Note - recently, in researching an article I've since posted about reboots, I posted a question on Facebook, soliciting people's opinions on DC Comics' recent reboot of every one of their titles (termed "the New 52"). I've yet to read any of the rebooted Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc (I've always been a Marvel man). I figured it'd be good to know how this reboot's playing out and being received. I got two particularly impassioned and detailed responses and with his permission, am posting them here.
This first is from Jay T. Becker, an Orlando based actor:
When discussing DC’s new 52, I can’t help but look back at the previous “reboots” from this publisher.
The first DC universe reboot actually began the silver age of comics. In 1956, except for Superman & Batman, superheroes had fallen out of favor. DC had nothing to lose, so they thought "what the hell." At that time, fandom lasted for only a few years, ages 7-14 or so (when puberty kicked in and the fan moved on to… other things), so they really didn’t have to worry about ticking off the fans. They re-imagined their classic characters with a more science fiction spin. And it worked. Superheroes were, once again, king of the comics rack (and still reign to this day, at least in the US, but that's another column)
Cut to 30 years later: 1985. DC Comics had become overburdened with continuity. Multiple dimensions: Earth 1, Earth 2, Earth S, ad infinitum. Multiple versions of characters. They took a bold leap, by trimming the fat from characters and making the timeline and history (hopefully) easier to follow. Superman was depowered to a level where, while super, he could no longer time travel or move the earth with one finger and he was (at least for a bit) truly the Last Son of Krypton. Wonder Woman was brought into the modern era while connecting her to her mythological roots. The mantle of the Flash was passed to his sidekick. But many things were left the same. They kept what was working and fixed much of what wasn’t. It was a great chance for new readers to join in the fun but didn’t disenfranchise the fans.
Which brings me to the NEW 52, and the question I ask is “WHY?” What was the purpose of the reboot? To sell more comics? In that it has succeeded. But from an artistic (if I may use that term in speaking about comics), I'm not so sure. (And let me preface by saying I've read the first 2-3 issues of all 52 titles.)
Does it appeal to new readers? …Old readers?
To the new reader, it's convoluted and inaccessible. I'm confused and I read this stuff. The old fanboys? Heck, we're just trying to figure out the new paradigm and how it fits with the old.
Does it appeal to the young readers - the future of this hobby, I may add. Absolutely not. It's violent. Almost shockingly so, and I'm not a prude. I'd say three quarters of the titles had some violent bloody death within the first ten pages of their first issue. And some fairly overt sexuality.
On an individual basis, there's some good work. I think the titles dealing with some more obscure characters (Animal Man, All Star Western, Batwing) are quite good. Grant Morrison's Action Comics is great. Really getting into what makes Superman, well, super. The core Bat-titles continue to be good, as does Green Lantern. But they didn't really change that much from before the reboot. Aquaman has been a fantastic reboot. Embracing who he was, even his "lameness" but showing he could be awesome if you treated the character with respect. And the book's a top seller because of that.
But female characters (and creators, for that matter) have been treated horribly. Barbara Gordon has definitely been lessened by taking her out of the wheelchair and putting her back in the cowl of Batgirl. She'd been of the most powerful heroes because of her MIND. And she was a hero for the disabled. Now she's just one more character in tights. Catwoman and Starfire have been turned into sex toys.
So again I ask why? Why did they do this? Did they ask: “Why should we change this character?” or “How does this fit within our Universe?” Most importantly “HOW DOES THIS TELL A GOOD STORY?!” Or was it change for the sake of change, and “look how edgy we are,” and “let's get those fanboys to pony up.”
Joshua Emmons, co-founder of 4 Star Studios, puts it better than I: "A major flaw in the reboot strategy was they did not start over with a modern retelling of the Batman, Superman, etc. mythos. They started over with a different mythos altogether (and often times different just for the sake of being different)." Sort of like the new DC logo.
I'll continue reading it to see what happens. Waiting to see if (or when) it changes back. But I don't care like I did. These are not MY heroes. And I don't know if that's DC's fault or a product of my age (46) and the fact that I don't have time to obsess like I used to, because I have 7-month old. But I will tell you this. When she starts to read comics (and she WILL read comics), I'm going to start her with some good ol’ Silver Age reprints. And if I want her to read a good reboot, I'll let her look at Marvel’s Ultimate line.
One last thing, DC; I miss Superman’s red shorts. I don’t care if no one wears undies on the outside. He’s Superman. He has pulled it off for 75 years.
This second is from Ian Case, a Victoria based actor, writer, director and theatre administrator:
I am a sad DC follower these days. I'm not a fan of The New 52.
Before folks start lighting torches and crying out that the new Aquaman is fantastic and that the new Superman has saved the character, hear me out.
I read comics because of Batman. I’m not anti-reboot. Batman himself has gone through significant reboots. Just look at what Carmine Infantino did when he put a yellow oval around the bat symbol or when Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams made both Batman and the Joker scary again. I’m a big fan of DC’s Elseworlds series. We’ve seen some mighty fine work in comic book reboots.
When I use the term reboot, I don’t mean a major shift in character within a continuous story. I don’t mean Azrael taking over as Batman for the broken-backed Bruce Wayne in Knightfall. I mean when the publishers hit restart, relaunching a character from their origin point, or from a specific point in an already established career. I’ve usually found reboots in limited series most satisfying, like in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
But let’s face it; Bruce Wayne is well over 90 years old. Batman premiered in 1939 and he had to be at least 18 or 19 when he first donned the cowl and cape. Unless publishers were willing to let superheroes pass their boots (pun intended) along (Wally West anyone?), reboots are the only way to keep characters alive and young enough to keep telling new stories, or in many cases, to tell old stories again.
So why do I dislike “The New 52.” Where to start?
I despise what I’ve seen of the new Justice League. I picked up a few of the first issues and it reminded me so much of the terrible Jim Lee and Frank Miller reboot misfire called All Star Batman, that I just couldn’t go on. I hate the fact that it seems the entire DC hero community uses the same tailor; one obsessed with meaningless costume lines in the name of implying plated body armour.
Take Barbara Gordon. As Oracle, Babs was perhaps the smartest and most powerful characters in the DC world. Now she’s reduced to an unsure, thought bubble burbling Batgirl, a shadow of her former self, and nowhere as exciting as when she first became Batgirl (see this rather excellent blog entry). In fact it would be interesting to hear more women comic book readers’ takes on the reboot of the women of the DC Universe. Looking at Starfire, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Catwoman, I get the impression that it’s the women of The New 52 that got the shortest end of the stick.
Sure, there are a couple of bright spots… Batman Inc. anyone? And Bat Wing is acceptable too - I think it's nice to see an African superhero working in Africa. But for the most part I have found this weird and unexplained "reboot" a disappointment. I liked Flashpoint, which led up to this big change, but I can't say I've enjoyed the majority of the changes that have come after the rather abrupt climax of Flashpoint.
My main peeve with The New 52 reboot: the DC Universe seems to operate almost entirely without lasting consequences. Batman dies and he comes back by worming his way through time (huh?). The Flash (Barry Allen) sacrifices himself to save the Universe and he pops back into existence. Superman is killed and again comes back out of thin air. Robin (Jason Todd, Robin #2) is slaughtered by the Joker (thanks to bloodthirsty Bat-Readers) and claws his way out of the grave as Red Hood.
A few years ago we were given the hero-shaking series of Identity Crisis and the consequences of that are brushed aside as meaningless when Flashpoint introduces The New 52. Red Arrow, originally Green Arrow's side-kick Speedy, had his arm ripped off and fell back on his drug addictions (something established in the 70s). Flashpoint happens and suddenly this whole part of his life disappears.
At least when they rebooted Star Trek they made a nod to the existence of what came before the “new timeline”. But The New 52 and the powers that be at DC, have turned their back on the heritage of their heroes and on the work of countless writers and artists who have created worthwhile and important histories for these characters.
As someone who has been reading Batman comics and following the DC Universe since I first picked up a Detective Comics in the Roberts Creek corner store when I was 7, I feel betrayed by DC (and can I also say I HATE the new DC bullet logo!). For the first time in nearly 40 years I'm thinking it may be time to drop titles. I'm even more disenchanted when my local comic store-owner tells me that we can expect DC to go back to their "heritage" numbering as Detective Comics closes in on issue # 1000 and that we can potentially look forward to another reboot around that time. But he also says DC is currently selling better now than they have in the past decade. More young people are picking up the rebooted characters and that DC is again beating out Marvel. Marvel is currently developing their own universe reboot.
It’s easy to get disenchanted and think reboots are all about money. But isn’t it also about getting more people to read comics, to pick up those flimsy paged conduits for fantasy and adventure, to encourage some other 7 year old to pick up a Batman comic and be changed forever by what she sees and reads?