).

Cabin Campbell said...

OK, yes the animated projects are set in their own continuity BUT I've never seen more Silver Age references in a cartoon as I've seen in B:TBATB I enjoyed Superman:Earth 1 well enough, but geez please don't base the new DC Universe on that. Maybe they'll base this new continuity on Smallville, where everyone is whiney and argumentative; I believe Stan Lee is still alive, that project would be right up his alley!

Trevor Gentry-Birnbaum said...

I'd like to see a universal reboot that includes a reset scale of time that is easily implemented and understood; something along the lines of "one year publication time = three months of story time." Personally, I want to be able to say that Dick Grayson was active as Robin for X amount of years.

Put all of the pre-reboot stuff on an alternate earth and let's start over. As much as I like later developments of the DCU: Kyle Rayner, Tim Drake, the sense of passing-on-the-mantle - I'd be willing to give it all up for a DCU that can functionally make sense. I mean, really, how old IS Batman? There have been like five Robins. Why not go with the most iconic version and keep it that way for a long time? Why not bring the drama of a Superman-Lois-Clark love triangle back? We fans have to let go of our precious continuity and realize there is a greater good: offering new readers stories that don't require multiple trips to wikipedia to understand.

SallyP said...

Wait...he wants to sell you Chevy parts?

Bryan L said...

Dan, I didn't mean the Ultimate line was a failure artistically (in fact, many of the titles were superior to the main Marvel line), but it didn't lure in loads of new readers. All it did was split the audience that currenly existed. Me, for example. I dropped the majority of the Marvel line in favor of Ultimates, and then when those ended didn't bother to go back to the main titles. Frankly, the "events" pretty much clinched it -- I wasn't about to jump back in in the middle of that. My Marvel purchases now are utterly minimal.

Bryan L said...

Oh, and I second the idea of a Bruce Timm reboot. In my head, that is the true DC Universe. All else is Elseworlds, even my beloved Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

mrjl said...

well, the GL letter column announced a Red Lantern ongoing, JL:Generation Lost promised a new JLI book. So I doubt it will be a reboot.

Realitätsprüfung said...

I think you're right in pointing out that older fans will stick around - people like me who started reading comics right before Crisis in 1985 - but that people that started in the 90s will be more likely to bolt.

Unfortunately, I don't see a ground zero reboot happening. Mostly because they'd have to drop all of the various sidekicks that sell comics, such as Robin, Red Robin, the various Green Lantern spinoffs, etc. That's money on the table - no way they drop those books.

So how do you keep all those books going and STILL reboot? The closest approximation would be a One-Year-Later soft reboot. We would rejoin the "new" DCU a year or five after the main JLA characters debuted.

That would enable them to start relatively fresh, with the main JLAers still in their prime, still somewhat early in their career. They also wouldn't need to retell their origin stories, most of which have been redone recently anyway. They could also make radical changes to the REST of the DCU characters. And since the DCU is heavily overcrowded with replacement characters and "legacies", it would give them a chance to erase a BUNCH of them in one fell swoop. Win win.

r duncan said...

You sir are a prophet.


Harvey Jerkwater said...

The "Ultimate Marvel" line does put a little brake on the excitement of a full-blown reboot. The entire Ultimate line had a dreary rehash flavor. "It's...Ultimate Doc Ock! It's...Ultimate Scorpion! It's...Ultimate Willie Lumpkin!" Yeah, yeah, how about not retelling old stories and "putting a new twist" on a classic and just writing some new damn comics? ("By the pencil of Steve Ditko! Never!") The temptation to stick with the safe and obvious was very, very powerful. It reassured the old-guard fans. Which, let's face it, are all that are left anyway. "The same, but different," this time with less "different." -sigh-

"Crisis" almost was a full-blown reboot, or at least Marv Wolfman pushed very hard for it. How close the DCU came to a hard reboot in 1985, I don't know, but it was at least considered. It should have happened.

All that said, a full reboot would be a great idea. Except that there's no way in hell the Old DCU would be abandoned for long. It might become a new "Earth-1/Earth-2" situation, where old meets new and won't leave it alone; or it might be a "Heroes Reborn (Because What the Hell Were We Thinking, I Mean Really, Liefeld?)" situation, where the comics revert to the old status quo with barely a backwards glance; or it might just be a "One More Day/Brand New Day" situation, where the old ways are teased at and played with until they are eventually restored, because comics do that. None of these are good options.

If the DCU prior to the full reboot could be burned down, and the presses upon which the comics were made melted down and turned into a giant statue of Mort Weisinger, and the current editorial brain trust put onto a bus and dropped off in Ecuador, then it might work.

The more likely "big outcome" of "Flashpoint" is that Cyborg will be revealed as the Flash's time-displaced cousin or some such malarkey, plus two new series will start that will be cancelled within a year. Maybe they'll kill Barry Allen again. That'd be funny.

Well, I'd laugh.

Imagine if DC decided to pull the trigger. The whole publishing wing is just part of the IP value of the company now, so it's not impossible. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Harvey Jerkwater said...


It's happening!


Jeff R. said...

I have to say that I'm looking forward to Earth-9. (If, in Infinite Crisis, the then-most-modern characters had a 'home' on Earth-8, that's the next logical step, right?)

Scipio said...

"You sir are a prophet."

LOL, well, that handwriting on the wall was pretty easy to read, I think.

Or I just create realities through the raw power of my mind. Take yer pick.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Two big questions for the gallery:

1. Will the reboot last? Or will they backslide, make references to past stories that shouldn't have happened in the "new continuity," and eventually return to the old mess within five years?

2. Given power over the whole affair, how much backstory would you allow? Just how "new" is the new DCU? They're starting with JLA, so there has to be some pre-existing superhuman activity.

My heretical thought: ditch the Golden Age. The WW2 period is far enough in the past that it's getting a little weird that Garrick, Scott, et al. are still running around, comic book time or not. Also, it'd be nifty to restore Superman as The First Superhero and start with a world unaccustomed to superheroics. Plus, by making the new start the actual start of superheroics in the DCU proper, it'd lessen the temptation to sneak old continuity in through the back door.

I, for one, look forward to the certain-to-be-historic run of Sword of 'Mazing Man.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Oh, and by eliminating the Golden Age, no legacy characters.

Which is not a bad thing.

Bryan L said...

I'd buy Sword of 'Mazing Man.

I've already throw in my two cents on how things ought to be. However, it would be fun to start a pool on how long this reboot lasts (because I think it won't, either). They started undercutting Crisis on Infinite Earths within a year or so (to be fair, it wasn't very neatly tied up).

I'll say 12 months before stuff starts unraveling. Really, unless they set the whole thing on a parallel Earth (again, like Ultimate Marvel), it's going to be way to awkward to get a clean start. And if they do, pressure will mount almost instantly to give us back the "old" Earth.

I'd go longer, but I honestly don't think the current management has the fortitude to stay the course once sales start to dip. They'll frantically try to concoct another "solution" to the eroding readership.

Bryan L said...

"way TOO awkward"

Sorry. I hate people who screw that up. Hates 'em, I do.

Perplexio said...

What has kept me reading DC has been the legacy characters in particular in the Batman and Flash related titles.

Barry coming back didn't bother me in and of itself but it should never have been at Wally's expense.

And the Dick Grayson/Damien Wayne Batman/Robin twist has been a joy to read (Bruce Wayne as Batman is actually my least favorite of the Batman characters/titles to read).

I noticed that DC has put out a list of some of the relaunch titles for September. I noticed that JLA will revert to the original line-up of sorts (plus Cyborg apparently) and that there's going to be a "Global Justice" team that resembles the old JLE somewhat. But I didn't see a speedster on Global Justice. With Dick & Donna already on that team it's the perfect place for DC to put Wally. But I do think DC needs to do some costume changes/revamps for both Dick & Wally to further distinguish them from their former mentors if they go that route.

And in Flash ReBirth they JUST made Irey West Impulse II. I really hope they didn't do that only to retcon that back out with this reboot. There's some cool story potential there.

DC has a unique opportunity with Wally-- especially now that Barry is back. How many other DC heroes have a super powered child and a de-powered child? There's some interesting family dynamics that DC could really take and run with (no pun intended).

The writing was on the wall for Wally back when DC initially ended his title right before Infinite Crises. His retirement so he could focus on fatherhood was more than subtlely suggested. But DC shouldn't ignore the story potential they have to play up Wally's role as a Dad and semi-retired super-hero. Putting him in Global Justice and giving him ocassional cameo appearances in Barry's comic would keep him just "there" enough to satisfy many of the Wally fans.